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Title: History of the War in Afghanistan, Vol. II (of 3)
Author: Kaye, John William
Language: English
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Third Edition.

In Three Volumes.


Wm. H. Allen & Co., 13, Waterloo Place,
Publishers to the India Office.

Printed By W. Clowes And Sons, Stamford Street
And Charing Cross.


                               BOOK IV.

                              CHAPTER I.

                       [August-December, 1839.]

  Dawn of the Restoration—Difficulties of our Position—Proposed
  Withdrawal of the Army—Arrival of Colonel Wade—His
  Operations—Lord on the Hindoo-Koosh—Evils of our
  Policy—Defective Agency—Moollah Shikore—Our Political
  Agents—Operations in the Khybur Pass—The Fall of Khelat            1

                              CHAPTER II.

                      [January-September, 1840.]

  The Great Game in Central Asia—The Russian Expedition to
  Khiva—Apprehensions of Burnes—Colonel Stoddart—Affairs on the
  Hindoo-Koosh—Failure of the Russian Expedition—Conduct of the
  Sikhs—Herat and Yar Mahomed—Mission of Abbott and
  Shakespear—Disturbances in the Ghilzye Country—Fall of
  Khelat—Arthur Conolly                                              32

                             CHAPTER III.

                        [June-November, 1840.]

  The last Struggles of Dost Mahomed—The British in the
  Hindoo-Koosh—The Ameer’s Family—Occupation of Bajgah—Disaster
  of Kamurd—Escape of Dost Mahomed—Feverish State of
  Caubul—Dennie’s Brigade—Defeat of the Ameer—Sale in the
  Kohistan—The Battle of Purwandurrah—Surrender of Dost
  Mahomed                                                             73

                              CHAPTER IV.

                   [November, 1840-September, 1841.]

  Yar Mahomed and the Douranees—Season of Peace—Position of the
  Douranees—The Zemindawer Outbreak—Conduct of Yar
  Mahomed—Departure of Major Todd—Risings of the Douranees and
  Ghilzyes—Engagements with Aktur Khan and the Gooroo—Dispersion
  of the Insurgents                                                   99

                              CHAPTER V.

                      [September-October, 1841.]

  Aspect of Affairs at Caubul—The King—The Envoy—Burnes
 —Elphinstone—The English at Caubul—Expenses of the
  War—Retrenchment of the Subsidies—Risings of the
  Ghilzyes—Sale’s Brigade—Gatherings in the Kohistan—Sale’s
  Arrival at Gundamuck—The 1st of November                          135

                                BOOK V.


                              CHAPTER I.

                           [November, 1841.]

  The Outbreak at Caubul—Approaching Departure of the
  Envoy—Immediate Causes of the Rebellion—Death of Sir Alexander
  Burnes—His Character—Spread of the Insurrection—Indecision
  of the British Authorities                                         163

                              CHAPTER II.

                           [November, 1841.]

  Progress of the Insurrection—Attempted Movement on the
  City—Attack on Mahomed Sheriff’s Fort—Loss of the Commissariat
  Fort—Captain Mackenzie’s Defence—Capture of Mahomed Sheriff’s
  Fort—Attempts to corrupt the Enemy                                187

                             CHAPTER III.

                           [November, 1841.]

  Progress of the Insurrection—General Elphinstone—His
  Infirmities—Recall of Brigadier Shelton to Cantonments—Capture
  of the Ricka-bashee Fort—Intrigues with the Afghan Chiefs—The
  Envoy’s Correspondence with Mohun Lal                              204

                              CHAPTER IV.

                           [November, 1841.]

  Action on the Beh-meru Hills—Looked-for Advent of Sale’s
  Brigade—Arrival of Pottinger—The Siege of Charekur—Destruction
  of the Goorkha Regiment—Withdrawal of Sale to Jellalabad—
  Question of Concentration in the Balla Hissar—Bearing of the
  King—The Action on the 23rd of November—Negotiations             220

                              CHAPTER V.

                      [November-December, 1841.]

  Progress of Negotiation—Arrival of Mahomed Akbar Khan—His
  Character—Negotiations continued—Deaths of Meer Musjedee
  and Abdoollah Khan—Revival of Negotiations—The Draft Treaty      257

                               BOOK VI.

                              CHAPTER I.

                           [December, 1841.]

  Preparations for the Retreat—Evacuation of the Balla
  Hissar—Progress of the Negotiations—Continued Delay—Variations
  of the Treaty—Designs of the Envoy—Overtures of Mahomed Akbar
  Khan—Death of Sir William Macnaghten—His Character               286

                              CHAPTER II.

                    [December, 1841-January, 1842.]

  The Capitulation—Supineness of the Garrison—Negotiations
  resumed—Efforts of Major Pottinger—Demands of the Chiefs—The
  Final Treaty—Humiliation of the Garrison—General Remarks         317

                             CHAPTER III.

                    [November, 1841-January, 1842.]

  Sale’s Brigade—Evacuation of Gundamuck—Skirmishes with the
  Enemy—Occupation of Jellalabad—State of the Defences—Successful
  Sallies—The Fortifications repaired—Disastrous Tidings from
  Caubul—Summons to Surrender—Arrival of Dr. Brydon                336

                              CHAPTER IV.

                           [January, 1842.]

  The Retreat from Caubul—Departure of the Army—Attack on the
  Rear-Guard—The First Day’s March—Encampment at Begramee—The
  Passage of the Koord-Caubul Pass—Tezeen—Jugdulluck—Sufferings
  of the Force—Negotiations with Akbar Khan—Massacre at
  Gundamuck—Escape of Dr. Brydon                                    360

  APPENDIX                                                           391




[August-December: 1839.]

 Dawn of the Restoration—Difficulties of our Position—Proposed
 Withdrawal of the Army—Arrival of Colonel Wade—His Operations—Lord
 on the Hindoo-Koosh—Evils of our Policy—Defective Agency—Moollah
 Shikore—Our Political Agents—Operations in the Khybur Pass—The Fall
 of Khelat.

Restored to the home of his fathers, Shah Soojah was not contented.
Even during the excitement of the march to Caubul he had complained
of the narrow kingdom to which he was about to return; and now, as he
looked out from the windows of his palace over the fair expanse of
country beneath him, he sighed to think that the empire of Ahmed Shah
had been so grievously curtailed.

Very different, indeed, was the Douranee Empire, over which the
sceptre of Shah Soojah was now waved, from that which his father had
handed down to Zemaun Shah and his brothers, to be sacrificed by their
weakness and disunion. The kingdom, which had once extended from
Balkh to Shikarpoor, and from Herat to Cashmere, had now shrunk and
collapsed. On every side its integrity had been invaded. Cashmere and
Mooltan had fallen to the Sikhs; Peshawur had been wrested from the
Afghans by the same unscrupulous neighbour; the independence of Herat
had been guaranteed to a branch of the Royal family; the Beloochees
had asserted pretensions unknown in the times of Ahmed Shah; the petty
Princes on the northern hill-frontier no longer acknowledged their
allegiance to Caubul. In whatsoever direction he turned his eyes,
he beheld the mutilations to which the old Douranee Empire had been
subjected; and yearned to recover some of the provinces which had been
severed from the domain of his fathers.

But the kingdom to which he had been restored was more extensive than
he could govern. There were many difficult questions to be solved, at
this time; the first and the most important of which related to the
continuance of his connexion with his Feringhee allies. The British
Government had now done all that it had undertaken to do. It had
escorted Shah Soojah to his palace gates, and seated him upon the
throne of his fathers. In accordance with Lord Auckland’s manifesto,
the time had now arrived for the withdrawal of the British army. But
it was obvious that the British army could not yet be withdrawn. The
Shah had no hold upon the affections of his people. He might sit in the
Balla Hissar, but he could not govern the Afghans. Such, at least, was
the conviction which by this time had forced itself upon Macnaghten’s
mind. If the British Minister had ever contemplated the early
abandonment of the restored King, the idea had now passed away. The
Shah himself felt no confidence in his own strength. He did not believe
that the power of Dost Mahomed was irretrievably broken, but still saw
him, in imagination, flitting about the regions of the Hindoo-Koosh,
raising the Oosbeg tribes, and pouring down for the recovery of Caubul.

There were objections, many, and weighty, to the continued occupation
of Afghanistan by British troops—objections of one kind, which the
Shah acknowledged and appreciated; and objections of another, which
every statesman and soldier in India must have recognised with painful
distinctness. But the experiment of leaving Shah Soojah to himself
was too dangerous to be lightly tried. The Shah would fain have
rid himself of British interference and control, if he could have
maintained himself without British support; and the British Government
would fain have withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan, if it could
have relied upon the power of the Shah to maintain himself. But to
leave the restored Suddozye to be dethroned and expelled, after the
homeward march of the troops that had restored him, would have been to
court an enormous failure, which would have overwhelmed our government
with disgrace. Neither was the restoration sufficiently popular in
itself, nor was there sufficient stability in the character of the King
to warrant so hazardous an experiment. If the policy of the Afghan
invasion had not been based upon error, the experiment would not
have been a hazardous one. But the very acknowledgment of the Shah’s
inability to maintain himself after the departure of the British army,
was a crushing commentary on the assertions put forth in the great
October manifesto. The truth was not to be disguised. The “adoration”
which had greeted the Shah on his return to his long-lost dominions,
was found to be a delusion and a sham. The palace of his fathers had
received him again; but it was necessary still to hedge in the throne
with a quickset of British bayonets.

So thought Lord Auckland. He had given his mind long and painfully to
the subject, and had written an elaborate minute, reviewing all the
circumstances of our position in Afghanistan after the entry of the
Shah into the country. Macnaghten had been settled little more than a
month in Caubul when a copy of this minute, dated Simlah, August 20,
was put into his hands. There was nothing unintelligible in it. Ably
written, clearly worded, it enunciated, in unmistakeable paragraphs,
the views of the Governor-General, and left Macnaghten, even had he
been disposed to follow an opposite course, which he was not, no
alternative but to retain a portion of the troops, and himself to abide
at Caubul as controller of the Shah. Lord Auckland saw plainly the
advantages of withdrawing the Army of the Indus. India could ill afford
the abstraction of so large a body of disciplined troops, and it was
probable that their services might be required in less remote regions;
but he could not purchase the advantages of their withdrawal at the
price of the failure of the Afghan expedition.

It was the opinion of the Governor-General at this time, that
although the British army could not with safety be wholly withdrawn,
a force consisting of some five or six regiments of all arms would
be sufficient to keep Shah Soojah upon his throne. The Bombay troops
were to be withdrawn, _en masse_, by the Bolan Pass; and a portion
of the Bengal army by the route of Jellalabad and the Khybur. The
posts at which it was expedient to plant the remaining troops were,
in the opinion of the Governor-General, the two chief cities of
Caubul and Candahar; and the principal posts on the main roads to
Hindostan—Ghuznee and Quettah, on the West, and Jellalabad and
Ali-Musjid on the East. The orders which Sir John Keane had issued,
before the Governor-General’s minute had reached Caubul, anticipated
with much exactness the instructions of the Governor-General. A brigade
under Colonel Sale was to remain in Afghanistan. Sir John Keane was to
take the remainder of the Bengal troops back to India by the Khybur
route; and General Willshire was to lead the Bombay column down by the
western line of the Kojuck and the Bolan.

Such were the intentions both of the Supreme Government and the local
authorities, when Prince Timour arrived at Caubul, accompanied by
Captain Wade, and the little force that had made good his entry into
Afghanistan by the eastern passes. It was on the 3rd of September that
Cotton, Burnes, and other British officers, with a guard of honour,
went out to receive the Prince. With befitting pomp, the procession
made its way through the narrow streets of Caubul to the Balla Hissar;
and there were those who said that the gaiety of the heir-apparent and
his _cortège_ fairly shone down the King’s.

Wade had done his duty well. The magnitude of the operations to the
westward has somewhat overlaid the more modest pretensions of the
march through the eastern passes; and it may be doubted whether the
merit of the achievement has ever been fully acknowledged. Viewed
as the contribution of the Sikh Government towards the conquest of
Afghanistan, it is absolutely contemptible. Runjeet lay dying when
the troops were assembling; and his death was announced before they
commenced their march. He was the only man in the Sikh empire who was
true at heart to his allies, and all genuine co-operation died out with
the fires of his funeral pile. To Wade this was embarrassing in the
extreme. But the greater the inefficiency of the Sikh demonstration,
the greater the praise that is due to the English officer who triumphed
over the difficulties thrown in his way by the infidelity of his allies.

Wade found himself at Peshawur with a motley assemblage of Hindoos,
Sikhs, and Afghans, on the good faith of a considerable portion of whom
it was impossible to rely. The Prince himself was soon found to be an
absolute cypher. His most remarkable characteristic was, to speak
paradoxically, that he had no character at all. He was a harmless,
respectable personage, with an amount of apathy in his constitution
which was sometimes advantageous to those in whose hands he placed
himself; but which, at others, engendered an amount of impracticability
that was very embarrassing and distressing. It was plain that, whatever
was to be accomplished, must be accomplished by the energy of the
British officers. Left to themselves, the Sikhs, aided by the Afghans
who had joined the standard of the Prince, would never have forced the
Khybur Pass. This formidable defile was supposed to be, if vigorously
defended, impassable; and the long halt at Peshawur had given the
Afreedis, if they were not inclined to sell the passage, abundant time
to mature their defensive operations, and Akbar Khan, who was coming
down from Caubul to oppose the march of Wade and the Sikh auxiliaries,
every opportunity of perfecting his plans.

It was not until the 25th of July that Wade and Prince Timour
found themselves before Ali-Musjid. The Afreedis, on that and the
preceding day, had made some show of resistance; and our troops—the
regulars under Captain Farmer, and the irregulars under Lieutenant
Mackeson,[1]—had done good service; whilst Colonel Sheikh Bassawan,
with the Sikh auxiliaries, had exhibited an amount of zeal which had
won the confidence of the British officers. So closely now did Wade
invest the place, so determined was the attitude he had assumed, and
so successful was the play of his guns,[2] that on the night of the
26th the garrison evacuated the fortress; and on the following morning
the allies took possession of Ali-Musjid in the name of the Shah. The
Ameer’s son had not come down to its defence.

There was little more work for Wade and his auxiliaries. Akbar
Khan, who had pitched his camp at Dakha—a place to the south of
Jellalabad—had now broken it up and retired to join his father,
who had by this time discovered that the greater danger was to be
apprehended from the western line of attack, and had therefore recalled
his son to the capital. The Shah-zadah and his party, therefore,
advanced without further opposition. Opposite Dakha, on the other side
of the Caubul river, was the fort of Lalpoorah, where dwelt Sadut Khan,
chief of the Momund tribe. His conduct had evinced strong feelings
of hostility to the Suddozye Princes. He was now, therefore, to be
reduced, and his chiefship conferred on another. Throughout our entire
connexion with Afghanistan, it was seldom our good fortune to select
fitting objects whereon to lavish our bounty. It was generally, indeed,
our lot to set up the wrong man. But the case of Tora-baz Khan, who was
appointed to the chiefship of Lalpoorah, was one of the few fortunate
exceptions to this calamitous rule. In this man we found a faithful
ally; and when misfortunes overtook us, he was not unmindful of the
benefits he had received at our hands.

On the 3rd of September, Wade and the Shah-zadah reached Caubul. The
operations of the motley force which they had led through the difficult
passes of Eastern Afghanistan have been dwarfed, as I have said, by
the more ostentatious exploits of Sir John Keane’s bulkier army; but
it is not to be forgotten, that it was in no small measure owing to
the operations of Wade’s force that the resistance offered to Keane’s
army was so slight and so ill-matured. It was long before Dost Mahomed
ceased to regard the movement through the Khybur with greater anxiety
than that of the main army along the western route. Akbar Khan and his
fighting men never met Wade in the field; but they were drawn away
from the capital at a time when they might have done good service in
the West; and it is in no small measure owing to this division of the
Ameer’s military strength, that he was unable to offer any effectual
resistance to the march of the British army from Candahar. Nor, when we
take account of the circumstances which facilitated our success at the
outset of the war, ought it ever to be overlooked that Wade, from his
forward position at Peshawur, was enabled to open a correspondence with
parties at Caubul favourable to the restoration of the monarchy, and to
win over many adherents to the Shah before he approached his capital.
It was in no small measure owing to Wade’s diplomacy, carried on mainly
through the agency of Gholam Khan, Populzye, that the Kohistanees were
induced to rise against the Ameer.[3] These were important services.
Wade carried on the work with much address; and there were able
men associated with him.[4] But the whole affair was a melancholy
illustration of the lukewarmness, if not of the positive infidelity,
of our Sikh allies. It was plain that, thenceforth, we were to expect
little from their alliance, but ill-concealed attempts to thwart and
baffle the policy to which they were parties.

The month of September passed pleasantly over the heads of the
officers of the Army of the Indus. The fine climate, the fair scenery,
and the delicious fruits of Caubul, were all things to be enjoyed,
after the sufferings and privations of the long and toilsome march from
Hindostan. Then there were shows, and spectacles, and amusements. The
troops were reviewed; and the officers rode races; and the Shah, ever
delighting in pageantry and parade, established an order of knighthood,
and held a grand Durbar, at which the ceremony of investure was
performed with becoming dignity and grace. And the officers, happy in
the belief that they were soon about to turn their backs on Afghanistan
for ever, went about purchasing memorials of their visit to Caubul, or
presents to carry back to their friends.

But the hopes of many were doomed to disappointment. On the 18th of
September, the Bombay column commenced its march to India, by the route
of the Kojuck and the Bolan; and it was believed that a large portion
of the Bengal troops would soon be in motion towards the provinces,
along the eastern country just traversed by Colonel Wade. A country in
which wine was selling at the price of 300 rupees a dozen, and cigars
at a rupee a piece,[5] was not one in which the officers of the army
were likely to desire to pitch their tents for a sojourn of any long
continuance. When, therefore, it began to be reported among them that
the original intentions of withdrawing the troops, with the exception
of a single brigade, had been abandoned, there was a general feeling
of disappointment. The official order was looked for with anxiety; and
on the 2nd of October it appeared.[6] The principal portion of the
division was to be left in Afghanistan, under Sir Willoughby Cotton;
and only a comparatively small detachment was to march to the provinces
with Sir John Keane. A week afterwards, orders were issued for the
disposition of the troops, and the military occupation of Afghanistan
was complete.[7]

A change so great as this in the military arrangements, consequent on
the restoration of Shah Soojah, could only have been brought about by
a belief in the presence of some new and pressing danger. Dost Mahomed
had been driven across the Hindoo-Koosh; but it was believed that he
might there be hospitably received by some of the petty Oosbeg chiefs,
between Bameean and Balkh; and that he might, united with them, gather
sufficient strength to encourage him to turn his face again towards
the South, and to sweep down upon the country which had been wrested
from him. It had not, at first, been conceived that the prospect of
the Ameer’s recovery from the heavy blow which had descended upon him,
was sufficiently imminent to indicate the necessity of making any
preparations upon a large scale to arrest his return to Afghanistan.
But it was considered expedient to send a detachment of the Shah’s
troops, with some field artillery, to Bameean, the extreme frontier
station of the Shah’s dominions. Accordingly, on the 12th of September,
a detachment had marched for the Hindoo-Koosh. A troop of Native Horse
Artillery, which had just come in from Candahar, formed the most
remarkable portion of this little force. The difficulties of the road
to be traversed were such as no European artillery had ever before
encountered.[8] But, in spite of this, the 4th troop, 3rd Brigade of
Horse Artillery, under Lieutenant Murray Mackenzie (leaving its captain
dead at Caubul), made good its way to Bameean; and the Shah’s Goorkha
regiment, with other irregular details, accompanied it to its dreary
winter-quarters in the mountainous recesses of the great Caucasian

Upon the policy of this movement I cannot pause to speculate. I believe
that the system of planting small detachments in isolated positions
was one of the great errors which marked our military occupation of
Afghanistan. But something more was designed than this. It was in
contemplation to send a larger force to explore the mountains of
the Hindoo-Koosh. Dr. Percival Lord, who had been one of Burnes’s
companions on the “Commercial Mission” to Caubul, had just returned
to the Afghan capital with the force under Colonel Wade; and now that
it was considered desirable to despatch a political officer to the
Oosbeg frontier, it was but natural that Lord, who had visited the
neighbourhood of Koondooz in 1837-1838, should have been selected for
the duty. Lord went; but had not been long absent from Caubul when
he returned, with exaggerated stories of the success of Dost Mahomed
among the petty chiefs of the Hindoo-Koosh, and of a great movement
which was about to be made for the re-establishment of the supremacy of
the Ameer. Upon this, Macnaghten, who had begun to doubt the extreme
popularity of Shah Soojah, and the safety of confiding his protection
and support to the handful of British troops which it was originally
intended to leave in Afghanistan, made a requisition to Sir John Keane
for a stronger military force, and turned Dr. Lord’s story to account
in the furtherance of his own views.

It was easy to issue orders for the maintenance of a large body of
British troops in Afghanistan; but it was not so easy to house the
regiments thus maintained. The winter was before them. They could not
remain encamped on the plain around Caubul. It became, therefore,
matter of anxious consideration how accommodation was to be provided
for so large a body of regular troops. The subject, indeed, had pressed
upon the attention of the political and military chiefs before the
brigade, which was originally to have been left in the country, had
swelled into a division; and the engineer officers had been called into
council, and had given the only advice that was likely to emanate from
competent military authority. Lieutenant Durand—a gallant soldier and
an able scientific officer—saw at once the importance of posting the
troops in the Balla Hissar.[9] And there, in the winter of that year,
they were posted, to be removed in the following autumn to the fatal
cantonments which by that time were springing up on the plain.

The city of Caubul is situated between two ranges of lofty hills, along
the ridges of which run lines of loop-holed walls, with here and there
small obtruding towers, or bastions, too weak and too extended to be
serviceable for purposes of defence. It is said to be about three miles
in circumference. The Balla Hissar stands on a hill, overlooking the
city. There are, strictly speaking, two Balla Hissars; the lower of
which, on our first entry into Caubul, was in a rickety and decayed
state, and could not have stood for an hour against British artillery.
Both were commanded by the walled hills above them. The upper Balla
Hissar, or citadel, commands the whole of the city and the suburbs. The
lower Balla Hissar, which is surrounded by a shallow but rather deep
ditch, commands only part of one of the bazaars—the Shore bazaar—two
large forts (Mahmoud Khan’s and the Beenee Hissar), and the road to
Jellalabad. The houses of the town are mostly flat-roofed; the streets
for the most part narrow and tortuous. The most important feature of it
is the great bazaar, built, or commenced, by Ali Murdan Khan—a mart
for the produce of all the nations of the East.[10]

The Bombay division of the Army of the Indus marched from Caubul on
the 18th of September; and on the 15th of October, Sir John Keane,
with the troops destined for Bengal, set out for the provinces by
way of the eastern passes. The Shah had by this time begun to think
of escaping from the severity of the Caubul winter, and reposing in
the milder climate and more tranquil neighbourhood of Jellalabad. The
sweets of restored dominion had not gratified him to the extent of his
anticipations. He was, indeed, a disappointed man. He sighed as he
declared that the Caubul he had revisited was not the Caubul of his
youth; his kingdom seemed to have shrivelled and collapsed; and even
of these shrunken dominions, fettered and controlled as he was, he was
only half a king. It was plain that, in the eyes of his subjects, his
connexion with the Feringhees had greatly humiliated him. But he wanted
the English money and the English bayonets, and was compelled to bear
the burden.

Macnaghten was to accompany the King to Jellalabad; and, in the
meanwhile, Burnes was to be left in political charge of Caubul and the
neighbourhood. The people seemed to be settling down into something
like quiescence. If there were little enthusiasm among them, they
seemed at first to be outwardly contented with the change. Cupidity
is one of the strongest feelings that finds entrance into the Afghan
breast. The boundless wealth of the English had been a tradition in
Afghanistan ever since the golden days of Mountstuart Elphinstone’s
mission. Money had been freely scattered about at Candahar; and it was
believed that with an equally profuse hand it would now be disbursed at
Caubul. It is true that the military chest and the political treasury
had been so indented upon, that when the army reached the capital there
was a painful scarcity of coin.[11] But there were large supplies
of treasure on the way. The jingling of the money-bag was already
ravishing their ears and stirring their hearts. They did not love the
Feringhees; but they delighted in Feringhee gold.

This was a miserable state of things; and even the influence of the
gold was limited and short-lived. After the outbreak at Caubul, when
Mohun Lal was secreted in the Kuzzilbash quarters, he heard the men
and women talking among themselves, and saying that the English had
enriched the grain-sellers, the grass-sellers, and others who dealt
in provisions for man and beast, whilst they reduced the chiefs to
poverty, and killed the poor by starvation. The presence of the English
soon raised the price of all the necessaries of life. This was no new
thing. If a flight of Englishmen settle in a French or a Belgian town,
it is not long before the price of provisions is raised. But here was a
Commissariat department, with a mighty treasury at its command, buying
up all the commodities of Caubul, and not only paying preposterous sums
for everything they purchased, but holding out the strongest inducement
to purveyors to keep back their supplies, in order to force a higher
range of prices.

Even from this early date everything was working silently against us.
The inherent vice of the course of policy which we had initiated was
beginning to infect every branch of the administration. The double
government which had been established was becoming a curse to the
whole nation. The Shah and his officers ostensibly controlled all
the departments of civil administration; but everywhere our English
officers were at their elbow, to counsel and suggest; and when it was
found necessary to coerce the disobedient or punish the rebellious,
then it was British authority that drew the sword out of the scabbard,
and hunted down offenders to the death. Bound by treaty not to
interfere in the internal administration of the country, the British
functionaries were compelled to permit the existence of much which they
themselves would never have initiated or allowed in provinces subject
to their rule; but they were often called upon to enforce measures,
unpopular and perhaps unjust; and so brought down upon themselves the
opprobrium which was not always their due. It could hardly be said that
the King possessed a government of his own, when the control of the
army and the exchequer was in the hands of others. England supplied
the money and the bayonets; and claimed the right to employ them both
according to her own pleasure. It would have been a miracle if such a
system had not soon broken down with a desolating crash, and buried its
authors in the ruins.

It was said prophetically by more than one statesman, that our
difficulties would begin where our military successes ended. Englishmen
and Afghans alike said that it was easy to restore Shah Soojah to the
throne, but difficult to maintain him upon it. It was, from the first,
only a question of time—only a question how long such a system could
be propped up by the strong arm and the long purse of the king-makers.
No amount of wisdom in the agents of such a policy could have saved
it from ultimate ruin. Sooner or later it must have fallen. If there
had been nothing else indeed to bring it to the ground, the utter
exhaustion of the Indian treasury must have given it its death-blow.

To have placed Shah Soojah on the throne, and to have left him again
to be driven back an outcast and a fugitive, to seek an asylum in
the provinces of India, would have been a failure and a disgrace. It
was the object of the British Government, therefore, to hedge him
in a little longer with our authority, and to establish him more
firmly on the throne. But so far from these being synonymous terms,
and co-existent states of being, they were utterly antagonistic and
irreconcileable. The more we surrounded the King with our authority,
the less firmly he was fixed on the throne. It might have been sound
policy to have continued the occupation of Afghanistan, if our
continuance there had tended to secure the supremacy of the Shah, and
to establish him in the affections of the people; but it was not in the
nature of things that the effect of the experiment should not have been
diametrically the reverse.

So prodigious an anomaly was the system itself, that, except so far
as it affected the period of its dissolution, retarding or expediting
it by a few months or a few years, the agency employed in the vain
attempt to uphold it was a matter of little moment. But that agency
was assuredly not of a character to enhance the chances even of
its temporary success. Shah Soojah had brought from Loodhianah one
Moollah Shikore[12]—a man who had shared his exile, and acted as his
confidential agent. He was old, and enfeebled by age. His memory was
gone; so were his ears. For some offence against his Majesty in former
days, he had forfeited those useful appendages. A happy faculty of
remembering the persons and personal histories of men, is one of the
most useful ingredients in the character of a statesman, and it is
one which, in rare exuberance, some of our greatest statesmen have
possessed. But it was said of this Moollah Shikore, that men whom he
had seen on one day he forgot on the next.[13] The King had abundant
faith in his loyalty, and confidence in his personal attachment. The
man had managed the stunted household of the royal exile with such
address, that it was believed that he could now manage the affairs of
his master’s restored dominions. So he was made minister of state. They
called him Wuzeer. But his master did not acknowledge the title, and
the British did not call him by it. “Bad ministers,” wrote Burnes, “are
in every government solid grounds for unpopularity; and I doubt if ever
a King had a worse set than Shah Soojah.” The system itself was rotten
to the very core; and the agency employed was, perhaps, the corruptest
in the world. Had there been much more vitality and strength in the
system, Moollah Shikore and his deputies would soon have given it its

But though feeble in other respects, this Moollah Shikore was not
feeble in his hatred of the British. The minister oppressed the
people. The people appealed to the British functionaries. The British
functionaries remonstrated with the minister. And the minister punished
the people for appealing.[14] The Shah and the Moollah chafed under the
interference of the British. But they loved the British money; and they
required the support of the British bayonets. And so bravely for a time
worked the double government at Caubul.

Whilst such was the state of things at the supreme seat of government,
there was little less to create dissatisfaction in the internal
administration of Candahar. The principal revenue officers were two
Sheeahs, the sons of that Hussein Khan, the obnoxious minister whom
Shah Zemaun had put to death. Their names were Mahomed Takee Khan
and Wulloo Mahomed Khan. Cradled in intense enmity to the Douranees,
they had grown into unscrupulous persecutors of the tribes. Selected
by the Barukzye Sirdars as willing agents of those humiliating and
enfeebling measures by which they sought to extinguish the vitality
of the Douranees, they entered upon their work in a ruthless and
uncompromising spirit, and plied the instruments of their office
with remarkable success for the persecution and degradation of their
enemies. The hatred with which the Douranees regarded these men was too
deep to suffer them to embrace with complacency any measures, however
conciliatory in themselves, of which the old Barukzye tools were the
executors. Such unpopular agents were enough to render distasteful
the most popular measures. The Douranees were, indeed, greatly
disappointed. Do what they would, they could not obtain a paramount
influence in the state. The door was closed against them by the British
janitors who kept watch around the palace; and the chiefs soon began to
chafe under the foreign intrusion which deprived them of all ascendancy
in the councils of the restored monarch, and prevented them from
regaining the full extent of those financial privileges which they had
enjoyed under his Suddozye predecessors.[15]

And so it happened that, from the very dawn of the Restoration,
unpopular and unscrupulous Afghan agents were employed to carry out
a monstrous system. Of a very different character were the British
agents upon whom now devolved the duty of watching the proceedings
of the native executive, and, without any palpable acknowledged
interference, virtually controlling it. The political agents scattered
about Afghanistan have drawn down upon themselves a larger measure of
vituperation than perhaps has ever descended upon any body of British
functionaries. They were mixed up with an unholy and a disastrous
policy, and perhaps some little of the evil that subsequently developed
itself may be attributed to their personal defects; but, on the
whole, they were not unwisely chosen, and it is doubtful if other men
would have done better. At all events, when Burnes, Conolly, Leech,
Pottinger, Todd, Lord, and others, who had previously made themselves
acquainted with the country and the people, were sent to overlook
the progress of affairs in different parts of Afghanistan, it cannot
be said that no care was taken to select our agents from among the
officers who were most qualified by previous experience to perform
the new duties devolving upon them. Macnaghten’s assistants were,
for the most part, men of local experience and proved activity. The
Governor-General had imparted to the Envoy his ideas of the manner
in which it would be most expedient to employ them.[16] And it may
be doubted whether, if the system itself had not been so radically
defective, it would have ever broken down under the agency which was
commissioned to carry it into effect.

Such, traced in dim outline, were some of the elements of decay
planted deep in the constitution of the political system which we
were attempting to carry out in Afghanistan. Always of a sanguine
temperament, and one whose wish was ever father of his thoughts,
Macnaghten did not see that already the seeds of a great and sweeping
revolution were being sown broadcast across the whole length and
breadth of the land. He was prepared, and it was right that he should
have been, for local and accidental outbreaks. The Afghans are a
turbulent and lawless people, little inclined to succumb to authority,
and have a rough way of demonstrating their dislikes. Had he expected
the authority of the Shah to be universally established in a few
weeks, the British Envoy would have manifested a deplorable ignorance
of the national character; but little less was the ignorance which
he manifested, when he believed that the system of government he was
countenancing could ever establish the country in tranquillity, and the
King in the affections of the people. There were others who saw clearly
that such a system was doomed to set in disaster and disgrace;[17] but
Macnaghten, when he accompanied the Court to Jellalabad, carried with
him no forebodings of evil. He believed that the country was settling
down into quietude under the restored monarchy; and so little, indeed,
did he think that any danger was to be apprehended, that he encouraged
his wife to join him in Afghanistan, and sent a party of irregular
horsemen under Edward Conolly to escort her from the provinces of India.

But already was he beginning to have some experience of the turbulent
elements of Afghan society, and the difficulty of controlling
the tribes. In the West, the Ghilzyes had been demonstrating
the unruliness of their nature ever since Shah Soojah re-entered
Afghanistan; and, shortly after his restoration to the Balla Hissar
of Caubul, Captain Outram had been sent out against them, and had
achieved one of those temporary successes which, in a country like
Afghanistan, where blood is ever crying aloud for blood, can only
perpetuate the disquietude of a disaffected people. And now in the
East, the passes of the Khybur were bristling with the hostile tribes.
The Khybur chiefs had always turned to good account the difficulties
of the passage through their terrible defiles. They opened the highway
in consideration of certain money-payments from the Caubul rulers.
The sums paid under the Suddozye Kings had been reduced by the
Barukzye Sirdars; but on his restoration, Shah Soojah, who, in a day
of difficulty, had sought and found a refuge among the Khyburees, now
promised to restore to the tribes the privileges which they had enjoyed
under his fathers. But the Shah had acted in this matter without the
authority or the knowledge of Macnaghten, and the chiefs were little
likely to receive the amount which the King had agreed to pay to them.
Incensed by what they considered a breach of faith, they rose up
against the small detached parties which Wade had left at different
posts between Peshawur and Jellalabad.[18] Ali-Musjid was attacked,
but not taken. Ferris, who commanded the garrison, repulsed them with
heavy loss. But a battalion of Nujeebs, entrenched in the vicinity
of the fort, was cut up by an incursion of the mountaineers.[19] The
appearance of Sir John Keane, with the residue of the Army of the
Indus, quieted for a time the turbulent tribes. But when the column
had cleared the pass, they harassed the detachments sent to the relief
of Ali-Musjid,[20] and a force under Colonel Wheeler was therefore
sent out from Jellalabad to overawe the refractory mountaineers, and
support the negotiations in which Mackeson was engaged. The Khyburees
attacked his baggage, hamstrung his camels, and thus contrived to
sweep some booty into their hands. Wheeler’s operations were for a
time successful; but it was not until Macnaghten himself appeared
on the scene, and recognised, in view of their formidable defiles,
the expediency of conciliating by sufficient money-payments these
troublesome clans, that they sunk into temporary quiescence.

It was at Avitabile’s hospitable table in the Goorkhutra of Peshawur,
that Macnaghten received intelligence of the fall of Khelat. The
health of the victors was drunk with delighted enthusiasm, manifesting
itself in the “three times three” of a good English cheer. All the
circumstances of the capture of the stronghold were discussed with deep
interest to a late hour. It was told how, on the morning of the 13th of
November, General Wiltshire, with the 2nd and 17th Queen’s Regiments,
the 31st Bengal Native Infantry, with two howitzers, four of the
Shah’s six-pounder guns, and a detachment of local horse, found himself
before Khelat. It was plain that Mehrab Khan was in no mood to submit
to the terms dictated to him. He had at first doubted the intentions
of the British to move against his stronghold, and had been slow to
adopt measures of defence. But when he knew that our troops were
advancing upon Khelat, he prepared himself, like a brave man, to meet
his fate, and flung defiance at the infidel invaders. Khelat is a place
of commanding strength. The citadel rises high above the buildings of
the town, and frowns menacingly on its assailants. On the north-west
of the fort were three heights, which the Khan had covered with his
infantry, supported by five guns in position. The engineer officers
reported that, until these heights were carried, it would be impossible
to proceed against the fortress. Orders were then given for the attack.
It was Willshire’s hope that the enemy might be driven down to the
gates of the fortress, and that our stormers might rush in with them.
Gallantly the hills were carried; gallantly the guns were captured.
The infantry advanced under a heavy fire from the British artillery.
The shrapnel shot from Stevenson’s batteries fell with too deadly an
aim among the Beloochee footmen for them to hold their position on the
hills. They fled towards the walls of the fortress, and our infantry
pushed hotly after them. But not in time were they to secure an
entrance; the gates were closed against their advance.

The artillery was now brought into play. The infantry, compelled
to protect themselves against the heavy fire poured in from the
rocks, sheltered themselves behind some ruined buildings, whilst
our batteries, planted on the heights, opened upon the gate and the
neighbouring defences. Two of Cooper’s guns were brought within a
distance of 200 yards; and whilst the gunners fell under the matchlock
fire of the enemy, played full upon the gate. At last it gave way.
Pointing his hand towards the gate, Willshire rode down to show the
infantry that an entrance was ready for them. Rising at once from
their cover, they rushed in with a loud hurrah. Pennycuick and his men
were the first to enter. The other companies soon followed, until the
whole of the storming column were within the walls of Khelat. Onward
they struggled manfully towards the citadel. Every inch of ground
was obstinately disputed. But at last the citadel was won. There was
a desperate resistance. Sword in hand, Mehrab Khan and some of his
principal chiefs stood there to give us battle. The Khan himself fell
dead with a musket-ball through his breast. Eight of his principal
ministers and Sirdars fell beside him. From some inner apartments,
of difficult approach, a fire was still poured in upon our people;
and it was not until Lieutenant Loveday, an assistant of the British
agent, went up to them alone, that they were induced to surrender.[21]
Loveday received them as prisoners; and then proceeded to rescue from
captivity the aged mother and other female dependents of an old rival,
whose claims were to be no longer denied.

Nussur Khan, the chief’s son, had fled. A considerable amount of prize
property was collected; an old pretender to the throne, known as Shah
Newaz, who had for some time been hanging on to the skirts of Shah
Soojah and his allies, was set up in his place; and the provinces
of Shawl, Moostung, and Cutchee, which had long been sentenced to
spoliation, were stripped from the old dominions of the Khan of Khelat,
and annexed to the territories of Shah Soojah-ool-Moolk. The Shah had
been hankering after an extension of empire; and it was determined
that the much-coveted aggrandisement should be conceded to him in the
direction of Upper Sindh.

It is possible that, whilst all these circumstances were being narrated
and discussed at Avitabile’s dinner-table, there may have been present
one or two officers much troubled with self-questionings regarding the
justice of these proceedings. But the general opinion, all throughout
Afghanistan and India, was that this Mehrab Khan had been rightly
punished for his offences. Few knew distinctly what these offences
were. There was a general impression that he had been guilty of acts of
indescribable treachery; and that during the passage of the British
army through Beloochistan, he was continually molesting our advancing
columns. It was the fashion to attribute to the wickedness of Mehrab
Khan all the sufferings which afflicted the Army of the Indus on its
march to Candahar, the scarcity which pressed so heavily upon man and
beast, and the depredations of the marauding Beloochees. The very
barrenness of the country, indeed, was by some laid at his door. It was
not very clearly seen, at this time, that the Army of the Indus was
at least as much the cause, as it was the victim of the scarcity in
Beloochistan. When our troops passed through the dominions of the Khan
of Khelat, there was already, as has been shown by Burnes’s admissions,
a scarcity in the land; and our vast moving camp increased it. The safe
passage of the Bolan Pass was effected through the friendly agency of
the Brahoo chief. And we have it emphatically, upon the authority of
Macnaghten, that the progress of the Army of the Indus through the
country of Mehrab Khan was attended by much devastation—that a great
injury was inflicted upon the people—and that nothing would have been
easier than for the Khan to have destroyed our entire force. Such was
the language of our diplomatists up to the end of March; but in April,
Burnes recommended the castigation of the Khan of Khelat; and Mehrab
Khan was doomed to be stripped, on the first convenient opportunity,
of his territory, and deprived either of his liberty or his life. The
evidence of Mehrab Khan’s treachery is not sufficiently strong to
satisfy me that the British righteously confiscated his principality
and sacrificed his life. He was surrounded by traitors. When his
stronghold was entered, it was seen that the servants he had trusted
had the means of betraying their master; and it was clear, to all who
investigated the charges against him with judicial impartiality, that
he had been betrayed. It was clear that many of the offences imputed
to him were to be ascribed rather to the machinations of his secret
enemies than to his own enmity and bad faith. But he had been early
doomed to destruction. The recommendations of the British diplomatists
in Afghanistan had been adopted by the Governor-General; and the
deposition of Mehrab Khan, and the annexation of Shawl, Moostung, and
Cutchee, had been decreed in the Simlah Council Chamber.[22] It was
true that Shah Soojah had, in the hour of need, been succoured by
Mehrab Khan. A statesman in whom the kindly instincts of humanity were
so strong as in Lord Auckland, was not likely to forget the obligations
which so essential a service at such a time imposed upon the restored
monarch.[23] But the graceful suggestion of the Governor-General was
lost; and the Khan lived just long enough to curse himself for his
folly in having opened his arms to receive the Suddozye pretender,
when he fled, baffled and beaten, from the battle-field of Candahar.
For that act of hospitality he paid, five years afterwards, with his

Whether any thoughts of this kind arose to dash the pleasure of those
who toasted the victors of Khelat at Avitabile’s dinner-table, can
only be conjectured; but all present acknowledged that the capture
of Mehrab Khan’s stronghold was a great military exploit. The native
soldiery are said to have esteemed it more highly than the capture of
Ghuznee, for they had been wisely allowed to participate in the honour
of the exploit. Sir John Keane had been much censured for composing
his storming column entirely of European companies. The exclusiveness
of the act seemed to imply mistrust in his Sepoy regiments, and did
not raise the General in the estimation of their officers. It was a
subject, therefore, of general congratulation throughout the Company’s
army, that a Native regiment had shared with two of the Ghuznee
storming corps the glory of the assault upon Khelat, and had proved
themselves well worthy of the confidence that had been placed in them.

And so Sir John Keane and General Willshire returned to India. The
“Army of the Indus” was broken up, and soon there came from England
the welcome announcement that the successes of the campaign had been
duly appreciated by the Sovereign, and the chief actors duly rewarded.
Lord Auckland was created an Earl; Sir John Keane rose up as Baron
Keane of Ghuznee; Mr. Macnaghten took his place in history as Sir
William Macnaghten, Baronet; Colonel Wade became thenceforth Sir Claude
Wade, Knight; and a shower of lesser distinctions, of brevets and
Bath-honours, descended upon the working officers, whose gallantry had
contributed so largely to the success of this memorable campaign.


[January-September: 1840.]

 The Great Game in Central Asia—The Russian Expedition to
 Khiva—Apprehensions of Burnes—Colonel Stoddart—Affairs on
 the Hindoo-Koosh—Failure of the Russian Expedition—Conduct
 of the Sikhs—Herat and Yar Mahomed—Mission of Abbott and
 Shakespear—Disturbances in the Ghilzye Country—Fall of
 Khelat—Arthur Conolly.

The King and the Envoy spent the winter at Jellalabad. There was
something like a lull in Afghanistan. When the snow is on the ground
the turbulence of the Afghans is wont to subside.[24] The time was
favourable for the consideration of revenue matters, and Macnaghten
began to inquire into the expenditure and the resources of the kingdom.
The inquiry was not a satisfactory one. It was obvious that the
government could be carried on only by the extraction of large sums
from the treasury of India; and Macnaghten was continually urging the
Supreme Government to authorise the expenditure of these large sums of
money, and continually exhorting the authorities in the north-western
provinces to send him all the treasure they could spare.

But there was much in the state of our foreign relations at this time
to distract the thoughts of the minister from the affairs of the home
department. The Russian question was now forcing itself again upon our
Indian statesmen. Even before the Court turned its back upon Caubul,
tidings had been received, in the first instance from Pottinger at
Herat, which left little room to doubt that a Russian force was about
to set out from Orenburgh on an expedition into Central Asia. The
immediate object of this movement was to threaten the state of Khiva,
which had long been throwing obstacles in the way of Russian commerce,
and carrying off Russian subjects into hopeless captivity. Russia had
been prosecuting an extensive trade with the countries of Central Asia;
but the state of Khiva which borders on the country occupied by the
Kerghiz Cossacks, was now declared by the Russian Government to be
“daily harassing the wandering tribes that encamp on our frontiers,
interrupting the intercourse the other states of Asia keep up with us,
detaining the caravans of Bokhara on their way to and from Russia,
obliging them to pay extravagant duties, and compelling them by main
force to pass through its territory, and there seizing a considerable
portion of their merchandise.” “These insults to foreigners, holding
commercial intercourse with Russia, are, however,” continues the
Russian state-paper—the manifesto of the Government of the Czar,
declaring the grounds of their expedition into Central Asia—“of less
importance than the attacks which have been made on Russian caravans.
Not one of these can now cross the desert without danger. It was in
this manner that a Russian caravan from Orenburgh, with goods belonging
to our merchants, was pillaged by the armed bands of Khiva. No Russian
merchant can now venture into that country without running the risk
of losing his life or being made a prisoner. The inhabitants of Khiva
are constantly making incursions into that part of the country of the
Kerghiz which is at a distance from our lines, ... and to crown all
these insults, they are detaining several thousand Russian subjects
in slavery. The number of these unfortunate wretches increases daily,
for the peaceful fishermen on the banks of the Caspian are continually
attacked and carried off as slaves to Khiva.”

Here were plainly and intelligibly set forth the injuries committed
by the state of Khiva against the subjects of the Russian Government,
and the grounds on which the latter called for redress. Every attempt,
it was stated, to obtain satisfaction for these wrongs, by reason and
persuasion, had failed. It was necessary, therefore, to resort to
more decisive measures. “Every means of persuasion,” continued the
manifesto, “has now been exhausted. The rights of Russia, the security
of her trade, the tranquillity of her subjects, and the dignity of the
state, call for decisive measures; and the Emperor has judged it to
be time to send a body of troops to Khiva, to put an end to robbery
and exaction, to deliver those Russians who are detained in slavery,
to make the inhabitants of Khiva esteem and respect the Russian name,
and finally to strengthen in that part of Asia the lawful influence to
which Russia has a right, and which alone can insure the maintenance of
peace. This is the purpose of the present expedition; and as soon as it
shall be attained, and an order of things conformable to the interests
of Russia and the neighbouring Asiatic states shall be established on
a permanent footing, the body of troops which has received orders to
march on Khiva will return to the frontiers of the empire.”

The _casus belli_ was here laid down with sufficient distinctness, and
the facts stated in the manifesto were not to be denied. But it was
believed that Russia had other objects in view than the liberation of
her slaves and the safety of her commerce; and that if the British
army had not occupied Afghanistan, this manifesto would not have been
issued by the Czar. It was regarded, indeed, as a counter-movement
called forth by our own advance; and candid men could allege nothing
against it on the score of justice or expediency. There was something
suspicious in the time and manner of its enunciation. But there was
less of aggression and usurpation in it than in our own manifesto.
The movement was justified by the law of nations. There was outwardly
something, indeed, of positive righteousness in it, appealing to the
best instincts of our nature. And, if there were behind all this
outside show of humanity a politic desire to keep in check a rival
power, that was now intruding in countries far beyond its own line of
frontier, it can only be said that our own movement into Afghanistan
was directed against a danger of the same kind, but of much less
substantial proportions.

But the expedition of Russia into Central Asia excited the alarm of our
statesmen in Afghanistan, though it did not rouse their indignation.
There was, at all events, in it much food for anxious consideration.
It was the one great subject of thought and topic of discussion in the
winter of 1839-1840. Burnes, who was left in control at Caubul, whilst
Macnaghten was with the Shah at Jellalabad, now, with the snow around
him, found himself in the enjoyment of a season of comparative leisure,
able both to think and to write. “What a year has been the past,” he
wrote to a friend at Bombay, on the 19th of November—“not to me, I
mean, but to our affairs in the East. Further submission to what was
going on, and our days of supremacy in the East, were numbered. As it
is, we have brought upon ourselves some additional half-million of
annual expenditure, and, ere 1840 ends, I predict that our frontiers
and those of Russia will touch—that is, the states dependent upon
either of us will—and that is the same thing.... Every week brings
fresh business; and all the world will now have it that Russia has
advanced on Khiva. What of that? She has the right to relieve her
enslaved countrymen; and if she have the power, why should she have so
long hesitated? But the time she has chosen for this blow is an awkward
one. I hold, however, that the man who recommends the cantonment of
a British or an Indian soldier west of the Indus is an enemy to his

After the lapse of a month, Burnes wrote again to another
correspondent, more emphatically, on the same subject:

 But everything past and present has been cast into the shade by the
 expedition which the Russians have now pushed into Central Asia. I
 have known of it for eight weeks past, and had numerous and authentic
 reports concerning their waggons, their _matériel_, &c., &c., all
 of which are on a grand scale, giving rise to serious apprehensions
 that their plans are not confined to the chastisement of the petty
 Khan of Khiva; indeed, our policy at Herat is already out of joint,
 and we have reason to know that Russia from Khiva looks to that city.
 Her attack on Khiva is justified by all the laws of nations; and in
 a country like England, where slave-dealing is so odiously detested,
 ought to find favour in men’s eyes rather than blame. Yet the time
 chosen wears a bad appearance, if it at once does not lead to the
 inference that Russia has put forth her forces merely to counteract
 our policy. This latter is my opinion; and by our advance on Caubul
 we have thus hastened the great crisis. England and Russia will divide
 Asia between them, and the two empires will enlarge like the circles
 in the water till they are lost in nothing; and future generations
 will search for both of us in these regions, as we now seek for the
 remains of Alexander and his Greeks.

 While external affairs stand thus, internal matters are not free from
 anxiety. Dost Mahomed’s power is nominally dissolved; but he has just
 been invited to Bokhara at the instigation of Russia, and he hopes
 to receive Balkh as a gift from the King there; but in May next we
 shall occupy Balkh, and if Russia advances beyond Khiva, be prepared
 to meet her. Troops are, indeed, warned; but as we cannot act till
 May, we shall have abundance of time. As for withdrawing our army, it
 is out of the question; for though I maintain that man to be an enemy
 to his country who recommends a soldier to be stationed west of the
 Indus, what is to be done? Shah Soojah’s contingent has been hitherto
 so mismanaged that it is fit for nothing; and till fit (supposing
 Russia not to have appeared), the Shah cannot rely on Afghans. So he
 says; but if he will but place British officers over them, pay them
 regularly and not interfere with their republican ideas, they would
 alone keep this country in order. Now, there is a dose of politics for
 you, as verbose as I used to give you when we dined at the house in
 Waterloo-place, or when, over a lobster, after some of those brilliant
 society meetings in London. My present position is as follows: I drive
 the coach in Caubul while Macnaghten is with the King. On our arrival
 here, the envoy made a bold push to get away, he being tired of his
 place; but the Governor-General beseeched him to stay a while longer,
 and appointed your humble servant resident at Candahar; but this I
 declined, and I now get 2500 rupees for staying here, though I hope to
 receive my resident’s salary. The atrocious crime of being a young man
 is what I imagine keeps me _en second_ so long; but I get on well with
 Macnaghten, and only want responsibility to be a happy man.

 In the Punjab, all is, I am glad to say, wrong. The son has usurped
 all real power, and Kuruk Singh is a cypher. I hope their strife will
 lead to the evacuation of Peshawur. Events bid fair for our taking
 Herat; and then, and not till then, shall we have restored the Afghan

Less heavily on Macnaghten’s mind sate the thought of this Russian
invasion. Other and nearer sources of inquietude troubled him at this
time. In whatsoever direction he turned his eyes, he was glared at by
some great trouble. Everything was going wrong. At Herat, Yar Mahomed
was playing a game of unexampled treachery. In the remote regions of
Central Asia, a British envoy was groaning under the tyranny of the
unscrupulous Ameer of Bokhara. Nearer home, the measures of the double
government in Afghanistan were beginning to bear their own bitter
fruits. At Candahar, the Douranees were chafing under the exactions of
unpopular revenue-officers. In the Kohistan, already were those, who
had revolted, in a critical hour, against Dost Mahomed, and contributed
largely to his expulsion from Afghanistan, sighing for his return.
And further down towards the South, the country which we had made the
burial-place of Mehrab Khan, was breaking out into rebellion against
the authority which we had attempted to establish; while the Sikhs, to
whom we had conceded so much, our associates in the Tripartite Treaty,
were unscrupulously intriguing against us.

All these things were against him. It was plain that he was among a
people of a very different stamp from those with whom he had been
connected throughout the earlier years of his administrative career.
There was much to disquiet his mind, to engage his thoughts, and to
occupy his time. One after another he passed in review before him all
the difficulties which beset his path; but there was nothing that
pressed more heavily on his mind, or which seemed to arouse him into
intenser action, than the outrages to which Colonel Stoddart had been
subjected at Bokhara.

Stoddart had been at Bokhara ever since the close of the year 1838. He
had been despatched by Mr. M’Neill to that Court, with instructions to
obtain the liberation of all the Russians pining there in captivity,
and to conclude a friendly treaty with the Ameer. His reception,
though marked by some caprice, was not altogether uncourteous. He was
very ignorant of the customs of the country, and was inclined to resent
as insults the exaction of formalities in accordance with the ordinary
usages of Bokhara. He seems to have made no effort to win the favour
of the barbarous monarch by the adoption of a conciliatory demeanour;
but somehow or other he scrambled through the first ceremonials without
giving the Commander of the Faithful any mortal offence.

But it would appear that he soon excited the bitter enmity of the
Reiss, or minister. His letters had been addressed to the predecessor
of this man. The old minister had been disgraced whilst Stoddart was
on his way to Bokhara, and the new man was little inclined to regard
with favour the Feringhee who had sought the protection of the old. In
a very short time, Stoddart, having been invited to the residence of
the Reiss, was suddenly seized, thrown to the ground, bound with cords,
and threatened with death by the minister himself, who stood over him
with a long knife. He was then carried out, on a dark rainy night, into
the streets, hurried from place to place, by torchlight, and at last
lowered down by ropes into a dark well, swarming with the most nauseous
vermin, to be the companion of murderers and thieves. In this wretched
dungeon, weakened both in body and in mind by long-continued suffering,
he consented outwardly to conform to the ceremonials of the Mahomedan

After two months of extreme suffering, Stoddart was released from
this dreadful dungeon. The chief officer of police then received him
into his house; and from this time, throughout the year 1839, though
subject to the caprices of a tyrannous monarch and an unscrupulous
minister, and the insults of barbarians of less note, his condition
on the whole was bettered. The success of the British in Afghanistan
seemed for a time to awaken the Ameer to a just sense of the power of
the British nation, and Stoddart rose into importance at the Bokhara
Court, as the agent of a powerful state, capable of exercising a mighty
influence over the destinies of Central Asia. But the caprices of this
barbarous potentate were great. The smiles of to-day were followed by
the cruelties of the morrow. Stoddart continued a prisoner at Bokhara;
and Macnaghten, sympathising with the sufferings of a brave officer,
and eager to chastise the insolent barbarity of the petty Central-Asian
tyrant, again contemplated the despatch of a brigade across the
mountains of the Hindoo-Koosh.

It was necessary, however, to tread cautiously on this ground. There
were more reasons than one why Macnaghten, at this time, turned his
thoughts towards Bokhara. Dost Mahomed had sought an asylum at the
Ameer’s Court.[27] The “Commander of the Faithful,” as this rude
Mussulman potentate ostentatiously termed himself, received the
fugitive with open arms. For a little while he lavished upon the fallen
Prince all the benignities of oriental hospitality; and then laid his
heavy hand upon him, and made him a prisoner.

“It seems certain that the Dost has got into bad odour at Bokhara,”
wrote Macnaghten to Burnes, on the 20th of February, “and it is very
improbable that the two Ameers-ool-Moomuneen will ever act cordially
together.” It was the policy of our British diplomatists, at this time,
to keep the two Ameers in a state of disunion and antagonism. But the
very course which Macnaghten was disposed to pursue towards Bokhara,
was that of all others which was most surely calculated to cement an
alliance between them. A military expedition against Bokhara would, in
all probability, have induced the Khan to release Dost Mahomed, and to
supply him with the means of crossing the frontier at the head of an
imposing body of fighting men, and, aided by the Wullee of Khooloom and
other chiefs of the Oosbeg hill states, making an effort to regain his
lost dominions. There was something, too, in the alleged cause of Dost
Mahomed’s confinement at Bokhara, which made Macnaghten waver still
more in his determination to send an army across the Hindoo-Koosh, and
suggested to him the expediency of devoting himself to the furtherance
of objects of another kind. It was said that the Ameer of Bokhara was
greatly incensed by Dost Mahomed’s practical refusal to summon his
family to that city. They had remained under the charge of Jubbar Khan,
in the hospitable territory of the Wullee of Khooloom; and it was
reported that the Khan of Bokhara had declared, that if they sought the
protection of the British Government, he would destroy Dost Mahomed.
But Jubbar Khan was well disposed at this time to seek from the British
an honourable asylum for his brother’s family; and the question of
their reception was earnestly pondered by Macnaghten, and discussed
with the Shah. In the middle of February, he wrote to Burnes, from
Jellalabad, that although common hospitality required that an asylum
should not be refused to persons “in so distressed a plight as the
Dost’s family;” but that, at the same time, common prudence required
that in the exercise of this office of humanity, we should not expose
ourselves to the machinations of perfidious enemies. He suggested
therefore, that Dr. Lord, in reply to any request on the subject,
should say that a safe and honourable asylum would be granted to the
Ameer’s family on condition of their residing wherever our government
might think proper to locate them.

But stolid, selfish, and remorseless towards his enemies, Shah Soojah
was not easily to be persuaded that either humanity or policy demanded
that he should grant an asylum or a maintenance to Dost Mahomed’s
family, and declared that nothing short of absolute force would induce
him to contribute a rupee towards their support. The vicissitudes of
his past life had only hardened the King’s heart, and often as he had
sought an “asylum” himself, he had now, in the day of prosperity, no
bowels of compassion for the fugitive and the suppliant. On the English
envoy, however, the obduracy of Shah Soojah had little effect, and
he still declared that the family of Dost Mahomed were entitled to
kind and honourable treatment at our hands. This justice and humanity
required, whilst it seemed also to Macnaghten to be sound policy to
hold out every inducement to the Ameer to commit his family to our
charge. In that case, he wrote to Burnes, the Shah of Bokhara could
make no use of Dost Mahomed, and the objection to the movement into
Toorkistan would be obviated. “Let us examine,” he added, “what we
are to gain by such a movement, and upon what principles it should
be conducted. The first thing to be gained is the punishment of the
Shah of Bokhara, for his frequent and outrageous violation of the
law of nations, and the release of our agent, Colonel Stoddart, who,
without some exertion on our part, will, it is likely, be doomed to
incarceration for life. I suppose the expedition to be conveniently
feasible, if entered upon at the proper season of the year. What Timour
Shah effected, we can do; and with proper arrangement we may either
enlist on our side, or keep neutral, the chiefs between us and Bokhara.
If we compelled the Shah of Bokhara to release Stoddart, to evacuate
all the countries on this side of the Oxus, and to pay the expenses of
the expedition, we should have achieved all that is desirable.”[28]

The Court remained at Jellalabad up to the third week of April; and
the excursive mind of the Envoy was still wandering out in the wild
regions beyond the Hindoo-Koosh. It was certain that a Russian army
was advancing upon Khiva. In the country about Khooloom the adherents
of Dost Mahomed were exciting against us the hostility of the Oosbegs.
Jubbar Khan, with the Ameer’s family and a large party of retainers,
were there. The petty chiefs beyond the mountains were in a state of
doubtful vassalage, scarcely knowing whether they were subject to
Herat or to Caubul; whether they would recognise the Khan of Bokhara
or the Khan of Khiva as their suzerain; or whether they would be,
in effect, independent of all.[29] It was desirable to annex these
Cis-Oxus principalities to the territory of the Shah, to strengthen
our frontier, and keep them out of the hands of the Bokhara ruler.
Already was there a weak detachment wintering amid the inhospitable
snows of Bameean. The despatch of a strong brigade to the country
beyond was still among the cherished projects of the Envoy. Writing
from Jellalabad, he turned his back upon the southern passes, and
looking out across the northern Caucasian mountains, declared that it
was easier to march on Bokhara than to subjugate the tribes of the
Khybur. To the Governor of Agra he thus addressed himself on the 1st of
April, “A brigade of ours, with a due proportion of artillery, would,
I think, from all I have heard, be fully competent to overcome any
opposition that could be offered to us between this and Bokhara. I do
not think that we should incur the risk of the movement solely for the
purpose of reannexing the Cis-Oxus provinces to the dominions of his
Majesty Shah Soojah; though if they are not so re-annexed, Bokhara,
at the instigation of Russia, will certainly assert a real supremacy.
At present she has only Balkh and its dependencies, and her sway over
that even is but nominal. But we cannot allow Dost Mahomed’s family
to occupy so commanding a position as Khooloom, close to the Afghan
frontier. And may not the contingency upon which the home authorities
direct an advance, be said to have arisen should the Russians establish
themselves in force at Bokhara?”[30]

It was, indeed, a great game on which Macnaghten was then intent—a
game so vast that the subjugation of the Punjab and Nepaul was regarded
as a petty contribution to its success. These grand schemes dazzled
him, and he could not see the dangers which grew at his feet.

“I intend,” he wrote in the letter above quoted, “sending Arthur
Conolly, who has joined me here, and Rawlinson on a mission to Kokan,
with a view, if possible, to frustrate the knavish tricks of the _Russe
log_ in that quarter. Though there are doubtless many of the elements
of mischief in this country, yet I should not apprehend any internal
explosion, even if the greater portion of our troops were withdrawn.
Depend upon it we shall never be at our ease in India until we have
subjugated the Punjab and Nepaul; and the sooner we can come to a
reckoning with our faithful allies the Singhs, the better. They are
doing all they can to injure us in this quarter, and are comforting
all the rebels and parties disaffected to his Majesty Shah Soojah. We
should here have no difficulty in dealing with them in this quarter,
and I will venture to say there would not be a disciple of Nanuk on
this side the Indus a week after the declaration of hostilities.”

As the month advanced, the intelligence from the North was more and
more calculated to rivet the opinion entertained by Burnes and others
of the success of the Russian expedition,[31] and Macnaghten began to
think that the danger was greater than he had once believed. “Unless,”
he wrote at the end of April, “Lord Auckland act with vigour and
promptitude to secure and open our rear, we shall soon be between two
fires—if not under them. France and Russia are advancing with only
the remote contingency of profit to stimulate them. We are supine,
whilst our inactivity will probably be the cause of our ruin. France
gratuitously supplies Persia with 30,000 muskets, at a time when Persia
may be said to be at war with us. I cannot, though I have repeatedly
and earnestly pressed my request, obtain a single musket.”

A fortnight after this letter was written, the Envoy proposed to Burnes
that he should proceed on a mission to the Russian camp. “He said, he
would willingly go if ordered—but that,” added Macnaghten, “is not the
spirit which should animate our Elchee;” and the design was abandoned.
It must have been very soon after this[32] that the glad tidings of the
break-down of the Russian expedition reached the Court of Shah Soojah.
The Envoy had spoken despondingly of the contemptible enemy which the
Russian army had to encounter. But there was an enemy of which no
account was taken—an enemy that had destroyed one of Napoleon’s finest
armies, and which was doomed to overthrow utterly our own policy in
Central Asia—spreading its toils around Peroffski’s advancing columns.
The Snow was doing its work.

On the 13th of March, the failure of the expedition was announced
in the public journals of St. Petersburgh, and Lord Clanricarde, on
the same day, sent the intelligence to Lord Palmerston. The journals
announced that the intense cold, the deep snow, and the inaccessibility
of the country, had destroyed the camels, and compelled the army to
retrace its steps. But the actual truth was worse than the newspaper
history; for Peroffski’s ill-fated army had been attacked by pestilence
and famine.

As the year wore on, Macnaghten’s difficulties seemed to thicken
around him. The failure of the Russian expedition removed one source
of inquietude; but it was a remote one. And nearer home, many great
dangers were bristling up in his path. Still immersed, however, in
foreign politics, the Envoy gave little heed to the domestic troubles
which were environing him. His thoughts were continually ranging
beyond the limits of Shah Soojah’s dominions; and whilst the edifice
he had reared was falling to pieces by the force of its own innate
corruptness, he was devising measures of external defence.

During the spring and the early summer months two subjects pressed
urgently on his attention, and became the burdens of his discourse.
The one was the conduct of the Sikhs; the other, the state of affairs
at Herat. Ever since the death of Runjeet Singh, the temper of the
Lahore Durbar had been such as to impress the Envoy strongly with the
conviction that nothing but decisive measures would ever bring our
allies to regard the terms of the Tripartite Treaty. The real ruler of
the Punjab was the young and impetuous Prince, Nao Nehal Singh, who
had almost set aside the authority of his imbecile father, and was
longing for the day when he might take more openly and undisguisedly
the sceptre into his hands. In every possible way our allies had evaded
the stipulations of the treaty. They had rendered no effectual aid to
Prince Timour in the operations which, conjointly with Wade, he had
undertaken for the recovery of his father’s throne. They were making
light of the obligation to support a contingent force of Sikh troops
on the frontier, in return for the subsidy granted by the treaty;
and proof had been afforded that they were engaged in treasonable
correspondence with our enemies in Afghanistan. It is certain, at
least, that they were harbouring at their frontier stations the rebel
Ghilzye chiefs, who had been driven out of Shah Soojah’s territory,
and suffering, if not aiding, them to return again to foment new
disturbances. Sultan Mahomed Khan and his brothers at Peshawur were
servants of the Maharajah, but they were Barukzyes still; and it was
not strange that they regarded with undisguised satisfaction the clouds
which were gathering over the restored Suddozye monarchy.

But more important still than these considerations, was the question
which had now arisen regarding the free passage of our troops and
convoys through the dominions of Lahore. It was obvious that we could
not maintain our position in Afghanistan so long as the Punjab stood
impassable between that country and Hindostan. But Nao Nehal Singh
and the Kalsa viewed with insurmountable jealousy the passage of our
armaments through the Punjab. They declared, that when Mr. Clark
negotiated for a passage for the troops returning from the expedition
into Afghanistan, the accorded permission was limited to that especial
case, and was by no means intended to convey a general license for
the repeated crossings and recrossings which now seemed to be in
contemplation. But Macnaghten declared that it was absolutely necessary
to “macadamise” the road though the Punjab; and the authorities at
Calcutta began to think that a war with the Sikhs was no improbable

Parallel with these inquietudes arising out of the conduct of the
Lahore Durbar and its agents, ran the troubles which weighed upon
Macnaghten’s mind in connexion with the ill-omened aspect of affairs
at Herat. The insolent ingratitude of Yar Mahomed had reached a
pitch of sublime daring. The British Government were lavishing their
treasures upon Herat; and the chief minister of Herat, in return for
this support, was insulting the British officers, and intriguing
with the Persian Court. It has been stated that in the month of June,
1839, Major D’Arcy Todd had been despatched on a special mission to
Herat. He was instructed to conclude a treaty of friendship with Shah
Kamran; to ascertain the causes of the dissatisfaction of the Heratee
Court with the British Government; to conciliate the good will of Yar
Mahomed, and to wean him from his Persian intrigues, by assuring him of
our friendly disposition towards him, and of our desire to support his
administration; to determine, if possible, the boundaries between Shah
Kamran’s and Shah Soojah’s dominions; to aid the Heratee Government
with money, and to strengthen the fortifications of the place. This
accomplished, he was to have joined the Court of Shah Soojah, leaving
Pottinger, whose authority he was not to have superseded, to carry on
the ordinary duties of the Agency. But the young Bombay Artilleryman
had availed himself of the occasion of Todd’s presence at Herat to
obtain leave of absence, and visit the British provinces; and the
latter had consented to remain in his place.

The task which had been entrusted to Major Todd he had performed, as
far as such a task was one of possible performance, with no common
address; and being a man of enlarged humanity, with a high sense of
his duty as a Christian officer, he had exerted himself to render the
presence of the British Mission at Herat a blessing to the oppressed
and suffering people. But it was not possible to change the nature of
Yar Mahomed; to make him either grateful or true. In the history of
human infamy there is nothing more infamous than the conduct of this
man. The treaty between the British Government and the state of Herat,
by which the latter bound itself not to enter into negotiations with
other states without the knowledge and consent of the British Resident,
had only been signed a few weeks, when Yar Mahomed was detected in
carrying on a correspondence with the Persian Asoof-ood-Dowlah at
Meshed, offering to place himself and his country under the protection
of the Persian Government, and inviting him to enter into a league for
the expulsion of the infidel English from Afghanistan.

Up to this time eight lakhs of rupees had been advanced to the Heratee
Government. When the new year dawned upon Herat, twelve lakhs had been
so advanced. The utmost benefits had been conferred upon the state. The
measures of our British officers had rescued “King, chiefs, and people
from starvation.”[33] But at this very time a letter was addressed
to Mahomed Shah of Persia, in the name of Shah Kamran, declaring the
Heratee ruler to be the faithful servant of the Shah-in-Shah; and
setting forth that he only tolerated the presence of the English
because they were useful to him—that, in truth, they were not
niggardly with their money; but that the hopes of his Majesty were in
the asylum of Islam.

In explanation of this black-hearted treachery it is said that the
apprehensions of Yar Mahomed had been excited by the imposing attitude
of Great Britain in Afghanistan—that he looked upon the danger to be
apprehended from the contiguity of the British army as something less
remote and more alarming than the return of Mahomed Shah; and that it
was his policy at this time to play off one state against another, and
to secure the good offices of Persia, whilst openly receiving the
bounties of Great Britain. This is, doubtless, the view in which the
matter is to be regarded with reference to the case of Yar Mahomed,
the statesman. He was not incapable of taking a statesmanlike view
of the position of his principality. He understood the interests
of Herat. But better still did he understand the interests of Yar
Mahomed. The presence of the English officers at Herat was a burden
and a reproach to the Wuzeer. He hated their interference; he had no
sympathy with their high-toned notions of humanity—with their horror
of slavery—with their compassion for the weak and oppressed. He had
thriven best in bad times; he had found the sufferings of the people
serviceable to him. The _surveillance_ of the British Mission impeded
the exercise of his arbitrary desire to enrich himself at the expense
of his poorer countrymen. So he hated Pottinger; he hated Todd; he
hated every high-minded Englishman. But he bore with them for their
money. Todd’s measures were especially distasteful to him. The effort
which he was making to break down the accursed slave-trade of Central
Asia, was more obnoxious than everything beside.

Associated with Todd—an Artillery officer—were two other subalterns
of Artillery—James Abbott and Richmond Shakespear. They were men of
ability, of enthusiasm, and of high courage. Abbott’s mind was of a
more imaginative and romantic cast than that of his associate, who
had qualities of a more serviceable kind, more practical, and more
judicious. Both were men sure to carry out any duty, however hazardous,
entrusted to them, in a conscientious and intrepid manner. They were
well inclined for any kind of personal adventure; and, ardent in the
pursuit of knowledge, were eager to explore new countries, to mix
with an unfamiliar people, and to visit uncivilised courts. When,
therefore, Todd, acquainted with the menacing attitude which Russia had
assumed towards the Court of Khiva, and the declared grounds of her
Central-Asian expedition, recognised the expediency of despatching a
British officer to the capital of the Khan Huzzrut, to mediate for the
liberation of the Russian slaves in captivity there, he was fortunate
in having at his elbow two men, to either of whom he might securely
entrust the charge of a mission at once hazardous and delicate. In
December, 1840, Abbott, who was the senior of the two, was hastily
despatched to the Court of Khiva.[34] The Khivan ruler, then awaiting
in alarm the approach of the Muscovite battalions, yet not altogether
unsuspicious of the forward movements of the British, was well-inclined
to receive the Mission; but Yar Mahomed had set at work the same dark
intrigues which had caused Colonel Stoddart to be cast into captivity
at Bokhara, and was doing his best to thwart the humane efforts of the
British artilleryman. He seems to have had an instinctive hatred of
men who were exerting themselves to sweep away the foul slave-marts of
Central Asia.

With deep and painful interest Macnaghten watched the progress of
events at Herat. The perfidy of Yar Mahomed was so glaring—so
unblushing—that the Envoy had not hesitated to recommend offensive
proceedings against the state of Herat, to be followed by its
re-annexation to the dominions of Shah Soojah. But Lord Auckland when
the proposal first came before him, was disinclined to embrace it. He
thought it better to forgive Yar Mahomed; and make a further experiment
upon the gratitude of the Wuzeer. So, instead of an army, as Macnaghten
eagerly recommended, a further supply of money was sent to Herat; and
Yar Mahomed continued to intrigue with the Persian Government.[35]

It seemed to the Envoy, at this time, that there was no middle course
to be pursued. All through our Central-Asian policy, indeed, there
ran two substantive ideas. It was either the bayonet or the money-bag
that was to settle everything for us. When Macnaghten found that the
rulers of Herat were not to be dragooned into propriety, he declared
that there was nothing left for us now but to bribe them. He proposed
that a subsidy of two or three lakhs per annum should be granted to
Herat; that guns, muskets, and ordnance stores in abundance should
be furnished to the state; and in the meanwhile he continued to
send up more treasure, with a profusion which startled the Calcutta
Government, to be expended on the strengthening of its defences and the
sustentation of the people.

But as the treachery of Yar Mahomed became more fully developed,
the Governor-General began to mistrust the efficacy of the course
of forbearance and conciliation which he had in the first instance
recommended. He had authorised Major Todd to declare his forgiveness
of all past offences, and was willing to enter upon a new covenant
of friendship, _rasâ tabulâ_, with the offending state. But he was
not then acquainted with the fact of the letter to Mahomed Shah, in
which, with almost unexampled shamelessness, the writer boasted of
the cajolery practised upon the English, who lavished their money
freely upon Herat, whilst its rulers were flinging themselves into the
arms of Persia; for although that letter had been written in January,
and came, therefore, within the margin of those offences for which
forgiveness had been declared, it was not until some time afterwards
that this crowning act of perfidy was discovered and laid bare before
the Governor-General. Then it would seem that Lord Auckland began to
waver in his resolution to maintain the independence of Herat. But
he was at this time resident at Calcutta. Sir Jasper Nicolls,[36]
who had held the chief command at Madras, an old and distinguished
officer, who had done good service in the Nepaul war, and was possessed
of an amount of Indian experience almost unexampled in an Indian
Commander-in-Chief, was at the Presidency. The war in Afghanistan
had been extremely distasteful to him from the beginning, and he now
viewed with suspicion and alarm all the projects which were passing
before him for the despatch of more troops and the diversion of more
treasure from their legitimate purposes in Hindostan. No warlike
promptings, therefore, from the military side of the Council Chamber,
ever stimulated Lord Auckland to bury his legions in the inhospitable
defiles of Afghanistan, or to waste the finances of India in insane
attempts to change the nature of the chiefs and people of Central Asia,
and to bribe them into quiescence and peace.

But ever was it the burden of Macnaghten’s letters, that he could do
nothing with Afghanistan until Yar Mahomed and the Sikhs had been
chastised; and Herat on the one side, and Peshawur on the other,
re-annexed to the Douranee Empire. How strongly he felt on these points
may be gathered both from the public and private letters which, in
the summer of 1840, he despatched from Caubul to his correspondents
in different parts of India and Afghanistan. “This,” he wrote to the
Governor-General on the 20th of July, “if the means are available,
appears to me the time for accomplishing the great work which your
Lordship has commenced, and of effectually frustrating the designs of
Russia. Herat should now be taken possession of in the name of Shah
Soojah. To leave it in the hands of its present possessors, after
the fresh proofs of treachery and enmity towards us which they have
displayed, would, in my humble opinion, be most dangerous. Herat may
be said to be the pivot of all operations affecting the safety of
our possessions and our interests in the East, and thence Balkh and
Bokhara would be at all times accessible. The Sikhs should no longer
be suffered to throw unreasonable obstacles in the way of our just and
necessary objects, and if they really feel (as they are bound by treaty
to do) an interest in the success of our operations, they should not
object to the passage of our troops, or even to their location in the
Punjab, should such a measure be deemed conducive to the welfare of us
both. Your Lordship will, I feel assured, forgive the freedom of these
remarks. I am convinced that one grand effort will place the safety
of our interests on a firm and solid basis.... I shall only add, that
should offensive operations against Herat be undertaken, I should not
entertain the smallest doubt of their complete and speedy success,
especially as we should have many friends in the country.”[37] “We have
a beautiful game on our hands,” he wrote in another letter, “if we
have the means and inclination to play it properly. Our advance upon
Herat would go far to induce the Russian government to attend to any
reasonable overtures on the part of the Khan of Khiva.”

And so still was Macnaghten’s cry ever for more money and more
bayonets, that he might play the “beautiful game” of knocking down and
setting up kingdoms and principalities, with which it became us not
to interfere, to the waste of the resources, and the sacrifice of the
interests of those whom Providence had especially committed to our care.

In the meanwhile, in the dominions of Shah Soojah everything was going
wrong. Macnaghten still professed his belief in the popularity of the
King, and was unwilling to acknowledge that the people were not in a
state of repose. But every now and then, both in Afghanistan itself,
and in the country that had been wrested from Mehrab Khan, awkward
evidences of the unsettled state of the country rose up to proclaim
far and wide the fact, that there was little loyalty in men’s minds
towards the Shah, and little affection for his foreign supporters. The
Ghilzyes, whom in the preceding autumn Captain Outram had attacked,
and, it was said, reduced, were now again rebelling in Western
Afghanistan. The chiefs had fled to Peshawur, had been harboured
there during the winter, and now, on the return of the spring, had
been slipped from their retreat, strengthened, it was believed, by
Sikh gold. At all events, in the month of April they were actively
employed raising the tribes and cutting off our communications between
Candahar and Caubul. General Nott had by this time assumed the command
of the troops at the former place—a place with which his name has
since become imperishably associated. Under-rating the strength of the
“rebels,” as all were then called who did not appreciate the new order
of things which the British had established in Afghanistan, he sent out
a party of 200 horsemen, under Captains Walker and Tayler, to clear
the road. But the detachment was not strong enough for the purpose.
It was necessary to reinforce them. Nott had some good officers about
him, but he had not one better than Captain William Anderson, of the
Bengal Artillery, commandant of the Shah’s Horse Artillery at Candahar.
So, on the 6th of May, the General sent for Anderson, and asked him
whether he could prepare himself to march on the following morning,
with a regiment of foot, four guns, and 300 horsemen. Anderson answered
promptly that the artillery were always ready, and that he would do
his best. By seven o’clock on the following morning the detachment
was under arms and ready for the march. On the 14th they came up with
Tayler and Walker, in the neighbourhood of the Turnuk river. The
Ghilzyes were about eight miles distant, variously reported at from 600
to 3000 men. Anderson’s cattle were exhausted; so he halted, and to
gain time, opened negotiations with the enemy. The answer sent back by
the chiefs was a gallant one. They said, that they had 12,000 men—a
firm faith in God and in the justice of their cause—and that they
would fight. So Anderson prepared to attack them. Detaching his cavalry
to the right and left, he moved down, on the 16th, with his infantry
and his guns, and, after a march of some five miles, found the enemy
about 2000 strong, occupying some hills in his front. The action was a
gallant one on both sides. Twice the enemy charged. The first charge
was repulsed by a heavy fire from Turner’s guns—the second was met
at the point of the bayonet by Spence’s infantry. Anderson, after the
first march from Candahar, beguiled by some accounts of the retirement
of the enemy, had sent back the greater part of the cavalry with which
he had started; so that he was weak in that arm. But for this, he would
have cut up the enemy with heavy slaughter. As it was, the victory
was complete. The enemy fled and betook themselves to their mountain
fastnesses, whilst Anderson re-formed column and marched on to take up
a good position above Olan Robat. The country around was quieted for
a time by this victory; but disaffection was not rooted out. Indeed,
every action of this kind only increased the bitter animosity of the
Ghilzyes, and established unappeasable blood-feuds between our people
and the tribes.

But the money-bag was now brought in to complete what the bayonet had
commenced. It was expedient to conciliate the Ghilzyes, who had at any
time the power of cutting off our communications between Candahar and
Caubul; and Macnaghten, therefore, recommended the payment of an annual
stipend to the chiefs,[38] on condition that they would restrain their
followers from infesting the highways. But neither the bayonet nor the
money-bag could keep these turbulent tribes in a continued state of

At the same time, the state of the southern provinces was such as
to excite painful disquietude in Macnaghten’s mind. The tract of
country which, after the capture of Khelat, had been annexed, by the
fiat of the Indian Government, to the territory of Shah Soojah, was
perpetually breaking out into fierce spasms of unrest. It had been
almost entirely denuded of British troops; and small detachments were
sent here and there, or solitary political agents sate themselves
down, with only a handful of fighting men at command, as though all
their paths were pleasantness and peace, and all their homes bowers
of repose. But the Beloochees neither liked their new chief nor his
European supporters. The blood of Mehrab Khan was continually crying
out against the usurpation. Ever and anon opportunity offered, and
it was not neglected. One officer,[40] on his way from the fort of
Kahun with a convoy of camels, was overwhelmed and destroyed by the
Beloochees. Kahun was invested by the Murrees. Quettah was besieged by
the Khaukurs.[41] It was soon apparent that the whole country was in
revolt. The youthful son of Mehrab Khan was in the field. The tribes
were flocking around him. The chief who had been set up in his place
was at Khelat. Lieutenant Loveday was with him. The defences of the
place were miserably out of repair. The garrison mainly consisted of
the chief’s own people. There were scarcely any means of resistance
at their command, when the wild tribes, headed by the family of
Nussur Khan, came crowding around the walls of Khelat. The new chief
was staunch and true. But there were traitors and evil counsellors
in the fort, and Loveday listened to bad advice. No succours could
be sent to his relief, for our other positions in Upper Sindh were
threatened by the hostile tribes. And so it happened that, after some
days of beleaguerment, Khelat fell to the Brahoo chiefs.[42] Newaz Khan
abdicated in favour of the youthful son of the prince who had fallen in
the defence of his stronghold; Loveday was made a prisoner; and when
some months afterwards, a detachment of British troops advanced to the
relief of Dadur, which had been attacked by the enemy, the unfortunate
young officer was found in the deserted camp of the Brahoos, chained to
a camel-pannier, half naked, emaciated, and dead. His throat had just
been cut by the sabre of a Beloochee horseman.[43]

But in spite of all these indications of unrest——these signs of the
desperate unpopularity of the restored monarchy——Macnaghten clung
to the belief that the country was settling down under the rule of
Shah Soojah, and never ceased to represent to Lord Auckland and his
secretaries that there were no grounds for uneasiness or alarm. He was,
indeed, most anxious to remove any impressions of an opposite character
which may have forced themselves upon the minds of the Governor-General
and his advisers. On the 8th of July he wrote to Mr. Colvin, saying;
“You tell me that my letter has left a very painful impression upon
you, as manifesting my sense of the weakness of the royal cause. I
fear I must have written my mind to very little purpose regarding the
state of this country. You rightly conjecture that the Barukzyes have
most ‘inflammable material to work upon.’ Of all moral qualities,
avarice, credulity, and bigotry, are the most inflammable, and the
Afghans have all these three in perfection. They will take Sikh gold,
they will believe that Shah Soojah is nobody, and they will esteem it
a merit to fight against us. When, in addition to these inducements,
there has been positively no government in the country for the last
thirty years, it will cease to be wondered at that commotion can easily
be raised by intriguers possessing a long contiguity of frontier,
and having, besides, all the means and appliances to ensure success.
Though our presence here, doubtless, strengthens Shah Soojah, it must
be remembered that in some sense it weakens him. There is no denying
that he has been supported by infidels; and were we not here, he would
adopt Afghan means of suppressing disturbances such as we could not be
a party to. To break faith with a rebel is not deemed a sin by the most
moral Afghan; and assassination was an every day occurrence. By the
encouragement of blood-feuds, it is notorious that Dost Mahomed propped
up the little power he had beyond the gates of Caubul.”[44]

It vexed Macnaghten’s spirit to think that he could not infuse into
other British officers in Afghanistan some of his own overflowing faith
in the popularity of the Shah, or his own respect for the royal person.
From the very outset of the campaign the popular feeling throughout
the army had been strong against Shah Soojah, and the conduct of his
Majesty himself had not tended to lessen it.[45] And the worst of it
was, that all kinds of stories about the haughty exclusiveness of the
Shah, and the low estimation in which he was held both by the British
officers and by his own subjects, were perpetually making their way
to Government House, and there finding ready acceptance. It irritated
Macnaghten to receive letters from Colvin, commenting on failure, and
hinting at mismanagement in Afghanistan. At last his patience gave way,
and on the 4th of August he wrote to the Private Secretary, bitterly
complaining of the attention paid by Government to the stories of
persons afflicted with the “imposthume of too much leisure,” who,
he said, were daily fabricating the grossest falsehoods against his
Majesty and the authorities, as the supposed cause of their detention
in a land “not overflowing with beer and cheroots.” “The Shah,” he
added, “is conciliatory in the extreme to all his chiefs. He listens
with the greatest patience to all their requests and representations,
however unreasonable, and he cannot bear to give any of them a direct
refusal on any occasion. You have been told that he is a ruler who
seeks to get on ‘without trusting, rewarding, or punishing’ any of his
own people. It is nonsense upon the face of it, and is contradicted by
every hour’s experience. I have nothing more to say about his Majesty’s
character than I have already said. I believe him to be the best and
ablest man in his kingdom. The history of the revenues of this poor
country may be given in a few words. The whole is consumed in the pay
of the priesthood, the soldiery, and the support of his Majesty’s
household. You shall have the particulars of these as soon as I can get
half an hour’s leisure. You know we are solemnly bound to refrain from
interference in the internal administration; and, in my advice, I have
been cautious to urge no innovations which could, at this early stage
of our connection with them, shock the prejudices of the people.”

“And now, my dear Colvin,” continued the vexed envoy, “you must
allow me to disburden my mind to you. I have perceived, or fancied
I perceived, on several occasions lately, a want of confidence in
my proceedings, and a disposition to listen to every unfavourable
report regarding affairs in this quarter; whilst I do not receive
that support to which the overwhelming difficulties of my position
entitle me.” He then adverted to a controversy which, he said, had
been “thrust upon him” by Brigadier Roberts, who commanded the Shah’s
force. There had been from the first a jealousy, almost amounting to
a conflict of authority, between the envoy and the brigadier. It was
often difficult to observe the just frontier-line between the military
and the political, and each had chafed under the supposed interference
of the other. The soldier, whose imagination did not colour affairs in
Afghanistan with the roseate hues which flushed everywhere the future
of the civilian, was regarded as an intrusive alarmist; whilst to
Roberts it appeared, on the other hand, that the sanguine temperament
of the envoy, was likely to be the parent of a host of evils which
might culminate in some frightful disaster. The controversy had been
brought to the notice of the Governor-General, rather in the shape
of private or demi-official correspondence than in a formal appeal
to the higher authority; and Lord Auckland, who still looked forward
to the entire withdrawal of the regular troops from Afghanistan, and
was, therefore, anxious to support the functionary on whom would
then devolve the chief military command, ordered an official letter
to be written containing some passages which stung the envoy to the
quick.[46] Believing, then, that the Governor-General had withdrawn
his confidence from him, he talked of resigning his appointment. “If no
important operations,” he wrote to the Private Secretary, “should be
contemplated for next year in this quarter, for the conduct of which
it may be thought desirable that I should remain, some of the public
money will be saved by the appointment of a less-paid though equally
qualified agent. I never yet have served in an office where I had not
the confidence of my superiors, and my inclination to do so is by no
means strengthened after a laborious public life of thirty-one years.”

He was sore in spirit at this time because, as he said, his actions
were watched and his measures criticised, and letters written to
Calcutta, setting forth that things were not going on well in
Afghanistan. He complained that the Governor-General was too willing to
listen to all the stories which reached him from uncertain sources of
information, and he looked upon Lord Auckland’s reasonable credulity
as unreasonable want of confidence in him. “I am much obliged to you,”
he wrote to a friend in August, “for the kind hint contained in your
last. I should never for a moment think of resigning my post from
any difference of opinion between myself and my superiors, as to the
measures which should be adopted for the security of our interests
in this quarter; but when a want of confidence is shown in myself
personally, I would rather not wait till I get a less equivocal hint to
move. Of late, I find that there has been kept up a system of espionage
on my proceedings, and that the most ready credence has been afforded
to the malevolent tales of every idle fellow about camp, to say
nothing of newspaper fabrications, which are taken for gospel. I cannot
well help myself as to my correspondents, for Colvin evidently writes
to me with the sanction of the Governor-General.”

But above all these petty cares and distractions rose the one dominant
thought in Macnaghten’s mind, of the great and beautiful game that was
to be played by the annexation of Herat and the coercion of the Sikhs;
and still he continued to write to Lord Auckland that there was nothing
else to be done. One letter of many will suffice to show how this
leading idea still overbore everything in his mind:—

 “We are now arrived at a crisis which calls for the most serious
 consideration. If such a course should suit the convenience of
 government, I should say that a vigorous policy now is that which
 ought to be pursued. It is, indeed, in my opinion, by such a course
 alone that our interests can be secured, and your Lordship’s past
 policy justified. By annexing Herat to the crown of Caubul, and by
 insisting upon the concession of our rights from the ruler of the
 Punjab, your Lordship will at once provide for the consolidation of
 Shah Soojah’s power, and show to the world that the attainment of
 all the advantages contemplated from the movement across the Indus,
 has been hitherto opposed only by the perfidious intrigues of the
 two powers professing to be our friends and allies. In addition to
 the demands already made upon the Sikhs, they should be required, I
 think, to admit unequivocally our right of way across the Punjab, and
 in the event of their denying this right, they should be convinced
 that we can take it. I confess myself utterly ignorant of what
 political objections may exist to this course of proceeding, or of
 the military means that may be available; and I am much staggered at
 a paper which I have just seen from Captain Sanders, who talks of its
 being expedient to take 12,000 men against Herat. I believe, however,
 that military authorities seldom underrate the difficulties to be
 encountered. This paper will, I believe, be sent to your Lordship by
 Sir W. Cotton. I have a proposition from Captain Bean to recognise the
 right of Mehrab Khan’s son to the musnud of Khelat. This I think might
 be done, if he would come and pay homage in person to Shah Soojah, as
 Shah Narwaz can never be re-instated. But I shall tell Captain Bean
 to keep the question open if possible, until I know your Lordship’s
 views regarding Herat. If it be intended to send a large force into
 the country with a view of reducing Herat, the Khelat affair will
 afford an excellent screen to our intentions. I must beg your Lordship
 most earnestly, if possible, to relieve the two European and five
 Native regiments now in this neighbourhood. They are inefficient and
 worn out, and both officers and men are grumbling and discontented. In
 the present state of affairs it would be very hazardous to admit of
 their return, unless their places were filled by fresh troops, and a
 relief would enable us to settle with promptitude the Bajor affairs,
 and to place our relations with the Khyburees on a firmer basis. Then,
 should Dost Mahomed come in, he will have to be be sent to India, and
 in the present state of Sikh feeling, I doubt if it would be prudent
 to send him across the Punjab with only a regiment for his escort.
 We have a rumour very generally credited, that Colonel Stoddart has
 been poisoned by the Ameer of Bokhara, but I yet hope that it will
 prove incorrect. On the Ghilzye affairs alluded to in your Lordship’s
 letter of the 16th, I have this day written to Mr. Colvin. In a day
 or two it is my intention to send up officially, with my comments, a
 paper handed to me by Sir A. Burnes, on the present state and future
 prospects of this country. I hope to show that, all things considered,
 we are in as prosperous a condition as could have been expected. Sir
 A. of course wishes to prove the contrary, since by doing so, when
 he succeeds me, his failures would thus find excuse and his success
 additional credit. This is all natural enough. I have been exposed to
 a thousand interruptions whilst writing this, and beg pardon if I have
 used too much freedom.”[47]

In a letter despatched a few days afterwards to Lord Auckland,
Macnaghten wrote: “I trust the Russians may not come to Khiva this
year, for we have quite enough on our hands without them. Captain
Conolly starts in a few days. I trust your Lordship will have the
goodness to direct that both he and Captain Abbott be gazetted as
lieutenant-colonels whilst serving in Toorkistan.” There had gone forth
a mission—and an ill-omened one, to Bokhara—there had gone forth two
missions to Khiva—and now one was to be despatched to the intervening
state of Kokund.

Eagerly did Arthur Conolly grasp the idea of this Kokund mission.
He was a man of an earnest, impulsive nature, running over with the
purest feelings of benevolence, and glowing with the most intense
longings after the civilisation and evangelisation of the human race.
He believed that the great Central-Asian movement was designed by
Providence to break down the huge walls of Mahomedanism which begirt
the shining East, and to substitute civilisation, liberty, and peace,
for barbarism, slavery, and strife. He was a visionary, but one of
the noblest order; and when he looked out beyond the great barrier
of the Hindoo-Koosh, traversed in imagination the deserts of Merve,
and visited the barbarous Courts of the Khans of Khiva, Kokund, and
Bokhara, he never doubted for a moment that the mission which he was
about to undertake was one of the highest and holiest with which a
Christian officer could be entrusted. “I feel very confident,” he wrote
to a friend, “about all our policy in Central Asia; for I think that
the designs of our government there are honest, and that they will
work with a blessing from God, who seems now to be breaking up all the
barriers of the long-closed East, for the introduction of Christian
knowledge and peace. It is deeply interesting to watch the effects
that are being produced by the exertions of the European powers, some
selfish and contrary; others still selfish, but qualified with peace
and generosity; all made instrumental to good. See the French in
Africa; the English, Austrians, and Russians on the Bosphorus, forcing
the Turks to be European under a shadow of Mahomedanism, and providing
for the peaceful settlement of the fairest and most sacred countries in
the world.”[48]

Ever delighting in adventure, and prone to romance, he was at
this time in a frame of mind which rendered him peculiarly greedy
of excitement. A great sorrow was weighing heavily upon his heart.
He sought relief in stirring occupation—in active adventure upon
new scenes of enterprise; and when, for a time, it seemed that the
unwillingness of the Supreme Government to sanction the mission
was not to be overcome, he gave vent to the liveliest feelings of
disappointment: “I was greatly disappointed,” he wrote to a dear friend
on the 30th of May, “when Lord Auckland’s prohibitory letter arrived;
for I had set my heart upon this nobly stirring employment; and when
the chance of it seemed removed, I felt the blank that a man must feel
who has a heavy grief as the first thing to fall back upon.”

Conolly and Rawlinson were to have proceeded together to the camp of
General Peroffski. But the Muscovite expedition to Khiva was brought
by cold and want to a mournful end at Ak-boulak, and there was soon
no Russian camp in Central Asia to which these enterprising officers
could be despatched, if the permission of Government had been obtained.
But Conolly, believing in his inmost heart that there was a much
grander game to be played in those remote regions than one suggested
by the mere accidental circumstance of the Russian advance, still
clung to his conviction of the policy of the contemplated Mission, and
earnestly enforced his opinions upon his political chief. Macnaghten
listened—yielded—and indulging rather the wishes of his friend
than conforming to the dictates of his own judgment, recommended the
enterprise to the favourable consideration of the Supreme Government;
and acting upon certain passages in a letter from the Chief Secretary,
which might be construed into an implied permission, of a general
rather than a specific character, ordered Conolly to proceed to Khiva
and Kokund.

It was with feelings of irrepressible delight, that now, at the
beginning of August, Arthur Conolly found himself “fairly going” on his
enterprising journey to the Courts of the Trans-Oxian Khans. His heart
was in the cause. He was full of impetuous enthusiasm. He was eager
that the British Government should play “the grand game” in Central
Asia, and declared that a mission so righteous in its objects must
prosper in his hands. His spirits rose, as he looked into the future;
and, full of generous enthusiasm, he began to make preparations for his
journey. “We are just on the wing,” he wrote to Rawlinson on the 22nd
of August, “and I shall make the best of my way to the two capitals
for which I carry credentials. It is a work which must prosper; and
I only wish again that you were to be of the party to accomplish it;
but, as I said before, you occupy a high and useful station, and can’t
be at two places at once. If the British Government would only play
the grand game;—help Russia cordially to all that she has a right
to expect—shake hands with Persia—get her all possible amends from
the Oosbegs, and secure her such a frontier as would both keep these
man-stealers and savages in wholesome check, and take away her pretext
for pushing herself and letting herself be pushed on to the Oxus—force
the Bokhara Ameer to be just to us, the Afghans, and the other Oosbegs
states, and his own kingdom—but why go on; you know my, at any rate in
_one_ sense, _enlarged_ views. _Inshallah!_ The expepediency—nay, the
necessity of them will be seen, and we shall play the noble part that
the first Christian nation of the world ought to fill.”

There were still, however, causes of delay. An ambassador from Shah
Soojah was to accompany the British officer. But it was long before
the King could select from the people about his Court one to whom he
could entrust so responsible a duty. At last, after much hesitation,
his choice fell upon Allahdad Khan Populzye—a little, scrubby-looking,
sallow-faced man, with a busy look and a restless eye, believed to
be skilful in political intrigue, and as little likely to betray his
trust as any man about the Court. He left his family and his money
behind him, and these, as the Shah significantly said, were the best
guarantees for his good conduct.

Everything now was ready. Conolly, early in September, turned his face
towards the Hindoo-Koosh. There was a mission of another kind then
setting towards those dreary regions. It was not a Mission of Peace.
Colonel Dennie, who had distinguished himself at the head of the
Ghuznee stormers, was about to march, with the 35th Sepoy Regiment, to
reinforce the Bameean detachment, and to take the command of all the
the troops on the northern frontier.


[June-November: 1840.]

 The last Struggles of Dost Mahomed——The British in the
 Hindoo-Koosh——The Ameer’s Family——Occupation of Bajgah——Disaster
 of Kamurd——Escape of Dost Mahomed——Feverish State of Caubul——
 Dennie’s Brigade——Defeat of the Ameer——Sale in the Kohistan——The
 Battle of Purwandurrah——Surrender of Dost Mahomed.

It is time that to these regions of the Hindoo-Koosh attention should
now again be directed. The little force which had been despatched
thither in the autumn of 1839, and had wintered among the caves of
Bameean, was by the coming in of spring released from its inactivity.
It was not Lord’s policy to be quiet. There was Jubbar Khan with the
family of Dost Mahomed at Khooloom. Already it has been seen that
the reception of these people had been the subject of correspondence
between Lord and Macnaghten. But Jubbar Khan halted between two
opinions. The winter passed away. The spring passed away. And still
he remained with his brother’s family at Khooloom. The Wullee, or
chief, of that place was still true to the cause of the Ameer; and he
permitted the Newab to maintain this numerous party by levying the
transit duties of the place.

This was a state of things which, in the opinion of Lord and
Macnaghten, had already lasted long enough. They were eager to bring
the Newab to a decision. So, at the end of May, or the beginning of
June, a party was sent out under Captain Garbett, ostensibly for the
purpose of reconnoitring the passes to the north of our position at
Bameean. But there was, doubtless, another object in view. It was
believed that such a demonstration would have the effect of quickening
the movements of Jubbar Khan, who had more than once been on the point
of starting for the British post, but, overcome by irresolution,
had struck his tents and returned. Already had some of the party of
refugees left their asylum at Khooloom, and sought the hospitality of
the British. Azim Khan, one of the Ameer’s sons, had “come in;” and
some of the women and children, too, had passed on towards Caubul. But
the Newab himself still vacillated; and it was believed that a forward
movement of our troops would stimulate him to come to a decision.

The movement had the desired effect. At all events, Jubbar Khan set
out for Bameean. Nor was this the only noticeable result of the
_reconnaissance_. Beyond the valley or glen of Kamurd, which stretches
northward from Syghan across the great mountain-range, lay the isolated
fortress of Bajgah. When our reconnoitring party came upon this place,
to their surprise they found it deserted. It belonged to one Syud
Mahomed, who now appeared, and declared that he had vacated it for
the express purpose of making a tender of the fort to the British, as
an outpost that might be of great service to them. A small party of
infantry were accordingly placed in the fort, and the circumstance was
immediately reported to Dr. Lord. Lord grasped at the offer; and in the
strongest terms recommended both to Cotton and Macnaghten the permanent
occupation of the post. His arguments prevailed; and on the 29th of
June the Shah’s 4th Regiment, under Captain Hay, was sent to garrison
this isolated fort. On the 3rd of July, Jubbar Khan arrived at Bameean
with the remaining members of the Ameer’s family, and a large party of

It soon became obvious that the occupation of Bajgah was a mistake.
Sturt, the engineer, who had been sent up to survey the passes,
pronounced upon its unfitness as a military post. It was plain, too,
that the temper of the surrounding tribes was very different from that
of the population about Bameean. At the latter place the soldiery
and the peasantry were on the best possible terms. About Bajgah the
people looked upon the new comers with a jealous eye. All the efforts
of Captain Hay to establish a friendly intercourse between himself
and the inhabitants failed. They would not bring in grain; they would
not bring in forage. Soon their hostility began to evince itself in a
more alarming manner. “On the extreme summits of the northern hills
overlooking Bajgah, were frequently seen groups of horsemen, apparently
watching the movements of the people in the deep glen below.”[49]

Unfortunately, at this time Hay, the only officer at Bajgah, was
incapacitated by sickness. So he sent to Syghan for Lieutenant Golding;
and on the 2nd of August sent out a party of two companies, under
Sergeant Douglas, to escort that officer to Bajgah. They performed
their march without interruption, and at night bivouacked under the
walls of a fort held by one Sula Beg. The chief received them with an
outside show of friendliness; and then despatched a message to another
chief, Baba Beg, of Ajur, saying, “See! I have the Feringhees in a
_dieg_ (caldron). They are ready to your hand. If you are not here by
noontide to-morrow, I will yield up my fort to them.”

Morning came. There was no appearance of the party whom they had
been sent to meet; so Douglas was preparing to return to Bajgah,
when a heavy matchlock fire was opened on his men, from the fort and
the surrounding orchards; and presently a party of Oosbeg horsemen
appeared in sight, and charged down upon the little band, who met and
repulsed the attack. It was a fine thing then to see the bold front
which Douglas and his men showed to the enemy, as they made their way,
exposed to a heavy matchlock fire, through the dense orchards and
wilderness of gardens. But many fell on the retreat; and many more
would have fallen, for their ammunition was well-nigh gone, had not
Sturt suddenly appeared with two more companies of the same sturdy
Goorkha Regiment,[50] and rescued them from inevitable destruction. The
enemy turned and fled; and Sturt and Douglas returned to Bajgah.

The evil tidings of this disaster soon reached Caubul. It was a time of
deep anxiety. As this month of August advanced, the perplexities which
distracted the mind of the envoy, gathered around him more closely and
more tormentingly. A series of small but mortifying failures, of which
this Bajgah affair was one, not without a significance of their own,
kept him in a constant state of excitability, and left him neither rest
of body nor serenity of mind. On the 12th of August he wrote to Major
Rawlinson, saying, “There has been an awkward business near Bajgah,
owing to the incapacity of the officer in command of the 4th or Ghoorka
Regiment. He has allowed a company to lose thirty or forty men, killed
and wounded, I think but little of this affair. Lord has gone off to
put things to rights. Macgregor has failed also in his efforts to set
matters to rights in Bajore. His invincibles have been vanquished, and
he has lost a gun. All these little accidents happening at once are
enough to disgust one; but, _Inshallah!_ the Company’s Nusseeb will
prove superior to them all.”

A week later, and it had become still more apparent that, even in the
very neighbourhood of the capital, sedition was weaving plots for
the subversion of the authority of the Shah; and that the Sikhs were
intriguing from a distance for the restoration of Dost Mahomed. On the
19th of August, the envoy wrote to the same correspondent, that he had
“intercepted a letter which, if genuine (as he had every reason to
believe it to be), implicated many chiefs in meditated insurrection
in favour of Dost Mahomed.” It distinctly stated too, that Nao Nahal
Singh had promised pecuniary aid in furtherance of the design. “I am
now just going to his Majesty,” he added, “to consult as to what should
be done.” It was time, indeed, that the King and the envoy should take
counsel together. Dost Mahomed had escaped from Bokhara.

For a while the fugitive Ameer had tasted the bitterness of close
confinement in the city of Bokhara. His sons, Afzul Khan and Akbar
Khan, shared his captivity. We know how the Khan of this inhospitable
place is wont to treat his Christian guests. His Mahomedan visitors,
whom he at first received with an outside show of kindness, were
dealt with somewhat more leniently. But the natural ferocity of the
man was not to be kept down. Dost Mahomed nearly became the victim
of a treacherous murder. Baffled in this attempt on the life of his
prisoners, and not daring openly to slay them, the Bokhara Ameer kept
them for a time under strict _surveillance_, forbidding them even to
repair to worship in the mosques. This inhospitable treatment seems
to have called forth a remonstrance from the Shah of Persia, in
consequence of which greater liberty was allowed to the unfortunate
Princes. They made the most of the relaxation, and effected their
escape. Many romantic incidents are told about this flight from
Bokhara. The horse, on which the Ameer fled, fell exhausted by the
way-side. So he transferred himself to a caravan, which he chanced to
overtake, and escaped detection only by dyeing his beard with ink. The
Wullee of Khooloom, with unshaken fidelity, opened his arms to receive
his old ally, and placed all his resources at his command.

It was not long before the Ameer again found himself at the head
of a considerable force. His family, with the exception of the two
sons who had shared his captivity in Bokhara, were in the hands of
the British. He knew the danger of his determined course, and when
reminded that his wives and children were in our power, sorrowfully
replied, “I have no family; I have buried my wives and children.” As
the Oosbeg fighting men flocked to the standards of Dost Mahomed and
the Wullee of Khooloom, the hopes of the former seemed to rise; and his
determination to strike a vigorous blow for the recovery of his lost
empire, gathered strength and consistency. To have cut up the Bameean
detachment, and emerging from the Hindoo-Koosh, to have appeared on the
plains below flushed with victory, raising the old war-cry in the name
of the Prophet, and profiting by the unpopularity of Shah Soojah and
his supporters, in that part of the country, would have been a noble
achievement—one which would have rendered easy his triumphant progress
to the very walls of the capital. He determined to make the effort; and
early in September advanced upon Bameean, with a force of six or eight
thousand men.

The month of September brought with it no mitigation of the anxieties
of the envoy. From the country beyond the Hindoo-Koosh came exaggerated
tidings of the successful progress of Dost Mahomed. “It is reported
to-day,” wrote Macnaghten on the 3rd, “that all Toorkistan is in arms
against the Feringhees and the _Moofsids_ (rebels) here are very hard
at work. It is certain that Hybuk has fallen to the Dost, and it is
probable that Codrington will have to retire on Syghan. I put the best
face on matters, and a slight success which our troops had at Bajgah
over a party of the enemy, furnishes me with the foundation of a good

But this good story soon became a bad one. On the 30th of August the
Oosbegs had attacked Bajgah; and the Goorkhas under Codrington, aided
by Rattray with some Afghan horse, had driven back the assailants.
But it was plain that this isolated post, in the midst of a hostile
population, was no longer tenable. It was expedient, therefore, to
fall back upon Syghan. So Bajgah was evacuated. The Goorkhas commenced
their retreat; and then it was pronounced that Syghan could not be held
against a large body of hostile troops. It was determined, therefore,
that they would fall back upon Bameean. They lost everything upon the
retreat. We had pushed on our outposts to those remote points, only to
abandon them disastrously on the first appearance of the enemy.

But there was something far worse than this. A regiment of Afghan
infantry had been raised, and Captain Hopkins commanded it. It was the
commencement of an attempt to establish a national army for the support
of the throne. Its loyalty was now to be put to the proof, by placing
it within the reach of all those sinister influences which were most
likely to undermine it. The result may be readily anticipated. The
atmosphere of the Hindoo-Koosh, and the contiguity of Dost Mahomed,
were fatal to the fidelity of the corps. The Afghan soldiers, headed
by their commandant, Saleh Mahomed,[51] deserted their colours; and a
number of them joined the enemy.

Day after day, the tidings brought to Macnaghten were more and more
distressing. All Afghanistan seemed ripe for revolt. “We are in a stew
here,” he wrote to Rawlinson on the 6th of September, “perhaps greater
than the occasion warrants; but our situation is far from comfortable.
It is reported that the whole country on this side the Oxus, is up in
favour of the Dost, who, with the Wullee, is certainly advancing in
great strength; so much so that our troops have been obliged to fall
back upon Bameean, whilst we have a formidable band of conspirators in
the city, and the Kohistan is ripe for revolt. These matters of course
engross my serious attention, and I have about fifty chits to answer
every half-hour..... We are wretchedly weak, having only three infantry
regiments, including one of the Shah’s. We have been compelled to send
off the 35th to reinforce the garrison at Bameean, but still we are
strong enough, I hope, in a fair field, to lick all the _Moofsids_ that
could be brought against us.”

Macnaghten’s worst fears were confirmed. Caubul now seemed to be on the
eve of an insurrection. On the 9th, the Envoy, in preturbation of mind,
wrote again to Rawlinson at Candahar: “The town is in a very feverish
state. Some people are shutting up their shops; others, sending their
families away; and some active measures must be taken for stopping the
panic. We have taken possession of the gate of the Balla Hissar by a
guard from Craigie’s regiment, and brought the mountain train inside
the citadel. The apparently insignificant fact of Mesdames Trevor and
Marsh having come up to the Balla Hissar from the town, has created a
great sensation. We are sending out a party to watch the Charekar Pass,
and Sanders goes with them; so that between force and conciliation and
intrigue (in which art, I am sorry to tell you, I have now taken my
degree), I hope we shall be more than a match for the Dost. But I have
an anxious time of it, as you may imagine.”

But in the midst of all these perplexities he thought still of the
“great game”—of the annexation of Herat and the subjugation of the
Punjab—and chafed under the restraints which Lord Auckland had imposed
upon him. “I had a letter,” he wrote, “from Lord Auckland yesterday,
and from that I gather that his Lordship’s intentions are essentially
pacific, both as regards Herat and the Punjab. Oh! for a Wellesley
or a Hastings at this juncture. By a most ingenious process, he has
substituted the cause for the effect, or rather the effect for the
cause. He says, so long as we are continually agitating the question
of taking possession of Peshawur and Herat, we cannot expect honest
co-operation from the powers owning those places; thus overlooking, or
affecting to overlook, the fact, that but for the dishonesty of those
powers the question would never have been contemplated by us. This
drivelling is beneath contempt. I shall now send up the proofs I have
obtained (and they are tolerably strong) of the perfidy of the Sikhs
without note or comment, and leave the rest to Providence. I shall
adopt the same course with regard to the intrigues of Yar Mahomed.”

Day after day, the clouds gathering over Caubul grew denser and darker.
An open enemy was in the field, and a false friend—our ally of the
famous Tripartite treaty—was insidiously pushing his intrigues up
to the very gates of the Balla Hissar. On the 12th of September,
Macnaghten, weary and dispirited, wrote to the Governor-General,
saying:—“I am much fatigued, having been severely worked the whole
day; but I write these few lines just to apprise your Lordship that
affairs in this quarter have the worst possible appearance. The whole
Kohistan is reported to be ripe for revolt, though possibly in this
there may be some exaggeration; and we hear of resolutions to rise in
other parts of the country. But the worst news of all is that received
from Dr. Lord this morning, to the effect that an entire company of
Captain Hopkins’s corps has gone off with its arms and accoutrements
to join Dost Mahomed Khan, and it is fully expected that their example
will be followed by the whole regiment. Dost Mahomed Khan is said to
be advancing with his entire force; but Dr. Lord’s intelligence seems
very defective. I have just had a note from Sir W. Cotton, in which he
observes: ‘I really think the time has now arrived for you and I to
tell Lord Auckland, _totidem verbis_, that circumstances have proved
incontestably that there is no Afghan army, and that unless the Bengal
troops are instantly strengthened, we cannot hold the country.’ I have
long since, and strongly and repeatedly, urged my opinion that another
brigade should be sent to us. I have also pointed out that there is no
such thing as an Afghan army, and I have incessantly urged my earnest
opinion to the effect that our position here would be most perilous
unless a stop were put to Sikh intrigues. They have now been allowed
to go on till the country is thoroughly convulsed by them. Up to this
moment Syud Mahomed Khan, one of the Barukzye triumvirate, is carrying
into effect his iniquitous designs against his Majesty’s Government.
Caubul is full of Sikh emissaries, and letters were yesterday
intercepted from the Sikh agent to the address, amongst others, of Nao
Nehal Singh, which clearly shows the _animus_ by which the Sikhs are
actuated towards their allies of the Tripartite treaty. The Sikh agent
acknowledged the letters were his own. He did not know they had been

The 18th of September was a memorable day. It was the turning-point of
our fortunes in Afghanistan. On that day the anxieties of the British
minister were at their height. Never was the aspect of affairs more
threatening—never was there so little to cheer and encourage the
perplexed political chief. The pale cast of despondency was over all
his thoughts. His physical and mental energies were alike beginning to
fail. “At no period of my life,” he wrote on that 18th of September,
“do I remember having been so much harassed in body and mind as during
the past month. Nor is my uneasiness yet much lessened. The Afghans are
gunpowder, and the Dost is a lighted match. Of his whereabouts we are
wonderfully ignorant. I have no hope that he will attack Bameean, and I
have great fear that he will throw himself into the Kohistan, where, it
is said, the whole country will rise in his favour. But I am weary of
conjecture; and we must make the best preparation we can against every
possible contingency. Not the least of my vexations arises from our
inability to depute Shah-zadah Timour at the present moment. But his
presence in the Kohistan is indispensably necessary. He sets out this
evening attended by all the chivalry of Caubul.”

But upon that very 18th of September—perhaps whilst the British
minister, in perturbation and despondency of mind, was tracing these
very lines, and looking, with painful forebodings of evil, for
intelligence from the Hindoo-Koosh, the detachment of troops, long shut
up in those dreary mountain fastnesses, now re-inforced from Caubul,
were achieving a great and decisive victory over the forces of Dost
Mahomed and the Wullee of Khooloom, and changing the entire aspect of
affairs in those remote Caucasian regions.

On the 14th, the reinforcements under Brigadier Dennie had reached
Bameean. It was currently reported that, on that day, Dost Mahomed
would attack our position. Nothing, however, was seen of his army, and
contradictory reports of his movements continued to pour into camp.
From the stories which were circulated at Bameean, and the contents of
the letters divulged by the neighbouring chiefs, it appeared that the
Ameer had not yet fully determined whether to make a descent upon our
detachment, or to avoid the contest. From Kamurd he wrote to one chief:
“For God’s sake, tell me the news! Will the Feringhees run or fight?”
To the Sirdars of the Afghan corps that has just before deserted, he
wrote that all Toorkistan had joined him, and that he had 40,000 men at
his call. In all his letters he declared that he had taken up arms for
the honour of his religion, and called upon all true believers to flock
to the holy standard of the Prophet.

Brigadier Dennie’s first measure, upon reaching Bameean, was to disarm
the apostate Afghan corps. He then began to bethink himself of marching
upon Syghan to meet the advancing troops of the Ameer. But the enemy
were then nearer than he anticipated. On the evening of the 17th,
he obtained intelligence to the effect that some advanced bodies of
cavalry were “entering the valley from the great defile in our front,”
six miles from Bameean; and on the following morning it was reported
that they had attacked a friendly village which had claims to the
protection of our troops. The Brigadier resolved, therefore, to expel
them. It was believed that they constituted the advanced guard of the
Ameer’s army under his son Afzul Khan. On the morning of the 18th, a
detachment was ordered out to drive the enemy from the valley. Soon
after eight o’clock, two horse-artillery guns under Lieutenant Murray
Mackenzie, two companies of the 35th Native Infantry, two companies of
the Goorkha corps, and about 400 Afghan horse, marched out to meet the
enemy. About half an hour afterwards, Dennie, with two more companies
of the Native Infantry regiment, and two also of the Goorkha corps,
followed in support of the advanced detachment. Instead of coming
merely upon the advance of the enemy, the Brigadier found an army in
his front.

But in spite of the slender force at his command, and the overwhelming
numbers of the enemy, Dennie did not hesitate for a moment. His men
were eager to advance; and he himself was full of confidence and
courage. The enemy had got possession of a chain of forts reaching to
the mouth of the defile, and were collected in bodies round the several
forts, and upon the hills on either side of the valley. Mackenzie’s
guns began to play upon them. A little while the Oosbegs stood the
fire; but the guns were nobly served, and the shrapnel practice told
with terrific effect on dense bodies of men who had nothing to give
back in return. The Oosbegs fell back, and, as they retreated, the guns
were pushed forward; and first from one distance, then from another,
opened a destructive fire upon the wavering disconcerted enemy. The
Oosbeg force was soon broken to pieces; and our cavalry were then let
slip in pursuit. Following the disordered masses for some miles along
the defile, they cut down large numbers of the enemy, and dispersed
them in all directions. Dost Mahomed and his son are said to have owed
their lives to the fleetness of their horses.

Intelligence of this victory soon reached Caubul, and was received with
the liveliest emotions of joy by the British Resident. His spirits rose
at once. Again he began to look at the present without alarm, and into
the future without despondency. Never was a victory so much wanted as
in that month of September, and never did one promise so many good

“The Dost had only one weapon,” wrote Macnaghten on the 21st, to
Major Rawlinson, “that was religion, and he certainly wielded it most
skilfully. I think the Oosbegs will now abandon him. Lord has offered
handsome terms to the Wullee, and should this fail, I am not without
hope that Meer Mahomed Beg will seize the present opportunity of
revenging himself on his old enemy.”

The attempt to detach the Wullee of Khooloom from his alliance with
Dost Mahomed was crowned with complete success. Doubtless Mackenzie’s
guns were the great suasive power. The battle of Bameean must have
shown the Oosbeg chief the hopelessness of further resistance; and
as Dennie was moving on to Syghan, it was prudent to come at once to
terms. Lieutenant Rattray was sent forward to arrange a meeting between
the Wullee and Dr. Lord; and on the 28th of September, on the summit
of the Dundun-i-Shikun, the British political agent and the Oosbeg
chief entered into engagements, by which the latter bound himself not
to harbour or assist Dost Mahomed, or any member of his family. The
country to the south of Syghan was ceded to Shah Soojah; that to the
north of it to the Wullee; and a telescope, which he said had been
promised, and which he was hurt at not having received before, was
given to the latter in completion of the bargain.

But these favourable results were but local and incidental. “I am
like a wooden spoon,” said Dost Mahomed; “you may throw me hither and
thither, but I shall not be hurt.” Defeated on the Hindoo-Koosh, he
reappeared in the Kohistan. Disaffection was rife throughout that part
of the Douranee Empire. The chiefs had begun to feel the evils of the
new revenue system, or rather the manner of its administration, which
rendered the tax-gatherer something more than a name. Supported by
British power, the executive officers of the Shah no longer stood in
awe of the petty chieftains, who soon began to murmur against the
change of government, and to lay all their grievances at the door of
the Feringhees. Thus irritated and exasperated, they were in a temper
to welcome back the Barukzye Sirdar. More than one fortress was in the
hand of a recusant chief; and it was apprehended that the presence of
Dost Mahomed would set the whole country in a blaze.[52]

In such a conjuncture it became necessary _to do something_ in the
Kohistan. But it was not easy to determine what. A blow was to be
struck, and the chapter of accidents was to determine how and in what
direction it should fall. Accordingly, in the last week of September,
a force under Sir Robert Sale was ordered to take the field. Sir
Alexander Burnes accompanied it, and directed its movements. At the
entrance of the Ghorebund Pass was a fortified village, and a chain
of detached forts, belonging to a hostile chief, who was known to
be in league with the fugitive Ameer. The name of this place was
Tootundurrah. On the 29th of September, Sale invested the enemy’s
position. The resistance was very slight. The fire of our guns and the
advance of the infantry column soon compelled its evacuation, and the
place was speedily in possession of the British troops. The success
was complete, and would have been cheaply purchased; but one fell
there, who, mourned in anguish of spirit by the Envoy, was lamented
by the whole force. Edward Conolly, a lieutenant of cavalry, one of
three accomplished and enterprising brothers, who had followed the
fortunes of their distinguished relative, Sir William Macnaghten, and
obtained employment under the British Mission, had on that very morning
joined Sale’s force as a volunteer. He was acting as aide-de-camp
to the General; when, as the column advanced, he was struck down by
a shot from the enemy’s position. The bullet entered his heart. “My
mind was in too disturbed a state all day yesterday,” wrote the Envoy
on the 1st of October, “to admit of my writing to you. Poor Edward
Conolly (Arthur’s next brother) has been killed by a dubious hand at
a petty fortress in Kohistan. Never did a nobler or a kinder spirit
inhabit a human frame. Poor fellow! he was shot through the heart, and
I believe he was the only individual on our side killed during the
operations of the 29th, when three forts belonging to the chief rebel
in the country were taken. The whole of the chiefs of the Kohistan
have now taken to flight. This is a result I by no means anticipated;
my wish was to punish some, and to conciliate others. As it is, I fear
that Dost Mahomed Khan will now be received by them with open arms.
There never was such a set of villains. They came in here, and bound
themselves to serve the Shah under the most solemn oaths conceivable,
and yet they had not returned to their homes half an hour before they
reopened their correspondence with Dost Mahomed. Their punishment
became indispensable, for they would shortly have had Dost Mahomed
amongst them; and now there is a possibility of their having imbibed so
wholesome a terror of our arms as to prevent their ever again assuming
an offensive attitude.”[53]

Having destroyed the defences of Tootundurrah, Sale advanced on the
3rd of October to the attack of Joolgah—another fortified position
held by the Kohistanee rebels. The walls of this place were too thick
to be easily breached, and too high to be easily escaladed. The guns
were light; the scaling ladders were short; and the enemy on the crest
of the breach offered the most determined resistance. The storming
party, led by Colonel Tronson, of the 13th Light Infantry, advanced to
the attack with a desperate gallantry worthy of a more distinguished
success. Many of the leading men were shot dead in the breach; the
struggle to effect a lodgment was ineffectual; and the column was
eventually withdrawn. Repulsed, but not disheartened by failure, the
British troops were preparing to renew the attack, when the enemy,
dreading the recommencement of hostilities, left the fort in the hands
of the besiegers. The works were destroyed; and so far the movement was
successful—but the failure of the assault deeply mortified the Envoy.
“I have bad news to send you,” he wrote on the 4th of October; “our
arms have met with a reverse at Joolgah in the Kohistan.[54] A storm
and escalade was attempted, but it would not do. The enemy evacuated
the place in the evening; but I fear that the whole of the Moofsids
(rebels) have escaped...... Burnes represents the country as being in
a very unsettled state; and I fear that it will be necessary for his
Majesty to remain in Caubul this winter. I intend to write and tell
Lord Auckland that he must send us reinforcements _viâ_ the Punjab.
The Dost was last heard of at Kanjau; but I have no doubt of his
soon entering Nijrow. Would it be justifiable to set a price on this
fellow’s head? We have intercepted several letters from him, from all
of which it appears that he meditates fighting with us so long as the
breath is in his body.”

During that month of October, to the annoyance and embarrassment of the
political officers and the discomfort of the troops, Dost Mahomed was
flitting about from place to place, with no intelligible plan of action
to give it any shape and consistency to our counter-operations. Various
were the reports which reached the British camp; various the accounts
of the nature of his movements and the number of his adherents. Many of
these were of the most conflicting character;—and the best-informed
officers in the British camp were beset with doubt and perplexity. On
the 11th of October it was known that the Ameer was in the valley of
Ghorebund. “I believe that there can be little or no doubt,” wrote
Macnaghten to Lord Auckland, on the following day, “of Dost Mahomed’s
having entered Ghorebund, and of his being at this moment within forty
or fifty miles distance from Caubul. It is impossible to say what may
be the effect of his coming into this neighbourhood. But I apprehend
very serious consequences, for both the town of Caubul and the country
are ripe for revolt. Dr. Lord writes that, as soon as Dost Mahomed
heard of Mr. Rattray’s approach, he said he would not remain to be sold
to the Feringhees, and immediately took the road to Ghorebund. I cannot
ascertain how many men he has with him—some accounts say ten thousand,
others, three hundred. The last is, I dare say, nearer the mark—but
what I dread is, the effect of his incessant intrigues (whilst he is so
near us) upon the minds of the population.”

Such, indeed, at this time, were the gloomy forebodings which
overshadowed the minds of the political chiefs, that they predicted
the necessity of concentrating the troops in the Balla Hissar of
Caubul, and actually began to talk of making preparations for a siege.
Guns were mounted on the citadel to overawe the town. The guards were
everywhere increased. The Bameean detachment was ordered to return
to the capital with all possible despatch. And Macnaghten began to
talk about “submitting to the disgrace of being shut up in Caubul for
a time.” It was, indeed, a critical moment. It has been seen that
the Envoy had begun to contemplate the expediency of setting a price
on the Ameer’s head. It is a proof alike of the dangers that beset
our position in Afghanistan, and the disturbing effects they had
wrought upon the minds of our political ministers, that such was the
exasperation produced by the apparent success of Dost Mahomed, even
upon the kindly nature of the Envoy, that he talked about “showing no
mercy to the man who was the author of all the evil now distracting
the country.” Shah Soojah had long been eager to “hang the dog;” and
now, in conversation with Macnaghten, he taunted him with his mistaken
leniency. “I suppose you would, even now,” said the King, “if I were to
catch the dog, prevent me from hanging him.” “It will be time enough,”
said the Envoy, “to talk about that when your Majesty has caught
him.” The British minister was about to take his leave, when the Shah
arrested him, and said: “You know I have from the first expressed to
you a mean opinion of my own countrymen. If you want further proofs,
look at _that_ from my own brother.” He then placed in the Envoy’s
hands an intercepted letter to the address of the Barukzye chief,
Sultan Mahomed, proposing that, with his aid, and that of the Sikhs,
Shah Zemaun should be placed on the throne, as Shah Soojah had made
over the country to the dominion of infidels. The letter bore the seal
of the old blind king himself. It was on the following day that the
Envoy wrote to the Governor-General that no mercy should be shown to
the Ameer; but he added, “should he be so fortunate as to secure the
person of Dost Mahomed, I shall request his Majesty not to execute him
till I can ascertain your Lordship’s sentiments.”[55]

In the mean while, the force under Sir Robert Sale had moved, in
pursuit of the Ameer, into the Nijrow country. On the 18th they were
encamped near Kardurrah; and on the 20th were meditating an attack
on the place. The Envoy, who watched their proceedings with extreme
anxiety, was impatient of the seeming dilatoriness of their movements;
and wrote to one of his colleagues: “Burnes and Sale, with nearly 2000
good infantry, are sitting down before a fortified position about
twenty miles distant, and are afraid to attack it. The enemy made an
attack upon them the night before last—killed and wounded some of our
people, and got off unscathed. All this is very bad.” But it was not
in reality so bad as it seemed to the perplexed and anxious minister
at Caubul. Whilst he was writing, preparations were in progress for
an attack, on the following day. On the morning of the 21st the force
was ready and eager for action. But as the troops advanced, fresh and
in good spirits, upon Kardurrah, a party of villagers met them with
tidings to the effect that the enemy had abandoned their position,
and that the place was without an inhabitant. If any feelings of
mortification welled up on the discovery that the garrison had escaped
our toils, they very quickly subsided. It was plain that the enemy had
made a great mistake, and that the British force had providentially
been delivered from a great danger. The position that the “rebels” had
abandoned was one of uncommon strength, and, had it been defended with
any spirit, could only have been carried, if at all, after a large
expenditure of life.

Dost Mahomed was now in the Nijrow country. His cause seemed to
gather strength. Even some of Shah Soojah’s soldiers deserted their
British officers and flocked to the Ameer’s standard. On the 27th of
October he broke ground, and moved down towards the capital. On the
29th, intelligence of his movements having reached the British camp
at Bhag-alum, the force marched out to intercept the enemy. The two
following days were employed by the engineer officers in reconnoitring
and surveying the surrounding country; and on the 1st of November the
force encamped before Meer-Musjedee’s fort. Here it was ascertained
that they were in the neighbourhood of the enemy, and preparations were
made to give battle to the Ameer and his adherents.

On the 2nd of November—a day which has obtained a melancholy celebrity
in the annals of the English in Afghanistan—the British force came
at last in sight of the enemy. The army of the Ameer was posted in
the valley of Purwandurrah. The Nijrow hills were bristling with the
armed population of a hostile country. Unprepared for the conflict,
Dost Mahomed had no design, on that November morning, of giving battle
to the Feringhees. An unexpected movement precipitated the collision.
On the first appearance of the British troops the Ameer evacuated the
village of Purwandurrah and the neighbouring forts; and was moving off
to a position on some elevated ground commanded by a steep hill to the
rearward, when, at the suggestion of Dr. Lord, the British cavalry were
moved forward to outflank the Afghan horse.

It was a clear bright morning. The yellow foliage of autumn glittered
like gold in the broad sunlight. The opposite hills were alive with the
enemy. The crisp fresh air, so bracing and invigorating to the human
frame, seemed to breathe confidence and courage. Dost Mahomed, who,
since his defeat at Bameean, had been often heard of, but never seen,
by the British troops, and who seemed to elude the grasp of the Army of
Occupation like an _ignis fatuus_, was now actually within their reach.
It ought to have been an hour of triumph. It was one of humiliation.
The Afghans were on the hills skirting one side of the pass; the
British troops were on the opposite declivity. Dost Mahomed saw our
cavalry advancing, and from that moment cast behind him all thought
of retreat. At the head of a small band of horsemen, strong, sturdy
Afghans, but badly mounted, he prepared to meet his assailants. Beside
him rode the bearer of the blue standard which marked his place in the
battle. He pointed to it; reined in his horse; then snatching the white
_lunghi_ from his head, stood up in his stirrups uncovered before his
followers, and called upon them, in the name of God and the Prophet,
to drive the cursed Kaffirs from the country of the faithful. “Follow
me,” he cried aloud, “or I am a lost man.” Slowly, but steadily, the
Afghan horsemen advanced. The English officers, who led our cavalry to
the attack, covered themselves with glory. The native troopers fled
like sheep. Emboldened by the craven conduct of the British cavalry,
the Afghan horsemen rode forward, driving their enemy before them, and
charging right up to the position of the British, until almost within
reach of our guns.[56] The Afghan sabres told, with cruel effect, upon
our mounted men. Lieutenants Broadfoot and Crispin were cut to pieces.
A treacherous shot from a neighbouring bastion brought Dr. Lord to the
ground; and the dagger of the assassin completed the work of death.
Captains Fraser and Ponsonby, whose gallantry has never been surpassed
even in the annals of old Roman heroism, still live to show their
honourable scars; and to tell, with mingled pride and humiliation, the
story of that melancholy day.

In front of our columns, flaunting the national standard, the Afghans
stood for some time masters of the field, and then quietly withdrew
from the scene of battle. Sir Alexander Burnes, awed by this disaster,
wrote to Sir William Macnaghten that there was nothing left for the
force but to fall back upon Caubul, and implored the Envoy there to
concentrate all our troops. Sir William received the letter on the 3rd
of November, as he was taking his evening ride in the outskirts of the
city. His worst forebodings seemed to be confirmed. Little did he know
what thoughts were stirring in the breast of the Ameer. Dost Mahomed,
in the very hour of victory, felt that it was hopeless to contend
against the power of the British Government. He had too much sagacity
not to know that his success at Purwandurrah must eventually tend, by
moving the British to redouble their exertions, rather to hasten than
to retard the inevitable day of his final destruction. He quitted the
field in no mood of exultation; with no bright visions of the future
before him. He had won the last throw, but the final issue had ceased
to be a matter of speculation. The hour in which, with dignity and
grace, he might throw himself upon the protection of his enemies, now
seemed to have arrived. He had met the British troops in the field,
and, at the head of a little band of horsemen, had driven back the
cavalry of the Feringhees. His last charge had been a noble one; he
might now retire from the contest without a blot upon his name.

So thought the Ameer; as was his wont, taking counsel of his saddle.
None knew in the British camp the direction he had taken; none
guessed the character of his thoughts. On the day after the victory
of Purwandurrah he was under the walls of Caubul. He had been
four-and-twenty hours in the saddle; but betrayed little symptoms
of fatigue. A single horseman attended him. As they approached the
residence of the British Envoy, they saw an English gentleman returning
from his evening ride. The attendant galloped forward to satisfy
himself of the identity of the rider, and being assured that the Envoy
was before him, said that the Ameer was at hand. “What Ameer?” asked
Macnaghten. “Dost Mahomed Khan,” was the answer; and presently the
chief himself rode up to the British minister. Throwing himself from
his horse, Dost Mahomed saluted the Envoy, said he was come to claim
his protection, and placed his sword in Macnaghten’s hand. But the
Envoy returning it to him, desired the Ameer to remount. They then rode
together into the Mission compound——Dost Mahomed asking many eager
questions about his family as they went. A tent having been pitched
for his accommodation, he wrote letters to his sons, exhorting them to
follow his example and seek the protection of the British Government.

He seemed to have become reconciled to his fate. He had no wish, he
said, to escape. Force, indeed, would not drive him to abandon the
refuge he had voluntarily sought. With Macnaghten he conversed freely
of his past history; and raised, by the recital alike of his doings and
his sufferings, the strongest feelings of admiration and compassion
in the Envoy’s breast. Every effort was made to soothe the Ameer’s
feelings; and he soon became serene and cheerful. A report that it
was the design of our government to banish him to London, disturbed
his equanimity for a time; but he was soon reassured by the promises
of the Envoy, and began to look forward with hopefulness to a life of
repose and security in the Company’s dominions. A few days after his
surrender, his eldest son, Afzul Khan, came into the British camp.

A prisoner, but an honoured one, Dost Mahomed remained some ten days at
Caubul, during which time all the leading officers of the garrison paid
him the most marked attention. Men, who kept aloof from Shah Soojah,
as one to be religiously avoided, were eager to present themselves
before the unfortunate Ameer, and to show that they respected him
in his fallen fortunes. He received his visitors with courtesy, and
conversed with them with freedom. Seated on the ground, he desired them
to be seated; and seemed to take pleasure in the society of the brave
men who did him honour. Captain Nicolson, an officer of distinguished
gallantry and great intelligence, whose early death on the banks of
the Sutlej is to be deeply deplored, having been selected by Sir W.
Macnaghten to fill the difficult and delicate office of custodian
to the fallen prince, acted, on these occasions, as interpreter. It
may be doubted whether a single officer quitted his presence without
drawing a comparison between the Ameer and the Shah, very much to the
disadvantage of the latter. The King refused to see his prisoner,
alleging that he would not be able to bring himself to show common
civility to such a villain. “This is well,” said the Envoy, writing
to the Private Secretary of the Governor-General, “as the Dost must
have suffered much humiliation in being subjected to such an ordeal.”
All the natural kindliness of the Envoy now set in towards the fallen
prince, and all the courtesies of the English gentleman were freely
bestowed upon him.

On the 12th of November, 1840, Dost Mahomed Khan, under a strong
escort,[57] commenced his journey towards the provinces of India; and
two months afterwards Macnaghten wrote:

 “I trust that the Dost will be treated with liberality. His case has
 been compared to that of Shah Soojah; and I have seen it argued that
 he should not be treated more handsomely than his Majesty was; but
 surely the cases are not parallel. The Shah had no claim upon us. We
 had no hand in depriving him of his kingdom, whereas we ejected the
 Dost, who never offended us, in support of our policy, of which he was
 the victim.”[58]

And so Macnaghten, in a few lines of irrepressible truth and candour,
denounced the injustice of the policy of which he himself had been
one of the originators. It is possible, too, that Lord Auckland may
have felt that Dost Mahomed “never offended us,” but that we had
victimised him; for he received the Prince he had deposed with becoming
hospitality and respect, and burdened the revenues of India with a
pension in his favour of two lakhs of rupees.


[November: 1840-September: 1841.]

 Yar Mahomed and the Douranees—Season of Peace—Position of the
 Douranees—The Zemrindawer Outbreak—Conduct of Yar Mahomed—Departure
 of Major Todd—Risings of the Douranees and Ghilzyes—Engagements with
 Aktur Khan and the Gooroo—Dispersion of the Insurgents.

The remainder of the month of November passed away in peace and
tranquillity. The Envoy began now for the first time to taste the
blessings of repose, and to enjoy the advantages of leisure. But
his active mind was soon again busily at work. Dost Mahomed had
surrendered; but the Sikhs had not been coerced. The time for the
“macadamisation” of the Punjab seemed now to have arrived. To the
Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Provinces of India, he wrote
on the 24th of November, of the “piping times of peace, so unfavourable
to the exercise of the epistolary art,” and of the “cards which played
so beautifully into his hands.” “This is the time,” he added, “for a
subsidiary force in the Punjab, and for the cession of the districts
to the west of the Indus. We are clearly not bound any longer by the
Tripartite treaty, and so I have told Lord Auckland; but I don’t think
his Lordship’s ambition will aim at more than keeping matters on their
present footing. We start for Jellalabad in three or four days; and it
is high time we should do so, as the weather is becoming bitterly cold
here. We shall now have a little time to devote to the affairs of the
country, and I trust its condition will be soon as flourishing as its
poor resources will admit.”[59]

Before the end of November, the Court were on their way to their winter
quarters at Jellalabad. On the morning of the 13th they reached that
place. The Envoy found Sir Willoughby Cotton still there, but “anxious
to get away;” and Captain Macgregor, the political agent in charge of
the district, surrounded by a motley crew of the chiefs of the country,
who seemed to look up to him as their common father. In the enjoyment
of a little rest from pressing anxieties, the Envoy began to turn
his thoughts to the domestic administration of the country. “We have
hitherto,” he wrote to the Private Secretary of the Governor-General,
“been struggling for existence, without any leisure to turn to the
improvement of the administration.”[60] And very little of this leisure
was even now vouchsafed to him. Though Dost Mahomed was on his way
to the provinces of India, and the winter snows had now set in, the
struggle for existence was still going on, and more fiercely than
ever. The Ghilzyes and Kohistanees had already risen up against the
government of the Shah and his supporters; and now the Douranees were
breaking out into revolt.

It has been shown, that on the reappearance of Shah Soojah at
Candahar, the Douranees, enfeebled and prostrated by their Barukzye
oppressors, clustered around the throne, and sought from the restored
monarch the privileges and immunities which had been wrested from
them by the Sirdars. Uncertain, at that time, of the ultimate success
of the expedition, and eager to swell the number of his adherents,
the Shah was willing to grant, and more willing still to promise.
He made certain remissions of taxation in favour of the tribes; but
he entrusted the execution of these new popular measures to the
old unpopular agency; and the Parsewan revenue-collectors, who had
oppressed the tribes during the reign of the Sirdars, were still left
to exercise their hated calling under the King.

The experiment of giving is a dangerous one. In the ordinary concerns
of human life, it is found that the shortcomings of those who
give bring down upon them more hatred and more reproach than the
withholdings of those who give not. It is perilous to raise hopes not
to be fulfilled. The Douranees had looked for much from the restoration
of the Shah; and they were disappointed. They had patiently submitted
to the exactions and oppressions of the Barukzyes—but the imperfect
liberality of the Suddoyze monarch irritated them past endurance. They
looked upon the Barukzyes as their natural enemies, and they submitted
when they knew that they had no power of resistance. But believing that
it was the wish of the restored government of the Shah to conciliate
and encourage them, they demonstrated their dissatisfaction in a
violent and offensive manner, with the strongest assurance in their
mind that their grievances would be redressed. Under the Barukzyes
such a course would have been worse than useless, for their spasms
of painful unrest were pleasing to the Sirdars. But as it seemed
that the Shah desired to please them, they strove to evince, by most
unmistakeable signs, that they were not pleased; and broke out into

In Zemindawer, a district which lies to the north-west of Candahar,
symptoms of inquietude began to evince themselves at the end of
1840. At this time, the affairs of Candahar and its neighbourhood
were, as regards all European superintendence, under the charge of
Major Rawlinson. This officer, who had been employed for some years
in Persia,[62] and on the rupture of our friendly relations with
that state, necessarily remanded to India, had been so strongly
recommended, for his intimate acquaintance with the languages, the
people, and the politics of the East, as well as for his general
aptitude and intelligence, by Sir John M‘Niell to Lord Auckland, that
the Governor-General ordered him to proceed to Caubul, to be employed
under Macnaghten. In the early part of 1840 it had been proposed to
despatch Rawlinson and Arthur Conolly on a mission to the camp of the
Russian General Peroffski, but the breaking up of the Khivan expedition
caused this project to be abandoned; and another field of activity was
opened out to Rawlinson in a region less inhospitable and remote. The
supervision of affairs at Candahar had hitherto been entrusted to Major
Leech; but Leech had given offence to the Envoy by the dilatoriness
with which he had sent in his accounts, and it had seemed good to
Macnaghten to remove him from his post.[63] He could not have appointed
a better man than Rawlinson to fill it. So, on the 4th of July, he sent
to that officer the Shah’s official notification of his appointment as
political agent at Candahar.

The command of the troops at Candahar was in the hands of Major-General
Nott. He was an old Sepoy officer of good repute; a man of some
talents, but blunt address—an honest, plain-spoken soldier, not always
right, but always believing himself to be right—hearty, genuine,
and sincere. His faults were chiefly those of temper. He had not
been well used. Sir Henry Fane had recognised his merits; but Sir
John Keane, who was accused of fostering a narrow-minded prejudice
against the Company’s service, had superseded him in a manner which
had greatly incensed the General himself, and the army to which he
belonged.[64] Labouring under a strong sense of the injustice that had
been done him; feeling that his worth had not been duly appreciated,
or his services duly rewarded; seeing much in the general management
of the affairs of the distracted country in which his lot had been
cast to excite his unqualified disapprobation; and being, moreover,
constitutionally of an irritable temperament, he sometimes said and
wrote what was calculated to offend others; and as the political
officers were the especial objects of his dislike, he was in no
favour at the Residency. Macnaghten declared that the general’s
conduct frequently embarrassed him, and recommended, therefore, his
recall. But it was felt that Nott was a fine soldier; and, though the
Government eventually listened to the Envoy’s counsel in this matter,
they were slow to remove him from a sphere in which his energy and
decision were likely to be so serviceable to the state. And, perhaps,
it was felt that, in his political colleague at Candahar, Nott had a
man of excellent temper, of great tact and forbearance, and that the
difficulty was much lessened by so fortunate an association.

Such were the men upon whom, at the beginning of 1841, devolved the
duty of looking this Douranee outbreak fairly in the face. The task
that fell to Nott’s share was the easier of the two. He had simply to
beat the enemy in the field. The insurgents of Zemindawer had risen
up against a party of the Shah’s horse, who had been sent out to
support the revenue officers, and had defeated and dispersed them. A
detachment, therefore, was ordered out against them, under Captain
Farrington. On the morning of the 3rd of January they came up with the
rebels. The Douranee horse, some 1200 or 1500 strong, showed a bold
front; but the fire of Hawkins’s guns was too hot for them, and they
began to waver. The infantry well completed what the cavalry had well
begun; the insurgents were driven from their position, and were soon
broken and dispersed. And so, for the time, the military officer had
done his work, and with good success. The political officer had a more
difficult duty to perform. Rawlinson was called upon to elucidate the
causes of the dissatisfaction of the Douranees, and to recommend the
best means of quenching the dangerous spirit of revolt. The causes,
doubtless, were numerous, and there were some which lay far beneath
the surface. Both in private letters to Macnaghten and in a masterly
official report, to which allusion has been made, Rawlinson probed them
to their very depths—but his views were not in accordance with those
of the Envoy, and his warnings were disregarded.

Macnaghten had at first been willing to believe that this revolt
of the Douranees had risen out of the tyrannical interference of
unpopular revenue-administrators, which had left them in a mood of
mind favourable in the extreme to the designs of any discontented or
factious chief who had objects to gain, or resentments to gratify, by
stirring the country into rebellion. “Aktur Khan,” he wrote to Mr.
Colvin, “was disappointed in not getting the chiefship of Zemindawer;
and he found the people in a temper to aid his rebellious projects,
owing to the oppressions practised by the Wakeel.” But he was slow
to believe that there was any general feeling of disaffection in the
country; that the double government we had established was essentially
and necessarily unpopular; or that such occasional outbreaks as he was
condemned to witness were the results of anything more than personal
and accidental circumstances, from which no general conclusions were to
be drawn. He never believed that there was any nationality among the
Afghans, or that the presence of the stranger and the Infidel in their
land could be a sore continually to fester and to throb.

Still less did he believe it possible that our presence in Afghanistan
could be hateful to the King himself, who owed everything to us. But it
was reported, and believed by many in the neighbourhood of Candahar,
that Shah Soojah had secretly fomented the rebellion of the Douranees.
The Shah shook with rage, when this story was told him, and vowed that
the man, to whom its authorship had been traced, should pay the penalty
of his mendacity by having his tongue cut out at the root. “And I
really think,” said Macnaghten, “there would be no harm in depriving
the rascal of his ears.” But there were others who believed then and
afterwards, that the old king was as eager as any one of his subjects,
to see the white-faced intruders swept from the face of the land; and
that he yearned to be in deed, as well as in name, supreme in the
Douranee Empire.

To have acknowledged either the unpopularity of our occupation of
Afghanistan, or the faithlessness of the King, would have been to have
acknowledged the entire failure of our policy. So Macnaghten still
continued to seek for accidental causes of the popular discontent,
and to talk of superficial remedies. “My own impression is,” he wrote
to Mr. Colvin, on the 5th of February, “that matters will revert to a
wholesome state as soon as ever the incubus of apprehension is removed
from the body of the people; and this will be effected by the simple
recall of the obnoxious Parsewan managers.” But there was another
source to which, at this time, he was fain to attribute the inquietude
of Western Afghanistan. He suspected, and not without reason, that the
disaffection of the Douranees had been fomented by the intrigues of Yar
Mahomed. The suspicion soon rose into knowledge. There were undeniable
proofs that the Heratee Wuzeer had been writing inflammatory letters
to the Douranee chiefs. He had sent a delegate, named Nussur-ood-deen
Khan, into the Zemindawer country, with letters to each of the
principal Douranee chiefs, and one of them had forwarded to Lieutenant
Elliot, Rawlinson’s assistant, a copy of the seditious missive, which
ran to the following effect:

 Let each of you assemble his followers, and go in to Aktur Khan in
 Zemindawer, and be ready and prepared, for I have moved out of Herat;
 and from Meshed, troops 10,000 strong, with twelve guns and two lakhs
 of rupees, are marching to our assistance. At latest, I shall arrive
 at Bukhwa by the end of the month Mohurram. Let not any Douranee chief
 of those now assembled disperse his followers, for I am most assured
 of coming to join you.

The fact was not to be doubted; but it was in no way the cause of the
disorder. It merely aggravated the external symptoms of a deeply-seated
disease. Vexatious and embarrassing as was this intelligence, there
was worse behind to astound the Envoy, and make him cry out more and
more bitterly against the authorities, who had thwarted his long
cherished desire to play the “great game.” Suddenly there came upon
him tidings that the outrages and the exactions—the treachery and
the insolence—of Yar Mahomed had reached such a pitch, that Todd had
broken up the British Mission, and set his face towards Candahar.

The Wuzeer had long been accommodating his demands to every change in
the political barometer. Unfortunately, those changes had indicated
little but the depressed circumstances of our position in Afghanistan.
The disaster of Major Clibborne; the fall of Khelat; and the progress
of Dost Mahomed on the Hindoo-Koosh, were adverse circumstances which
encouraged the Wuzeer to rise in his demands for more money, and even
to meditate aggressive movements of a more palpable character than any
which had yet been undertaken against the power of Shah Soojah and
his supporters. At one time he contemplated an attack upon Candahar,
and was anxious that his intentions should be known to the British
Mission. The surrender of Dost Mahomed had, however, somewhat checked
his presumption; and the descent upon Candahar was postponed.

The knowledge of the Zemindawer outbreak soon caused the project to be
revived. Having despatched an emissary to the disaffected country to
keep alive the spirit of revolt, Yar Mahomed at the same time sent,
secretly and suddenly, a deputation to the Persian governor at Meshed,
seeking pecuniary assistance from his government, promising to expel
the British mission from Herat, and urging him to unite in an attack on
Candahar, whilst the communications between that place and Caubul were
cut off by the snow.

This last glaring act of perfidy excited Todd to retaliate. He
believed that there was a point of forbearance beyond which it would
be disgraceful to his country to descend; so he determined to suspend
the payment of the allowance[65] which had been granted to the state;
and, taking advantage of the presence of a large body of troops in
Upper Sindh, announced, on the 1st of February, his intention to the
Wuzeer. But Yar Mahomed, at this time, was intent on playing a “great
game.” He believed that his deputation had been favourably received at
Meshed; he believed that the Douranees were again working themselves
into rebellion; and he had abundant faith in the continued forbearance
of the British government. So he played, with his accustomed craft,
for a large stake; and little heeded the consequences of failure. The
one object of all his intrigues was to obtain money—money for the
state—money for himself. On the 8th of February he came forward
with a string of specific demands. He asked for two lakhs of rupees
to pay his own debts; he asked for an increased monthly allowance to
his Government, to be guaranteed for a year; he asked for further
improvement of the fortifications of Herat at the expense of the
British Government; he asked for loans of money to enable Herat to
recover possession of its lost territories, the troops to be subsisted
in the field at our expense; and he asked for a written agreement to
relieve him “from all apprehension for the future.” He knew well what
he merited at our hands, and years afterwards justified his conduct to
the British Mission, on the ground that he dreaded the influence of our
officers, and felt that his very existence was at stake.

To these extravagant demands Todd gave an answer regulated by his
knowledge of the forbearing course, which his Government desired him
to pursue. He told the Wuzeer that before he could comply, even in a
modified form, with such requests, he should require some guarantee
that such concessions would not be thrown away. Yar Mahomed had some
time before declared his willingness to admit a British garrison into
Herat. If this were now done, some of his demands might be granted.
Yar Mahomed clutched at this; but turning the proposed garrison into
a British force to be located in the valley of Herat, declared that,
on the payment of two lakhs of rupees, he would give his assent to
the measure. Never had he the shadow of an intention of fulfilling
his part of the contract—but he wanted the money. His sincerity was
soon tested. Todd demanded that the Wuzeer’s son should be sent to
Ghiresk, there to await an answer from the Government of India, and
to escort, if the measure were approved, the British troops to Herat;
and it was added, that on the Sirdar’s arrival at that place the money
demanded would be paid. But Yar Mahomed at once refused his assent
to Todd’s proposal. He required the immediate payment of the money or
the departure of the Mission. So the British agent chose the latter
alternative, and turned his back upon Herat.

Never before, perhaps, had the British Government been so insulted and
so outraged in the person of its representatives. Shah Kamran, at a
private audience, told one of the officers of the Mission that, but for
his protection, “not a Feringhee would have been left alive;” and asked
if he did not deserve some credit for not acting towards Todd and his
companions as the Ameer of Bokhara had acted towards Colonel Stoddart.
Yar Mahomed had intercepted Todd’s letters to Candahar. He had been
for some time in an habitual state of intoxication. The seizure of the
persons of the British officers, and the plunder of their property,
had been openly discussed by the Wuzeer and his profligate friends,
and there is little doubt that, if the Mission had remained longer at
Herat, the members of it would have been subjected to indignities of
the worst kind.

The Mission left Herat, and halted for a time at Ghiresk. When the
tidings of its abrupt departure reached Lord Auckland at Calcutta, he
was roused into a state of very unwonted exacerbation. He was not a
hasty man—he was not an unjust one. But on this occasion he committed
an act both hasty and unjust. He at once repudiated the proceedings of
Major Todd at Herat; and removed him from political employment.

“I am writhing in anger and in bitterness,” he wrote to the
Lieutenant-Governor of Agra, “at Major Todd’s conduct at Herat,
and have seen no course open to me, in regard to it, but that of
discarding and disavowing him; and we have directed his dismissal to
the provinces. What we have wanted in Afghanistan has been repose
under an exhibition of strength, and he has wantonly, and against all
orders, done that which is most likely to produce general disquiet,
and which may make our strength inadequate to the calls upon it. I
look upon a march to Herat as perfectly impracticable; and if it were
not so, I should look upon it, under present circumstances, as most
inexpedient. We have taught Yar Mahomed to be more afraid of us than of
the Persians. It is possible that, when he has been left a little time
to himself, he will be more afraid of the Persians than of us—but, in
the mean time, the state to which things have been brought is a cause
of much anxiety and more apprehension to me.”

That, in one sense, the Heratee Mission failed, is certain; but, there
were some of Todd’s measures which did not fail, and it is not to be
forgotten that on his own responsibility he despatched Abbott and
Shakespear to Khiva, and the good that was done by these Missions was
often in the retrospect a solace to him in after days, when smarting
under the injustice of his masters.[66] Substantial benefits, too,
were conferred on the people of Herat—benefits still remembered
with gratitude, and seldom spoken of without some expression of
respect and admiration for their benefactors. The unceasing charities
and the blameless lives of the officers of the Mission raised the
character of the British nation as it was raised in no other part of
Afghanistan. But Lord Auckland never forgave the diplomatic failure.
Todd’s departure from Herat was inopportune; for, although he had no
reason to believe the settlement of our differences with Persia was
any nearer to its consummation than it had been for some time, they
were then on the eve of adjustment. Had he known this, he would have
braved everything and remained at Herat, encouraged by the thought
that the re-establishment of our amicable relations with Persia would
effectually cripple the power and restrain the audacity of the Heratee
minister. Remanded to his regiment, Todd proceeded to join it at the
head-quarters of the Artillery at Dum-Dum. “Equal to either fortune,”
he fell back upon the common routine of regimental service, and, in
command of a company of Foot Artillery, devoted himself with as much
earnest and assiduous zeal to the minutiæ of military duty, as he had
done, a year before, to the affairs of the Herat Mission. It has often
been said that political employ unfits a man for regimental duty; but
Major Todd, from the time that he first rejoined his regiment to the
hour of his death, never slackened in his attention to his military
duties; and, perhaps, in the whole range of the service, there was not
a more zealous, a more assiduous—in other words, a more conscientious
regimental officer than the old antagonist of Yar Mahomed. The trait of
character here illustrated is a rarer one than may be supposed. Nothing
in his political life became him like the leaving of it. There are few
who know how, gracefully, to _descend_.

It is not improbable that these years of regimental duty were
the happiest period of his life. Shortly after his return to the
Presidency, from which he had so long been absent, he married; and
in the enjoyment of domestic happiness, such as has rarely been
surpassed, he soon forgot the injustice that had been done to him.
Cheerfully doing his duty in that state of life to which it had pleased
God to call him, respected and beloved by all who had the means of
appreciating the simplicity of his manners, the kindness of his heart,
the soundness of his intelligence, and the integrity of his conduct, he
found that, in exchanging the excitement of a semi-barbarous Court for
the tranquillity of cantonment life and the companionship of a gentle
and amiable wife, the barter, though not self-sought, had been greatly
to his advantage.

Being appointed to the command of a horse-field battery, stationed
at Delhi, he left Dum-Dum for the imperial city, where he continued
to serve, until, shortly before the Sikh invasion, he attained
that great object of regimental ambition, the command of a troop of
horse-artillery. In the Upper Provinces, he had more than once been
disquieted by the illness of his young and fondly-loved wife; but the
heavy blow, which was to prostrate all his earthly happiness, did
not descend upon him until within a few days of that memorable 18th
of December, 1845, which saw the British army fling itself upon the
Sikh batteries at Mudkhi. He was called away, as he touchingly said,
“from the open grave,” to be plunged into the excitement of battle. It
was at Ferozshuhur that D’Arcey Todd, broken-hearted, with a strong
presentiment of his approaching end, declaring that he “only wished to
live that the grace of God and the love of Christ might prepare him
to leave a world in which there could be no more joy for him,” led
his troop, a second time, into action, and perished in the unequal
conflict: and among the many who fell on that mournful day, there was
not a braver soldier or a better man.

On receiving intelligence of Todd’s departure from Herat, Macnaghten’s
first impulse had been to muster all his available resources, and
relying greatly on the “big guns,” to make an immediate demonstration
in the direction of Herat, beating up the rebels on the Helmund, and
“crushing Aktur Khan” on our way to the western frontier. He wrote to
Rawlinson to prepare for the siege; he wrote to Ross Bell in Scinde
to send up all the heavy guns in his part of the country, applying to
the commissary at Forezpore for draft bullocks, if they were not to be
obtained more readily; and he wrote to the Supreme Government to send
“as large a force as might be available, and as speedily as possible,
to Candahar, even if an attack on Herat should not be meditated.” He
was eager for the opinions of every competent authority regarding
the facilities of an immediate movement on Herat. “Is there any
chance,” he wrote to Rawlinson, “of our mustering heavy guns and force
sufficient to attack the place this year?” “What does Todd say of the
best season for operations, and what aid does he hope we might obtain
from people in and around Herat?” “What does Sanders think of the means
at our command for subduing Herat?” “You may imagine,” he wrote, in
another letter to the same correspondent, “how anxious I am to hear
of Todd’s safety, and to learn the particulars of his departure from
Herat, and the proximate cause of that important event, as well as his
and your, and Sanders’ opinion, as to the practicability of operations
against Herat this season. I suppose if the force were to move from
Candahar by the middle of May, it would be time enough. But will the
requisite battering train be then forthcoming? And shall we then have a
_quantum suff_ of grain and camels?” “The Governor-General,” added the
Envoy, “will, I fear, if possible, do nothing.”

In this conjecture, at least, Macnaghten’s sagacity was not at
fault. Against an armed interference with the affairs of Herat, Lord
Auckland had always steadfastly set his face. It was his belief that
it was necessary to establish ourselves firmly in Afghanistan before
operating upon Herat; but Macnaghten always declared that there was
no possibility of achieving the former object until the latter had
been accomplished, and was always clamorous for the re-annexation of
Herat to the dominions of Shah Soojah. His instructions, however,
were imperative. Even after the departure of the Mission, the
Governor-General counselled a mild and forbearing course. “I cannot,”
he wrote to Macnaghten, “apprehend organised invasion from Herat,
though there may be a foray on the frontier, which will not have the
effect of making the advent of Yar Mahomed popular in Zemindawer.
I think it, however, more likely that you will have to deal with
letters and agents than with troops; and you ask me in what manner
you are to receive overtures which may be made to you by Yar Mahomed.
I would receive them calmly and coldly, but not repulsively. I would
show no impatience to renew a Mission to Herat. I would have it to
be understood that the stoppage of the allowances was unauthorised,
and that the detachment of a brigade to the citadel of Herat was not
desired, and would not have been acceded to by the British Government,
but that the conduct of the Vizier has given great offence, and that
we can regard Herat with no confidence or friendly feeling until there
shall have been on the side of that state an entire change of policy.
I can only repeat, therefore, what I have said very many times within
the last two years: That you must be strong in Afghanistan before you
can hope to exercise a wholesome influence upon Herat; and I am glad
that you are giving your attention to the condition of the internal
government of the country.”

But although the supreme authorities at Calcutta would not countenance
a movement upon Herat, it was manifest at Candahar that the aggressive
designs of Yar Mahomed, who contemplated the seizure of Ghiresk, and
the hostile demonstrations of the Douranees in the western districts,
rendered active operations on our part a matter of immediate necessity.
So Rawlinson wrote officially to the General that it appeared to
him “of first-rate importance that the insurrection in Zemindawer
should be crushed before the acquisition of any further strength
could render its co-operation of essential service to the Wuzeer of
Herat in his projected advance.” “I also consider,” he added, “that
the strengthening of our position on the Helmund, and the indication
of readiness on our part to meet any such advance, would be the most
effectual way of checking the movement, and of frustrating its
object.”[67] An intercepted letter from Aktur Khan, announcing his
intention to move from Zemindawer directly upon Candahar, if encouraged
by the tribes occupying the intervening country, had been brought in to
the Political Agent, and it was obvious, therefore, that no time was to
be lost.

So a force was sent out to the Zemindawer country to beat up Aktur
Khan’s quarters, or to intercept his advance. The political conduct
of the expedition was entrusted to Lieutenant Elliot, Rawlinson’s
assistant; and ably he did his duty. It was not our policy to beat
the Douranees in battle. It never could be our policy in that country
to shed the blood of the tribes. The submission, not the destruction,
of Aktur Khan was now the object to be attained; and, as the chief
was believed to muster not more than 1300 followers, it was deemed
probable that the advance of our force would determine him, in the
diplomatic language of the day, to “come in.” Intimations of his
willingness to submit to terms met Elliot as he advanced. An interview
was arranged between them. In the camp of the Douranee Sirdar, Atta
Mahomed, the young English “Political” met Aktur Khan, and received
his submission. A conditional pardon was granted to the disaffected
chief, some concessions were made, and a dress of honour was conferred
upon him. The most important condition on his part was, that he should
disband his followers, and as it was believed that he would fulfil
his promise in this respect, hope was entertained that the Zemindawer
country would be tranquillised without further shedding of blood. But,
Rawlinson saw plainly that the advantage which we had gained would be
short-lived. “I do not anticipate,” he wrote to Macnaghten, “that by
the conciliatory treatment recommended by Lieutenant Elliot, we gain
any other advantage than that of temporary tranquillity; and however
prudent therefore it may be at present to induce the rebel chief of
Zemindawer to abstain from disorders by the hope of obtaining through
his forbearance substantial personal benefits, I still think that
when the danger of foreign aggression is removed, and efficient means
are at our disposal, the rights of His Majesty’s government should be
asserted in that strong and dignified manner which can alone ensure a
due respect being paid to his authority.”[68]

And not the Douranees only, but the Ghilzyes also in Western
Afghanistan were, in the spring and summer of 1841, revolting against
the authorities of Shah Soojah and his Feringhee supporters. Lieutenant
Lynch, an officer of the Bombay army, who had served in Persia with
the rank of major, was in political charge of the country about
Khelat-i-Ghilzye. The restlessness and disaffection of the tribes he
attributed to the fact that the families of some of their chief people,
who, after the operations against them in 1839, had fled for safety to
the Sikh frontier, had at the instigation of the British Envoy, been
seized and cast into captivity. But, whatever may have been the more
remote cause, there was in this spring of 1841, a proximate source of
irritation in the fact, that the English were rebuilding the fortress
of Khelat-i-Ghilzye, which lies between Caubul and Candahar, with the
design of posting there a strong garrison to overcome the circumjacent
tribes. This movement had been regarded with great jealousy by the
Ghilzyes; and the tribes in the immediate neighbourhood had assumed an
insolent and defiant attitude. About two miles from Khelat-i-Ghilzye,
was a small fort, bristling with armed men. As Lynch was riding
past it, some of the people came out, and brandishing their swords
defied him to attack them. It was thought that if this insolence were
allowed to pass unnoticed, more serious acts of aggression might be
anticipated. So the troops at Khelat-i-Ghilzye were summoned to attack
the fort. Aided by Captain Sanders of the engineers, Captain Macan,
who commanded one of the regiments of Shah Soojah’s force, led his
Hindostanees against the rebellious stronghold, and captured it after a
brave resistance. The chief and many of his followers were slain in the
conflict, and the irritation of the Ghilzyes was greater than before.

It was a gallant military exploit, but a great misfortune; and Lynch,
whether he had judged rightly or wrongly that the exigencies of the
occasion demanded that he should chastise the people who had insulted
him, was condemned both at Caubul and Calcutta. The Envoy wrote that
he had “foreseen the likelihood of the Ghilzyes resenting the erection
of a fort in the heart of their country;” but asked, “Why should we go
and knock our heads against mud-forts? Why should we not have waited
till the Ghilzyes chose to attack us?” Lord Auckland declared his
opinion that Major Lynch’s proceedings had been “marked by a vapouring
and needless parade, most likely to produce popular excitement.” And
a little later, Burnes, in a letter full of wise humanity, wrote
to Lynch; more in sorrow than in anger, saying, “I am one of those
altogether opposed to any further fighting in this country, and I
consider that we shall never settle Afghanistan at the point of the
bayonet.... As regards the Ghilzyes, indeed, immense allowance ought
to be made for them; they were till within three generations the Kings
of Afghanistan, and carried their victorious arms to the capital of
Persia. It is expecting too much, therefore, to hope for their being
at once peaceful subjects; and as they exhibited so much indisposition
to the King’s Government, it was, I think, right to build a fort at
Khelat-i-Ghilzye, and thus bridle them, thereby enabling us, in the
heart of the Ghilzye country, to protect those who were disposed to
join us, and gradually undermine our enemies.... Had I been by, I would
have said, ‘Build Khelat-i-Ghilzye, and pardon all kinds of insolence,
for those who win may laugh.’”

Major Lynch was removed from office. When all the circumstances of the
case came to be known, the Envoy took a more favourable view of his
conduct. But, whether it were right or wrong in itself, its results
were unfortunate. They could not be otherwise. It was the inevitable
consequence of such proceedings that the bitterness and the turbulence
of the Ghilzyes should wax greater than before, and that soon the
aspect of affairs in the neighbourhood of Khelat-i-Ghilzye should
render more dragooning necessary for the maintenance of the authority
of the Shah. It was expected that the whole country would rise up
against Macan’s detachment; so reinforcements were urgently called for
from Candahar. The hot weather had by this time set in, and Nott was
unwilling to expose his troops to the burning sun. But the political
necessity was said to be great; Macan was in his danger; and no troops
could be spared from Caubul.

So Colonel Wymer, a good and successful officer, with 400 men of his
own regiment (the 38th Sepoys), four horse-artillery guns, and a party
of Christie’s horse, took the field in the month of May. The Ghilzyes,
eager for the conflict, moved down from Khelat-i-Ghilzye to meet
our advancing troops; and, on the 19th, gave them battle. Night was
beginning to fall when they came up with Wymer’s camp at Assiai-Ilmee.
A Ghilzye chief of high estate, named Gool Mahomed, known as the
“Gooroo,” who had threatened Keane’s army nearly two years before, was
at the head of the tribes. They came on with unwavering gallantry, but
were met with a heavy fire from Hawkins’s guns, which, served with
equal rapidity and precision, committed mighty havoc in their ranks.
Upon this, the Ghilzyes, resolutely intending to attack simultaneously
both flanks and the centre of Wymer’s force, divided themselves into
three columns; and, coolly and deliberately, they came down sword in
hand to the charge. Wymer had an extensive convoy to protect. His
movements, therefore, were crippled; and he was compelled to stand on
his defence. But the destroying grape from the guns, and the steady
musketry fire of the Sepoys, sent back the Ghilzye swordsmen again and
again reeling under the iron shower. For five busy hours continued
that mortal struggle; and then the Ghilzyes gave way. They had greatly
outnumbered our party, and they left many dead on the field. All night
long, too, the moving lights announced that many more, both of killed
and wounded, were carried off to their camp.

Whilst in this manner efforts were being made to tranquillise the
Ghilzyes, the proceedings of Aktur Khan and the Douranees were
again exciting the apprehensions of the Envoy. In spite of all our
conciliatory efforts, they had not been quieted. The chief, it has
been seen, had outwardly tendered his allegiance to the King, and
had received a dress of honour, with an assurance from our political
officers that the past would be forgotten. The revenue officers, whom
the Douranees detested, had been removed. The old earless minister,
Moollah Shikore, had been replaced by Oosman Khan, a younger, an abler,
and a more honest man; and Macnaghten was contemplating other fiscal
reforms than those which he had already sanctioned, and hoping to
restore the tribes to their allegiance. But their disaffection was too
deeply rooted to be operated upon by such measures. The entire system
of government was offensive to them. The presence of the British was a
perennial source of irritation. What they regarded as their legitimate
influence had been usurped by the Feringhees; and they were soon ready
again to appear in the field, and cross their sabres with the foreign

It was obvious, indeed, as the month of May wore to an end, that,
unable to obtain all that he wanted for himself, Aktur Khan was still
our bitter and implacable foe. Instead of disbanding his followers, he
was collecting them for another struggle. Irritated by this, Macnaghten
wrote to Rawlinson (May 31) as he had before written in the case of
Dost Mahomed, that if he could seize Aktur Khan, he would recommend
his execution. “I think,” he said, “you should strain every nerve to
lay hold of that indomitable Moofsid, Aktur Khan, and that if you
can seize him, the Prince should be recommended to execute him.... I
further think that a reward of 10,000 rupees should be offered for the
apprehension of Aktur Khan.” But it was still difficult to persuade the
Envoy that the country was in an unsettled state. The Ghilzyes and the
Douranees were both in arms against the authority of the Shah and his
supporters. The whole country of Western Afghanistan was in a fearful
state of unrest. Rawlinson, at Candahar, who saw clearly at this time
the frail tenure by which we held our position in Afghanistan, was
continually warning the Envoy of the dangers which loomed so largely
before him. But Macnaghten only censured his correspondent for his
“unwarrantably gloomy views,” and denounced everything that was said
about the unsettled state of the country as an “idle statement.” How
unwilling he was to believe that the clouds were gathering over his
head, may be gleaned from his correspondence with Rawlinson at this
time. On the 13th of June he wrote a long letter, in which he thus
emphatically declared his opinions:

 Your letter of the 7th arrived this morning. I don’t like reverting
 to unpleasant discussions, but you know well that I have been frank
 with you from the beginning, and that I have invariably told you of
 what I thought I had reason to complain. This may be confined to one
 topic—your taking an unwarrantably gloomy view of our position, and
 entertaining and disseminating rumours favourable to that view. We
 have enough of difficulties and enough of croakers without adding
 to the number needlessly. I have just seen a letter from Mr. Dallas
 to Captain Johnson, in which he says the state of the country is
 becoming worse and worse every day. These idle statements may cause
 much mischief, and, often repeated as they are, they neutralise my
 protestations to the contrary. I know them to be utterly false as
 regards this part of the country, and I have no reason to believe them
 to be true as regards your portion of the kingdom, merely because the
 Tokhees are indulging in their accustomed habits of rebellion, or
 because Aktur Khan has a pack of ragamuffins at his heels. As I have
 said before, there is nothing in these matters which might not have
 been foreseen, or which ought to cause us the slightest uneasiness. We
 will take such precautions as shall prevent the Ghilzyes from annoying
 us; and this is all that is requisite for the present. We may safely
 leave the rest to time. As to the documents protesting against the
 appointment of Sunmud, I look upon them as pure fudge. Send for the
 Janbaz. Let them make a forced march by night, and come in the rear of
 Aktur. Seize the villain, and hang him as high as Haman, and you will
 probably have no more disturbances. The Janbaz may remain out while
 the collections are going on, if necessary. I have already explained
 to you that I never intended offering a reward for Aktur’s head, nor
 should I approve of encouraging the man who has a blood-feud with
 him to put him out of the way. This, besides being objectionable,
 would be superfluous, because his enemy must know that we could not
 be otherwise than gratified at the removal of so atrocious a traitor.
 With regard to the Tymunees, all I meant was, that they should be
 encouraged to seize Aktur if he attempted to take refuge in their
 territory, and I thought that a large pecuniary reward would be
 necessary to overcome their natural scruples to such a proceeding.[69]

But these Douranee children were now again to be corrected. Though
“all was content and tranquillity from Mookoor to the Khybur,” it
was necessary that our troops should be continually in the field. And
it was not always child’s play in which they were summoned to engage.
Aktur Khan was, at the end of June, still in arms before Ghiresk,
with a body of three thousand men, and it was necessary to strike a
blow at the rebel chief. Macnaghten saw the necessity of “tolerating
his audacity no longer,” and although he, at first thought that a
“judicious use of the Janbaz would extirpate the villain,” he consented
to send out a regular force against the rebel chief to “hunt him to the
world’s end.”

So Woodburn, a fine dashing officer, who commanded one of the Shah’s
regiments, was sent out against him, with his own corps (the 5th
Infantry), two detachments of Janbaz, or Afghan Horse, under Hart and
Golding, and some guns of the Shah’s Horse Artillery, under Cooper.
On the 3rd of July he found the enemy posted on the other side of the
Helmund river; mustering, it was said afterwards, six thousand men, in
six divisions, with a Moollah, or priest at the head of each, and with
each a standard, bearing the inscription, “we have been trusting in
God; may he guide and guard us!”[70] Woodburn tried the fords, but they
were impassable. Hart, however, had passed them at another point, but,
finding himself unsupported, he returned. This was in early morning.
Four hours after noon the enemy struck their camp, and soon afterwards
commenced the passage of the river. Woodburn made his arrangements for
their reception. The Douranees made a spirited attack, but Woodburn’s
infantry, well supported by Cooper’s guns, met them with too prompt and
sure a fire to encourage them to greater boldness. The Janbaz, already
graduating in treachery and cowardice, covered themselves with that
peculiar kind of glory which clung to them to the end of the war. It
was a busy night. The enemy far outnumbered Woodburn; but the steady
gallantry of his gunners and his footmen achieved the success they
deserved. Before daybreak the enemy had withdrawn. It would have been
a great thing to have followed up and dispersed the rebels, but with
all the country against him, and a body of horse at his back on which
no reliance could be placed, it would have been madness to make the
attempt. So Woodburn, having written for reinforcements, pushed on to
Ghiresk, whence he wrote that he believed the rebellion was far more
extensive than was supposed, and that the population of Candahar were
quite as disaffected as the rebels on the banks of the Helmund.

The month of August, however, found the Envoy still cheerful and
sanguine. The convulsions of the Douranees and the spasms of the
Ghilzyes were regarded by him as the accompaniments only of those
infantine fevers which were inseparable from the existence of the
tribes. In vain Rawlinson, with steady eye watching those symptoms,
and probing with deep sagacity the causes of the mortal ailments out
of which arose all those fierce throes of anguish, protested that
throughout Western Afghanistan there was a strong national feeling
against us; and that difficulties and dangers were coiling their
serpent folds around us with irresistible force. Macnaghten still asked
what we had to fear, and thus, on the 2nd of August, addressed his less
sanguine colleague:

 I am not going to read you a lecture, first, because when you indited
 your letter of the 28th ult. you pleaded guilty to the influence of
 bile; and secondly, because at the present writing I must own the same
 impeachment; but I must pen a few remarks, in the hope of inducing you
 to regard matters a little more “_couleur de rose_.” You say, “The
 state of the country causes me many an anxious thought—we may thresh
 the Douranees over and over again, but this rather aggravates than
 obviates the difficulty of overcoming the national feeling against
 us—in fact, our tenure is positively that of military possession,
 and the French in Algiers, and the Russians in Circassia, afford
 us an example on a small scale of the difficulty of our position.”
 Now upon what do you found your assertion that there is a national
 feeling against us, such as that against the French in Algiers or
 the Russians in Circassia? Solely, so far as I know, because the
 turbulent Douranees have risen in rebellion. From Mookoor to the
 Khybur Pass all is content and tranquillity, and wherever we Europeans
 go we are received with respect, and attention, and welcome. But the
 insurrection of the Douranees is no new occurrence. The history of
 the rule of the Barukzye Sirdars would show that they were engaged in
 one continuous struggle with their turbulent brethren. If they were
 able to reduce them to subjection with their contemptible means, what
 should we have to fear from them? We have given them something to lose
 which they had not before, and you may rely upon it that they will
 be quiet enough as soon as they are satisfied (which they ought to
 be pretty well by this time) of the futility of opposition, provided
 some means are adopted of preventing Yar Mahomed from carrying on his
 intrigues. Then, the Ghilzyes have been in arms. True. But it would
 have been unreasonable to suppose that they should surrender their
 independance without a struggle, and we have now put the bit in their
 mouths. I do not concur with you as to the difficulty of our position.
 On the contrary, I think our prospects are most cheering, and with the
 materials we have there ought to be little or no difficulty in the
 management of the country.

 It is true the population is exclusively Mahomedan, but it is split
 into rival sects; and we all know that of all antipathies the
 sectarian is the most virulent. We have Hazaras, Ghilzyes, Douranees,
 and Kuzzilbashes, all at daggers drawn with each other, and in every
 family there are rivals and enemies. Some faults of management must
 necessarily be committed on the first assumption of the administration
 of a new country, and the Douranee outbreak may be partially
 attributed to such faults; but what, after all, do such outbreaks
 signify? The modern history of India teems with such instances. There
 is hardly a district in which some desperate adventurer has not
 appeared at some time or other, and drawn the entire population after
 him. The whole province of Bareilly, in 1817, rose against us on a
 religious war-cry. The whole province of Cuttack, shortly afterwards,
 followed the standard of the rebel Jugbeneda, and we had infinite
 trouble in quelling the insurrection. Instances of this kind might be
 infinitely multiplied, and yet we find the effects of such outbreaks
 are very evanescent. The people of this country are very credulous.
 They believe any story invented to our prejudice; but they will very
 soon learn that we are not the cannibals we are painted. Mr. Gorman’s
 fate was doubtless very melancholy; but are there no assassinations
 in other countries? I read in the _Bombay Times_ only this morning an
 account of a cavalry officer being shot at in the open day in one of
 our villages. You say, “The infatuated towns-people are even beginning
 now to show their teeth; there have been three cases to-day of stones
 thrown from the tops of the houses on Sepoys’ heads walking along
 the streets.” Certainly our troops can be no great favourites in a
 town where they have turned out half the inhabitants for their own
 accommodation; but I will venture to say there is not a county town in
 England where soldiers are quartered in which similar excesses have
 not happened. European and Native soldiers have traversed the town
 of Candahar unarmed; and though it is to be apprehended that their
 conduct has been occasionally very aggravating, only two assaults have
 been committed upon them. When I went to Hyderabad in 1810, and for
 many years after, no European could venture to show himself in the
 city, such was the state of feeling against us. Look upon this picture
 and on that. Now I believe the lieges of Hyderabad look upon us as
 very innocent Kaffirs.

 You are quite right, I think in directing Pattinson to accept the
 submission of all the rebels, save Aktur, who may be desirous of
 coming in. They should be required to furnish security for appearance
 sake. But these people are perfect children, and should be treated
 as such. If we put one naughty boy in the corner, the rest will be
 terrified. We have taken their plaything, power, out of the hands of
 the Douranee chiefs, and they are pouting a good deal in consequence.
 They did not know how to use it. In their hands it was useless and
 even hurtful to their master, and we were obliged to transfer it to
 scholars of our own. They instigate the Moollahs, and the Moollahs
 preach to the people; but this will be very temporary. The evil of it
 we must have borne with, or abandoned all hope of forming a national

The Douranee children, however, required more chastisement. No man
could have done more than Woodburn did with his means; but those means
were insufficient. It was the custom then, both against the Ghilzyes
and the Douranees, to send out detachments sufficiently large to
accomplish, with the aid of their guns, small victories over the enemy,
and so to increase the bitterness of their hostility, without breaking
their strength. Aktur Khan was still in arms. Banded with him was Akrum
Khan, another Douranee chief, inspired with like bitter hatred of
the restored monarch and his Feringhee allies. A force under Captain
Griffin, who had been sent to reinforce Woodburn at Ghiresk, now went
out against them. It was strong in the mounted branch. Eight hundred
sabres, three hundred and fifty bayonets, and four six-pounder guns,
followed Griffin into the field of Zemindawer. On the 17th of August
he came up with the insurgents. It was a moment of some anxiety. The
_Janbaz_ had not by their conduct under Woodburn won the confidence of
the British officers. Nott always mistrusted them, and the feeling was,
not unreasonably, shared by others.[72] But here they were associated
with the men of the King’s regular cavalry, and they may have felt the
danger of defection. Be the cause what it may, they did not shrink
from the encounter. The enemy were strongly posted in a succession
of walled gardens and small forts, from which they opened a heavy
matchlock fire upon our advancing troops; but the fire of our guns and
musketry drove them from their inclosures, and then the cavalry, headed
by the young Prince Sufder Jung, who had something more than the common
energy of the royal race, charged with terrific effect, and utterly
broke the discomfited mass of Douranees. The victory was a great one.
Aktur Khan fled. The Douranees were disheartened; and for a time they
sunk into the repose of feebleness and exhaustion.

The Ghilzyes, too, had received another check. Colonel Chambers, early
in August, had been sent out against them, with a party of his own
regiment, (the 5th Light Cavalry), the 16th and 43rd Sepoy Regiments,
and some details of Irregular Horse. He came up with the enemy on
the morning of the 5th; but before he could bring the main body of
his troops into action, a party of his cavalry had fallen upon them
and scattered them in disastrous flight. There was nothing left for
them after this but submission; and soon the chief instigator of the
movement had “come in” to our camp.

Under the influence of these victories, Macnaghten’s confidence
rose higher and higher. The Douranees were broken, and the Ghilzyes
had submitted “almost without a blow.” Aktur Khan had fled, and the
“Gooroo” had surrendered. Now, indeed, the Envoy thought that he might
report “all quiet from Dan to Beersheba.” If anything caused him a
moment’s inquietude, it was the thought that Akbar Khan, the favourite
son of Dost Mahomed, was still abroad, hovering about Khooloom. With
something that now seems like a strange presentiment, he wrote that
“the fellow would be after some mischief, should the opportunity
present itself.” It was on the 20th of August that, writing to Mr.
Robertson, he thus expressed himself:

 The victory of the Helmund was very complete. I believe the enemy on
 that occasion was as numerous a body as could ever be congregated in
 this country, consisting of some 4000 or 5000 men. The Douranees want
 one more threshing, and then they would be quite satisfied of the
 futility of opposing us; but my last letter from Rawlinson gave me no
 hope that they would collect again. The whole of the Ghilzye tribes
 have submitted almost without a blow; for the gallant little affair
 in which the 5th Cavalry redeemed the honour of that branch of the
 service, could hardly be dignified with the name of a fight. Those
 who knew this country when it was ruled by Barukzyes, are amazed at
 the metamorphosis it has undergone, and with so little bloodshed. The
 former rulers were eternally fighting with their subjects from one
 year’s end to another. Now we cannot move a _naick_ and four without
 having all the newspapers setting up a yell about the unpopularity of
 the Shah. The Shah is unpopular with the Douranee Khans, and we have
 made him so by supplanting them, and taking the military power which
 they were incompetent to use from their hands into our own. With all
 other classes his Majesty is decidedly, but deservedly, popular, and
 the Khans are too contemptible to be cared about.

 We have had very unpleasant intelligence from Bokhara, it being
 reported that Colonel Stoddart is again in disgrace and confinement;
 and I am the more alarmed about this, from thinking it probable
 that Arthur Conolly will return from Kokund _viâ_ Bokhara. But
 the intelligence requires confirmation. Mahomed Akbar, the Dost’s
 favourite son, is still at Khooloom, and has rejected my overture
 to come in. The fellow will be after some mischief, should the
 opportunity present itself.... You will see that Shah Soojah has
 most handsomely given back Cutchee and Moostung to the young Khan of
 Khelat. His Majesty’s revenue is little more than fifteen lakhs per
 annum—hardly enough for the maintenance of his personal state—and
 yet the government below are perpetually writing to me that this
 charge and that charge is to be defrayed out of his “Majesty’s
 resources!” God help the poor man and his resources!! The country is
 perfectly quiet from Dan to Beersheba.[73]

But, although the Envoy thus on the 20th of August, wrote to his
private friends in the provinces of India that all was quiet from Dan
to Beersheba, he was at this very time making arrangements for the
despatch from Candahar of a large force to the Tereen and Dehrawut
country on the north-western frontier of Afghanistan. “The northern
districts,” he wrote to General Elphinstone on the 21st of August,
“have been in a state of rebellion, and the chiefs of those districts
(of whom one Akrum Khan is the head) have refused to wait upon His
Majesty’s representative; have been in constant correspondence with the
rebel Aktur Khan, and have assembled a considerable number of armed
followers, with a view to defy His Majesty’s authority. The arrival of
the 16th and 43rd regiments of Native Infantry will admit of a force
being detached from that garrison; and I am officially made acquainted
with the opinion of the political agent at Candahar to the effect that
it is necessary to send an expedition into the disturbed districts,
with a view either to expel the offending chiefs or to enforce their

So, orders were sent to Candahar for the equipment of another force for
field-service, with instructions to complete the necessary work in the
least possible space of time, in order that three regiments of Native
Infantry, which were under orders to leave the serene and prosperous
country, might turn their faces towards India at the beginning of
November. By the end of the first week of September the force was ready
to commence its march—a difficult, toilsome and hazardous march into
an unknown country. Two regiments of the Company’s Bengal Infantry (the
2nd and 38th), a regiment of the Shah’s cavalry, two Horse-Artillery
guns of the same service, a company of European Artillery with two
18-pounder guns, and a detachment of Sappers, composed the force. It
was in good condition; well equipped at all points; and it started with
a month’s supplies.

The force was commanded by Colonel Wymer. Nott saw it depart with
mortification and regret which he did not desire to conceal. Some time
before he had received instructions from head-quarters not to leave
Candahar, where his presence was conceived to be expedient; and he
still believed that those instructions were in force. Eager, therefore,
as he was, to place himself at the head of his men, he deemed it to be
his duty, as a soldier, to remain in garrison while he delegated the
command to another. But while to the officer he had selected to take
the envied post he issued comprehensive instructions for his guidance
in the field, he, at the same time, wrote to the officer commanding in
Afghanistan, respectfully expressing his “deep regret that so large
a portion of the force under his orders should be despatched on what
might prove to be a difficult service, without his being permitted to
assume the command.” The answer returned to this last letter entirely
removed all restrictions on Nott’s movements; so the general at once
prepared himself to take command of the force.

In the meanwhile the troops had marched. The political conduct of
the expedition had been entrusted to Lieutenant Elliot, who had been
summoned for this purpose from Khelat-i-Ghilzye, where he had been
placed on the removal of Lynch. Every effort had been made to obtain
reliable information relative to the country which they were about
to traverse; but the want of local knowledge was severely felt, and
the difficulties of the march, encumbered as was the force with heavy
guns, was greater than had been anticipated. Nott joined the force on
the 23rd of September; and they pushed on into the Dehrawut country.
But it was soon apparent that so formidable a display of force would
achieve without bloodshed the objects of the expedition. Early in the
month of October many of the principal Douranee chiefs were in Nott’s
camp. They had never before seen our regular troops, which now, paraded
and exercised before them, made a strong impression on their minds.
They gazed at and handled our heavy guns with wondering apprehension,
and confessed that they had no desire to test their quality. It was
said throughout the war, that our guns were the best “politicals,”
but Elliot’s diplomacy was not unsuccessfully exerted, and the chiefs
professed their willingness to proceed to Caubul and make submission to
the Shah.

But there was one who refused to submit. The indomitable spirit of
Akrum Khan was proof against all promises and all threats. He did not
come into Nott’s camp; but held aloof, still eager, it was said, to
give us battle. It was our policy to seize the rebel chief; and this
was now to be done. One of his own countrymen undertook to betray him.
It was suspected that the man had no real intention to lead us to the
lair of the hostile Douranee; but, after the manner of his nation, to
obtain money from us and then to lead our troops astray. But Elliot
grasped the proposal, with a tenacity of purpose which baffled all
fraud and defeated all evasion. He went to the general, and obtained
his permission to send a regiment of Janbaz, under John Conolly, to
beat up the quarters of Akrum Khan. There was little expectation in
camp that the forces would be successful. But Conolly did his work
well. It is said that the feet of the guide were tied under his
horse’s belly to prevent his escape. A rapid march brought them to a
small fort, where Akrum Khan was preparing to betake himself to the
hills. A few hours’ delay would have been fatal to the success of the
expedition. But now its great object was attained. The rebel Douranee
was surprised, seized, and carried back, a prisoner, to Nott’s camp.
The expedition had scarcely occupied thirty-six hours.

The rest is soon told. The unfortunate chief was carried a doomed
captive to Candahar. Macnaghten, whose letters written at this time
show how all his finer feelings had been blunted by the rude work in
which he was engaged, had persuaded the King that it was necessary to
make a terrible example of some of the disturbers of the public peace.
Prince Timour was then the governor of Candahar. He had recently been
sent to the western capital to take the place of his brother Futteh
Jung, whose detestable character had rendered his removal necessary;
and the change was one greatly for the better. Timour was a man of
respectable reputation; mild, indolent, and compliant. He governed
according to the behests of his English supporters, and had little will
of his own. He now directed or authorised, under instructions from
Caubul, the execution of the Douranee prisoner; and so Akrum Khan was
blown from a gun.

Before the end of October, Nott had returned to Candahar with the
greater part of the force; and Lieutenant Crawford had been despatched
to Caubul with the Douranee chiefs who had tendered their submission.
There was now really a prospect of tranquillity in Western Afghanistan;
for both the Ghilzye and the Douranee confederacy had been crushed; and
the facility with which we had moved our regular troops and our heavy
guns into the most difficult parts of the country had demonstrated to
the turbulent tribes the difficulty of escaping the vengeance of the
Feringhees, and had produced a good moral effect among people who had
before only known us from report.


[September—October: 1841.]

 Aspect of Affairs at Caubul—The King—The
 Envoy—Burnes—Elphinstone—The English at Caubul—Expenses of the
 War—Retrenchment of the Subsidies—Risings of the Ghilzyes—Sale’s
 Brigade—Gatherings in the Kohistan—Sale’s Arrival at Gundamuck—The
 1st of November.

Taking advantage of the lull that followed the defeat of the Douranees
and the Ghilzyes in Western Afghanistan, let us dwell for a little
space on the general condition of affairs at the capital, in this month
of September.

The King was in the Balla Hissar. Discontented and unhappy, he
complained that he had no real authority; that the English gentlemen
were managing the affairs of his kingdom; and that he himself was a
mere pageant and a show. He had watched with satisfaction the growth
of the difficulties which were besetting the path of his allies,
and was not without a hope that their further development would be
attended by our withdrawal from so troubled a sphere. It was plain
to him that, although deference was outwardly shown to his opinions,
and a pretence of consulting his wishes was made by his British
advisers, they really held all the power in their hands; and he said,
complainingly, to one of them,[74] for whom he entertained no little
personal affection, that he “did not understand his position.” The
appointment of the new minister, Oosman Khan, in the place of his old
and tried servant, Moollah Shikore, had been extremely distasteful
to him; and it chafed him to think that a functionary so appointed
must necessarily be less eager to fulfil his wishes than those of his
European allies. His health, too, was failing at this time; he was
nervous and irritable, and Macnaghten thinking that he saw symptoms
of approaching dissolution, contemplated the expediency of bringing
Prince Timour from Candahar to the capital. “His Majesty,” he wrote to
Rawlinson, on the 21st of September, “is ill of a fever, which has been
hanging about him for some time, and at his time of life, the issue, to
say the least of it, is very doubtful. It seems to be in the highest
degree desirable that Shah-zadah Timour should be here in the event of
a fatal termination of His Majesty’s illness. The Nizamoodowlah and I
have had a serious conversation this morning on the subject. He thinks,
and I am disposed to agree with him, that it might be well if the
Shah-zadah were to address an _areeza_ to His Majesty, stating how much
grieved he is to hear of His Majesty’s illness, the intelligence of
which has filled him with so much uneasiness as to incapacitate him for
the proper performance of the duties of government, and expressing an
earnest desire to kiss the feet of His Majesty, and thereby give relief
to his mind.” But the old man rallied, and Macnaghten rejoiced. At such
a time, a succession would have been embarrassing and inopportune, for
the Envoy was preparing to shake the dust of Afghanistan from his feet
for ever.

He was about to receive the reward of a life of successful and
appreciated service, and to end his official days in comparative
quiet and repose. He was about to escape out of the cares and
inquietudes—the difficulties and dangers—the incessant harassing
turmoil and excitement of a life of responsibility among a turbulent
and discontented people, and to commence a new career of useful and
honoured public service, upon a less stormy and tumultuous scene. He
had been appointed Governor of Bombay. The same recognition of approved
zeal and capacity which had been extended to Malcolm and Elphinstone,
had now come to testify the estimation in which Macnaghten’s services
were held by his employers. It was a high and flattering mark of
confidence, and it was doubly welcome after all the doubts and
misgivings engendered in his mind by the implied censures of his
immediate superior. The value of the gift, too, was enhanced by the
seasonableness of the time at which it was received. Macnaghten looked
around him, and saw that “everything was quiet from Dan to Beersheba;”
and he rejoiced in the thought that he was about to quit Afghanistan
for ever, and to carry with him no burden of anxiety and fear.

Burnes was also at Caubul. He had been there ever since the restoration
of the Shah, in a strange unrecognised position, of which it is
difficult to give any intelligible account. He used to say, that he
was in the “most nondescript of situations.” It appears to have been
his mission in Afghanistan to draw a large salary every month, and to
give advice that was never taken. This might have satisfied many men.
It did not satisfy Burnes. He said that he wanted responsibility; and
under Macnaghten he had none. He had no precise duties of any kind;
but he watched all that was going on in Afghanistan with a penetrating
eye and an understanding brain, and he wrote, in the shape of letters
to Macnaghten, long and elaborate papers on the state and prospects of
Afghanistan, which his official chief dismissed with a few pencil-notes
for the most part of contemptuous dissent. Burnes saw clearly that
everything was going wrong. He probed, deeply and searchingly, the
great wound of national discontent—a mighty sore that was ever
running—and he felt in his inmost soul that the death-throes of such
a system could not be very remote. But better days were now beginning
to dawn upon him. He had been waiting for Macnaghten’s office, and now,
at last, it seemed to be within his reach. A few weeks, and he would be
supreme at Caubul; and the great object of his ambition gained.

The command of the troops was in the hands of General Elphinstone—an
old officer of the Queen’s service, of good repute, gentlemanly
manners, and aristocratic connections. He had succeeded Sir Willoughby
Cotton in the early part of the year. But it must have been a wonder
to him, as it was to all who knew him, what business he had in such
a place. He had no Indian experience of any kind, and he was pressed
down by physical infirmities. When Sir Willoughby Cotton intimated his
desire, on the plea of ill health, to be relieved from the command of
the troops in Afghanistan, there was an officer already in the country
to whom their charge might have been safely delegated. But he was not
in favour either at the Mission or at the Calcutta Government House.
Sir Jasper Nicolls would have placed Nott in command; but there were
obstacles to his appointment, at which I have already hinted; and it
was deemed expedient to send to Caubul a man of a more ductile nature,
with as few opinions of his own as might be, to clash with those of
the political chief. So Lord Auckland despatched General Elphinstone
to Afghanistan—not in ignorance of his disqualifications, for they
were pointed out to him by others—but in spite of a clear perception
of them. Whether those who sent the brave old gentleman to India
with all his infirmities thick upon him, recommended him for this
especial field of service, or whether any notions of routine and the
obligations of the roster pressed themselves upon Lord Auckland with
irresistible force, I cannot confidently declare; but so inexplicable
by any reference to intelligible human motives and actions is an
appointment of this kind, that it is impossible not to recognise in
such a dispensation a mightier agency than that of man, or to reject
the belief that, when Elphinstone went to Caubul, the curse which sate
upon our unholy policy was working onward for our overthrow.

Next in rank to General Elphinstone were Sir Robert Sale and Brigadier
Shelton—both officers of the Queen’s service, but soldiers of long
Indian experience. Each had served with his regiment in the Burmese
war; and each had acquired a reputation for the highest personal
courage. Sale’s regiment was the 13th Light Infantry. Shelton’s was the
44th.[75] Both of these regiments were now at Caubul. But the 13th was
about to return to India, and soon afterwards to great Britain. It had
seen many years of Indian service, and had been in Afghanistan since
Keane’s army first entered the country. The 44th had come up early
in the year, and had done some service in the Naziain valley, near
Jellalabad, on the way.

The command of the Shah’s troops was vested in Brigadier Anquetil, a
native of one of those lovely islands in the Channel which have sent
forth so many brave men to fight our battles by sea and land. He was
esteemed a good soldier; and I believe that Macnaghten found him a
more pliant colleague than the “alarmist” whom he had supplanted.
The controversies between Brigadier Roberts and the Envoy had ended
in the departure of the former. His advice had been resented; his
warnings had been scouted. His clear insight into the dangers which
were beneath our feet had been regarded as idle and imbecile fear; and
the unwelcome declarations of his honest convictions as little short of
rank mutiny. He had done his duty; he had spoken the truth; and he had
paid the inevitable penalty of his unwillingness to make an easy and a
prosperous present at the cost of a tumultuous and disastrous future.
He had returned in disgrace to the British provinces; but he had left
his predictions behind him, and he knew that, sooner or later, History
would do him justice.

The main body of the British troops were in the new cantonments. These
works had been erected in the course of 1840. They were situated on a
piece of low ground open to the Kohistan road. They were extensive and
ill defended. They were nearly a mile in extent, and were surrounded
by ramparts so little formidable that they might be ridden over.[76]
Near the cantonments was the Mission compound, occupying an extensive
space, and surrounded by a number of houses and buildings belonging to
the officers and retainers of the Mission. There was here, also, a weak
attempt at defence; but the walls were beyond measure contemptible; and
the whole expanse of building, the entrenched camp and Mission compound
together, were so planted, as to be swept on every side by hills,
and forts, and villages, and whatever else in such a country could
bristle with armed men. No such works were ever known—so wretched in
themselves, and so doubly wretched by position. If the object of those
who constructed them had been to place our troops at the mercy of an
enemy, they could not have been devised more cunningly in furtherance
of such an end. They were commanded on every side; and so surrounded
with villages, forts, gardens, and other cover for an enemy, that
our troops could neither enter nor leave the camp without exposing
themselves to a raking fire from some one of these points of attack.
And to crown the calamity of the whole, the Commissariat supplies, on
which our army depended for its subsistence, were stored in a small
fort, not within, but beyond, the cantonments. The communication
between the two places was commanded by an empty fort, and by a walled
garden, inviting the occupation of an enemy. Human folly seemed to
have reached its height in the construction of these works. There
stood those great, indefensible cantonments, overawed on every side,
a monument of the madness which Providence, for its own ends, had
permitted to cloud and bewilder the intelligence of the “greatest
military nation of the world.” There it stood, a humiliating spectacle;
but except by new-comers, who stood in amazement before the great
folly, little account was taken of it. Men’s eyes had become accustomed
to the blot.

And whose was this stupendous error? Are we to assign its origin to
the professional incapacity of the engineer officers attached to the
force; to the ignorance and carelessness of the officers commanding
it; or to the wilfulness of the Envoy? Not to the engineers—Durand,
who had first held the post, had urged upon the Envoy the necessity
of constructing barracks and posting our troops in the Balla Hissar;
and Macnaghten, yielding to these solicitations, had overcome the
reluctance of the Shah—but the barracks had been afterwards given
up to the accommodation of the old king’s harem; and from that time,
though Sturt who succeeded Durand, insisted, with equal urgency
on the expediency of locating the troops in the Balla Hissar, and
strengthening its defences, all hope of securing a strong military
position at Caubul was gone. The sheep-folds on the plain were built.
When Brigadier Roberts, in the spring of 1840, saw that the work had
commenced, and what it was proposed to do, he remonstrated against the
plan; and was told that it had been approved by Sir Willoughby Cotton.
The Brigadier had been connected with the Building Department in the
upper provinces of India, and freighted his remonstrances, therefore,
with much professional experience, bearing upon the sanatory as well as
upon the defensive aspects of the question; but, although he believed
at first that he had made some impression on the Envoy, his protests
were disregarded. And so the cantonments had sprung up, such as we have
described them; and there, in that late autumn of 1841, they stood,
bare and defenceless, as sheep-pens, whilst the wolves were howling
around them.[77]

The English had by this time begun to settle themselves down in
Caubul. Indeed, from the very commencement, they had done their best,
as they ever do, to accommodate themselves to new localities and new
circumstances, and had transplanted their habits, and, I fear it
must be added, their vices, with great address, to the capital of
the Douranee Empire. It was plain that they were making themselves
at home in the chief city of the Afghans. There was no sign of an
intended departure. They were building and furnishing houses for
themselves—laying out gardens—surrounding themselves with the
comforts and luxuries of European life. Some had sent for their wives
and children. Lady Macnaghten, Lady Sale, and other English women, were
domesticated in comfortable houses within the limits of the great
folly we had erected on the plain. The English, indeed, had begun to
find the place not wholly unendurable. The fine climate braced and
exhilarated them. There was no lack of amusement. They rode races; they
played at cricket. They got up dramatic entertainments. They went out
fishing; they went out shooting. When winter fell upon them, and the
heavy frosts covered the lakes with ice, to the infinite astonishment
of the Afghans they skimmed over the smooth surface on their skates.
There is no want of manliness among the Afghans; but the manliness of
the Feringhee strangers quite put them to shame. They did not like us
the less for that. The athletic amusements of our people only raised
their admiration. But there was something else which filled them with
intensest hate.[78]

I am not writing an apology. There are truths which must be spoken. The
temptations which are most difficult to withstand, were not withstood
by our English officers. The attractions of the women of Caubul they
did not know how to resist. The Afghans are very jealous of the honour
of their women; and there were things done in Caubul which covered them
with shame and roused them to revenge. The inmate of the Mahomedan
Zenana was not unwilling to visit the quarters of the Christian
stranger. For two long years, now, had this shame been burning itself
into the hearts of the Caubulees; and there were some men of note
and influence among them who knew themselves to be thus wronged.
Complaints were made; but they were made in vain. The scandal was open,
undisguised, notorious. Redress was not to be obtained. The evil was
not in course of suppression. It went on till it became intolerable;
and the injured then began to see that the only remedy was in their own
hands. It is enough to state broadly this painful fact. There are many
who can fill in with vivid personality all the melancholy details of
this chapter of human weakness, and supply a catalogue of the wrongs
which were soon to be so fearfully redressed.

Such, dimly traced in its social aspects, was the general condition of
things at Caubul in this month of September, 1841. Politically—such
was Macnaghten’s conviction—everything was quiet from Dan to
Beersheba. The noses of the Douranee Khans had, he said, “been brought
to the grindstone;” and the Gooroo and other Ghilzye chiefs were in
his safe keeping at Caubul, seemingly contented with their lot. As the
month advanced the Envoy continued to write that our prospects were
“brightening in every direction,” that everything was “_couleur de
rose_.” It is true that Eldred Pottinger, who after a brief visit to
the British provinces had returned to Afghanistan, was not sending in
very favourable reports from the Kohistan and the Nijrow country, which
were now his new sphere of action; but of these troubles Macnaghten
made light account. He believed that Pottinger was an alarmist. It
is true, also, that an expedition was going out to Zao, to reduce
some turbulent robber tribes; but this necessity he attributed to
the indiscretion of one of our own officers, who had needlessly
attacked the place with insufficient means, and been compelled to
beat a retreat.[79] The expedition, too, as Macnaghten said, was only
a “little go;” and immensely popular with our officers, who were
zealously volunteering for the sport, as though it had been a battu or
a steeple-chase.[80]

The popular expedition into the Zoormut country was completely
successful. Macgregor, who accompanied the force in the character of
political adviser, found the rebellious forts evacuated. He had only,
therefore, to destroy them. The results, however, of the movement
were not wholly pacificatory. Pottinger said that the feeling which
it engendered in the Kohistan was extremely unfavourable to us. It
confirmed, he said, in the minds of the malcontents, “the belief so
industriously spread of our difficulties, whilst rumours from Herat and
Candahar of invasion, renewed rebellion, and disturbances, were again
spread abroad.”[81]

During the early part of October the Kohistanees remained perfectly
quiet. But every hour, said Pottinger, “brought rumours of the
formation of an extensive conspiracy.” These he at first doubted;
but he reported them to the Envoy, and asked for information on the
subject. The answer was, that neither Macnaghten nor Burnes could
perceive any grounds for suspicion.

In the mean while, the Eastern Ghilzyes were breaking out into
revolt.[82] They had the same cause of complaint as the Kohistanees.
The money-bag, which had kept them in order, was beginning to fail. It
is a moot point whether revenge or avarice is the stronger feeling in
the Afghan breast. Both were now arrayed against us. The bayonet and
the money-bag were failing to do their work.

The expenses of the occupation of Afghanistan had long been telling
fearfully upon the revenues of India. Lord Auckland had been slow
to look the intolerable evil of this exhausting drain fairly in the
face. But the other members of the Supreme Council had been less slow
to address themselves fully to the subject; and the home authorities
had written out urgent letters regarding the miserable results of the
continued occupation of a country that yielded nothing but strife.
Looking at the matter in the most favourable point of view, it was
found that the support of Shah Soojah cost the treasury of India at
least a million and a quarter a year. The Board of Control, or that
fusion of the two authorities of the crown and the company, known as
the Secret Committee, had taken, at the close of 1840, a correct and
statesmanlike view of the subject, and had written out, that they
could see nothing in the continued support of Shah Soojah, who, it was
plain, had no hold upon the affections of the people, to compensate for
this alarming exhaustion of the financial resources of India, and the
necessary injuries inflicted upon the people by such a fearful waste of
the revenues of the country.

On the last day of the year they had clearly and emphatically
propounded their views of this important question, saying;—“We
pronounce our decided opinion that for many years to come, the restored
monarchy will have need of a British force, in order to maintain peace
in its own territory, and prevent aggression from without. We must
add, that to attempt to accomplish this by a small force, or by the
mere influence of British Residents, will, in our opinion, be most
unwise and frivolous, and that we should prefer the entire abandonment
of the country, and a frank confession of complete failure, to any
such policy. Even financial considerations justify this view, inasmuch
as a strong and adequate military establishment, costly as it must
be, will hardly entail so much expense upon you as those repeated
revolts and disorders which must arise in an ill-governed, half-subdued
country; and which will compel you to make great and sudden efforts to
maintain your character, and recover predominance. To whatever quarter
we direct our attention, we behold the restored monarchy menaced by
dangers, which cannot possibly be encountered by the military means
at the disposal of the minister at the Court of Shah Soojah, and we
again desire you seriously to consider which of the two alternatives
(a speedy retreat from Afghanistan, or a considerable increase of the
military force in that country), you may feel it your duty to adopt.
We are convinced that you have no middle course to pursue with safety
and with honour.” The letter enunciating these views had been scarcely
signed when intelligence of the surrender of Dost Mahomed was received
in England. But these tidings had caused no change in the opinions of
the Secret Committee, and on the 2nd of January, 1841, they had written
again to the Supreme Government, saying, “The surrender of Dost Mahomed
does not alter the views contained in our late letters, and we hope
that advantage will be taken of it to settle affairs in Afghanistan
according to those views.”

When these letters reached Calcutta, in the spring of 1841, it had
become a matter for the serious consideration of the Indian Government,
whether the policy, which had proved so utterly disastrous, should not
be openly and boldly abandoned. The question came before the Supreme
Council at the end of March.[83] Either by some negligence, or by
some juggle, the opinions of the military members of Council were not
obtained. Lord Auckland and the civilians decided in favour of the
continued occupation of the country, though it was certain that it
could only be done at the cost of a million and a quarter a year. But
money had already become painfully scarce. It was necessary to recruit
the exhausted treasury. There was no other mode of accomplishing
this than by opening a new loan. Such a public declaration of the
embarrassed condition of the government was distressing to Lord
Auckland; but nothing else was to be done. So at the end of March
he drew up an advertisement for a five per cent. loan.[84] It is a
remarkable instance of that kind of monomaniac blindness which besets
some men, under peculiar conditions of existence, that when Macnaghten
learned that a new loan had been opened, he asked, “What can this be
for?” and spoke of the war—_in China_?[85]

But the call was responded to but slowly.[86] Money did not come in
freely, though it was going out with a freedom perhaps unexampled
in the history of Indian finance; and the home authorities still
continued to write out, as Sir Jasper Nicolls and others in India were
declaring, that it had become necessary either to withdraw altogether
from Afghanistan, or to fall back upon the alternative of a large
augmentation of the army. As the year advanced, too, other influences
were at work to move the Indian Government to consider more and more
intently the subject of the continued drain upon the resources of
India. Great Britain was on the eve of a change of ministry, which
would settle in Downing-street a party of Conservative statesmen, and
send to Calcutta one of their number, known to be hostile to the whole
policy of the expedition across the Indus; and Macnaghten was already
beginning to tremble at the thought of what he called prospectively
an “unparalleled atrocity”—but what many would have regarded as an
act of wisdom and justice—the withdrawal of the British army from
Afghanistan. How strongly the Envoy felt upon this subject, and in what
manner he argued against it, may be gathered from a letter which, on
the 25th of September, he addressed to the Governor of Agra. Still he
continued to report that the whole country was quiet, and insisted that
the Shah’s force, aided by one European regiment at Caubul, and another
at Candahar, would be sufficient to keep the whole country in order:

 ...... Rumours are rife as to the intentions of the Tories towards this
 country, when they get into power. If they deprive the Shah altogether
 of our support, I have no hesitation in saying (and that is saying
 a great deal) they will commit an unparalleled political atrocity.
 The consequences would be frightful. The act would not only involve
 a positive breach of treaty, but it would be a cheat of the first
 magnitude. Had we left Shah Soojah alone, after seating him on the
 throne, the case would have been different. He would have adopted the
 Afghan method of securing his sovereignty. But we insisted upon his
 acting according to European notions of policy, and we have left all
 his enemies intact—powerless, only because we are here. In short,
 we should leave him with all the odium of having called in the aid of
 foreign infidel auxiliaries, and with none of those safeguards which
 he himself would have provided for his security. How could we expect
 him, under such circumstances, to maintain his power? I know that he
 would not attempt it. He would pack up his all, and return to his
 asylum in India, the moment our resolution was imparted to him. We
 have effectually prevented his forming a party for himself. In a few
 years hence, when the present generation of turbulent intriguers shall
 have been swept away, the task will be comparatively easy. As it is,
 the progress we have made towards pacifying, or rather subjugating
 (for neither the Douranees nor the Ghilzyes were ever before _subject_
 to a monarchy), is perfectly wonderful. The Douranee Kings kept these
 unruly tribes in good humour by leading them to foreign conquest.
 The Barukzye rulers kept them down by sharing their power with
 some, and sowing dissensions amongst others, by the most paltry and
 unjustifiable shifts and expedients, to which the Shah could not, if
 it were in his nature even, have recourse. Now the whole country is as
 quiet as one of our Indian chiefships, and more so—but the reaction
 would be tremendous if the weight of our power was suddenly taken off.
 There are gangs of robbers here and there which it would be desirable
 to extirpate; and I had intended to postpone this job till a more
 favourable opportunity; but you will see, from my official letters,
 that it has been forced upon me, by Captain Hay’s proceedings, at an
 earlier period than I anticipated. We are well prepared, however, and
 the coercion of these brigands will have an excellent effect all over
 the country. Dost Mahomed not only tolerated them, but went snacks
 in their spoils. After their dispersion shall have been effected,
 there will be literally nothing to do except the subjugation of
 Nijrow. Pottinger has a project for effecting this, without trouble
 or expense, by marching through their country the troops returning to
 Hindostan and Jellalabad. I have submitted this to the General; and
 should it be carried into effect, I shall beg of government to send
 us no more troops, for they would only be an incumbrance. A million
 and a quarter per annum is certainly an awful outlay; but if the items
 were examined, you would find that a full moiety of this is to be
 laid to the account of Mr. Bell’s proceedings in Upper Sindh, where
 they have had an army, _cui bono?_ larger than the Army of the Indus.
 All this profligate expenditure will now cease, and, barring Herat,
 I am quite certain that the Shah’s force would be ample, with the
 addition of one European regiment at Caubul and another at Candahar,
 to keep the entire country in order. I am, too, making great reduction
 in our political expenditure; and I feel certain that, in a very
 short time, an outlay of thirty lakhs per annum will cover, and more
 than cover, all our expenses. The process of macadamization (which,
 notwithstanding the present lull, I cannot but consider as near at
 hand) would reduce our outlay to nothing. I should not be surprised to
 see Colonel Stoddart and Arthur Conolly walking in any fine morning.
 I am glad you approved of the wig I conveyed to the latter. I am
 satisfied it adverted from him worse consequences. His enthusiasm,
 which I found it impossible to repress, is continually leading him
 into scrapes[87] ....

Such, at the close of September, were Macnaghten’s views of our
continued occupation of Afghanistan. But, before this, the letters of
the Secret Committee, the orders of the Supreme Government, and the
portentous shadow of the coming Tory ministry, had roused Macnaghten
to a sense of the great fact, that it was necessary to do something to
render less startlingly and offensively conspicuous the drain upon the
resources of India, which was exhausting the country, and paralysing
the energies of its rulers. So it was determined to carry into effect
a system of economy, to be applied, wherever it could be applied, to
the expenditure of Afghanistan; and, as ordinarily happens, both in the
concerns of public and of private life, the retrenchments which were
first instituted were those which ought to have been last. Acting in
accordance with the known wishes of government, Macnaghten began to
retrench the stipends, or subsidies, paid to the chiefs. He knew how
distasteful the measure would be; he was apprehensive of its results.
But money was wanted, and he was compelled to give it effect.[88]

The blow fell upon all the chiefs about the capital—upon the Ghilzyes,
upon the Kohistanees, upon the Caubulees, upon the Momunds, even
upon the Kuzzilbashes. Peaceful remonstrance was in vain. So they
held secret meetings, and entered into a confederacy to overawe the
existing government, binding themselves by oaths to support each other
in their efforts to recover what they had lost; or, failing in this,
to subvert the system out of which these injurious proceedings had
arisen. Foremost in this movement were the Eastern Ghilzyes. Affected
by the general retrenchments, they had also particular grievances
of their own.[89] They were the first, therefore, to throw off the
mask. So they quitted Caubul—occupied the passes on the road to
Jellalabad—plundered a valuable cafila—and entirely cut off our
communications with the provinces of Hindostan.

Upon this, Humza Khan, the governor of the Ghilzyes, was sent out to
bring them back to their allegiance. “Humza Khan,” wrote Macnaghten to
Macgregor, on the 2nd of October, “who is at the bottom of the whole
conspiracy, has been sent out by his Majesty to bring back the Ghilzye
chiefs who have fled; but I have little hope of the success of his
mission.”[90] Humza Khan, whose own stipend was included in the general
retrenchment, had been commissioned to carry the obnoxious measure into
effect; and he had instigated the chiefs to resist it. He was now sent
out to quell a disturbance of which he was himself the parent and the

These movements did not at first much alarm Macnaghten. He was intent
upon his departure from Caubul; and he said that the outbreak had
happened at a fortunate moment, as his own party and the troops
proceeding to the provinces could quell it on their way to India.
“You will have heard ere now,” he wrote on the 3rd of October, to
Major Rawlinson, “of my appointment to Bombay. I could wish that
this most honourable distinction had been withheld a little longer,
until I could have pronounced our relations in this country as being
entirely satisfactory; but, thanks in a great measure to your zealous
co-operation, I may even now say, that every thing is rapidly verging
to that happy consummation. No time is fixed for my departure. That
will depend upon the instructions I receive from Lord Auckland. Should
his Lordship direct me to deliver over my charge to Burnes, there is
little or nothing, that I know of, to detain me, and I ought to be
in Bombay by the middle of December. I am suffering a little anxiety
just now, as the Eastern Ghilzye chiefs have turned _Yaghee_, in
consequence, I believe, of the reduction of their allowances, and their
being required to sign an ittezain against robberies. We have sent
to bring them back to their allegiance, and I think there will be no
difficulty about them, unless the root of the _Fussad_ lies deeper,
and they are, as some assert, in league with Mahomed Akbar. In that
case, it will be necessary to undertake operations on a larger scale
against Nijrow and Tugao, in the latter of which districts the Moofsids
(rebels) have taken refuge. They are very kind in breaking out just at
the moment most opportune for our purposes. The troops will take them
_en route_ to India. To-morrow I hope our expedition will reach the
refractory forts of Zao, and teach them a most salutary lesson.”

But after a few days, he began to take a more serious view of the
matter; and he urged Macgregor to return with all despatch to Caubul,
that he might accompany the expedition he was about to send out against
the rebels. But at the same time he wrote to Rawlinson, that he did not
apprehend any open opposition; and he never seemed to doubt that the
insurrectionary movement would promptly be put down.

Sale’s brigade, which was returning to the provinces, was, it has been
seen, to stifle the insurrection _en route_ to Jellalabad. Macnaghten,
however, thought of strengthening the force, with a view to the
operations against the Ghilzyes, and he wrote to Captain Trevor, who,
pending the arrival of Macgregor, was holding the enemy in negotiation,
that he believed the General would send out “two eight-inch mortars,
two iron nine-pounder guns, Abbott’s battery, the 5th Cavalry, the
Sappers and Miners, and the 13th Queen’s, with the 35th and 37th Native
Infantry.”[91] But he continued to talk of the “impudence of the
rascals,” and expressed his belief that, the insurrection put down,
the country would be quieter than ever.[92] On the 9th of October,
Colonel Monteith marched from Caubul, with the 35th Native Infantry, a
squadron of the 5th Cavalry, two guns of Abbott’s battery under Dawes,
and Broadfoot’s Sappers and Miners. That night his camp was attacked
at Bootkhak—the first march on the Jellalabad road. On the 10th,
therefore, Sale received orders to march at once with the 13th Light
Infantry, and on the following day he started to clear the passes. On
the 12th, he entered the defile of Khoord-Caubul. The enemy occupied
the heights in considerable force, and, in their own peculiar style
of warfare, opened a galling fire upon our advancing column. Sale was
wounded at the first onset, and Dennie took command of the troops. He
spoke with admiration of “the fearless manner in which the men of the
13th, chiefly young soldiers, ascended heights nearly perpendicular
under the sharp fire of the insurgents;” and added, that the Sepoys
of the 35th, who had fought under him at Bameean, “rivalled and
equalled them in steadiness, activity, and intrepidity.”[93] The pass
was cleared, and then the 13th retraced its steps to Bootkhak, whilst
Monteith, with the 35th and the other details, was left encamped in the
Khoord-Caubul valley.

In the mean while, Macgregor had returned from the Zoormut country.
The Envoy had known him long, and had abundant confidence in the man.
An officer of the Bengal Artillery, who had been a favourite member of
Lord Auckland’s personal staff, he had accompanied Macnaghten to Lahore
and Loodhianah, on the mission to negotiate the Tripartite treaty, and
had subsequently been employed in political superintendence of the
country between Caubul and Jellalabad, where, by an admirable union of
the vigorous and the conciliatory in his treatment of the tribes, he
had won both their respect and their affection. The Envoy now believed
that Macgregor would soon restore the country to tranquillity, and was
impatient until his return. Macgregor reached Caubul on the 11th of
October, and soon started for Monteith’s camp. Macnaghten, who believed
that the outbreak was local and accidental, looked with eagerness to
the result. He took little heed of what was going on in the Kohistan.
Nor did he think that the Douranee Khans, whose “noses he had brought
to the grindstone,” were plotting their emancipation from the thraldom
of the infidels.

But Pottinger, in the Kohistan, plainly saw the storm that was
brewing—plainly saw the dangers and difficulties by which he was
surrounded. As the month of October advanced, the attitude of the
Kohistanees and the Nijrowees was more and more threatening. Meer
Musjedee, the Nijrow chief, a man of a resentful and implacable temper,
had been, some time before, described in the newspaper paragraphs of
the day as stalking about the country, and sowing broadcast the seeds
of rebellion. The measures of the King’s government had long before
made these very people, who had risen up against the tyranny of Dost
Mahomed, ripe for revolt against the more consummate tyranny of the
Shah. And now, in the middle of October, Pottinger saw that the state
of things was fast approaching a crisis; so he demanded hostages from
the Kohistanee chiefs. To this the Envoy reluctantly consented. “And,”
wrote Pottinger, in his official account of these transactions, “I only
succeeded in procuring them by the end of the month, when everything
betokened a speedy rupture with the Nijrowees.” By this time, indeed,
Meer Musjedee had openly raised the standard of revolt, and the people
were clustering around it.

Macnaghten thought very lightly of these movements in the Kohistan.
Nothing disturbed his faith in the general tranquillity of the country,
and the popularity of the double government. He greatly desired the
settlement of the Ghilzye question, for there was something palpable
and undeniable in such a movement; and he was anxious to set his face
towards the provinces of Hindostan. Eagerly, therefore, he looked for
intelligence from Macgregor. He had begun, however, to doubt whether so
troublesome a business could be settled by peaceful negotiation. “We
must thresh the rascals, I fear, after all,” he wrote to Macgregor, on
the 17th; “but I don’t think that the troops will be under weigh until
the 20th. Is not this provoking? Abbott has made some excuse about his
guns being injured. Pray write a circumstantial plan of the best means
of surrounding and preventing the escape of the villains.”[94] Abbott
was not a man to make excuses of any kind, but the Envoy was becoming
impatient. On the 18th, he wrote again: “It has been determined that
the Sappers and Miners, the mountain train, and two companies of the
37th Native Infantry, march out to join you to-morrow morning. They
will make one march to Khoord-Caubul. The next day I hope you will be
joined by the 13th, the 37th, and Abbott’s battery. I hope you will
arrange the plan of attack before Sale arrives.”[95] But although
Macnaghten was eager to “thresh the rascals,” certain prudential
considerations suggested to him that it would only be expedient to
punish them as much as could “conveniently” be done. It would not be
convenient, at such a time, to exasperate the insurgents too much, and
drive them to block up the passes, and plunder everything that came in
their way.

In the mean while, Monteith, in his isolated post in the Khoord-Caubul
valley, was exposed, if not to some danger, to considerable
inconvenience, for the enemy made a night-attack upon his camp, aided
by the treachery of the Afghan horsemen, under the Shah’s Meer Akhor,
(or Master of the Horse) who admitted the rebels within their lines.
One of our officers, Lieutenant Jenkins, and several Sepoys, were
killed; and a number of camels carried off by the enemy. Monteith
reported the treachery of his Afghan friends, and the Envoy resented
his just suspicions. But he was now to be relieved. Sale appeared
with two more infantry regiments, with more guns, and more sabres;
and after a brief halt, for want of carriage, which much tried the
patience of the Envoy, the whole swept on to Tezeen. Here the force
halted for some days, and Macgregor busied himself in negotiations with
the enemy. Macnaghten had instructed him to accommodate matters, if
it could be done without any loss of honour; and Macgregor was candid
enough to acknowledge that the insurrection of the Ghilzyes had been
brought about by “harsh and unjust” measures of our own. So he opened
a communication with the rebel chiefs; and, being known to most of
them, consented to a personal interview. So Macgregor met the chiefs.
There was a long and animated discussion. They demanded that their
salaries should be restored to their former footing, and that they
should not be held responsible for robberies committed beyond their
respective boundaries. To these demands Macgregor consented. But they
demanded also that Shool Mahomed, who had been removed, as a rebel,
from the chiefship of their tribe, should be re-instated; and this
point Macgregor resolutely refused to concede, in the belief that such
concession would compromise the honour of the Government. The chiefs
yielded, and Macgregor returned to camp. It was supposed that the
Ghilzye affair had been “patched up after a fashion;” not, perhaps,
without some loss of dignity, but with as much vigour as was convenient
at the time. The chiefs sent in their agents to remain with Macgregor,
ostensibly to aid him in the re-establishment of the police, and post
stations on the road; and Macnaghten was able to report that the affair
was settled.

He thought, however, that the terms granted to the rebels were too
favourable; and the King was dissatisfied with them; but the Envoy
replied that it was the treachery of the Shah’s own people that had
paralysed the efforts of our negotiators. Indeed, it was known that
people about the Court had left Caubul for the purpose of joining in a
night-attack upon our troops. Still Macnaghten could not believe that
there was any wide-spread feeling of disaffection among the chiefs and
the people of Caubul; nor when Pottinger sent in gloomy reports from
the Kohistan, could he bring himself to think that they were anything
but the creations of a too excitable brain. “Pottinger writes,” he
said,[96] “as if he were about to be invaded by the Nijrowees, but I
imagine that there is little ground for this alarm, and that at all
events the fellows will sneak into their holes again when they hear
that the Ghilzyes are quiet.” This was written on the 26th of October.
On the 29th he wrote again, saying, “I trust I have at last got
Pottinger into a pacific mood, though I tremble when I open any of his
letters, lest I should find that he has got to loggerheads with some of
his neighbours. In the present excited state of men’s minds, a row in
any quarter would be widely infectious, and we are not in a condition
to stand much baiting.”

Meanwhile, Macgregor had learnt the value of his treaty. From Tezeen
to Gundamuck the agents of the Ghilzye chiefs were in our camp; but
there was some hard fighting for the brigade. The enemy mustered in
force, and attacked our column; and the old excuse was made, that
it was owing to no faithlessness on the part of the chiefs, but to
their inability to control the tribes. It was a terrible country for
a baggage-encumbered force to toil through, in the face of an active
enemy. Jugdulluck was gained with little opposition; but, on the next
march, it was seen that the heights were bristling with armed men, and
a heavy fire was poured in from all the salient points, on which, with
the instincts of the mountaineer, they had posted themselves, with such
terrible effect. Sale threw out his flanking parties, and the light
troops, skirmishing well up the hill sides, dislodged the enemy, whilst
a party under Captain Wilkinson, pushing through the defile, found that
the main outlet had not been guarded, and that the passage was clear.
The march was resumed; but the enemy were not yet weary of the contest.
Reappearing in great numbers, they fell furiously upon our rear-guard,
and, for a time, our people, thus suddenly assailed, were in a state
of terrible disorder. The energetic efforts of our officers brought
back our men to a sense of their duty, and restored the confidence,
which, for a little space, had forsaken the young soldiers. Broadfoot,
Backhouse, and Fenwick, are said to have rallied and re-animated them.
But the loss that fell upon them was heavy—more than a hundred men
were killed and wounded; and among them was Captain Wyndham, of the
35th, who fell like a brave soldier in the unequal fight.[97]

Sale halted at Gundamuck. Macnaghten heard of the loss sustained
between Jugdulluck and Soorkhab, but wrote to Macgregor, on the 1st of
November, that he “hoped the business last reported was the expiring
effort of the rebels;” and that the party would have dispersed, and
thannahs been re-established. To Major Rawlinson he wrote on the same
day, and congratulated him on the tranquil appearance that affairs had
assumed in the direction of Candahar. It was now the very day that he
had fixed upon for his departure from Caubul; and still he did not
doubt for a moment that his emancipation was close at hand.





 The Outbreak at Caubul—Approaching Departure of the Envoy—Immediate
 Causes of the Rebellion—Death of Sir Alexander Burnes—His
 Character—Spread of the Insurrection—Indecision of the British

Brightly and cheerfully the month of November dawned upon the retiring
envoy and his successor. Macnaghten was about to lay down the reins of
office, and turn his face, in a day or two, towards Bombay. Burnes,
rejoicing in the thought of being “supreme at last” (but somewhat
disquieted by the silence of government on the subject), was stretching
out his hand to receive the prize he had so long coveted. The one was
as eager to depart as the other to see the departure of his chief;
and both were profoundly impressed with the conviction that the great
administrative change was about to be effected under an unclouded sky.

There were others, however, who viewed with different eyes the portents
that were gathering around them—others who warned the envoy and
Burnes of the dangers of such a confederacy as had been formed against
the British in Afghanistan. Among these was Captain Colin Mackenzie,
an officer of the Madras army, whose enquiring and adventurous spirit
had prompted him to seek service in Afghanistan, and who had soon
recommended himself to the Envoy by his intelligence and high character
for political employment. He told Macnaghten at the end of October that
Akbar Khan, the ablest and most determined of Dost Mahomed’s sons, had
arrived at Bameean from Bokhara, and that he surely meditated mischief.
But the envoy only replied that if it were so, Oosman Khan, the Wuzeer,
would have known and reported the circumstance to him. About the same
time, Lieutenant John Conolly, a young relative of Macnaghten, and a
member of his personal staff, told him that a rising in the city was
meditated, and that the shopkeepers knew so well what was coming, that
they refused to sell their goods to our people lest they should be
murdered for favouring the Feringhees.

Among these, also, was Mohun Lal. Before the arrival of Captain
Macgregor from the Zoormut country, he had been deputed to accompany
General Sale’s camp, and on his return to Caubul, he had laid the
result of his observations, whilst on that expedition, before Sir
Alexander Burnes. Entering fully upon the nature and extent of the
confederacy, the Moonshee emphatically declared his opinion that
it would be dangerous to disregard such threatening indications of
a coming storm, and that if the conspiracy were not crushed in its
infancy, it would become too strong to be easily suppressed. Burnes
replied that the day had not arrived for his interference—that
he could not meddle with the arrangements of the Envoy; but that
Macnaghten would shortly turn his back upon Caubul, and that measures
should then be taken to conciliate the Ghilzyes and Kohistanees, by
raising their allowances again to the point from which they had been
reduced. On the 1st of November, Mohun Lal again pressed the subject
of the hostile confederacy upon the expectant minister. Burnes stood
up from his chair, and said, with a sigh, that the time had come for
the British to leave the country;[98] but, on the same evening, he
congratulated Sir William Macnaghten on his approaching departure at a
period of such profound tranquillity.[99]

On that very evening the hostile chiefs met and determined, in
conclave, upon the measures to be taken for the overthrow of the
British power in Afghanistan. To rouse the people into action by a
skilful use of the king’s name, seemed to be the safest course of
procedure. But doubts arose as to whether it were wiser to enlist
the loyal sympathies of his subjects, or to excite their indignation
against him. It might be announced, on the one hand, that the King
had given orders for the destruction of the infidels; or a report
might be spread that he had declared his intention of seizing the
principal chiefs, and sending them prisoners to London. It would seem
that the rebels did both; and at the same time lulled the suspicions
of the Envoy by frequent visits to his house, and loud assurances of
friendship. Abdoollah Khan, Achekzye, announced the certainty of their
expatriation in a letter to the principal Sirdars, whilst the other
object was accomplished by forging the King’s seal to a document,
ordering the destruction of the Feringhees, or rather, forging the
document to the seal.[100] Men of different tribes and conflicting
interests had made common cause against the Feringhees. Barukzye,
Populzye, Achekzye, and Ghilzye chiefs were all banded together. Why
they should have fixed upon that particular 2nd of November for the
first open demonstration at Caubul it is not easy to conjecture. To
have waited a few days would have been to have waited for the departure
of the Envoy, of the General, and of a considerable body of troops
from Afghanistan. The supposition, indeed, is, that however widely
spread the disaffection, and however extensive the confederacy, the
first outbreak was not the result of any general organisation, but
was the movement only of a section of the national party. It was too
insignificant in itself, and there was too little evidence of design
in it, to have sprung out of any matured plan of action on the part
of a powerful confederacy. What that confederacy was may be gathered
from Macnaghten’s admission, that when, early in December, he met the
Afghan leaders at a conference, he saw assembled before him the heads
of nearly all the chief tribes in the country.

The meeting on the night of the 1st of November was held at the house
of Sydat Khan, Alekozye. Foremost among the chiefs there assembled was
Abdoollah Khan. By nature proud, cruel, and vindictive, this man was
smarting under a sense of injuries inflicted upon him by the restored
Suddozye government, and of insults received from one of Shah Soojah’s
British allies. On the restoration of the King, Abdoollah Khan had been
dispossessed of the chiefship of his tribe, and had ever since been
retained about the Court, rather as a hostage than as a recognised
officer of the government. Ever ready to promote disaffection and
encourage revolt, he had seen with delight the rising of the Ghilzyes,
and during their occupation of the passes had been eagerly intriguing
with the chiefs. Aware of Abdoollah Khan’s designs, Burnes sent him
an angry message—called him a dog—and threatened to recommend Shah
Soojah to deprive the rebel of his ears. When the chiefs met together
on the night of the 1st of November, this indignity was rankling
in the breast of the Khan. The immediate course to be pursued came
under discussion, and he at once proposed that the first overt act of
violence on the morrow should be an attack on the house of the man who
had so insulted him. The proposal was accepted by the assembled chiefs;
but so little did they anticipate more than a burst of success at the
outset, that not one of them ventured personally to take part in a
movement which they believed would be promptly avenged.

Day had scarcely dawned on the 2nd of November, when a rumour reached
the cantonments, and was at once conveyed to the Mission-house, that
there was a commotion in the city. John Conolly, who was to have
accompanied him to Bombay, was giving directions about the packing of
some of the Envoy’s chattels, when an Afghan rushed wildly in, and
announced that there was an insurrection in the city. Conolly went
out immediately, heard the firing in the streets, and hastened to
convey the intelligence to Macnaghten.[101] The Envoy received it with
composure. There was nothing in it, he thought, to startle or to dismay
a man with sound nerves and a clear understanding. Presently a note
was brought him from Burnes. It stated that there was great excitement
in the city, especially in the neighbourhood of his residence; but it
spoke slightingly of the disturbance, and said that it would speedily
be suppressed. Assistance, however, was sought. Burnes wanted military
support; and Macnaghten, still little alarmed by the tidings that had
reached him, hurried to the quarters of the General. It was thought to
be only a slight commotion. And so it was—at the outset. But before
any assistance was sent to Burnes, he had been cut to pieces by an
infuriated mob.

The houses of Sir Alexander Burnes and of Captain Johnson, the
paymaster of the Shah’s troops, were contiguous to each other in the
city. On the preceding night, Captain Johnson had slept in cantonments.
The expectant Resident was at home. Beneath his roof was his brother,
Lieutenant Charles Burnes; and Lieutenant William Broadfoot, an officer
of rare merit, who had been selected to fill the office of military
secretary to the minister elect, and had just come in from Charekur to
enter upon his new duties. It was now the anniversary of the day on
which his brother had been slain by Dost Mahomed’s troopers, in the
disastrous affair of Purwundurrah; and it must have been with some
melancholy recollections of the past, and some dismal forebodings of
the future, that he now looked down from the upper gallery of Burnes’s
house, upon the angry crowd that was gathering beneath it.

Before daylight on that disastrous morning a friendly Afghan sought
admittance to Burnes’s house, eager to warn him of the danger with
which he was encompassed. A plot had been hatched on the preceding
night; and one of its first objects was said to be the assassination of
the new Resident. But Burnes had nothing but incredulity to return to
such friendly warnings. The man went. The insurgents were gathering.
Then came Oosman Khan, the Wuzeer, crossing Burnes’s threshold, with
the same ominous story on his lips. It was no longer permitted to
the English officer to wrap himself up in an impenetrable cloak of
scepticism. Already was there a stir in the streets. Already was an
excited populace assembling beneath his windows. Earnestly the Afghan
minister spoke of the danger, and implored Burnes to leave his house,
to accompany him to the Balla Hissar, or to seek safety in cantonments.
The Englishman, deaf to these appeals, confident that he could quell
the tumult, and scorning the idea of quitting his post, rejected the
friendly counsel of the Wuzeer, and remained to face the fury of the

But even to Alexander Burnes, incredulous of imminent danger as he was,
it seemed necessary to do something. He wrote to the Envoy, calling
for support. And he sent messengers to Abdoollah Khan. Two chuprassies
were despatched to the Achekzye chief, assuring him that if he would
restrain the populace from violence, every effort would be made to
adjust the grievances complained of by the people and the chiefs. One
only of the messengers returned. He brought back nothing but wounds.
The message had cost the other his life.

In the meanwhile, from a gallery in the upper part of his house,
Burnes was haranguing the mob. Beside him were his brother and his
friend. The crowd before his house increased in number and in fury.
Some were thirsting for blood; others were greedy only for plunder. He
might as well have addressed himself to a herd of savage beasts. Angry
voices were lifted up in reply, clamoring for the lives of the English
officers. And too surely did they gain the object of their desires.
Broadfoot, who sold his life dearly, was the first to fall. A ball
struck him on the chest; and the dogs of the city devoured his remains.

It was obvious now that nothing was to be done by expostulation;
nothing by forbearance. The violence of the mob was increasing. That
which at first had been an insignificant crowd had now become a great
multitude. The treasury of the Shah’s paymaster was before them; and
hundreds who had no wrongs to redress and no political animosity to
vent, rushed to the spot, hungering after the spoil which lay so
temptingly at hand. The streets were waving with a sea of heads; and
the opposite houses were alive with people. It was no longer possible
to look unappalled upon that fearful assemblage. A party of the
insurgents had set fire to Burnes’s stables;[102] had forced their way
into his garden; and were calling to him to come down. His heart now
sank within him. He saw clearly the danger that beset him—saw that the
looked-for aid from the cantonment had failed him in the hour of his
need. Nothing now was left to him, but to appeal to the avarice of his
assailants. He offered them large sums of money, if they would only
spare his own and his brother’s life. Their answer was a repetition of
the summons to “come down to the garden.” Charles Burnes and a party
of chuprassies were, at this time, firing on the mob. A Mussulman
Cashmerian, who had entered the house, swore by the Koran that if they
would cease firing upon the insurgents, he would convey Burnes and his
brother through the garden in safety to the Kuzzilbash Fort. Disguising
himself in some articles of native attire, Burnes accompanied the man
to the door. He had stepped but a few paces into the garden, when his
conductor called out with a loud voice, “This is Sekunder Burnes!”[103]
The infuriated mob fell upon him with frantic energy. A frenzied
moollah dealt the first murderous blow; and in a minute the work was
complete. The brothers were cut to pieces by the Afghan knives.[104]
Naib Sheriff, true to the last, buried their mutilated remains.

So fell Alexander Burnes. In the vigour of his years—in the pride of
life—within a few feet of the goal which he had long held so steadily
in view. It has been said that he predicted the coming storm; and by
others again that he refused to see it. He may have warned others;
but he rejected all warning himself. It was only in keeping with
the character of the man that he should have been subject to such
fluctuations of feeling and opinion. Sometimes sanguine; sometimes
desponding—sometimes confident; sometimes credulous—he gave to
fleeting impressions all the importance and seeming permanency of
settled convictions, and imbued surrounding objects with the colours
of his own varying mind. At one time, he could discern with intuitive
sagacity the hidden dangers besetting our position in Afghanistan, and
illustrate his views with an impressive earnestness which caused him to
be regarded by his official superior as a wildly speculative alarmist.
At another, when destruction was impending over his head—when the
weapon was sharpened to immolate him—he saw nothing but security and
peace; and turned away from the warnings of those who would have saved
him, with an incredulous smile upon his lips. This instability was a
grievous fault; and grievously he answered it. But though unstable,
he was not insincere. If he deceived others, he first of all deceived
himself. If he gave utterance to conflicting opinions, they were all
_his_ opinions at the time of their birth. He was a man of an eager
impulsive temperament; the slightest vicissitudes of the political
atmosphere readily affected his mercurial nature; and he did not always
think before he spoke. Hence it is that such varying opinions have been
attributed to him—all perhaps with equal truth. A passing cloud, or a
transient gleam of sunshine, and Afghanistan was either in the throes
of a deadly convulsion, or lapped in heavenly repose.

It was the hard fate of Alexander Burnes to be overrated at the outset
and under-rated at the close of his career. It may be doubted whether
justice has yet been rendered him—whether, on the one hand, what was
innately and intrinsically good in him has been amply recognised, and
whether on the other, the accidental circumstances of his position
have been sufficiently taken into account. From the very commencement
of the Afghan expedition Burnes was placed in a situation calculated
neither to develop the better nor to correct the worse part of his
character. In his own words, indeed, he was in “the most nondescript
of situations.” He had little or no power. He had no supreme and
independent control of affairs; nor had he, like other political
assistants, any detached employment of a subordinate character; but
was an anomalous appendage to the British mission, looking out for
the chance of succession to the upper seat. In such a position he
felt uneasy and unsettled; he lived rather in the future than in the
present; and chafed under the reflection that whilst, in all that
related to the management of public affairs, he was an absolute cypher
at the Afghan court, much of the odium of unpopular acts descended
upon him; and that much of the discredit of failure would attach to
him if the measures, which he was in nowise permitted to shape, were
not crowned with success. There is reason to think that if fairer
scope had been allowed for the display of his abilities, and a larger
amount of responsibility had descended upon him, he would have shone
with a brighter and a steadier light, and left behind him a still
more honourable name. His talents were great; his energies were great.
What he lacked was stability of character. Power and responsibility
would have steadied him. He would have walked with a firmer step and
in a straighter course under a heavier burden of political duties. As
it was, all the environments of his life at Caubul were too surely
calculated to unhinge and unbalance even a more steadfast mind. It
is right that all these things should be taken into account. It is
right, too, that it should never be forgotten by those who would form
a correct estimate of the character and career of Alexander Burnes,
that both have been misrepresented in those collections of state
papers which are supposed to furnish the best materials of history,
but which are often in reality only one-sided compilations of garbled
documents—counterfeits, which the ministerial stamp forces into
currency, defrauding a present generation and handing down to posterity
a chain of dangerous lies.

Burnes and his companions fell. There was a great plunder of property.
The treasury of Captain Johnson, the Shah’s paymaster, was sacked.
Thirsting for gold, and thirsting for blood, the insurgents undermined
the walls and burnt the gateway of the house; then falling, like
wild beasts, on all whom they met, and slaughtering guards and
servants—men, women, and children, alike, in their indiscriminate
fury—they glutted themselves with the treasure,[105] and to complete
their work of mischief, burnt all the records of the office. The noise
in the city was now growing louder and louder. The multitude was
swelling in numbers, and waxing more terrible in excitement and wrath.
But still no measures were taken to quell the riot or chastise the
rioters; no troops were poured into the city; no British officer led
his battalions to the charge, or opened upon the enemy with a shower
of unanswerable grape. The escort, at Burnes’s house, held for some
time in painful inactivity by his misplaced forbearance, had fought
with a desperate energy, which, in the end, cost them their lives; and
the guard at the pay-office, with scarcely less constancy and courage,
had protected their charge until overwhelmed by the rush of their
assailants, and slaughtered almost to a man. What could these little
bands of loyal men do against the surging multitude that flooded the
streets? Emboldened by impunity, the licentious crowd pushed on to
new deeds of murder and rapine; and soon the whole city was in a roar
of wild tumultuous excitement. Shops were gutted; houses were burned;
men, women, and children, in the residences of our officers, mixed up
in indiscriminate slaughter;—and all this with six thousand British
troops within half an hour’s march of the rebellious city.

From the Balla Hissar the King looked down upon the disturbed city
beneath him. But even from that commanding position little could be
seen of what was going on below in the narrow winding streets, which
scarcely presented more than an expanse of flat house-tops to the
gazers from above. A report had been industriously propagated that the
insurgent movement had been favoured, if not directed, by the monarch
himself; but his conduct at this moment was not such as to give colour
to the suspicion, which soon began to shape itself in the minds of
his British supporters, and which has not even now been dislodged.
He was agitated, panic-struck, but not paralysed. The only movement
made, on that ill-omened November morning, to crush the insurrection
at its birth, was made by the King himself. He sent out a regiment of
Hindostanee troops—that regiment which was still commanded by the
Indo-Briton adventurer Campbell, who had rendered Shah Soojah good
service in his attempt to expel the Barukzye Sirdars.[106] Futteh Jung
and the Wuzeer went with them. They moved down with some spirit upon
the city; but shaped their course with such little wisdom that they
were soon in disastrous flight. They should have moved along the base
of the hill to the outer extremity of the short thoroughfare in which
Burnes’s house was situated. But instead of this they attempted to make
their way through the heart of the city, and were soon entangled with
their guns in its narrow, intricate streets. Thus embarrassed, they
were at the mercy of the enemy. They lost, it was said, two hundred of
their number,[107] were compelled to abandon their guns, and were soon
to be seen hurrying back, a disorderly rabble, to the shelter of the
Balla Hissar.

In the mean while, Brigadier Shelton, with a body of infantry and
artillery, had made his way to the Balla Hissar, and arrived in time
to cover the retreat of Campbell’s regiment, and to save the guns from
the grasp of the enemy. “Soon after my arrival,” says the Brigadier
in his narrative of these proceedings, “wounded men were coming in
from the city. I was then informed that they belonged to the King’s
Hindostanee Pultun, which his Majesty had sent into the city with two
six-pounders. I despatched the light company of the 54th N.I. to the
gate of the Balla Hissar leading into the town, and soon after the
remainder of the King’s Pultun and the two guns were driven in. The
latter they were obliged to abandon, fortunately sufficiently under
the wall to enable me to prevent the enemy from getting possession;
but too near the houses for me to bring them in. I disposed a covering
party accordingly, but on the enemy’s opening his fire, the Shah’s men
rushed back into the gateway, and thus abandoned the enterprise.” “I
mention this,” adds the Brigadier, “because it was said his Majesty was
implicated in exciting the rebellion—for in such case he never would
have made so noble an effort, and the only one that was made to strike
at the root.”[108]

On that day nothing else was done. Deserted by his personal attendants
in the hour of danger, Shah Soojah seems to have sunk into a pitiable
state of dejection and alarm. The defeat of his Hindostanees had
given a deeper shade to his despondency; he was incapable of acting
for himself or of offering counsel to others, and all who sought his
presence were struck by the anxious expression of his countenance and
the feeble petulance of his manner. Nothing effective had been done,
and nothing more was to be done at all on that memorable day—General
Elphinstone had been talking about to-morrow, when he should have
been acting to-day. And so the evening of the 2nd of November fell
upon an irritable people, established and fortified in resistance
by the indecision of the authorities, against whom they had erected
themselves, and the inactivity of the army by which they might have
been crushed.

It is the common opinion of all competent authorities that a prompt
and vigorous movement, on the morning of the 2nd of November, would
have strangled the insurrection at its birth. The Afghans freely
admitted this. A Populzye chief who was present at the meeting at
Sydat Khan’s house on the night of the 1st of November, told Major
Rawlinson that not one of the chiefs, who then leagued themselves
together, ventured to stir from his house until the afternoon of
the following day. They expected that the first onset—the attack
on the houses of Burnes and Johnson—would be successful; but they
were under an equally strong conviction that the violence would be
promptly avenged by the troops from cantonments, and they therefore
refrained from committing themselves by taking any personal part in
the _émeute_. It seems to have been the impression of the majority
that such an outbreak at the capital would operate as a warning which
the British in Afghanistan would hardly neglect, and that we should
be glad, therefore, to withdraw our forces in the spring and leave
the Douranees to their own devices.[109] “Not only I, but several
other officers,” says Captain Johnson, “have spoken to Afghans on the
subject; there has never been one dissenting voice, that had a small
party gone into the town prior to the plunder of my treasury and the
murder of Burnes, the insurrection would have been instantly quashed.
This was also the opinion of Captain Trevor, at that time living
in the town.”[110] Captain Mackenzie has given an equally emphatic
opinion to the same effect. “During our expedition into Kohistan,
under General MacCaskill,” he writes, “I accompanied it, having been
placed by General Pollock in charge of Shah-zadah Shapoor and the
Kuzzilbash camp. In my frequent communications with Khan Shereen
Khan, some of the late leaders, and other chiefs of the Kuzzilbash
faction, all the circumstances of the late insurrection were over and
over again recapitulated, one and all declaring positively that the
slightest exhibition of energy on our part, in the first instance,
more especially in reinforcing my post and that of Trevor, would at
once have decided the Kuzzilbashes, and all over whom they possessed
any influence, in our favour. Khan Shereen Khan also confirmed the
idea that an offensive movement on the opposite side of the town by
Brigadier Shelton, had it been made in the early part of the fatal 2nd
of November, would at once have crushed the insurrection.”[111] Mohun
Lal says, that in the first instance no more than thirty men were sent
to surround Sir Alexander Burnes’s house, and that the rest were drawn
thither subsequently by the hope of plunder.[112] Captain Johnson,
already quoted, adds, “The mob at the first outbreak did not exceed 100
men. They however speedily increased; the plunder of my treasury, my
private property and that of Sir Alexander—seeing that no steps were
taken to save either the one or the other, nor even what was of more
value to us at that time, the life of Sir Alexander Burnes—was too
great a temptation to the inhabitants of Caubul, and when 300 men would
have been sufficient in the morning to have quelled the disturbance,
3000 would not have been adequate in the afternoon.”[113]

The question, then—and it is one of the gravest that can be asked in
the entire course of this historical inquiry—is, how came it that an
insurrectionary movement, which might have been crushed at the outset
by a handful of men, was suffered to grow into a great revolution? It
is a question not to be answered hastily—not to be answered at all
without the citation of all available evidence. It is fortunate that
at least the facts of the case are to be ascertained with sufficient
distinctness. It is certain that, on the first receipt of authentic
intelligence of the outbreak in the city, Macnaghten repaired to
Elphinstone’s quarters to seek military aid. Shelton, in his narrative,
says, that much valuable time was lost at the outset. “The Envoy,” he
writes, “must have had notice by 7 A.M., so that much valuable time
was, I fear, lost by remaining quietly at home, receiving reports,
instead of acting promptly and with decision.”[114] But the imputation
is not warranted by the real facts of the case. “On the morning of
the 2nd of November”—such is the evidence of the Envoy himself—“I
was informed that the town of Caubul was in a state of commotion; and
shortly afterwards I received a note from Lieutenant-Colonel Sir A.
Burnes, to the effect that his house was besieged, and begging for
assistance. I immediately went to General Elphinstone.”[115] General
Elphinstone himself says: “On the 2nd of November, at half-past 7 A.M.,
I was told by Colonel Oliver that the city was in a great ferment,
and shortly after the Envoy came and told me that it was in a state of
insurrection, but that he did not think much of it, and that it would
shortly subside.”[116] Captain Johnson, too, writes that, on receiving
in cantonments intelligence of the outbreak, he went to report what he
had heard to Captain Lawrence, military secretary to the Envoy. “The
latter,” he adds, “had just received a note from Burnes on the subject,
and was on the way to the General’s.” Thus it is established that
Macnaghten lost no time in seeking the advice and assistance of the
military commander.

Let us next see what was the result of the visit to the General. “I
suggested,” says Macnaghten, “that Brigadier Shelton’s force should
proceed to the Balla Hissar, thence to operate as might seem expedient;
that the remaining troops should be concentrated in the cantonments,
and placed in a state of defence, and assistance, if possible, sent to
Sir A. Burnes. Before Brigadier Shelton could reach the Balla Hissar,
the town had attained such a state of ferment that it was deemed
impracticable to penetrate to Sir A. Burnes’s residence, which was in
the centre of the city.”

General Elphinstone’s report is meagre and unsatisfactory, and does
not even allude to any supposed expediency of supporting Sir Alexander
Burnes:—“It was proposed,” he says, “that Brigadier Shelton, with two
regiments and guns, should proceed to the Balla Hissar; and the Envoy
sent his military secretary, Captain Lawrence, to intimate his wishes,
and obtain the King’s sanction to this measure, the Balla Hissar being
considered a commanding position, and the fittest route to enter the
city..... The troops, horse artillery (four guns), with a company of
the 44th Foot, the Shah’s 6th Infantry, and a wing of the 54th N. I.,
moved under Brigadier Shelton, about twelve o’clock, into the Balla
Hissar; the rest of the troops were concentrated in cantonments, which
arrangements occupied the rest of the day.”

Brigadier Shelton’s report is much more explicit and intelligible. It
throws a flood of light on some of the dark places:—“On the morning
of the 2nd November,” says the Brigadier, “I passed under the city
wall about seven o’clock, when the cavalry grass-cutters, who were in
the habit of going through the town for their grass, told me that the
city gate was shut, and that they could not get in. All was quiet at
this time; and I rode home, thinking some robbery might have taken
place, and that the gate might have been shut to prevent the escape
of the thieves. About eight or nine o’clock various reports were
in circulation, and between nine and ten I got a note from General
Elphinstone, reporting a disturbance in the city, and desiring me to
prepare to march into the Balla Hissar, with three companies 54th N.
I., the Shah’s 6th Infantry, and four guns, all I had in camp (the
remainder of my brigade having been called into cantonments). I soon
after got another, telling me not to go, as the King objected to it. I
replied to this note, that if there was an insurrection in the city,
it was not a moment for indecision, and recommended him at once to
decide upon what measures he would adopt. The answer to this was, to
march immediately into the Balla Hissar, where I would receive further
instructions from the Envoy’s military secretary, whom I should find
there. Just as I was marching off, a note came from the latter person
to halt for further orders. I then sent in the engineer officer to see
the cause; but he was cut down by an Afghan, in dismounting from his
horse, just outside the square, where his Majesty was sitting. Soon
after this the secretary himself came with orders to proceed. I then
marched in, when the King asked me, as well as I could understand, who
sent me, and what I came there for.[117]” He was not, indeed, allowed
to operate upon the disturbed city. All that, circumstanced as he was,
Shelton could do, was to cover the retreat of the Shah’s Hindostanees,
who had been sent out, as we have seen, against the insurgents, and
been disastrously beaten.

It is obvious, therefore, that Brigadier Shelton must be acquitted
of all blame. He recommended, on the morning of the 2nd of November,
prompt and decisive measures, but he was not empowered to carry them
into effect. The responsibility rests with the Envoy and the General,
and must be equally shared between them. It does not appear that either
recognised the necessity of a prompt attack upon the disturbed quarter
of the city. The Envoy, always considerate and humane—sometimes to a
point of weakness—desired to spare the inhabitants of Caubul those
dreadful scenes of plunder and violence which ever follow the incursion
of a body of retributive troops into an offending city. But such tender
mercies are often cruel. In such cases the most vigorous measures are
commonly the most humane. It is hard to say how much human life would
have been saved if, early on the 2nd of November, a few companies of
infantry and a couple of guns had been despatched to that portion of
the city where Sir Alexander Burnes and his companions were standing
at bay before a contemptible rabble, which would have melted away at
the approach of a handful of regular troops.

Burnes did not believe the outbreak to be a formidable one; Macnaghten
did not believe it to be a formidable one; and Elphinstone was entirely
swayed by the opinions of his political associates. Hence came the
indecision and inactivity, which were attended with such disastrous
results. Burnes and Macnaghten were right up to a certain point; but
all beyond was lamentably wrong. The outbreak was not formidable in
itself; but it was certain, in such “ticklish times,”[118] very soon to
become formidable. There are seasons when slight indications of unrest,
such as might commonly be disregarded, assume a portentous and alarming
aspect, and demand all the vigilance and energy of the custodians of
the public safety. Such a season had now arrived; the minds of the
people were in a feverish, inflammable state, and it required very
little to bring on a dangerous paroxysm of irrepressible violence and
disorder. Macnaghten was unwilling to believe that the chiefs were
connected with those October disturbances which had blocked up the
passes between Caubul and Jellalabad, and thought that the Ghilzye
rising was of a local, accidental character, with which the Caubulees
had no connection, and in which they took no interest; but Brigadier
Shelton has declared his conviction that the majority of the insurgents
who took possession of the passes were sent out from the city, and that
many of them passed through his camp at Seeah Sungh.[119]

Be this as it may, it is very certain that even an incidental outbreak
in the city of Caubul ought not, at such a season, to have been
regarded as a matter of light concern. But an attack upon the residence
of a high political functionary could, in nowise, be looked upon as
an incidental outrage, proceeding neither from political causes, nor
conducing to political results. It was an emergency, indeed, that
called for promptitude of action, unrestrained either by short-sighted
considerations of humanity or feelings of official delicacy and
reserve. Too anxious to conciliate the wishes of the King, the Envoy
forbore from all aggressive measures until his Majesty had been
consulted; and when he learnt that Campbell’s regiment had been sent
out against the insurgents, he believed that the insurrection would be
speedily put down. But in such a crisis the British minister might have
acted, without any breach of official rectitude, on his own independent
judgment, and taken upon himself to decide at once what was best, not
only for the King, whom English money and English arms were supporting
on his throne, but for what was of infinitely more importance, the
honour of the British nation.

It is not difficult to understand these restraining influences; but
when all due allowance is made for them, it must still be admitted
that at such a time, under such circumstances, nothing short of a
prompt movement upon the disturbed quarter of the city should have been
counselled by the Envoy and ordered by the General. There is nothing,
indeed, but the impracticability of the movement that can be urged in
extenuation of its neglect. The Envoy has declared that, by the time
Brigadier Shelton had reached the Balla Hissar, it was impracticable
for a body of troops to penetrate to the neighbourhood of Burnes’s
house. But what was impracticable then was not impracticable some time
before; and Shelton would have reached the Balla Hissar much sooner,
but for the respect shown to the wishes of the King, the delay in
ascertaining those wishes, and the vacillating orders which his Majesty
thought fit to issue on this momentous occasion. The attack on the city
should have been made some hours earlier in the day. The movement may
have been impracticable after the hour when Shelton reached the Balla
Hissar; but why was it not made _before_? The only point to be decided
by the Envoy and the General was, what body of troops—whether from
Shelton’s camp or cantonments—could be most expeditiously despatched
to the disturbed quarter of the town, and most effectually suppress
the disturbance? But instead of directing all his thoughts to this one
great object, the Envoy thought about the wishes of the Shah and the
comforts of the people; whilst the General, too glad to be saved the
trouble of thinking at all, readily adopted Macnaghten’s opinions, and
believed that the fires which had broken out in the city might be left
to die out by themselves.

Still it must be remembered, on the other hand, that wise after the
event, we are passing sentence on the conduct of men who had not then
the full information which lights us to a more correct decision;
and that if they had dragooned down the insurrection at the outset,
destroying innocent life and valuable property, they would certainly,
by one party at least, have been impeached as incapable and dangerous
alarmists. It would not improbably have been said, that they had by a
precipitancy, as mischievous as it was uncalled for, turned friends
into enemies, confidence into mistrust, repose into irritation, and
sown broadcast the seeds of future rebellion over the whole length and
breadth of the land.


[November, 1841.]

 Progress of the Insurrection—Attempted Movement on the City—Attack
 on Mahomed Sheriff’s Fort—Loss of the Commissariat Fort—Captain
 Mackenzie’s Defence—Capture of Mahomed Sheriff’s Fort—Attempts to
 corrupt the Enemy.

On this disastrous 2nd of November, the British authorities in the
Caubul cantonments, instead of acting to-day, had, I have said, been
talking about doing something to-morrow. That something was a conjoint
movement from the cantonments and the Balla Hissar on the Lahore gate
of the city. “We must see,” wrote Elphinstone to Macnaghten, “what
the morning brings, and then think what can be done.” The morning was
one of early bustle and activity throughout the British cantonment.
Before day had broken, the drums beat to arms. Intelligence had come
in that a large body of men were marching over the Seeah Sungh hills.
They were believed to be enemies, but they proved to be friends. The
37 Regiment of Native Infantry had been called in from Koord-Caubul on
the preceding day; and it had made good its march, in the face of no
feeble opposition, bringing in its baggage and its sick in an orderly
manner, very creditable to the commanding officer.[120] Two guns of the
mountain-train accompanied the regiment. Any addition to the cantonment
force was valuable at such a time; and the 37th Regiment was regarded
as one of the best in the service. Still, although when our resources
were thus increased, a movement was made upon the city, so small a
force was sent out that it was compelled to retreat.

The movement, such as it was—the first attempted by the British
troops—was made three hours after noon. The enemy had by this time
increased mightily in numbers. Thousands, long ripe for revolt, were
now ready to declare themselves on the side of the national party. All
the surrounding villages poured in their tributaries,[121] and swelled
the great tide of insurrection. At noon, on the preceding day, the
road between the cantonments and the city had been scarcely passable;
and now all this intervening ground was alive with an angry enemy.
In the face of a hostile multitude, it was little likely that a weak
detachment could penetrate into the city. The party sent out on this
hazardous service, under Major Swayne, consisted of one company of
H. M.’s 44th Regiment, two companies of the 5th Native Infantry, and
two horse artillery guns. The whole affair was a failure. The only
fortunate circumstance was that this feeble detachment retired in good
time. Owing to some misconception of orders, no party had been detached
to co-operate with them from the Balla Hissar; and if they had forced
their way to the Lahore gate of the city, the whole detachment would
have been cut to pieces. As it was, the party was fired upon from the
Kohistan gate, near which it ought not to have gone;[122] and it was
soon only too obvious that a further advance, in the face of such an
enemy, would be a profitless sacrifice of life. Major Swayne brought
back his detachment, and so ended the first attempt to operate upon the

It is hard to say why a stronger force, with a fair allowance of
cavalry, was not sent out in the first instance; or why, on the return
of Swayne’s weak detachment, it was not re-inforced and sent out
against the enemy. There was daylight enough left to do good execution
with an adequate force, adequately commanded. But the evening of this
day, like that of the preceding one, closed in upon an inactive and
dispirited British force, and an undisciplined enemy emboldened by
impunity and flushed with success.

The aspect of affairs now became more threatening. Before noon, on the
preceding day, the Envoy and his family had vacated the Residency, and
sought a more secure asylum within the walls of the cantonments. Now
preparations were being made to place those cantonments in a state of
defence. This was no easy matter. The works were of “frightful extent;”
and demanded a much larger body of troops and greater number of guns,
than were at the disposal of the General, to defend them even against
the “contemptible enemy” that was now collecting around them. It was
not long after the commencement of the outbreak, before Lieutenant
Eyre, the ordnance commissariat officer, had placed every available gun
in position. But the want of artillery in this conjuncture was soon
lamentably apparent. There had, at no time, been a sufficiency of this
important arm; but one portion of the miserable allowance was now with
Sale’s force, another in the Balla Hissar, and the wretched remnant was
in cantonments.

It was impossible now any longer to close one’s eyes against the
real state of affairs. They were growing rapidly worse and worse.
The Envoy sate down to his desk and wrote importunate letters to
Captain Macgregor, urging him to bring back Sir Robert Sale’s force
to Caubul. At the same time he wrote to Candahar, to arrest the march
of the troops that were about to return to India, and to despatch
them with all speed to his relief. Nothing came of these mandates but
disappointment. It would have been better if the Caubul force had
trusted wholly to itself.

The next day was one of more appalling disaster. It brought to light
a new evil that threatened destruction to the beleagured force. The
commissariat fort—the magazine in which all the stores, on which our
troops depended for subsistence, were garnered up—was outside the
cantonment walls. It was situated about 400 yards from the south-west
bastion of the cantonment. On the preceding day, the detachment in
charge of the fort had been raised to a subaltern’s guard of eighty
men. It was now threatened by the enemy. Another fort, still nearer
cantonments, known as Mahomed Sheriff’s Fort, was already in possession
of a hostile garrison;[123] and the King’s gardens, between which
and the cantonments this fort was situated, were swarming with the
insurgents. The communications between the British cantonments and
the commissariat fort were thus intercepted by the enemy; and the
position of the slender guard posted for the defence of the latter was
therefore one of imminent peril. The enemy laid siege to the fort;
and began to mine beneath the walls. Surrounded as he was by a far
superior force, and seeing no possibility of repelling the assaults
of the enemy, Lieutenant Warren, who commanded the guard, officially
reported the danger of his position; and set forth that, unless
re-inforced, he should be obliged to abandon his post. The letter was
conveyed to the General, who ordered out two companies of the 44th
Regiment, under Captains Swayne and Robinson, to reinforce the party at
the commissariat fort, or enable them to _evacuate_ it in safety.[124]
They had not proceeded far, when the enemy, posted in Mahomed Sheriff’s
Fort opened upon them with deadly execution. The galling fire of the
concealed marksmen checked their progress. Captains Swayne and Robinson
were shot dead. Other officers were wounded. There seemed to be no
chance of success. To move onward would only have been to expose the
detachment to certain destruction. The officer upon whom the command of
the party had devolved, determined, therefore, to abandon an enterprise
from which nothing but further disaster could arise. He brought back
his party to cantonments; and so another failure was added to the list.

Another was soon to be recorded against us. In the course of the
afternoon, the General determined to try the effect of sending out a
party, consisting mainly of cavalry, to enable Lieutenant Warren to
evacuate the commissariat fort. But this party suffered more severely
than the preceding one. From the loopholes of Mahomed Sheriff’s
Fort—from every tree in the Shah’s garden—from whatever cover of wood
or masonry was to be found—the Afghan marksmen poured, with unerring
aim, their deadly fire upon our advancing troops. The unseen enemy was
too strong for our slight detachment. The troopers of the 5th Cavalry
fell in numbers beneath the fire of the Afghan matchlocks. The forward
movement was checked. The party retreated; and again the enemy gathered
new courage from the contemplation of our reverses.

In the mean while, it had become known to the commissariat officers
that the General contemplated the abandonment of the fort, in which not
only our grain, but our hospital stores, our spirits, wine, beer, &c.,
were garnered. Dismayed at the thought of a sacrifice that must entail
destruction on the entire force, Captain Boyd, the chief commissariat
officer, hastened to General Elphinstone’s quarters, and entreated
him not to withdraw Lieutenant Warren from the fort, but to reinforce
him with all possible despatch. The General, ever ready to listen to
advice, and sometimes to take it, heard all that was advanced by the
commissariat officer, readily assented to its truth, and promised to
send out a reinforcement to the fort. But no reinforcement was sent.
Night was closing in upon the cantonment, and Captain Boyd, to his
bitter disappointment, perceived that no preparations were making for
the promised movement towards the fort. Asking Captain Johnson to
accompany him, he again proceeded to the General’s quarters, where the
two officers, in emphatic language, pointed out the terrible results
of the sacrifice of our supplies. Again the General listened; again he
assented; and again he would have promised all that was required; but
other officers were present, who put forth other opinions; talked of
the danger of the movement; urged that it would be necessary, in the
first instance, to capture Mahomed’s Sheriff’s Fort; and so the General
wavered. But at this juncture, another letter from Lieutenant Warren
was brought in. It represented that his position had become more
insecure; that the enemy were mining under the walls, and the Sepoys
escaping over them; and that if reinforcements were not speedily sent,
he should be compelled to abandon his position.

This brought the General round again to the opinion that reinforcements
ought to be sent; he promised that, soon after midnight a detachment
should be under arms to take Mahomed Sheriff’s Fort, and to strengthen
Warren’s position; and the requisite orders were accordingly issued.
But later counsels prevailed. The march of the detachment was postponed
to the following morning; and, before it moved, the little garrison
had abandoned the fort and returned to cantonments, leaving all our
supplies in the hands of the enemy, and inspiring them with fresh
confidence and courage. Warren, a man of a reserved and taciturn
nature, but of great courage and resolution, had done his best to
defend the place; and had set an example of personal daring to his men,
which ought to have inspired and invigorated them. On one occasion,
amidst a deadly shower from the Afghan jezails, he had advanced alone,
and torn down the national standard which the Afghans had planted at
the gate of the fort. But the Sepoys had lost heart. It was impossible
to continue the defence of the place. So the little party escaped by
working a hole from the interior of the fort underneath the walls, by
the aid of tools which had been sent them for a different purpose on
the preceding night.[125]

Nor was this our only loss. The commissariat fort, in which the
supplies for Shah Soojah’s force were stored, was on the outskirts
of the city. In 1840, when a general rising was deemed no unlikely
occurrence, Captain Johnson laid in a supply of 17,000 maunds of attah
for Shah Soojah’s force, and had erected godowns for their reception
within the Balla Hissar, where early in 1841 the grain was all laid up
in store. The King, however, subsequently exercised the royal privilege
of changing his mind. The godowns were inconveniently situated; and
Captain Johnson was ordered to remove the grain from the citadel, and,
having no better place for its reception, to convert his camel-sheds,
on the outskirts of the city, into a godown fort.[126] In this fort,
on the 2nd of November, there were about 8000 maunds of attah. Captain
Mackenzie (who had then been for some months in charge of the executive
commissariat of the Shah’s troops), an officer of high character,
greatly and deservedly esteemed by the Envoy and all the officers of
the force, was at this time in charge of the fort. On the morning
of the 2nd of November, it was attacked by the armed population of
Deh-Afghan. Throughout the whole of that day Mackenzie held his post
with unvarying constancy and unshaken courage. Everything was against
the little garrison. Water was scarce; ammunition was scarce. They
were encumbered with baggage, and overwhelmed with women and children.
Reinforcements were written for in vain. Captain Trevor, who occupied,
with his family, a neighbouring fort, despatched repeated letters to
cantonments, importuning the Envoy to reinforce these isolated posts.
But in vain they turned their straining eyes towards the cantonment,
“looking for the glittering bayonets through the trees.”[127] Not
a company came to their relief. Instead of assistance they received
nothing but melancholy tidings of disaster. A demonstration from the
cantonment would have saved them. Captain Lawrence had volunteered to
take two companies to the relief of the fort; but permission was denied
to him. The Kuzzilbashes, too, were ready to declare themselves on the
side of the British. Khan Sheeren Khan was, indeed, at Trevor’s house.
But when the chiefs saw that not an effort was made by the British
commanders to vindicate our authority, or to save the lives of our
officers, they prudently held aloof and refused to link themselves with
a declining cause.

On the 3rd of November, “about the middle of the day,” the enemy
got possession of Trevor’s house; and it soon became certain that
Mackenzie, with all his gallantry and all his laborious zeal—working
day and night without food and without rest—conducting the defence
with as much judgment as spirit—could not much longer hold his post.
His men were wearied out; his ammunition was exhausted; his wounded
were dying for want of medical aid. He had defended his position
throughout two days of toil, suffering, and danger; and no aid had come
from cantonments—none was likely to come. So yielding at last to the
importunity of others, he moved out of the fort, and fought his way,
by night, to cantonments. It was a difficult and hazardous march; and,
almost by a miracle, Mackenzie escaped to encounter new dangers, to
sustain new trials, and to live in habitual gratitude to God for his
wonderful preservation.

The abandonment of our commissariat stores not only threatened the
British force with instant starvation, but made such a lamentable
exposure of our imbecility, that all who had before held aloof,
thinking that the British nation would arise and crush the insurgents,
now gathered heart and openly declared themselves against us. The
doubtful were assured; the wavering were established. There was a
British army looking over the walls of their cantonment at an ill-armed
enemy—almost a rabble—gutting their commissariat fort. There were the
spoliators, within four hundred yards of our position, carrying off
our supplies, as busily as a swarm of ants. “The godown fort,” wrote
Captain Johnson in his journal, “was this day something similar to a
large ants’ nest. Ere noon, thousands and thousands had assembled from
far and wide, to participate in the booty of the English dogs, each man
taking away with him as much as he could carry—and to this we were all
eye-witnesses.” The troops were grievously indignant at the imbecility
of their leaders, who had suffered them to be so ignominiously stripped
of the very means of subsistence; and clamoured to be led out against
the enemy, who were parading their spoils under the very walls of the

The feeling was not one to be checked. Lieutenant Eyre went to the
quarters of the General, urged him to send out a party for the capture
of Mahomed Sheriff’s Fort, and volunteered to keep the road clear for
the advance of the storming party. With some reluctance the General
assented, and wrote to the Envoy saying, that after due consideration
he had determined on attacking the fort, with fifty men of the 44th,
and 200 Native Infantry. “We will first try to breach the place,”
he added, “and shell it as well as we can. From information I have
received respecting the interior of the fort, which I think is to be
relied on, it seems the centre, like our old bazaar, is filled with
buildings; therefore, if we succeed in blowing open the gate, we should
only be exposed to a destructive fire from the buildings, which, from
the state of preparation they evince, would no doubt be occupied in
force, supported from the garden. Carrying powder-bags up under fire
would have a chance of failure. Our men have been all night in the
works, are tired, and ill-fed; but we must hope for the best, and
securing our commissariat fort with the stores.”[128]

It was in this letter, written scarcely three days after the first
outbreak of the insurrection, that the General first hinted at the
necessity of treating with the insolent enemy. “It behoves us,” he
wrote, “to look to the consequences of failure: in this case I know
not how we are to subsist, or, from want of provisions, to retreat.
You should, therefore, consider what chance there is of making terms,
if we are driven to this extremity. Shelton must then be withdrawn,
as we shall not be able to supply him.” What hope was there for the
national honour after this? What but failure was likely to result from
an expedition undertaken under such auspices? The party was sent out
under Major Swayne. It seems to have stood still, when it ought to
have rushed forward. The opportunity was lost; and the General, who
was watching the movement from the gateway, ordered the detachment to
be withdrawn. The Sepoys of the 37th regiment who had been eager to
advance to the capture of the fort, were enraged and disappointed at
being held back; and the enemy, more confident and presumptuous than
before, exulted in a new triumph.

Whilst affairs were in this distressing and dispiriting state at
Caubul, our outposts were exposed to imminent danger; and it was
soon only too plain that the insurrection was not confined to the
neighbourhood of the capital. At Kardurrah Lieutenant Maule, of
the Bengal Artillery, commanding the Kohistanee regiment, with his
adjutant and sergeant-major, had been cut to pieces at the outset of
the insurrection, by the men of his own corps; and now intelligence
came in that the Goorkha regiment, posted at Charekur in the Kohistan,
where Eldred Pottinger was acting as Political Agent, was threatened
with annihilation. Captain Codrington, the commandant, and other
officers had been killed; and as water was failing the garrison, there
was little chance of its holding out. The Envoy communicated these sad
tidings to the General, who wrote in reply, that the intelligence was
“most distressing;” and asked whether “nothing could be done by the
promise of a large reward—a lakh of rupees for instance, if necessary,
to any of the Kohistan chiefs,” to bring off the little garrison.

This was written on the 6th of November. That day witnessed our first
success. A party, under Major Griffiths, of the 37th Native Infantry,
was sent out against Mahomed Sheriff’s Fort. A practicable breach
was effected, and the storming party entered with an irresistible
impetuosity, worthy of British troops. Ensign Raban, of the 44th
regiment, was shot dead on the crest of the breach. The garrison
escaped to the hills, where a party of Anderson’s horse dashed at
them in gallant style, and drove them from their position. The rest
of the day was spent in dubious skirmishing. All arms were employed
in a wild desultory manner. Artillery, cavalry, and infantry did good
independent service; but they did not support each other. Nothing great
was designed or attempted. A general action might have been brought on;
and, properly commanded at that time, the British troops, who were then
eager to meet the enemy, might have beaten five times their numbers in
the field. But General Elphinstone, long before this, had ceased to
think of beating the enemy. Everything seemed possible to him but that.

We had lost our commissariat forts; but, happily, we had not lost our
commissariat officers. As soon as it was perceived that our stores
were in jeopardy, Captain Boyd and Captain Johnson had begun to exert
themselves, with an energy as praiseworthy as it was rare in that
conjuncture, to collect supplies from the surrounding villages. They
were more successful than under such circumstances could have been
anticipated. The villagers sold the grain which they had laid up for
their own winter supplies, at no very exorbitant rates, and the horrors
of immediate starvation were averted from the beleagured force. The
troops were put upon half-rations. The ordinary food of the native
troops—the _attah_, or ground wheat—was wanting, for the water-mills
in the villages had been destroyed; but the unbroken grain was served
out to them in its stead.

A new danger was now to be discovered. The force had been threatened
with starvation; but now supplies were coming in from the surrounding
villages. It would have been impossible to hold out without provisions.
It would be equally impossible to hold out without ammunition. As soon
as the one danger was averted, the General began to look about for
the approach of the other. On the 6th of November, he again wrote to
Sir William Macnaghten, suggesting the expediency of making terms,
with the least possible delay:—“We have temporarily,” he said, “and
I hope permanently, got over the difficulty of provisions. Our next
consideration is ammunition; a very serious and indeed awful one. We
have expended a great quantity; therefore it becomes worthy of thought
on your part, how desirable it is that our operations should not be
protracted by anything in treating that might tend to a continuance
of the present state of things. Do not suppose from this I wish to
recommend, or am advocating humiliating terms, or such as would reflect
disgrace on us; but this fact of ammunition must not be lost sight of.”
And in a postscript to this letter are these melancholy words:—“Our
case is not yet desperate; I do not mean to impress that; but it must
be borne in mind that it goes very fast.”[129] The Envoy needed no
better proof than this that our case, if not desperate, was “going very
fast.” There was an abundant supply of ammunition in store. But what
hope was there, so long as the troops were thus commanded? There was
no hope from our arms; but something might be done by our money. If
the enemy could not be beaten off, he might be bought off. The Envoy,
therefore, began to appeal to the cupidity of the chiefs.

The agent whom he employed was Mohun Lal. On the first outbreak in
the city, the Moonshee had narrowly escaped destruction by taking
refuge under the skirts of Mohamed Zemaun Khan.[130] Since that time
he had resided in Caubul, under the protection of the Kuzzilbash chief
Khan Shereen Khan, and had kept up a correspondence with Sir William
Macnaghten, doing the Envoy’s bidding, as he said, at the risk of his
life. His first experiment was made upon the corruptibility of the
Ghilzyes. At the request of the Envoy, Mohun Lal opened negotiations
with the chiefs of the tribe, offering them two lakhs of rupees,
with an immediate advance of a quarter of the amount; but before
the contract was completed, the Envoy, doubtful, perhaps, of the
sincerity of the chiefs, receded from the negotiation. The Ghilzyes
were mortally offended; but the Envoy had another game in hand. On the
7th of November, he wrote to Mohun Lal, authorising him to assure our
friends Khan Shereen Khan and Mahomed Kumye, that if they performed
the service which they had undertaken, the former should receive one
lakh, and the latter 50,000 rupees, “besides getting the present, and
everything else they require.” “You may assure them,” added Macnaghten,
“that, whatever bluster the rebels may make, they will be beaten in
the end. I hope that you will encourage Mohamed Yar Khan, the rival
of Ameen-oollah; assure him that he shall receive the chiefship, and
all the assistance necessary to enable him to support it. You may give
promises in my name to the extent of 500,000 rupees (five lakhs).”[131]

Intelligence had by this time reached Caubul from many sources, to the
effect that Mahomed Akbar Khan, the second son of Dost Mahomed, was
coming in from Toorkistan, and had already advanced as far as Bameean;
and Macnaghten had now begun to credit and to attach due importance to
the news. Mohun Lal suggested the expediency of despatching an emissary
to meet the Sirdar on the way, and offer him a handsome allowance to
league himself with our party. To this the Envoy replied, that Mahomed
Akbar’s arrival at Bameean was likely enough; but that there could be
little use in offering him a separate remittance, if the rebels had
made already overtures to him.[132] He had more hope from the good
offices of the Kuzzilbash chief and others on the spot, disposed to aid
us, and he commended Mohun Lal for raising money to distribute among
them. But he thought that, until assured of a good return, it would be
better to scatter promises than coin; and so Mohun Lal was told not to
advance more than 50,000 rupees until some service had been actually

But neither money actually spent, nor larger promises given, could
really aid us in such an extremity. There were too many hungry
appetites to appease—too many conflicting interests to reconcile; it
was altogether, by this time, too mighty a movement to be put down by a
display of the money-bags. The jingling of the coin could not drown the
voice of an outraged and incensed people.

I wish that I had nothing more to say of the efforts made, out of
the fair field of open battle, to destroy the power of the insurgent
chiefs. There is a darker page of history yet to be written. This
Mohun Lal had other work entrusted to him than that spoken of in these
letters. He was not directed merely to appeal to the cupidity of the
chiefs, by offering them large sums of money to exert their influence
in our favour. He was directed, also, to offer rewards for the heads of
the principal insurgents. As early as the 5th of November, Lieutenant
John Conolly, who was in attendance upon Shah Soojah in the Balla
Hissar, wrote thus to Mohun Lal:

 Tell the Kuzzilbash chiefs, Shereen Khan, Naib Sheriff, in fact, all
 the chiefs of Sheeah persuasion, to join against the rebels. You
 can promise one lakh of rupees to Khan Shereen on the condition of
 his killing and seizing the rebels and arming all the Sheeahs, and
 immediately attacking all rebels. This is the time for the Sheeahs
 to do good service. Explain to them that, if the Soonees once get
 the upper hand in the town, they will immediately attack and plunder
 their part of the town; hold out promises of reward and money; write
 to me very frequently. Tell the chiefs who are well disposed, to send
 respectable agents to the Envoy. Try and spread “nifak” among the
 rebels. In everything that you do consult me, and write very often.
 Meer Hyder Purja-Bashi has been sent to Khan Shereen, and will see you.

And in a postscript to this letter appeared the ominous words: “I
promise 10,000 rupees for the head of each of the principal rebel

Mohun Lal received this letter, and being ready for any kind of
service not in the field, began to cast about in his mind the best
means of accomplishing the object spoken of in Conolly’s postscript,
with the least danger to himself and the greatest benefit to his
employers. It was necessary, however, to tread cautiously in so
delicate a matter. The Moonshee was not yet assured of the temper
of the Kuzzilbash chief; and the game might be played away by one
precipitate move. So he resolved to keep the offer of the head-money in
abeyance for a few days, and to watch the course of events.


[November, 1841.]

 Progress of the Insurrection—General Elphinstone—His
 Infirmities—Recall of Brigadier Shelton to Cantonments—Capture of
 the Ricka-bashee Fort—Intrigues with the Afghan Chiefs—The Envoy’s
 Correspondence with Mohun Lal.

The insurrection had now been raging for a week. The enemy had
increased in numbers and in daring. The troops in the British
cantonments were dispirited and disheartened. The General had begun to
talk and to write about negotiation. The Envoy was attempting to buy
off the enemy. Nothing had yet been done to avert the disastrous and
disgraceful catastrophe which now threatened to crown our misfortunes.
It was plain that something must be done. Any change would be a change
for the better.

The officers, who served under General Elphinstone throughout this
unhappy crisis, have invariably spoken of him with tenderness and
respect. He was an honourable gentleman—a kind-hearted man; and he
had once been a good soldier. His personal courage has never been
questioned. Regardless of danger and patient under trial, he exposed
himself without reserve, and bore his sufferings without complaining.
But disease had broken down his physical strength, and enfeebled his
understanding. He had almost lost the use of his limbs. He could not
walk; he could hardly ride. The gout had crippled him in a manner that
it was painful to contemplate. You could not see him engaged in the
most ordinary concerns of peaceful life without an emotion of lively
compassion. He was fit only for the invalid establishment on the day
of his arrival in India. It was a mockery to talk of his commanding a
division of the army in the quietest district of Hindostan. But he was
selected by Lord Auckland, against the advice of the Commander-in-Chief
and the remonstrances of the Agra governor, to assume the command of
that division of the army which of all others was most likely to be
actively employed, and which demanded, therefore, the greatest amount
of energy and activity in its commander. Among the general officers of
the Indian army were many able and energetic men, with active limbs
and clear understandings. There was one—a cripple, whose mental
vigour much suffering had enfeebled; and _he_ was selected by the
Governor-General to command the army in Afghanistan.

Ever since his arrival at the head quarters at Caubul he had been, in
his own words, “unlucky in the state of his health.” From the beginning
of May to the beginning of October he had been suffering, with little
intermission, from fever and rheumatic gout. Sometimes he had been
confined wholly to his couch; at others he was enabled to go abroad
in a palanquin. During one or two brief intervals he had sufficiently
recovered his strength to trust himself on the back of a horse. He was
in the enjoyment of one of these intervals—but expecting every day to
relinquish a burden which he was so ill able to bear[133]—when on the
2nd of November, whilst inspecting the guards, he “had a very severe
fall—the horse falling upon him,”[134] and he was compelled to return
to his quarters. From that time, though he never spared himself, it
was painfully obvious that the Caubul army was without a chief. The
General was perplexed—bewildered. He was utterly without resources
of his own. A crisis had come upon him, demanding all the energies of
a robust constitution and a vigorous understanding; and it had found
him with a frame almost paralysed by disease, and a mind quite clouded
by suffering. He had little knowledge of the political condition of
Afghanistan, of the feelings of the people, of the language they spoke,
or the country they inhabited. He was compelled, therefore, to rely
upon the information of others, and to seek the advice of those with
whom he was associated. So circumstanced, the ablest and most confident
general would have been guided by the counsels of the British Envoy.
But General Elphinstone was guided by every man’s counsels—generally
by the last speaker’s—by captains and subalterns, by any one who had
a plan to propose or any kind of advice to offer. He was, therefore,
in a constant state of oscillation; now inclining to one opinion, now
to another; now determining upon a course of action, now abandoning
it; the resolutions of one hour giving way before the doubts of its
successor, until, in the midst of these vacillations, the time to
strike passed away for ever, and the loss was not to be retrieved.

In such a conjuncture, there could have been no greater calamity
than the feeble indecision of the military commander. Promptitude of
action was the one thing demanded by the exigences of the occasion;
but instead of promptitude of action, there was nothing but hesitation
and incertitude; long delays and small doings, worse than nothing;
paltry demonstrations, looking as though they were expressly designed
as revelations of the lamentable weakness of our arms, and the more
lamentable imbecility of our counsels. To the Envoy all this was
miserably apparent. It was apparent to the whole garrison. It was not
possible altogether to supersede the General. He was willing, with all
his incompetency, to serve his country, and there was no authority
in Afghanistan to remove him from his command. But something, it was
thought, might be done by associating with him, in the command of the
cantonment force, an officer of a more robust frame and more energetic
character. Brigadier Shelton was known to be an active and a gallant
soldier. Macnaghten counselled his recall from the Balla Hissar, and
the General believing, or perhaps only hoping, that he would find a
willing coadjutor in the Brigadier, despatched a note to him with
instructions to come into cantonments.

Taking with him only a regiment of the Shah’s troops and a single
gun, the Brigadier quitted the Balla Hissar on the morning of the
9th of November, and made his way, without any interruption, to
the cantonment, in broad daylight. The garrison welcomed him with
cordiality. He came amongst them almost as a deliverer. Great things
were expected from him. He was beloved neither by officers nor by
men; but he was held to possess some sturdy qualities, and never to
shrink from fighting. Little or nothing was known of his aptitude as a
leader. He had seldom or never been placed in a position of responsible
command. But the time for weighing nice questions of generalship
had long ago passed away. The garrison were content to look for a
commander to lead them against the enemy, with sufficient promptitude
and in sufficient numbers to protect them against the certainty of
failure. But a week of almost unbroken disaster had dispirited and
enfeebled them. Everything that Shelton saw and heard was of a nature
to discourage him. Anxious faces were around him, and desponding words
saluted his ears. He went round the cantonments, and saw at once
how large a force it required to defend such extensive works, and
how small a body of troops could be spared for external operations.
Everything, indeed, was against him. He had not been sent for, until
a series of disasters had crippled our means of defence, emboldened
the enemy, disheartened the garrison, and brought the grim shadow of
starvation close to the cantonment walls.[135]

But there was another evil soon to become only too painfully apparent.
Brigadier Shelton had been sent for to co-operate with the General;
but it was manifest that there was never likely to be any co-operation
between them. Each has left upon record his opinion of the conduct
of the other. The General says that the Brigadier was contumacious
and insubordinate. The Brigadier says that he was thwarted in all
his efforts to do good service—that he could not even place a gun
in position without being reminded by the General that he had no
independent command. Upon whomsoever the greater amount of blame may
rest, the result was sufficiently deplorable. The military chiefs never
acted in concert.[136] Shelton was a man of a hard uncompromising
nature, and it is probable that he had little toleration for the
indecision of the general, and was little inclined to regard with
tenderness and compassion the infirmities of the poor old chief. He
did what he was commanded to do, if not with much military skill,
at all events with an unflinching gallantry, to which the general
himself bore willing testimony.[137] But from the absence of a
right understanding between them a fatality attended almost every
enterprise. Hesitation and delay at the outset—then vacillation and
contradiction—resolutions taken and then abandoned—orders issued and
then countermanded—so irritated the Brigadier, that his temper, never
of a very genial cast, was generally in a somewhat tempestuous state
before he took the field at the head of his men. How far we may rightly
attribute to this the want of success which attended the Brigadier’s
operations can only now be conjectured; but it is very certain that in
all of them the daring of the soldier was more conspicuous than the
judgment of the commander.

In the meanwhile the Envoy was anxiously looking for the return of
Sale’s brigade from Gundamuck. He doubted the possibility of their
being beset by any serious difficulties. He had written to Mohun Lal on
the 8th, cautioning him not to place any reliance on the story about
Gundamuck, for Sale’s force, he said, was “too strong to be resisted
by any force that the rebels could bring against them.” And on the
following day he despatched another letter to Captain Macgregor, urging
him to send back the troops to the relief of our beleaguered position.
Only a fragment of this letter has been preserved; but it sufficiently
indicates the Envoy’s opinion of the melancholy, almost desperate,
state to which our affairs had even then attained. “I have written to
you several letters,” said Macnaghten, “urging you in the strongest
manner to come up with Sale’s brigade to our relief, but I fear you
may not have received them. Our situation is rather a desperate one
unless you arrive, because we can neither retreat in any direction, nor
leave the cantonments to go into the Balla Hissar; but if we had your
force we should be able to take the city, and thus preserve both the
cantonment and Balla Hissar. The enemy is a contemptible one.”[138]
From the return of Sale’s brigade alone did the Envoy look for any
permanent change in the condition of affairs at Caubul. But from that
quarter no assistance could come. The force was moving in another

But whatever might be the chance of permanent improvement in the
condition of affairs, it was still necessary to do something for the
moment. On the morning of the 10th of November, the enemy mustered
in great numbers—horse and foot—on the heights commanding the
cantonment, sending up shouts of insolent defiance and firing _feux
de joie_. There were some small forts on the plain below, perilously
near our cantonment walls, and in these the enemy presently posted
themselves, and grievously harassed our soldiers on the works. One of
these, known as the Ricka-bashee Fort, situated near the north-east
angle of the cantonment, was within musket-shot of our walls. It was
easy to pour in thence a galling fire upon the troops manning our
works; and the artillerymen at the guns were shot down by the deadly
aim of the Afghan marksmen, concealed in the ruins of some adjacent
houses. This was not to be endured. It is hard to believe that, whilst
his men were being shot down before his eyes by hidden marksmen, the
military chief could have needed much prompting to send out a party
for the capture of the fort that so commanded our position. But it
was only on the urgent representation of the Envoy that an expedition
against the Ricka-bashee Fort was undertaken at last. There was a
fine manly spirit—there were some good, true soldierly qualities, in
Macnaghten; and he told the military commander that he did not shrink
from responsibility—that, in such a case as this, he would take it
all upon himself, but that at any risk the fort must be carried.
Reluctantly the General consented; and a force under Brigadier Shelton,
consisting of about two thousand men of all arms, was ordered to hold
itself in readiness.[139] The force assembled about the hour of noon.
The Brigadier was making his dispositions for the attack, when it
again occurred to the General that the expedition was a dangerous one
(as though war were not always dangerous), and that it would be more
prudent to abandon it. The aide-de-camp at his elbow asked him why, if
such were his opinions, he did not countermand it at once. And so the
expedition was countermanded; and the Brigadier returned “disgusted
with such vacillation.”[140]

The troops were brought back within the cantonment walls; and the
Brigadier, overflowing with indignation, laid the case before the
Envoy. Macnaghten was as eager as Shelton for the movement; and the
scruples of the General were overruled. But time had now been lost. The
enemy’s position had been strengthened. The spirit of our troops had
been damped—their forwardness had been checked. The expedition set
out with diminished chances of success, and the result was a dubious

The Ricka-bashee Fort was captured on that 10th of November, but in
a disastrous and calamitous manner, which made the victory look
more like a defeat. It was determined to blow open the gate with
powder-bags, and Captain Bellew, the Assistant Quartermaster-General,
gallantly volunteered to undertake the work of destruction. But, by
some accident, instead of blowing open the main gate, he blew open a
small wicket. Two companies of European and four companies of Native
troops[141] had been told off to form the storming party; and Colonel
Mackrell, of the 44th, was ordered to command it. The men, gallantly
commanded, advanced with spirit to the attack; but they could with
difficulty make their way through the narrow aperture, and the enemy,
as they struggled forward, poured upon them a hot and destructive
fire. Colonel Mackrell and Lieutenant Bird forced their way, with a
few soldiers, into the fort. Captain Westmacott was shot down outside
the aperture, and Captain Macrae sabred in the entrance. The few who
made good their way into the interior of the fort struck a panic into
the garrison, who, believing that the whole party were following them,
fled in dismay out of the opposite gate. But the storming party,
unhappily at this time, were checked by a charge of Afghan horse. The
cry of “Cavalry” seems to have paralysed the British musketeers, who
wavered, turned, and were soon in disastrous flight—Europeans and
Sepoys together. In vain their officers endeavoured to urge them on to
the attack—in vain they pleaded the desperate condition of those who
had already entered, if they were not speedily supported. One man—a
private of the 44th, named Stewart—alone volunteered to follow them.
It was not easy to rally the fugitives. Confusion and dismay had seized
them, and for some time they were deaf to every appeal. But they were
commanded by one who at least was a brave soldier. Brigadier Shelton
was a man of iron nerves and dauntless courage. Where the fire was
the hottest he stood unshaken by the danger that assailed him, and
shamed the disordered crowd of men, no longer soldiers. The example
of the one-armed veteran did more than his exhortations. The broken
bands rallied, re-formed, and advanced to the attack. But again they
gave way to the Afghan horse; and again Shelton’s expostulations and
example brought the waverers back to their duty. The heavy guns from
the cantonments were by this time playing upon the Afghan cavalry; the
impetuosity of the enemy was thus restrained, and Shelton led up his
men to the capture of the fort.

In the meanwhile, the few brave men who had made good their entrance
through the wicket were beset by the deadliest peril. Many of
the garrison, discovering how small was the real number of their
assailants, had returned with new courage to the fort. The devoted
Englishmen had endeavoured to secure themselves by shutting the gate
through which the garrison had escaped, and securing the chain with a
bayonet. But the enemy had removed this slender obstacle, and rushed in
upon the little storming party. Colonel Mackrell was found fearfully
wounded and disfigured, and was carried into cantonments to die.
Lieutenant Bird, with two Sepoys of the 37th N.I., sought refuge in
a stable, which they barricaded and defended with a resolution that
deserved and secured a crown of success. When the fort was carried by
the British troops they were found, with exhausted ammunition, but
alive and uninjured. Thirty of the enemy had been shot down by the
gallant three.

On the fall of the Ricka-bashee Fort some small adjacent forts were
abandoned by the enemy, and a quantity of grain fell into our hands,
only to be lost again for want of proper measures to secure it. Before
the day closed, Shelton had threatened the enemy, who had collected
in some force on the Seeah Sungh hills. The Horse Artillery guns
opened with good effect, and the enemy retired towards the city; but
no attempt seems to have been made, on our part, to bring on a general
action. On this 10th of November, for the first time any considerable
body of troops was brought into the field. The opportunity of making
a decided impression was a good one; but it was not turned to good
account. The whole affair was mismanaged. The spirit of the troops was
damped at the outset by the vacillation of the General. A grievous
error was committed in attempting, for want of information to be
easily obtained, an entrance at the wrong point, into the Ricka-bashee
Fort. Then the force sent out under Brigadier Shelton was lamentably
weak in the mounted branch, although there was no want of cavalry in
cantonments. Had the infantry been supported by a stronger body of
horse, they would have had more confidence in themselves, and suffered
less severely in the action. A strong reserve, too, should have been
held in readiness for employment in the event of the party meeting with
any check, or requiring any support. As it was, when the Afghan horse
attacked our columns and threw them into confusion, there was nothing
to give them any confidence but the gallantry of their leaders.

The result, however, of the capture of the forts, though the
achievement was clouded by a melancholy loss of life, was more
satisfactory than would be supposed from such a recital of the
errors that attended it. The Envoy, indeed, subsequently declared
that it averted the necessity of a disastrous retreat.[142] We had
got possession of some positions contiguous to the cantonment, the
occupation of which by the enemy had grievously distressed our force.
For two or three days after the capture the Afghans did little to annoy
us. The commissariat officers took advantage of the opportunity to add
to their available supplies;[143] and whilst they were endeavouring
to buy grain, the Envoy was doing his best to buy the enemy. The
negotiations with the Ghilzyes, which had been broken off, were
resumed; and every possible effort was made to win over the chiefs to
our cause, or to sow dissension among them. In all these operations he
employed the agency of Mohun Lal. The hasty letters written to this
individual best unfold the nature of these transactions. On the 11th
of November he thus addressed the Moonshee: “You will observe from the
enclosed letters that I have confirmed the promises made by you to the
Ghilzye rebels; though had you known of our successes yesterday, the
terms might have been more favourable for us. Humza Khan should come to
me as soon as possible, and I will then talk to him about the case of
Gool Mahomed. The money could not be paid until the conditions of the
agreement are fulfilled, and we are perfectly certain of the fidelity
of Humza and the chiefs. The chiefs should go at once and pay their
respects to his Majesty. You should encourage the rival of Ameen-oollah
Khan by all possible means. That scoundrel and Abdoollah Khan should be
executed, if we could catch them.”[144]

And again, writing two days afterwards, he said: “I have received your
letter of this morning’s date, and highly approve of all you have
done. Let Golam Hussan and Abdool-Ruheem Khan undertake to come to the
Zoolfikar Fort this morning, and Captain Trevor will be ready there to
receive them. Captain Trevor will be in that fort night and day, for
some time, to receive overtures from any person; and parties coming in
should send a single messenger before them. Khan Shereen Khan is quite
right not to leave the Chundawul for a day or two. Tell Naib Sheriff he
may safely go security to the Ghilzyes for the payment of the money.
When I see Humza Khan I will talk to him about the best plan for the
Ghilzye chiefs to wait on his Majesty. You are aware that I would give
a reward of 10,000 rupees for the apprehension of Ameen-oollah Khan
and such of the Douranee rebel chiefs. If you could see some of the
officers of the Hazirbash corps that is just come in with Mahomed Azeem
Khan, and give them encouragement, it would be very desirable.”[145]

If there had been any hope of rescuing our force from destruction by
honest fighting in the field, the Envoy would not have resorted to
such shifts as are indicated in these letters. But he had unhappily
discovered that the military commanders had abandoned all hope of
beating the enemy, and were thinking of making their way out of the
thicket of danger that encompassed them by a path less honourable and
less secure. Anxious above all things to escape the disgrace of an
open capitulation, which would have humiliated us in the eyes of all
the nations of the East, the Envoy exerted all his diplomatic skill to
create disunion among our principal enemies—to buy off those whose
cupidity was stronger than their hatred—and to offer a reward for the
seizure of others.

All this was at least within the range of orthodox diplomacy. But in
the meanwhile that other, darker agency, of which I reluctantly spoke
at the close of my last chapter, was being brought into operation. On
the 11th of November, John Conolly again wrote to Mohun Lal: “Why do
you not write? What has become of Meer Hyder? Is he doing anything
with Khan Shereen? You never told me whether you had written to Naib
Humza. What do the rebels propose doing now? Have you not made any
arrangements about the bodies of the murdered officers? Offer 2000
rupees to any one who will take them to cantonments, or 1000 to any
one who will bury them. Has not Sir Alexander’s body been found? Give
my salaam to the Naib. If Khan Shereen is not inclined to do service,
try other Kuzzilbash chiefs independently. Exert yourself. Write to me
often, for the news of Kossids is not to be depended on. There is a man
called Hadjee 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.
I have sent to him two or three times.”

Mohun Lal, having by this time disencumbered himself of some of his
misgivings on the score of his own personal safety, seems to have set
about the work entrusted to him with a zeal that must have abundantly
satisfied his employers. Hadjee Ali, and another man named Aga Mahomed
Soudah, were the agents to whom he first offered the price of the blood
of their unhappy countrymen. But the Moonshee, perplexed by doubts
rather than burdened with scruples, did not see very clearly at first
how the chiefs were to be taken off; so he wrote to the Envoy that “he
could not find out by Lieutenant Conolly’s notes how the rebels are
to be assassinated, but the men now employed promise to go into their
houses and cut off their heads when they may be without attendants.”

The victims said to have been first marked for the assassin’s knife
were Abdoollah Khan and Meer Musjedee. They were known to have been the
movers of the attack on Burnes’s house; and were regarded, therefore,
as the murderers of the officers who were massacred there on the
morning of the outbreak. They were known, too, as the boldest and most
unscrupulous of the insurgent chiefs. It seemed, therefore, an act
alike of retribution and expediency to strike them down in the full
flush of success—in the hey-day of their sanguinary career. There is
no need in this chapter to endeavour to penetrate the mist of painful
obscurity that envelopes the disappearance of the two chiefs. It will
be time to discuss the subject when I come to record their deaths.



 Action on the Beh-meru Hills—Looked-for Advent of Sale’s
 Brigade—Arrival of Pottinger—The Siege of Charekur—Destruction of
 the Goorkha Regiment—Withdrawal of Sale to Jellalabad—Question of
 Concentration in the Balla Hissar.—Bearing of the King—The Action on
 the 23rd of November—Negotiations.

On the 13th of November the enemy occupied, in great strength, the
Beh-meru hills. They had planted two guns in a commanding position, and
were cannonading the British cantonment. It was at once apparent to the
Envoy that to leave them unmolested to fire into our works would be
miserably to confess our own weakness, and to encourage the enemy in
the continuance of a course of aggression which might end in the loss
of our post. But it was difficult to persuade the military authorities
to send out a force to dislodge them. Captain Lawrence was despatched,
in the first instance, to the General; but the message he bore was
coldly received, and he returned discouraged to the Envoy, with a
recommendation that he should prefer his request in person. Macnaghten
went. But the military chiefs were in no mood to listen to his counsel.
The pliant General would soon have yielded; but the more dogmatic and
self-confident Brigadier was ready with a host of objections, and a
great array of difficulties, to overwhelm the arguments of the Envoy.
Macnaghten, however, was peremptory. The guns, he said, must be taken
at all risks, and at once, or the loss of cantonments to-morrow might
be the result of our supineness to-day. There was again a talk of
responsibility. The Envoy took the responsibility on himself, and a
strong detachment, with two guns, under Brigadier Shelton,[146] was
ordered out for service.

But much time had been lost in these idle discussions. It was nearly
four o’clock before the troops were ready to take the field. They
moved out in three columns, and taking different directions, pushed
forward with a spirit and a rapidity worthy of British troops, to the
foot of the hill. One, the most serviceable of the two guns that had
been sent out under Lieutenant Eyre, unfortunately stuck fast, for
some time, in a canal. But the advanced body of the infantry, under
the General’s aide-de-camp, Major Thain, were eager to move forward
before the guns, thus delayed, could be brought to bear upon the
enemy’s position. Only one round of grape had been fired when they
closed with the enemy. It would have been well had the insurgents been
compelled to listen more to that argument which takes no denial; for
the musketry fire of our detachment, though poured in at a distance of
only ten yards, scarcely took effect upon the insurgents. The men took
no aim—fired wildly—anywhere but in the right direction. Emboldened
by impunity, the Afghan cavalry charged down upon the British bayonets
with irresistible force. No dispositions were made to receive them.
For a while all was panic and confusion. Friend and foe were mixed
up together, as the column gave way, and the horsemen charged through
and through our ranks until the rout was complete.[147] It was only
a temporary check. The British troops retreated down the slope; but
rallied, re-formed behind the reserve at the foot of the hill, and,
under cover of the guns which Eyre was now working with good effect,
advanced again to the attack. Anderson’s Horse now came into action,
and making a gallant charge, drove the enemy up the ascent. The
infantry followed, and carried the height, whilst the enemy, escaping
along the ridge, abandoned their guns to the victors.

Night was now closing in upon the scene. The detachment had been sent
out to capture the enemy’s guns. The guns were in our possession; but
it would have been the mere shadow of a victory if they had not been
carried off. The Envoy, who had watched the struggle with painful
anxiety, despatched a message of earnest entreaty that no effort should
be spared “to complete the triumph of the day,”[148] by bringing both
the guns into cantonments. One of the deserted guns was easily removed
by a party of the Shah’s 6th Infantry; but some Afghan marksmen were
pouring in so warm a fire upon the other and larger piece, that the
British soldier—all his character reversed—seeing the danger and
not the honour of the exploit, shrunk from the perilous service, and
refused to advance for the capture of the gun.[149] It was nearly
dark. The further detention of the force would have been attended
with serious risk. Eyre, therefore, spiked the gun, which it seemed
impossible to carry off, and then secured the capture of the other. The
six-pounder was rolled down the hill; the four-pounder was carried into

It was eight o’clock before Shelton’s force returned to their quarters.
The enemy intercepted their movements, and threatened the cantonment,
but the attack was repulsed by a few rounds of grape, and a brisk
fire from Mackenzie’s jezailchees. Many, on both sides, had fallen
during the action of the afternoon. Major Thain and Captain Paton
were severely wounded. All night, from the hill-side, came loud
lamentations—the wailings of the relatives of the Afghans who had
fallen in the fight. Lights were flitting about in every direction; for
they were burying the dead. On the following day they were busy with
the same melancholy work.

This affair of the 13th of November was set down as a success; and
it was wise to make the most of it. It was the last success, even
of a doubtful and equivocal character, which the unhappy force was
destined to achieve. “Henceforward,” wrote one who has chronicled
with no common fidelity the events of these miserable months,[150]
“it becomes my weary task to relate a catalogue of errors, disasters,
and difficulties, which, following close upon each other, disgusted
our officers, disheartened our soldiers, and finally sunk us all into
irretrievable ruin, as though Heaven itself, by a combination of evil
circumstances, for its own inscrutable purposes, had planned our

For some days the enemy remained comparatively inactive. Occasional
threatenings kept the garrison on the alert; but little was done
to change the posture of affairs. The Envoy, still looking for the
return of Sale’s brigade, continued to write urgent letters to Captain
Macgregor. On the 12th, he had written: “I have written to you four
times, requesting that you would come up with Sale’s brigade as soon
as possible. We are still in a very bad way, though not quite so badly
off as we were four days ago. Our force is so small that we cannot
act on the offensive, and we have not above a fortnight’s supplies.
I am trying, through Humza, to enter into some arrangements with the
_Mufsids_. As the Ghilzyes are occupied here, I should think you
would not meet with much opposition, except, perhaps, in the Khoord
Caubul Pass.” And now again, on the 14th, he wrote (and it is plain
from this letter that he thought the action of the preceding day had
in nowise improved their condition): “Dozens of letters have been
written from this, urging your immediate return with Sale’s brigade
to Caubul; and if you have not started by the time you receive this,
I earnestly beg that you will do so immediately. Our situation is a
very precarious one; but with your assistance we should all do well,
and you must render it to us, if you have any regard for our lives
or for the honour of our country. We may be said to be in a state of
siege; and had we not made two desperate sallies, we should ere now
have been annihilated. We have provisions for only ten days; but when
you arrive we shall be able to command the resources of the country.
In our action of yesterday Thain and Paton were wounded, the latter so
severely that his arm has been amputated. I have still some hope of the
Charekur detachment, but a faint one. I have no news from Ghuzni or
Candahar. In the interior of the country they seem to be as _jaghee_ as
at the capital. Mehtur Moosa joined the rebels yesterday. We have been
unmolested to-day, but it may be only the lull before the storm. Humza
Khan has promised to call on me this evening. I have no idea that he
will do so. I intend to make much of him. I have written to you several
letters of late, so shall say no more for the present. The Ghilzye
force being here, I should conceive you will experience no opposition
on the road.”

The hopes expressed for the safety of the Charekur detachment were
dissipated on the following day. On the 15th of November, Major
Pottinger and Lieutenant Haughton came in wounded from that place,
and reported that the Goorkha regiment had been cut to pieces. They
had held out for some time with noble resolution; but their position
was untenable for want of water. The horrors of unappeasable thirst
had overcome them; they had been compelled to abandon their post; had
attempted to make good their retreat to Caubul; and had perished by the

The story which Pottinger told must be briefly related. Before the
end of October the Kohistanees and Nijrowees were in open revolt;
and on the 1st of November, Meer Musjedee, with a strong insurgent
force, moved across the plain of the Barakab and took up a position
at Akserai, completely cutting off the communication between Charekur
and Caubul.[151] Pottinger and Codrington now took counsel together.
The former, as political agent on the Toorkistan frontier, resided in
the castle of Lughmanee, about two miles distant from Charekur, where
the Goorkha regiment was planted in some fortified barracks, the
defences of which were still in course of construction. Codrington, who
commanded the regiment, was, at the dawn of November, with Pottinger
in the Lughmanee castle. Their position was one of great difficulty.
They sent out reconnoitring parties to obtain intelligence of the
precise position of the enemy; but, encumbered as they were with women
and children, and almost wholly without carriage, it seemed impossible
that the Goorkha regiment could be moved out of Charekur. Pottinger
wrote to the Envoy for troops, called upon all the friendly chiefs
to aid him, and began to strengthen his position. But it was soon
apparent that no help could come from Caubul, and that the friends on
whom he relied were, in fact, disguised enemies. Many Kohistanee and
Nijrowee chiefs visited him on the two first days of November. Loud in
their expressions of friendship, they declared their willingness to
co-operate with him for the suppression of the insurrection; but when
he called upon them to attack the castles of the chiefs who had gone
out to join the army of Meer Musjedee, it at once became apparent that
they lied. The suspicions of Pottinger were aroused. The “friends”
around him were assembling in such numbers as to form an army of their
own; and Pottinger, determined as he was to betray neither suspicion
nor alarm, could not help feeling that a sudden attack was by no means
an improbable event to proceed out of all these armed gatherings.

On the morning of the 3rd, the numbers of armed men around the
Residency had increased. The reconnoitring parties had not returned.
The chiefs were asking for presents, but refusing to do the service
required of them. Everything seemed enveloped in an atmosphere of doubt
and suspicion; and Pottinger, as he received the chiefs, who came
pressing in with offers of friendship, could not help feeling that a
struggle was at hand.

Before noon, he received several of the more powerful chiefs at the
Residency, and at noon went out to meet the petty Sirdars, who were
clustering in the garden around his house. With characteristic Afghan
cupidity, they assailed him with questions respecting the amount of the
rewards that would be paid for their services. Pottinger entered into
some explanations which the foremost of the party seemed disposed to
consider satisfactory; but, expressing some doubts as to whether their
clansmen would be satisfied, they requested that the nature of the
overtures might be made known to those who were removed from the circle
around the British Agent. Lieutenant Rattray, the Political Assistant,
had just joined Pottinger in the garden. He was now requested to
explain the matter to the rest, who were standing a little way apart.
Accompanied by the principal chiefs, Rattray proceeded to the place
where they were assembled, and, after some conversation, they quitted
the garden, and repaired to “an adjoining stubble-field, where several
parties of aimed men were standing.”

It was not long before Rattray became aware that treachery was brewing.
He turned to leave the field, and was immediately shot down. Pottinger
was still sitting in conversation with some of the chiefs, when a man
attached to the Hazerbash regiment ran up, and by hints, rather than by
intelligible words, apprised him of the danger that surrounded him. The
sound of firing confirmed the ominous intelligence. The chiefs rose and
fled. Pottinger escaped into the castle, and from the _terre-pleine_
of the rampart looked down, and saw Rattray lying badly wounded on
the ground, and “the recent tenderers of service making off in all
directions with the plunder of the Hazerbash camp.”[152]

Rattray was soon despatched. A party of the enemy, crossing the plain
and seeing the wounded officer at their mercy, discharged their pieces
into his head and body. They then invested Pottinger’s position, firing
upon him from the shelter of the numerous water-courses and walls. But
assistance was now at hand. Lieutenant Haughton, the adjutant of the
Goorkha corps, was moving down from Charekur. As soon as he appeared
in the vicinity of the garden. Captain Codrington made a sortie, and
united himself with the relieving force. The enemy were driven out
of the garden with severe loss. Evening was by this time closing in.
The enemy had got possession of the Charekur road, and before any
measures of future defence could be concerted between the two officers,
Codrington was obliged, after leaving some details with Pottinger, to
move off his Goorkhas to his own fortified barracks. On the following
day, with four companies of Goorkhas, and a six-pounder gun, Codrington
moved down from Charekur, to relieve Pottinger’s guard, and to supply
his little garrison with ammunition. Owing mainly, however, to the
impetuosity of a company of young soldiers,[153] the column met with
a check, and was compelled to fall back on Charekur. Ensign Salisbury
was mortally wounded, and many men of the Goorkha regiment fell on the

Seeing little prospect now of being relieved, and finding his
ammunition reduced to a few rounds in the pouches of his men, Pottinger
determined, after nightfall, to attempt a retreat on Charekur.
Disguising his intentions by collecting grain during the day, as
for a protracted defence, he eluded the vigilance of the enemy, and
disencumbering himself of his Afghan followers, and all whose fidelity
there was any reason to suspect, he mustered the Hindostanees outside
the postern, upon the pretext of making a sortie upon the enemy, and
then marched for the barracks. Avoiding the main road, and skirting the
edge of the mountain, the little party, under cover of the night, made
good its retreat, and united itself with the main body of the Goorkha
regiment at Charekur.[154]

On the morning of the 5th of November the enemy assembled in large
bodies around the fortified barracks; and, after attacking the
outposts, closely invested the place. Codrington commanded the
regiment. Pottinger, divesting himself of his political character,
became the artillery officer again, and took charge of the guns. Moving
out with a field-piece to support the skirmishers, he was wounded by a
musket-shot in the leg. But there was too much work in hand for one of
his temper to succumb at once to such an accident as this. The enemy
were pressing fiercely on. Codrington and his Goorkhas were confined to
the barracks and a few mud huts in their immediate neighbourhood. They
stood their ground manfully and well. But the hostile multitude poured
like a torrent upon the little band of devoted men.[155] The Goorkhas
were driven from the huts. They saw their gallant commander fall
mortally wounded; but they returned undaunted to the attack. Haughton,
the adjutant, was now at their head. He led the men gallantly to the
charge, and drove back the enemy beyond the gardens they had occupied
in the morning. Again and again the Afghans returned to the attack. But
the little body of Goorkhas, with heroic courage, held their ground
till night put an end to the conflict.

Amidst the tears and lamentations of his sepoys, Codrington, with
his death-wound upon him, but still manfully striving to walk, had
tottered, under support, to the cantonment, but had there fallen to
the ground, and in an agony of thirst and calling for water, had then
been carried into his house and placed on a bed, where now disabled by
suffering, Eldred Pottinger was lying. Being supplied with writing
materials, he wrote, as best he could, a letter to his wife, gave her
picture into Pottinger’s safe keeping, and prepared himself to die. He
lingered for two days, and then was laid in the grave by his faithful
followers, beside one of his young companions in arms.

Meanwhile the unequal contest had continued. At a distance of some
three hundred yards from the barracks there was a castle, the towers of
which so effectually commanded them, that it was necessary to occupy
the post with a garrison of fifty men. But it was not very easy to
retain it. The enemy increased greatly in numbers on the 6th; and,
in spite of the successful sorties of the Goorkhas, drove back their
outposts, and confined them within the narrow limits of their barracks.
On the following day, the castle garrison, betrayed by the regimental
Moonshee, were induced to surrender. The enemy took possession of the
place, and from its commanding towers poured in a galling fire on the
Goorkhas in the barracks. The position of the little garrison was now
becoming more and more critical. Cut off by the enemy, water had become
lamentably scarce. They had lost half their officers and a large number
of their comrades. The enemy had increased in number and in fury, and
completely commanded their position. To shut themselves up in their
barracks was to die of thirst; to attempt to fight their way out was to
be cut to pieces.

On the 8th, the enemy offered them terms. The condition was, that they
should become Mahomedans. “We came to this country,” said Pottinger,
in reply, “to aid a Mahomedan sovereign in the recovery of his rights.
We are therefore within the pale of Islam, and exempt from coercion on
the score of religion.” To this they replied, that the King himself had
ordered the attack; and asked if Pottinger would surrender on receiving
his Majesty’s orders. “I can do nothing,” said Pottinger, “without a
written order from the King.” And with this the negotiations ended.

But there was an enemy more terrible than these infuriated crowds
of Kohistanees and Nijrowees. The garrison was suffering agonies of
thirst.[156] On the 10th, the last pool of water was drawn; and half a
wine-glass of the precious fluid was served out to each fighting man.
On the 11th there was not sufficient to serve out to the whole party.
At night they stole out with their _lotahs_ concealed under their
clothes, lest the shining metal should betray them, to snatch a few
drops of water from a neighbouring spring. But the enemy discovered the
practice, and shot down the wretched men. Parties were then sent out to
cover the water-carriers; but the soldiers, mad with the tortures of
thirst, quitted their ranks, and could not be restrained from rushing
forward in search of the liquid life for which they had so long been
languishing. Every new effort to obtain water, however well devised,
failed from the same cause. The parties, which moved out as disciplined
soldiers, soon, in the madness of their sufferings, became a disorderly
rabble—soon were at the mercy of the enemy, who shot them down, in
their helplessness, like sheep.

All hope was now at an end. The garrison were reduced to a party of two
hundred fighting men. They had but thirty rounds of ammunition for
each musket in store. The wretched Goorkhas were literally perishing
with intolerable thirst. Pottinger and Haughton took counsel together;
and determined to make a desperate effort to save the remnant of their
little force by a rapid unencumbered march to Caubul. Accordingly, on
the evening of the 13th of November, the Goorkhas evacuated Charekur.
Pottinger led the advance. Haughton had, on the afternoon of that
day, been disabled by a sabre-cut from a jamadar of artillery, whilst
apprehending a party of deserters; and was now scarcely able to sit his
horse. Mr. Grant, a medical officer—not the first medical officer who
has played the part of the true soldier in battle, and justified the
claims of his profession to the soldier’s honours and rewards—having
spiked all the guns with his own hands, led out the main body; whilst
Ensign Rose brought up the rear. The order of march was soon lost.
The little force became a disorderly rabble, struggling on with the
one object of allaying at the first pool of water the torments of
unendurable thirst. It was impossible to keep them together—impossible
to lead them in safety to the capital. Pottinger and Haughton were
exhausted by the pain of their wounds. They could render no service
to their men; and would have perished had they remained behind.
So they determined on pushing on to Caubul. A single sepoy of the
Goorkha corps, who plodded on with weary feet beside the horsemen,
Pottinger’s English writer, and the regimental _bunyah_, were their
only companions. The route was unknown to them, and they had no guide;
but they struggled on through many difficulties and much danger, and
at last reached the neighbourhood of Caubul. Here the peril thickened
around them. Descending into the Caubul plain behind the lake, and
intending to cross the cultivated ground to the cantonments, at the
back of the Shah’s garden, at Killa Bolundee, they missed the turning,
and soon found themselves in the midst of the enemy’s sentinels.
Fearing to attract attention by turning back, they then made for
Deh-Afghan, but finding the place occupied by the enemy, and being
closely challenged by the sentries, they were compelled to pass into
the city. Pursuing the lanes and bazaars along the river bank, and
narrowly escaping death from a volley fired upon them by one of the
enemy’s picquets, they made their way at last to the cantonments. The
regiment in the mean while had perished. Rose and Grant were slain by
the enemy,[157] and scarcely a man escaped to tell how his comrades had
been miserably destroyed.[158]

The intelligence brought in by Pottinger from the Kohistan was not
of a nature to rouse the drooping spirits of the Envoy. Charekur had
been lost; the Goorkha regiment annihilated; and there were now large
bodies of Kohistanees and Nijrowees, having done their bloody work at
home, ready to join the insurgents at the capital. With eager anxiety
had Macnaghten been looking for the return of Sale’s brigade from
Gundamuck, and now he learnt, to his bitter disappointment, that it
had marched for Jellalabad. Still he did not despair of being able to
recall it. “We learn, to our dismay,” he wrote to Macgregor on the 17th
of November, “that you have proceeded to Jellalabad. Our situation is a
desperate one if you do not immediately return to our relief, and I beg
that you will do so without a moment’s delay. We have now been besieged
for fourteen days, and without your assistance are utterly unable to
carry on any offensive operations. You may easily make Caubul in eight
marches, and, as the Ghilzyes are here, you would not have many enemies
to contend with.”[159]

In the course of the night he received a letter from Macgregor, which
satisfied him that there was no longer any hope of receiving aid from
Sale’s brigade. He had begun to think by this time of the provisions
of the tripartite treaty, and to look for aid from the Sikhs. “We are
_in statu quo_,” he wrote to the same correspondent on the following
morning. “Our chief want is supplies. I perceive now that you could not
well have joined us. I hope you have written to Mackeson, asking him
for aid from the Sikhs under the treaty. If there is any difficulty
about the Sikhs getting through the pass, Mackeson should offer a
bribe to the Khyburees of a lakh of rupees, or more, to send them safe
passage. These are not times to stick at trifles.... It is raining
here, and the weather is very cold; but I am not sure that this is not
as bad for the enemy as for ourselves. I do not hear anything from
Ghuzni or Candahar, but I should not wonder if they were in the same
mess as ourselves. We must look for support chiefly from Peshawur.
Write to Mackeson continually, and tell him to urge government to send
as many troops into the country as speedily as possible. John Conolly
is in the Balla Hissar with his Majesty, who, as you may imagine, is
in a sad taking about all the Fussad. I am making no progress in my
negotiations with the rebels.”[160]

The abandonment of all hope of assistance from Sale’s brigade had
now given a new complexion to the aspect of affairs. The military
authorities, who had been long ripe for capitulation, now pressed the
Envoy sorely with their “distressful accounts of the state of the
troops and cattle from want of provisions,” and of the “hopelessness of
further resistance.”[161] But Macnaghten, though he saw the necessity
of weighing well the dangers that beset the force, and the means of
extricating it from its perilous position, was not a man to grasp at
the degradation of surrender whilst yet there was a hope of rescuing it
by any more honourable course. The time had come, however, for him to
declare fully his sentiments to the military commander; so, on the 18th
of November, he addressed to him a letter, in which the whole question
is thus reviewed, and which is too important in its bearings upon our
subsequent operations to warrant the omission of a line:[162]

  Caubul, _18th Nov., 1841_.


 The intelligence received last night from Captain Macgregor makes
 it necessary that we should now take our future proceedings into
 consideration. We have scarcely a hope of reinforcement from Sale’s
 brigade. I would recommend we hold on here as long as possible, and
 throughout the whole winter, if we can subsist the troops by any
 means, by making the Mahomedans and Christians live chiefly on flesh,
 and other contrivances. Here we have the essentials of wood and water
 in abundance, and I believe our position is impregnable.

 A retreat in the direction of Jellalabad would be most disastrous, and
 should be avoided, except in the last extremity; we shall be better
 able to see, eight or ten days hence, whether that extremity must be
 resorted to. In that case, we should have to sacrifice the valuable
 property of government; we should have to sacrifice his Majesty, who
 would not come away without his family; and were we to make good our
 retreat to Jellalabad, we should find no shelter for the troops (the
 cantonments being destroyed), and perhaps no provisions. I fear, too,
 that in such a retreat very few of our camp followers would survive.
 I have frequently thought of negotiation, or rather capitulation,
 for such it would be, but in the present unsettled state of affairs
 there is no authority possessing sufficient weight to protect us all
 through the country; besides, we should hardly be justified, even for
 the security of our persons and property, to abandon even one position
 in the country. Another alternative would be for us to retire to the
 Balla Hissar; but this, I also fear, would be a disastrous retreat,
 and we should have to sacrifice a vast deal of property. We probably
 should not succeed in getting in our heavy guns, and they would be
 turned with effect by the enemy against the citadel. We should neither
 have food, nor firewood to cook it; for these essentials we should be
 dependent upon sorties into the city, in which, if we were beaten, we
 should of course be ruined.

 Upon the whole, I think it best to hold on where we are as long as
 possible, in the hope that something may turn up in our favour. It is
 possible that we may receive reinforcements from Candahar. Now that
 the cold weather is coming on, the enemy will disperse to their houses
 very soon, and there will only be left the rebel chiefs and their
 immediate followers. We should not, therefore, be molested during the
 winter: and though circumstances make it likely that we should be
 attacked soon if we are to be attacked at all, a victory on our side
 might change the whole aspect of affairs.

 I was disposed to recommend that a decisive blow should be struck
 somewhere to retrieve our fortunes, and that Mahomed Khan’s fort
 should be captured. But I have since had reason to believe no solid
 advantage, such as commanding the road to the Balla Hissar, would
 result therefrom; that possibly we might not be able to hold it; and,
 in short, that the benefit of the measure would not counterbalance the
 risk attending it.

 In eight or ten days more, we shall be better able to judge whether
 there is any chance of an improvement in our position, and, if not, it
 will remain for the military authorities to decide whether it would be
 more prudent to attempt a retreat to Jellalabad, or to retire into the
 Balla Hissar. If we could only bring in sufficient provisions for the
 winter, I would on no account leave the cantonment.

  Yours, &c., &c.,


Many and anxious, by this time, had been the discussions relative to
the abandonment of the cantonment, and the concentration of the British
troops in the Balla Hissar. The measure had been recommended by the
engineer, Sturt, and others, very soon after the first outbreak of the
insurrection. The Envoy had favoured it at an earlier as he did at a
later, period of the siege; but he seems at this time to have been more
than usually alive to the difficulties of the movement. The General
had scarcely any opinion at all on the subject. But the Brigadier was
resolutely opposed to it. His arguments were not very overwhelming—but
they were overwhelmingly advanced; and he seems for some time to have
borne down the better reason of all who supported the measure. No one
in the whole force was more profoundly impressed with a conviction
of the disadvantages of the cantonment as a military position than
Brigadier Shelton himself. He has left on record, in emphatic language,
his opinions upon this point; but he could see in the extreme
insecurity of the cantonment an argument only for a discreditable
retreat. He could not see that if the extent of the cantonment-works
were such as to render their defence difficult, and external operations
on a large scale impossible, there was in this circumstance abundant
reason for the removal of the force to a position cursed with none of
these annihilating evils.

In the Balla Hissar the troops would have been free from molestation.
They would not, as in cantonments, have been harassed and dispirited by
the necessity of manning works exposed at every point to the attacks
of the enemy. They could have sallied out from such a position in
large bodies—have attacked the city and the neighbouring forts—have
obtained supplies from the surrounding country—and held their own
till the coming spring. But against all this it was alleged that the
removal of the force from the cantonment to the Balla Hissar would be
a hazardous operation—that it could not be accomplished without great
loss, including, in all probability, the entire sacrifice of the sick
and wounded. That the movement would not have been free from danger is
true. What movement could be free from danger, at such a time?—what
warlike operations ever are free from danger? But that it would have
necessarily involved the total sacrifice of the sick and wounded, is
only to be assumed upon the hypothesis, that the curse which had so
long brooded over us would still have worked for our own undoing,
and that, therefore, no precautions would have been taken to protect

Other arguments against the movement were also adduced. It was said
that there was a scarcity of firewood in the Balla Hissar; and that
there was no forage for the horses. But to this it was replied that
there was a sufficiency of wood for purposes of cooking, that more
might be obtained by sallies into the city, and that the improved
shelter and increased comforts of the troops in the Balla Hissar would,
under the most unfavourable circumstances, compensate for the want of
firing. With regard to the forage, it was replied, that, if the horses
could not be fed, they might be shot; and that there was little need
for the employment of cavalry in such a position as the Balla Hissar.

One other argument, brought forward perhaps to give respectability to
the whole, was urged by Shelton and his supporters. It was said that
the abandonment of the cantonments would have been an acknowledgment of
defeat, and a triumph to our enemies. It is enough to say of this, that
it was urged by men who were clamorous for an abandonment, not of one
position, but of all our positions in Afghanistan, and a precipitate
retreat from the country. In the one case there might have been a
partial triumph; in the other there must have been a complete one.

And so, owing mainly to the pertinacity of Brigadier Shelton, the only
measure which could have saved the British force from destruction, and
the British name from degradation, was rejected in this conjuncture.
The troops remained in cantonments, threatened by the enemy and
disheartened by the ominous gloom of their own officers, only to
sustain another and more crushing defeat; and then to sink into a state
of utter inactivity and prostration, whilst the leaders of the enemy
were being brought over to consent to terms of capitulation, humbling
indeed to the pride of the proudest and most successful nation of the

       *       *       *       *       *

Whilst the feebleness of the military commanders in cantonments
had thus been playing away stake after stake, until every hope of
redemption was past, the King, shut up in the Balla Hissar, had been
watching the progress of events with the profoundest anxiety and alarm.
His bearing was that of a man heartless and hopeless under a pressure
of unanticipated misfortunes; but prostrate and imbecile as he was
in this conjuncture, he could see plainly enough the prostration and
imbecility of the British chiefs. When the commissariat fort fell into
the hands of the insurgents, the great calamity rose up suddenly before
the inmates of the Balla Hissar. From the summit of the palace the
enemy might be seen throwing the plunder over the walls of the fort,
to be carried off by their companions below. There was a general rush
upwards to this commanding position to witness the humiliating sight.
The King beheld it with deep emotion, and, painfully agitated, turned
to the Wuzeer and said, “Surely the English are mad.”[164]

Dejected as he was before, this crowning calamity sunk him into a state
of still deeper dejection. Every report of the designs of the enemy,
however incredible, filled him with new terror. It was said that the
insurgents were running a mine from the Shor Bazaar under the very
walls of the palace. Dreading an immediate explosion, he quitted his
apartments, and took up his residence at the gate of the Harem, where,
seated at a window commanding an extensive view of the cantonments and
the surrounding country, he traced, through a telescope, the progress
of the exciting events passing below. Day after day he sate at the same
window, looking down, from morning to evening prayer, upon a scene
which seldom yielded aught to comfort or reassure him. Shah Soojah
had never been a courageous man; but he had always been a very proud
one. That now, enfeebled and desponding, he should have clung to any
support, turned anywhere for assistance, was not strange; but when they
saw the pompous and arrogant monarch now so humbled and obsequious,
laying aside all the environments of royalty, to which before he had
clung with such pitiful tenacity, the English officers about him felt
that the shock must have been great indeed so to revolutionise his
whole nature. He made even the British subalterns sit beside him on
chairs; conversed familiarly with them; enquired into their wants, and
condescended to supply them. “If,” said one who had good opportunities
of narrowly watching the behaviour of the King at this time, “he is
acting a part, he certainly performs it admirably!”

Other reports soon came in from the city, or started up in the Balla
Hissar itself, still more to terrify the King. It was alleged that the
Arabs in the fort were about to rise up in a body, to massacre the
troops and to give the place over to the rebels. The King, who never
withheld his belief from any story however improbable, seized the chief
of the Arab tribe, and ordered that no women or children should be
suffered to leave the fort. But women and children of all kinds were
now clamouring for egress. Collecting in crowds before the Wuzeer’s
house, they importuned him, with loud lamentations, to suffer them
to depart. The Wuzeer appealed to the King, who strictly prohibiting
the egress of any Arab families, suffered more than seven hundred
other women and children to pass out of the fort. The English officers
thought, that if all the Arabs and Afghans had been removed from the
fort, and all the provisions secured for the use of the fighting men,
the whole force might have been saved.

The stores in the Balla Hissar had been indented upon for the use of
the cantonment force, and the available supplies having been thus
reduced, the troops were put upon half rations. The departure, however,
of Brigadier Shelton and his escort had diminished the number of the
fighting men, and now, under Major Ewart, they consisted of little
more than the 54th N. I., a portion of the Horse Artillery troop under
Captain Nicoll, and some details of irregular troops. At the points
most exposed to attack the components of the little garrison were
posted, and, kept always on the alert by reports of some threatened
movement of the enemy, were always ready to give them a warm reception.

The affair of the 13th of November struck a gleam of hope into the
garrison of the Balla Hissar. It seemed as though new courage had
been infused into the cantonment force; and, as though to second the
invigorated efforts of their comrades, the artillerymen in the citadel
now began to ply their batteries with increased activity. They shelled
the city, and attempted to fire it with carcases; but the houses were
not of a construction to be easily ignited, and the shelling produced
little effect. The residence of Ameen-oollah Khan, in the city, was to
be seen from the batteries; and the gunners, knowing the old man to
be one of our deadliest enemies, singled it out as a mark, and poured
their iron rain upon it. But the chief removed himself and his family
to another house; and the only slaughter was among the horses.

A crisis was now at hand in the fate of the cantonment force. The
23rd of November was one of the most eventful and the most disastrous
in the history of the insurrection. On that day a battle was fought
which ended in the disgraceful and calamitous defeat of the British
troops. The enemy had been for some time making their appearance on
the Beh-meru hill, and had repeatedly descended into the village,
whence the British commissariat officers had been drawing supplies of
grain. Irritated by the assistance which the villagers had rendered
us, the insurgents had destroyed the houses, pillaged the inhabitants,
and attacked our commissariat people when getting in their supplies.
This was not to be endured. Again the Envoy counselled the despatch
of a strong force to occupy the Beh-meru hill, and to dislodge the
enemy from a position in which they were able to work us such grievous
annoyance. Again the Brigadier objected. Urging that the troops were
exhausted and dispirited by constant harassing duty on the ramparts,
that they had been living upon half-rations of parched wheat, and
were therefore physically as well as morally enfeebled, he protested
against a movement which he said would have the effect of increasing
the number of wounded and sick, without leading to any solid advantage.
But these objections were overruled. On the 22nd a weak detachment had
been sent out, under Major Swayne, but it had only added another to
our list of failures. It was plain that something more must be done.
A council of war was held that evening at the General’s quarters,
and it was determined, after much earnest discussion, on the special
recommendation of the Envoy, that a strong force should be sent out
before daybreak on the following morning, to occupy the Beh-meru
hills. Shelton recommended that at the same time an attack should
be made on the village. It was urged that the enemy would abandon
the village as soon as our troops occupied the hill. The Brigadier
declared that the occupation of the hill would only make the enemy hold
the village with greater pertinacity. Shelton’s advice, however, was
overruled. The force went out before daybreak,[165] took possession
of the hill, and posted themselves on the north-eastern extremity,
which overhung the village. With a fatuity only to be accounted for
by the belief that the curse of God was upon those unhappy people,
they had taken out a single gun. This gun was now placed in a position
commanding an enclosure of the village, where the watch-fires gave
out their bright tokens that numbers of the enemy were assembled. A
shower of grape was presently poured in upon the bivouac. Starting up
in confusion, the enemy gave back a volley from their jezails, but,
abandoning the open space, sought the shelter of the houses and towers,
and there exhausted their ammunition in a vain attempt to respond to
our grape and musketry. Day dawned, and it was plain that the enemy
were abandoning the village. A few, however, still remained; and it
was determined to carry the place by assault. A storming party was
told off, under Major Swayne; but the village was not carried. The
detachment seems to have gone down only to be fired at, and, after half
an hour of inactivity, was recalled by the Brigadier.

The movement of the British troops, even in the dim twilight of the
early morning, had been observed from the city; and soon large bodies
of the enemy were moving across the plain. Horsemen and footmen
streamed out in thousands to give the Feringhees battle. The horsemen
stretched across the plain; the footmen covered an opposite hill, and
some reoccupied the village.

The fire from the enemy’s hill, which was separated from that on which
our own troops were posted only by a narrow gorge, soon became hot
and galling. Leaving five companies at the extremity of the hill,
immediately above the village, Shelton took the remainder of his force,
with the one gun, over the gorge, to a position near the brow of that
hill, on which the enemy were assembling in the greatest numbers.
Here he formed his infantry into two squares, and massed his cavalry
immediately in their rear. The one gun was nobly worked, and for a
time, with terrible effect, told upon the Afghan multitudes, who had
only a matchlock fire to give back in return. But thus nobly worked,
round after round poured in as quickly as the piece could be loaded,
it soon became unserviceable. The vent was so heated by the incessant
firing, that the gunners were no longer able to serve it. Ammunition,
too, was becoming scarce. What would not those resolute artillerymen
have given for another gun? The firing ceased; and the British
musketeers were then left to do their work alone. Little could they
do, at such a time, against the far-reaching Afghan matchlocks. The
enemy poured a destructive fire into our squares, but the muskets of
our infantry could not reach the assailants. The two forces were at a
distance from each other, which gave all the advantage to the Afghans,
who shot down our men with ease, and laughed at the musket-balls, which
never reached their position.

The nature of the country was altogether unfavourable to the British
troops. Between them and the brow of the hill there was some rising
ground, which prevented Shelton from seeing the movements of the enemy
on the side of the hill. But from the cantonment could be seen a party
of Afghans crawling from the gorge up the hill-side, and rushing with
sudden fury upon our infantry masses. The unexpected attack seems to
have struck a panic into the heart of our troops, who turned and fled
along the ridge like sheep. Shelton, who ever in the midst of danger
stood with iron courage exposed to the thickest fire of the enemy,
vainly called upon his men to charge. Not a man brought down his
bayonet to the position which the English soldier burns to assume when
he sees the enemy before him. The Afghans had planted a standard upon
the hill, only some thirty yards from the British squares; and now an
officer proclaimed a reward, equal in the eyes of the common Sepoy to
a year’s pay, to any one who would advance and take it. But not a man
responded to the appeal. A great fear was upon them all. The officers
stood up like brave men; and hurled stones at the advancing enemy.[166]
But nothing seemed to infuse courage into our panic-struck troops. The
enemy, emboldened by success, advanced in larger numbers, and rushed
upon our single gun. Our cavalry, called upon to charge, refused to
follow their officers. The artillerymen stood to their gun; two of them
fell dead beside it; a third was desperately wounded; a fourth, when
the enemy rushed upon it, clung to the carriage between the wheels, and
miraculously escaped destruction. There, too, fell Lieutenant Laing,
than whom there was not a braver soul in the field on that fatal day,
waving his sword over the gun, cheering the men who were doing their
duty, and calling on the rest to follow their example. But the heroic
courage of the officers was thrown away upon the men. The gun was lost,
and our disheartened regiments were in confused and disastrous flight.

All, however, was not then lost. Shelton ordered the halt to be
sounded. The flying regiments stopped and re-formed; then turning
round, faced the enemy with a shout, and seemed ready to renew the
conflict. But the Ghazees now shrunk from the British bayonets. They
were few in numbers; and they saw, too, a party of Anderson’s Horse
coming to the charge. Taking the horses and limber with them, they
abandoned the gun, and fled.

In the meanwhile the enemy’s cavalry on the plain had been thrown into
confusion by the fall of their leader—Abdoollah Khan, Achetzkye. How
he fell, or at what moment, is not precisely known. It was generally
believed that he was wounded by a shot from our gun—but there was a
whisper, of doubtful credibility, to the effect that he had been struck
down by the jezail of one of his own countrymen, who is said to have
claimed a reward for the act. Be the history of his fall what it may,
it discouraged and alarmed the Afghan cavalry on the plain. Seeing
their leader carried from the field, they fled in confusion towards
the city. Ignorant of the cause of their flight, the infantry began
to follow them; and the excited lookers-on in cantonments now thought
the day was ours. Macnaghten and Elphinstone were standing together
on the ramparts watching the enemy as they streamed across the plain.
The opportunity seemed a great one. To have sent out of cantonments a
body of troops to pursue the flying enemy, and render their confusion
complete, would have been to have secured a victory. The Envoy urged it
upon the General; but the General said it was a wild scheme, and weakly
negatived the worthy proposal.

At this moment, when the enemy were in flight, and our gun had been
recaptured, Shelton might have brought back his force with credit to
cantonments. But the opportunity was lost. The enemy returned to the
field, recruited by new hordes whom they met emerging from the city;
and soon the swelling multitude poured itself upon our battalions. The
General had sent out new supplies of ammunition, with another limber
and horses for the gun; and it was soon again in full operation,
playing with murderous effect upon the masses of the enemy. But again
the British muskets were found no match for the Afghan jezails. There
were truer eyes and steadier hands, too, in the ranks of the enemy than
in our own; and now with unerring aim the Afghan marksmen mowed down
our men like grass. The artillery men were falling fast at their gun;
and Shelton, thinking it insecure, withdrew it to a safer position.
Emboldened by this, the enemy continued the attack with increased
vigour; and again the British troops began to cower beneath the fire of
their assailants.

For now was seen again that spectacle which had before struck terror
into our ranks and scattered our fighting men like sheep. A party of
the enemy, headed by a band of furious Ghazees, emerged from the gorge,
and crawling up the hill suddenly burst upon our wavering battalions.
The British troops had been losing heart before this; and now it needed
little to extinguish the last remaining spark of courage that warmed
them. At this inauspicious moment, Shelton, who had been ever in the
thickest of the fire, and who escaped by very miracle the balls which
flew about the one-armed veteran, and struck him five times with no
effect, fell back a few paces to order some more men to the front.
Seeing the back of their commander turned towards the enemy, our front
rank men gave way; and, in a minute, infantry and cavalry were flying
precipitately down the slope of the hill. The Afghan horse, seizing the
opportunity, dashed upon our retreating force; and presently friend
and foe were mixed up in inextricable confusion. The artillerymen
alone were true to themselves and their country. Thinking only of the
safety of their gun, they dashed down the steep descent and drove into
the very midst of the Afghan horsemen. But they could not resist the
multitudes that closed around them; and the gun, so nobly served and so
nobly protected, fell a second time into the hands of the enemy.

The rout of the British force was complete.[167] In one confused mass
of infantry and cavalry—of European and native soldiers—they fled
to the cantonment walls. Elphinstone, who had watched the conflict
from the ramparts, went out, infirm as he was, and strove, with all
the energy of which, in his enfeebled state, he was master, to rally
the fugitives. But they had lost themselves past recovery; they had
forgotten that they were British soldiers. The whole force was now at
the mercy of the Afghans. Had they swept on, the cantonments must have
fallen before them. The enemy were so mixed up with our men, that the
guns on the ramparts could not open upon them without destroying our
retreating battalions. But the insurgents made no effort to follow up
the advantage they had gained. One of the chiefs, Osman Khan, Barukzye,
suddenly drew off his men,[168] and, in a short time, the whole force,
after savagely mutilating the corpses of our slain, had withdrawn, with
shouts of exultation to the city.

“This,” says Brigadier Shelton, in his narrative of the events,
in which he bore so conspicuous a part, “concluded all exterior
operations.”[169] Nothing more was to be done by fighting. A general
gloom hung over the cantonment. The most sanguine now began to despond.
The troops had not only lost all heart—they had lost all discipline.
The link which bound them to their officers seemed to be broken. The
privations to which they were exposed were great. Cold, hunger, and
fatigue pressed upon them; and they had not strength to bear up against
such a burden of woe. It was plain that no use could be made in the
field of a force so feeble and dispirited. The time for action had
passed. And so, when, on the day after this disastrous affair on the
Beh-meru hill, the enemy began to destroy the bridge which General
Elphinstone, a short time before, had thrown over the Caubul River,
the military chiefs looked idly on, whilst this outrage was being
perpetrated almost within musket-shot of our position.

There were only two courses now open to the doomed force; and the
political and military chiefs began again to take counsel together.
The question of concentration in the Balla Hissar was first revived
and discussed between them. John Conolly, at the instance of the King,
wrote urgently to Macnaghten, recommending the measure as the only one
that could now secure the safety and the honour of the British troops.
But the military authorities had set their faces against it, and the
Envoy yielded his assent to their opinions against his own better
judgment. After a personal interview, on the morning of the 24th of
November, at which the subject had been discussed between them, General
Elphinstone addressed the following letter to the Envoy, seeking
Macnaghten’s opinion and stating his own:

  _24th Nov., 1841._


 With reference to our conversation this morning, I request you will
 let me know what are your views with respect to moving into the Balla
 Hissar as proposed to you, admitting the possibility of our holding
 out there. Our getting into it with our ammunition and numerous
 sick and wounded, amounting to near 700, would be attended with the
 greatest difficulty, if not be altogether impossible. The enemy, no
 doubt, in the greatest force would oppose us, which would oblige us to
 cover the operation with the greatest part of our troops, and thereby
 leave the cantonment without sufficient defence.

 I am the more confirmed in my opinion of the difficulty of the
 operation from the harassed and dispirited state of our troops, now
 so much reduced in numbers, and failure would tend to our certain
 destruction. With our means, it would take some days to remove the
 ammunition and stores, during which the enemy would be collecting
 a great number around us; our wounded would be increased, with
 diminished means of conveying them.

 Would the Balla Hissar hold us with our followers, even after the
 sacrifice of our horses and cattle? I am told that water is already
 selling there at a high price, even with the present small garrison.
 We have, at best, barely twenty days’ supplies, which, even if we
 could remove, we have little prospect of adding to at the Balla
 Hissar; a retreat from thence would be worse than from our present
 position, for after abandoning our horses and means of transport, our
 sick, wounded, and stores, would have to be left behind at the mercy
 of the enemy.

 I have conferred with Brigadier Shelton, the second in command, and he
 concurs with me in the above opinion.

  Yours, &c.,

To this letter the Envoy replied:


 In reply to your note just received, I beg to state my opinion that
 the move into the Balla Hissar would be attended with the greatest
 difficulty, and I do not see what advantage could accrue therefrom,
 although the disadvantages, as pointed out by you, are apparent in the
 event of our ultimate retreat. As to the mere question of room for
 our troops and followers, I do not imagine that we should feel much
 difficulty on that account.

  Yours, &c., &c.,
  W. H. MACNAGHTEN.[171]

The question of a movement into the Balla Hissar having been thus
disposed of for the present, the Envoy turned his thoughts towards
that other course, which had been so long pressed upon him by the
military chief. He began to think of negotiating with the enemy. But
that he might not, save in the last extremity, enter upon a line
of conduct against which the manliness of his nature revolted, he
addressed a letter to the General, asking, in specific terms, whether
he considered it possible any longer to maintain his position in the
country. To this letter Elphinstone replied:

  _Caubul, 24th Nov., 1841._


 I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of this
 day’s date, calling for my opinion as to whether, in a military point
 of view, it is feasible any longer to maintain our position in this

 In reply, I beg to state, that after having held our position here
 for upwards of three weeks in a state of siege, from the want of
 provisions and forage, the reduced state of our troops, the large
 number of wounded and sick, the difficulty of defending the extensive
 and ill situated cantonment we occupy, the near approach of winter,
 our communications cut off, no prospect of relief, and the whole
 country in arms against us, I am of opinion 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.


Upon the receipt of this letter the Envoy ceased to hesitate. The
enemy had made pacific overtures to him, and he now believed that
it was no longer his duty to refuse to listen to them. So he sent
a message to the insurgent chiefs, intimating his willingness to
receive a deputation from them, and to discuss the preliminaries of
a treaty. The invitation was accepted. On the following day, Sultan
Mahomed Khan, Barukzye, and Meerza Ahmed Ali, Kuzzilbash, made their
appearance at the bridge. Nothing could have been more unassuming than
the ambassadorial cortège. The deputies rode sorry horses, and were
attended only by their grooms. Captain Lawrence and Captain Trevor
were sent out to meet them. The conference lasted two hours. Sultan
Mahomed Khan, whose tone was insolent and uncompromising, demanded
terms such as the English officers could not listen to without
disgrace. The deputies then asked to see Macnaghten, and the party
moved to cantonments. In the guard-room at one of the gateways the
Envoy received the Afghan ambassadors. The discussion was long and
animated. Sultan Mahomed, still arrogant and offensive, trode down, as
with the heel of the conqueror, all the pretensions of his opponents;
and declared that, as the Afghans had beaten us in battle, they had a
right to dictate terms of capitulation. He demanded that the British
should surrender at discretion, giving themselves up with all their
arms, ammunition, and treasure, as prisoners of war. Macnaghten was not
a man to submit to this dictation. The terms were resolutely rejected.
“We shall meet, then,” said Sultan Mahomed, “on the field of battle.”
“At all events,” replied Macnaghten, “we shall meet at the day of
judgment.” And so the conference was brought to an end.

Then the Envoy sent them in writing a statement of the only terms on
which he was prepared to treat. “I proposed to them,” he subsequently
recorded, “the only terms which, in my opinion, could be accepted with
honour; but the temper of the rebels may best be understood when I
mention that they returned me a letter of defiance the next morning, to
the effect that unless I consented to surrender our arms and abandon
his Majesty to his fate, we must prepare for immediate hostilities. To
this I replied, that we preferred death to dishonour, and that it would
remain with a higher power to decide between us.”[173]

Thus ended the first attempt to secure, by negotiation with the
enemy, the safety of our discomfited troops. Whilst this movement
was in progress a strange sight might have been seen on the ramparts
of the British cantonment. Over those low walls, misnamed defences,
the European soldiers were conversing with their Afghan enemies. The
Afghans, armed to the teeth, came clustering round the cantonments;
many of our soldiers went out unarmed amongst them, and were to be seen
familiarly shaking hands with those whom a day before they had met on
the field of battle. The Afghans were giving vegetables[174] to the men
of the 44th Regiment, and declaring that everything had been amicably
settled between the two contending hosts.


[November—December: 1841.]

 Progress of Negotiation—Arrival of Mahomed Akbar Khan—His
 Character—Negotiations continued—Deaths of Meer Musjedee and
 Abdoollah Khan—Revival of Negotiations—The Draft Treaty.

A new actor now appeared upon the stage. The advent of Mahomed Akbar
Khan had been for some time expected. He had arrived from Toorkistan
early in October, and was known to have been hovering about Bameean,
and seemingly watching the progress of events in the neighbourhood of
the Afghan capital. How far he may have sown the seeds of insurrection
among the Ghilzyes is not very clearly known, but it is probable that
the influence he exercised at that time was rather of a passive than
of an active kind. That his presence on the borders of Afghanistan
encouraged his countrymen in their career of hostility is not to
be doubted; but there is little or no evidence to connect him more
palpably with the earlier movements of the insurrectionary war.
Whatever may have been his participation in the events of October
and November, his appearance at the capital was now hailed by the
insurgents with every demonstration of delight. Salutes were fired
in honour of his arrival, and the chiefs waited upon him as upon one
henceforth to be recognised as their leader. He was known to be a man
of high courage and energy; he had approved himself a good soldier in
the field; and he was the favourite son of the old Barukzye ruler, who
a year before had been condemned to pine away the remainder of his
life a captive in the provinces of Hindostan.

The arrival of the Sirdar was a great event. Both parties looked
upon it as one that must exercise a mighty influence over the future
destinies of the war. The insurgents, wanting a leader, saw in the
son of Dost Mahomed one around whom they could rally, with confidence
alike in his sincerity and his courage. He had the wrongs of an injured
family to redress. He had a kingdom to regain. He had been an outcast
and a fugitive during two years of suffering and danger, because it had
pleased the British government to invade his father’s dominions and
to expel the _de facto_ rulers of the country; and now he saw opening
out before him a prospect of recovering the lost supremacy of the
Barukzyes, and restoring his exiled father to the Balla Hissar. All the
circumstances of his past life and his present position were such as to
secure his loyalty to the national cause. His inner qualities, no less
than his outer environments, were of a class to rivet his hostility to
the British. He was a man of an eager, impetuous nature; susceptible
of good and of bad impulses, but seldom otherwise than earnest and
impulsive. His education had been neglected; in his youth he had been
unrestrained, and now self-control—a virtue rarely exercised by
an Afghan—was wholly foreign to the character of the man. He was,
indeed, peculiarly demonstrative, and sudden in his demonstrations,
passing rapidly from one mood to another—blown about by violent gusts
of feeling, bitterly repenting to-day the excesses of yesterday,
and rushing into new excesses to-morrow. His was one of those fiery
temperaments—those bold, dashing characters—which, in times of
popular commotion, ever place their possessor in the front rank. But
in seasons of repose he was one of the most joyous and light-hearted
of men; no man loved a joke better; no man laughed more heartily, or
seemed to look more cheerfully on the sunny side of life. They, who
knew him before the British trode down the Barukzyes, spoke of him as
a good-tempered, well-meaning young man, and little thought, when his
large dark eyes were glowing with child-like eagerness, to have the
full dimensions of his long spear introduced into his portrait; or his
solid frame was shaking with laughter at some joke passed upon his
uncomely _Meerza_, that he would soon become the chief actor in one
of the bloodiest tragedies that has ever disgraced the history of the

Whilst the Afghans, with noisy demonstrations of delight, were
welcoming the appearance of Akbar Khan, the British were slow to
believe that his advent would deepen the embarrassments of their
position. Early in November, Mohun Lal had suggested to Macnaghten the
expediency of endeavouring to corrupt the Sirdar before his advance
upon the capital; but the Envoy had received slightingly the proposal,
and no overtures had been made to the son of Dost Mahomed before his
arrival at the capital. It was believed that there was sufficient
security for his forbearance in the fact that so many members of his
family were prisoners in our hands; and in the game of negotiation,
which was now to be carried on, it was calculated that the intervention
of the Sirdar would facilitate rather than encumber our arrangements
for the honourable evacuation of Afghanistan, and our safe return to
the provinces which, in an evil hour, we had been so unhappily tempted
to quit.

Akbar Khan appeared at Caubul; but he did not at once assume the
direction of affairs. The Newab Mahomed Zemaun Khan, a cousin of the
late Caubul chief, had been proclaimed King by the insurgents. All
orders were sent forth in his name; and the “fatiha” was read for
him in the mosques. He was a man of a humane and honourable nature,
polished manners, and affable address. His nephew, Osman Khan, who
is described by the Envoy as “the most moderate and sensible man” of
the insurgent party, was now employed to negotiate with the British
minister, and several times passed, on this errand, between the
cantonment and the city. But the terms still dictated by the enemy
were such as Macnaghten could not honourably accept. Day followed day;
and nothing effectual was done either in council or on the field. The
enemy appeared on the hills commanding the cantonments and in the
village of Beh-meru, now deserted and destroyed; and the guns in the
British cantonments were playing all day long upon these points. But
such distant interchanges produced no result; and in the meanwhile our
provisions were rapidly dwindling down. Again starvation stared the
garrison in the face. With laudable zeal and activity the commissariat
officers exerted themselves to obtain grain from the surrounding
country; but with equal zeal and activity the enemy were striving to
frustrate their efforts. Akbar Khan himself had not been many days at
Caubul before he began to see that to defeat our commissariat officers
was to overcome our unhappy force. Threatening death to all who might
be detected in supplying our troops with any description of food, he
soon baffled the best efforts of Boyd and Johnson, and again brought
the question of capitulation to a simple question of supplies.

But still sanguine and confident, whilst the clouds were gathering
more and more thickly around him, Macnaghten saw the skies brightening
over-head, and never doubted that before long the storm would roll
itself away. The letters which he wrote at this time present a
remarkable contrast to those written by General Elphinstone. Whilst the
General was looking around him everywhere for whatever could be made to
swell the mountain of difficulty and danger that he kept so steadily
before him, the Envoy was constantly arraying in the foreground every
circumstance that could in any way contribute towards the chance of
ultimate success. Whilst the General was discovering that “our position
was becoming more and more critical,” the Envoy was perceiving that
“our prospects were brightening,” and talking about “defying the whole
of Afghanistan.” On the 28th of November, General Elphinstone wrote to
Sir William Macnaghten, commenting on the wants and sufferings of the
troops, and asking what effect the death of Abdoollah Khan would have
upon their prospects: “Between ourselves,” he said, in conclusion, “I
see nothing we can do but by negotiation, if such be offered, and which
for the many difficulties we are surrounded with, I hope may be the

Very different from the tone of this desponding letter was the spirit
which at this time animated the communications of the Envoy to Mohun
Lal. But there are other points besides the sanguine temperament
of Macnaghten which his letters to the Moonshee tend painfully to
illustrate: “The intelligence you have sent me is very encouraging,”
he wrote on the 26th of November, “and I hope the _nifac_ among the
rebels will increase. Meer Musjedee’s death will probably cause the
dispersion of the rebels who have come from Nijrow. Humza Khan never
sent any relatives of the Ghilzye chiefs to me. Tell everybody that I
have no faith in Sultan Mahomed Khan, and that I only wished to try the
sincerity of his employers.” And again, on the 29th, he wrote, “We are
well off for everything but supplies, and, _Inshalla_, we shall not
be badly off for them.... The enemy appeared to-day in considerable
numbers, but they did nothing, and I am sure they will never venture
to attack our cantonment. If we had only provisions, which, with due
exertions ought to be obtained, we should be able to defy the whole of
Afghanistan for any period. I am very sorry that the deputation from
Humza did not make their appearance last night, and I am anxiously
expecting accounts from you showing why they did not do so.” On the
following day the Envoy added a postscript to this letter, saying, “Our
prospects are, I think, brightening, and if you can assist us in the
way of supplies, we have nothing to fear.... I would give any money to
Humza and the Ghilzyes if I had any security that they would be our
friends, give us supplies, and keep open the communications.”

It will be gathered from these passages, as from others before quoted,
that Macnaghten, employing Mohun Lal as his agent, was endeavouring
to secure the assistance of different hostile tribes by bribing them
with money and with promises. He knew that there is no stronger
passion than avarice in an Afghan’s breast. But he did not turn his
knowledge to profitable account. Had it been possible to deal with the
Afghans as one united body, and to have corrupted them, _en masse_,
with a few lakhs of rupees, he might have bought the safety of the
force. But to bribe one party was to raise the hopes of another; and
the representative of each conflicting clan believed that the amount
of money he would receive would be measured by the force of his
antagonism. As soon, therefore, as it was known that the money-bags
of the Feringhees were being opened, and that indulgences were being
bought, every one, eager to clutch the largest possible amount of
purchase-money, increased the pressure of his hostility and rose in
his demands. And thus the very measures by which Macnaghten sought to
extricate himself from his difficulties, only made them gather more
menacingly around him.

It will be gathered also from these letters, that, before the end of
November, Abdoollah Khan and Meer Musjedee had both been removed by
death, from the scene of their recent triumphs. General Elphinstone
speaks of the death of the former; Sir William Macnaghten of the
death of the latter. In the action of the 23rd of November, Abdoollah
Khan had been carried wounded from the field of battle; but whether a
shrapnel shot from Shelton’s one gun, or a ball from an Afghan jezail,
struck down the truculent chief, is a point of history which must ever
remain, as now, enveloped in obscurity and doubt. The story runs, that
one of the men who had been set upon the track of the doomed chiefs,
declared that he shot down his victim from behind a wall; and promised
that poison should complete the work which the bullet had but partially
effected. Abdoollah Khan died before a week had expired;[175] and it
is said that Abdool Aziz claimed the price of blood. But Mohun Lal did
not feel assured that either the traitorous bullet or the poison of the
claimant had done the work of death; and the reward was refused on the
plea that it had been offered for the heads of the chiefs, and the head
of Abdoollah Khan had not been brought to him.

How Meer Musjedee died is not very clearly known.[176] His
disappearance from the scene on which he had acted so conspicuous a
part, was sudden and unexpected. A man named Mahomed Oollah swore that
he had suffocated the chief in his sleep, and claimed the reward of his
service. But the reward, it is said, was refused upon the same plea
as was urged in the other case. The assassins, disappointed of their
blood-money, were not likely to undertake any future service of the
same hazardous kind, or to maintain a very discreet silence about the
past. If they were employed upon such service, it is strange that their
silence was not secured by a scrupulous fulfilment of the engagement
by which their suborners had placed their own credit and safety in
their hands. It was a perilous game, indeed, to invite disclosures
by exciting the anger and hostility of the agents employed in this
miserable work.

There is much obscurity still enveloping all this portion of the
history of the war in Afghanistan. It is certain that at the end of
November, Meer Musjedee and Abdoollah Khan died under circumstances
which have been regarded, and not unreasonably, as suspicious. It is
scarcely less certain that Lieutenant John Conolly, the cousin and
assistant of the Envoy, instigated Mohun Lal to offer rewards for
the heads of certain of the insurgent chiefs, and that Meer Musjedee
and Abdoollah Khan were especially marked as the first victims. John
Conolly was at this time with Shah Soojah in the Balla Hissar, and
Mohun Lal was in the house of the Kuzzilbash chief. The Envoy was in
the cantonments. To what extent John Conolly acted under Macnaghten’s
instructions—whether he acted on his own authority, or was directed by
Shah Soojah, is not very clearly known. That Conolly was in constant
communication with the Envoy we have the authority of the latter for
believing. “Throughout the rebellion,” he wrote, in his official
report, “I was in constant communication with the Shah through my
assistant, Lieutenant J. B. Conolly, who was in attendance on his
Majesty in the Balla Hissar.” It has been questioned, therefore,
whether Conolly, being at this time in constant communication with
the Envoy, was likely, in a matter of so much responsibility, to have
acted without instructions from his chief. But, on the other hand, we
have Macnaghten’s specific declaration that it was never his object
to encourage the assassination of the insurgents: “I am sorry,” he
wrote on the 1st of December to Mohun Lal, “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.”[177] In addition to this
written declaration, we have the statement of Captain Skinner, to the
effect that, when at a subsequent period the murder of Ameen-oollah was
suggested to him by Akbar Khan, the Envoy shrank with abhorrence and
disgust from the proposal, “assuring the ambassadors that, as a British
functionary, nothing would induce him to pay a price for blood.”[178]

Against the specific written declaration of the Envoy himself that
it was never his object to encourage assassination, coupled with the
evidence of Captain Skinner, to the effect that he revolted at the
very suggestion, there is nothing but bare presumption to be opposed.
If presumption is to carry weight with it, in so grave a discussion as
this, it may fairly be presumed that a man of a nature so humane, and
of instincts so honourable, would not have encouraged or sanctioned
the foul trade of secret murder, and peremptorily denied his approval
of measures which he had himself originated or supported. But if he
had been utterly destitute both of humanity and truth, it would still
be incredible that, having encouraged the assassination of the chiefs,
he should have boldly denied it to the very man whom, directly or
indirectly, he had employed to hire the assassins.

On a question so grave and solemn as this, it is to be lamented that
the judgment of the historian, after all conflicting evidence has been
weighed and sifted, should be merely of an inferential character.
The inference is, that whilst not wholly ignorant of the offers of
head-money, which John Conolly, living with, and probably acting under
the directions of Shah Soojah, was putting forth, through the agency of
Mohun Lal, the Envoy neither suggested, nor actively encouraged, these
“bloody instructions,” on which such severe comments have been passed.
It has been seen that he was prepared to offer rewards in the name of
the King, for the apprehension of the principal rebels; and in the heat
and excitement of active warfare, it is hardly probable that, if these
men had been apprehended, their offences would have been subjected to a
fair and impartial judicial inquiry. Macnaghten, indeed, stated that he
would recommend his Majesty to “execute them.” Such passive complicity
as this, when all the circumstances by which Macnaghten was environed
are fairly estimated, cannot be severely censured. We can only arrive
at a just decision, in a case of so unprecedented a character as
this, by weighing well all the difficulties which surrounded, all the
responsibilities that weighed upon, and all the temptations that beset
the Envoy. If so surrounded, so weighed upon, so beset, he did not
actively interfere to arrest the questionable measures of others, which
seemed to offer some means of escape from the perils which hemmed in
the British army—an army fearfully sacrificed by the feebleness of
the military chiefs—I confess that I cannot see that he yielded more
readily to temptation than any other man of high honour would have
done, when begirt with such fiery trial.

But it is a relief to turn aside from the consideration of such a
question, even to the record of the imbecility of our military leaders
and the sufferings of our unhappy troops.—On the 1st of December
there were supplies for barely eight days’ consumption in store. The
camp-followers were receiving half a pound of barley a day. The cattle
were without provender. It was necessary to keep them from absolute
starvation by supplying them with the twigs, the lighter branches,
and the bark of trees. Some small quantities of wheat were taken from
the troops to feed the cattle used in the guns. In this conjuncture,
Elphinstone, who met every difficulty more than half way, and who
was not likely, therefore, to be silent at such a time as this,
wrote on the 1st of November, to the Envoy, saying that there was no
Boosa (bran), for the cattle, and that they had been obliged to give
the mountain-train yaboos some wheat to keep them alive. “I hope,
therefore,” he added, “your negotiation may prosper, as circumstances
are becoming extremely critical; little has been done in the way of
purchase this morning. I don’t wish to croak, but think it right that
you should be kept constantly informed of the real state of things.
Sixty-five maunds is all that has been got in to-day; twelve maunds

On the same day, Captain Johnson impressed upon the Envoy that there
was no time to be lost—that if a retreat on Jellalabad were to be
determined upon, it should be determined upon at once, as it would be
necessary to take provisions for five days with the retreating force.
The Envoy assented to this; but, ever eager to clutch at any hope,
however slender, of deferring the dreadful day of surrender, he added,
“Let us wait two days longer—something may turn up.”

The two days passed, and nothing turned up. So the military authorities
continued to press upon the Envoy, with oft-repeated urgent
recommendations, for a speedy conclusion of a treaty with the enemy,
enabling the British troops in safety to evacuate the country. But
still the Envoy clung to the hope that something might be evolved in
our favour; and delayed, in spite of their importunities from day to
day, the dreadful hour of surrender. The General knew that his troops
were not to be trusted. The Envoy knew this equally well; but, more
jealous of the honour of his country, more hopeful and more courageous,
he was unwilling to fling away a single chance which the wheel of time
might throw up in his favour. In that great chapter of accidents,
however, to which he so bravely turned, were written down only further
disasters and degradations. On the 5th of December, the enemy, in open
day, burnt the bridge which the English had thrown over the Caubul
River, a quarter a mile from the cantonments. On the day after the
calamitous action of the 23rd of November, the insurgents had begun
to destroy it, and now they completed the work of destruction. They
burnt it exultingly before the faces of our troops, who were lining
the ramparts and looking idly on, as though there were no dishonour in
endurance. The bridge was of little use at that season of the year, for
the stream was fordable—but it was a burning disgrace to the military
authorities, that with 5000 British troops at their command, and with
the ramparts of the cantonments bristling with guns, they should have
suffered such an insult as this to be flung in their face.

The following day was one also of humiliation. Mahomed Sheriff’s fort,
which was garrisoned by a party of European and Native troops, was
abandoned on the 6th of December. The enemy, a day or two before,
had endeavoured to blow open the gate with powder-bags, but had not
succeeded in the attempt. They might have spared themselves the
trouble of the effort and the discredit of the failure. On the 6th of
December, a very small party of the enemy, unperceived by the garrison,
contrived to climb up the walls of the fort, from the direction
of the King’s garden. They had no sooner shown their heads at the
window of the room where our men were sitting, than both Europeans
and natives, panic-struck and bewildered, escaped over the opposite
wall, and, abandoning their bedding, arms, and ammunition, fled into
the cantonments.[179] The fort was soon filled with the enemy. Not an
effort was made to recapture it.[180] The guns on the ramparts played
upon it all day long, and before evening one of the bastions crumbled
to pieces under our fire; but the British troops remained inactive in
the cantonments, submitting patiently to every new insult, as though
disgrace, now become habitual, had ceased to be a burden to them.

Another blot was, at the same time, fixed upon the character of the
unhappy troops. The 44th Queen’s regiment had supplied the details of
the guard for the protection of the cantonment bazaar. They were now
withdrawn under circumstances little calculated to raise the reputation
of the corps; and some companies of the 37th Native Infantry were sent
to relieve them. A brief letter on this subject, from the General to
the Envoy, supplies a painful commentary on the state of the troops at
this time. “Three companies of the 37th,” wrote Elphinstone, “have been
ordered into the bazaar as a guard for it. Shelton wishes a support of
the 44th outside. If they have any sense of shame left, they must do
better, and their officers _must exert_ themselves. S. is disposed to
attribute the blame to the Sepoys—from all I hear, I fear unjustly;
but this must be inquired into when we have time.”

While the troops were thus, day after day, becoming more and more
demoralised and incapable, under the destroying influence of feeble and
fatuous command, the General and the Envoy were in correspondence and
communication relative to the course to be followed for the salvation
of the British army and the British honour. The General wrote what
none knew better than the Envoy, that provisions had become miserably
scarce, and that he could not see how, if they continued to hold out,
they could possibly escape starvation. The Civilian replied that as,
if they abandoned their position, they could not carry with them more
than two days’ supplies, and that there were then, on the 5th of
December, nine days’ supplies, on half rations, there was no occasion
for an immediate decision. He still hung upon the skirts of fortune,
hoping that something might be written down, in the great chapter of
accidents, in our favour. The thought of retreat was intolerable to
him. All, he believed, even if no reinforcements came from Candahar,
might yet be saved by a vigorous effort to concentrate the troops in
the Balla Hissar. A retreat on Jellalabad, without terms, he declared
to be impracticable. And if practicable, he said, it would “cover us
with everlasting infamy.” Still believing in the fidelity of the King,
and still, with all the generosity and the delicacy of a high-minded
English gentleman, resolute not to sacrifice the interests or the
honour of his Majesty, he pointed out that they could not take the
King’s family with them, and that Shah Soojah would not stir without
them. The internal jealousies and animosities of the chiefs rendered a
retreat, under terms that would be respected, equally impracticable. So
the Envoy contended that the only alternative which remained, and that
the most safe as it was the most honourable, was to send the sick and
wounded under cover of the night to the Balla Hissar, and then, having
destroyed all the ordnance and stores that they could not take with
them, to fight their way to the citadel.

Having written this to the General, Macnaghten visited him, and again
urged his opinion, with equal earnestness in oral discourse. Another
project suggested itself to Macnaghten. Might it not be possible to
obtain provisions by force from some of the surrounding villages? A
night-attack might be made on Deh-Hadjee, or a similar enterprise
undertaken against Killa Bolundee. But the General had no taste
for night attacks or enterprises of any kind. He was full only of
objections. The Envoy took his departure, disappointed and dispirited,
and soon afterwards received a letter from Elphinstone, arraying a
host of obstacles to the success of all the suggested efforts for the
maintenance of the national honour, and staggering at last to the
conclusion that there was nothing to be done but to enter into what he
called “honourable terms.”[181]

And now matters were at their worst. To what depths of humiliation our
unhappy force had sunk, and with what indignation the Envoy regarded a
state of things which he was powerless to avert or to remedy, a letter,
written about this time to Captain Macgregor, painfully declares. “Our
troops,” wrote Macnaghten, “are behaving like a pack of despicable
cowards, and there is no spirit or enterprise left amongst us. The
military authorities want me to capitulate, but this I am anxious to
put off to the last moment. In the mean time we shall soon have to
come to some decision, as we have only three days’ provision for our
troops, and nothing for our cattle. We are anxiously looking out for
reinforcements from Candahar. We have rumours of their approach, but
nothing as yet authentic.”

But the direst peril was that of starvation, which had now become
imminent. The wretched camp-followers were living upon the carcases of
the camels which had been starved to death. The trees in cantonments
had been stripped of all their bark and light branches to supply
provender to the cattle, and were now all bare and useless. The
commissariat officers, Boyd and Johnson, wrote a joint letter to
the General, stating that, after much fruitless exertion, they had
been compelled to adopt the opinion that provisions were no longer
obtainable by purchase. It was their duty, they said, “to report,
from personal knowledge of the country to the north or north-east of
cantonments, the utter impossibility of obtaining, either by force or
otherwise, the smallest quantity of grain or forage of any kind within
a distance of from three to four miles; and, further, that within this
space the whole of the forts, with the exception, perhaps, of one or
two, have been evacuated by the inhabitants, and more or less destroyed
by the enemy.”

Again Macnaghten and Elphinstone took counsel together on that 8th of
December, and again they parted to give their opinions the shape of
official correspondence. It had now become absolutely necessary that
they should determine upon the course to be pursued, for good or for
ill. Returned to his quarters, therefore, the Envoy wrote the following
letter to the General, to bring the question to an official issue:—

  8th Dec., 1841.


 With reference to the conversation I had the honour to hold with you
 this morning, I have to request that you will be so good as to state,
 for my information, whether or no I am right in considering it as
 your opinion that any further attempt to hold out against the enemy
 would merely have the effect of sacrificing both His Majesty and
 ourselves, and that the only alternative left is to negotiate for our
 safe retreat out of the country on the most favourable terms possible.
 I understood you to say to-day that all our cattle are starving, and
 that we have not more than three days’ provision, half-rations left
 for our men, whilst the difficulties of procuring more appear to you
 to be insurmountable.

 It must be remembered that we hear rumours of the approach of
 reinforcements from Candahar, though nothing in an authentic shape has
 yet reached us on this subject.


To this letter General Elphinstone sent back an answer, signed also by
the three senior officers under his command—Brigadiers Shelton and
Anquetil, and Colonel Chambers, who were that morning in council with
their chief:

  Caubul, 8th Dec., 1841.


 I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of this
 day’s date, requesting me to state, for your information, whether or
 not it be my opinion that any further attempt to hold out against the
 enemy would merely have the effect of sacrificing both His Majesty and
 ourselves, and that the only alternative left is to negotiate for our
 safe retreat out of the country on the most favourable terms possible.

 In reply, I beg to state that my opinion is that the present situation
 of the troops here is such, from the want of provisions and the
 impracticability of procuring more, that no time ought to be lost in
 entering into negotiations for a safe retreat from the country.

 As regards the troops at Candahar, and the rumours of their approach
 to our assistance, I should be sorry, in the absence of all authentic
 information, to risk the sacrifice of the troops here by waiting for
 their arrival, when we are ignorant even of their having commenced
 their march, and are reduced to three days’ supply of provision for
 our Sepoys at half-rations, and almost entirely without forage for our
 horses and cattle.

 Our number of sick and wounded in hospital exceeds 600, and our means
 for their transport is far from adequate, owing to the death by
 starvation of so many of our camels; from the same cause also we shall
 be obliged at this inclement season to leave the tents and bedding
 behind with such a march before us.

 As regards the King, I must be excused entering upon that point of
 your letter, and leave its consideration to your better judgment and
 knowledge; but I may be allowed to say that it little becomes me, as
 commanding the British troops in Afghanistan, to regard the necessity
 of negotiating in any other light than as concerns their honour or
 welfare, both of which I should be answerable for by a further stay
 here, after the sudden and universal rebellion which has taken place
 throughout the dominions.

 The whole of the grain and forage in our vicinity is exhausted,
 and the defence of this extensive and ill-situated cantonment will
 not admit of distant expeditions to obtain supplies from the
 strongly-fortified dwellings of an armed and hostile population, our
 present numbers being insufficient for its defence, and obliging the
 whole of the troops to be almost constantly under arms.

 In conclusion, I can only repeat my opinion that you should lose no
 time in entering into negotiations.

  W. K. ELPHINSTONE, Major-Gen.,
  Commanding in Afghanistan.

  I concur in the above opinions.

  J. SHELTON, Brigadier.

  In a military point of view, I concur in the above.

  W. ANQUETIL, Brigadier,
  Commanding Shah Soojah’s Forces.

  I also concur.

  R. CHAMBERS, Lieut.-Col.,
  Commanding Cavalry.

Still shrinking from the dreadful thought of surrender, Macnaghten,
soon after the receipt of this letter, went over to the General’s
quarters, and wrung from him a reluctant promise to make one more
attempt to secure supplies, by an expedition against one of the forts
or villages in which they were known to be stored. A council of war was
held that evening at the General’s quarters. The Envoy was present at
the meeting. The commissariat officers were also in attendance. There
was a long and stormy discussion. At length it was determined that on
the following morning a detachment of infantry and cavalry, with a gun,
should be despatched, accompanied by Captain Johnson, to the village of
Khoja Rewash, some four miles from cantonments, where it was believed
that a considerable supply of grain was stored. The village was to be
surprised before daybreak. The inhabitants were to be called upon to
sell their grain; and, in the event of their acquiescence, Captain
Johnson was to purchase it. But in the event of their refusal, the
village was to be carried by assault, and the grain taken by force. The
detachment was to start at two o’clock, and, that there might be no
delay in the departure of the force, every preparation was to be made
before that hour, and the troops were to be under arms for an immediate

The appointed hour arrived. Captain Johnson was ready to accompany the
detachment. The troops were under arms; but no preparations had been
made for their departure. A bridge was to have been laid down for the
passage of the cavalry and artillery, and covered with straw, that no
noise might be made to rouse the suspicions of the enemy; but at two
o’clock no orders had been issued, and it was evident that there were
doubts and embarrassments to impede the progress of the expedition.
Something was wrong, and it became known at last that the enterprise
was discovered to be a dangerous one. The enemy were in force in the
dilapidated village of Beh-meru, and so, just as day began to dawn, the
enterprise was altogether abandoned.

In the course of the day intelligence of a cheering character was
received from Jellalabad. Sale’s little garrison had sallied out and
gallantly defeated the enemy. It was hoped by the Envoy and a few
others, who were turning their eyes in every direction, straining
to catch even the faintest ray of hope, that the improved aspect of
affairs at Jellalabad would induce the military authorities to make
new efforts to maintain their position. But all hope of this kind was
soon dissipated. The General, fearful of the encouragement of such
expectations, addressed an official letter to the Envoy, stating that
the intelligence received from Sir R. Sale did not, in his opinion,
after the most mature consideration, so improve their situation as to
alter the sentiments expressed in his letter of the preceding day, as
to the necessity of a treaty being entered into, if possible, with the
enemy; but he looked upon the arrival of this account of the success
obtained over the rebels as most opportune, for he considered that
it could not but prove highly advantageous in our negotiations. The
General could only see in the cheering news from Jellalabad another
reason for entering into terms with the enemy.

All this time the Envoy had been anxiously looking for tidings of
the advance of the force under Colonel Maclaren, which had been
despatched from Candahar. The communications with that place had been
so completely cut off, that it was not until the 10th of December
that Macnaghten received intelligence from Colonel Palmer, who
commanded the garrison at Ghuznee, that there was little prospect of
Maclaren’s brigade making good its march to Caubul. The inclemency of
the weather and the loss of baggage-cattle had been so great, that
Maclaren, struggling on with difficulty, was dreading the necessity
of a retrograde move. The Envoy had been eager to hold out so long as
the least hope remained of receiving succour from the westward. That
hope was now rapidly waning. The provisions in cantonments were almost
wholly exhausted. On the morning of the 11th there was just food enough
for the day’s consumption of the fighting men. The camp-followers were
starving. Food was not to be obtained by purchase, for the villagers
would not sell; food was not to be obtained by fighting, for the
soldiers would not fight. Macnaghten had urged the nobler course, until
repeated disappointments had made him despair of military success.
There was now, indeed, nothing left to him but to negotiate with the
enemy, or to suffer the force in cantonments to perish by the slow
process of starvation before his face. He had suggested every other
course to no purpose. He had resisted the importunities of the military
authorities, clamouring for surrender, until there were no provisions
in store for the morrow, and no hope of replenishing our empty
granaries. He could not now any longer resist; so he drew out the
rough draft of a treaty, and met the Afghan chiefs in conference.

The meeting took place at the distance of about a mile from the
cantonments, on the banks of the Caubul river. Captains Lawrence,
Trevor, and Mackenzie accompanied the Envoy, with a few troopers of
the body-guard as an escort. The chiefs of all the principal tribes in
the country were present. Among the leading men assembled were Mahomed
Akbar Khan, Oosman Khan, Sultan Mahomed Khan, Mahomed Sheriff, Mahomed
Shah Khan, and Khoda Buksh Khan, Ghilzye. The first salutations over,
the Envoy drew forth the draft treaty he had prepared, and read in
Persian the following articles, with their preamble, to the assembled

 Whereas it has become apparent from recent events that the
 continuance of the British army in Afghanistan for the support of
 Shah Soojah-ool-Moolk is displeasing to the great majority of the
 Afghan nation; and whereas the British Government had no other object
 in sending troops to this country than the integrity, happiness, and
 welfare of the Afghans, and, therefore, it can have no wish to remain
 when that object is defeated by its presence; the following conditions
 have been agreed upon between Sir W. H. Macnaghten, Bart., Envoy
 and Minister at the Court of Shah Soojah-ool-Moolk for the British
 Government on the one part, and by Sirdar [] for the Afghan nation on
 the other part.

 1st. The British troops now at Caubul will repair to Peshawur with all
 practical expedition, and thence return to India.

 2nd. The Sirdars engage that the British troops shall be unmolested
 in their journey, shall be treated with all honour, and receive all
 possible assistance in carriage and provisions.

Here, Akbar Khan, with characteristic impetuosity, interrupted the
Envoy, saying that there was no need to furnish our force with
supplies, as there was no impediment to their marching on the morrow.
The other chiefs rebuked him for this interference. The remainder of
the treaty was then read, as follows, without any further uncourteous
interruptions; and, this ebullition over, the young Barukzye himself
subsided into repose.[182]

 3rd. The troops now at Jellalabad shall receive orders to retire to
 Peshawur, so soon as the envoy-and-minister is satisfied that their
 progress will be uninterrupted.

 4th. The troops now at Ghuznee will follow, _viâ_ Caubul, to Peshawur,
 as soon as arrangements can be made for their journey in safety.

 5th. The troops now at Candahar, or elsewhere within the limits of
 Afghanistan, will return to India, either _viâ_ Caubul or the Bolan
 Pass, as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made, and the
 season admits of marching.

 6th. The stores and property of whatever description formerly
 belonging to Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan will be restored.

 7th. All property belonging to British officers which may be left
 behind in Afghanistan will be carefully preserved and sent to India as
 opportunities may offer.

 8th. Shah Soojah-ool-Moolk will be allowed either to remain in
 Afghanistan on a suitable provision for his maintenance, not being
 under one lakh of rupees per annum, or to accompany the British troops
 on their return to India.

 9th. All attention and respect will be paid to such of the Shah’s
 family as may be unable to accompany him, and they shall be permitted
 to occupy their present place of residence in the Balla Hissar until
 their return to India, should the Shah resolve in accompanying the
 British troops.

 10th. On the safe arrival of the British troops at Peshawur,
 arrangements will be immediately made for the return to Afghanistan
 of the Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan, his family, and all other Afghans
 detained in India.

 11th. So soon as the Ameer with his family shall reach Peshawur, on
 their return to Caubul, the family of the Shah shall be allowed to
 return towards India.

 12th. For the due fulfilment of the above conditions four respectable
 British officers will be left in Caubul as hostages, and will be
 allowed to return to India on the arrival of the Ameer and his family
 at Peshawur.

 13th. Sirdar Mahomed Akbar Khan, Sirdar Mahomed Oosman Khan, and such
 other chiefs of influence as may be so disposed, will accompany the
 British troops to Peshawur.

 14th. Notwithstanding the retirement of the British troops from
 Afghanistan, there will always be friendship between that nation and
 the English, so much so that the Afghans will contract no alliance
 with any other foreign power without the consent of the English, for
 whose assistance they will look in the hour of need.

 15th. Should it hereafter be the desire of the Afghan nation, and the
 British Government to consent thereto, a British resident at Caubul
 may be appointed to keep up the friendly communication between the
 two governments, but without interfering in any way with the internal
 administration of Afghanistan.

 16th. No one is to be molested on account of any part he may have
 taken in the late contest; and any person desirous of going to India
 with the British troops shall be permitted to do so.

 17th. From the date on which these articles are agreed, the Sirdars
 above named undertake that the British troops shall be supplied with
 provisions on rendering payment for the same.

 18th. All British officers and troops who may be unable from any
 cause, to quit Afghanistan immediately shall be treated with all
 honour and respect, and receive every assistance until the state of
 the season and of their preparations admits of their departure.

The conference lasted two hours. The terms of the treaty were discussed
with as much calmness and moderation as could have been expected, and
its main stipulations were agreed to by the assembled chiefs. It was
resolved that the British troops should evacuate their cantonments
within three days, and that the chiefs should, in the meanwhile, send
in provisions for their use. The meeting broke up, and Captain Trevor
accompanied the Khans to the city, “as a hostage for the sincerity of
the Envoy.”

It is scarcely necessary to write anything in vindication of the
conduct of Macnaghten with respect to this early treaty. His
vindication is to be found in the preceding correspondence with the
military chiefs. But a few pregnant sentences, in which he has himself
recorded the circumstances under which he was at last induced to throw
himself upon the forbearance of the enemy, ought to be laid before
the reader, embodying as they do the Envoy’s own justification of his
conduct. “The whole country,” he wrote in his unfinished report, “as
far as we could learn, had risen in rebellion; our communications on
all sides were cut off; almost every public officer, whether paid by
ourselves or his Majesty, had declared for the new governor, and by far
the greater number even of his Majesty’s domestic servants had deserted
him. We had been fighting forty days against very superior numbers,
under most disadvantageous circumstances, with a deplorable loss of
valuable lives, and in a day or two we must have perished from hunger,
to say nothing of the advanced season of the year and the extreme cold,
from the effects of which our native troops were suffering severely. I
had been repeatedly apprised by the military authorities that nothing
could be done with our troops; and I regret to add that desertions
to the enemy were becoming of frequent occurrence among our troops.
The terms I secured were the best obtainable, and the destruction of
fifteen thousand human beings would little have benefited our country,
whilst the government would have been almost compelled to avenge our
fate at whatever cost. We shall part with the Afghans as friends, and I
feel satisfied that any government which may be established hereafter
will always be disposed to cultivate a good understanding with us. A
retreat without terms would have been impracticable. It is true, that
by entering into terms, we are prevented from undertaking the conquest
of the entire country—a measure which, from my knowledge of the views
of government, I feel convinced would never be resorted to even were
the means at hand. But such a project, in the present state of our
Indian finances, and the requisitions for troops in various quarters, I
knew could not be entertained.”[183]

I wish that it were not more difficult to acquit the military chiefs.
General Elphinstone’s correspondence contains what he conceived to be
a justification of his conduct in urging Macnaghten to capitulate.
Brigadier Shelton has left upon record a statement of which it is only
just to his memory that it should have the full credit: “The great
extent of cantonments,” he wrote in the narrative drawn up by him
at Buddeeabad, “and defenceless nature of the ramparts (an officer
having actually ridden over them), effectually compromised our force,
by the necessity to watch and protect every foot of the works, from
their extreme weakness, and the consequent danger of sending out a
force of sufficient strength to ensure victory, against a numerous
enemy flushed with success, while our troops were disheartened, on
half-rations of parched wheat, and harassed and worn out from constant
duty on the ramparts, whose weakness required their presence night and
day, exposed to excessive cold by night, with little covering and less
comfort. The great oversight of neglecting to bring in provisions for
the winter could not be remedied. The impossibility of procuring them
by force in a country studded with forts, every one of which required
a regular attack, was apparent to all. The Ricka-bashee Fort, close
to cantonments, cost us 200 men. What must distant ones not have cost
us—sniped the whole way out and home by long rifles out of range
of our fire, through snow, with the thermometer at zero? There was
nothing under such circumstances dishonourable in a necessary retreat,
which might have been effected before the snow fell, and whilst there
were a few days’ provisions in store, with some hope of success. Had
provisions been stored in cantonments for the winter, the troops would
have been in better heart, and resistance made until timely assistance
should arrive. The party at Jellalabad was more favoured, both in
provisions and a more congenial climate.”

Posterity will not accept such apologies as these. That difficulties
and dangers of no common kind beset the path of the military commanders
in those Caubul cantonments is not to be gainsaid. But war is made of
difficulties and dangers. It is the glory of the soldier to live in
the midst of them, and to do his best to overcome them. Elphinstone
and Shelton were sent to Caubul to face difficulties and dangers, not
to turn away from them. The existence of the evils here set forth in
such formidable array is not questioned or doubted. Some at least of
them were the growth of our own weakness; for difficulties not met with
energy and decision are wonderfully reproductive. They thicken around
the wavering and irresolute. If, on the 10th of December, Elphinstone
and Shelton, after bravely struggling, throughout six long peril-laden
weeks, against the difficulties which were thronging around them, had
at last succumbed to their pressure, they would have been entitled to
the respect, no less than to the pity, of the world. But it was not so
much that the circumstances were strong, as that the men were weak. As
early as the 5th of November—three days after the first outbreak of
the insurrection—Elphinstone had begun to think and to write about
terms. Shelton was not much behind him in his recommendations of the
same ignoble course. They were both of them brave men. In any other
situation, though the physical infirmities of the one, and the cankered
vanity, the dogmatical perverseness of the other, might have in some
measure detracted from their efficiency as military commanders, I
believe that they would have exhibited sufficient constancy and courage
to rescue our army from utter destruction, and the British name from
indelible reproach. But in the Caubul cantonments they were miserably
out of place. They seem to have been sent there, by superhuman
intervention, to work out the utter ruin and prostration of an unholy
policy by ordinary human means.

It is remarkable, indeed, that the chief conduct of our military
operations, in this critical conjuncture, should have been in the
hands of two men so utterly unlike each other, and yet so equal in
their incapacity for such command. I believe it be no exaggeration to
affirm, that there were not in India two men of the same high rank
equally unfitted by circumstance and by character for the command
of the Caubul army. The one had everything to learn; the other had
everything to unlearn. Elphinstone knew nothing of the native army.
Shelton was violently prejudiced against it. Elphinstone, in a new and
untried position, had no opinion of his own, but flung himself upon
the judgment of any one with confidence enough to form and express
one. Shelton, on the other hand, was proud of his experience, and
obstinately wedded to his own opinions. Opposition irritated and
enfeebled him. To overrule and to thwart him at the commencement of
an enterprise entrusted to his charge was to secure its ignominious
failure. Whether by accident or by design, he generally contrived to
demonstrate the soundness of his own judgment, by being disastrously
beaten in every attempt to carry out the projects forced upon him
by the preponderating counsels of others. Had Shelton exercised the
chief military control, though he might have committed some errors, he
would probably have distinguished himself more than in the secondary
position which he was compelled to occupy. On him was thrown the burden
of the executive duties. Whilst others overruled his opinions, he was
made responsible for the success of enterprises against which he
protested, and with which he was the last man in the country heartily
to identify himself under circumstances so irritating and depressing.
It would have been impossible, indeed, to have brought together two
men so individually disqualified for their positions—so inefficient
in themselves, and so doubly inefficient in combination. Each made the
other worse. The only point on which they agreed was, unhappily, the
one on which it would have been well if they had differed. They agreed
in urging the Envoy to capitulate. There was a curse upon them that
clouded their brains and made faint their hearts, and moved them to
seek safety in a course at once the most discreditable and the most
perilous of all that opened out before them.



[December, 1841.]

 Preparations for the Retreat—Evacuation of the Balla Hissar—Progress
 of the Negotiations—Continued Delay—Variations of the
 Treaty—Designs of the Envoy—Overtures of Mahomed Akbar Khan—Death
 of Sir William Macnaghten—His Character.

And now began preparations for the retreat. Orders were dispatched to
the Balla Hissar for the evacuation of that position by the British
troops; and it was said that in two days the whole force would be
moving towards the British provinces. Doubtful of our good faith,
the chiefs withheld the promised supplies; but small quantities of
grain were procured from the Balla Hissar. In the meanwhile, though
our commissariat store-rooms were empty, our military magazines were
full.[184] There was a scramble among the soldiers for new arms and
accoutrements; and even the camp-followers, to whom ammunition was
served out by orders of the General, came in for a share of the spoil.

The Balla Hissar was evacuated by the British troops on the 13th of
December. Akbar Khan had pledged himself to conduct the party safely
to cantonments. Grain was of unspeakable value at this time; but
time was valuable too. In our efforts to save the former we lost the
latter. There were 1600 maunds of wheat to be conveyed to cantonments,
and the packing and loading were more than a day’s work. Great as had
been the exertions of the commissariat officer, and worthy of all
praise, Major Ewart was compelled to break in upon his labours, and
move off his force, before the baggage-cattle were ready to start with
their precious loads. It was six o’clock in mid-winter, very dark,
and bitterly cold, when the troops began to march slowly out of the
Balla Hissar. Akbar Khan and his followers had been for some time in
readiness to escort them to cantonments; and now it was whispered
among the King’s people that a trap had been laid for the destruction
of the force, and that not a man would reach his destination. Major
Ewart moved out his men; and the party had scarcely cleared the gate
when a rush, it was said, was made by some of Akbar Khan’s jezailchees
to obtain admittance to the Balla Hissar. The gates were immediately
closed; the King’s troops on the walls opened a smart fire of musketry
on friends and on foes alike. Then followed a shower of grape, striking
down some of our Sepoys, and creating no little dismay and confusion in
our ranks.

The Seeah-Sungh hills, along the base of which lay the road between the
Balla Hissar and the cantonments, were bristling with Ghilzye banditti.
At that late hour, Akbar Khan declared that it would be almost
impossible to restrain them, and that therefore, if the British force
would secure its safety, it must abstain from prosecuting its march
towards cantonments until he had made arrangements with the chiefs—in
fact, that it must halt till the morrow. On that dark, frosty December
night this was, indeed, a discouraging announcement. The troops were
halted on low marshy ground, under the walls of the fort. The ground
was white with the hoar frost. The air was bitingly cold. They would
have lit fires and clustered around them, but there was no fuel in
their reach. They had no tents. They had no bedding. They had no food.
They were every minute expecting to be attacked by the enemy. In this
cheerless, miserable state they could do nothing but stand, or walk
about, looking for the rising of the morning star.[185] The night was a
long one, but it came to a close at last. The miseries of the darkness
were now to be succeeded by the perils of the dawn. They were only
about six hundred strong, and the road was infested by thousands of
the enemy. They had nothing on which to depend but the good faith of
Akbar Khan and their own steadiness and courage. Happily the former
did not fail them. Akbar Khan did not play the traitor. The rear-guard
was molested by a party of Afghans, and the Sirdar himself, with a
few followers, galloped into the midst of his hostile countrymen, and
threatened to cut down all who dared to oppose the progress of the
detachment. About ten o’clock the force reached cantonments in safety;
but “thoroughly exhausted with hunger and fatigue.”[186]

It has been stated, that when on the evening of the 13th of December
the British troops moved out of the Balla Hissar, an attempt was made
by some of the followers of Akbar Khan to obtain admittance. It has
been said that it was the Sirdar’s object to seize the gate, so as
to admit the main body of his followers, and to carry the place by
storm. It has been surmised, also, that the Sirdar delayed the march
of Major Ewart’s detachment, hoping that the gates of the Balla Hissar
would be reopened to the British troops; and that then, under cover of
the night, his followers might force an entrance into the place.[187]
A very different account of this incident, however, has been left on
record by the Envoy himself. “On the 13th, of December,” he wrote, “it
was agreed upon that our troops should evacuate the Balla Hissar, and
return to the cantonment, whilst the Barukzyes should have a conference
with his Majesty, with a view to his retaining the nominal powers of
sovereignty, they, for their own security, placing a guard of their own
in the upper citadel. No sooner, however, had our troops left the Balla
Hissar, than his Majesty, owing to some panic or misunderstanding,
ordered the gate to be shut, and the proposed conference was thereby
prevented. So offended were the Barukzyes, that they determined never
to offer his Majesty the same terms again. In explanation of his
conduct, his Majesty states that the party whom the Barukzyes desired
to introduce was not the party which had been agreed upon.”[188] This
was, probably, one of the last sentences ever penned by Sir William
Macnaghten. It closes the fragment of the official report found in his
writing-desk after his death.

The treaty read by the Envoy at the conference on the 11th of December
contained an article involving the formal abdication of Shah Soojah.
The restoration of the Barukzye Sirdars to their old principalities
was, at that time, decreed by both contracting parties; but the meeting
had scarcely broken up, when some of the Douranee chiefs, jealous of
the power of the Barukzyes, which had ever been put forth to the injury
and depression of the tribes, recoiled from this perilous stipulation,
and began to think of the retention of the King, at all events as a
puppet and a name.[189] On the following day it was proposed by the
chiefs that Shah Soojah should remain on the throne, on condition
of his intermarrying his daughters with the leading Afghan Sirdars,
and vesting the Wuzeership in the family of the Barukzyes. It was
stipulated also that the King, whose love of pomp and ceremony was
one of his besetting infirmities, and who had excited the indignation
of many of the chiefs by his haughty bearing towards them, should
dispense with some of the regal formalities which had given them so
great offence. The proposal, sanctioned by the British minister, was
formally made to the Shah. There was the loss of his kingdom on the one
side; there was the loss of some regal dignity on the other. The King
hesitated; then yielded a reluctant assent; and a few days afterwards
withdrew it altogether. His pride and his fear both deterred him from
forming such an alliance with the chiefs. He was unwilling so to sully
the purity of the royal blood; and he could not trust to the good faith
of the Sirdars after the departure of his British allies. And so the
treaty with the Barukzye chiefs reverted to its original shape, and the
Shah determined to return to the British provinces, from which he had
never yet emerged without plunging into new disasters.

The stipulations of the treaty were now to be brought into effect. But
mutual distrust existed between the parties, and each was unwilling
to give the other any advantage by being the first to act up to the
obligations that it imposed. The British authorities called upon the
chiefs to send in the provisions which they had undertaken to supply;
and the chiefs called upon the British authorities to demonstrate the
sincerity of their promises to retire from Afghanistan, by giving
up the different forts which they occupied in the neighbourhood of
cantonments, and by placing hostages in their hands. The question of
the abandonment of the forts was officially discussed between the Envoy
and the General, and the result was an order for their cession.[190]

No time was lost in carrying this arrangement into effect. Whatever
dilatoriness may have been displayed on other occasions, there was
no want of alacrity evinced when anything was to be yielded to the
enemy. Our garrisons were speedily withdrawn from the forts, and the
victorious insurgents duly placed in possession of them. By four
o’clock in the afternoon, the Afghan conquerors were sitting on the
walls of these ceded forts, looking into the British cantonments, and
joking over our discomfiture.[191] A brother of the Newab Zemaun Khan
was sent in as a hostage on the part of the enemy;[192] and a small
supply of attah was furnished to the troops.

Provisions, however, came in very slowly; and carriage was not sent
in at all. There was a mixed crowd of robbers and fanatics swarming
between the city and the cantonments, ever on the alert to intercept
the supplies that were sent in either by the Sirdars or by private
speculators. All kinds of outrages were committed, in the very face of
our guards, and under the very muzzles of our guns; but not a shot was
fired upon the plunderers. Our enemies, now become “our new allies,”
were to be treated with all possible consideration. Nothing was to be
done to interrupt the good feeling which was now said to have been
established; and so, whilst our troops were starving, the military
authorities suffered the grain so eagerly looked for by the wretched
force to be swept away from them, under the very walls of cantonments,
by a miserable rabble, whom a few rounds of grape would have scattered
like a flock of sheep.

This was a season of perilous procrastination. Both parties seemed
anxious to postpone the day that was to witness the departure of
the British force; and each was suspicious of the good faith of the
other. The chiefs withheld, from day to day, the provisions and the
carriage-cattle, with which they had undertaken to facilitate our
escape from Afghanistan; and Macnaghten, hoping still against hope,
and sanguine, even in the midst of every kind of discouragement, still
thought that “something might turn up” to avert the humiliation of an
enforced withdrawal from the country which we had entered with so much
pomp and parade. It was still possible, he thought, that Maclaren’s
brigade might make good its way to Caubul. It was not then known that
it had retraced its steps to Candahar.

Then snow began to fall. On the 18th of December, the doomed force
looked out upon the new horror. From morning to evening prayer it fell
with frightful perseverance, and before sunset was lying many inches
thick upon the ground. Our difficulties had now fearfully increased.
Had the force been set in motion a few days before the first snow fall,
and, moving lightly, pushed on by forced marches through the passes, it
might have reached Jellalabad in safety. But now everything was against
us. The elements were conspiring for our destruction. It was more and
more painfully obvious, every day, that the curse of God was brooding
over the agents of an unrighteous policy. Whatever may have been the
causes of that week’s delay—whether the bad faith of the chiefs, the
irresolution of the Shah, or the reluctance of the British Envoy, it
cut away from under us the last hope that remained of rescuing the
British force from the annihilating dangers that hemmed it in on every

The 22nd was now fixed upon as the day for the departure of the
British troops. On the 19th, the Envoy and the General despatched
letters to Ghuznee, Candahar, and Jellalabad, ordering the evacuation
of those positions. Money was given freely to the chiefs for cattle
which was not sent in for our use; and it was believed that Mahomed
Akbar was expending the treasure thus raised on the instruments of our
destruction. “Our new allies” had become more insolent and defiant. As
our difficulties thickened, their demands rose. All hope of succours
from Candahar vanished on that 19th of December, when intelligence of
the return of Maclaren’s brigade was received by the Envoy. Macnaghten
had clung to this chance, with desperate tenacity, to the last—and
now he abandoned all hope of saving the reputation of his country by
beating the enemy in the field.

But he had not yet abandoned all hope of saving the reputation of his
country by playing a game of dexterous diplomacy, such as could only
have been played against a number of disunited factions, almost as
hostile to each other as to the common foe. It is not easy to group
into one lucid and intelligible whole all the many shifting schemes
and devices which distracted the last days of the Envoy’s career.
It is probable that at this time he could have given no very clear
account of the game which he was playing. He appears to have turned
first to one party and then to another, eagerly grasping at every new
combination that seemed to promise more hopeful results than the last.
His mind was by this time unhinged;—his intellect was clouded; his
moral perceptions were deadened. The wonder is, not that he was pressed
down at last by the tremendous burden of anxiety which had sate upon
him throughout those seven long weeks of unparalleled suffering and
disaster, but that he had borne up so long and so bravely under the

It seems, indeed, that Macnaghten, at this time, never knew, from one
day to another, with whom he would eventually conclude a treaty for the
extrication of the unhappy force from the perils that girt it around
as with a ring of fire. He was throwing about money in all directions,
and there were hungry claimants, pressing on now from one direction now
from another, eager to turn the sufferings of the Feringhees to the
best account, and to find the best market for their own influence and
authority. He saw no honesty and sincerity among the chiefs; he saw
that they were all contending one against the other; every man thinking
only of himself. He knew that they had failed in their engagements to
him, and he doubted whether he was bound by the obligations which he
had contracted, or was free to negotiate with any one who was willing,
and able, to offer or to accept terms less degrading in themselves
and less likely to be violated. It was his general design to keep the
different factions in a state of antagonism with each other, and to
cling to the one best able to protect us from the malice of the rest.
But he could not determine, of the many combinations that could be
formed, which was the best calculated to evolve a state of things most
favourable to British interests, and so he seems to have had more than
one game in hand at the same time, and hardly to have known which was
to be played out.

Ostensibly Macnaghten was at this time in treaty with the Barukzye
party. But he was offering at the same time large sums of money to the
Ghilzyes and to the Kuzzilbashes to side with the Shah and the British;
and if they had declared themselves openly on our side, he might have
thrown over the Barukzye alliance. “You can tell the Ghilzyes and Khan
Shereen,” he wrote on the 20th of December to Mohun Lal, “that after
they have declared for his Majesty and us, and sent in 100 _kurwars_
of grain to cantonments, I shall be glad to give them a bond for five
lakhs of rupees; and if Naib Sheriff is satisfied that they will do so,
he should advance to them as much money as he can. I fear for Mahomed
Shah that he is with Akbar; but you will know best. You must let me
know before sunrise, if possible, what is likely to be the effect of
this proposal, as I must talk accordingly to the Barukzyes, who have
shown no disposition to be honest. To save time, you may tell Khan
Shereen to correspond with the Shah, if there is a chance of success.”

On the following day he wrote again to Mohun Lal, unfolding his
views more distinctly with regard to the contemplated alliance with
the Ghilzyes and the Kuzzilbashes, out of which he still hoped that
something might be evolved to avert the retreat which was so loathsome
to him. “In conversing,” he wrote, “with anybody, you must say
distinctly that I am ready to stand by my engagement with the Barukzyes
and other chiefs associated with them; but that if any portion of the
Afghans wish our troops to remain in the country, I shall think myself
at liberty to break the engagement which I have made to go away, which
engagement was made believing it to be in accordance with the wishes of
the Afghan nation. If the Ghilzyes and Kuzzilbashes wish us to stay,
let them declare so openly in the course of to-morrow, and we will
side with them. The best proof of their wish for us to stay is to send
us a large quantity of grain this night—100 or 200 kurwars. If they
do this, and make their salaam to the Shah early to-morrow, giving
his Majesty to understand that we are along with them, I will write
to the Barukzyes and tell them my agreement is at an end; but if they
(Ghilzyes and Kuzzilbashes) are not prepared to go all lengths with us,
nothing should be said about the matter, because the agreement I have
made is very good for us.”

An hour afterwards he wrote again to Mohun Lal, repeating all this in
still more decided language, and declaring that if grain were obtained
he should think himself “at liberty to break his agreement of going
away on Friday, because that agreement was made under the belief that
all the Afghan people wished us to go away.” “Do not let me appear in
this matter,” he wrote, in conclusion; “say that I am ready to stand by
my engagement, but that I leave it to the people themselves.” And again
after the lapse of another hour, he wrote: “If any grain is coming in
to-night, let me have notice of it a few minutes before. Anything that
may be intended in our favour must appear before noon to-morrow.”

Far better than any explanations that I could offer do such words as
these unfold the character of Macnaghten’s designs. The days on which
they were written saw the Envoy in conference, near the banks of the
canal, with Akbar Khan and a few chiefs of the Barukzye party. As time
advanced, the Sirdars rose in their demands; and every new meeting
witnessed the dictation of fresh terms. They called upon us to deliver
up to them all our military stores and ammunition, and to surrender
the married families as hostages for the fulfilment, on our part,
of the conditions of the treaty. Then they demanded that Brigadier
Shelton should be given over to them as a hostage; but the Brigadier
was unwilling to accept the duty, and the proposal was declined. The
hostages given up on the 21st of December were Lieutenants J. B.
Conolly, the Envoy’s relative and assistant, and Lieutenant Airey, of
the 3rd Buffs, who had been acting as the General’s aide-de-camp.

On the following day the commissary of ordnance, Lieutenant Eyre,
was “ordered to conduct an officer of the Newab Zemaun Khan over the
magazine, that he might make choice of such stores as would be most
acceptable to the chiefs.”[193] At the same time the Envoy sent his
carriage and horses as a present to Akbar Khan. He was now beginning
to despair of deriving any real assistance from the Ghilzyes, who were
slow to declare themselves openly on our side, and he saw plainly how
dangerous it was to appear to be in treaty with them and the Barukzyes
at the same time. Some doubts, too, of the honesty of the course he was
pursuing began to obtrude themselves upon him; and he wrote accordingly
to Mohun Lal, requesting him to instruct the Ghilzyes not to send in
any grain until further advised upon the subject. “The sending grain to
us just now,” he said, “would do more harm than good to our cause; and
it would lead the Barukzyes to suppose that I am intriguing with a view
of breaking my agreement; but I can never break that agreement so long
as all the Khawanen wish me to stand by it. Pray thank our friends,
nevertheless, for their kind attention to our interest. I wish very
much to please them, and am sorry my treasury is so empty.”

On the same day Macnaghten sent 7000 rupees to Khan Shereen Khan, the
chief of the Kuzzilbashes, but urged Mohun Lal to keep it secret, as
there was scarcely any money left. He had become doubtful by this time
of the honesty of intriguing with one party, whilst he was bound by
engagements to another; so he urged the Moonshee to tell the Ghilzyes
to send him no more grain. “If,” he wrote on the 22nd of December,
“while our present agreement lasts I were to receive a large supply of
grain from the Ghilzyes, suspicion would be raised that I intend to
break my engagement, and wish to keep the troops here, in spite of the
wishes of all the chiefs to the contrary. It would be very agreeable
to stop here for a few months instead of having to travel through
the snow; but we must not consider what is agreeable, but what is
consistent with our faith.”

It was on the evening of this 22nd of December, when Macnaghten, long
tossed about on a sea of doubt and distraction—perplexed in the
extreme by the manifest bad faith and the ever-increasing demands
of the chiefs—seeing no end to the perilous uncertainties of his
position, and wearied out beyond human endurance by days and nights of
ceaseless anxiety and bewilderment—was in a temper to grasp at any new
thing that might seem to open a door of escape from the embarrassments
which surrounded him, that Akbar Khan sent in Captain Skinner from the
city with a new string of proposals.

The Envoy had been warned of the danger of treating independently
with the young Barukzye Sirdar; he had been told that treachery was
spreading itself around him, and that he would be enclosed in its
toils. But he had now become desperate. Anything was better than the
wearing uncertainty which had so long been unhinging his mind. Akbar
Khan sent tempting proposals; and the Envoy flung himself upon the
snare. He knew that there was danger, but he had become regardless of
it. Anything was better than the life he had so long been leading. Even
death itself was better than such a life.

Captain Skinner came into cantonments, accompanied by Mahomed Sadig and
Surwar Khan, the Lohanee merchant.[194] The English officer sate down
to dinner with the Envoy whilst the two Afghans remained in another
room. A gleam of hope passed over Macnaghten’s careworn face when
Skinner told him, in a light jesting manner, that he was the bearer
of a message from Akbar Khan of a portentous nature, and that he felt
as one loaded with combustibles.[195] But the message was not then
delivered. The proposals were to be stated by the Afghan delegates,
who were soon closeted with the Envoy. Skinner alone was present at
the interview. Mahomed Sadig stated the proposals that had been made
by Akbar Khan. It was proposed that an agreement should be entered
into on the following day, to the effect that Akbar Khan and the
Ghilzyes should unite themselves with the British troops, which were
to be drawn up outside of cantonments, and at a given signal should
assault Mahmood Khan’s fort and seize the person of Ameen-oollah Khan.
Then followed a startling offer, from which the Envoy shrunk back with
abhorrence. This was the offer of Ameen-oollah’s head, which, for a sum
of money, Mahomed Sadig declared should be presented to the British
Envoy. Macnaghten at once rejected the offer. It was never, he said,
his custom, nor that of his country, to pay a price for blood. Then
Mahomed Sadig went on to state the proposals of the Barukzye Sirdar.
The English were to remain in Afghanistan until the spring; and then,
to save their credit, by withdrawing, as though of their own free will.
Shah Soojah was to remain in the country as King, and Akbar Khan was
to be his Wuzeer. As a reward for these services, Akbar Khan was to
receive an annuity of four lakhs of rupees from the British Government,
and a bonus of thirty lakhs!

Wild as were these proposals, the Envoy caught eagerly at them. He did
not hesitate for a moment. He had, from first to last, clung to the
hope of something being evolved out of the chaos of difficulty, that
would enable him to retain his position in the country, at all events
till the coming spring; and now there suddenly welled up within him a
hope that he had obtained the object of his desires. He now accepted
the proposals; and signified his assent in a Persian paper written by
his own hand. With this the Afghan delegates returned to the city and
made known to Akbar Khan the success of their mission. Captain Skinner
returned with them.

The morning of the 23rd of December found Macnaghten restless and
excited. A great crisis had arrived. That day was to decide the fate
of the British force, and determine the question of the loss or the
salvation of our national honour. It is probable that the morning
brought with it some doubts and misgivings; but he brushed the
obtrusive thoughts aside, and endeavoured to persuade himself, as he
did to persuade others, that there was no treachery to be feared.

Having breakfasted, he sent for the officers of his staff—Lawrence,
Trevor, and Mackenzie—who were his friends and counsellors, to whom on
all occasions but this he had entrusted his designs—to accompany him
to the conference with Akbar Khan. Mackenzie, finding him alone, heard
from him now, for the first time, the history of this new negotiation,
and at once exclaimed that it was a plot. “A plot!” replied the Envoy,
hastily; “let me alone for that—trust me for that!”

He had braced himself up with desperate courage for the conference
which was to be followed by such great results; and now he sent for
the General to acquaint him with the nature of the proposals and to
request his aid to carry the scheme into effect. Startled by the
announcement, and little comprehending all the depths and intricacies
of the perilous game which the Envoy had now in hand, Elphinstone
asked what part the other Barukzyes, who had been foremost in the
previous negotiations, were to take in those now on foot, and was told
in reply that they were “not in the _plot_.” On the untutored ear of
the single-minded veteran this significant monosyllable smote with an
ominous sound. He began now to understand the double game which was
being played by the Envoy on one side, and the young Barukzye Sirdar
on the other, and he eagerly asked the former if he did not apprehend
that some treachery was at work. “None at all,” said Macnaghten, in
reply; “I wish you to have two regiments and two guns got ready, as
speedily and as quietly as possible, for the capture of Mahmood Khan’s
fort; the rest you may leave to me.” But still the General spoke of
the danger of such machinations, and urged him to pause before he
committed himself irretrievably to so perilous a course. Elphinstone
had unfortunately been talking about danger so incessantly since the
very commencement of the outbreak, that now, when he uttered only words
of common sense and prudence, the warning notes fell upon Macnaghten’s
ears like the old imbecile croakings of timidity and irresolution which
had been irritating him for so many weeks, and he now turned away with
impatience, saying, “I understand these things better than you.”[196]
Elphinstone went; but in spite of Macnaghten’s confidence, he could
not dispossess himself of the belief that treachery was brewing, and
that the Envoy was rushing upon destruction. So, hoping that yet
something might be done to arrest him, he sate down and wrote him a
letter, pointing out the danger of dividing the force; dwelling upon
the probable treachery of the Afghans, of whom he said the cantonments
were full; and asking what guarantee there was for the truth of all
that had been said. It was the last letter ever addressed to the Envoy.
It never reached its destination.

About the hour of noon the little party—Macnaghten, Lawrence, Trevor,
Mackenzie, and a few horsemen—set out on their ill-omened expedition.
Shelton had been invited to accompany them; but he was occupied in
getting ready the two regiments and the guns, and was, therefore,
unable to attend the conference.[197] The troops, however, were not
ready when the ambassadorial cavalcade rode out of the Seeah-Sungh
gate, and the Envoy, observing the backwardness of the military chiefs,
bitterly remarked that it was of a piece with all their arrangements
since the commencement of the outbreak. He then went on to speak of the
enterprise on which they were engaged; admitted that it was a dangerous
one; said that he was playing for a heavy stake, but the prize was
worth the risk that was to be incurred. “At all events,” he said, “let
the loss be what it may, a thousand deaths were preferable to the life
I have of late been leading.”

They passed out of cantonments. As they went, Macnaghten remembered
that a beautiful Arab horse, which Akbar Khan had much coveted, and
which the Envoy had purchased from its owner,[198] had been left
behind. Mackenzie was sent back for it, that it might now be presented
to the Sirdar. Lawrence was told to hold himself in readiness to ride
to the Balla Hissar, to communicate with the King. There were many
suspicious appearances which excited the apprehensions of all but the
Envoy. Crowds of armed Afghans were hovering about the cantonment, and
clustering in the neighbourhood of Mahmood Khan’s fort. Macnaghten saw
nothing but the prospect of escaping the disgrace of a sudden retreat
from Afghanistan. He looked neither to the right nor to the left. He
had a great object in view, and he kept his eyes steadily upon it.
He did not even, when the chiefs met him, perceive that a brother of
Ameen-oollah Khan was one of the party.

Near the banks of the river, midway between Mahmood Khan’s fort and
the bridge, about 600 yards from the cantonment, there were some small
hillocks, on the further slope of which, where the snow was lying
less thickly than on other parts, some horse-cloths were now spread
by one of Akbar Khan’s servants. The English officers and the Afghan
Sirdars had exchanged salutations and conversed for a little while
on horseback. The Arab horse, with which Mackenzie had returned, had
been presented to Akbar Khan, who received it with many expressions
of thanks, and spoke also with gratitude of the gift of the pistols
which he had received on the preceding day.[199] It was now proposed
that they should dismount. The whole party accordingly repaired to
the hill-side. Macnaghten threw himself, in a reclining position, on
the bank; Trevor and Mackenzie, burdened with presentiments of evil,
seated themselves beside him. Lawrence stood behind his chief until
urged by one of the Khans to seat himself, when he knelt down on one
knee, in the attitude of a man ready for immediate action. A question
from Akbar Khan, who sate beside Macnaghten, opened the business of the
conference. He abruptly asked the Envoy if he were ready to carry out
the proposals of the preceding evening? “Why not?” asked Macnaghten.
The Afghans were by this time gathering around in numbers, which
excited both the surprise and the suspicion of Lawrence and Mackenzie,
who said, that if the conference was to be a secret one, the intruders
ought to be removed. With a movement of doubtful sincerity some of the
chiefs then lashed out with their whips at the closing circle; but
Akbar Khan said that their presence was of no consequence, as they were
all in the secret with him.

Scarcely were the words uttered, when the Envoy and his companions were
violently seized from behind. The movement was sudden and surprising.
There was a scene of terrible confusion, which no one can distinctly
describe. The officers of the Envoy’s staff were dragged away, and
compelled each to mount a horse ridden by an Afghan chief. Soon were
they running the gauntlet through a crowd of Ghazees, who struck out
at them as they passed. Trevor unfortunately slipped from his insecure
seat behind Dost Mahomed Khan, and was cut to pieces on the spot,
Lawrence and Mackenzie, more fortunate, reached Mahmood Khan’s fort

In the meanwhile, the Envoy himself was struggling desperately on the
ground with Akbar Khan. The look of wondering horror that sat upon his
upturned face will not be forgotten by those who saw it to their dying
day. The only words he was heard to utter were, “_Az barae Khoda_”
(“For God’s sake”). They were, perhaps, the last words spoken by one of
the bravest gentlemen that ever fell a sacrifice to his erring faith
in others. He had struggled from the first manfully against his doom,
and now these last manful struggles cost the poor chief his life.
Exasperated past all control by the resistance of his victim, whom he
designed only to seize, Akbar Khan drew a pistol from his girdle—one
of those pistols for the gift of which only a little while before he
had profusely thanked the Envoy—and shot Macnaghten through the body.
Whether the wretched man died on the spot—or whether he was slain by
the infuriated Ghazees, who now pressed eagerly forward, is not very
clearly known—but these miserable fanatics flung themselves upon the
prostrate body of the English gentleman, and hacked it to pieces with
their knives.

Thus perished William Hay Macnaghten; struck down by the hand of the
favourite son of Dost Mahomed. Thus perished as brave a gentleman
as ever, in the midst of fiery trial, struggled manfully to rescue
from disgrace the reputation of a great country. Throughout those
seven weeks of unparalleled difficulty and danger he had confronted
with stedfast courage every new peril and perplexity that had risen
up before him; and a man of peace himself, had resisted the timid
counsels of the warriors, and striven to infuse, by the manliness of
his example, some strength into their fainting hearts. Whatever may be
the judgment of posterity on other phases of his character, and other
incidents of his career, the historian will ever dwell with pride upon
the unfailing courage and constancy of the man who, with everything to
discourage and depress him, surrounded by all enervating influences,
was ever eager to counsel the nobler and the manlier course, ever ready
to bear the burdens of responsibility, and face the assaults of danger.
There was but one civilian at Caubul; and he was the truest soldier in
the camp.

It is not easy to estimate correctly the character of William
Macnaghten. Of the moral and intellectual attributes of the ill-fated
Envoy very conflicting accounts have been rendered; and it is probable
that in all these conflicting accounts some leaven of truth resides.
There are few men whose characters are not made up of antagonistic
qualities, and Macnaghten was not one of the few. In early life he had
distinguished himself by the extent of his philological acquirements;
and was reputed as one of the most accomplished Oriental scholars in
the presidencies of India. With a deep insight into the character
of the natives of the East was blended the kindliest sympathy and
toleration towards them. In the knowledge, indeed, of the native
languages, the institutions, and the character of the people of
Hindostan, he was surpassed by none of the many accomplished officers
who have made them their study. His long connexion with the judicial
department of the public service had afforded him opportunities, which
his temper and his taste led him to improve, of maturing and perfecting
this essential branch of official knowledge. In attention to business
he was one of the most unwearying of men: his pen was ever in his
hand; he wrote rapidly, and expressed himself on most subjects with
clearness; he was quick in his apprehension of the views of others,
and accommodated himself with facility to shifting circumstances. But
at this point there are many who believe that they cease to tread
upon undebateable ground. It is admitted that he was an accomplished
Oriental scholar, a good judicial officer, an apt secretary, and a
kind-hearted man; but it is denied that, in any enlarged acceptation of
the word, he is entitled to be called a statesman.

Sir Alexander Burnes was constantly writing to his friends in India,
“Macnaghten is an excellent man, but quite out of place _here_.”
Burnes was not an unprejudiced witness; and he, doubtless, expressed
himself in language too sweeping and unqualified. But there are many
who believe with Burnes, that Macnaghten was out of his place in
Afghanistan. It is hard to say who would not have been more or less
out of place, in the situation which he was called upon suddenly to
occupy. The place, indeed, was one to which no English officer ought to
have been called. For a Calcutta Secretary to be at Caubul at all was
necessarily to be out of place. If Macnaghten, suddenly transplanted
from the bureau of an Anglo-Indian Governor to the stirrup of an
Afghan monarch, is chargeable with some errors, it is, perhaps, more
just, as it is more generous, to wonder not that those errors were so
numerous, but that they were so few. To govern such a people as the
Afghans through such a King as Shah Soojah, was an experiment in which
an English officer might fail without the sacrifice of his reputation.
When we come to think, now, of what was attempted, we cease to marvel
at the result. The marvel is, that utter ruin did not overtake the
scheme at an earlier date—that the day of reckoning was so long
delayed. The policy itself was so inherently faulty that success was an
unattainable result.

The causes of the failure are not to be sought in the personal
character of the Envoy. That character may have been one of many
accidental circumstances which may in some sort have helped to develop
it; but, sooner or later, ruin must have overtaken the scheme, let
who might be the agent of it. In this view of the case Macnaghten is
not to be acquitted; but it is on Macnaghten the Secretary, not on
Macnaghten the Envoy, that our censures must then descend. Macnaghten
the Envoy, however, was not free from human infirmity. Most men have an
unhappy faculty of believing what they wish to be true. In Macnaghten
this propensity was unnaturally developed. God had cursed him with
a strong delusion that he should believe a lie. He believed in the
popularity of Shah Soojah and the tranquillity of Afghanistan. To have
admitted the non-existence of either, would have been to have admitted
the failure of the policy which he had recommended, and with which he
was, in no small measure, personally identified. But Macnaghten did
not seek to deceive others: he was himself deceived. When he spoke of
the popularity of Shah Soojah, he believed that the Shah was popular;
when he reported the tranquillity of Afghanistan, he believed that the
country was tranquil. He was sincere, but he was miserably mistaken.
Everything he saw took colour in his eyes from the hues of his own
sanguine temperament. From the day when on entering Candahar he beheld
a joyous people welcoming their restored monarch with feelings almost
amounting to adoration, to the last luckless day of his life, when he
went out to the fatal conference, firmly believing in the good faith
and good feeling of his Afghan allies, he continued steadily to create
for himself all kinds of favourable omens and encouraging symptoms, and
lived in a state of blind confidence unparalleled in the history of
human infatuation. To this self-deception some of the finest qualities
of his nature largely contributed. The very goodness of his heart and
generosity of his disposition moved him to regard the character and
conduct of others with a favour to which they were seldom entitled.
Macnaghten was too nobleminded to be suspicious—but he erred on the
other side; he wanted some of the sterner stuff which will not suffer
the soundness of the judgment to be weakened by the generosity of the

When not blinded by his partiality for any pet projects of his own, he
was by no means wanting in political sagacity. He could decide justly,
as he could promptly, on points of detail as they rose up one by one
before him; but as soon as anything occurred to cast discredit upon
the general policy of the Afghan expedition, by indicating the germs
of failure, he resolutely refused to see what others saw, and censured
those others for seeing it. Hence it was that he received coldly, if
not contemptuously, those elaborate general reviews of the condition
and prospects of Afghanistan which Burnes and Conolly thrust upon him,
and resented every effort that was made by Rawlinson and others to draw
his attention towards the unquiet and feverish symptoms which, from
time to time, developed themselves in different parts of the unsettled
country. His correspondence indicates an unwillingness, rather than
an inability, to take any large and comprehensive views of Afghan
policy. He seems to have shrunk from applying to that policy the test
of any great principles; and to have addressed himself rather to the
palliation of accidental symptoms than to the eradication of those
constitutional diseases which were eating into the very life of the
government which he directed.

Of Macnaghten’s humanity I have never entertained a doubt. But it is
a proof of the inconsistency even of the kindest and most amiable
characters, that the Envoy, when greatly disquieted and perplexed by
the difficulties which thickened around him, and irritated by the
opposition, which he could not subdue, sometimes thought of resorting
to measures repugnant to humanity, for the suppression of evils which
baffled all the more lenient efforts of legitimate diplomacy. But
these sterner feelings soon passed away; and all the more generous
sentiments of his nature held dominion over him again. He regretted the
excesses—always rather those of word than of deed—into which he had
been momentarily betrayed, and was as merciful towards a fallen enemy
as he had been eager in his pursuit of a triumphant one. Macnaghten
was anything but a cautious man; his first hasty impulses were often
set down in writing with perilous unreserve; and it would be unjust to
record against him, as his positive opinion, everything that he set
down suggestively in his hasty letters to his numerous correspondents,
or spoke out still more hastily to his friends.

Posterity may yet discuss the question, whether, in these last fatal
negotiations with Akbar Khan, Macnaghten acted strictly in accordance
with that good faith which is the rule of English statesmen, and
for which our country, in spite of some dubious instances, is still
honoured by all the nations of the East. In one of the last letters
ever written by him, the Envoy said, “It would be very agreeable to
stop here for a few months instead of to travel through the snow;
but we must not consider what is agreeable, but what is consistent
with our faith.” On the same day, too—the day before his death—he
had written, “I can never break that agreement (with the Barukzyes)
so long as all the Khawanen wish me to stand by it.” It has been
questioned whether the negotiations he was then carrying on with the
Ghilzyes and Kuzzilbashes were consistent with his obligations to the
Barukzye Sirdars. The stipulations, however, on the part of the British
diplomatist, in this case, extended no further than the promise of
certain money payments in return for certain specific services, and
Macnaghten may have considered himself justified in retaining those
services conditionally on the rupture of the existing covenant with
the Barukzye chiefs. That covenant, indeed, was one of so precarious
a nature—it was sliding away from him more and more certainly as
time advanced—there was so little prospect of its obligations being
fulfilled, that it seemed necessary to have something to fall back upon
in the event of the open annulment of the treaty, the obligations of
which had long been practically denied. Up to the evening of the 22nd
of December, Macnaghten had been willing to abide by the stipulations
of the treaty with the confederate chiefs; but there were such manifest
symptoms of bad faith on the part of the chiefs constantly breaking
out, that it appeared to him but ordinary prudence to prepare himself
for an event so probable as an open rupture. He was ready to proceed,
in mutual good faith, to the accomplishment of the original treaty; and
so long as the chiefs adhered to their engagements, he was prepared to
evacuate the country, but he believed that it was his duty to prepare
himself also for a rupture with the chiefs, and to purchase supplies,
wherever he could obtain them, for the use of the troops in the event
of their retaining their position.

But the compact with Akbar Khan was altogether of another kind. There
was nothing of a conditional character about it. The Envoy had, in
the course of the day, virtually acknowledged that to break off the
negotiations then pending with the chiefs would be a breach of good
faith. Nothing had occurred between the hour in which he wrote this to
Mohun Lal and that in which he received the overtures of Akbar Khan,
to absolve him from obligations from which he was not absolved before.
The same principle of diplomatic integrity which he had applied to the
case of the Ghilzye alliance was doubly applicable to this: “It would
be very agreeable to stop here for a few months instead of to travel
through the snow; but we must not consider what is agreeable, but what
is consistent with our faith.” If we read Macnaghten’s subsequent
conduct by the light of these high-principled words, it must in truth
be pronounced that he stands self-condemned.

In estimating the character of these transactions, it should always
be borne steadily in mind that the Afghan chiefs had from the first
violated their engagements with the British, and exacted from them
after-conditions not named in the treaty. Their want of faith, indeed,
was so palpable, that Macnaghten would, at any time, have been
justified in declaring that the treaty was annulled. It is plain, that
whilst they were violating their engagements he was under no obligation
to adhere to the conditions of the violated treaty. But it appears to
me that this matter is altogether distinct from the question of the
honesty of negotiating with one party whilst negotiations are pending
with another. There would have been no breach of faith in breaking off
the treaty with the confederate chiefs; but it was a breach of faith to
enter into any new engagements until that treaty was broken off. It is
certain that up to the time of his receipt of the fatal overtures from
Akbar Khan, Macnaghten considered that he was bound by his engagements
with the confederate chiefs. He might, it is true, have declared those
engagements at an end, but until such a declaration was made, he was
not at liberty to enter secretly into any new negotiations practically
annulling the old.

And whatever objections may lie against the general honesty of the
compact, it is certain that they apply with double force to that
portion of it which involved the seizure of Ameen-oollah Khan. It is
not to be justified by any reference to the infamous character of that
chief. Ameen-oollah Khan was one of our “new allies.” He had been, with
the other chiefs, in friendly negotiation with Macnaghten. It was now
proposed, during a suspension of hostilities—whilst, indeed, we were
in friendly intercourse with the Afghan chiefs, this very Ameen-oollah
Khan included—that a body of troops should be got ready as quietly as
possible for secret service, that a sudden attack should be made on
the unsuspecting garrison of Mahmood Khan’s fort, and that one of our
allies—one of the chiefs with whom the Envoy was in treaty—should be
violently seized. I confess that I cannot see anything to justify such
a measure as this. It certainly was not in accordance with that good
faith, the observance of which Macnaghten had declared to be of more
importance than the retention of our position in the country.

But although I cannot bring myself to justify the act, either on the
plea that the chiefs had not observed the engagements into which they
had entered, or that Ameen-oollah Khan was an infamous wretch, and one
of the archenemies of the British, it appears to me to be as little the
duty of the historian severely to condemn the actor as to justify the
act.[200] It is one of those cases in which the exercise of charity
is a solemn duty—one of those cases, to the consideration of which
every one should bring the kindliest resolution to weigh well the
temptation before he measures the offence. There are cases to which,
it is my deliberate conviction, a strict application of the ordinary
rules of right and wrong would be a grievous injustice. It is easy,
in one’s closet, to sit in judgment upon the conduct of a man tempted
far beyond the common limits of human temptation—environed and hemmed
in by difficulties and dangers—overwhelmed with responsibility which
there is no one to share—the lives of sixteen thousand men resting on
his decision—the honour of his country at stake—with a perfidious
enemy before him, a decrepit general at his side, and a paralysed army
at his back—driven to negotiate by the imbecility of his companions,
and then thwarted in his negotiations by the perfidy of his “new
allies.” But if, without injustice and cruelty, we would pass sentence
on the conduct of a man so environed, we must ponder well all these
environments, and consider what must have been the effect of seven
wearing weeks of such unparalleled trial even on the strongest mind,
and what must have been the temptation that arrayed itself before him,
when there suddenly gleamed upon him a hope of saving at once the lives
of his companions and the credit of the British nation. If, when that
great temptation burst suddenly upon his path, and, dazzled by its
delusive brilliancy, he saw the great object set before him, but did
not see the slough of moral turpitude to be passed through before it
could be attained, it is right that we should remember that Macnaghten,
though a good and a brave man, was _but_ a man after all, and that
human strength, at the best, is but weakness to resist the pressure of
overwhelming circumstance.

We have not the same intelligible guides to a right estimate of the
conduct of Akbar Khan. If we regard the assassination of the British
Envoy as a deliberate, predetermined act, it can only be said of it
that it stands recorded as one of the basest, foulest murders that ever
stained the page of history. But it does not appear that the murder of
Macnaghten was premeditated by the Sirdar. It seems to have been the
result of one of those sudden gusts of passion which were among the
distinguishing features of the young Barukzye’s character, and which
had often before betrayed him into excesses laden with the pangs of
after-repentance. The seizure of the Envoy and his companions, which
was designed by the Sirdar, was an act of deliberate treachery, which
the chiefs would perhaps endeavour to justify by declaring that they
only designed to do towards the Envoy as the Envoy had declared himself
willing to do towards Ameen-oollah Khan.[201] But whilst Macnaghten
had only consented to a proposal made to him by others—whilst he had
merely yielded to temptation, and at the instance of one Afghan chief
consented to the betrayal of another—Akbar Khan, with deliberate
subtlety and malice, wove the net which he was to cast over the deluded
Englishman, and treacherously enclosed him in the toils. The trap was
cunningly laid and craftily baited; and the unhappy Envoy, all his
perceptions blunted by the long-continued overstraining of his mind,
fell readily into the snare, and went insanely to his undoing. Like
Burnes, he had been warned of the treachery that encompassed him; and
like his ill-fated colleague he had disregarded the warnings that
might have saved him. The brave confidence of Macnaghten clung to
him to the last; his sanguine temperament, at one time so dangerous
and disastrous, at another so noble and inspiriting—which more than
anything else had sustained the character of the nation throughout the
sore trials which it had brought upon us—lured him at last to his


[December, 1841-January, 1842.]

 The Capitulation—Supineness of the Garrison—Negotiations
 resumed—Efforts of Major Pottinger—Demands of the Chiefs—The Final
 Treaty—Humiliation of the Garrison—General Remarks.

It is recorded, that on the 23rd of December, 1841, the representative
of the British Government was slain at a conference with the Afghan
Sirdars, within sight of the British cantonments at Caubul; and it
is now to be added to the record that this—the foulest indignity
that one nation can put upon another, the murder of an ambassador in
the performance of his ambassadorial duties—roused not the dormant
energies of the military chiefs, or awakened them to a sense of the
depths of humiliation in which they were plunging their unhappy
country. The British Envoy was killed, in broad day, and upon the open
plain, but not a gun was fired from the ramparts of the cantonment; not
a company of troops sallied out to rescue or to avenge. The body of
the British Minister was left to be hacked to pieces, and his mangled
remains were paraded, in barbarous triumph, about the streets and
bazaars of the city.

The military chiefs assert that they did not know, until the day after
his death, that Macnaghten had been murdered. Elphinstone says it was
thought by himself and others that the Envoy had proceeded to the
city for the purpose of negotiating.[202] But there were those in
cantonments who had seen the tumult at the place of conference, and
who knew that some violence had been committed. One officer said that
he distinctly saw the Envoy fall; and that afterwards he could see the
Ghazees hacking to pieces the body of the murdered man. If the General
did not tremble for the safety of the political chief, he was the only
man in the garrison who encouraged the belief that the lives of the
Envoy and his companions, if they had not been already sacrificed,
were not now in imminent danger. There was something very remarkable,
if not suspicious, in the unwonted confidence of the General at this
time. It was not his habit to look upon the bright side of things, or
to take any great pains to encourage and reassure the troops under his
command. He had, on almost every occasion, taken the most desponding
view of affairs, and freely expressed his apprehension of dangers,
which had no existence save in his own mind. But now he sent round his
Adjutant-General to the troops to assure them of the Envoy’s safety.
They were all under arms. Captain Grant rode to the head of each
regiment, and by Elphinstone’s orders told them that the conference
had been interrupted by the Ghazees—that the Envoy and his companions
had been removed to the city—but that they would return immediately
to cantonments. Some who heard this authoritative announcement still
believed that they would never hear the Envoy’s voice, or look upon
his living face again. The whole garrison was in a state of painful
excitement; and when the shades of evening fell over the cantonment,
and still no certain intelligence of the fate of Macnaghten had
arrived, not an officer joined the mess-table of his regiment, or
sate down to his solitary meal, without a leaden weight of gloom and
despondency at his heart.

The day, indeed, had been one of intense anxiety. It had been, too, a
busy stirring time within the cantonment walls. The authorities seem
to have been stimulated into something of activity at home, though
they could not bring themselves to do anything abroad. They got up a
little war against the Afghans, whom business or curiosity had brought
into cantonments, and who were now either eagerly trafficking or idly
looking about them in the square. They had been doing the same, and
more, for many weeks—at a time, too, when danger resulted from their
spying the nakedness of the land. But now that this danger had passed,
the military authorities began for the first time to think of expelling
the Afghans from cantonments. All the men of rank who could be found
were placed under arrest; whilst hundreds of less note, apprehending
that a similar fate might be awaiting them, rushed towards the
different gates, jostling and upsetting each other on the icy ground,
and creating a scene of indescribable confusion in their efforts to
escape. A lull succeeded; but as the evening advanced, the noise and
confusion in the city were such that the troops were again turned out
and the cantonment-works manned, in expectation of coming dangers.
The Ghazees were mustering, in the belief that the British troops
would attack the city and avenge the murder of their ambassador. But
all thought of doing had long ago passed away from the minds of our
military chiefs. They had settled down into the belief that now it had
become their duty only to suffer.

With the morrow came a confirmation of the worst fears of those who
never thought to see the Envoy reenter the cantonment-gates. They
waited for tidings of him, and tidings came at last. Though he had been
killed almost within musket-shot of our ramparts, nothing had been done
by the military chiefs to solve the painful doubts which perplexed them
throughout that disastrous 23rd of December. It was thought that if
they only waited long enough for it, some certain intelligence would
come at last; and it came at last, on the afternoon of the 24th, in the
shape of a letter from Captain Lawrence, and certain overtures from the
confederate chiefs, seeking a renewal of the negotiations on the basis
of the treaty initiated by the deceased Envoy.

As the game of negotiation was now to be commenced anew, it was
necessary to secure the services of a new negotiator. There was a man
then in cantonments of whom little had been seen or heard for some
weeks, and of whom the chroniclers and journalists of the insurrection
had up to this time made little or no mention, in connexion with the
stirring scenes in which Macnaghten had been the chief actor, but to
whom the garrison now turned as to the only man fitted to take the
Envoy’s place. Ever since his arrival from Charekur, Major Pottinger
had been incapacitated from active employment by the wound he had
received in the early part of November. The severity of his sufferings
had necessarily been much increased by the hardships of his perilous
journey from Charekur to Caubul, and during the greater part of the
time since his arrival at the latter place he had been confined to his
bed. But he was now, in the difficult conjuncture that had arisen,
ready to bring all the manly vigour and high courage which had done
so much to roll back from the gates of Herat the tide of Persian
invasion, to the new duty of endeavouring to rescue his country from
the degradation in which it had been sunk by the faint hearts of the
military chiefs.

The evening of the 24th saw Pottinger in council with General
Elphinstone, Brigadiers Shelton and Anquetil, and Colonel Chambers,
the four senior officers of the garrison. The chiefs had sent in a
letter, sealed by Mahomed Zemaun Khan, Akbar Khan, Ameen-oollah Khan,
Oosman Khan, and others, with a memorandum of the terms on which they
were prepared to grant the army a safe conduct to Peshawur. This was
now translated to the military officers, who were eager to conclude
the engagement into which Macnaghten had consented to enter for
the withdrawal of all the British troops from Afghanistan. Caubul,
Candahar, Ghuznee, and Jellalabad were all to be immediately evacuated.
Dost Mahomed was to be released from captivity, and restored, with
all other Afghan prisoners, to his own country, while Shah Soojah was
to remain, or to depart, as he might please; and in the event of his
electing the former course, to receive an annual pension of a lakh of
rupees. A certain number of English gentlemen were to be left behind
as hostages for the evacuation of the country by the British troops,
whilst certain Afghan chiefs were to accompany our retiring garrisons
to guarantee their safe conduct to the frontier. Such were the main
features of the treaty which Pottinger found in course of negotiation
when the desperate game of diplomacy was placed in his hands. It need
not be added that large sums of money were to be paid to the chiefs, as
the price of the immunity which they pledged themselves to guarantee to
our discomfited army on their retreat through the dreadful passes.

To Pottinger even these terms appeared deeply humiliating, and, had
the military authorities consented to aid him, he would have rejected
them with scorn and defiance. But he stood before the leaders of our
army alone and unsupported. It was urged that further resistance was
useless, and that Macnaghten had already pledged his country to the
acceptance of the proposed terms. So the draft-treaty was sent back,
with some notes of assent appended to the several articles. It would
have been strange if the chiefs had not then risen in their demands—if
they had not dictated to our unhappy people new terms more grievous
than those which had already been accepted. Four additional articles
were sent back with the original draft. The first stipulated that all
the coin in the public treasury should be given up to the chiefs;
the second, that the British should abandon all their guns but six;
the third, that all the spare muskets should be left behind; and the
fourth, that “General Sale, together with his wife and daughter, and
the other gentlemen of rank who are married and have children,” should
be left as hostages at Caubul, until the arrival of Dost Mahomed and
the other Afghan prisoners from Hindostan.

And thus sinking more and more deeply in the great slough of
humiliation, the unhappy leaders of the Caubul force groaned
through the festal Christmas season. No thought of the dear homes
of England inspired them to uphold England’s dearest honour. On the
26th of December, encouraging letters were received from Macgregor
at Jellalabad, and from Mackeson at Peshawur, setting forth that
reinforcements were on their way up from India, and urging the
authorities at Caubul to hold out to the last. Addressed to Macnaghten,
these letters were opened by one who had carried to Macnaghten’s
duties all Macnaghten’s constancy and courage. He saw in these tidings
fit opportunity to urge again upon the military leaders the duty of
continued resistance. Moreover, there were intestine feuds in the
city; the enemy were weakened by disunion; Shah Soojah seemed to be
gathering strength; and Oosman Khan, Barukzye, who really desired
the salvation of the British force, had offered to conduct it safely
to Peshawur for five lakhs of rupees. These facts were communicated
to Elphinstone, who summoned a council of war. The two Brigadiers,
Shelton and Anquetil, Colonel Chambers, and Captains Grant and Bellew,
met the military and the political chief at the house of the former.
Earnestly, and almost hopefully, Pottinger set forth these encouraging
circumstances, and besought the military chiefs not to treat with the
enemy. The reasons with which he enforced his request, were as weighty
as the spirit which informed them was noble. He contended that they had
no right to bind their government to future measures which might be
injurious to the public welfare; that they had no right to order other
commanding officers to abandon the trusts confided to them; no right
to sacrifice large sums of public money to purchase their own safety.
He contended, too, that the enemy were not to be trusted; that, in all
human probability, they would betray us; and that it would be safer,
therefore, as it would be more honourable, to make a great effort to
occupy the Balla Hissar till the spring, or else to fight their way to
Jellalabad, and there await the promised reinforcements.

Eldred Pottinger had not the gift of speech—had not a commanding
presence; but there was natural eloquence in these plain soldierly
words, and the resolute bearing of the man imparted dignity to his
utterance of them. Almost was the General, though greatly enfeebled
at this time by disease, roused into action by them. But Shelton
vehemently contended that neither course suggested by Pottinger was
practicable, and that it was better to pay any sum of money than to
sacrifice the force. In this opinion the council of war, true to the
character of such assemblies, unanimously concurred. So grievously
disappointed and mortified as he was, Pottinger renewed his diplomatic
intercourse with the enemy, and proceeded to give effect to the terms
of the hated treaty.

Captain Lawrence, who since his seizure at the fatal conference, had
resided in the house of Akbar Khan in the city, was sent for to draw
the bills, and on the 27th of December came into cantonments. Fourteen
lakhs of rupees were then signed away. Then came a more dreadful
concession. The enemy demanded the immediate surrender of our guns.
All but six field-pieces, which were to be suffered to accompany the
retreating force, were now to be given up to the triumphant Afghans.
This was the sorest trial that the British garrison had yet been called
upon to encounter. It burnt in our humiliation as with a brand of iron.
The troops chafed under this crowning indignity; and the military
chiefs, when the hour of surrender came, shrunk from the mortifying
necessity of giving up to a barbarous foe those muniments of war, which
soldiers of all nations honour, and some almost idolise. But they
could not bring themselves to risk a renewal of the conflict by openly
refusing to accede to the demand. So, Pottinger hoping, perhaps, that
something might yet arise to break off the negotiations, determined to
procrastinate. He began by giving up the Shah’s guns, two by two, on
successive days; but if this alleviated the pain of the concession, it
did not really soften the disgrace.

From day to day, guns, waggons, small arms, and ammunition were
surrendered to the enemy. The hostages, too, were given up. Lieutenants
Conolly and Airey were already in the hands of the Afghans. Now
Captains Walsh and Drummond, and Lieutenant Warburton and Webb, were
sent to join them in captivity.[203] The enemy were anxious to get
some of the married families into their hands; but there was a general
unwillingness on the part of the officers to suffer their wives and
children to be cast upon the forbearance of an enemy supposed to be so
cruel, so treacherous, and so unscrupulous. On the 29th, such of the
sick and wounded as were believed to be unable to bear the fatigues
of the march, were sent into the city; and two medical officers, Drs.
Berwick and Campbell, were appointed to take charge of them.

On the 1st of January, 1842, the ratified treaty was sent in, bearing
the seals of eighteen of the Afghan Sirdars. It contained all the
stipulations already detailed, except that relating to the surrender,
as hostages, of the English ladies. Even without this crowning
indignity it was miserably degrading. There is nothing, indeed,
more painful in all this painful history than the progress of the
negotiations which resulted in the accomplishment of this treaty. The
tone of the enemy throughout was arrogant, dictatorial, and insulting;
whilst the language of our diplomatists was that of submission
and self-abasement. It is so rare a thing for Englishmen to throw
themselves upon the clemency and forbearance of an insolent foe, that
when we see our officers imploring the Afghan chiefs “not to overpower
the weak with suffering,”[204] we contemplate the sad picture of our
humiliation with as much astonishment as shame. The disgrace rests
on the military commanders. Pottinger, had he not been overruled in
council, would have snapped asunder the treaty before the faces of the
chiefs, and appealed again to the God of Battles.

There were other things, too, to humble us. The state of affairs in
cantonments was something very grievous to contemplate. The Ghazees
hovering round the walls were insulting our people at their very gates,
and bearding them at the very muzzles of their guns. Intercepting the
supplies of grain which the commissariat had purchased with so much
difficulty, they drove off the cattle and ill-treated their attendants.
The chiefs declared that they had no power to prevent these outrages,
and told the British authorities that they should order the garrison to
fire upon all who molested them. Officers and men alike were burning
to chastise the wretches who thus insulted their misfortunes; but they
were not suffered to fire a shot. The Afghans had triumphed over us so
long with impunity that they now believed the Feringhees had sunk into
hopeless cowardice, and had become as patient of injury and insult as a
herd of broken-spirited slaves.[205]

All this was very hard to bear. Other trials, too, were upon them.
All who had friends in the city—and many of our officers had among
the Caubulees faithful and long-tried friends—were now receiving
from them alarming intimations of the dangers that threatened them
on the retreat. It was no secret, indeed, either in the city or in
cantonments, that the promises of the chiefs were not to be depended
on, and that treachery was brewing for the destruction of our wretched
force. Mohun Lal warned Pottinger that the chiefs were not to be
believed, and that unless their sons accompanied the army as hostages,
it would be attacked upon the road. To this Pottinger replied: “The
chiefs have signed the treaty, and their sons accompany us. As for
attacking us on the road, we are in the hands of God, and him we
trust.”[206] Again, Mohun Lal wrote that the troops would be attacked
as soon as they quitted cantonments; but it was too late now to recede.
Other warning notes of still more ominous import were sounded at
this time. Moollah Ahmed Khan told Captain Johnson, that Akbar Khan
had sworn that he would obtain possession of the English ladies as a
pledge for the safe return of his own wives and family; and 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

But to those who pondered well the dangers that threatened the
retreating force in the gloomy defiles between Caubul and Jellalabad,
there was something more terrible still than the vindictive treachery
of the Afghan tribes. Ever since the 18th of December, snow had been
falling heavily at intervals—sometimes from morning to evening, with
terrible perseverance. It was now lying more than ankle-deep upon the
ground. Already had the Sepoys and the camp-followers begun to faint
under the cruel sufferings of a frosty winter, fearfully aggravated
by the exhaustion of all the firewood in their reach. The trees in
cantonments had already been cut down and consumed. What was once a
flourishing grove or orchard (for they were mainly fruit-trees) had
now become a desert. But the sufferings which these wretched men,
transplanted from the torrid plains of Hindostan, were now enduring in
the Caubul cantonment, seemed but faintly to foreshadow the misery of a
long march through the dreadful snow. Even to the hardy people of the
North such a march, it was known, must be a sore trial; but to the weak
and effeminate strangers from the plains of Hindostan, who had followed
our fortunes into those dreary regions, it seemed to threaten nothing
short of absolute extermination.

Those few first days of January were days of painful doubt and anxiety.
Every preparation for the march had been made by the garrison. For
some time our officers had been gathering together and securing such
property as they could take with them, and destroying what they were
compelled to abandon. Every night, since the commencement of the
new year, they had retired to rest, believing that the army would
commence its march on the following morning; but the movement was
delayed day after day, because the chiefs had not completed their
promised arrangements for the safe conduct of the force. At last,
on the evening of the 5th of January, the engineer-officer received
instructions actually to commence the work, which he had been so long
in readiness to accomplish. He was ordered to cut an opening through
the rampart-walls of the cantonment to allow the egress of the troops,
more rapidly and less confusedly, than they could pass out through the
gates. The chiefs had not sent the promised safeguard; but, contrary to
the advice of Major Pottinger,[208] the military authorities determined
to march out of their entrenchments. And so, on the following morning,
the British force, beaten and disgraced, commenced its ill-fated
retreat towards the provinces of Hindostan.

I have commented upon the various incidents of the Caubul insurrection
as they have arisen, one by one, to claim the attention of the reader;
and little now remains to be said in explanation of the causes which
conduced to the calamitous and disgraceful defeat of a British army by
an undisciplined and disunited enemy, who had no artillery to bring
into the field. Whatever more remote causes of this lamentable failure
may be found elsewhere, it is impossible to conceal or to disguise the
one galling fact, that the British army at Caubul was disastrously
beaten because it was commanded by an incapable chief. Whether that
chief would have beaten the enemy, if the military arrangements for
which he was not responsible had been better ordered—if the site of
the cantonments had been more judiciously chosen, and its defences
more effectively constructed, if all our magazines and godowns had
been well located and well protected,—may still be an open question;
but it appears to me that there is no question as to whether a
commanding officer of the right stamp would have triumphed over these
difficulties, and beaten the enemy in spite of them. The Caubul
cantonments were very badly situated, and very ill-constructed for
purposes of defence; but if our troops had been commanded by an officer
with a robust frame, strong nerves, a clear understanding, and a proper
knowledge of his business, as the chief of a mixed army of British and
Hindostanee troops, they would have crushed the insurrection in a few
hours, and demonstrated the irresistible power of British valour and
British discipline.

It has been said that the British army was not beaten out of Caubul,
but that it was _starved_ out of Caubul. This is a belief that I would
willingly encourage, if I could only bring my judgment to embrace it.
But the fact is, that the army was driven out of Caubul for want of
supplies, only because the troops would not fight, or were not suffered
to fight, to obtain them. The Commissariat officers would have fed
the troops, if the military authorities had not shamefully sacrificed
their supplies,—if they had not ignominiously lost what was already
in store; and ignominiously refused to make an effort to obtain fresh
supplies from the surrounding country. The troops, indeed, fought
neither to keep their food when they had it, nor to procure food when
they had none. There was an alacrity only in losing. The imbecility
which sacrificed the Bengal Commissariat Fort, on the 5th of November,
and the miserable abandonment of the expedition to Khoja Rewash, on
the 9th of December, are equally apt illustrations of the truth, that,
if the army was starved out of Caubul, it was only because it courted

This is a very humiliating confession, but it is impossible, without
a sacrifice of truth for the sake of administering to our national
vanity, to avoid the mortifying conclusion that the Caubul army wanted
food, only because it wanted vigour and energy to obtain it. If
General Elphinstone had thrown half as much heart into his work as
Captain Johnson threw into his, the army would not have been starved
out of Caubul. There is nothing sadder than the spectacle of a fine
army sacrificed by the imbecility of an incapable general, and nothing
more painful than to write of it. But such humiliating revelations
are not without their uses. They operate in the way of warning. Never
again, after this frightful illustration of the evils of a vicious
system of routine, will the lives of sixteen thousand men, and the
honour of a great nation, be placed in the hands of a senile commander,
crippled by disease and enfeebled by suffering. It was General
Elphinstone’s misfortune that he was sent to Caubul. It was Lord
Auckland’s fault that he sent him there. General Elphinstone knew that
he was incapable of performing worthily the duties of such a command,
and he took the earliest opportunity of applying for relief from a
burden of responsibility which he was not able to bear. Lord Auckland
knew that he was incapable, for the attention of the Governor-General
was strongly called to the fact; but he sent the infirm old General
to Caubul, in spite of the representations that were made to him by
men less jealous of the integrity of the roster than of the honour
of their country. The British army was beaten at Caubul, because it
was commanded by General Elphinstone; and it was commanded by General
Elphinstone, because Lord Auckland decreed that it should be so.

General Elphinstone has left upon record a declaration of his belief
that if he had been more worthily supported he would not have been
beaten at Caubul. So long as he held the chief command in his own
hands, he—and he alone—was responsible for all the operations of
the army. He never relinquished the command. Though he did not take
the field in person, every order emanated from him. To him the Envoy
addressed himself; with him the Envoy took counsel. It is possible
that if the second-in-command had been an officer of a different stamp,
the army would not have been so disastrously and ignominiously beaten;
but this admission does not affect the question of responsibility.
Brigadier Shelton, throughout the siege, held a subordinate situation.
He was immediately under Elphinstone’s orders; and though he may be
chargeable with certain individual miscarriages—with certain errors
in the executive management of details—he is not chargeable with the
great comprehensive failure which has plunged his country into such
a sea of disgrace. Of Shelton’s faults I have not been unmindful;
but when I have admitted all his perverseness, his arrogance, his
contumacy, and expressed my belief that there was not another man
in the British army so unfitted by nature for the post he occupied
under such a General, the admission amounts to little more than this:
that Brigadier Shelton was not the man to supply the deficiencies
of General Elphinstone. It is only because General Elphinstone was
so incapable himself that we come to canvass at all the merits of
his second-in-command. History does not trouble itself much about
seconds-in-command, when the chiefs are fit for their posts.

Unquestionably Elphinstone was not well supported. Macnaghten, in
emphatic language, described the troops as “a pack of despicable
cowards.” On more than one occasion they forgot that they were British
troops, and turned their backs upon the enemy. They did not fight,
as they would have fought if they had been well commanded. But the
commander had less reason to complain of his troops than the troops
had to complain of their commander. It was the faint-heartedness of
the commander, at the outset of the insurrection, that dispirited and
unnerved the troops. If Elphinstone, on the 2nd of November, had struck
a vigorous blow at the then incipient rebellion, and proved himself,
by his energy and resolution, worthy of the confidence of the troops,
they would have had confidence in him and in themselves. But they were
held in restraint by the backwardness of their leader; the forward
feeling that then inspired them was crushed and deadened. There was
nothing to encourage and to animate them, but everything to dishearten
and depress. They saw that the enemy were suffered to triumph over and
insult them—that the worst indignities were unresented, the vilest
outrages unpunished. Thus abased they soon lost their self-respect, and
forgot what was due to their colours and their country.

Brigadier Shelton has attributed to physical causes the deterioration
of the troops; but it is rather to moral than to physical causes that
that deterioration is to be ascribed. The troops would have borne up
against continued harassing duty in cantonments—against cold, hunger,
and fatigue; they would have kept up a brave heart under the sorest
physical trials, if there had been no moral influences to sicken and to
chill. They bore, indeed, their outward sufferings without complaining.
Cold, hunger, and fatigue they could endure without a murmur; but the
supineness of those who suffered them to be robbed and insulted under
the very shadow of their guns filled them with burning indignation,
which, in time, was succeeded by a reaction of sullen despondency. They
felt that they were sacrificed to the imbecility of their commander;
and, in time, under the sure process of moral deterioration, they
became in all respects worthy of their chief.

Examples of individual heroism were not wanting. Wherever Englishmen
congregate, there are surely to be found brave hearts and resolute
spirits amongst them. There were many in that Caubul garrison who bore
themselves throughout the perilous season of their beleaguerment in a
manner worthy of the chivalry of the empire. When the retreating force
commenced its miserable march towards the British provinces, it left
behind it the remains of many brave men who had fallen nobly on the
field of battle; and many brave men were now bracing themselves up in
the desperate resolution to sell their lives dearly to the enemy, if
treachery were at work for their destruction. But they who had been
most eager to counsel a vigorous course of action, and who had felt
most deeply the humiliation into which the feebleness of their chief
had sunk them, were mostly officers of the lower grades; and though
the opinions of captains and subalterns were sought, and offered when
not sought, in a manner unprecedented in the annals of British warfare
(but still short of what might have been justified by the magnitude
of the crisis), they had no power to direct the current of events or
to avert the evils which they clearly foresaw. Even Pottinger, with
all the influence of recognised official position, and the prestige
of an heroic character, could only lift up his voice in remonstrance
against the sacrifice of national honour involved in the humiliating
treaty with the Afghan Sirdars. The military chiefs were fixed in their
determination to abandon Afghanistan, and to leave Shah Soojah to his


[November, 1841-January, 1842.]

 Sale’s Brigade—Evacuation of Gundamuck—Skirmishes with the
 Enemy—Occupation of Jellalabad—State of the Defences—Successful
 Sallies—The Fortifications repaired—Disastrous Tidings from
 Caubul—Summons to surrender—Arrival of Dr. Brydon.

Whilst Elphinstone was flinging himself into the snares of the enemy
at Caubul, Sale was holding out manfully at Jellalabad. Whether the
latter ought not to have returned to Caubul, or if such a movement were
impossible, to have stood his ground at Gundamuck, is a question which
military critics will long continue to discuss. That the appearance
of this brigade at Caubul would have changed the aspect of affairs at
that place, and in all probability rescued Elphinstone’s unhappy force
from destruction, and the national character from disgrace, there
seems no reason to doubt. But it was the opinion of General Sale that
his brigade could not reach Caubul. “My retracing my steps on that
city,” he says, “was, in a military sense, impracticable, since the
first inevitable sacrifice would have been of the lives of 300 sick
and wounded, whom I could not have left in depôt with the treasonable
irregulars at Gundamuck, whilst my cattle was unequal to the transport
of my camp-equipage, and my ammunition insufficient for protracted
operations. In the position which I occupied, I could not absolutely
command a day’s provisions, or even water, and should have been hemmed
in on every side by hostile tribes, amounting to thirty or forty
thousand men, part of whom might have seized Jellalabad, and reduced it
to ashes; or, holding it, have left me no alternative but a disastrous
retreat to Peshawur. I therefore came to the resolution of anticipating
any movement of this kind, and, by possessing myself of Jellalabad,
establishing a point on which the force at Caubul might retire if
hardly pressed, and restoring a link in the chain of communication with
our provinces.”

This was written five months after the brigade had abandoned its
position at Gundamuck. It does not, however, differ much from the
statement of reasons sent to General Elphinstone only as many days
afterwards.[209] But the fact is, that those few days had given a very
different complexion to the aspect of affairs. It was on the 10th
of November that Captain Macgregor, who for days had been perplexed
by alarming rumours of native origin, received the first authentic
intelligence of the outbreak at Caubul, coupled with an urgent
requisition from the Envoy to bring back Sale’s brigade. Some, at
least, of the military objections urged against the movement by the
General had not then begun to exist. The irregulars were not then
known to be treasonable. The surrounding country was not then known
to be hostile. Food was believed to be procurable. The brigade was at
this time halted in the valley of Gundamuck. There was no more fertile
spot than this between Caubul and Jellalabad. Orchards and vineyards,
green fields and rippling streams, refreshed the eyes and gladdened the
hearts of men who, for many weary days, had been toiling through arid
defiles, under the shadow of dreary walls of rock. Here the brigade had
encamped itself on the 30th of October, and looked forward to a brief
season of repose.

Everything, indeed, at this time wore a most encouraging aspect.
Provisions were freely coming into camp, and the Ghilzye chiefs were
making their submission. “On the 31st,” says Captain Macgregor, in
his narrative of these events, “Burkutt Khan paid me a visit, and
brought with him two of the rebel chiefs, Sadad Meer and Sir Biland
Khan; they had returned to their allegiance, and delivered over to me
sixteen camel loads of property (not very valuable) which had been
plundered from some Rehwaree merchants; this property I made over
to their owners. Aghur Khan Sahuk, a Ghilzye chief of considerable
influence, and Attah Mahomed Khan Sahuk, joined me at Gundamuck, and
established their Thanahs for the protection of the Caubul road within
their respective boundaries from Seh Baba to near Jugdulluck. Burkutt
Khan had reposted his Thanahs at Jugdulluck, and at this time there
seemed to be a great promise of the Ghilzye country being shortly

There was one exception, however, to the general amity which the
chiefs seemed now inclined to offer to Macgregor. Meer Afzool Khan,
Urz-Begee, who was the possessor of a fort and some circumjacent land
at Mammoo-Khail, about two miles distant from Sale’s camp at Gundamuck,
had fled from Caubul, and having sent his family and his property
to this fort, was now proceeding to garrison it, and, in aid of the
rebel cause, to molest us by continued incursions upon our camp. On
the 3rd or 4th of November,[211] certain intelligence of this movement
was brought to Macgregor. He was then dining in the mess-tent of the
Sappers. With him were George Broadfoot, who commanded the Sapper-corps
(then ignorant of the fate of his brother at Caubul)—and Backhouse
and Dawes, two stout-hearted officers of artillery. All were of
opinion with Macgregor that no time should be lost in attacking the
fort, before Afzool Khan had thrown his reinforcements into it. So
the political officer went at once to the General’s tent, and urged
him to sanction the assault. His arguments were of no avail; and he
returned only to announce his failure. It was then midnight. But the
emergency was great; so Broadfoot and Backhouse went at once to the
tent of Captain Havelock of the 13th Light Infantry—than whom there
was no finer soldier or abler man in Sale’s camp—and roused him from
his bed to take counsel with them. The General had much confidence in
his judgment, and was more likely to be moved by him than by any man in
his force. Fortunately, Havelock was eager for the attack; and although
he had already recommended it in vain, he undertook to renew his
solicitations, and to the delight of Broadfoot and Backhouse partially
succeeded. They desired an immediate movement upon the rebel fort, and
would have had the necessary troops ready to march at daybreak. But
it was not until the fifth hour after noon that the force received its
orders to march. The enemy fled at its approach, and the evacuated fort
was garrisoned by a party of the Shah’s troops under Captain Gerrard.
A commanding position was thus wrested from the enemy, who were coming
down to occupy it in force, and the moral effects of the achievement
were as great as its immediate and material results. The spirits of the
troops, which had begun to flag, rose rapidly; and the enemy awoke from
their delusive belief that Sale was afraid to attack them.

Up to the day on which Macgregor received the pressing solicitations of
the Envoy to bring back Sale’s brigade to Caubul, circumstances, since
the arrival of the force at Gundamuck, had been all in its favour.
When, therefore, Macnaghten’s letter was received, and they took
counsel together as to the course it then became them to pursue, some
at least of those strong reasons against the movement on Caubul, which
Sale set forth in his official letters, had not yet been forced into
being. A council of war was held, and the members of it were divided
in opinion; but the majority pronounced against the movement for the
rescue of Elphinstone’s force. It was determined that the brigade
should throw itself into Jellalabad. There was a middle course open
to them—the retention of their position at Gundamuck; but it seems
to have found no favour in their eyes. Had Sale’s force remained in
the valley of Gundamuck, it might have saved Elphinstone’s army from
annihilation on its fatal January retreat. As long as it was encamped
there, the tendency of the Ghilzye chiefs was towards the establishment
of friendly relations with the British; but no sooner had we determined
to abandon our position, than the whole country broke out into
hostility, and the passes were sealed.[212]

On the 11th of November, the brigade commenced its march towards
Jellalabad. Sale had wisely determined to move with as little
encumbrance of baggage as possible. He was partly, indeed, compelled
to this by the depredations of the tribes who had swept off the bulk
of his cattle whilst the animals were grazing on the plain. The injury
inflicted upon us by their predatory adroitness was of a very doubtful
character. The taste for baggage is ordinarily so strong that little
short of absolute necessity compels its abandonment. Sale was forced
to move lightly out of Gundamuck, and he found the advantage of the
absence of the usual impediments before he had been long on the march.

To leave, however, any property at Gundamuck was virtually to sacrifice
it. To the care of the Shah’s irregulars posted in the cantonment all
that could not be carried away was now consigned. As soon as Sale’s
brigade had commenced its march to Jellalabad the cantonment was
attacked. True to their character, the Janbaz, who seem to have been
raised for the express purpose of going over to the enemy, did it with
their wonted address. The property left at Gundamuck fell into the
hands of the Afghans; the cantonment was burnt to the ground; and all
the surrounding country rose against us in open revolt.

Without any serious opposition, the march to Jellalabad was
accomplished. On the morning of the 12th, however, soon after the
brigade got under arms in the grey twilight, the tribes were seen
clustering on the steep hills on either side, and soon poured
themselves down on the rear-guard, vainly striving to sweep off the
baggage. A running skirmish, which lasted for some miles, and brought
out the fine qualities of our troops, their admirable discipline
and steadiness under fire, the gallantly of their bearing, and the
rapidity of their movements, ended in the complete dispersion of the
depredators, and secured the safety of the remainder of their march.
Clever were the manœuvres by which on that day Dennie drew the enemy
into his toils, and heavy the retribution which descended upon them.
Placing his cavalry in ambush, he brought up his infantry to the
attack, ordered them to advance firing, and then wheeled them about,
as though in panic flight. The stratagem succeeded to admiration.
The enemy, after a brief pause of wonderment, believed they had
accomplished a great victory, sent up a wild shout, and then rushed
in pursuit of the flying Feringhees. They were soon in the clear open
space to which Dennie had designed to lure them. The cavalry, whom they
had laughed at on the hills, able now to operate freely, dashed at them
with sudden fury. The slaughter was tremendous; the rout was complete.
It was said of the British horsemen that day that “their right arms
were wearied with the blows which they struck; and the quantity of dead
that might be seen scattered over the face of the valley proved that
they had not struck at random.”[213]

On the morning of the 13th of November, Sale’s brigade took possession
of Jellalabad. The movement took the Afghans by surprise. They had
believed that the Feringhees were making the best of their way to the
provinces of Hindostan; and now their entrance into the city struck
a panic into the hearts of the inhabitants. As the regiments marched
in, the citizens fled out in dismay. Everything was abandoned to the
British troops. There was no need to fire a shot or to draw a sabre.
Sale’s brigade had now become the garrison of Jellalabad.[214]

Scarcely, however, had Sale made himself master of the place before
it was surrounded by yelling crowds, who threatened death to the
infidels if they did not at once abandon the town. The utmost caution
was now necessary. The place, though surrounded by fortifications,
was absolutely without any real defences; and the troops within its
dilapidated walls and its filled up ditches, were almost as much
exposed as in the open country. The extent of the works was very
great, and it was quite impossible to man them. But guards were posted
at all the gates; and a strong piquet planted in a central position,
and ordered to hold itself in readiness to send supports to any point
from which the sound of firing might proceed.[215] These arrangements
made, the remainder of the troops were suffered to lie down to rest by
companies, with their officers beside them, whilst Sale summoned the
commanders of regiments and detachments to a council of war.

The question to be determined was this. There was the extensive,
ill-defended city of Jellalabad; and in the midst of it was the Balla
Hissar, or citadel, surrounded by a wall, sufficiently extensive to
enclose the brigade without inconvenience, but yet not so extensive
as to exhaust our means of defence. It was now debated whether it
would be more expedient to abandon the town and concentrate our troops
in the Balla Hissar, or to hold possession of the former. Weighty
and very apparent were the arguments in favour of the occupation of
the citadel; and for a time the council seemed inclined towards the
adoption of that securer course; but to Dennie and others it was clear,
that the abandonment of the city would be a virtual acknowledgment of
weakness, and that it would have a far better political effect, as it
would a more becoming military appearance, to hold the city itself,
than to be cooped up within the walls of the citadel. And so it was at
last determined that the city should be held, and the enemy resolutely

But to hold the city it was necessary that the defences should be
repaired. Well might Sale look with dismay at their condition, and
almost regard it as a wild hope ever to look for the completion of the
work that he had marked out for his little garrison. “I found the walls
of Jellalabad,” he said, “in a state which might have justified despair
as to the possibility of defending them. The _enceinte_ was far too
extensive for my small force, embracing a circumference of upwards of
2300 yards. Its tracing was vicious in the extreme; it had no parapet
excepting for a few hundred yards, which, there, was not more than two
feet high earth; and rubbish had accumulated to such an extent about
the ramparts, that there were roads in various directions across and
over them into the country. There was a space of 400 yards together, on
which none of the garrison could show themselves excepting at one spot:
the population within was disaffected, and the whole _enceinte_ was
surrounded by ruined forts, walls, mosques, tombs, and gardens, from
which a fire could be opened upon the defenders at twenty and thirty

The first thing now to be done was to appoint a committee of officers
to examine and report upon the works of the place. On the 13th of
November, Captain Broadfoot, who commanded the corps of sappers,
with some other officers, went round the dilapidated works. Broadfoot
alone succeeded in making the circuit of them. “Large gaps cut off the
communication, or insecure footing compelled the officers to descend
among the adjoining enclosures, from which it was difficult to find the
way; whilst on the south side the rampart was so embedded in houses and
surrounded by them, that its course could only be traced by laboriously
threading the lanes of the native town. On the north side the wall
rose to a very great height _towards the town_, but sloped down to the
exterior in a heap of ruins almost everywhere accessible; while at the
foot were houses and gardens so strongly occupied by the enemy, that
during the night of the 13th of November our troops were unable to
maintain their posts; and with the exception of the gateway, a line of
four hundred yards on the northern face was without a man on the works.
Had the enemy then attacked us, we must have been reduced to a street

Broadfoot, now appointed garrison engineer, set about the work
entrusted to him with all the energy and zeal for which his character
was distinguished. His little corps of sappers had brought with them
their pickaxes, shovels, and other working tools from Caubul; and were
now ready to ply them with the heartiest good-will. There was not a
soldier in garrison, European or Native, who was not eager to join
in the work. Wood was to be collected; and iron was to be collected;
for there were no available supplies of either. But from the ruins of
old houses in the cantonment and in the town the former was extracted
in sufficient quantity, and the neighbouring country supplied the
latter.[218] Every difficulty was overcome as it arose. Impossibilities
did not grow in Jellalabad.

But before our soldiers could carry on their work in safety upon the
ramparts, it was necessary to give the enemy, who assembled in great
force beyond the walls of the city, a taste of our military strength.
The morning of the 16th of November was an exciting, and it proved to
be a glorious one. On the preceding evening it had been determined that
Colonel Monteith, of the 35th Bengal Infantry, a true soldier and a
good officer, should take out eleven hundred men, at daybreak, and give
battle to the molesting Afghans. As soon as the early dawn would suffer
him to take a survey of surrounding objects, Monteith ascended to the
flat house-top of one of the most commanding edifices in the city, and
looked around, with a keen soldier’s eye, upon the expanse of hill and
plain, of garden and of vineyard, traced the course of the river, and
marked the castles of the chiefs which dotted the adjacent country. He
saw, too, what was of more importance still—the dispositions of the
enemy. There seemed to be about 5000 fighting men, gathered together,
some on the hill-sides, some in the enclosures on the plain; and though
they were kept together by little discipline, there seemed to be some
sturdy qualities about them, and they were, at all events, well armed.
Monteith learnt all that could be learnt from that commanding position,
and then he went down to place himself at the head of his men.

The little force was well composed and well commanded. The remaining
men of the garrison were under arms; and the guns, which Monteith did
not take with him, were posted on the ramparts to cover his advance.
Nothing could have been more gallant or more successful than the
attack. What the artillery commenced, the infantry followed up bravely,
and the cavalry completed. The enemy were beaten at all points. The
wretched Janbaz, who had gone over to the insurgents at Gundamuck,
now met the men of the 5th Cavalry in fair fight, and were hewn down
remorselessly by them. In a little time the panic was complete. The
British horsemen, following up our successes, flung themselves upon
the flying Afghans on the plains, and slaughtered them as they fled.
Then the bugle sounded the recall: Monteith brought his men together,
flushed with success, and the whole returned, in joyous spirits, to
the city. The Afghans were checked at the outset of their career of
insolence and intimidation, and for many a day kept themselves quietly
in their homes.

Then the work of defence proceeded apace. Broadfoot was toiling all
day long to repair the decayed ramparts and clear out the ditches,
which, ditches no longer, had been filled up to the consistency of
thoroughfares. Abbott, who had been appointed commissary of ordnance
was getting his guns into position, and making up his ammunition as
best he could from the materials to be found in the neighbourhood.
Macgregor, with his wonted activity, was playing the part of the
commissariat officer—and playing it well—bringing all his political
influence, which was great, to bear upon the important business of
the collection of supplies. And so successful were his exertions—so
successful were the efforts of the foraging parties, which went out
from time to time in search of grain, sheep, firewood, and other
essentials—that in a little while a month’s provisions were in store.
It is true that the men were on half-rations; but they did not work
the worse for that. It was never said at Jellalabad that the soldiery
were unequal to their accustomed duties because they had not their
accustomed supplies of food. The gallant men who composed the garrison
of Jellalabad, took their half-rations cheerfully, and cheerfully did
double work.[219]

Not again, until the 1st of December, was the mettle of Sale’s brigade
tried in the open field. For some days before, the enemy had been
hovering about and threatening the garrison, who, chary of their
ammunition, which was running scarce, gave back nothing in reply to the
desultory fire of the Afghans. But on the 1st of December they appeared
in such formidable array, and grew so bold and menacing—closing in
nearly and more nearly about the walls, until the workmen on the
ramparts could not safely perform their accustomed duties—that Sale
could no longer refrain from sending out his fighting men against them.
Monteith, an officer of the Company’s service, had led the attack on
the 14th of November. Now, the direction of the sortie was entrusted
to an officer of the Queen’s army, who had already, on more than one
occasion, shown his capacity for command. Dennie led out the garrison
this time; and gallantly they moved to the attack. It was mid-day when
they sallied out with a cheer, and fell upon their besiegers. It were
scarcely truth to say that a battle was fought on that 1st of December.
The affair began and ended with the rout of the Afghans. Two guns of
Abbott’s battery were unlimbered, and with murderous execution poured
in their thick showers of grape upon the discomfited mass. They, who
had of late been so bold and defiant, now fled in wild confusion, but
could not escape the sabres of our cavalry, who charged them home,
and drove them across the plain into the river, whilst our infantry
pursued them up the hill-sides, and fell upon them with their gleaming
bayonets. And so, without the loss of a single man, Dennie dispersed
the investing force; and not a trace of it was to be seen on the morrow
except the dead bodies on the plain.

And now, with little or no interruption, the labours of the garrison
proceeded, and the works began to assume an appearance of effective
defence. In fine health, in good working condition, and in an admirable
state of discipline, European and Native troops alike laboured with axe
and shovel, and soon saw the mud-walls rising around them. Had they
thought only of themselves, they would have toiled on, in high spirits
as in high health. But the worst rumours were coming in from Caubul. It
was plain that their fellow-soldiers at the capital were not achieving
like honourable success. It was believed, too, that Sale and Macgregor
knew more than they were willing to reveal. Men asked each other
fearful questions; but beyond the leading outline of events, nothing
was known that could be shaped into intelligible replies.

How it happened that such an army as that commanded by General
Elphinstone had been so disastrously and disgracefully beaten in the
field by an enemy of such calibre as these undisciplined Afghans, was
a terrible mystery to the brave men who had been scattering their
besiegers like sheep. They heard something of the want of provisions
that had reduced the force to this melancholy strait; but, when Sale’s
brigade sate down in Jellalabad, it had only two days’ provisions. They
heard, too, that the extent and the weakness of the Caubul cantonments
had paralysed the efforts of the garrison; but there, at Jellalabad,
they had found their defences in a state of absolute ruin. It seemed to
them easy to obtain provisions, and to build up their defences. At all
events, they had done both; and the troops at Caubul were of three or
four times their numerical strength.

Half of the month of December had worn away, when a whisper went round
the garrison that the Caubul force had capitulated. With mingled
feelings of incredulity and indignation the humiliating intelligence
was received. Sale and Macgregor knew only too well how Elphinstone and
Shelton had been throwing away chance after chance of rescuing their
miserable troops from destruction. But it was not wise to damp the
spirits of their own gallant and successful garrison by any revelations
of the unhappy manner in which their old comrades had been sacrificed
at Caubul. When, therefore, on the 17th of December, it was known that
some disastrous intelligence had been received from the capital, it was
slowly believed that the main body of the British army in Afghanistan
had thrown itself on the mercy of a barbarous foe.

But soon other intelligence of a grievous and afflicting character
was conveyed to the garrison. At first it appeared only in the
shape of a native rumour, which, though it seemed to swell into the
substantial proportions of fact, was believed, with something perhaps
of self-deception, by Macgregor, to be only a shadowy figment that
he ought at once to dismiss from his mind. It was rumoured that
the British Envoy at Caubul had been murdered, at a conference, by
Akbar Khan; but Macgregor argued, when communicating, on the 30th of
December, this report to the authorities below, that it was not likely
Macnaghten would have gone unattended to a conference with the chiefs,
or that Akbar Khan, whose father and family were in the hands of the
British, would commit an act of such outrageous folly as to murder the
representative of the British Government. But Macgregor’s incredulity
was soon dispersed. After three days of doubt, authentic tidings
came in from Caubul to disquiet the hearts of the British chiefs at
Jellalabad. On the second day of the new year, a letter was received
from Major Pottinger, full of the most painful and disheartening
intelligence. It announced the murder of Macnaghten. It announced that
the Caubul force was about immediately to abandon its position, and to
fall back upon Jellalabad, with every prospect of being attacked by
a faithless and infuriated enemy upon the way. Into a few sentences
of terrible significance was crowded the record of these melancholy
events. The letter was written on Christmas-day:

  Caubul, December 25, 1841.


 We have had a sad Comedy of Errors, or rather tragedy here. Macnaghten
 was called out to a conference and murdered. We have interchanged
 terms on the ground he was treating on for leaving the country; but
 things are not finally settled. However, we are to fall back on
 Jellalabad to-morrow or next day. In the present disturbed state of
 the country we may expect opposition on the road, and we are likely to
 suffer much from the cold and hunger, as we expect to have no carriage
 for tents and superfluities. I have taken charge of the Mission.
 Mackenzie, Lawrence, and Conolly are all seized. The first two I fear
 for. The latter is quite safe. The cantonment is now attacked.

  Yours, very truly,

With deep emotion the officers now discussed the dangers of this
fearful retreat through the snow, and the too probable treachery
of the chiefs; and there were those among them who predicted that
Elphinstone’s army would be cut to pieces by the enemy, or destroyed
by the snow almost to a man. All this was very discouraging; but the
Jellalabad garrison were not in a temper to be easily cast down. On
they went from day to day, working cheerfully at the defences—never
fearing for themselves, and, in spite of the evil prophecies of a few
amongst them, hoping the best for their miserable comrades.

So passed the first week of January. To Sale and Macgregor they
were days of intense anxiety. Eagerly as they looked for cheering
intelligence from Caubul, nothing came to refresh them with new hopes.
On the 8th of January, another letter from Pottinger, dated the 28th of
December, was received by Macgregor. It was written in French, as there
were men in the enemy’s camp who could read and interpret English;[220]
and it announced that the position of the British force at Caubul
was becoming more and more perilous—that the treaty commenced by
the late Envoy was still being negotiated—that some delays had been
occasioned by the difficulty, real or pretended, of providing carriage
and provisions to enable the troops to commence their march; and that
it was not improbable that, in spite of the promises of the chiefs, the
British column would be compelled to fight its way down to Jellalabad.
In conclusion, Pottinger spoke of instructions for the evacuation of
Jellalabad that had been despatched by Macnaghten, but urged Macgregor
to stand fast until the receipt of further orders from Caubul.

On the following day those further orders arrived. A few horsemen
appeared under the walls of Jellalabad, one of whom was the bearer of
a letter from the English authorities at Caubul, addressed to Captain
Macgregor. It contained instructions for the evacuation of Jellalabad,
couched in the following words:—

  Caubul, December 29, 1841.


 It having been found necessary to conclude an agreement, founded
 on that of the late Sir W. H. Macnaghten, for the evacuation of
 Afghanistan by our troops, we have the honour to request that you
 will intimate to the officer commanding at Jellalabad, our wish that
 the troops now at that place should return to India, commencing their
 march immediately after the receipt of this letter, leaving all guns,
 the property of Dost Mahomed Khan, with the new Governor, as also such
 stores and baggage as there may not be the means of carrying away, and
 the provisions in store for our use on arriving at Jellalabad.

 Abdool Ghuffoor Khan, who is the bearer of this letter, will render
 you all the assistance in his power. He has been appointed Governor of
 Jellalabad on the part of the existing government.

  We have the honour to be, &c.,
  ELDRED POTTINGER, in charge of Caubul Mission.

  W. K. ELPHINSTONE, Major-General.

Macgregor laid the letter before Sale, and a council of war was held.
It does not seem that there were many doubts and misgivings to agitate
and perplex the brave men, who then asked each other whether they
should cast further discredit on their country, by abandoning their
post and flinging themselves into the snares of the enemy. It seemed to
them that a bait had been laid to lure them to destruction. Macgregor
knew that Akbar Khan had issued a proclamation to the chiefs of the
surrounding country, calling upon them, as followers of the true faith,
to rise and slay the Feringhees on the road; his voice was all for
the retention of their post, and the military chiefs were of the same
temper. Little time elapsed, therefore, before the following letter was
written to Major Pottinger and General Elphinstone:—

  Jellalabad, January 9, 1842.


 We have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the
 29th ultimo, which you therein state was to be delivered to us by
 Abdool Ghuffoor Khan, appointed Governor of this place by the existing
 powers at Caubul. That communication was not delivered to us by him,
 but by a messenger of his; and though dated 29th of December, 1841,
 has only this moment reached us. I have, at the same time, positive
 information that Mahomed Akbar Khan has sent a proclamation to all
 the chiefs in the neighbourhood, urging them to raise their followers
 for the purpose of intercepting and destroying the forces now at
 Jellalabad. Under these circumstances we have deemed it our duty to
 await a further communication from you, which we desire may point out
 the security which may be given for our safe march to Peshawur.

  We have the honour to be, &c.,
  R. SALE, Major-General.

  G. H. MACGREGOR, Political Agent.

It is right that Macgregor and Sale should be suffered to state in
their own words, the motives which impelled them to adopt this worthy
resolution. “The conduct,” wrote Captain Macgregor sometime afterwards,
“of Major-General Sir R. Sale and myself, in having declined, under
the circumstances, to deliver up Jellalabad to Abdool Ghuffoor Khan,
Barukzye, in conformity with the instructions contained in the letter
to my address of the 29th of December, signed by Major Pottinger and
General Elphinstone, has already been approved by government; but
perhaps it may be proper here to relate a few of the causes which
led to such a resolution. When the British authorities at Caubul had
decided upon capitulating, and the terms of capitulation were in the
course of negotiation, my spies informed me that letters had been
received from Mahomed Akbar Khan and the Ghilzye chiefs, desiring the
different tribes on the road to assemble to attack the British army,
which was shortly to leave Caubul for India. This information was
confirmed by the letter from Burkutt Khan ... An intercepted letter
from Mahomed Akbar Khan, which reached us at the same time, will
serve to show the spirit with which he regarded us; therefore I felt
convinced that treachery was intended by the Afghan chiefs, in which
case our retaining possession of the fortress of Jellalabad became of
incalculable advantage to the retreating force; and if it succeeded in
reaching Jellalabad, strengthened as it would be by the garrison, we
might yet have upheld our authority in Ningrahar, until an opportunity
would have been afforded to the British Government to reinforce us, so
as to commence operations for the recapture of Caubul. The troops left
Caubul on the 6th of January; and not until the 9th did we receive the
letter in question. Their fate had been sealed ere that period; and had
the requisition been complied with, Government would most undoubtedly
have had to lament the destruction of the Jellalabad garrison as well
as that of the Caubul force, the wishes of the enemy evidently being to
inveigle us into their power, and then to do their worst towards us.
Moreover, to have evacuated Jellalabad would have doubtless increased a
hundred-fold the difficulties of re-establishing the British authority
in this country, in the event of Government determining so to do. Our
national honour, and the safety of our Indian dominions, seemed to
render this latter course of paramount necessity.”[221]

“As regards my own line of conduct,” said General Sale, “in this
difficult crisis, I am of opinion, in the absence of all instructions
from India, that I am at liberty to choose between the alternatives of
being bound or not by the convention, which was forced from our Envoy
and military commander with the knives at their throats, according as
I see either one course or the other to be most conducive to British
interests. It does not absolutely impose any obligation on my force,
which is no party to it, and under the consideration of its having been
extorted by force, unless it should be ratified by the Governor-General
in Council. If, therefore, I see a prospect of being re-inforced from
Peshawur within the period for which my provisions and ammunition will
last, I propose to hold this place on the part of the government,
until I receive its orders to the contrary. If, however, any untoward
incidents should preclude the prospect of Brigadier Wild’s crossing
the Khybur, I should esteem it wiser and better to retire upon
Peshawur, with the _débris_ of the force of Caubul, on its reaching
me, than to remain here; but in no event would I retire unsupported
by other troops to Peshawur, unless absolutely compelled to do so by
the failure of food and ammunition. I feel assured that the rebels
at Caubul dare not proceed to extremities with the force there, so
long as they know me to be strong here; and that I should, therefore,
be compromising them by evacuating this place, until they have been
permitted to retire upon it.”[222]

A season of painful anxiety and suspense followed the receipt of the
letter from Pottinger and Elphinstone. But it was not without its
alleviations. Money had become scarce at Jellalabad. The cupidity of
the Afghans had seldom been proof against English money; and now to
lack the means of appealing to it was to lose one of our principal
means of defence. It was, therefore, with no common delight that the
garrison now welcomed the arrival of a sum of money which Mackeson,
ever strenuous in his activity, had sent on from Peshawur, through the
agency of Tora-baz Khan, the loyal chief of Lalpoora. The defences of
the place, too, were rising under Broadfoot’s hands, and “by the middle
of January, the commencement of the rainy season, a parapet, nowhere
less than six feet high, with a banquette as wide as the nature of the
rampart allowed, was completed entirely round the place. The gates were
repaired and strengthened by buttresses. Two of them were re-trenched,
and a ditch carried round the north-west angle, whilst some of the most
dangerous ravines were laid open to our force, and roads were opened
into the low ground on the north side.”[223] There was little, indeed,
at this time, except a scarcity of ammunition, to render the garrison
apprehensive on their own account; but every day made them more and
more anxious concerning the fate of their countrymen, who by this time
had left Caubul on their perilous retreat through the snowy passes. A
letter from Captain Lawrence, dated on the 4th instant,[224] announced
that the force was to march in a day or two, with every expectation of
being attacked upon the road. Nothing could Sale’s brigade do in this
emergency, but patiently abide the result.

At last, on the 13th of January, when the garrison were busy on the
works, toiling with axe and shovel, with their arms piled and their
accoutrements laid out close at hand, a sentry, on the ramparts,
looking out towards the Caubul road, saw a solitary, white-faced
horseman struggling on towards the fort. The word was passed; the
tidings spread. Presently the ramparts were lined with officers,
looking out, with throbbing hearts, through unsteady telescopes, or
with straining eyes tracing the road. Slowly and painfully, as though
horse and rider both were in an extremity of mortal weakness, the
solitary mounted man came reeling, tottering on. They saw that he was
an Englishman. On a wretched, weary pony, clinging, as one sick or
wounded, to its neck, he sate or rather leant forward; and there were
those who, as they watched his progress, thought that he could never
reach, unaided, the walls of Jellalabad.

A shudder ran through the garrison. That solitary horseman looked
like the messenger of death. Few doubted that he was the bearer of
intelligence that would fill their souls with horror and dismay. Their
worst forebodings seemed confirmed. There was the one man who was to
tell the story of the massacre of a great army.[225] A party of cavalry
were sent out to succour him. They brought him in wounded, exhausted,
half-dead. The messenger was Dr. Brydon, and he now reported his belief
that he was the sole survivor of an army of some sixteen thousand men.


[January, 1842.]

 The Retreat from Caubul—Departure of the Army—Attack on the
 Rear-Guard—The First Day’s March—Encampment at Begramee—The Passage
 of the Koord-Caubul Pass—Tezeen—Jugdulluck—Sufferings of the
 Force—Negotiations with Akbar Khan—Massacre at Gundamuck—Escape of
 Dr. Brydon.

The story told by Dr. Brydon was one of which history has few
parallels. A British army, consisting of more than four thousand
fighting men and twelve thousand camp-followers, had, as he confusedly
related, disappeared in a few days. Some had perished in the snow;
others had been destroyed by the knives and the jezails of the enemy;
and a few had been carried into captivity, perhaps to perish even more
miserably than their unhappy comrades who had died in the deep passes
of Koord-Caubul, Tezeen, and Jugdulluck.

In the struggle between life and death which then threatened to stifle
the evidence of poor Brydon, he told but imperfectly what he knew; and
but imperfectly did he know the whole dire history of that calamitous
retreat. It was long before the garrison of Jellalabad had more than
a dim perception of the events which ended in the annihilation of the
Caubul force. No one man could speak of more than certain scenes of the
great tragedy; what had happened before, behind, around him, he could
only conjecture. But there were other survivors than the solitary man
who was brought, wounded and feeble, into Jellalabad on that January
morning; and enough is now on record to enable the historian to group
into one intelligible whole all the crowded circumstances of that
lamentable retreat.

On the 6th of January, 1842, the army commanded by General Elphinstone,
which, for sixty-five days, had been enduring such humiliation as never
before had been borne by a British force, prepared to consummate the
work of self-abasement by abandoning its position, and leaving the
trophies of war in the hands of an insolent enemy. A breach had been
cut, on the preceding day, by the Engineer Sturt, through the low
ramparts of the cantonments, the earth of which bridged over the ditch;
and now through this opening, and through the rear gate, the baggage
filed out into the open plain, and the troops prepared to follow it.
It was a clear, bright, frosty morning. The cold was intense. The snow
was lying deep on the ground. Shelton had recommended that the baggage
should be loaded by moon-rise; but it was not before eight o’clock that
it was ready to move. About half-past nine the advanced-guard[226]
moved out of the cantonments. The English ladies and the children were
with it; for it was supposed to be the place of safety, if safety could
be found amidst the certain horrors of this perilous retreat.

It had been agreed that the chiefs should furnish a strong Afghan
escort to protect our retiring troops from the furious zeal of the
Ghazees, and the uncontrollable cupidity of those Afghan bandits who
had all along looked upon the revolution only as an opportunity for
much plunder. But the army commenced its march without an escort; and
the Newab Zemaun Khan, whose good faith and true nobility of character
are beyond suspicion, despatched a letter to Pottinger, warning him of
the danger of leaving the cantonments without any such provision for
their safety.[227] But it was too late now to stand still. The Mission
premises had already fallen into the hands of the enemy; and could not
be regained without an engagement, which at such a time it was thought
imprudent to risk. Pottinger instructed Conolly, who remained as one
of our hostages with Zemaun Khan, to explain all this to the Newab.
The good old man admitted the cogency of Pottinger’s arguments, and
promised to do his best to protect the retreating force. He fulfilled
his promise to the utmost of his ability; but he lacked the power
to restrain the people from perpetrating the outrages of which long
impunity had habituated them to the commission, and made them regard
themselves as the privileged instruments of chartered violence and

The good intentions of the Newab are not to be denied; but the true
policy of the British, on that January morning, was to wait for
nothing, however advantageous in itself, but to push on with the utmost
possible despatch. But everything seemed to favour delay. The passage
of the Caubul river was to be accomplished by means of a temporary
bridge constructed of gun-waggons, though the river was fordable at
many places, and might have been ridden or waded through without
detriment to those who had been struggling through the deep snow.
On this service, Sturt, active in spite of his wounds, was employed
from an early hour; but it seems that the despatch of the gun-waggons
was delayed, for some unexplained reason, and it was not until the
hour of noon that the bridge was ready for the passage of the troops.
Shelton had endeavoured to expedite the movement;[228] but had met with
his usual success. He went to the General’s quarters—found him at
breakfast; and returned with nothing but a rebuke.

Had the whole of Elphinstone’s army crossed the Caubul river before
noon, and pushed on with all possible despatch to Koord-Cabul, it
might have been saved. But the delays which arose on that dreadful
morning, sealed the fate of the unhappy force. It is hard, indeed, to
say when the force would have moved out of the cantonments, if another
effort had not been made to rouse the General to issue the necessary
order. Colin Mackenzie, estimating aright the fatal consequences of
his chief’s hesitation, hastened to Elphinstone’s quarters, and found
him on horseback before the door of his house, with characteristic
irresolution wondering what he ought to do. Eagerly did Mackenzie
point out that the stream of people, whose egress from the cantonments
was so much desired, had been dammed up, and was now in a state of
terrible stagnation—eagerly did he call the attention of the General
to the crowds of Ghilzyes who had already begun to swarm into the
extensive enclosures of the British Mission-house—eagerly did he
beseech the hesitating chief either to issue orders for the advance of
the troops, or to recall them and expel the intruding Afghans. And he
did not implore in vain. A reluctant assent to the onward movement of
the troops was wrung from the General; and Mackenzie galloped back to
communicate to Shelton the orders he had received. But much mischief
was already done. The day was well-nigh lost. It was a day of suffering
and confusion, presaging worse suffering and confusion to come. The
advanced-guard under Brigadier Anquetil moved out with some order and
steadiness; but in a little while the rush of camp-followers destroyed
all semblance of military array. They mixed themselves up with the
soldiers—a vast overwhelming assemblage of ten or twelve thousand men.
Not a mile of the distance had been accomplished before it was seen how
heavily this curse of camp-followers sat upon the doomed army. It was
vain to attempt to manage this mighty mass of lawless and suffering
humanity. On they went, struggling through the snow—making scant
progress in their confusion and bewilderment—scarcely knowing whether
they were escaping, or whether they were rushing on to death.

The main body under Brigadier Shelton, with its immense strings of
baggage-laden cattle, was moving out of the cantonments during the
greater part of the day. The rear-guard manned the cantonment-walls,
and looked down upon a scene of uproar and confusion beyond the
imagination to conceive. The enemy, as the day advanced, began to be
busy at their work of plunder. Dashing in among the baggage, they cut
down the helpless camp-followers, and carried off whatever they could
seize. The snow was soon plashed with blood. From the opening in the
ramparts to the bridge across the river streamed one great tide of
soldiers and camp-followers, camels and ponies; and at the bridge there
was an enormous mass of struggling life, from which arose shouts,
and yells, and oaths—an indescribable uproar of discordant sounds;
the bellowings of the camels, the curses of the camel-drivers, the
lamentations of the Hindostanees, the shrieks of women, and the cries
of children; and the savage yells of the Ghazees rising in barbarous
triumph above them all.

So tedious was the exode of the force, such were the embarrassments
that beset its progress, that when the shadows of evening began to
descend upon this melancholy scene, the rear-guard was still on the
walls. At six o’clock they marched out of the cantonments; and, moved
by one common thirst of plunder, the Afghans poured themselves upon
the abandoned homes of the English, and, when they could not gratify
their cupidity, began to gratify their revenge. The Feringhees
had left little behind them. They had destroyed almost everything
which they could not carry away, except the guns, which the General
had deemed it expedient to leave in good condition for the use of
his “new allies.”[229] But at all events there were buildings
standing there—buildings erected by the English for their own
purposes—insolent monuments of the Feringhee invasion. The work of the
incendiary commenced. The Mission-house, the General’s quarters, and
other public buildings were soon in a blaze; and the British army, now
scattered over the whole line of country between Caubul and Begramee,
some already at the halting-ground and others only now starting on
their dreary march, looked out through the frosty night at the great
conflagration, which lit up the super-incumbent sky like a stormy
sunset, and for miles around reddened the great coverlid of snow.

Not until two hours after midnight did the rear-guard reach its
encamping ground, on the right bank of the river, near Begramee. They
had been under arms since eight o’clock in the morning. They had been
savagely attacked on leaving the cantonments, and had left fifty of
their numbers dead or dying in the snow, and two of their guns in the
hands of the enemy.[230] They had now only accomplished five or six
miles of their fearful journey; but they had seen enough to fill them
with horrible forebodings of the fate that was in store for them.
The road was strewn with dying wretches, smitten by the unendurable
cold. The miserable people of Hindostan—the weaker women and young
children—had already begun to lay themselves down to die in the
dreadful snow. Even the Sepoys were sinking down on the line of march,
and quietly awaiting death.

The night was one of suffering and horror. The snow lay deep on the
ground. There was no order—no method in anything that was done. The
different regiments encamped anywhere. Soldiers and camp-followers
were huddled together in one inextricable mass of suffering humanity.
Horses, camels, and baggage-ponies were mixed up confusedly with them.
Nothing had been done to render more endurable the rigour of the
northern winter.[231] The weary wretches lay down to sleep—some never
rose again; others awoke to find themselves crippled for life by the
biting frost.

The morning dawned; and without any orders, without an attempt to
restrain them, the camp-followers and baggage struggled on ahead, and
many of the Sepoys went on with them. Discipline was fast disappearing.
The regiments were dwindling down to the merest skeletons. It was
no longer a retreating army; it was a rabble in chaotic flight. The
enemy were pressing on our rear; seizing our baggage; capturing our
guns;[232] cutting up all in their way. Our soldiers, weary, feeble,
and frost-bitten, could make no stand against the fierce charges of the
Afghan horsemen. It seemed that the whole rear-guard would speedily
be cut off. All thoughts of effectual resistance were at an end. There
was nothing now to be hoped for, but from the forbearance of the Afghan

The Newab Zemaun Khan had ever been true to us: ever in the midst
of the wild excitement of the Caubul outbreak, and in the flush of
national triumph, he had been serene, generous, and forbearing; had
borne himself as a worthy enemy; had been betrayed into no excesses;
but had endeavoured to vindicate the rights of the Afghans, without
inflicting upon the Feringhees the misery and humiliation which others
contemplated with irrepressible delight. He had exerted himself on the
preceding day, to control the fierce passions of his countrymen; and
now he wrote to Major Pottinger, exhorting him to arrest the progress
of the retreating army, and promising to send supplies of food and
firewood, and to disperse the fanatic bands which were hovering so
destructively on our flanks. Pottinger went to the General; and the
General consented to the halt.[233] Shelton, on the other hand, was
eager for an advance. He believed that their only chance of safety lay
in a rapid forward movement, shaking off the baggage and camp-followers
as they went. In this conviction, he hurried forward to Elphinstone,
and implored him to proceed.[234] But the General was not to be moved;
and the doomed army halted at Boot-Khak.

Here Akbar Khan appeared upon the scene. With a body of some 600
horsemen he rode up, and Pottinger saw him in the distance. Believing
that he was a Sirdar of note, the political chief despatched Captain
Skinner, with a flag of truce, to communicate with him. Skinner brought
back a friendly message. The Sirdar, he said, had reproached the
British authorities for their hasty movement on the preceding morning;
but added that he had come out to protect them from the attacks of the
Ghazees. His instructions were to demand other hostages, as security
for the evacuation of Jellalabad; and to arrest the progress of the
force, supplying it in the interval with everything it required, until
such time as intelligence of the retirement of Sale’s force should be
received. “It was too late to send a reply,” wrote Pottinger, in his
report of these proceedings, “and nothing was determined—but some
persons persuaded the General to abandon his intention of marching by
night.” And so the doomed force, whilst the enemy were mustering to
block up the passes in advance, spent another night of inactivity and
suffering in the cruel snow.

It was at the entrance of the Koord-Caubul Pass that the force, now
on the evening of the 7th of January having in two days accomplished
a distance of only ten miles,[235] halted on some high ground. The
confusion far exceeded that of the preceding night. The great
_congeries_ of men, women, and children, horses, ponies, and camels,
there wallowing in the snow, no words can adequately describe. Many lay
down only to find a winding-sheet in the snow. There was no shelter—no
firewood—no food. The Sepoys burnt their caps and accoutrements to
obtain a little temporary warmth. One officer[236] narrates how he and
eleven others “crowded round the hot ashes of a pistol-case, and with
some bottles of wine still remaining, tried to keep off the effect of
the cold. They then all huddled together and lay down on the ground to

The sun rose upon many stiffened corpses; and a scene of still greater
confusion than had marked the dawn of the preceding morning now
heralded the march of the force. Doubt and uncertainty regarding the
intentions of their chiefs brooded over the officers of the force; but
few of the soldiers now remembered their chiefs, and the camp-followers
were wholly regardless of their wishes.

One paramount desire to escape death held possession of that wretched
multitude; and a crowd of soldiers and camp-followers, at an early
hour, began to push on confusedly to the front. Whilst some efforts
were being made to restrain them, Akbar Khan was in communication
with the officers of the British Mission. Skinner again went out to
meet the Sirdar. It was proposed that the army should either halt on
their present ground at Boot-Khak, or make their way to Tezeen, there
to await intelligence of the evacuation of Jellalabad. Four hostages
were demanded as security for Sale’s retreat; and Brigadier Shelton
and Captain Lawrence were named as two of them. But Shelton had always
resolutely refused to give himself up to the enemy, and Elphinstone was
unwilling to order him. Pottinger, therefore, volunteered to take his
place,[237] and Brigadier Anquetil consented, if a general officer were
peremptorily demanded, to accompany the political chief.

Pottinger rode to the rear, where Akbar Khan sent a party of horsemen
to conduct him to his presence. Welcoming the young English officer
with a respectful kindliness of manner, the Sirdar declared himself
willing to receive three hostages—Major Pottinger, Captain Lawrence,
and any other officer whom the former might select. Pottinger named
Colin Mackenzie, than whom there was not in all the army a braver or a
better soldier,[238] and those three officers placed themselves in the
hands of Akbar Khan.

The force was now again in motion. It was agreed that they should push
on to Tezeen, there to await certain tidings of the evacuation of
Jellalabad. Between Boot-Khak and Tezeen lies the stupendous pass of
Koord-Caubul. For a distance of five miles it runs between precipitous
mountain-ranges, so narrow and so shut in on either side that the
wintry sun rarely penetrates its gloomy recesses.[239] Into the jaws of
this terrible defile the disorganised force now struggled in fearful
confusion. In vain did Akbar Khan issue his orders; in vain did his
principal adherents exert themselves to control the hordes of fanatic
Ghilzyes, who poured upon our struggling rabble a deadly fire from
their jezails. Nothing could restrain the fierce impetuosity of our
cruel assailants. Pent in between the incumbent walls of the narrow
pass, now splashing through the mountain torrent, now floundering
through the snow which filled the hollows, or was banked up beside
the stream, the wretched fugitives fell an easy prey to the Ghilzye
marksmen, who shot them down from the hill-sides. It was not a time to
think of saving anything but human life. Baggage, ammunition, public
and private property, were abandoned;[240] and the Sepoys suffered
their very firelocks to be taken out of their hands.

The massacre was fearful in this Koord-Caubul Pass. Three thousand
men are said to have fallen under the fire of the enemy, or to have
dropped down paralysed and exhausted, to be slaughtered by the Afghan
knives. And amidst these fearful scenes of carnage, through a shower
of matchlock balls, rode English ladies on horseback, or in camel
panniers, sometimes vainly endeavouring to keep their children beneath
their eyes, and losing them in the confusion and bewilderment of the
desolating march.

Many European officers perished in the Koord-Caubul Pass. Among them
was Captain Paton, the assistant adjutant-general—a good and gallant
officer who had lost an arm in action at Caubul. Here, too, fell,
mortally stricken, Lieutenant Sturt of the engineers, a very fine
young officer, who, though severely wounded at the commencement
of the outbreak, stabbed in the face at the door of Shah Soojah’s
presence-chamber, had exerted himself with overflowing zeal and
unfailing activity, whenever his services, as the only engineer at
Caubul, were required; and whose voice, when others counselled unworthy
concessions, had ever been lifted up in favour of the noblest and the
manliest course. He lingered some little time, in agony of body, but
unbroken bravery of spirit, and died on the 9th of January, attended by
his wife and mother-in-law; the daughter and wife of Sir Robert Sale.

That night the force again halted in the snow, now deepened by a heavy
fall, which, as the army neared the high table-land of Koord-Caubul,
had increased the bitterness of the march.[241] The night was, like its
predecessors, one of intense suffering, spent by the perishing troops
without shelter, without firewood, and without food. At early morn
there was another rush of camp-followers and undisciplined Sepoys to
the front; but the march of the troops, which had been ordered at ten
o’clock, was countermanded by the General. Akbar Khan was then offering
to supply the force with provisions, and to do his best for its future
protection. At his suggestion a halt was ordered by Elphinstone;
and the perishing troops sate down in the snow, which another march
would have cleared, for a day of painful uncertainty. The whole force
was against the delay. Shelton went to the General to remonstrate
against it. In vain he urged that such a measure would cause the total
destruction of the column. The General was not to be moved from
his purpose. The day was one of idleness and desertion. The Native
troops, led by Shah Soojah’s cavalry, began to bethink themselves of
escaping from the horrors of the retreat by going over to the enemy.
The General had paraded the ruins of the different regiments to repel
an anticipated attack; and now Captain Grant, the adjutant-general,
accompanied by the Tezeen chief, Khoda Bux Khan, rode to the head of
these skeleton corps, now numbering scarcely more than a hundred men in
each, and explained to them that Akbar Khan had declared his intention
to kill all, who deserted to him, on the spot. But the contagion was
then fast spreading; and nothing could check the progress of the
disease. The Shah’s 2nd Cavalry had gone over nearly to a man.

In the mean while Major Pottinger, who had passed the night in a
neighbouring castle, was in consultation with Akbar Khan; and Captain
Skinner was acting as the vehicle of communication between them and the
head-quarters of the army. A new, and, at the first sound, startling
proposition was now made by the Sirdar. He proposed that all the
English ladies with the force should be placed under his charge, that
he might convey them safely to Peshawur. Remembering that the families
of the Sirdar himself were prisoners in the hands of the British, and
believing that he was sincere in his desire to save the ladies and
children from the destruction that awaited them on the line of march,
Pottinger sanctioned the proposal; and Skinner was despatched to the
head-quarters of the force to obtain the General’s consent. “Desirous
to remove the ladies and children, after the horrors they had already
witnessed, from the further dangers of our camp, and hoping that, as
from the very commencement of the negotiations the Sirdar had shown the
greatest anxiety to have the married people as hostages, this mark of
trust might elicit a corresponding feeling in him,”[242] Elphinstone
complied with the request. A party of Afghan horse were in readiness
to conduct them to the presence of the Sirdar; and so Lady Macnaghten,
Lady Sale, and the other widows and wives of the British officers,
became the “guests” of the son of Dost Mahomed Khan.

They did not go alone. The married men went with them. The propriety
of this step has been questioned. It has been even said that they were
not demanded at all by Akbar Khan, but that they threw themselves
spontaneously upon the mercy of the chief. It is right, therefore,
that so grave a question should not be slurred over. There were three
unprejudiced witnesses, whose statements, on such a point, would be
worthy of acceptation, as the statements of honourable and unprejudiced
men, familiar with all the circumstances of the case. Major Pottinger,
Captain Skinner, and General Elphinstone knew all those circumstances,
and had no reason to misrepresent them. Major Pottinger says that, “on
Sirdar Mahomed Akbar Khan offering to take charge of the ladies and
protect them to Peshawur, I considered it advisable to recommend that
they should come over, as the Sirdar’s family being in our hands was
a sufficient guarantee for their good treatment, and it was evident
that our own people were too much diminished to protect them. Captain
Skinner accordingly went over and mentioned the offer to General
Elphinstone, who approved of it, and sent over the ladies, children,
and married officers.” Captain Skinner has left upon record no
narrative of these proceedings. But General Elphinstone has distinctly
stated that Captain Skinner was sent to him with a proposal “that
the married people and their families should be made over to him,
promising honourable treatment to the ladies.” Whatever may have been
the proposition, as it originally emanated from the Sirdar, there is no
room to doubt that General Elphinstone shaped it into a recommendation
that the husbands should accompany their wives, and that the former
went over to Akbar Khan with the entire sanction of their military

That the safety of the women and children was secured by their removal
from General Elphinstone’s disorganised camp to the custody of Akbar
Khan, is now a fact which stands out distinctly in the broad light of
historical truth. But writing now after the event, it becomes one to
consider rather the wisdom of the experiment than the success of the
result. I believe that Pottinger and Elphinstone judged wisely. There
was a choice of evils, and it appears to me that they chose the least.
The women and the children could not long have survived the horrors of
that perilous march. They had hitherto escaped, almost by a miracle,
the assaults of the cruel climate and the inexorable foe. They were
insufficiently clad. They had no servants to attend upon them. They
had scarcely tasted food since they left Caubul. They had no shelter
during the frosty night-season. Some had just become, or were about
soon to become, mothers; and yet they had been compelled to ride in
jolting camel-panniers, or on the backs of stumbling baggage-ponies.
It was plain that Akbar Khan had no power to restrain the tribes who
were butchering our helpless people. The army was fast melting away. It
was doubtful whether a man would reach Jellalabad in safety. To have
left the women and children to pursue their march would have been to
have left them to inevitable destruction. Akbar Khan might be a man
of violent and ferocious temper, and no very scrupulous good faith;
but because he had slain the Envoy in a gust of passion, it did not
necessarily follow that he would betray the widow of his victim and the
other English ladies who were now to be entrusted to his safe keeping.
Moreover, if no sentiments of honour and no feelings of compassion were
within him, he might still be swayed by motives of self-interest; and
it was not forgotten that his father, his brothers, and the ladies of
his family were prisoners in the hands of the British Government, in
the provinces of Hindostan.

The married officers and their families having gone over to the
Sirdar, the remnant of the doomed force on the following morning (the
10th of January) resumed its march towards Jellalabad. There was the
same miserable confusion as on the preceding morning. Soldiers and
camp-followers rushed promiscuously to the front. The Native regiments
were fast melting into nothing. Throwing down their arms and crowding
in among the mass of camp-followers, the Sepoys were rapidly swelling
the disorganised rabble in front. Their hands were frost-bitten; they
could not pull a trigger; they were paralysed, panic-struck; they
rushed forward in aimless desperation, scarcely knowing what they did
or where they went; whilst the Afghans, watching the cruel opportunity,
came down, with their long knives, amidst their unresisting victims,
and slaughtered them like sheep. “A narrow gorge between the
precipitous spurs of two hills” was the appointed shambles. There the
dead and the dying soon choked up the defile. There was not now a
single Sepoy left. Every particle of baggage was gone. About fifty
horse-artillerymen, with one howitzer gun; some 250[244] men of the
44th; and 150 cavalry troopers, now constituted the entire force. Of
the 16,000 men—soldiers and camp-followers—who had left Caubul, not
more than a quarter survived.

Still hovering on the flanks of our retreating force, Akbar Khan,
attended by a party of horsemen, watched the butchery that was going
on below; and when Elphinstone sent Skinner to remonstrate with him,
declared that he was powerless to restrain the savage impetuosity of
the Ghilzyes, whom even their own immediate chiefs could not control.
But he had a proposal to make. Those were not times when any very
nice regard for the national honour prompted the rejection of even
humiliating terms offered by our Afghan enemies; but when the Sirdar
proposed that the remnant of the British army should lay down their
arms, and place themselves entirely under his protection, Elphinstone
at once refused his consent. The march was therefore resumed. The wreck
of the British force made its desperate way down the steep descents of
the Haft-Kotul, into a narrow defile, strewn with the ghastly remains
of the camp-followers and soldiers, who had pushed on in advance of the
column. As they passed down the defile, the enemy opened a destructive
fire on their rear. The rear was then commanded by Shelton. With a
handful of Europeans he repulsed their attacks, “though obliged to
nurse their ammunition by a watchful check on its expenditure.” “Nobly
and heroically,” says Shelton, in his rapid narrative of the march,
“these fine fellows stood by me.”[245] The gallantry of these few men
was, for a time, the salvation of the whole.

After another attempt at negotiation, resulting only in the same demand
for the disarming of the remnant of the force, it was determined, at
Shelton’s suggestion, that a desperate effort should be made to reach
Jugdulluck by a rapid night-march. Enfeebled by starvation, the troops
were little able to struggle forward, on their perilous march, over a
difficult country, and in the face of an active enemy. But despair had
given them strength; and when the order was given, having spiked their
last remaining gun, they moved off lightly and quietly in the hope of
shaking off, under cover of the night, the curse of camp-followers,
which had sate upon them with such destructive tenacity from the first.
But no sooner had the soldiers began to move, than the camp-followers
started up to accompany them; and throughout that fearful night-march
clustered around the few good fighting men and paralysed the movements
of the force.

It was a bright, frosty night. The snow was lying only partially
on the ground. For some miles they proceeded unmolested. But when,
at Seh-Baba, the enemy again opened a fire upon their rear, the
camp-followers rushed to the front; and when firing was heard ahead of
the column, again fell back on the rear. Thus surging backwards and
forwards—the ebb and flow of a great tide of people—these miserable
camp-followers, in the wildness of their fear, overwhelmed the handful
of soldiers who were still able and willing to show a front to the
enemy, blocked up the road, and presented to the eyes of the Afghan
marksmen a dark mass of humanity, which could not escape their fire
even under cover of the night.

Soon after daybreak the advance reached Kutter-Sung. They were still
ten miles from Jugdulluck. Halting only till the rear-guard had come
up, they pushed on with an energy, which at the commencement of the
retreat might have saved the force from destruction. But it was now too
late. The enemy were crowning the heights; there was no possibility
of escape. Shelton, with a few brave men of the rear-guard, faced the
overwhelming crowd of Afghans with a determined courage worthy of
British soldiers; and fought his way to Jugdulluck. Almost every inch
of ground was contested. Gallantly did this little band hold the enemy
in check. Keeping the fierce crowd from closing in upon the column, but
suffering terribly under the fire of their jezails, they made their way
at last to the ground where the advance had halted, behind some ruined
walls on a height by the road-side. Their comrades received them with
a cheer. The cheer came from a party of officers, who had extended
themselves in line on the height to show an imposing front to their
assailants.[246] The enemy seemed to increase in number and in daring.
They had followed the rear-guard to Jugdulluck, and they now took
possession of the heights commanding the position of their victims.

The hot fire of the enemy’s jezails drove the survivors of the Caubul
army to seek safety behind the ruined walls, near which they had posted
themselves. Withdrawn from the excitement of the actual conflict, these
wretched men now began to suffer in all their unendurable extremes
the agonies of hunger and thirst. They scooped up the snow in their
hands and greedily devoured it. But it only increased their torments.
There was a stream of pure water near at hand, but they could not
approach it without being struck down by the fire of the enemy. Behind
the walls they had a brief respite; and they tried to snatch a hasty
meal. The ever active Commissariat officer, Johnson, found among the
camp-followers three bullocks, which were instantly killed and served
out to the famishing European soldiers, who devoured, with savage
voracity, the raw and reeking flesh.

The respite was but of brief duration. A party of the enemy’s horsemen
was observed, and one of the number, having approached our people,
said that the chief who commanded them was Akbar Khan. Skinner, who
had acted throughout as the negotiator, now went to remonstrate with
the Sirdar against the continued attacks of his countrymen. He had
scarcely set out, when the firing was resumed. The men had lain down
in the snow, to snatch a little brief repose after a long vigil of
thirty hours, when the enemy poured in volley after volley upon their
resting-place, and compelled them, in wild confusion—soldiers and
camp-followers again huddled together—to quit the walled enclosure in
which they had bivouacked. Individual acts of heroism were not wanting
at this time to give something of dignity even to this melancholy
retreat. A handful of the 44th Regiment here made a gallant rush at the
enemy and cleared all the ground before them. Bygrave, the paymaster of
the Caubul army, was at their head. Thinking that our whole force would
follow them, the Afghans fled in dismay. But the little party was soon
recalled to the main body, which again retired behind the ruined walls;
and again the enemy returned to pour upon them the destructive fire of
their terrible jezails.

All night long and throughout the next day the force halted at
Jugdulluck. In the mean while Akbar Khan was in communication with
the British chiefs. Skinner had returned with a message from the
Sirdar, inviting the General, Brigadier Shelton, and Captain Johnson
to a conference. They went, and were received with every possible
demonstration of kindness and hospitality. A cloth was spread on the
ground. Food was placed before them, and draughts of tea satisfied
their thirst. The meal completed, the Afghan chiefs and the English
officers sate round a blazing fire and conversed. Captain Johnson was
the spokesman on the part of the latter; for he understood the language
employed. Through him the wishes of the General were now conveyed to
Akbar Khan. The Sirdar promised to send provisions and water to the
famishing troops,[247] but insisted on retaining the General, Shelton,
and Johnson as hostages for the evacuation of Jellalabad. Elphinstone
earnestly entreated permission to return to his troops—urged that,
as commanding officer of the force, his desertion would appear
dishonourable in the eyes of his countrymen, and promised, on returning
to camp, to send Brigadier Anquetil in his place. But the Sirdar was
inexorable; and so General Elphinstone, Brigadier Shelton, and Captain
Johnson remained as hostages in the hands of Akbar Khan. That night,
under a tent provided for them by the Sirdar, they laid themselves
down in their cloaks, and enjoyed such sleep as they only can know who
have spent such nights of horror as closed upon the sufferers in this
miserable retreat.

Next morning the conference was resumed. The English officers earnestly
implored the Sirdar to save the remnant of the unhappy force; and
he promised to exert all the authority he possessed to restrain the
tribes from their unholy work of massacre and plunder. But the
petty chiefs of the country between Jugdulluck and Jellalabad came
flocking in; and it seemed impossible to control the savage impulses
of hatred and vindictiveness which broke out even in the presence of
the English officers, and seemed to shut out all hope for the future.
They had trampled down every feeling of mercy and compassion. Even
avarice had ceased to be a moving principle; offers of money were
disregarded, and they loudly declared that they wanted only the blood
of the Feringhees. In vain Akbar Khan tried to dissuade them from their
horrid purpose—in vain he urged that his father and his family were
prisoners in the hands of the British Government; in vain the offer of
large sums of money for a safe conduct to Jellalabad was made to these
unrelenting chiefs. Johnson, who understood the language well, heard
them conversing in Persian; and it was plain that they revelled in the
thought of cutting the throats of the Feringhees even more than of
growing rich on their plunder. They were not to be conciliated. Akbar
Khan made an effort to pacify them, and they said in reply that they
had recommended his father to kill Burnes, lest he should return and
bring an army with him.

If there was any hope at this time it lay in an appeal to the cupidity
of their chiefs, but their hatred seemed to overlay their avarice.
Mahomed Shah Khan,[248] however, had undertaken to work upon their
known love of money, and asked whether the British were prepared to pay
two lakhs of rupees for safe conduct to Jellalabad. The General had
assented to this, and Mahomed Shah Khan had undertaken the office of
mediator; but it was long before he could bring about any satisfactory
arrangement. At length, as the shades of evening were thickening
around them, he brought intelligence to the effect that everything had
been peaceably settled, and that the remnant of the British army would
be allowed to proceed unmolested to Jellalabad.

But scarcely had he announced this consoling intelligence, when the
sound of firing was heard to issue from the direction in which the
British troops were bivouacked. By the order of the General, Captain
Johnson had written to Brigadier Anquetil, upon whom now, as senior
officer, the command of the force had devolved, directing him to have
the troops in readiness to march at eight o’clock on the following
morning. But the letter had not been despatched when the firing was
heard, and it became evident that the British troops were again on
the move. It was about eight o’clock, on the evening of the 12th,
that the few remaining men—now reduced to about a hundred and twenty
of the 44th, and twenty-five artillerymen—prepared to resume their
perilous march. The curse of camp-followers clung to them still. The
teeming rabble again came huddling against the fighting men; and the
Afghans, taking advantage of the confusion, stole in, knife in hand,
amongst them, destroying all the unarmed men in their way, and glutting
themselves with plunder.

They did not, this time, escape. The soldiers turned and bayoneted the
plunderers; and fought their way bravely on. But there was a terrible
fate awaiting them as they advanced. The Jugdulluck Pass was before
them. The road ascends between the steep walls of this dark precipitous
defile, and our wretched men struggled onward, exposed to the fire
of the enemy, till on nearing the summit they came suddenly upon a
barricade, and were thrown back in surprise and dismay. The enemy had
blocked up the mouth of the pass. Barriers, made of bushes and the
branches of trees, opposed the progress of the column, and threw the
whole into inextricable confusion. The camp-followers crowded upon the
soldiers, who, in spite of the overwhelming superiority of the enemy,
fought with a desperate valour worthy of a better fate. The Afghans had
been lying in wait for the miserable remnant of the British army, and
were now busy with their cruel knives and their unerring jezails. The
massacre was something terrible to contemplate. Officers, soldiers,
and camp-followers were stricken down at the foot of the barricade. A
few, strong in the energy of desperation, managed to struggle through
it. But from that time all hope was at an end. There had ceased to be a
British army.

In this terrible Jugdulluck Pass many brave officers fell with their
swords in their hands. Up to this time death had not been very busy
among the commissioned ranks of our ill-fated army. The number of
officers that survived, when the column left Jugdulluck, was large
in proportion to the number of soldiers who remained to follow them.
Though they had ever been in the midst of danger, and had been
especially marked by the Afghan jezailchees, they had hitherto escaped
with an impunity which had not been the lot of the common soldiers.
This is to be attributed partly to external and partly to internal
advantages. They had enjoyed no better covering and no better food
than their comrades; but they had ridden good horses; and though,
outwardly, means of keeping off the cruel cold had not been enjoyed
by them less scantily than by the European soldiers, they had brought
to their aid all the advantages of superior mental resource. They had
been more cautious and more provident, and had been greatly upheld by
the knowledge of the responsibility which in such a fearful conjuncture
devolved upon them. There is a sustaining power, under severe physical
trial, in the sense of moral responsibility; the feeling that others
are dependent upon one’s exertions has a bracing and invigorating
effect; and whatever excites mental activity is favourable to physical
endurance. Many, in the course of that terrible retreat from Caubul,
had perished under the influence of mental despondency; many had been
destroyed by their own incaution. The officers had fallen only under
the fire of the enemy. Thousands of the soldiers and camp-followers had
been destroyed by the cruel cold.

But here, at this fearful Jugdulluck barrier, death struck at the
officers of the wretched force. Twelve of the best and bravest here
found their last resting-place.[249] Here fell Brigadier Anquetil, upon
whom, after the departure of Elphinstone and Shelton, had devolved the
command of the column. He had been the chief of Shah Soojah’s force;
was held in esteem as a good officer; but during almost the entire
period of the siege had been incapacitated by sickness from taking a
prominent part in the military operations which had ended in so much
disaster and disgrace. Here, too, fell Major Thain, who had gone out
to India as the friend and aid-de-camp of General Elphinstone, and in
that capacity had followed his chief to Caubul; but throughout the time
of their beleaguerment, and all through the retreat, had been forward
in the hour of active danger, and had gallantly served as a regimental
officer whenever one was wanted to lead a charge. Here, too, fell
Colonel Chambers, who had commanded the cavalry at Caubul, and who
now, with other officers of his regiment, perished in the attempt to
clear the destroying barriers. And here, too, fell Captain Nicholl,
of the Horse Artillery, who with his men, all through the dangers of
the investment and the horrors of the retreat, had borne themselves as
gallantly as the best of English soldiers in any place and at any time.
Ever in the midst of danger, now charging on horse and now on foot,
were those few resolute artillerymen. With mingled admiration and awe
the enemy marked the desperate courage of the “red men,” and shrunk
from a close conflict with what seemed to be superhuman strength and
endurance. There is not much in the events of the outbreak at Caubul
and the retreat to Jellalabad to be looked back upon with national
pride; but the monumental column, on which is inscribed the names of
the brave men of Nicholl’s troops, who then fell in action with the
enemy, only displays the language of simple, unostentatious truth when
it records that on “occasions of unprecedented trial, officers and
men upheld, in the most noble manner, the character of the regiment
to which they belonged;” and years hence, when it has become a mere
tradition that Dum-Dum was once the head-quarters’ station of that
distinguished corps, the young artilleryman, standing in the shadow of
the column, will read how Nicholl’s troop, the oldest in the regiment,
was annihilated in the fearful passes of Afghanistan, will dwell on the
heroic conduct which preceded their fall, and glow with pride at the
recollection that those brave men were a portion of the regiment which
now bears his name on its rolls.[250]

At this Jugdulluck barrier it may be said that the Caubul force
ceased to be. A few officers and a few men cleared the barricade;
and struggled on towards Gundamuck. About daybreak they reached
that place; and the sun rose upon a party of some twenty officers
and forty-five European soldiers. The enemy were mustering around
them. “Every hut had poured forth its inhabitants to murder and to
plunder.”[251] There were not more than two rounds of ammunition
remaining in the pouches of our men. But they had not lost all
heart. “Their numbers were as one to a hundred—most of them already
wounded,”[252] but they were resolute not to lay down their arms whilst
a spark of life remained. A messenger came from the chief of the
district with overtures to the senior officer present. Major Griffiths,
of the 37th Native Infantry, was then the chief of that little band;
but whilst he was on his way to the Sirdar, the enemy mustering around
them called upon them to give up their arms. The refusal of the brave
men, followed by a violent attempt to disarm them, brought on a hand
to hand contest. The infuriated mob overwhelmed the little party of
Englishmen, and cut them up almost to a man. Captain Souter, of the
44th Regiment, who had wrapped the regimental colour round his waist,
and a few privates were taken prisoners. The rest were all massacred at

A few, however, had pushed on from Soorkhab, which lies between
Jugdulluck and Gundamuck, in advance of the column. One by one they
fell by the way, until the number was reduced to six. Captains Bellew,
Collyer, and Hopkins, Lieutenant Bird, and Drs. Harpur and Brydon,
reached Futtehabad alive. They were then only sixteen miles from
Jellalabad. A prospect of salvation opened out before them all; but
only one was suffered to escape. Some peasants in the vicinity of
Futtehabad came out, spoke to the fugitives, and offered them bread to
eat. They thought that a little food would strengthen them to toil on
to the end of their painful journey; and the agonies of hunger were
hard to endure. But again was there death in delay. Whilst our officers
tarried for a few minutes to satisfy the cravings of nature, some of
the armed inhabitants of the place sallied out and attacked them.
Bellew and Bird were cut down. The others rode off; but were pursued
and overtaken; and three of the remaining number were slain. Dr. Brydon
alone escaped to Jellalabad. Wounded, and worn out by famine and
fatigue, he had struggled onward, borne by a jaded pony, till the walls
of the fort appeared in sight; and a party came out to succour him.

So perished the last remnant of a force which had left Caubul numbering
4,500 fighting men and 12,000 camp-followers. The frost and the snow
had destroyed more than the jezails and the knives of the Afghans.
It was not a human enemy alone with which those miserable men had to
contend. It was theirs to war against a climate more perilous in its
hostility than the inexorable foe. But neither the cruel cold nor the
malignant Afghans would have consigned the British army to destruction,
if the curse which had so long brooded over the councils of our
military chiefs, and turned everything into folly and imbecility,
had not followed them on their exode from the Caubul cantonments,
and crowned the catalogue of disaster and disgrace. It is probable
that, if greater energy had been exhibited at the commencement of
the retreat—if nothing had been thought of but the best means of
accomplishing the march through the snow with the utmost possible
rapidity—a large portion of the force would have been saved. But the
delays which were suffered to arise at the commencement of the retreat
sealed the fate of the army. They threw the game into the hands of the
enemy. We waited, indeed, whilst the gates were being closed upon us,
and then there was no outlet of escape. Whilst our wretched people were
halting and perishing in the snow, the enemy were gathering in advance
of them and lining the passes, intent on their destruction. The events
of that miserable week in January afforded a fitting climax to the
series of disasters which had darkened the two preceding months. There
is nothing, indeed, more remarkable in the history of the world than
the awful completeness—the sublime unity—of this Caubul tragedy.

It would be unprofitable to enter into an inquiry regarding all the
minute details of misdirection and mismanagement, making up the great
sum of human folly, which was the permitted means of our overthrow. In
the pages of a heathen writer over such a story as this would be cast
the shadow of a tremendous Nemesis. The Christian historian uses other
words, but the same prevailing idea runs, like a great river, through
his narrative; and the reader recognises the one great truth, that the
wisdom of our statesmen is but foolishness, and the might of our armies
is but weakness, when the curse of God is sitting heavily upon an
unholy cause. “For the Lord God of recompenses shall surely requite.”


 [Many of the notes and illustrative documents which encumbered
 the text of the original edition of this work are now, after much
 consideration, removed to the end of the volume. Their omission would
 have detracted from the authenticity of the history, which their
 transfer, whilst it increases the fluency of the narrative, leaves
 unimpaired. I think, therefore, that the change will be regarded as an



[_Book IV., chapter 2, page 48._]

“The plot is thickening,” wrote Macnaghten, on the 10th of April,
“and I have no hesitation in asserting my belief that we shall find
ourselves in a very awkward predicament, unless we adopt measures
for macadamising the road through the Punjab.” On the 15th of the
same month he wrote: “It may not be the interest of our neighbours
to give us offence; but it is their interest to do us injury, and
in attempts to effect this, a certain good neighbour has certainly
been most active and persevering. We have fresh instances and clear
proof of this spirit daily. Nothing would give us a greater name in
Central Asia than success in such a cause; but I need not dilate on the
ten thousand advantages that would attend a vigorous policy in this
direction.”—[_MS. Correspondence._] Avitabile’s proceedings at this
time were a source of extreme annoyance to Macnaghten. The General was
interfering with the Khyburees. The Koochlee-Khail tribe of Afreedis,
from whom he demanded revenue, went to Mackeson for protection, and
said: “Formerly the Sikhs used to pay us 13,000 rupees a year to get
water at Jumrood; and now, on the strength of their alliance with you,
they ask us for revenue.”—[_Lieutenant Mackeson: April 12, 1840.
MS. Correspondence._] The chief of the tribe said to Mackeson: “Why
do you stay at Peshawur? You are powerless there, and you prevent us
from injuring the Sikhs in return for the injuries they inflict upon
us. Come and tarry with us.” Avitabile threatened to carry fire and
sword among the Koochlee-Khail people; and Mackeson, to prevent the
employment of force, went security for them. Besides this, he laid
an embargo on all merchants and travellers, subjects of Shah Soojah,
passing through Peshawur, and declared that not one of them should
proceed until the Shah had given ample security against the commission
of robberies in the pass.—[_Lieutenant Mackeson to Mr. Maddock:
April 26. MS. Correspondence._] These things greatly embarrassed our
position, at a time when we especially desired to tranquillise the
Khyburees. Macnaghten wrote urgently to government on the subject: “By
this day’s dawk I am sending to the Supreme Government,” he wrote,
in a private letter, on the 23rd of April, “a budget containing the
proceedings of General Avitabile. These are calculated to do infinite
mischief—so much so, indeed, that unless redress is afforded, I do
not see how it is possible that a rupture with the Sikh Government
can be avoided; it’s a necessary consequence of such proceedings; all
our ties must be renewed in the pass, and commerce by this route may
be extinguished. Can the _Volpe_ be acting without instructions? Why
should he seek to exasperate us? But our convoy has got safely through,
and we are on the best possible terms with the Khyburees, who detest
our allies.”


[_Book IV., chapter 2, page 70._]

The grounds upon which Macnaghten proceeded in this matter, as well
as the recognised objects of the Mission, may be gathered from the
following passages of a letter to the Supreme Government: “Referring,
therefore, to the general permission accorded in the Secretary’s
letter of the 11th of May last, on the point of Captain Conolly’s
mission to Kokund, I have come to the determination of at once sending
off that officer to the Court in question by the route of Khiva, and
in company with Yakoob Bai, the Khan Huzzrut’s envoy here, who is
anxious to return home. Yakoob Bai will be a good escort for Captain
Conolly through the whole of the desert country extending from the
Hindoo-Koosh to Khiva, and thence, as shown by the memorandum of the
envoy’s conversation with me on the 13th of June last, his way will be
safe and easy on to Kokund, the ruler of which place can be directly
advised of his approach. His Lordship in Council has himself been
pleased to express his sense of Captain Conolly’s qualifications for
the duty proposed to be entrusted to him, and I venture to hope that
this Mission will give great support to our position in Afghanistan,
besides being the means of obtaining other important advantages. I have
so repeatedly had the honour of laying before the Right Honourable the
Governor-General my opinions as to the affairs of Toorkistan, that I
need not repeat them. I will do myself the honour of forwarding on
another occasion my specific instructions to Captain Conolly for his
journey, which will have for its chief object the establishment of a
correct impression, at every place which he visits, of British policy
and strength, as it bears upon Asia and on Europe, with reference
especially to the late interference in Afghanistan—the strengthening
of amicable relations with the chief Oosbeg powers, which have shown a
friendly disposition towards us, and endeavouring to persuade them to
help themselves, and enable us to help them, by doing present justice
to their enemies, and forming an agreement with each other to prevent
or to redress future injury done by any one party among them to Russia,
so as to deprive the latter power of pretexts for interference with
their independence. Captain Conolly will either at Khiva or Kokund
learn the result of the endeavour committed to the two deputies of
Shah Soojah, mentioned in my letter of yesterday, to bring the Ameer
of Bokhara to reason. If by this influence, or by other means, the
Ameer should promptly exhibit a decided disposition to atone for his
past, and to be friends with us and the Afghan King, Captain Conolly
can return to Afghanistan _viâ_ Bokhara, otherwise his course must be
regulated by circumstances.”—[_Sir W. H. Macnaghten to Government:
Caubul, August 2, 1842. MS. Correspondence._] I have taken this from a
copy in Arthur Conolly’s hand-writing.


[_Book III., chapter 3, page 105._]

“It is curious to observe the manner in which the Douranees have
reasoned upon the liberality of his Majesty’s Government, and the
gradual modifications which we may suppose their feelings to have
undergone, from the evidence of alterations in their tone and conduct.
During the first year of his Majesty’s restored government, they
exhibited outwardly but little change from the same passive demeanour
which had characterised their submission to the Sirdars under the
later periods of the Barukzye administration. No sooner, however, had
the new order been issued for the remission of the land-tax, than,
with resuscitated hopes, they began to remonstrate, to agitate, and
ultimately to take up arms, when other means of intimidation failed
them. I bring forward, by way of illustration, the example of the
tribes in Zemindawer. They had been subjected, during the preceding
year, to some severity of treatment by the financial arrangements of
Wullee Mahomed Khan; but they had endured the yoke almost without a
murmur. Since the arrival of the Wukeel at Candahar they had been,
on the contrary, entirely free from interference. Not a government
agent of any class had appeared in Zemindawer, nor had a khurwar of
grain been realised, yet the tribes of that district, on the first
demand of revenue, took up arms to withstand, as they said, oppressive
exactions; and whilst a party of horse were encamped upon this side
of the Helmund, appointed to support the government officer in his
collections, they crossed the river, and attacked them without the
semblance of an excuse on the score of provocation or actual rapacity.
The unpopularity of the agent deputed to realise the revenues, and
the apprehension of a repetition of the exactions of the previous
year, may have been instrumental in assembling the tribes in arms as
a measure of defence; but surely such motives are insufficient to
justify or explain a gratuitous attack before the collections of the
present year had commenced; or, if the motives which the Zemindawerees
assigned for their offensive hostility be admitted, surely some radical
change of character must have taken place, to have emboldened to
this act of aggressive rebellion tribes who had submitted passively
to the most galling tyranny on the part of the Sirdars, and who had
even yielded, since the accession of his Majesty, to the harshness
of the collections of the preceding year without betraying any open
signs of discontent. It appears to me that, had the land-tax on the
_Tajul Kulbas_ been continued, the tribes in Zemindawer, seeing no
indication of a change in the policy of the government, and conscious
that the power of coercion was stronger at the present than at any
previous time, would never have dreamed of assembling in arms to resist
the royal authority; and that we must consequently attribute to the
exercise of his Majesty’s clemency, and to the impression which had
arisen from it, that it was the aim of the government to manage the
Douranees through the agency of their hopes rather than of their fears,
and that rebellion might thus be attempted with impunity, so sudden and
unusual a display of boldness as could induce the tribes to rise in
arms and attack a government agent, however, and perhaps deservedly,
unpopular.”—[_Major Rawlinson’s Douranee Report. MS. Records._]


[_Chapter III., page 115._]

Sir Jasper Nicolls, as Commander-in-Chief, had always consistently
opposed the advance to Herat, on the grounds that we had not troops
for the purpose, and, as a Member of Council, on the grounds that we
had not money. On the 18th of August, 1840, on returning some papers
to Lord Auckland, he wrote to the Governor-General: “I am glad that
your Lordship has repressed the anxiety to annex Herat again to Caubul
in the way hinted at. Were Afghanistan ours, we should, perhaps, be
compelled to make Herat our advanced post! it is really the gate of
India. The problem is solved in a military sense; politically, it
remains with your Lordship and the authorities at home, acting on
your views. To show front at Herat, and at some selected point on or
near the Oxus, we should be very strong in Afghanistan. The elements
of stability are sadly deficient there, and two quicksands interpose
between Candahar and Caubul and our own provinces. I mean the Punjab
and the Ameers’ country. Being out of India, we cannot keep such
establishments as will be required there without a large augmentation
of our army, and this without any perceptible increase of revenue. I
very much doubt that Shah Soojah will ever be able to support himself.
With this opinion, and seeing here the relief is given up on account of
six regiments only, we may feel some apprehension that our numbers are
at this moment too low. Discontent may follow.” “I wanted him,” adds
Sir Jasper Nicolls, in his private journal, “to feel that we cannot go
further, or even retain seven regiments in Afghanistan without increase
of force. We shall maintain ourselves there with difficulty. Yet all
the young diplomatists want to aid Khiva—occupy Balkh—threaten
Bokhara—and, lastly seize Herat before its traitor Vizier may give
it up to Persia and Russia. We are beset with hollow friends in that
quarter.” “Lord Auckland said nothing of importance in reply, and did
not allude to it next day in Council.”

On the 15th of March (on which day intelligence of Todd’s departure was
received by the supreme Government), Sir Jasper Nicolls wrote, after
Council, in his journal: “Lord Auckland had prohibited any advance.
This accorded with my often-expressed opinion that we are too much
extended already; but when I signed my assent to-day in Council to his
letters, I whispered to him, that if Herat was to be occupied by us
against the will of the Vizier, the present circumstances were very
propitious. We had a large body of troops at hand, and probably their
plans were not matured.” On the 26th he wrote: “Lord Auckland sent home
a long minute regarding Herat, which he means to leave as it is, unless
the Persians should show that they were anxious to lay hands upon it.
He means to preserve our footing in Afghanistan.”

In what manner the home authorities regarded the Herat question may be
gathered from another passage in Sir Jasper Nicolls’ journal: “_August
19, 1841._—I wrote a hasty paper to-day, and a short one, against the
occupation of Herat, if it can possibly be avoided. It was no sooner
written than orders were received to seize it, if the Persians made any
preparations to attach any part of Kamran’s dominions to their own. I
wrote in the way of warning. Lord A. also advised the government not
to carry our arms further before this despatch was received. I only
fully expressed my opinion that we are not justified in risking the
revenues of India for anything external. As this subject may be brought
unpleasantly forward, I shall just note that, by the June mail, we
received a letter desiring us to take Herat. There was by the same mail
a later despatch, not so anxious about it, or more cautious. I thought
Lord Auckland’s minute alluded to the June letter, and very desirous to
damp our ardour in carrying on hostilities, and spending our money so
far out of India, I wrote as I did. Two hours after my paper was sent
in, I received for perusal the Secret Committee’s despatch of July,
enclosing Lord Palmerston’s directions to check Persia in this object.
They will not look for any difficulty to be started by me; but really I
am most deeply impressed by a conviction that a continuance of so large
a force, and of such expenditure beyond the Indus, will go far to
break us down. I have no desire to embarrass the question, or to take
a distorted view of it. We all concurred with Lord Auckland, except
Prinsep. He thinks that we must displace Yar Mahomed, and he apprehends
nothing from the distance or expenditure, in comparison with what must
follow from his keeping Afghanistan in revolt. My argument as to the
intolerable drain was taken from his minute of March.” Again, on the
31st of August, Sir Jasper wrote: “Weekly we expend large sums upon
the Shah and the country—not only in allowances, salaries, supplies,
stores, pensions, compensations, and numberless contingencies; but
barracks, stables, forts, magazines, and even a long causeway in
Cutchee. Yet no return can ever be made. _To crown all—the blister,
Herat!_”—[_MS. Journal of Sir Jasper Nicolls._]


[_Book IV., chapter 4, pp. 141—142._]

“Occupied with the reception of Shah-zadah Timour, with the foregoing
expeditions and detachments, and with the establishment of the Shah’s
Court and of his civil administration, Macnaghten for some time
neglected to consider how the troops which he kept at Caubul, were to
be lodged. The question was one demanding instant decision, as the
winter of 1839 was rapidly approaching, and there was no suitable
cover for troops. Though pressed upon this subject, as soon as it was
decided that a portion of the British army was to remain, it was not
until the end of August that any steps were taken in this important
matter; and then they consented in sending an engineer officer,
Lieutenant Durand, accompanied by Mohun Lal, to examine three small
forts, which Burnes had reported as affording a suitable position
for the troops. These diminutive forts were west of Caubul several
miles; and having neither cover, space, water, nor in fact any other
requisite for the convenience of the troops, and being, in a military
point of view, ill-placed as a position for the force, were at once
rejected by the engineer, who considered that it was essential to
have military possession of the Balla Hissar; and that it was the
proper place, under every point of view, both with reference to the
present and the future, for lodging the troops. The Shah, upon various
pretences, opposed this measure of precaution, and Macnaghten yielded
to objections which he felt and acknowledged to be ridiculous. Sale
was to be left in command at Caubul; and he had therefore a voice in
the selection of the locality for the cantonment of his force. The
engineer, however, stated that it was impossible, before the winter set
in—that is, in the course of six weeks—to build barracks, hospitals,
sheds and stables for a brigade, and its attached cavalry and guns,
outside the Balla Hissar—building material having as yet to be made
and collected; whereas, inside the Balla Hissar, by taking advantage
of what already existed, it was possible to obtain good and sufficient
cover. Thus circumstanced, a reluctant consent was extracted from the
Shah, and the pioneers of the force were immediately set to work,
with the view of rendering the citadel a strong work, with cover for
its garrison, stores, and ammunition. The Shah no sooner learned that
the work was seriously commenced, than he renewed strenuously his
objections, urging that the citadel overlooked his own palace and the
city; that its occupation would make him unpopular, as the feelings of
the inhabitants would be hurt; and that he had already received strong
remonstrances against the measure. Macnaghten, with fatal weakness,
yielded; and peremptory orders were issued for the discontinuance of
the work. Foiled in his avowed purpose of rendering the citadel a
post, which, with a thousand men, a few guns, and proper provisions,
might be held against all that Afghanistan could bring before it, the
engineer was forced to content himself with keeping such hold of the
Balla Hissar as admitted of its citadel being occupied at any moment,
by lodging the troops in hastily-prepared accommodation at its base. It
seemed, indeed, that the troops, being once in military possession of
the Balla Hissar, the evacuation of that stronghold in future was an
event as improbable as it would be impolitic, and that the occupation
of the citadel and the repair of its works would in time inevitably
follow. Macnaghten could not but coincide with the engineer and those
who succeeded him and held similar views; and, as the cost would have
been trifling in comparison with the sums thrown away in Afghanistan
upon objects to which political importance was attached, the Envoy
for some time contemplated following up the project. But the Shah and
Kuzzilbash party, as well as the Afghans, were very averse to a measure
which, so long as the British troops remained in Afghanistan, would
keep Caubul subject to their effectual control; and Macnaghten, being
in the false position of having to reconcile the declared intention
of the government to withdraw the army from Afghanistan with its
present actual military occupation in force, wavered on the adoption of
necessary measures of precaution, which might countenance the suspicion
of a purpose on the part of the British Government permanently to hold
the country; and, ultimately, in an evil hour for himself and his
country’s arms, not only entirely neglected such salutary precaution,
but gave up the barracks constructed in the Balla Hissar to the Shah as
accommodation for his Harem, evacuated the fort, and thought no more,
until too late, of strengthening himself therein.”—[_Calcutta Review._]

       *       *       *       *       *

To this, the authenticity of which is unquestionable, may be
advantageously appended the following


“The king, with the envoy and staff, spent the winter of 1839 at
Jellalabad. I was one of the party, as I then commanded the Shah’s
troops. We all arrived at Caubul early in May of 1840. Sturt of the
Engineers, was stationed at Caubul to fit up buildings for the troops
and to construct new barracks. Soon after my arrival at Caubul, I
looked at the ground selected by the engineer for barracks; and
considering his plan most objectionable (which was long ranges of
buildings the same as at Caunpore or Meerutt), for a country where the
cold in winter was intense, and where no person considered life secure
outside of a fort, I wrote as follows:—

  Caubul, 9th May, 1840.


 Is it decided for what troops you are building barracks? for if the
 Shah’s force is to be accommodated, I should like to suggest some
 alterations. Instead of having separate buildings for each company, I
 would strongly recommend squares for wings or regiments; the latter I
 would prefer, as I think they would possess many advantages for this

 1. Much less ground would be necessary.

 2. One fourth of the sentries would not be required.

 3. For European regiments visiting officers would find them much more
 convenient, and all bad characters could be prevented roving about the

 4. With a parapet wall they could be easily defended, and which would
 be an object in the event of the troops being called away.

 5. And I should think that the men being sheltered from the piercing
 cold and winds in winter would render them much less liable to the
 attacks in the lungs, which have proved so fatal.

 6. Independent of the foregoing advantages, buildings so constructed
 would be better adapted for stores or serais, and if built in
 échêllon, could be easily defended.

 I hope you will agree with me; however, I can have nothing to do with
 the plan, unless the Shah’s troops are to be accommodated.

  Yours sincerely,


“I was induced to write as above because many of the 13th Foot had died
at Caubul during the winter from complaints in the lungs. The snow
remains on the ground for a considerable time; the natives were expert
thieves and assassins, and ten ranges of barracks would require at
least sixty sentries. The Europeans would ramble, and no man was safe
beyond the limit of cantonments.

“Upon a further examination of the ground I saw the site chosen was
very objectionable, a small river running between it and the Balla
Hissar, and it was, besides, commanded in two places. I received the
following reply:—

  Caubul, 10th May, 1840.


 I believe there is no chance at present of the Shah’s force occupying
 the cantonments, as I am now portioning off the ground for the general
 staff of Sir Willoughby Cotton. Your recommendation, however, has come
 too late, for I have laid the foundation of one-half.

 I know little about what is convenient or not. I submitted a plan to
 Sir W. Macnaghten. Whether it went farther than his military councils,
 I cannot say; but as I heard no more about it, I took silence for
 consent, and worked away.

 Now the most must be made of it; but the barracks of one regiment will
 be of no great extent as it is, and will form a rectangle of 350 and
 500 feet.

 But it is useless questioning the expediency or otherwise now of any

  Yours sincerely,

  (Signed)      J. STURT.

“I was not much pleased with the contents of this letter, more
especially from an officer who belonged to the force under my command;
and as I had been, for many years, at the head of the building
department in the upper provinces, and as the more I saw of the site
and plan selected the more objectionable both appeared, I wrote to
Captain Douglas, the Assistant Adjutant-General, whose reply was as

  May 11th.


 Sir Willoughby saw and approved the plan of the new cantonments; if,
 therefore, you have any objection to the progress of the work, you
 have only to state them to the Envoy,

  Yours, very truly,

  (Signed)      J. DOUGLAS.

“I accordingly stated my opinion to the Envoy; and as he appeared to
agree with me, I was in hope that something would be done, but I was
disappointed. By some it was considered that I was interfering with
what did not concern me; but it was afterwards proved, to a sad degree,
how badly the plan was suited to the country.

“I was afterwards anxious to place my men in a fort that was contiguous
to the Balla Hissar, and which had become the property of the king from
the traitorous conduct of the owner. To this the Envoy consented but
afterwards changed his mind, and I was unable to get anything settled
before I left the force.

“The engineer stated, that he ‘had laid the foundation of one-half;’
but this was of very little consequence, as the excavations for them
were, in a great measure, filled up with the fruit trees cut into
blocks, that had been cut down to make room for the barracks.

“It was afterwards found necessary (at a great expense) to excavate a
ditch, to construct a strong wall, a banquet and parapets, but all were
insufficient to keep out the Afghans.

“As the country became in a very unsettled state, and the town of
Caubul full of armed men ripe for mischief, I waited on the Envoy and
told him that I considered the treasure was very unsafe, as it was
then lodged in the house occupied by Sir Alexander Burnes, and Captain
Johnson, the paymaster of the force that I commanded, and which was
in the heart of the city. At the time there was a very small force at
Caubul. The Envoy agreeing with me, I ordered the treasure in to the
Balla Hissar, where it was perfectly safe. Being, however, distant from
the paymaster’s quarters, it gave him and his clerks some additional
trouble, and he wrote as follows to the Military Secretary:—


 Burnes is of opinion I might bring the treasure into the town, where
 it was before—that is to say at my house. This would be a very great
 convenience to me, for I am now considerably bothered, having to send
 up to the Balla Hissar for coin required. Kindly mention this to the
 Envoy, and if possible get it done,

  Yours sincerely,


 The guard would also strengthen our position here, two such valuable

  H. J.

 _Memo by Sir W. H. Macnaghten._

 Johnson may, of course, put his treasure wherever he deems it most
 safe and convenient.

  W. M.

_From Capt. Johnson to Brigadier Roberts._


 Macnaghten has allowed me to have the whole of the treasure at my
 house in the town. It amounts to close upon seven lacs. Will you
 kindly allow me whatever you may consider a sufficient guard to come
 to-morrow. I send for your perusal my note on the subject, and the
 Envoy’s reply.

  Yours sincerely,


“This correspondence surprised and annoyed me, situated as I was; but
as I had differed so often with the Envoy regarding precautionary and
other matters, the treasure was sent to the town. The disposable force
at the time was very small; but a guard, of the strength for which
there was accommodation, was furnished as before; at the same time I
stated that there was great risk, and that the treasure was removed
from the Balla Hissar entirely against the opinion of Brigade-Major
Troup and myself; but I was considered an alarmist, and my opinion had
no weight with the Envoy, who could not be persuaded that there was any
necessity for precaution.” _M. S._

[_Book IV., chapter 4, page 153._]

_Copy of a Memorandum by the Duke of Wellington, on Sir W. H.
Macnaghten’s Letter of October 26, 1841._

  January 29th, 1842. At night.

It is impossible to read the letter from Mr. Macnaghten to the
Secretary to the Government in India, without being sensible of the
precarious and dangerous position of our affairs in Central Asia.

Mr. Macnaghten complains of reports against the King, Shah Soojah Khan,
and his government, as libels.

Of these we can know nothing; but I am convinced that no complaints or
libels can be so strong as the facts stated by Mr. Macnaghten in this

It appears that when Mr. Macnaghten heard of the first symptoms and
first acts of this rebellion, he prevailed upon the King to send a
message to the rebels, inviting them to return to their allegiance.

The selection of the person sent is curious—Humza Khan, the Governor
of Caubul. His mission failed, of course, says Mr. Macnaghten, because
Humza Khan was the chief instigator of the rebellion!

We know in this country something of the customs of those countries—of
the meaning of some of the native expressions in this letter. It
appears that there are four thanahs, or posts, between Caubul and
Gundamuck. A thanah is either a permanent or a temporary post, to
guard a road or district of importance. We have seen who the person
was, selected to induce the rebels to submit; let us now see who were
the persons appointed to take charge of those thanahs or posts in the
disturbed country—those named in the subsequent part of the despatch
as the very men who were the leaders in the rebellion, in the attack,
and destruction, and murder, of the East India Company’s officers and

No libels can state facts against the Afghan Government stronger than

But Mr. Macnaghten has discovered that the Company’s troops are not
sufficiently active personally, nor are they sufficiently well armed
for the warfare in Afghanistan. Very possibly an Afghan will run over
his native hills faster than an Englishman or a Hindoo. But we have
carried on war in hill countries, as well in Hindostan and the Deccan
as in the Spanish Peninsula; and I never heard that our troops were
not equal, as well in personal activity as by their arms, to contend
with and overcome any natives of hills whatever. Mr. Macnaghten ought
to have learnt by this time that hill countries are not conquered, and
their inhabitants kept in subjection, solely by running up the hills
and firing at long distances. The whole of a hill country of which it
is necessary to keep possession, particularly for the communications
of the army, should be occupied by sufficient bodies of troops, well
supplied, and capable of maintaining themselves; and not only not a
Ghilzye or insurgent should be able to run up and down hills, but not a
cat or a goat, except under the fire of those occupying the hills. This
is the mode of carrying on the war, and not by hiring Afghans with
long matchlocks to protect and defend the communications of the British

Shah Soojah Khan may have in his service any troops that he and Mr.
Macnaghten please.

But if the troops in the service of the East India Company are
not able, armed and equipped as they are, to perform the service
required of them in Central Asia, I protest against their being
left in Afghanistan. It will not do to raise, pay, and discipline
matchlock-men, in order to protect the British troops and their
communications, discovered by Mr. Macnaghten to be no longer able to
protect themselves.


 [_MS. Records._]


[_Book IV., chapter 4, page 157._]

“In the year 1839, on the accession of Shah Soojah, he granted to
the Kohistanee chiefs, who had embraced his cause and raised the
insurrection (which so paralysed the movements of Dost Mahomed Khan),
an increase of wages, amounting to five hundred tomauns a year, which
sum, however, was not payable in ready money, but by order on the
land-tax of the chief himself, or on that of some turbulent district
where regular payment was doubtful, and the influence of the chief
necessary to secure any payment at all. The value of the sum thus
given, might, therefore, in the government amount be rated at nothing.
I may here mention that all the pay, as termed, of these chiefs, was
of the same kind; and I am not aware of any instance in which the
amount surpassed that of the land-tax payable by the chief, or, indeed,
equalled it; and, in my opinion, it would have been better to have
released the chiefs altogether then from the payment of that tax, for
the manner of realising it was one of the greatest grievances, as our
power rendered it unnecessary for the tax-gatherers to show the same
consideration for these nobles which they had formerly been obliged
to do. Our instructions not to interfere in these internal affairs,
rendered us powerless to afford relief, though we saw discontent and
disloyalty growing around us. During the year 1840 the chiefs in the
different parts of the country found that the change of government
was inimical to their interests and power, insomuch that it had given
them a master who was able to compel obedience, instead of one who
was obliged to overlook their excesses in exchange for their support.
They therefore gladly revolted to support the return of Dost Mahomed
Khan. No doubt other causes largely combined to irritate them. Hatred
of foreign domination, fanaticism, the licentiousness of the troops,
and especially the impunity with which women could be seduced and
carried off in a country celebrated for the strictness of the late
ruler on this point, and the extreme jealousy of the natives. The
consequence of this revolt was the despatch of General Sale’s force
to the Kohistan in the autumn of that year. The force was too weak
for the destruction of the rebels; and Sir A. Burnes, the Political
Agent, with a force, found it necessary to temporise and treat with
all who had not made themselves very remarkable in opposition; and
of those who had, the most extreme step ventured upon was delivering
over the possessions of the rebel to his cousin, or nearest of kin,
who was of the royal party; and Sir A. Burnes (under the authority of
Sir W. H. Macnaghten, afterwards sanctioned by the Governor-General in
Council) promised to those persons, and the others who had remained
neuter during the contest (joining us at the end), that they should
enjoy the pay and advantages promised on the succession of Shah
Soojah. It was also understood that no alteration would afterwards be
made. These agreements were made by Prince Timour, who had plenary
powers from his father, and the arrangements were finally approved
of by the Shah himself; and under the feeling that the promises of
the British Government would be sacredly observed, the discontented
who remained untouched sate down and turned their attention to
agriculture.”—[_Major Pottinger’s Report. MS. Records._]


[_Book V., chapter 1, page 169._]

“Before daylight a well-wisher of Burnes came to report to him that
a plan had been hatched during the night, which had for its chief
object his murder. Unfortunately, Sir Alexander could not be convinced
that the man was telling the truth, and paid no heed to what he said.
Shortly after, the Wuzeer, Oosman Khan, arrived (by this time the mob
was assembling). The Wuzeer urged him to leave his house, and proceed
to cantonments. Sir Alexander scorned the idea of quitting his house,
as he had every hope of quelling the disturbance; and let the worst
come to the worst he felt too well assured that neither the Envoy nor
General would permit him to be sacrificed whilst in the performance of
his public duty, so long as there were 6000 men within two miles of
him.”—[_Captain Johnson’s Journal: MS. Records._] “The King’s minister
went to Burnes early on the morning of the 2nd, and warned him of what
was about to happen—of the danger of remaining in his house—and
requested him to accompany him to the Balla Hissar; but he was deaf
to all entreaties, incredulous, and persevered in disbelief that any
outbreak was intended; yet I am told he wrote into cantonments for a
military force to protect him.”—[_Letters of Brigadier Shelton: MS.
Records._] The native friend said by Captain Johnson to have warned
Burnes early in the morning of the 2nd of November that his life was
in danger, was Taj Mahomed, who, as stated elsewhere in a note, on the
authority of Mohun Lal (and the same story is told by Lieutenant Eyre
and Lady Sale, in their journals), visited Burnes on the preceding
night. Bowh Singh, Burnes’s chuprassie, the only surviving witness of
what passed in that officer’s house upon the fatal morning, says that
his master did not wake before the arrival of the Wuzeer, and that the
man (Wullee Mahomed by name), who had called to warn Burnes of his
danger, was not admitted, nor was his message ever delivered. “On the
day of the murder,” says this witness, “as early as three o’clock
in the morning, a Cossid (Wullee Mahomed) came to me. I was on duty
outside; he said, ‘Go, and inform your master immediately that there
is a tumult in the city, and that the merchants are removing their
goods and valuables from the shops.’ I knew what my master had said
on the subject the day before, so I did not like awakening him, but
put on my chuprass, and went to the Char Chouk. Here I met the Wuzeer,
Nizam-ood-Dowlah, going towards my master’s house. I immediately turned
with him, and on my arrival awoke my master, who dressed quickly, and
went to the Wuzeer, and talked to him some time.” As this man speaks
of what he saw, and what he did on the morning of the 2nd of November,
I conceive that his evidence is the best that is now obtainable. He
states that “Sir Alexander Burnes was duly informed by his Afghan
servants, the day previous to his murder, that there was a stir in the
city, and that if he remained in it his life would be in danger; they
told him he had better go to the cantonments; this he declined doing,
giving as his reason that the Afghans never received any injury from
him, but, on the contrary, he had done much for them, and that he was
quite sure they would never injure him.”

A statement of a directly contrary tendency has, however, been made by
Lieutenant Mackenzie, late of the 41st Regiment, who has illustrated
the melancholy history of our Caubul disasters in a poem of twelve
cantos. “I am enabled,” he says, “to state positively, on the authority
of a letter from Sir Alexander Burnes himself (one of the last he ever
wrote, and addressed to an officer of high rank, and one of his most
intimate friends), that poor Burnes had long foreseen the crisis which
had arrived; for, in the letter alluded to, he states his conviction
in the most solemn terms that he was a marked man and would inevitably
be the first victim;—but, nevertheless, he would never flinch from
what he conceived to be his duty, although all his warnings had been


[_Book V., chapter 2, p. 187._]

The following is the letter alluded to in the text; written by General
Elphinstone to the Envoy on the 2nd of November:—


 Since you left me, I have been considering what can be done to-morrow.
 Our dilemma is a difficult one. Shelton, if re-inforced to-morrow,
 might, no doubt, force in two columns on his way towards the Lahore
 gate, and we might from hence force in that gate and meet them. But if
 this were accomplished, what shall we gain? It can be done, but not
 without very great loss, as our people will be exposed to the fire
 from the houses the whole way. Where is the point you said they were
 to fortify near Burnes’s house? If they could assemble there, that
 would be a point of attack; but to march into the town, it seems, we
 should only have to come back again; and as to setting the city on
 fire, I fear, from its construction, that is almost impossible. We
 must see what the morning brings, and then think what can be done. The
 occupation of all the houses near the gates might give us a command of
 the town, but we have not means of extended operations. If we could
 depend on the Kuzzilbashes, we might easily reduce the city.

  Yours, truly,



[_Book V., chapter 4, pages 227-231._]

Some interesting particulars of the deaths of Lieutenant Rattray and
Captain Codrington are given in a narrative of the events at Charekur,
supplied by Major Pottinger’s Moonshee. It appears that some chiefs
had warned the former officer that if he left the fort he would be
killed by the people outside; but that Rattray had replied, “They
have eaten our salt, and could not be guilty of such an act.” The
Moonshee then goes on to say: “When Mr. Rattray came near them, all
the chiefs paid their respects to him, saying, ‘Inshallah! we shall
go to-morrow and fight with Meer Musjedee.’ Mr. R. said, ‘Very good!
If you will go, I shall give your people presents on their return;
and to-morrow they shall receive five rupees each for their expenses,
and I will also go with my sowars.’ Mr. R. then turned to go back to
the fort; but Jubbar Khan asked him to look at his men, to which he
agreed, and turned back again. When he had taken about six or seven
steps, one of the Kohistanees called him by name, and ran at him,
firing his gun at Mr. R., who turned and ran towards the fort. I, the
Meerza, and the Chuprassie, all ran towards the fort. When I had nearly
reached it I looked back, and saw Mr. R. lying down on the plain.
I ran again towards him, and when near him, he called me, and told
me to take hold of him and help him into the fort. Directly I took
hold of his hand about fifty Kohistanees fired, and Mr. R. received
a ball in his forehead. I then ran back and got into the fort, where
I found Major Pottinger looking towards the Kohistanees, and firing
at them.” The touching circumstances of Captain Codrington’s death
are thus related:—“When Captain Codrington saw that Major Pottinger
was wounded, he went out to the two companies; but was very severely
wounded by a shot in the back. All his Sepoys began to cry for him
... Captain Codrington was able to walk into cantonments; but fell
down before he reached his house, and asked for water. We carried him
and laid him on the same bed as Major Pottinger, whom he asked for
pen, ink, and paper, and wrote a letter to his wife, whose picture
he also gave to Major Pottinger. He lingered on until the night of
the 7th, when he died. We buried him and Lieutenant Salisbury in one
grave.”—[_MS. Records._]


[_Books IV. and V. passim._]

In the letter quoted in the above-named page, the Envoy alludes to
the system of secret writing which has now superseded the old plan
of correspondence by cypher; and as at a later period, during General
Pollock’s occupation of the passes between Peshawur and Caubul, it was
found of the utmost service to our officers, it may be interesting to
describe the method in the words of the Envoy: “Are you in possession
of the _hikmut_ of concealed writing, by means of conjee-water and a
solution of iodine? This is much better than any cypher. The paper
is to all appearance blank, but when rubbed over with the solution,
the words written with conjee-water start into life, as it were, most
miraculously. Something unimportant is generally written with common
ink, and what is intended as secret is interlined with conjee-water.
Try this some day. Any medical man in your neighbourhood will give the
solution. The paper intended to be used should first have a gentle coat
of the solution passed over it, and suffered to dry.”

In another letter to the same correspondent, the Envoy again adverts to
this mode of cypher writing: “I find it is not necessary to prepare the
paper in the first instance. You write on ordinary paper, and having
spread a solution of iodine over it, the invisible writing becomes
apparent. When there is any writing of this kind on my paper, I shall
put the day of the month in letters, instead of figures. Perhaps you
would adopt the same sign.”


[_Book V., chapter 5, pages 265-267._]

 [The following passages, containing much authentic evidence relating
 to this painful subject, is extracted from the _Friend of India_
 (Serampore newspaper).]

“To crown the evidence of Sir William Macnaghten’s never having been
implicated in this alleged assassination of the two chiefs, we have an
acknowledgment under Mohun Lal’s own signature. When he was claiming
remuneration for his services of the Court of Directors, he delivered
in the following document, which has been copied for us from a paper in
his own hand-writing.

  Advanced to Abdool Aziz, who offered to kill
    Abdoollah Khan, by such means which
    the Envoy did not approve, therefore the      Rs.
    balance 11,000 rupees was not paid.          4,000

“Thus it appears that while Mohun Lal told the Reviewer that Sir
William objected to pay the balance, because he had not seen the heads;
he told the Court of Directors that the balance was not paid because
the Envoy did not approve of the means that had been used!” * * * *

Major Colin Troup writes thus in a letter now before us:

“Akbar Khan never would allow Macnaghten’s name to be mentioned before
him but in terms of the greatest respect; and has in private, both to
poor Pottinger and myself, over and over again regretted the deed,
and stated that it never was premeditated; so far the contrary, that,
having been accused by Ameen-oollah’s party of being friendly to, and
intriguing with the English, to disarm suspicion, he in open Durbar
volunteered, if he was allowed time, to bring Macnaghten a prisoner
into Ameen-oollah’s house within eight days. This being agreed to, it
was then that he planned the treacherous conference with Sir William;
but, finding, after some delay, that he was not likely to accomplish
his object, and fearing to meet his party if he failed in his boasted
adventure, and hearing a cry that our troops were marching out of
the cantonments to where he and Sir William were sitting, he, in a
moment of desperation, out with his pistol and shot Sir William; but
he always loudly declared that on the morning of the conference, when
he came out to meet Sir William, he never for one moment contemplated
doing him any harm whatever. I have all this written down, and can,
if necessary, take my oath to what I have written, as coming from the
mouth of Akbar Khan himself, and you are most welcome to make what use
of it you please, in defence of the character of one of the brightest
ornaments our country ever did, or ever will produce.” ... We have the
most abundant evidence that Sir William Macnaghten’s character for
integrity and good faith always stood equally high among the Afghans;
and that when their chiefs were triumphant, and bitterly reproached
the British prisoners for the wrongs their nation had inflicted
on Afghanistan, the charge of encouraging assassination was never
whispered for a moment. Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence states: “During
our lengthened imprisonment, I unhesitatingly affirm that not one of
the prisoners ever heard Mahomed Akbar, or any of the chiefs, accuse
Sir William of bribing men to assassinate them; and it is not likely
they would have been silent, if they had so heavy a charge to bring
forward. On the contrary, I, as well as others, have heard both Mahomed
Akbar Khan and other chiefs express deep regret at the Envoy’s untimely
death, and much admiration of his character. Ameen-oollah Khan, when
I was his prisoner, told me that Sir W. H. Macnaghten had offered a
lakh of rupees for his head. Prisoner though I was, I denounced it in
open Durbar as an infamous lie, and never heard any more about it.”
Captain Colin Mackenzie writes: “If Sir William had ever instructed
Mohun Lal or any other person to employ assassins for the removal of
our treacherous and inveterate enemies, it would have been well known
to the Afghans themselves, and they would not have failed to urge so
plausible a ground of complaint against us, while we were captives in
their hands, which they never did, although they constantly reproached
us with every act of supposed injustice on the part of government, and
with the private vices and improprieties of individuals.” Captain W.
Anderson, another of the prisoners, writes: “I never heard any Afghan
accuse Sir W. H. Macnaghten of any acts for which any friend of his,
or any Englishman, need feel ashamed. On the contrary, I always heard
him spoken of with great respect, and frequently with admiration.”
Captain Warburton states: “I went into Caubul to the Newab’s on the
28th, I think, of December, 1841. I remained in his house till we were
forced out of it on the 12th of April following. During that time no
one was prevented seeing us. Our party consisted of J. Conolly, Airey,
Walsh, Webb, Drummond, and myself (besides Haughton and Campbell, who
joined us afterwards). We had an opportunity of seeing and conversing
with most of the chiefs at Caubul, who remained after Akbar Khan had
left. None of these people ever concealed their opinions regarding the
acts of our government or people. Ameen-oollah Khan, in particular,
spoke at times very strongly, but neither from him, nor from any other,
during the period of my residence, did I ever hear a word regarding the
charge now brought forward against Sir William of having offered money
for the assassination of the chiefs. I had sufficient opportunities of
hearing something about the matter, if any such offer had been made.”


[_Book V., chapter 5, pages 270-272._]

The following are the letters referred to in the text, which passed
between the Envoy and the General, from the 5th to the 8th of December:

  5th December.


 It becomes my duty to inform you that our stock of provisions is
 reduced to nine days, on half-rations; it therefore becomes imperative
 upon us to consider what can be done. We have, for the last few
 days, been disappointed in our expectation of getting any, and our
 hopes of success in doing this seem every day less. The objections
 to retreat on the Balla Hissar I have already stated; our wants
 there might be the same, with the additional one of fuel, and part
 of our ordnance for protection. Retreat without terms I think with
 you almost impossible, and that few would reach Jellalabad. The only
 alternative (as there now seems little chance of the Ghilzyes renewing
 the negotiation you were led to expect), is to try if terms can be
 made in any other quarter, if we do not hear something favourable
 to-morrow. With provisions we could hold out, but without them I do
 not see what can be done, or how we are to avert starvation. It is
 true the responsibility is great, and may fall on us; but are we
 justified in risking the safety of so many people when we can no
 longer do anything? When reduced to the last extremity (where we now
 are almost), I think honourable terms better for our government than
 our being destroyed here, which, without food, is inevitable. All this
 I write in confidence for your own consideration, that you may think
 what is best to be done, as I have told our real situation.

  Yours, truly,
  W. K. E.

  December 5.


 I have received your note of this morning. I am perfectly aware of
 the state of our supplies; but as we have nine days’ provision, and
 had only provisions for one or two days when the siege commenced, I
 conceive that we are better off now than we were a month ago. Whenever
 we go, we could not carry with us more than two or three days’
 supplies, and, therefore, it does not seem necessary to come to an
 immediate decision. But I will speak to you on the subject to-morrow,
 and will omit no favourable opportunity of negotiating.

  W. H. M.

  Cantonments, 6th Dec., 1841.


 I now proceed to give you my opinion on your note of yesterday.
 There are three courses which may be said to be open to us. First, a
 retreat on Jellalabad, without terms. Secondly, a retreat to India,
 with terms, abandoning our position in this country. And, thirdly, to
 retire into the Balla Hissar. The first I regard as impracticable;
 and, if practicable, the adoption of such a measure would cover us
 with everlasting infamy, as we could not take the King’s family along
 with us, and his Majesty would not stir without them. The second I
 regard as nearly equally impracticable, from the conflicting interests
 of the parties with whom we should have to treat. This cause would,
 I think, render any promised protection ineffectual, and, if this
 course could be safely adopted, the consequences would be terrific as
 regards the safety of our Indian Empire and our interests in Europe.
 The third course seems to me (though certainly attended with risk)
 to be by far the most safe and honourable which we could adopt. With
 four or five disposable regiments in the Balla Hissar, it would be
 strange if we could not obtain fuel and provisions; we should be in a
 position to overawe the city, and to encourage the Kuzzilbashes and
 our other well-wishers to come forward to our support; and we should
 probably find in the Balla Hissar provisions for a fortnight or a
 month. I would, therefore, lose no time in sending every night, by all
 possible contrivances, our stores, and sick, and wounded. Should the
 report of the advance of troops from Candahar prove correct (which
 we shall, in all probability, hear to-morrow), all our troubles will
 cease. Should we have reason to believe it unfounded, we can then
 commence destroying our powder and superfluous stores. In the mean
 time, I think we have daily proofs that the forces of our enemies are
 diminishing; and, with the blessing of Providence, some event may
 arise from their misunderstandings to relieve us from our present
 perilous position, even without the accession of fresh troops.

  Very sincerely yours,

  W. H. M.


 Since your departure, I have thought over, and given my utmost
 attention to, every part of the subject of our conversation. The first
 proposition was a night expedition against the Deh-Hadjee, said to be
 distant about three coss, part of the road through a narrow gorge,
 through which I now hear guns could not go; and I am also told that
 parties (of cavalry) have, for the last five or six days, been seen
 going in that direction: no doubt for the object of preventing our
 getting supplies. If we succeed in taking the fort (if only one), we
 must hold it (to enable us to remove any quantity of grain with our
 means) for some time; during which, the enemy, hearing of our attack,
 would, no doubt, come out against our detachment; and from Captain
 Johnson’s account, it is difficult to find grain. Another difficulty
 is our want of local knowledge (this may, perhaps, be obtained). These
 are the objections that present themselves to this plan.

 With respect to a like enterprise on Killa Bolundee, that appears, I
 confess (and I would willingly grasp at anything to enable us to hold
 out), to be more difficult, from the facility with which a party might
 be cut off by a sortie from the city. The other alternative is the
 Balla Hissar; from thence seems the only chance we have of getting
 supplies; and as you now think our being able to make any terms is
 impossible, that seems the only one left. Colonel Chambers has been
 with me, and says his horses would be quite unequal to a forced
 march to Jellalabad, and that many of those of Anderson’s regiment
 are unserviceable from want of food. Captain Anderson reported, this
 morning, one-half.

 After leaving cantonments, terms, I should suppose, are quite out of
 the question; our quitting would be, I presume, considered as our
 total defeat; and, until re-inforced, as we must sacrifice nearly all
 our cattle, we would not have the power of moving, for, without the
 means of transport, we would not go.

 The next consideration is, whether our being annihilated here, or
 entering into honourable terms, would have the worst effect for our
 government. The responsibility is great for you and I; and (if we do
 not hear of the force from Candahar to-morrow) it only remains for us
 to consider whether we shall incur the responsibility, or risk the
 loss of this force; for, under the most favourable view we can take,
 the risk is great. Looking practically at the obstacles we have, they
 are in reality very difficult to surmount.

 I submit all this for your consideration, and have sent Major Thain
 with this to you.

  Yours, &c.,

  W. K. E.

 We must not think of treating, after any attempt either to retreat,
 or go to the Balla Hissar, or if we fail in any attempt. We are
 now comparatively entire; a loss or failure would increase our
 destitution, and the terms will, of course, be worse. We could not
 expect anything else.

  Dec. 8, 1841.


 The commissary has just reported to me, that on examination of the
 grain he has in store, he finds from the quantity of dirt mixed with
 it, he has not above four days’ supplies left, at most. Under these
 circumstances, it becomes absolutely necessary for us to come to a
 decision as to our future measures, as I do not see how we are to hold
 out, without food for our Sepoys, beyond that time.

  Yours truly,

  W. K. E.


[_Book VI., chapter I., page 291._]

The subjoined letters are those to which reference is made in the text:

  Dec. 16, 1841.


 I wish you would write me an official letter, with your opinion as
 to the necessity of giving up the forts, in furtherance of your
 negotiations. I think, if absolutely necessary, it must be done. Our
 situation cannot be made worse, but I think they ought to take them
 one at a time, beginning with Zoolfikar’s (the grain fort) and the
 Ricka-Bashee, they sending us supplies. This will be a mutual proof of
 confidence: the abandoning of these forts if they are not sincere,
 giving up these cantonments and the possibility of retreat from them.
 Of _course_ the hostages will be sent, as you think they ought to be:
 pray name them in your letter, if they have offered, or you proposed

 I herewith return the two letters from Trevor and Captain Drummond.

  Yours truly,

  W. K. E.

 The magazine fort is, in fact, part of our cantonments, and ought for
 the present to be dispensed with, as an act of courtesy and faith to

  December 16, 1841.


 I have the honour to acquaint you that I have received a proposition
 from Mahomed Oosman Khan and Ameen-oollah Khan, to the effect that
 we should give up to them certain forts in the vicinity of the
 cantonments, with a view to convince the population of the sincerity
 of our intention to leave the country; by which arrangement also they
 stated that they would be able to supply us punctually with provisions.

 I am aware of the objections to such an arrangement in a military
 point of view; but as I am of opinion that the proposition has
 emanated from a suspicion of our intentions, rather than from any
 sinister motive on the part of the Afghan chiefs, I would strongly
 recommend that the proposition be complied with. We are clearly
 completely in the power of our new allies as regards the article
 of provisions; and it is not clear to me what other course than
 compliance is open to us. By this course we show confidence, and have
 at least the chance of making a safe and honourable retreat out of the
 country: whereas, by refusal, we may exasperate those with whom we are
 treating, and be utterly cut off from the means of subsistence.

 Since the above was written, I have received an intimation that no
 further supplies will be sent us, until the proposition of the chiefs
 be complied with; and I request that you will inform me whether you
 are prepared to give up the forts

  (The new Magazine Fort,
  The Musjeed,
  The Fort of Zoolfikar,
  The Fort of Ricka-Bashee)

 this afternoon.

 The chiefs have promised that thirty men, who shall be under control,
 are to occupy each of the places to be delivered up; and I hope that
 the brother of Newab Mahomed Zemaun Khan will reside in the cantonment
 as a hostage until our departure.

  I have the honour to be, &c., &c.,

  W. H. M.

  Head-Quarters, Caubul, Dec. 16, 1841.


 I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of this
 day’s date, in reply to which I beg to say that, from the emergency of
 the case, as therein stated, I see no alternative left us but to give
 up the forts mentioned to the chiefs with whom you are treating; and
 I shall accordingly give orders for their being vacated and delivered
 over to the persons who may be authorised to receive them, immediately
 on your intimating their arrival.

  I have the honour, &c.,

  W. K. ELPHINSTONE, Major-Gen.,
  Commanding in Afghanistan.


[_Book VI., chapter I., pages 291, 292._]

Captain Johnson’s journal furnishes the best information extant
relative to the measures taken throughout the siege, and after the
capitulation, to supply the force with provisions. Under dates _Dec.
12th_ and _13th_, he writes: “A few provisions sent into cantonments
by the Sirdars. A lakh of rupees advanced to Mahomed Akbar for the
purchase of camels—not one as yet forthcoming. The Seeah-Sungh
gateway, through which all supplies come in, is daily infested by
parties of Afghans, calling themselves _Ghazees_, or fighters for
religion. They are, without exception, the most barefaced, impertinent
scoundrels under the sun. Armed with swords, daggers, and matchlocks,
they acknowledge no chief, but act independently—they taunt and insult
the whole of us. Not a Sepoy can venture twelve paces from the bridge
over the ditch without being plundered of what he has. People from the
town, bringing in grain or _boosah_ (bran), are often plundered and
beaten. Although our cattle and men are starving, no measures are
taken by our military authorites to check all this. It is true, our
ramparts are lined with our soldiers, and plenty of cannon at each
bastion, and a six-pounder at the bridge loaded with grape—but to what
purpose? Our men are told, on no account to fire upon the Afghans,
without the most urgent necessity, for fear of putting a stop to the
good feeling existing on their part. The chiefs have been applied to,
to use their influence to prevent these people assembling near our
cantonments. Their reply is, ‘We cannot do so—they are not under our
controul; but if they misbehave themselves, fire upon them.’ To-day,
I was at the Seeah-Sungh gateway, anxiously looking out for some food
for my public cattle. About thirty loads of _boosah_ came to within six
paces of the bridge, and where the guard was standing. The officer on
duty, as also the field officer of the week, was there. The wretched
rabble above alluded to, stopped the drivers of the donkeys and abused
them, beat them and ordered them back, and threatened them with more
ill-usage in the event of their returning to sell any article to the
Feringhees. This was reported by me to the General, and there it ended.”

And again, on the 15th, the active commissariat officer writes: “A few
supplies sent into cantonments, and people still bringing in private
speculations; but are subjected to the same ill-treatment as noticed on
the 12th and 13th. Attah and barley sell from 1-1/2 to 3 and 4 seers
the rupee (from 3lb. to 6lb. and 8lb. for 2_s._) ... To-day a flock of
sheep belonging to cantonments was grazing outside of the walls, under
the care of the shepherd. Two men attacked him close under where our
sentries, with loaded muskets, were standing. The shepherd fled, and so
did the two men with the whole flock of sheep, and drove them along the
whole face of cantonment. Report made to the General, whose reply was,
‘They had no business to go outside;’ and all this time our garrison
starving!”—[_Captain Johnson’s Journal: MS. Records._]


[_Book VI., chapter I., pages 299, 300._]

_Statement of Captain Mackenzie._

“The proposition which induced the Envoy (in opposition to his
theretofore avowed principle and practice in refusing to meet Mahomed
Akbar or any of the other Khans, save in a body) to grant the fatal
interview to the Sirdar and his more immediate confederates, had
emanated from the murderer himself, and had been conveyed to the Envoy
the night previously by Mahomed Sadig Khan, half brother of Akbar, by
Surwar Khan Lohanee, who came into the cantonment in company with the
late Captain Skinner, then released for the first time from the custody
in which he had been retained, first by Ameen-oollah Khan, and latterly
by Mahomed Akbar himself.

“The Sirdar had acquainted Captain Skinner with the nature of his
pretended wishes, as if in friendly conference, requesting him to
act the part of chief ambassador, Captain Skinner’s disapproval of
which in all probability saved his life for the time being; but he,
Captain Skinner, was the only officer present during the eventful
conference of the evening of the 22nd, and from him I subsequently
derived the information, which I now give, of the nature of Mahomed
Akbar’s message. It was to this effect,—that he and his particular
friends (to wit, the Ghilzyes) should either come over in a body into
the cantonment, placing themselves under the orders of the Envoy,
or that, at a preconcerted signal, without giving warning to the
other confederates, in concert with a body of British troops, take
possession of the fort of Mahmood Khan; then seizing the person of
Ameen-oollah Lohganee, whom for a pecuniary reward they proposed
to murder; that the Sirdar should acknowledge Shah Soojah for his
sovereign, his reward being the payment—a present bonus from the
British Government—of thirty lakhs of rupees, and a stipend of four
lakhs of rupees per annum for life; that the British troops should be
allowed to remain unmolested, as if with the perfect concurrence and
by the express wish of the so-formed Afghan Government, for a period of
six months, at which time they were to evacuate the country as if by
their own free will, thus carrying with them an untarnished reputation
(the expression was ‘saving their _Purdah_’), and thus securing a
favourable opportunity for the British home Government to negotiate
a treaty to the security of our Indian frontier with the cabinet of
St. Petersburgh. Up to that date, viz., 22nd of December, Sir Wm.
Macnaghten had, in spite of his conscientious fulfilment of his verbal
engagements with the assembled Khawaneen (for no written treaty had
theretofore been exchanged), been worn out by their utter falsehood and
bad faith, their original demands having risen to a pitch of insolence
and unreasonableness which amounted to open mockery—their conduct
had, in fact, virtually released him from any obligation to adhere to
any of his original propositions; and in despair, as a drowning man
catches at straws, the troops having long before proved themselves
utterly inadequate to his support, or in fact to their own protection,
with immediate ruin and disgrace to himself and his country staring him
in the face, he was in an evil moment induced to assent to the above
proposals, with the exception of the _murder_ of Ameen-oollah, from
which (Captain S. assured me) he shrank with abhorrence and disgust,
assuring the ambassadors that as a British functionary nothing would
induce him to pay a price for blood. So far as it may be said that the
late Envoy allowed himself to be duped by a man of the notoriously
bad character of Mahomed Akbar Khan in all matters of good faith,
even among his treacherous countrymen, I can only say that it is not
only my firm belief, but that also of Captain Lawrence, and others
who best knew Sir William, that two months of incessant fatigue
of mind and body, and the load of care which had during that time
weighed him down, had at last completely unhinged his strong mind.
Contrary to his usual practice, he consulted none of those who had all
along possessed his perfect confidence; his manner was flurried and
agitated; and when, previous to leaving the cantonment on the morning
of the 23rd, I, having for the first time learnt his intentions,
declared my conviction ‘that it was a trap,’ he abruptly answered,
‘Leave me to manage that: trust me for that.’ He also observed, I
believe, to Captains Trevor and Lawrence, while riding forth to the
scene of his murder, ‘Death is preferable to the life we are leading
now.’”—[_Answer to Interrogatories put by Gen. Pollock. MS. Records._]

_Mohun Lal’s Statement._

Mohun Lal’s story, as given in a letter to Mr. Colvin, is worth
quoting, though its meaning is somewhat obscured by its dubious
phraseology:—“Mahomed Akbar, being afraid of the union to the
Douranees with the Shah, induced Surwar Khan and others, by the hope
of reward, to deceive the Envoy, by saying that he will either spread
dissension in the city to allow us to remain in the country, see
us safely pass down to Jellalabad, or act as the Envoy tells him,
on the condition that Mahomed Akbar was to receive four lakhs of
rupees annually, besides the reward of thirty lakhs from the British
Government, and made the Vizier of the Suddozye King from generation
to generation. As soon as I heard this by the Persian chief, I wrote
to the Envoy that Mahomed Akbar was deceiving us, and he should place
no faith in anything he says. I also particularly informed him that
he may give money to anybody he likes, to espouse the cause of the
Shah and us, but never to the chiefs, as it will not induce them
to do us service like the others, but will incite and prepare them
against us. Unfortunately he was assured by Surwar Khan, Naib Ameer,
&c., of their favourable service, and to advance lakhs of rupees.
He was also prompted by these individuals to give the paper of the
above-mentioned agreement to Mahomed Akbar. He showed it, and said
falsely to Ameen-oollah that the Envoy has promised the money it
contains, if Mahomed Akbar were to kill, catch, or send him alive to
the Envoy. Ameen-oollah threw himself at his feet, and said he is doing
all this against us merely for the good of his father, and he (Akbar)
has sense to know it perfectly; therefore he should not lose time
either to catch or murder the Envoy, which will procure him all the
power and money he wishes. I wrote all this to the Envoy on the very
morning of his murder, begged him to take very great care of himself,
and do not go so often to meet Mahomed Akbar out of the cantonment, as
he is the man that nobody can trust his word upon oath. I also added
that the Douranees, as well as Ameen-oollah (the instigation of Akbar),
being jealous of the return of his father, have taken the part of the
Shah, and will, in the course of two days, wait upon his Majesty, ask
us to remain here in the hope of receiving the money promised them by
me.”—[_MS. Records._]


[Found unfinished in the Envoy’s desk after his death.]

[_Book V. and Book VI., chapter I._]


1. It is with feelings of the deepest concern that I acquaint you,
for the information of the Right Honourable the Governor-General in
Council, of my having been compelled to consent to the abandonment of
our position in this country.

2. The Major-General commanding in Afghanistan will doubtless detail
the military disasters which have led to this direful necessity; and I
shall have occasion, therefore, to touch upon them but briefly in the
course of this narrative.

3. On the morning of the 2nd ult., I was informed that the town of
Caubul was in a state of commotion, and shortly afterwards I received
a note from Lieutenant-Colonel Sir A. Burnes, to the effect that his
house was besieged, and begging for assistance. I immediately went
to General Elphinstone, and suggested that Brigadier Shelton’s force
should proceed to the Balla Hissar, thence to operate as might seem
expedient; that the remaining troops should be concentrated, the
cantonment placed in a state of defence, and assistance; if possible,
sent to Sir A. Burnes.

4. Before Brigadier Shelton could reach the Balla Hissar, the town had
attained such a state of ferment that it was deemed impracticable to
penetrate to Sir A. Burnes’s residence, which was in the centre of the
city. I also sent messages of assurance to his Majesty by my assistant
(Captain Lawrence), but so great had become the excitement, that, by
noon, the road between the cantonment and the city was hardly passable.

5. His Majesty, on first hearing of the insurrection, had sent out
his son, Futteh Jung, and the Minister, with some of the household
troops, to repress it; but this party was speedily repulsed with great
slaughter, and in the meantime I grieve to state that Sir Alexander
Burnes, his brother, Lieutenant C. Burnes, and Captain W. Broadfoot,
had fallen victims to the fury of the mob.

6. From that time affairs grew generally worse. The enemy showed
great judgment in their work of annoying us. They seized the
strongest positions between the cantonment and the city, and,
what was worse than all, they seized the fort which contained all
our stores and provisions. This step was well-nigh effecting our
immediate destruction, and it is chiefly to it that I attribute our
final discomfiture. We had only four or five days’ supplies for the
cantonment. The Balla Hissar, as well as the cantonment, was in a
state of siege. We could not hope for provisions from thence, nor
would the place have afforded us either food or shelter, and, in the
opinion of the military authorities, to return thither would have been
attended with ruin. A disastrous retreat seemed the only alternative,
but this necessity was averted by the attack, on the 10th ult., of a
neighbouring fort, which had intermediately furnished us with a scanty
supply of provisions, but which subsequently espoused the cause of
the rebels. The place was carried after a desperate resistance. We
lost in the operation no less than sixty men killed and wounded of her
Majesty’s 44th Regiment alone, but our immediate wants were supplied
by the provisions found in the fort. I lament to add, that Colonel
Mackrell, Captain M’Crae, and Captain Westmacott, fell on the occasion.

7. On the 6th ult. I received a hurried note from Major Pottinger, to
the effect that he was closely besieged at Charekar, and unable to
hold out for want of water. Major Pottinger himself, with Lieutenant
Haughton, came into cantonments a day or two afterwards, having left
the 4th Regiment in a disorganised state in the neighbourhood of
Istaleff; but, melancholy to relate, that no authentic tidings of them
have up to this day been received. There is every reason to believe
that the entire corps (officers and men) have been annihilated.
Captains Codrington and Rattray and Lieutenant Salisbury were killed
before Major Pottinger left Charekar, and both he and Lieutenant
Haughton were severely wounded.

8. I had written to Candahar and to Gundamuck for assistance
immediately on the occurrence of the outbreak, but General Sale’s
brigade had proceeded to Jellalabad, the whole country between this and
that place being in a state of insurrection, and a return to Caubul
being deemed impracticable. From Candahar, though I sent Cossids with
pressing requisitions for assistance almost every day, I could gain
no intelligence, the road being entirely occupied by the troops and
emissaries of the rebels. We learnt from native reports that Ghuznee
was invested by the enemy, and that Captain Woodburn, who was on his
way to Caubul from Candahar, had been massacred, with a party of
leave-of-absence men by whom he was accompanied, in a small fort on
this side of Ghuznee.

9. We continued, up to the commencement of the present month, to derive
a scanty supply, at great pecuniary sacrifices, from the neighbouring
villages, but about that time the enemy’s plans had become so well
organised, that our supplies from this source were cut off. The rebels
daily made their appearance in great force in the neighbourhood of the
cantonment, and I lament to add that their operations were generally
attended with success. The details will be communicated by the military
authorities. In the midst of their successes Mahomed Akbar Khan arrived
from Toorkistan, an event which gave new life to the efforts of the

10. In the meantime I had received so many distressful accounts from
the General commanding of the state of our troops and cattle from
want of provisions, and I had been so repeatedly apprised by him (for
reasons which he will himself doubtless explain) of the hopelessness
of further resistance, that on the 24th ultimo, I deemed it my duty
to address an official letter to him, a copy of which accompanies, as
Appendix A.[254]

The General’s reply was dated the same day; a copy accompanies, as
Appendix B.

At my invitation, deputies were sent from the rebels, who came into
cantonment on the 25th ultimo, I having in the meantime received
overtures from them of a pacific nature, on the basis of our evacuating
the country. I proposed to them the only terms which, in my opinion,
could be accepted with honour; but the temper of the rebels may best be
understood when I mention that they returned me a letter of defiance
the next morning, to the effect that, unless I consented to surrender
our arms, and to abandon his Majesty to his fate, we must prepare for
immediate hostilities. To this I replied, that we preferred death to
dishonour, and that it would remain with a higher Power to decide
between us.

11. Affairs had attained so desperate a state on the 8th instant, that
I again addressed the General a letter, copy of which accompanies, as
Appendix C., and a copy of the General’s reply of the same date, signed
by three of his principal officers, accompanies as Appendix D. On the
next day I received another letter from the General, copy of which is
sent as Appendix E.

12. I had subsequently a lengthened correspondence with Mahomed Oosman
Khan, Barukzye, the most moderate and sensible man of the insurgents,
and as on the 11th instant we had not one day’s provisions left, I held
a conference with the whole of the rebel chiefs. The day previous I had
learnt from a letter from Colonel Palmer, at Ghuznee, that there was no
hope of reinforcements from Candahar. I had repeatedly kept his Majesty
informed of the desperate state of our affairs, and of the probability
that we should be compelled to enter into some accommodation with the
enemy. 13. The conference with the rebels took place about a mile
from cantonments. I was attended by Captains Lawrence, Trevor, and
Mackenzie, and there were present on the part of the rebels the heads
nearly of all the chief tribes in the country. I had committed to paper
certain propositions, to which I had reason to believe they would
have no objection, and I read it to the meeting. A copy accompanies
as Appendix F.[255] When I came to the second article, Mahomed Akbar
interrupted me, and observed that we did not require supplies, as there
was no impediment to our marching the next morning. I mention the above
fact to show the impetuous disposition of this youth. He was reproved
by the other chiefs, and he himself, except on this one occasion,
behaved with courtesy, though evidently elevated by his sudden change
of fortune.

14. The next day I was waited upon by a deputation from the chiefs,
with a proposition that Shah Soojah-ool-Moolk should be left nominally
as king—the Barukzye exercising the functions of minister; but this
proposition, owing to the mutual jealousies of the parties concerned,
as will appear in the sequel, fell to the ground.

15. From the foregoing review of occurrences, I trust it will be
evident that I had no recourse left but that of negotiation; and I had
ascertained beyond a doubt that the rebel chiefs were perfectly aware
of our helpless situation, and that no terms short of our quitting
Afghanistan would satisfy them.

16. The whole country, as far as we could learn, had risen in
rebellion; our communications on all sides were cut off; almost every
public officer, whether paid by ourselves or his Majesty, had declared
for the new governor, and by far the greater number even of his
Majesty’s domestic servants had deserted him. We had been fighting for
forty days against very superior numbers, under most disadvantageous
circumstances, with a deplorable loss of valuable lives, and in a
day or two we must have perished from hunger, to say nothing of the
advanced season of the year, and the extreme cold, from the effects of
which our native troops were suffering severely. I had been repeatedly
apprised by the military authorities that nothing could be done with
our troops; and I regret to add that desertions to the enemy were
becoming of frequent occurrence amongst our troops. The terms I secured
were the best obtainable, and the destruction of fifteen thousand human
beings would little have benefited our country, whilst our government
would have been almost compelled to avenge our fate, at whatever cost.
We shall part with the Afghans as friends, and I feel satisfied that
any government which may be established hereafter, will always be
disposed to cultivate a good understanding with us.

17. A retreat without terms would have been impracticable. It is true
that, by entering into terms, we are prevented from undertaking the
conquest of the entire country, a measure which, from my knowledge of
the views of government, I feel convinced would never be resorted to,
even were the means at hand. But such a project in the present state
of our Indian finances, and the requisitions for troops in various
quarters, I knew could not be entertained. If the expense already
incurred in such a case would have been intolerable ... [_Sentence

18. I would beg leave to refer to the whole tenor of my former
correspondence for the causes which have produced this insurrection.
Independently of the genius of the people, which is prone to rebellion,
we, as conquerors and foreigners, of a different creed, were viewed
with particular disfavour by the chiefs, whilst the acts of some of
us were particularly calculated to excite the general jealousy of
a sensitive nation. The haughty demeanour of his Majesty was not
agreeable to the nobles, and, above all, the measures of economy, to
which it was found necessary to resort, were particularly galling.

Throughout this rebellion I was in constant communication with the
Shah, through my assistant, Lieutenant J. B. Conolly, who was in
attendance on his Majesty in the Balla Hissar. On the 18th inst. it
was agreed upon that our troops should evacuate the Balla Hissar, and
return to the cantonments, while the Barukzyes should have a conference
with his Majesty with a view to his retaining the nominal powers of
sovereignty, they for their own security placing a guard of their own
in the upper citadel. No sooner, however, had our troops left the Balla
Hissar, than his Majesty, owing to some panic or misunderstanding,
ordered the gate to be shut, and the proposed conference was thereby
prevented. So offended were the Barukzyes, that they determined never
to offer his Majesty the same terms again. In explanation of his
conduct, his Majesty states that the party whom the Barukzyes desired
to introduce was not that party which had been agreed upon.

His Majesty shut * * * *

  True Copy.

  (Signed)       G. ST. P. LAWRENCE, Capt.,

  Mil. Sec., late Envoy and Minister.

 [_MS. Records._]


[_Book VI., chapter II., pages 320 to 326._]

[The following are translations of the different documents referred to
in the above-mentioned chapter, marking the different stages of the
treaty under which the English evacuated Caubul. No. I. is the draft of
the original treaty which Macnaghten was negotiating at the time of his
death. The articles, as proposed by the Afghan chiefs, are in inverted
commas. The observations which follow, contain the assent of the
English representative. And the _Remarks_ in brackets are those of the
Afghan chiefs; the original being in the hand-writing of Akbar Khan.]

No. I.

_Rough Draft of the Treaty with the Assent of the English Authorities._

_Article 1._ “There shall be no delay in the departure of the English

Agreed to. They will march twenty-four hours after having received a
thousand carriage-cattle, which shall be either camels or yaboos.

[_Remark._ It rests with them (the English); let them pay the hire as
they may be able.]

_Article 2._ “Afghan Sirdars shall accompany the army, to prevent any
one offering opposition, and to assist in procuring supplies.”

It is very advisable.

[_Remark._ Sirdar Oosman Khan and Shah Dowlut Khan.]

_Article 3._ “The Jellalabad army shall march for Peshawur before the
Caubul force starts.”

It is agreed to. Do you name some person who shall accompany them.

[_Remark._ Abdool Ghuffoor Khan.]

_Article 4._ “The Ghuznee force, having made their preparations, shall
speedily march to Peshawur by Caubul.”

It is agreed to. Do you name some proper person to accompany them.

[_Remark._ A relation of the Naib or of Mehtur Moossa.]

_Article 5._ “The Candahar force, and all other British troops in
Afghanistan, shall quickly depart for Hindostan.”

It is agreed. Let proper people accompany them.

[_Remark._ Newab Jubbur Khan.]

_Article 6._ “The whole of the property of the Ameer (Dost Mahomed
Khan) which is in the hands of the English Government, or of individual
officers, shall be left behind.”

It is agreed to. Whatever is with the public authorities is known to
you; whatever is with private officers point out and take.

_Article 7._ “Whatever property belonging to the English cannot
be carried away, shall be taken care of, and sent by the first

It is agreed to: but we have given over all that remains to the Newab.

[_Remark._ The guns, ordnance stores, and muskets, must be given to me.]

_Article 8._ “In case Shah Soojah should wish to remain at Caubul, we
will give him yearly a subsistence of a lakh of rupees.”

It is agreed to. Do whatever you think advisable, wishing to show your
friendship for us.

_Article 9._ “In case the family of Shah Soojah should be left behind,
from want of carriage-cattle, we will fix the place now occupied by
them in the Balla Hissar for their dwelling-place, until they can
depart for Hindostan.”

It is agreed to. The honour of the King is the honour of the Douranees;
and it is becoming in you.[256]

_Article 10._ “When the English army arrives at Peshawur, arrangements
shall be made for the march of Dost Mahomed Khan, and all other
Afghans, with all their property, families, and children.”

It is agreed to. They shall all be sent to you with honour and in

_Article 11._ “When Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan and the others arrive
safely at Peshawur, then the family of the Shah shall be at liberty to
depart; that departing they may arrive at the place fixed upon.”

It is agreed to.

_Article 12._ “Four English gentlemen shall remain as hostages in
Caubul until Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan and the other Afghans shall have
arrived at Peshawur, when the English gentlemen shall be allowed to

It is agreed to.

[_Remark._ Let there be six hostages.]

_Article 13._ “Sirdar Mahomed Akbar Khan and Sirdar Oosman Khan
shall accompany the English army to Peshawur, and take them there in

It is agreed to.

[_Remark._ Sirdar Mahomed Akbar Khan.]

_Article 14._ “After the departure of the English, friendly relations
shall be continued,—_i.e._, that the Afghan Government, without the
consent and advice of the English Government, shall not form any treaty
or connection with a foreign power; and should they (the Afghans) ever
ask assistance against foreign invasion, the English Government will
not delay in sending such assistance.”

It is agreed to, as far as we are concerned; but in this matter the
Governor-General of India alone has authority. We will do our best to
bring about friendship between the two governments; and by the blessing
of the Almighty this wish will be obtained, and friendship exist for
the future.

_Article 15._ “Any one who may have assisted Shah Soojah and the
English, and may wish to accompany them, shall be allowed to do so.
We will not hinder them. And if they remain here, no one will call
them to account for what they have done, and no one shall molest them
under any pretence. They may remain in this country like the other

We have interpolated a few words, and it will be friendship if you
comply with them.

_Article 16._ “Should any English gentleman unavoidably be detained, he
shall be treated honourably until such time as he can depart.”—[_MS.


[The following articles contain the further demands of the Afghans
advanced after Macnaghten’s death. The observations immediately
following the articles are by the English negotiators. The _remarks_ in
brackets by the Afghans.]

_Article 1._ “Whatever coin there may be in the public treasury must be
given up.”

We have set apart two lakhs of rupees for our expenses to Peshawur,
which is twenty-four yaboos’ loads. If there is more than this in the
public treasury, either in gold mohurs, ducats, or rupees, it is yours.
If you do not believe this, send some one to note and inspect the loads
on the day of our departure. If we have said truly, give us a blessing;
and if we have spoken falsely, it is your property, take it away, and
we shall be convicted of falsehood.

[_Remark._ Let them pay the hire of the yaboos and camels.]

_Article 2._ “With reference to the remark that was made that we should
give up all our guns but six, we have with the force one and a-half
companies of artillerymen. You have fixed six guns. Half of a company
would remain without equipments. Be good enough to give three more
small guns, such as are drawn by mules, for the other half-company. It
will be a great kindness.”

[_Remark._ They cannot be given.]

_Article 3._ “The muskets in excess of those in use with the regiments
must be left behind.”

This is agreed to. Whatever muskets are in addition to those in use
with the regiments, together with shot and powder and other ordnance
stores, all by way of friendship shall be the property of the Newab.

_Article 4._ “General Sale, together with his wife and daughter, and
the other gentlemen of rank who are married and have children, until
the arrival of the Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan and the other Afghans and
their families, and Douranees and Ghilzyes, from Hindostan, shall
remain as guests with us; that when the Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan shall
have arrived, they also shall be allowed to depart with honour from

General Sale is with the army in Jellalabad, the departure of which is
fixed to take place previous to our arrival; and as for the other two
or three gentlemen who are married and present here, we have sent a man
to them. They, having seen their families, report that their families
will not consent to this proposal; (adding) that you men may do as you
like—no one can order us. This proposal is contrary to all order. We
now beg you to be good enough to excuse the women from this suffering,
and we agree to give as many gentlemen as you may wish for. In
friendship, kindness and consideration are necessary, not overpowering
the weak with sufferings. Since, for a long time past, we have shown
kindness and respect to all Afghans of rank and consequence with
whom we have had dealings, you should consider what we have done for
them, and not forget kindness. As Shah Soojah was father of a family,
and the Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan was with his family, and no one gave
them annoyance, and we showed them respect, you also now show similar
kindness, that friendship may be increased.

[_Remark._ Let them remain with their families. Let the family of the
General stop in Caubul, until he himself comes from Jellalabad,—Sturt
with his family, Boyd with his family, and Anderson with his family.]


  W. K. ELPHINSTONE, Major-Gen.[A]


[The following is a draft of the new treaty submitted by the Afghan
chiefs, containing the additional articles, and embodying the matter in
Akbar Khan’s “Remarks.”]

 _Agreement of Peace that has been determined on with the Frank English
 gentlemen, to which engagement, if they consent and act accordingly,
 on the part of the heads and leaders of Afghanistan henceforward no
 infractions will occur to their friendly engagements._

1st. That the going of the gentlemen shall be speedy. In regard to the
carriage-cattle, let them send money that they may be purchased and

2nd. As regards the going of the Sirdars with the English army that no
person may injure it on the way, Sirdar Mahomed Akbar Khan or Sirdar
Mahomed Oosman Khan, whichever may be wished by the English, will be
appointed and sent.

3rd. The army of Jellalabad shall march previous to the army of
Caubul, and proceed to Peshawur. Sirdar Abdool Suffoor Khan having
been appointed, will leave this and proceed, that he may previously
accompany them; secondly, the road of Bhungush has been appointed.

4th. The Ghuznee force having got quickly ready will proceed by the
road of Caubul to Peshawur. A relative of Naib Ameen-oollah Khan, with
Mehtur Moosa Khan, has been appointed to accompany it.

5th. The army of Candahar and other parts of Afghanistan, wherever an
army may be, will quickly depart for India. Newab Abdool Jubbar Khan
has been appointed to carry this into effect.

6th. Whatever property of the Ameer may be with the English will be
returned, and nothing retained.

7th. Whatever property of the English may be left for want of carriage
will become the property of the Newab.

8th. If the family of Shah Soojah, on account of want of carriage, may
remain here, they will be placed in the house of Hadjee Khan.

9th. Whenever the English army may arrive at Peshawur, they will make
arrangements for the return of Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan, the Afghans and
their families, that are in India.

10th. That the English gentlemen, with their families, will be left at
Caubul as hostages, until the Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan, with the rest of
the Afghans and their families, may arrive at Peshawur; or, secondly,
that six hostages may be left.

11th. After the departure of the English there shall be perfect
friendship between the two states, in so much so that the Government of
Afghanistan, without the advice and approval of the British Government,
shall enter into no connection or correspondence with any other power;
but if, in its defence, it may require the assistance of the English,
they will not delay to afford it. Should the British Government not
consent to this, the Afghans are free to make friends with any one they

12th. If any gentleman would wish to remain in Caubul, on account of
his private affairs, he may do so, and will be treated with justice and

13th. Whatever cash, whether gold or silver, may be in the treasury,
shall be paid to Newab Zemaun Khan. A trustworthy person will be
appointed, who will issue supplies from stage to stage as far as

14th. With regard to artillery, six guns have been determined on. They
are enough. More will not be given. Secondly, the three mule guns will
be given.

15th. The spare arms shall be given to Newab Mahomed Zemaun Khan.

16th. The hostages to be left here, and these persons with their
families—General Sale, Captains Sturt, Boyd, and Anderson.

17th. Let General Sale go with the army to Jellalabad, and his family
remain here; after taking the army to Jellalabad, let him return to

18th. If any of the Frank gentlemen have taken a Mussulman wife, she
shall be given up.

If there may be questions about any article, send a note quickly by the
bearer.—[_MS. Records._]



 _Translation of a Treaty between the English Authorities at Caubul and
 the Afghan Nobles. (Dated in the month of Ze-vol-Kadh.)_

The cause of writing this confidential paper, and the intention
of forming this unparalleled friendly treaty, is this:—That at
the present happy moment, to put away strife and contention, and
avert discord and enmity, the representatives of the great English
nation—that is, the high of rank and respected Eldred Pottinger,
the ambassador and agent of the English Government, and General
Elphinstone, the commander of the English forces—have concluded a
comprehensive treaty containing certain articles, which they have
confided to the hands of the Afghan nobility, that by it the chain of
friendship may be strengthened. And it has been settled that the Afghan
nobles shall give a similar writing.

An engagement is now made by his Majesty Newab Mahomed Zemaun Khan,
King of Afghanistan, and Naib Ameen-oollah Khan, and the chief nobles
of Afghanistan, whose seals are affixed to and ornament this document.
The articles of the treaty are as follow:—

_Article 1._ That the British troops shall speedily quit the
territories of Afghanistan and march to India, and shall not return;
and twenty-four hours after receiving the carriage-cattle the army
shall start.

_Article 2._ That on our part the Sirdars, Oosman Khan and
Shoojah-ool-dowlah Khan, be appointed to accompany the before-mentioned
army to the boundaries of Afghanistan and convey it to the boundary of
the Sikh territory; so that no one shall offer molestation on the road;
and that carriage-cattle and provisions may be procured for it.

_Article 3._ That the English force at Jellalabad shall march for
Peshawur before the Caubul army arrives, and shall not delay on the

_Article 4._ Having brought the force at Ghuznee in safety to Caubul,
under the protection of one of the relations of Naib Ameen-oollah
Khan, we will send it to Peshawur unmolested under the care of another
trustworthy person.

_Article 5._ Since, according to agreement the troops at Candahar
and other parts of Afghanistan are to start quickly for India, and
make over those territories to our agents, we on our part appoint
trustworthy persons who may provide them with provisions and
protection, and preserve them from molestation.

_Article 6._ All goods and property, and stores and cattle, belonging
to Sirdar Dost Mahomed Khan, which may be in the hands of the English,
shall be given up, and none retained.

_Article 7._ Six English gentlemen, who remain here as our guests,
shall be treated with courtesy. When the Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan
and the other Afghans shall arrive at Peshawur, we will allow the
above-mentioned English gentlemen to depart with honour.

_Article 8._ After the departure of the English army according to the
treaty, should assistance against foreign invasion be at any time
demanded, they (the English Government) shall not delay. Between (the
Governments) friendship and good-will shall exist; and we will not make
a treaty with any but the above-mentioned English Government. And in
case the Governor-General of India should not agree to this proposal,
we are at liberty to form an alliance with any other power.

_Article 9._ Should any English gentleman be unavoidably detained in
Caubul, we will treat him with all respect and consideration, and on
his departure dismiss him with honour.

_Article 10._ The English can take six horse-artillery guns and three
mule guns, and the rest, by way of friendship, shall be left for our
use. And all muskets and ordnance stores in the magazine shall, as a
token of friendship, be made over to our agents.

_Article 11._ Such English soldiers as may be left sick or wounded at
Caubul shall be at liberty to return to their own country on their

This is the treaty, the articles of which have been entered into
between the nobles of the Mahomedan faith and the distinguished
gentlemen. From which articles we will not depart. Written in the month
of Ze-vol-Kadh, in the year of the Mahomedan faith 1257.



 [_MS. Records._]


[_Book VI., chapter IV, page 383._]

“At about nine A.M. the chiefs of the pass and of the country towards
Soorkhab arrived, when we all sat down to discuss matters. The
chiefs were most bitter in their expressions of hatred against us;
and declared that nothing would satisfy them and their men but our
extermination, and money they would not receive. The Sirdar, as far as
words went, tried all in his power to conciliate them, and when other
arguments failed, put them in mind of his father and the whole of his
family being in the power of the British Government at Loodhianah, and
that vengeance would be taken by the latter in the event of mercy
not being shown to us. Mahomed Shah Khan offered them 60,000 rupees
on condition of our not being molested. After some time they took
their departure, to consult with their followers; and Mahomed Shah
Khan mentioned to me that he feared the chiefs would not, without some
great inducement, resist the temptation of plunder and murder that now
offered itself, and wound up by asking if we would give them two lakhs
of rupees on condition of being allowed a free passage. I mentioned
this to General Elphinstone, obtained his consent, and made known the
same to Mahomed Shah, who went away and promised to return quickly.
The General again begged of the Sirdar to permit him to return to his
troops; but without avail.”

“Until twelve o’clock crowds of Ghilzyes with their respective chiefs
continued to pour in from the surrounding country to make their salaam
to Mahomed Akbar; to participate in the plunder of our unfortunate
people; and to revel in the delights of massacring the Europeans.
From their expressions of hatred towards the whole race of us (whilst
conversing in Persian, which they frequently did, until from a hint of
the Sirdar they began to talk in Pushtoo, which I did not understand),
they appeared to anticipate much more delight in cutting our throats
than even in the expected booty. The Sirdar, to all appearance, but
possibly only as a blind to his real feelings, whilst sitting with me
endeavoured as much as possible to conciliate them. The reply in two
instances was, ‘When Burnes came into this country, was not your father
entreated by us to kill him; or he would go back to Hindostan, and on
some future day return with an army and take our country from us. He
would not listen to our advice, and what is the consequence? Let us,
now that we have the opportunity, take advantage of it and kill these
infidel dogs.’”

“I must not omit to mention, that Mahomed Akbar Khan told me in the
morning, after Mahomed Shah Khan had gone to consult with the chiefs
of the pass, that the latter were dogs, and no faith to be placed
in them; and begged that I would send for three or four of my most
intimate friends, that their lives might be saved in the event of
treachery to the troops. My reply was that I would gladly do so, could
my request be acceded to; but that the commanding-officer would never
consent, and that the feelings of my friends would also be opposed to
such a proceeding at a time of so imminent peril to their comrades. The
Sirdar also proposed that in the event of the Ghilzyes not acceding to
our terms, he would himself, with his party of horsemen, proceed at
dusk to the foot of the hill, where our troops were bivouacked; and
previous orders having been given by the commanding-officer that they
should be held ready, he would bring away in safety every European, by
desiring each of his horsemen to take up a man behind him; that the
Ghilzyes would not fire on the Europeans for fear of hitting him or his
men: but that he could not allow a single Hindostanee to follow, as it
was impossible for him to protect 2000 people (our computed number).
I mentioned this to the General; but it was deemed impracticable, as,
from past experience, we had seen how impossible it was to separate the
non-combatants from the fighting men. Four or five times during the day
we heard the report of musketry, which appeared in the direction of our
troops, but were always told, on making inquiry, that all fighting had
ceased.”—[_Captain Johnson’s Journal._]

                            END OF VOL. II.



[1] Mackeson, after doing good service at Bahwulpore, to facilitate
the march of the Bengal column of the Army of the Indus, had made his
way to Peshawur, where he had joined Colonel Wade. He was, therefore,
engaged both in the eastern and western operations.

[2] Under Lieutenant Barr, of the Bengal Artillery, who has written
a Narrative of Colonel Wade’s Operations, to which I would refer the
reader for authentic details, conveyed in a pleasant, soldierly manner.

[3] See Shahamat Ali’s “Sikhs and Afghans”; also Mohun Lal’s Life of
Dost Mahomed. The authority of the former, who must have translated the
letters into Persian, is all-sufficient on such a point as this.

[4] Mackeson, Lord, and Cunningham.

[5] These were the prices fetched at the sale of the effects of
Brigadier Arnold, who died at Caubul in the month of September.

[6] I may as well append the most important portion of it:

“_G. O. October 2._—The whole of the 1st (Bengal) Division of
Infantry, the 2nd (Bengal) Cavalry, and No. 6 Light Field Battery,
will continue in Afghanistan, and a detachment of 30 Sappers, under
an Engineer officer. Major-General Sir W. Cotton will command the
troops in Afghanistan, and all reports to be made to him after the 10th

“The 2nd Troop, 2nd Brigade Bengal Horse Artillery, her Majesty’s 16th
Lancers, the 3rd Light Cavalry, 4th Local Horse, the remainder of the
Sappers and Miners, a Company of 20th N.I., with Captain Farmer’s
Company 21st N.I., and the detachment now in progress to head-quarters,
under Captain Hopkins, 27th N.I., will move towards Hindostan on such
day and order as will be hereafter issued.”

[7] “_G. O. October 9._—Her Majesty’s 13th Light Infantry, three guns
of No. 6 Light Field Battery, and the 35th N.I., to remain at Caubul,
and to be accommodated in the Balla Hissar.

“The 48th N.I., the 4th Brigade, and detachment of Sappers and Miners
and 2nd Cavalry, with a Ressalah of Skinner’s Horse, to be cantoned at

“Ghuznee to be garrisoned by the 16th N.I., a Ressalah of Skinner’s
Horse, and such details of his Majesty Shah Soojah’s as are available.
The whole to be under the command of Major M’Laren.

“Candahar will have for its garrison the 42nd, 43rd N.I., 4th Company
2nd Battalion Artillery, a Ressalah of the 4th Local Horse, and such
details of his Majesty Shah Soojah’s troops as may be available.
Major-General Nott will command.”

[8] The Envoy said, that as Dost Mahomed had sent guns over the same
road to Bameean, there was no reason why our guns should not go. The
Doctor-General Harlan boasted that he had crossed the Hindoo-Koosh with
artillery. But Macnaghten had not considered that the guns which Dost
Mahomed sent along these roads were three-pounders, whilst ours were
six-pounders. The troop came along the wheel-track of the Ameer’s guns,
and reported “the breadth between the wheels less than half of that of

[9] The importance of this subject is so great, when viewed in
connexion with the melancholy history of our subsequent disasters,
that I cannot do better than give, in the Appendix, an account, which
originally appeared in the _Calcutta Review_, of the difficulties
thrown in the way of the engineers—an account, the authenticity of
which is not to be questioned.

[10] The picturesque aspects of Caubul are well described by
Lieutenant Rattray: “It is well-built and handsome, and is one mass
of bazaars. Every street has a double row of houses of different
heights, flat-roofed, and composed of mud in wooden frames. Here and
there a larch porch of carved wood intervenes, giving entrance to the
court-yard of the residences of the nobles, in the centre of which
is a raised platform of mud, planted with fruit trees, and spread
with carpets. A fountain plays near; and here, during the heat of the
day, loll the chiefs at ease, listening, as they smoke their pipes,
to the sound of the ‘saccringhi,’ or guitar, the falling water, or
the wonderful tales of the Persian story-teller. The houses overhang
the narrow streets; their windows have no glass, but consist of
lattice-work wooden shutters, which push up and down, and are often
richly carved and otherwise ornamented. The shop windows are open
to the sun, and the immense display of merchandise, fruits, game,
armour, and cutlery defies description. These articles are arranged
in prodigious piles from floor to ceiling; in the front of each sits
the artificer engaged in his calling, or from amidst the heaped-up
profusion peeps out the trader at his visitors. The grand bazaar (Char
Chouk, or Chutta) has a substantial roof, built in four arcades,
which are decorated with painted panels, now nearly indistinct, and
originally watered by cisterns and fountains which are neglected and
dried up.”

[11] A passage in Lord Auckland’s unpublished minute of August 20,
1839, to which allusion has already been made, contains a summary of
the efforts of the Supreme Government to supply Macnaghten with funds.
It exhibits the fearful manner in which already the war was beginning
to tell upon the finances of India.

[12] Moollah Shikore came through the Khybur with Prince Timour and
Colonel Wade.

[13] “So completely is this poor man’s memory gone, that he never
recognises a man he has once seen; that the commonest business
requires half a dozen notes.”—[_Burnes to Macnaghten: August 7, 1840.
Unpublished Correspondence._] “He had lost his memory to such an extent
that he could not recognise a person whom he had well known before,
if he had not seen him even for a day.”—[_Mohun Lal’s Life of Dost

[14] “Every day complaints were made to us, and we permitted ourselves
to interfere, by giving notes to the complainants, requesting the
Moollah to settle their cases; but this did no good, for, instead of
having redress to their grievances, they were beaten, and sometimes
confined, for coming and complaining to us against the Shah’s
authority. All the chiefs or heads of tribes received their allowances
from certain villages, by obtaining an order from Moollah Shikore.
If there was any man among them known to us, and whom we would wish
to favour, the Moollah took care to annoy and vex him, by giving him
an order to a distant village for such sums which he would likely
spend during his journey; or else to poor villages, where there was
very little chance of gaining anything.”—[_Mohun Lal’s Life of Dost

[15] “Immediately consequent on his Majesty’s accession, certain
feelings began to take root among the Douranees, in connexion with
the presence of British troops, which promised ill for the future
tranquillity of the country. Several of the most influential chiefs
accompanied the Court from Candahar to Caubul and Jellalabad; and
although it must have been with feelings of gratified pride that they
beheld the leader of their order—their _Shah Baba_, or Father King,
as he was familiarly named—seated upon the throne of his ancestors,
yet it is also not unreasonable to suppose that their mortification
must have been great at finding that they no longer possessed a
dominant voice in the royal councils, or the ability, as formerly,
to render the sovereign the victim of their intrigues, and that this
conviction of their political influence being for ever superseded,
must have led them to value the many personal advantages they had
gained by the restoration, and to regard with peculiar hostility the
intruders upon their fancied rights. At Candahar the progress of events
had the same tendency to render the Douranees discontented, if not
actually inimical. The chiefs who had remained with the tribes were
of inconsiderable influence; but they still looked, under the revived
Suddozye monarchy, to be admitted to the share of power which they
deemed their right, and from which they had been jealously excluded by
the Sirdars. No such participation whatever was extended to them. The
present governor of the province, being altogether disqualified by his
youth and inexperience to take an active part in the administration,
the executive power was vested almost entirely in the hands of Wullee
Mahomed Khan, the revenue manager, and the direction of the government
was to the same extent dependent upon British guidance.”—[_Major
Rawlinson’s Report on the Assessment of the Douranee Tribes.—MS.
Records._] I have met with no abler official paper than this in the
whole course of my enquiries.

[16] The Supreme Government were desirous to place Burnes at Candahar,
with Leech as his assistant; but Burnes was disinclined to leave
Caubul; and the charge of the agency was entrusted to Leech. In the
August minute already mentioned, Lord Auckland thus sketches the
proposed political arrangements:—“Mr. Macnaghten will himself be,
of course, as much as possible near to the King. * * * * I think a
political agency, subordinate to the Mission at Caubul, should be
maintained at Candahar, and that it cannot be better entrusted than
to the approved zeal and ability of Sir Alexander Burnes. * * * I
would not disturb Lieutenant Pottinger at Herat. His name is attached
to the establishment of British influence in that city. He has had a
most difficult task to execute, and I would suspend all opinion on the
instructions with which it may be determined to furnish him, until I
have a report of the result of the mission of Major Todd. I think,
also, that Captain Bean should certainly remain in charge of the
political functions which have been committed to him at Quettah. * * *
Under these general arrangements, Major Leech will render assistance
at Candahar to Sir A. Burnes, and perhaps Dr. Login to Lieutenant
Pottinger at Herat; and Mr. Macnaghten will report in detail upon the
number of officers whose aid will be indispensably necessary, under
his own personal superintendence. He will have with him Major Todd,
Lieutenant Macgregor, and presently Messrs. Lord, Leech, and Arthur
Conolly. I am aware that the duties of his office will be complicated
and extensive. He may have missions to send to Bokhara and Koondooz,
and to other neighbouring states, and I would not stint him in
assistance.”—[_Minute of Lord Auckland: Simlah, August 20, 1839. MS.

[17] Keane, immediately before his departure, remarked to an officer
who was to accompany him: “I wished you to remain in Afghanistan for
the good of the public service; but since circumstances have rendered
that impossible, I cannot but congratulate you on quitting the country;
for, mark my words, it will not be long before there is here some
signal catastrophe.”—[_Calcutta Review._]

[18] Some of these parties were detachments of Sikh troops.

[19] The Khyburees fell upon them in their stockaded position before
attacking Jellalabad. The Nujeebs were suffering severely from sickness
at the time. One half of them, it is said, were ineffective when the
Khyburees fell upon them.

[20] Two companies of the 27th Native Infantry, under Lieutenant
Laing—a very gallant officer, who fell honourably at Caubul in the
winter of 1841-42, were sent by Sir John Keane to reinforce Ferris
at Ali-Musjid. Afterwards, two companies of the 21st, with one of
sappers, were despatched to throw provisions into the fort. On their
return they were attacked by the Khyburees in great force, and worsted,
with the loss of their cattle. Another party, sent by Sir John Keane
to throw ammunition into Ali-Musjid, was also attacked; two officers
were severely wounded, and some men killed; but the convoy ultimately
reached its destination. M’Leod, with his sappers, did good service on
this occasion.

[21] The private letters of Lieutenant Loveday (quoted in the _Asiatic
Journal_) throw some light upon the incidents of the capture. “In
one court-yard I saw a heap of their dead, some forty or fifty—some
very fine handsome fellows—their shields shot through, and broken
swords and matchlocks lying about in every direction, telling of the
fierce fight. There was still, however, a small party who obstinately
held out in an inner apartment; there was no going at them except by
a narrow passage, which admitted but of one at a time; three or four
attempted it, and were instantly shot dead. We offered them quarter,
but they would not trust us. At last I was sent up alone, when they
surrendered. * * * * I then went to the mother of Shah Newaz, who is
the new Khan, and who made his escape from prison seven years ago. This
poor creature, with a few old women, had been shut up in a distant
apartment ever since the flight of her son, miserably fed and miserably
clothed. I explained in a few words what had taken place; our capture
of the fort, the death of Mehrab Khan, and the near approach of her
son, whom our government had placed on the _Musnud_. You may readily
fancy the scene: what with surprise and joy, she burst into tears, said
she was my slave, and would have thrown herself at my feet if I had not
prevented her. On the following day a few of Mehrab Khan’s servants
brought the body of their master for burial—a fine looking man. There
was one little hole in his breast, which told of a musket-ball having
passed through. He had no clothes on, except his silk _pyjammahs_.
One of his slaves whispered me for a shawl; alas! I had nothing of
the kind, but luckily remembered a brocade bed-cover, which I had
bought in my days of folly and extravagance at Delhi. I called for it
immediately, and gave it to the Khan’s servants, who were delighted
with this last mark of respect, and wrapping up the body in it, placed
their deceased master on a _charpoy_, and carried him to the grave.”

[22] In his minute of August 20, Lord Auckland wrote on this
subject:—“Mr. Macnaghten has authority, as respects the Khelat
territories, to declare the annexation of the provinces of Shawl,
Moostung, and Cutch Gundaya to the Afghan dominions; and I have but to
add, that it is my strong opinion that no power should be left in the
hands of Mehrab Khan, who has shown himself our bitter and deceitful
enemy, wholly unworthy of our confidence. For this object, it will, I
conceive, be sufficient to occupy Khelat itself, and to hold it and
the districts adjacent, in addition to Moostung and Shawl, under our
provisional management or superintendence, for the very short period
that will elapse, until it may be seen what final arrangement can be
made respecting it, either by bringing it also under the direct rule
of the Shah, or placing the claimant, Shah Newaz Khan (or any other
Beloochee chief), in possession of it.”—[_MS. Records._]

[23] “As to Mehrab Khan himself, he may have claims upon Shah
Soojah-ool-Moolk, arising out of the important succour given to his
Majesty in his expedition in 1834, and Mr. Macnaghten will naturally
not fail to second any proposition of a liberal personal support
to the chief which the Shah may be disposed to make, in generous
acknowledgment of those services.”—[_Lord Auckland’s Minute: August
20, 1839. MS. Records._]

[24] The winter, however, was not wholly unproductive of military
events. A detachment was sent out under Colonel Orchard to reduce the
fort of Pushoot, which lies some fifty miles to the north-east of
Jellalabad, and to expel the “refractory chief” of the surrounding
district. The affair was a successful failure. Repeated attempts
were made by the Engineer, Pigou, to blow in the gate, after the
Ghuznee fashion; but the heavy rains had damaged the powder, which was
naturally bad; and every effort was unsuccessful. As there was no hope
of effecting an entrance in this manner; as Abbott and his artillery
had vainly exhausted their ammunition, and a considerable number of
our men had fallen under the fire of the fort, Orchard drew off the
assailants. Soon after their withdrawal, however, the enemy evacuated
the place.

[25] _MS. Correspondence._

[26] _MS. Correspondence._

[27] Finding that he had little hope of so establishing his influence
among the petty Oosbeg states, as to enable him, with their assistance,
to make an effort to regain his lost dominions, the Ameer had
contemplated a flight into the Persian territories. But the Governor of
Balkh intercepted the fugitive, and invited him to that place. Jubbar
Khan went on the part of the Ameer, and was detained until the arrival
of Dost Mahomed himself. Then the Ameer was informed that the Khan of
Bokhara desired the presence at his capital of the ex-ruler of Caubul.
Sorely perplexed, and almost helpless, but not without some misgivings,
Dost Mahomed then went to Bokhara.

[28] _Jellalabad, February 23, 1840. MS. Correspondence._

[29] Mehrab Khan, the Wullee of Maimouna, said to Arthur Conolly, in
the autumn of 1840, “My ancestors were content to serve the King of
Caubul, and when members of that house fell into misfortune, they found
hospitality here. Shah Soojah is again upon his throne at Caubul; but
now another Suddozye King calls upon me to submit only to Herat, and
your English agent advises me to send my son there. On the other hand,
the Commander of the Faithful claims allegiance for Bokhara. The Khan
Huzzrut desires me to put myself under him; and you know how I was
forced to act when the Persian Asoph-ood-dowlah crossed the Moorghaub.”

[30] Sir W. Macnaghten to Mr. Robertson, April 1, 1840.

[31] On the 21st of March, Macnaghten had written to the Agra Governor:
“Lord Auckland tells me that the Russian force consists only of
3000 cavalry Cossacks, 800 mounted artillerymen, and twelve light
field-pieces; but Burnes tells me that he knows, from good information,
that the force is much larger. Let us hope the armada may be dispersed
before it reaches Bokhara, whatever may be the strength of it. If the
Russians are likely to establish themselves there, we had better be up
and doing.”—(_MS. Correspondence._)

But on the 15th of April he wrote from Jellalabad: “You will see from
Captain Abbott’s report how contemptible is the enemy with which the
Russians have to contend, and I fear they will experience no obstacle
to their progress all the way to Bokhara. Had we not been here, they
would by this time next year have established themselves without
the slightest opposition or difficulty in Afghanistan. They appear
to have completely gained over (whether by promises or threats) the
King of Bokhara, who turns a deaf ear to all our advances.”—(_MS.

On the 23rd, the Court having then commenced its progress to Caubul,
the Envoy wrote in a still less confident strain: “All accounts concur
in stating that the Russians have reached Khiva, and I anticipate
anything but a bed of roses unless something be done to distract
people’s attention from the intrigues ahead, by putting a stop to those
in our rear. We are now on the field of battle on which Shah Soojah
lost his throne in 1810. What must his Majesty’s feelings be now?”

[32] May 10, 1842.

[33] “The price of flour in the Herat bazaar was, about this time, one
Company’s rupee for less than four Hindostanee seers; and the whole
supply from Toorkistan, the markets of which had been opened by our
negotiations with Khiva. On our arrival at Herat, although the harvest
had been reaped, five maunds of flour were with difficulty procured in
the bazaar; and to meet the demand which the arrival of the Mission
(consisting of about 120 persons) occasioned, we had immediately to
send for supplies to Seistan.”—[_Facts relating to Herat, by Dr. J. S.

[34] “When Major Todd, in June, 1839, arrived as envoy at Herat, he
selected Moollah Hussan, a Mahomedan priest of great respectability,
as bearer of a letter of friendship to the Khan Huzzrut (Supreme Lord)
of Khiva, called also Khaurism Shah, or King of Khaurism. Moollah
Hussan, arrived at Khiva when the state was threatened with a Russian
invasion, was well received; and on his return was accompanied by an
Oosbeg Lord, Shookkurroola Bre by name, as ambassador from the Khan
Huzzrut to the Indian Government. The letter borne by this ambassador
accepted of the tender of British friendship, and made several demands
which could not be complied with on the responsibility of Major Todd.
It was in answer to this mission that the Envoy deputed me to visit
the Court of Khiva.”—[_Captain Abbott’s Narrative of a Journey from
Herat to Khiva: Preliminary Remarks._] For an account of Captain
Abbott’s personal adventures, with a glimmering here and there of his
political negotiations, I would refer the reader to his interesting
volumes. Abbott says, at the commencement of his narrative: “We (Todd
and Abbott) separate under circumstances sufficiently gloomy. I leave
him in the very stronghold of robbers. I go myself as agent of the
British Government to a Court, of the language and manners of which I
am utterly ignorant, and to accomplish that of which the most sanguine
have no hope. It is simply a matter of duty, and as such entered upon
cheerfully, and with full determination to carry my efforts to the

[35] Ghorian, the frontier post of Herat, had been taken by the
Persians in 1838. When, in the spring of 1840, the perfidy of Yar
Mahomed was discovered, the Wuzeer expressed some contrition, and
an anxiety to prove his sincerity, by fitting out an expedition for
the recovery of Herat. All that he wanted was money. If the British
agent would advance him two lakhs of rupees, he would speedily
recover Ghorian. The money was advanced; and of course Ghorian was
not recovered. It was believed by the Mission that, whilst pretending
to make his preparations for the expedition, the Wuzeer was sending
messages to the Persian commandant at Ghorian, telling him not to be
under any apprehensions, for that although the British desired him to
recover the place, he had no intention of making the attempt.

[36] In Council, the Commander-in-Chief was consistently opposed
to the project of an advance on Herat or the countries beyond the
Hindoo-Koosh. On the 25th of May he wrote in his journal: “In a quiet
way, without any formality, I placed in the Governor-General’s hands
to-day in Council a paper detailing the numbers of regiments and troops
or companies of artillery now beyond our frontier. It is very great:
1 troop and 5 companies of Artillery; 1 regiment of Native Cavalry; 9
regiments of European and 15-1/2 of Native Infantry; 2-1/2 companies
of Golundauze, and 2 companies of Sappers. I remarked at the foot that
this aggregate exceeded, except in horse artillery and cavalry, the
two armies which, in 1803, beat down the great army of Scindiah, under
Lake and Wellesley. I did this in the hope of inducing Lord Auckland to
pause before he sanctioned any advance upon Balkh or to Herat, for we
can ill afford any such extension of our force. In truth, we are much
weaker now than in 1838, when the first augmentation was ordered in
view to our later campaign.”—[_MS. Journal of Sir Jasper Nicolls._]

[37] _MS. Correspondence._ See also letters to Mr. Robertson, Major
Todd, and Sir J. R. Carnac;—quoted in first edition.

[38] 30,000 rupees (or 3000_l._) per annum.

[39] In connection with the Ghilzye affairs at this time, comes in the
unpleasant story of the surrender of Wulloo Khan. I believe that the
following account of the transaction, which appeared in a Calcutta
journal, is substantially correct: “Wulloo Khan, after his beating,
wished to make terms. Anderson allowed him to go into Candahar to do
so. He was successful, and received a dress of honour from Major Leech,
and one from the Shah-zadah ruling Candahar. He declared he had been
instigated to resistance by men in Candahar, and that he would show
their letters. He returned to Anderson, and then to his home; when
hearing that Lieutenant Nicolson and Shah-zadah Timour were near,
relying on the pledged words of our political agent, Major Leech, and
the Shah-zadah Futteh Jung, Wulloo Khan went to make his obedience,
and was immediately seized and made prisoner. His letters and dress of
honour, together with a strong protest against such proceedings from
Anderson, may have saved his head, but he is sent prisoner to Caubul.”
The writer adds, that “three of the prisoners made over to Lieutenant
Nicolson and the Shah-zadah Timour had their heads struck off;” but I
have before me a specific declaration, made by the Envoy in a letter to
Lord Auckland, dated November 24, 1840, that “not a single political
execution has taken place since his Majesty’s accession to power.”

[40] Lieutenant Walpole Clerk—a young officer of conspicuous gallantry
and zeal.

[41] The defence of the former place by Captain Lewis Brown, and of
the latter by Captain Bean, are among the most noticeable incidents of
the war, and deserve more extended notice than I can give them in this
place. I am compelled to leave it to others to chronicle more minutely
the progress of events in Upper Sindh.

[42] Commenting on the neglect of all ordinary precautions, by which
the insurrection had been suffered to make so much head in Upper
Sindh, Burnes, on the 7th of August, wrote to Macnaghten:—“In April,
1839, when called upon by you to state officially what should be done
to chastise the treachery of the chief of Khelat, I recommended,
in common with yourself and Lord Keane, his deposition; but I as
plainly stated in my letter of the 10th of that month, ‘that while
our troops continued at Shawl, this may be an unnecessary arrangement
(to raise national troops), but both at Moostung and Cutchee very
energetic measures will be required to these countries; and happily
their resources are such, that this will amply repay the labour and
expense.’ Was this vigour displayed by his Majesty’s Government on the
spot, or by our own authorities? One of his Majesty’s governors has
joined the insurgents, and the political agent was taken by surprise
on an occasion which the slightest foresight might have anticipated.
What right have we to expect that any chief placed in power shall
flourish by us, unless his government is better than that which we
have overthrown? Did Shah Newaz muster or even organise his troops?
Did he point out the necessity for payment, or the means of making
them superior to his adversaries? We advanced him a lakh of rupees,
and allowed him to continue most at Caubul, while we withdrew all our
troops. Khelat is the capital of Beloochistan—a poor but vast country,
stretching from the mountains in sight of the Indus to the confines
of Persia. Through this wide tract our discomfiture affects our
reputation; the only solace in it will be found in our chief, not our
troops being vanquished.”-[_Papers privately printed._]

[43] This, however, was not until the beginning of November. Loveday
had then been for some months in captivity.

[44] _Unpublished Correspondence of Sir W. H. Macnaghten._

[45] About this time Macnaghten had been much vexed by the conduct of
General Nott, who, from first to last, treated the royal family of
Caubul with the supremest contempt. Nothing could induce him to behave
towards any one of them with ordinary respect. At last Macnaghten was
compelled to lay his complaints before the Supreme Government. “It was
with much regret,” he wrote to Lord Auckland, “that I felt compelled
to refer to government a difference of opinion between myself and Sir
Willoughby, but if such an outrage as that committed by General Nott
is to be tolerated and justified, there must be an end of our efforts
to make it be believed that Shah Soojah is king of this country. I
know how embarrassing these references are, and I should have been
happy to have saved government the trouble of passing orders on the
question, had Sir Willoughby so far supported me as to have conveyed
a censure to General Nott for the deliberate and gratuitous violence
which he had committed. The _animus_ by which he has been actuated is
apparent throughout—he refused to pay the Prince the common compliment
of calling upon him, although told that such a civility was expected.
There is, I regret to say, a feeling too prevalent amongst the officers
of the force against his Majesty, who is considered the sole cause of
their detention here—and I hope that though they may not be compelled
to treat the royal family with becoming respect, yet that they will not
be permitted to offer them a direct insult with impunity.”

[46] “His Lordship in Council has a strong desire, in which he
looks for your concurrence, to uphold the military position of
Brigadier Roberts. Whenever the regular troops shall be withdrawn
from Afghanistan, he will be your first military authority; and every
British officer employed in that country, should be led to look to him.
His Lordship can only express his approbation of the care which is
exhibited by the Brigadier for the force committed to his charge, and
he will be glad when circumstances will permit him to carry into effect
his views for its discipline and comfort.”

[47] _MS. Correspondence of Sir W. H. Macnaghten. Caubul: Aug. 12,

[48] _MS. Correspondence of Arthur Conolly. Caubul: May 16, 1840._

[49] See “The British on the Hindoo-Koosh,” an admirable series
of papers published in more than one Indian periodical, and in
_Stocqueler’s Memorials of Afghanistan_. In referring to these papers,
I acknowledge, with pride, my obligations to a brother’s pen.

[50] He arrived at Bajgah on his way from Kooloom, and volunteered his
services to Hay.

[51] Saleh Mahomed, of whom mention will be made in a subsequent
part of this narrative, told Captain Johnson that the conduct of the
European non-commissioned officers had disgusted him and his men, and
moved them to desert.

[52] Major Pottinger, who was subsequently employed as Political Agent
in this part of the country, has left on record an account of the
causes of this general disaffection, a part of which will be found in
the Appendix.

[53] Writing on the 1st of October, the Envoy thus sketched the aspect
of affairs: “The result of the victory at Bameean has not been by any
means such as I could have wished. Dost Mahomed will not come in, and
the Wullee of Khooloom will not give him up. The latter has omitted to
reply to Dr. Lord’s last overture, so I imagine we must retreat from
Syghan, _re infectâ_. Two of the Dost’s sons have escaped from Ghizni,
and they will no doubt endeavour, and probably with success, to raise a
disturbance in the Ghilzye country. In short, the aspect of affairs is
by no means agreeable, and we shall have abundance of work on our hands
for next season. Bajore, Khooloom, and divers other places it will
be requisite to visit with our arms before the country can be called
settled. Amongst a bigoted people accustomed to anarchy, it never can
be difficult to scatter the seeds of rebellion.”—[_MS. Correspondence
of Sir W. H. Macnaghten._]

[54] _MS. Correspondence of Sir W. H. Macnaghten._ The Envoy took a
very gloomy view of this affair. In another letter, he says, “You will
have heard of the disaster at Joolgah, which I think was a worse affair
than that of Pushoot.”

[55] _Sir W. H. Macnaghten to Lord Auckland: October 31, 1840.
Unpublished Correspondence._

[56] Some of the troopers were pursued for a considerable distance. “I
learn,” wrote the Envoy, on November 6, “that two squadrons of them
were pursued for a mile or two by twenty Douranees.”

[57] A detachment of our troops was then returning to India. The
Company’s European regiment, and Captain Garbett’s troop of Horse
Artillery, marched from Caubul; and the 48th Native Infantry joined the
escort at Jellalabad. At the same time, Sir Willoughby Cotton, who had
commanded the troops in Afghanistan, set his face towards India: and
the command temporarily devolved on Sir R. Sale.

[58] _Sir W. H. Macnaghten to Mr. Robertson: Jan. 12, 1841. MS.

[59] _MS. Correspondence._

[60] Writing to the same correspondent shortly afterwards, he cautioned
him not to expect any very speedy or extensive reforms; and, above
all, not to look for any favourable financial results. “By-and-by his
Majesty,” said the Envoy, “will, I hope, be able to make both ends
meet. At present, pecuniary assistance to a considerable extent will be
indispensable. As I said when we first reached Candahar, the country
must be looked upon as an outwork, requiring large expenditure to keep
it in repair. You are a little too sanguine, I think, in your hope
of a speedy and universal reform in this country. For thirty years
the inhabitants of most of the districts have never paid a fraction
of revenue, until they were coerced into payment by the presence of
troops. The habit has grown into second nature with them, and we
cannot expect them to subside at once into the condition of cheerful
tax-payers.”—[_Unpublished Correspondence._]

[61] See Major Rawlinson’s “Douranee Report,” quoted in the Appendix.

[62] Major Rawlinson went out to India as a cadet on the Bombay
Establishment in 1827. He was a fellow-passenger of Sir John Malcolm,
from whom he imbibed his earliest taste for Oriental literature.
In 1828, having passed, whilst yet a cadet, an examination in the
Hindostanee language, he was posted to the 1st Grenadier Regiment, with
which he served until 1833. In this interval he passed in two other
languages, Mahratta and Persian. In 1833, when Lord William Bentinck
despatched a party of officers to Persia to drill the army of Abbas
Meerza, Rawlinson, still an ensign, was selected as adjutant of the
detachment. In Persia he continued to serve until the rupture with that
state. During a space of nearly three years he was in military command
of the province of Kermanshah, living entirely among the Persians, and
becoming as familiar with their language and literature as with his
own. He graduated in diplomacy under Sir John M‘Neill,
by whom he was entrusted with various political duties, and
strongly recommended to Lord Auckland for employment in Afghanistan.

[63] Other grounds of complaint may have subsequently arisen, but this
dilatoriness was the first offence. Leech pleaded in extenuation that
he had been removed from one appointment to another, before he had had
time to make up the financial statements of his last mission; and sent
in a list of no less than _eight_ different accounts of which he had to
bring up the arrears.—[_Major Leech to Sir W. H. Macnaghten: June 30,

[64] It would be foreign to the objects of this work to discuss the
question of Nott’s supercession. It was at one time a fertile subject
of discussion in India, involving, as it did, a general question of
military rank in the higher grades. General Willshire was an older
officer and an older lieutenant-colonel than General Nott, and the
Indian Commander-in-Chief had decreed that the relative ranks of the
major-generals should be determined, not by the dates of their brevets
as such, but by the dates of their lieutenant-colonels’ commissions.

[65] 25,000 rupees (2500_l._) _per mensem_.

[66] I cannot refrain from quoting here a letter on this subject from
Todd to Outram, written before his removal from political employment:

“Your kind letter of November 3rd reached me a few days ago. I would
fain send you an adequate return, but I am out of sorts, and, besides,
have but little to tell you. Shakespear’s proceedings have been in
all respects admirable. The zeal, perseverance, and judgment he has
displayed throughout his arduous undertaking, entitle him to the
highest praise; and I trust he will be rewarded as he deserves. The
property restored by Russia is valued at upwards of a crore of rupees;
and the number of merchants and others released, exceeds 600. The news
was received at Khiva with every demonstration of joy; and Shakespear’s
name has been inserted in the calendar of Oosbeg saints! The Russians,
by liberating their captives immediately on the arrival of Shakespear
and his ‘company,’ have given a strong proof that they are unwilling
or unable to renew their attempt on Khiva; and I hope that they will
now be prevented taking up that formidable position on the road to
India. I cannot help congratulating myself on even the small share
which I have had in these proceedings. Had I waited for orders, the
Russians might have been within a few marches of Khiva; and had we been
satisfied with the tales of Sir Alexander’s agents, we should have
now believed the Russians 300,000 strong, and to be within as short a
distance of Caubul. The road between Teheran and this place is infested
by roving bands of Toorkomans, who have been let loose on Persian
Khorassan by the Khan of Khiva. His Highness thinks that he is thus
doing us service; but I have written to undeceive him in this matter,
and I have pointed out to him that the practice of man-stealing is
abhorrent to us, whether the man be a Russian or a Persian. His conduct
on this occasion reminds me of an answer given to me by Mahomed Shah’s
Wuzeer, one Meerza Mahomed, a great oaf. I had been superintending some
artillery practice at Teheran. A jackass having been placed at the
target, I remonstrated against the cruelty of putting up one of God’s
creatures as a mark, when wood or canvas would answer every purpose.
The Wuzeer replied, ‘On my eyes be it, I will stick up a pony next
time.’ As if I had specially pleaded the case of jackasses.

“Sheil thinks that the prospect of a settlement of our differences
with Persia is as distant as ever, and is strongly opposed to my plan
of allowing the Shah to keep Ghorian, and retaining possession of

[67] Major Rawlinson to General Nott, Feb. 18, 1841.—Quoted in
Stocqueler’s “Life of Sir William Nott.”

[68] Major Rawlinson to Sir W. H. Macnaghten, March 11, 1841.—[_MS.

[69] _MS. Correspondence._

[70] Captain Woodburn to General Nott, July 6, 1841.—Stocqueler’s
“Life of Sir William Nott.”

[71] _MS. Correspondence._

[72] Nott’s disparagement of the Janbaz so irritated Macnaghten,
and displeased Lord Auckland, that his removal from Candahar was
contemplated. The following extracts from Macnaghten’s correspondence
show what was thought on the subject:—“_September 2._—Between you
and me, Lord A. is much displeased with General Nott for his light
and indiscriminate censure and disparagement of the Janbaz; and I
think his displeasure will be increased when he peruses the General’s
subsequent and most uncandid despatch, in which he omitted all notice
of the exemplary conduct of the Janbaz at Secunderabad.” “_September
5._—You are not likely to have Nott with you much longer. His conduct
in respect to the Janbaz has elicited the severest displeasure of
government, by whom he has been declared disqualified for his present
important command.”—[_MS. Correspondence._]

[73] _MS. Correspondence._

[74] Captain Macgregor.—[_See Macgregor’s Report on the Causes of the
Caubul Outbreak._]

[75] Shelton had come up from India with the 44th, through the
Punjab. His brigade was employed against the refractory tribes of the
Sunghoo-Khail in the month of February, and reduced them to a fitting
state of subjection; but not without the loss of two valuable officers.
Lieutenant Pigou, of the Engineers, was blown to pieces, whilst
endeavouring to force in, with powder, the gates of a fort; and Captain
Douglas, Assistant-Adjutant-General, was shot dead by the side of the

[76] A small pony, says Lieutenant Rattray, was backed by an officer to
scramble down the ditch and over the wall.

[77] For Brigadier Roberts’ Correspondence on the subject of the
Cantonment Barracks, see Appendix.

[78] For a pleasant descriptive sketch of the amusements of the English
at Caubul, see Mr. Gleig’s account of the _Operations of Sale’s Brigade
in Afghanistan_.

[79] _Sir W. H. Macnaghten to Major Rawlinson. MS. Correspondence._

[80] Brigadier Roberts says, that when the Kohistanee expedition
of 1840, which nearly had such a disastrous termination, was first
projected, it was looked upon as a mere party of pleasure, and that
ladies were talking of joining it. It does not appear whether they had
any notion of participating in the pleasures of the popular expedition
to Zao.

[81] _Major Pottinger’s Budeeabad Report._

[82] Pottinger was of opinion that the Ghilzyes, the Kohistanees, and
the Douranees, were all leagued together; and that the compact between
them was formed about the end of September.

[83] _Sir Jasper Nicolls’ MS. Journal_—some passages of which may be
cited in illustration of this part of the inner history of the war:

“_March 12._—My letter of the 10th of November will be found difficult
to parry, after all; and I regret to say, that the immense expenditure
cannot long be borne. A million a year will not cover our charges; and
Lord Auckland’s answers to the last week’s applications prove to me
that he begins to feel it.

“_March 21._—We are called upon to make early and large remittances
to the Upper Provinces; and fifty lakhs have been ordered (their
requisitions increased in a week to eighty lakhs). Thirty lakhs went
last week to Bombay, and twenty-nine are now at Ferozepore, waiting
for transmission. This will never do. Even if we had a firmer hold of
Afghanistan than we have, we should be compelled to give it up, for a
drain of a million a year will infallibly swamp us. Even a good share
of the Punjab would not cover this great charge. Lord Auckland is
not inclined to look this in the face, and acknowledge by a loan the
unfortunate result of our successes.

“_March 26._—Lord Auckland sent home a long minute regarding Herat....
He means to preserve our footing in Afghanistan. Mr. Bird and Mr.
Prinsep approve of this, though the latter roundly and justly asserts
that it cannot be done under a crore and a quarter (a million and a
quarter) annually; and that no present mode of extending our receipts
to that extent, is open to us. Lord Auckland wrote a note to ask our
opinions on the subject. Mr. Maddock never circulated the note. Sir W.
Casement and myself were therefore silent. We are clearly in a great
scrape. That country drains us of a million a year and more; and we
only in truth are certain of the allegiance of the people within range
of our guns and cavalry.... One part of Lord Auckland’s paper only will
be received for a time. He states our resources to be only a crore less
than when we crossed the Indus. The Accountant-General says, that on
the 30th of April we may expect the reduction to amount to three crores
and three-quarters. I told Prinsep that he had been very complaisant
not to point this out.”

[84] _Sir Jasper Nicolls’ MS. Journal, March 29._—“At last the
advertisement for a loan is prepared, and will shortly appear. Though
Lord Auckland did not advert to a deficiency of three-and-a-half crores
in his paper on Afghanistan, he now acts upon it. This will force on
the Court a decision as to our maintaining our position in that quarter
at such a price, for they will assuredly never pay even the charges of
the Shah.

“_May 12._—Before I close this book (volume of the Journal), I
would record my opinion, that the whole thing will break down. We
cannot afford the heavy, yet increasing drain upon us. Nine thousand
troops between Quettah and Kurachee; at least 16,000 of our army and
the Shah’s to the north of Quettah. The King’s expenses to bear in
part—twenty-eight political officers to pay, besides Macnaghten—Dost
Mahomed’s allowance—barracks—a fort or two to build—loss by
exchange, &c., &c. To me it is alarming. The silver does not return,
and it is becoming scarce.”

[85] “You will have seen that Government is opening a new five per
cent. loan. What can this be for? I apprehend it augurs ill for
the Chinese settlement, and that we shall have that work to do
over again.”—[_Sir W. H. Macnaghten to Major Rawlinson: April 20,
1841._—_MS. Correspondence._]

[86] _Sir Jasper Nicolls’ MS. Journal, May 20._—“Here is a very
untoward account of the Afghan finances. It will never do to have India
drained of a million and a quarter annually for a rocky frontier,
requiring about 25,000 men and expensive establishments to hold it
even by threats, as at present. The specie, too, is drawn away not to
return. Little comes from China. How is it to end? Money is not rapidly
subscribed to the loan, because it gains twelve to eighteen per cent.
for short periods elsewhere—amongst natives, twenty-four per cent. or
more. Unless a large accession of Punjab territory comes in to connect
us safely with Caubul, and to aid our very heavy expenses, _we must

[87] _MS. Correspondence of Sir W. H. Macnaghten._

[88] The retrenchments, too, were to touch the Court. “I have suggested
sundry retrenchments,” he wrote to Rawlinson, “which, though necessary,
will be most unpalatable to his Majesty and his myrmidons.”

[89] “The Ghilzyes, however, had another grievance—viz., that
during the rule of Ameer Mahomed Khan (Dost Mahomed’s brother), who
had managed partially to subdue this wild tribe, he had effected a
reduction in their pay of 13,000 rupees, which was restored to them
in 1839, on the return of the Shah; but was again reduced on the
present occasion. Further, they were held responsible for thefts
committed beyond their respective boundaries.”—[_Captain Macgregor’s
Report._—_MS. Records._]

[90] _MS. Records._ See the Duke of Wellington’s Comments on this
subject in the Appendix.

[91] The 37th Native Infantry and the 5th Cavalry were not a part of
the relieved brigade.

[92] “_October 11._—One down, t’other come on, is the principle with
these vagabonds; and lucky for us that it is so. No sooner have we put
down one rebellion than another starts up. The Eastern Ghilzyes are now
in an uproar, and our communications with Jellalabad are completely
cut off. This state of things—_Inshallah!_—will not last long. Only
imagine the impudence of the rascals in having taken up a position,
with four or five hundred men, in the Khoord-Caubul Pass, not fifteen
miles from the capital. I hope they will be driven out of that either
to-day or to-morrow; but the pass is an ugly one to force. They fired
last night upon the 35th Regiment, and succeeded in killing or wounding
twenty-four Sepoys. Tugao has been the nursery, and Humza Khan the
dry-nurse of this insurrection. Tugao will be visited, I hope, in a
day or two, and I have solicited his Majesty to put Humza in durance
vile, and to confiscate all his property. This _émeute_ of ours is
particularly provoking just as I am about to quit Afghanistan. I had
hoped to leave the country in perfect tranquillity; and I still think
that it will be quieter than ever it was, after the insurrection is
put down. It is particularly provoking that Macgregor is absent with
a large portion of our force at this juncture. My accounts from Burn
at Gundamuck are very satisfactory. The efforts of the rebels to raise
the tribes are as unavailing as incessant. His Majesty’s name has been
freely used, as usual; no wonder—it is a tower of strength; but never
was a more foul calumny uttered than that which would associate his
Majesty with our enemies.”—[_Sir W. H. Macnaghten to Major Rawlinson.
MS. Correspondence._]

[93] Captain Younghusband, of the 35th, Captain Wade, the Brigade-Major
of the force, and Lieutenants Mein and Oakes, of the 13th, were wounded
in this affair.

[94] _Sir W. H. Macnaghten to Captain Macgregor: October 17, 1841. MS.

[95] _Sir W. H. Macnaghten to Captain Macgregor: October 18, 1841. MS.

[96] _Sir W. H. Macnaghten to Major Rawlinson._—[_MS. Correspondence._]

[97] “The only officer killed, Wyndham, a captain of the 35th Native
Infantry, fell nobly. Himself lame from a hurt, he had dismounted at
that moment of peril to save the life of a wounded soldier, by bearing
him from the combat on his charger. When the rear-guard broke before
the onset of the Ghilzyes, Wyndham, unable to keep pace with the
pursued, turned, fought, and, overpowered by numbers, fell beneath the
swords and knives of an unsparing foe.”—[_Calcutta Review._]

[98] I must give Mohun Lal’s own words, in spite of their eccentric
phraseology: “On the 1st of November,” he writes, “I saw Sir Alexander
Burnes, and told him that the confederacy has been grown very high, and
we should fear the consequence. He stood up from his chair, sighed, and
said he knows nothing but the time has arrived that we should leave
this country.”—[_Letter of Mohun Lal to J. R. Colvin, Esq., January
9, 1842._—_MS. Records._] In a letter to another correspondent,
Mohun Lal makes a similar statement; and adds that, upon the same
night, Taj Mahomed called upon Burnes, to no purpose, with a like
warning: “On the 1st of November I saw him at evening, and informed
him, according to the conversation of Mahomed Meerza Khan, our great
enemy, that the chiefs are contriving plans to stand against us, and
therefore it will not be safe to remain without a sufficient guard in
the city. He replied, that if he were to ask the Envoy to send him a
strong guard, it will show that he was fearing; and at the same [time]
he made an astonishing speech, by saying that the time is not far
when we must leave this country. Taj Mahomed, son of Gholam Mahomed
Khan, the Douranee chief, came at night to him, and informed what
the chiefs intended to do, but he turned him out under the pretended
aspect that we do not care for such things. Our old friend, Naib
Sheriff, came and asked him to allow his son, with 100 men, to remain
day and night in his place till the Ghilzye affair is settled—but he
did not agree.”—[_Letter of Mohun Lal to Dr. James Burnes._—_MS.

[99] This is stated on the authority of Sir William Macnaghten: “I
may be considered culpable,” he said, in an unfinished memorandum,
found after his death, “for not having foreseen the coming storm; to
this I can only reply that others, who had much better opportunities
of watching the feelings of the people, had no suspicion of what
was coming. The late Sir A. Burnes was with me the evening before
the insurrection occurred, and it is a singular fact that he should
have congratulated me on my approaching departure at a season of
such profound tranquillity.”—[_Unpublished Papers of Sir W. H.
Macnaghten._] See further illustrations of this subject in _Appendix_.

[100] “The principal rebels,” wrote Sir William Macnaghten, in a letter
to Lord Auckland, of which only a fragment has been recovered, “met,
on the night before, and [relying] on the inflammable disposition
of the people of Caubul, they first gave out that it was the order
of his Majesty to put all infidels to death, and this, of course,
gained them a great accession of strength. But his Majesty has behaved
throughout with the most marked fidelity, judgment, and prudence.
By forged orders from him for our destruction, by the well-known
process of washing out the contents of a genuinely sealed paper, and
substituting their own wicked inventions. * * * *” (_Sentence left
imperfect._)—[_Correspondence of Sir W. H. Macnaghten._]

[101] _Statement of Emaum-oollah-Khan—a chuprassie in the service of
Lieutenant John Conolly._—[_MS. Records._]

[102] Hyder Khan, who had been cutwal of the city, and had been removed
through Burnes’s instrumentality, is said to have brought fuel for the
purpose from some contiguous _hummams_ or baths.

[103] _Statement of Bowh Singh, a chuprassie in Sir A. Burnes’s

[104] This is Bowh Singh’s statement. He says: “His brother, Captain
Burnes, went out with him, and was killed dead before Sir Alexander.”
Mohun Lal says that Charles Burnes was killed before his brother went
down to the garden.

[105] “A lakh and seventy thousand rupees (17,000_l._) of public money,
besides my private property, amounting to upwards of ten thousand
rupees.”—[_Captain Johnson’s Journal._—_MS. Records._]

[106] In 1834.—[_See Book I., Chapter VII._]

[107] This, however, in all probability is a very exaggerated
statement. There were, probably, not more than two or three hundred
people in the Caubul bazaars opposing the march of the regiment.
Eyewitnesses affirm that the latter fought with little gallantry
on this occasion. It is said, too, that Futteh Jung, instead of
encouraging the Hindostanees, encouraged the insurgents.

[108] _Statement of Brigadier Shelton._—_MS. Records._

[109] _Private Correspondence._

[110] _Journal of Captain Johnson._—_MS._

[111] Letter from Captain Colin Mackenzie to Lieutenant Eyre.—[_Eyre’s

[112] _Letter of Mohun Lal to Mr. Colvin, Private Secretary to the

[113] _Captain Johnson’s Journal._—Eyre says that the commencement
of the insurrection was “an attack by certainly not 300 men on the
dwellings of Sir Alexander Burnes and Captain Johnson.” The precise
number of the rioters, at the commencement of the outbreak, is of
little consequence. All are agreed in opinion as to the insignificance
of the movement, and the facility with which it might have been
suppressed. It seems probable that, as Mohun Lal says, there were
only some thirty men there by previous concert, but that the number
was swelled by accidental rioters, moved by the greed of plunder.
To the evidence already adduced in the text, may be added that of
Lalla Gungadeen, a hospital gomastah (or steward) attached to Captain
Johnson’s establishment, who says, “For three or four days, it was
the general belief that there was no formidable foe to contend
against—perhaps merely a small body, similar to a gang of _decoits_.
If at this time an attack had been made upon the city, it would have
been well. One ‘pultun’ would have been enough. The people were in
great terror, and said every moment, ‘They are coming—they are
coming.’”—[_MS. Records._]

[114] _Private Correspondence of Brigadier Shelton: near Caubul, May
28th._—[_MS. Records._]

[115] _Sir William Macnaghten’s Report to the Secretary of Government.
Left unfinished at his death._—[_MS. Records._]

[116] _Report of Major-General Elphinstone._

[117] _Letter of Brigadier Shelton: May 28, 1842._—[_MS.
Records._]—The engineer officer sent by Shelton to the Balla Hissar
was Lieutenant Sturt, who had been despatched to the Brigadier’s
camp, at Seeah Sungh, with instructions from General Elphinstone,
and arrived there about nine o’clock. So writes Lady Sale. Brigadier
Shelton’s report confirms the accuracy of that portion of Lady Sale’s
narrative—based, it is to be presumed, upon the information of
Lieutenant Sturt.

[118] See the expression of the Envoy, in a letter quoted in the

[119] _Letter from Brigadier Shelton, May 28, 1842._—[_MS. Records._]

[120] Major Griffiths.

[121] “As soon,” says Mohun Lal, in a letter to Mr. Colvin, “as the
murder of Sir Alexander (whose name was awfully respected), and the
pillage of treasure was known in the adjacent villages, it brought
next day thousands of men under the standard of the rebels.”—[_MS.

[122] It would seem that the party, instead of taking the shortest
and safest route to the Lahore gate, took the longest and the most

[123] General Elphinstone had, on the preceding day, expressed his
desire to garrison this fort with our own troops; but Sir William
Macnaghten declared that it would not be politic to do so.

[124] General Elphinstone speaks of this party as a reinforcement. He
says: “On the 4th instant another attempt to throw in reinforcements
failed. The troops employed suffered considerably, particularly the 5th
Cavalry.” Two different attempts are here mixed up together. Captain
Johnson says, that the first was an attempt to reinforce Lieutenant
Warren; but that the second, on which the 5th Cavalry were employed,
was an attempt to bring off the commissariat guard. Lieutenant Eyre and
Lady Sale speak of _both_ movements in the light of efforts made to
enable Lieutenant Warren to abandon his position. It is certain that
the second was.

[125] “Early on the morning of the 5th, the commissariat fort was
abandoned by its garrison, the enemy having attempted to fire the
gate and escalade. The garrison came out by a hole made from the
interior—tools having been sent overnight, with a view to the
introduction of reinforcements and the withdrawal of supplies from the
store.”—[_Report of General Elphinstone._]

[126] _Captain Johnson’s MS. Journal._

[127] Captain Mackenzie’s narrative in _Eyre’s Journal_; a very
interesting and well-written report of one of the most honourable
incidents of the war.

[128] November 5, 1841. 5 A. M.—[_Unpublished Correspondence of
General Elphinstone._]

[129] _Unpublished Correspondence of General Elphinstone._

[130] Mohun Lal says: “I had a very narrow escape, and was saved by
taking a shelter under the garment of Mahomed Zemaun Khan in the
street. Everything in my house (which I had saved in the course of my
twelve years’ service) was plundered, besides the murder of several
servants belonging to Sir Alexander and myself.”—[_Letter to Mr

[131] _Unpublished Correspondence of Sir W. H. Macnaghten._

[132] November 8, 1842.—_Unpublished Correspondence of Sir W. H.

[133] He had sent in a medical certificate some time before, and
received permission to return to Hindostan. He was to have accompanied
the Envoy.

[134] _Memorandum found among the effects of the late Major-General
Elphinstone, C.B., in his own hand-writing._

[135] “About four o’clock on the morning of the 9th,” says Brigadier
Shelton, “I got a note from Elphinstone calling me into cantonments,
desiring me to take the Shah’s 6th Infantry and a 6-pounder gun with
me. I left the Balla Hissar between six and seven, and marched in broad
daylight without the enemy attempting to dispute my passage. I was all
prepared for opposition had any been made. I was cordially received,
but could read anxiety in every countenance, and they had then only
three days’ provisions. I was sorry to find desponding conversations
and remarks too generally indulged, and was more grieved to find the
troops were dispirited. Never having been much in cantonments, I went
round and found them of frightful extent—the two sides of the oblong,
including the two mission compounds, about 1400 yards each, the two
ends each 500, with a rampart and ditch an Afghan could run over with
the facility of a cat, with many other serious defects. The misfortune
of this was that so many troops were necessary for the actual defence
of the works, that only a few could be spared for external operations.
I was put in orders to command cantonments, and consequently, in course
of my inspections, gave such orders and instructions as appeared to me
necessary. This, however, Elphinstone soon corrected, by reminding me
that he commanded, not I.”—[_Statement of Brigadier Shelton._—_MS.

[136] “On the 9th,” says General Elphinstone, in the memorandum
which I have before quoted, “not finding myself equal to the duties,
particularly at night, when I could not go about on horseback, I
recalled Brigadier Shelton from the Balla Hissar, but I regret to
be obliged to disclose that I did not receive from him that cordial
co-operation and advice I had a right to expect; on the contrary, his
manner was most contumacious; from the day of his arrival he never
gave me information or advice, but invariably found fault with all
that was done, and canvassed and condemned all orders before officers,
frequently preventing and delaying carrying them into effect. This and
many other instances of want of assistance I can corroborate by the
evidence of several officers still living. Had I been so fortunate
as to have had Sir Robert Sale, than whom I never met any officer
more disposed to do everything for the public service []. I wish I
could say the same of Brigadier Shelton,—he appeared to be actuated
by an ill-feeling towards me. I did everything in my power to remain
on terms with him. I was unlucky also in not understanding the state
of things, and being wholly dependent on the Envoy and others for
information.”—[_MS. Records._]

[137] In a public letter to the Secretary to Government written by
General Elphinstone from Badeeabad, on February 23d, 1842, he says, “I
beg to be allowed to express my sense of the gallant manner in which
the various detachments sent out were led by Brigadier Shelton, and of
the invariably noble conduct of the officers on these occasions.” I am
not aware whether this letter has been published. I have never seen it
in print.

[138] _MS. Records._ On the 10th of November, Captain Macgregor
received the first official intelligence of the outbreak, in a letter
from Sir William Macnaghten, urging him to bring back the brigade to
Caubul.—[_Captain Macgregor’s Narrative._—_MS. Records._] This was of
course, a previous letter.

[139] Two horse-artillery guns, one mountain-train gun, Walker’s Horse,
her Majesty’s 44th Foot, under Colonel Mackrell; the 37th Native
Infantry, under Major Griffiths; the 6th Regiment of Shah’s Force,
under Captain Hopkins.—[_Eyre’s Journal._]

[140] “I was occupied,” says Brigadier Shelton, “in telling off the
force, about 10 A.M., when I heard Elphinstone say to his aide-de-camp,
‘I think we had better give it up.’ The latter replied, ‘Then why not
countermand it at once?’—which was done, and I returned, as you may
conceive, disgusted with such vacillation. About two hours after he
again consented to attack it.”—[_Statement of Brigadier Shelton: MS.
Records._]—Eyre says that the force assembled, not at 10, but at 12
A.M.; and as Brigadier Shelton’s statement was written from memory, it
is less likely to be correct in such small matters as these. The point
is of little consequence.

[141] H.M.’s 44th, the 37th N.I., and Shah Soojah’s 6th Infantry.

[142] “We had only four or five days’ supplies for the cantonment. The
Balla Hissar as well as the cantonment was in a state of siege. We
could not hope for provisions from thence, nor would the place have
afforded us either food or shelter, and, in the opinion of the military
authorities, to return thither would have been attended with ruin. A
disastrous retreat seemed the only alternative, but this necessity was
averted by the attack, on the 10th ult., of a neighbouring fort, which
had intermediately furnished us with a scanty supply of provisions, but
which subsequently espoused the cause of the rebels.”—[_Unfinished
Report of Sir W. H. Macnaghten._—_MS. Records._]

[143] “_November 11th._—About six hundred maunds of wheat, found in
one of the forts yesterday, captured and brought into cantonments.
_November 12th._—Busily employed purchasing provisions. The fight of
the 10th had a good effect in giving the villagers some confidence in
bringing their stores for sale.”—[_Captain Johnson’s Journal. MS.

[144] _Unpublished Correspondence of Sir W. H. Macnaghten._

[145] _Ib._

[146] It consisted of two squadrons of the 5th Light Cavalry, under
Colonel Chambers; one squadron of Shah Soojah’s 2nd Irregular Horse,
under Lieutenant Le Geyt; one troop of Skinner’s Horse, under
Lieutenant Walker; the Body Guard; six companies of her Majesty’s 44th,
under Major Scott; six companies of the 37th Native Infantry, under
Major Griffiths; four companies of the Shah’s 6th Infantry, under
Captain Hopkins; one horse-artillery and one mountain-train gun, under
Lieutenant Eyre, escorted by a company of the Shah’s 6th Regiment,
under Captain Marshall.

[147] “My very heart,” said Lady Sale, “felt as if it leapt to my teeth
when I saw the Afghans ride clean through them. The onset was fearful.
They looked like a great cluster of bees, but we beat them and drove
them up again.”

[148] _Eyre’s Journal._

[149] “Major Scott, of her Majesty’s 44th, repeatedly called on his men
to descend with him to drag the six-pounder away, but, strange to say,
his frequent appeals to their soldierly feelings were made in vain;
with a few gallant exceptions, they remained immoveable, nor could the
Sepoys be induced to lead the way where their European brethren so
obstinately hung back.”—[_Eyre’s Journal._]

[150] _Lieutenant Eyre._

[151] “This step they ventured on in consequence of our want of
cavalry, which prevented us from having patrols, and encouraged them to
march above forty miles across a level plain, in no place twenty miles
from our own post, and in some parts of the latter half approaching
within eight miles.”—[_Major Pottinger’s Budeeabad Report._—_MS.
Records._] Charekur is fifty or sixty miles to the north of Caubul.

[152] _Major Pottinger’s Budeeabad Report._

[153] “When the party got in motion the enemy retreated on all
sides. One very large body, however, remained in a position on the
mountain side, threatening the flank of the column. Ensign Salisbury
was detached with a company to remove this. The enemy retreated as
they advanced, and the Goorkhas being young soldiers, having once
got heated, followed with great eagerness, despite the frequently
sounded recall; and on their finally stopping, the enemy perceived
they were too far separated from the main body, and followed them up
with a boldness which obliged Mr. Salisbury to make frequent halts. In
consequence, Mr. Haughton was obliged to halt the convoy, and detach
the greater part of his men, to extricate the compromised company.
This halt encouraged the other parties of the enemy, who had retired,
and they closed in from all sides in most formidable array (apparently
not less than 4000 men). Mr. Haughton, however, maintained his ground
till joined by Mr. Salisbury, when, seeing the hopelessness of making
good his way, he retreated and gained the barracks in safety. A great
number of men fell in the retreat, as they were obliged frequently
to halt, formed in close order to resist the enemy’s cavalry, which,
being closely on them, was only kept in check by the gallantry of
Mr. Haughton, who, with a few men and the gun, remained in the rear,
and covered the retreat of the disheartened party. Mr. Salisbury
was mortally wounded, and the trail of the field-gun gave way at
the elevating screw just as they reached support.”—[_Pottinger’s
Report._—_MS. Records._]

[154] “In the castle of Lughmanee,” writes Pottinger, in his official
report, “we abandoned the hostages from the Kohistan chiefs, two boxes
of treasure, containing 10,000 rupees, and about sixty Afghan firelocks
(confiscated from the deserters of the Kohistan corps), all my official
records, Mr. Rattray’s, Dr. Grant’s, and my own personal property, and
a very large number of horses belonging to ourselves and the horsemen
who had not deserted. The Heratees and seven or eight Peshawerees
were the only Afghans who adhered to me. All the Caubulees deserted,
and one principal cause of so immediate a termination to my defence
may be traced to the reduction of a portion of my escort, which had
so disgusted the men who remained, that they deserted as soon as Mr.
Rattray was killed.”—[_MS. Records._]

[155] Havildar Mootee Ram, of the Goorkha regiment, who gave a detailed
account of the defence of Charekur, described this attack on their
position by saying, “there were whole _beegahs_ (acres) of gleaming
swords moving towards us.”

[156] “Some sheep were given to us by the officers; we found relief
from sucking the raw flesh, and some of the men placed the contents
of the stomach of the sheep in cloths, and, ringing them very hard,
obtained some moisture to assuage their raging thirst. The sick and
wounded now increased to a frightful amount, and were continually
screaming for water in piercing accents. Our muskets were so foul
from incessant use, that the balls were forced down with difficulty,
although separated from the paper of the cartridge which usually wraps
them round. The lips of the men became swollen and bloody, and their
tongues clave to their palates.”—[_Evidence of Mootee Ram, Havildar._]

[157] Major Pottinger does not mention in his report when and how these
officers fell. Lieutenant Melville, in his narrative, says: “From all
that can be gathered from the reports brought in, it appears that the
devoted corps had struggled on to Kardurrah, gallantly headed by Ensign
Rose and Dr. Grant, where it was cut to pieces. The former officer
fell, having first killed four of the enemy with his own hand; and the
latter, although he contrived to escape from the murderous hands at
Kardurrah, yet just as he had arrived in the sight of the haven of his
hopes, within three miles of the cantonments, was massacred by some

[158] This account of the defence of Charekur and the destruction of
the Goorkha corps, is taken from Major Pottinger’s Badeeabad Report
(MS.). Eyre seems to have had access to it. I have learnt since the
original edition of this book was published, that Captain Colin
Mackenzie, with characteristic self-devotion, offered to proceed, with
200 horse to Charekur, and convey ammunition to Pottinger. This aid
might have saved the Goorkha corps.

[159] _Correspondence of Sir W. H. Macnaghten._—[_MS. Records._]

[160] _Correspondence of Sir W. H. Macnaghten._—[_MS. Records._] A
version of this letter is given in the published papers; but there
are some curious errors in the official text, which illustrate, in a
very forcible manner, the value of these public documents as guides to
historical truth. The private letter, in spite of its very unofficial
style, is turned into an official one, commencing, “Sir.”—The words,
“the weather is very cold,” are printed “the _water_ is very cold;” and
instead of “We must look for support chiefly from Peshawur,” Macnaghten
is made to say, “We must look for _supplies_ chiefly from Peshawur.”
The evils of such carelessness as this have received a remarkable
illustration in Major Hough’s _Review of the Military Operations at
Caubul_, in which are some pages of remark on the subject of _Supplies
from Peshawur_, based upon this identical passage in the mis-copied or
mis-printed letter.

[161] _Macnaghten’s Unfinished Report to Government._—[_MS. Records._]

[162] The substance of this letter is given very correctly in Eyre’s

[163] Eyre says, that “though to carry the sick would be _difficult_,
it still was not _impossible_; for so short a distance two or even
three men could be conveyed in one _doolie_: some might manage to walk,
and the rest could be mounted on yaboos, or camels, at the top of their
loads.” He says, too, that “if we had occupied the Seeah Sungh hill
with a strong party, placing guns there to sweep the plains on the
cantonment side, the enemy could have done little to impede our march
without risking a battle with our whole force in fair field, to which
they were generally adverse, but which would, perhaps, have been the
_best_ mode for _us_ of deciding the struggle.”

[164] _Lieutenant Melville’s Narrative._

[165] The force consisted of five companies of her Majesty’s 44th,
under Captain Leighton; six companies of the 5th N.I., under
Lieut.-Colonel Oliver; six companies of the 37th N.I., under Captain
Kershaw, of the 13th; a squadron of the 5th Cavalry, under Captain
Bott; a squadron of Irregular Horse, under Lieutenant Walker; 100 men
of Anderson’s Horse; one Horse Artillery gun, under Sergeant Mulhall;
100 Sappers, under Lieutenant Laing, of the 27th, N.I.

[166] The officers who so distinguished themselves were Captain
Macintosh and Lieutenant Laing, who were killed; and Captains
Mackenzie, Troup, and Leighton.

[167] The loss upon our side was severe. Four officers fell—namely,
Colonel Oliver, Captains Mackintosh and Walker, and Lieutenant Laing.
Six others were wounded.

[168] Lady Sale says: “Osman Khan was heard by our Sepoys to order his
men not to fire on those who ran, but to spare them. A chief, probably
the same, rode round Kershaw three times when he was compelled to run
with his men; he waved his sword over his head, but never attempted to
kill him; and Captain Trevor says his life was several times in the
power of the enemy, but he was also spared.”

[169] No small quantity of military criticism has been lavished upon
this unfortunate action of the 23rd of November. Eyre’s criticisms
are well known; and their soundness has been acknowledged by almost
every subsequent writer. Major Hough, however, says, with reference to
Eyre’s assertion that Shelton formed his infantry into squares on the
Beh-meru hill, that the Brigadier assured him that he formed no squares
at all, but only threw back his flanks _en potence_. Captain Evans,
of the 44th, also assured him that there were no squares. Every other
writer, however, makes a similar assertion relative to the squares on
the Beh-meru hill. Of the atrocity of the single gun there is only
one opinion. With regard to the general plan of operations, Lady Sale
says: “The misfortunes of the day are mainly attributable to Shelton’s
bad generalship, in taking up so unfavourable a position after his
fault in neglecting to surprise the village and occupy, which was the
ostensible object of the force going out.” But I have shown that it was
not Shelton’s fault that the village was not surprised. A simultaneous
attack on the village and on the hill was the course recommended by
the Brigadier; but he was overruled in council. He went into action
feeling certain that the plan mapped out for him was a wrong one—and
the battle was not fought the better for the feeling that he had been
thwarted and opposed.

[170] _Correspondence of General Elphinstone._—[_MS. Records._]—The
substance of this letter is given in Eyre’s Journal.

[171] _Correspondence of Sir W. H. Macnaghten._—[_MS. Records._]

[172] _Correspondence of Sir W. H. Macnaghten._—[_MS. Records._]

[173] _Unfinished Report of Sir W. H. Macnaghten to the Supreme
Government—found in his writing-desk after his death._—[_MS.

[174] Principally cabbages. It was apprehended by some that the broad
leaves might conceal bottles of spirit, wherewith it was designed to
intoxicate the garrison previous to an attack on the cantonment; but
they proved on examination to be very harmless cabbages after all.

[175] It was generally believed in the cantonments that he had died
from the effects of his wounds. Lady Sale says: “Abdoollah Khan’s death
has, it is said, created some confusion in the city. Whilst still
living a report was spread of his decease; and, like Alexander, he
mounted his horse and showed himself to his followers; but the exertion
was too great for him, and he shortly after expired.”—_See_ Appendix.

[176] It was believed by the British that he had been poisoned. Lady
Sale says: “Meer Musjedee is dead. Some say he has been poisoned;
others, that he died in consequence of the wounds received last year in
the Kohistan. A number of this chief’s followers have gone off with the
body to the Kohistan, there to attend his funeral obsequies.”

[177] In this letter Macnaghten writes: “Mohamed Meerza Khan has not
yet come near me. When he does, I shall be glad to advance him 5000
rupees out of the 50,000 which is to be given to him for Khidmut
(service).... I had another overture this morning from Zemaun Khan’s
party, offering us a safe retreat to Peshawur; and they said that Khan
Shereen was with them—the party being Jewan Khan, Jubbar Khan, Oosman
Khan, Mahomed Akbar Khan, Ameen-oollah Khan, and Khan Shereen Khan. I
suspect, from the insertion of the name of the last mentioned, that the
whole thing is a fabrication. Let me know your opinion on this point.
I replied to their overture by saying that I would not now do anything
without the consent of his Majesty.”

[178] _Answers of Captain Colin Mackenzie to Questions put by General
Pollock._—[_MS. Records._]—Captain Skinner was the only British
officer who attended Macnaghten at this conference on the 22nd
December. Captain Mackenzie says that he had the assurance from Captain
Skinner himself. _See_ Appendix.

[179] The garrison consisted of about 100 men, 40 being Europeans,
under the command of Lieutenant Hawtrey, 37th N.I. Lady Sale says: “The
Afghans planted their crooked sticks, which served them for scaling
ladders; got up one by one; pulled out the mud (with which the window
had been blocked up) and got in. A child with a stick might have
repulsed them. The Europeans had their belts and accoutrements off, and
the Sepoys the same. They all ran away as fast as they could! The 44th
say that the 37th ran first, and as they were too weak they went too.
Hawtrey says there was not a pin to choose—all cowards alike. After
he was deserted by the men, he himself threw six hand grenades before
he followed them.... It was the most shameful of all the runaways that

[180] Lady Sale says that the 44th wished to wipe out the stain on the
name, as did the Sepoys also (the 37th N.I.). Lieutenant Hawtrey’s
company volunteered to go with him and “take it without the assistance
of any other troops.” The General sent a message to the engineer
officer (Lieutenant Sturt) asking if the fort was practicable and
tenable—that is, whether our men could take it and hold it. Sturt’s
answer is worth recording—“Practicable if the men will fight—tenable
if they don’t run away.”

[181] The letters to which reference is here made will be found in the

[182] It is said that Akbar Khan proposed to seize the Envoy at this
meeting, but that the other chiefs were adverse to the proceeding. I do
not know whether this story rests upon good authority.

[183] _Unfinished Report of Sir W. H. Macnaghten._—[_MS. Records._]

[184] The General had announced, as early as the 6th of November,
that his ammunition was failing him; but on the 13th of December the
magazine was so well supplied that he ordered it to be served out
to the camp-followers. The Balla Hissar had, in the meanwhile, been
liberally furnished from cantonments.

[185] At the suggestion of Lieutenant Conolly they endeavoured to
obtain re-admittance to the Balla Hissar, but were fired upon by the
garrison, who had been ordered by the King to admit no one.

[186] _Narrative of Lieutenant Melville._

[187] _Eyre’s Journal._

[188] _MS. Records._

[189] Mohun Lal says that this was the Envoy’s design. “This
agreement,” he wrote in a letter to Mr. Colvin, “which the Envoy had
prudently made to create dissension, disappointed all the Douranee
rebels, &c., who were alarmed at the return of the Dost. They
immediately began to communicate with the Shah, and assured him to
take his side, which, in fact, was the object of the Envoy.”—[_MS.

[190] The correspondence upon this subject will be found in the

[191] Shelton was opposed to the cession of the forts. “On my opinion
being asked,” he says, “I pronounced it injudicious, and it was
declined; but about two days afterwards the order was given, and I was
directed to give up all.”—[_MS. Records._]

[192] It was thought, however, that there was too much disunion among
the Afghans, at this time, to render the hostage-giving any kind of
security—inasmuch as the sacrifice of a hostage might have pleased
more than it offended. It was said by Sultan Jan, of the hostage now in
our camp, “Oh! he is a dog of a man; what should we have cared if you
had killed him?”—[_Lieut. Melville’s Narrative._]

[193] _Eyre’s Journal._

[194] Mahomed Sadig was a first cousin of Akbar Khan. Surwar Khan had
been, in the earlier stages of the campaign, extensively engaged in
supplying the army with camels. He was in the confidence of Sir A.
Burnes, and was generally esteemed a friend of the British.

[195] _Letter of Captain Colin Mackenzie to Lieutenant Eyre: Eyre’s

[196] “On the morning of the 23rd,” says General Elphinstone, “I
received a note from the Envoy, saying that he hoped he had made an
arrangement which would enable us to remain in the country; and that he
would shortly acquaint me with all the particulars. I soon afterwards
received a message from him, desiring to see me, when he informed me
that he had made an arrangement with Mahomed Akbar, by which Shah
Soojah would remain on the throne—Mahomed Akbar being Wuzeer. He was
to receive a large sum of money, and Ameen-oollah was to be delivered
to us a prisoner. I then asked what part Newab Zeman Khan and Oosman
Khan were to take in this? To which I received answer that they were
not in the plot. I replied that I did not like the word ‘plot’—that
it was an ominous one—and I begged to know if there were no fear of
treachery? The Envoy’s reply was, ‘None whatever—I am certain the
thing will succeed. What I want you to do is to have two regiments and
guns got quickly ready, and, without making any show, to be prepared
the moment required to move towards Mahmood Khan’s fort.’ I further
discussed with him the danger he was incurring; but he replied, ‘Leave
it all to me—I understand these things better than you do.’ I then
left him, and he shortly afterwards proceeded with his suite and a few
of his cavalry escort to the interview. Before we separated, I asked
him if there was anything else I could do? He replied, ‘Nothing, but to
have the two regiments and two guns in readiness, and the garrison to
be on the alert;’ which was accordingly ordered.”

[197] “On the morning of the 23rd,” wrote Shelton, “about ten o’clock,
I got an order to have two corps and some guns ready, to march out
to seize, as I understood, the Logur chief. While thus occupied in
giving it out, an invitation came from the Envoy to accompany him to an
interview with the Sirdar. Being busy, I fortunately could not go, or
should probably have shared the same fate.”—[_MS. Records._]

[198] Captain Grant, the adjutant-general of the Caubul force. “It
seems,” says Captain Mackenzie, “that Mahomed Akbar had demanded
a favourite Arab horse belonging to Captain Grant, assistant
adjutant-general of the force. To avoid the necessity of parting with
the animal, Captain Grant had fixed his price at the exorbitant sum
of 5000 rupees. Unwilling to give so large a price, but determined to
gratify the Sirdar, Sir William sent me to Captain Grant to prevail
upon him to take a smaller sum, but with orders that, if he were
peremptory, the 5000 rupees should be given. I obtained the horse for
3000 rupees, and Sir William appeared much pleased with the prospect
of gratifying Mahomed Akbar by the present.”—[_Captain Mackenzie’s
Narrative: Eyre’s Journal._]

[199] A handsome pair of double-barrelled pistols belonging to Captain
Lawrence, of which Akbar Khan had expressed his admiration at a
previous meeting, and which had accordingly been presented to him.

[200] That it was not actually committed is, of course, nothing
to the point. The question is to be argued as though the seizure
of Ameen-oollah Khan had been a perpetrated act and not a baffled

[201] It appears to have been Akbar Khan’s intention to have seized the
person of the Envoy, and to have held him as a hostage, to secure both
the evacuation of Afghanistan and the restoration of Dost Mahomed. I
have been informed that, during the struggle, a cry was raised that the
English were coming out of cantonments, and that Akbar Khan, thinking
that he might still be baffled, in a sudden gust of passion drew out a
pistol and fired.

[202] “Some time after I had given the necessary orders (for the two
regiments and the guns), Captain Anderson came to me and said, ‘They
have seized the Envoy;’ and one of the escort at the same time said,
‘They have seized the Lord Sahib and taken him off to the city.’ By
myself and others it was thought at the time that Sir William had
proceeded to the city for the purpose of negotiating. I was also
told that a few shots had been fired. The garrison was got ready and
remained under arms all day.”—[_Statement of General Elphinstone._]

[203] On these additional hostages being sent, Captains Skinner
and Mackenzie, who had been detained in the city, were released.
Captains Lawrence and Mackenzie have each drawn up a narrative of the
circumstances attending their capture, and their detention in the city,
the former in the house of Ameen-oollah, and the latter in that of
Akbar Khan. Both the English officers owed their lives to the efforts
of the chiefs, who, at much personal risk, defended them against the
furious assaults of the _Ghazees_. “I must do Mahomed Akbar the justice
to say,” writes Captain Mackenzie, “that finding the Ghazees bent
on my slaughter, even after I had reached his stirrup, he drew his
sword and laid about him right manfully, for my conductor and Meerza
Baoodeen Khan were obliged to press me up against the wall, covering
me with their own bodies, and protesting that no blow should reach me
but through their persons. Pride, however, overcame Mahomed Akbar’s
sense of courtesy, when he thought I was safe, for he then turned round
to me, and repeatedly said, in a tone of triumphant derision, ‘Shuma
moolk-i-ma gereed’ (You’ll seize my country, will you?)” The conduct of
Akbar Khan and other chiefs towards Lawrence and Mackenzie may be taken
as a presumptive proof that the murder of the Envoy was not designed.
His seizure, however, was deliberately planned between Ameen-oollah and
Akbar Khan.

[204] See remarks by the English on the 4th of the additional articles
of the draft-treaty; which, with the ratified treaty, is given at
length in the Appendix; with the notes both of the English and Afghan

[205] The following extracts from Captain Johnson’s Journal will show
better than anything else the indignities to which they were subjected:
“_December 28._—Very busy, buying camels and yaboos—the price of
the former 160 rupees each. The Ghazees still infest our gates and
insult us in every possible way—stop our supplies coming in from
the town, and abuse and ill-treat those who bring them. No notice
taken by our military leader, although our officers and soldiers are
burning for revenge. Several of my native friends from the city come
daily to see me, and all agree, without one dissenting voice, that we
have brought the whole of our misfortunes upon ourselves, through the
apathy and imbecility displayed at the commencement of the outbreak.
They also tell me that our safety on the retreat depends solely on
ourselves—that no dependence is to be placed on the promises of any
of the chiefs, and more especially Mahomed Akbar Khan. Every one of
them will now, that they are in a measure paid before-hand, do his
utmost to destroy us. _December 30._—A body of Ghazees made a rush
at the rear gate of cantonments; but did not effect an entrance. More
guns and ammunition made over to the enemy, or what are called our new
allies. Precious _allies_, who are only waiting the opportunity to
annihilate us!... _December 31._—The chiefs say they cannot control
their men, and that if their people misbehave themselves at our gates,
or around our walls, we must fire upon them. No orders, however, given
by General Elphinstone to punish our insulting foe, who naturally
attribute our forbearance to dastardly cowardice, and take every
opportunity of taunting us with it. The error lies with our leader, not
with our troops. Several camels laden with grain plundered close to the
Seeah-Sung gateway, within a few paces of a gun loaded with grape, and
a large guard of Europeans and Natives. No steps taken to recover the
plundered grain or punish the offenders. How we must be despised by our
miserable foe! Mahomed Zemaun Khan sent in word that some of the chiefs
will be in attendance to escort us to Jellalabad to-morrow. In the
evening another message came that we must halt another day. Every day’s
delay increases our difficulties on the road. _January 1, 1842._—New
Year’s Day! God grant that we may never see such another. My kind
friends, Naib Shureef, and Khan and Ali Reza Khan (both Kuzzul-bashes),
sent me in secretly some very excellent cakes to carry with me on the
road, as we shall not get a particle of firewood for cooking for a
distance of ninety miles, ere we can get into a milder climate. How
dreary a prospect we have before us—having to traverse ninety miles,
and the greater part of this distance through snow now upwards of a
foot deep and the thermometer at night below zero. Some negotiations
still going on. All the firewood that was laid in for the winter’s
consumption expended, and almost every tree in cantonments cut down.
They had long ago been stripped of their bark, and everything eatable,
for the purpose of feeding our starving cattle.”—[_MS. Records._]

[206] _Letter of Mohun Lal to Mr. Colvin._—[_MS. Records._]

[207] _Captain Johnson’s Journal._—[_MS. Records._]

[208] “On the 6th of January, the military authorities refused to wait
for the safeguard; and notwithstanding my advice to the contrary,
marched out of our entrenchments.”—[_Major Pottinger’s Budeeabad
Report: MS. Records._]

[209] In this letter, written from Jellalabad (Nov. 15), General
Sale says: “I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the
9th instant, requiring the force under my command to move again upon
Caubul. In reply, I beg to represent that the whole of my camp-equipage
has been destroyed; that the wounded and sick have increased to upwards
of 300; that there is no longer a single depôt of provisions on the
route; and that the carriage of the force is not sufficient to bring
on one day’s rations with it. I have, at the same time, positive
information that the whole country is in arms, and ready to oppose us
in the defiles between this city and Caubul, whilst my ammunition is
insufficient for more than two such contests as I should assuredly
have to sustain for six days at least. With my present means I could
not force the passes of either Jugdulluck or Koord-Caubul, and even if
the _débris_ of my brigade did reach Caubul, I am given to understand
that I should find the troops now garrisoning it without the means of
subsistence. Under these circumstances, a regard for the honour and
interests of our government compels me to adhere to my plan already
formed, of putting this place into a state of defence, and holding it,
if possible, until the Caubul force falls back upon me, or succours
arrive from Peshawur or India.”

[210] _Captain Macgregor’s Report: MS. Records._

[211] Macgregor says the 3rd, Broadfoot the 4th. The former probably
speaks of the first intelligence, the latter of its confirmation.

[212] It has been said (_Calcutta Review_, vol. xiv.) that the
instructions sent to Sale were of such a character as to throw a large
amount of responsibility upon him; and that Sale always shrank from
responsibility,—but the letters from the Envoy to Macgregor were
couched in unqualified and unconditional language, and the official
letter from Elphinstone ordered Sale to return “_at all risks_.”

[213] “_Sale’s Brigade in Afghanistan._” _By the Rev. G. R. Gleig,
Chaplain to the Forces._

[214] The place, at the request of Captain Macgregor, was officially
given over to the British garrison by the nominal Governor, Abdool
Rahman, who ruled the Jellalabad district in the name of Shah Soojah.
Abdool Rahman continued for some time to reside in the town under
Captain Macgregor’s protection.—[_Captain Macgregor’s Report: MS.

[215] “_Sale’s Brigade in Afghanistan._” _By the Rev. G. R. Gleig._

[216] _General Sale to Secretary to Government, April 16, 1842._

[217] _Captain Broadfoot’s Report—Jellalabad, April 16, 1842._

[218] “The iron,” says Broadfoot, “was good in quality, but imperfectly
smelted, and requiring ten times as much labour and time as English

[219] Cheerfully, too, worked the Europeans without their accustomed
drams. There were no ardent liquors in Jellalabad; and the consequence
was, that the men enjoyed, even on half-rations, an amount of health
and strength and elasticity, and preserved a regularity of discipline
unknown to even the 13th, when the fire-water was served out to them.

[220] I append the letter itself, as well as one, also in French,
written two days afterwards to Mackeson at Peshawur:

“Cabool, 28^[me] Déc. 1841.


“Notre situation devient perilleuse de plus en plus; les forts à
l’entour du cantonnement ayant été rendus aux chefs, selon le traité
que le feu Envoyé et Ministre avoit commencé. Nous nous trouvons dans
la necessité de renouveler les negociations depuis qu’il a été tué. Le
manque de vivres, desquels ils ne nous restent que pour huit jours, et
des moyens de transport pour nos malades et blessés, qu’ils nous ont
promis de jour en jour, font autant de raisons de plus pour que nous
faisons traité, s’il est possible. Mais aussi leurs promesses meritent
si peu de foi, que peut-être nous serons obligés de battre de retraite
sur Jellalabad; sur tout, qu’ils exigent que nous marchons par le route
de Bungeish—demande que nous ne pouvons pas agréer.

“Pour ces causes alors, si vous avez reçu l’ordre de marcher du feu
Envoyé et Ministre, il ne faut pas le faire à present, mais attendre
jusqu’au temps que vous recevez nouvelle ordre d’ici, quand le traité
de paix sera fait.

“Votre ami,


“Cantonnements à Cabool, 30^[me] de Décembre, 1841.


“J’ai eu le plaisir de recevoir votre lettre du 12^[me] au feu Envoyé.
Notre situation ici est des plus dangereuses. L’Envoyé était tué à
une conférence, qui avait lieu hors d’ici, le 23 de ce mois. Quand je
prenais charge je trouvais qu’il avait engagé du part du gouvernement
de quitter Afghanistan, et de donner _hostages_ pour que le Dost soyait
mis en liberté, aussi que pour préliminaires il avait rendu le _Balla
Hissar_ et les forts qui dominent les cantonnements. _Ces acts_ et
le manque des vivres faisaient les cantonnements untenable, et les
quatre officiers militaires supérieurs disaient qu’il fallait résumer
le traité au lieu de forcer une marche rétrograde sur Jellalabad. Nous
avons aujourd’hui finis les termes du traité, et nous espérons partir
d’ici demain ou après demain. De leur promesses je m’en doute, malgré
que les ordres ont été expédiés pour que nos troupes quittent Candahar
et Ghizny. Il faut que vous tenez ouvert le Khyber, et que vous soyez
prêt nous aider le passage; car si nous ne sommes pas protégés, il
nous serait impossible faire halte en route pour que les troupes se
refraichissent, sans laquelle j’ai peur qu’ils soient désorganisés.

“Votre ami,

  “_Ελδρεδ Ποττινγερ_.

“Après aujourd’hui j’écrirai mon nom en lettres Grecques. Lorsque
le Cossid vous remettra cette lettre, vous lui donnerez trois cent

[221] _Captain Macgregor’s Report: MS. Records._

[222] _General Sale to Sir J. Nicholls, Jellalabad, January 11, 1842:
MS. Records._

[223] _Captain Broadfoot’s Report._

[224] The letter ran thus:—

Caubul, January 4th, 1842.


Pottinger being busy, I write to tell you of the Envoy being murdered,
and Trevor, on the 23rd. We have been obliged to conclude the treaty,
and it is settled we march to-morrow. Whether we are attacked on the
road depends upon their good faith. I believe we do not run very much
risk as far as Jugdulluck, except from the weather, which is very
severe here; and we are obliged to march very lightly, and may expect
to lose many men. Orders have been sent to you to evacuate Jellalabad
before our arrival: if, however, the treaty is broken by our being
attacked, you will consider the orders cancelled, and you will use
every exertion to aid us. We have received your letter of the 24th,
but our word cannot be broken. Pottinger wishes you, if possible, to
send intelligence of these matters to government and Rawlinson, that
the latter may be aware of the state of affairs, and not do anything
hurriedly. If you understand faith has been kept and are obliged to
leave Jellalabad, you had better not pass the Khybur till we come, as
it is feared our troops will be so disorganised as to require your
aid through that pass. If you could take supplies for us to the mouth
of the Khybur, it would be very desirable. We are all well. Lady
M(acnaghten) ditto, though still much afflicted. Keep your scouts on
the road, and give us as much intelligence as you can. You must chiefly
depend on yourself for news of us, as all our Afghans have deserted us.
We have no money in our treasury; so tell Mackeson to have some ready
for us, if possible.

Yours, &c., &c., G. ST. P. LAWRENCE.

[225] It is said that Colonel Dennie predicted that not a soul
would escape except one man, and that he would come to tell that the
rest were destroyed. “The voice of Dennie,” says Mr. Gleig, “sounded
like the response of an oracle, when he exclaimed, ‘Did I not say
so—here comes the messenger.’”—[_Sale’s Brigade in Afghanistan._]

[226] “The advanced-guard consisted of the 44th Queen’s, 4th Irregular Horse,
and Skinner’s Horse, two horse-artillery six-pounder guns, sappers
and miners’ mountain-train, and the late Envoy’s escort. The main
body included the 5th and 37th Native Infantry, the latter in charge
of the treasure; Anderson’s Horse, the Shah’s 6th Regiment, two
horse-artillery six-pounder guns. The rear-guard was composed of the
54th Native Infantry, 5th Cavalry, and two six-pounder horse-artillery
guns. The force consisted of about 4500 fighting men, and 12,000
followers.”—[_Lady Sale’s Journal._]

[227] “About eleven o’clock, when about half of the column had moved
off, I received a letter from Newab Zemaun Khan, remonstrating against
our march. But as the enemy had been enabled to seize the enclosures
of the late Envoy’s house and offices, owing to the early withdrawal
of our guards, we could not consent without commencing an action for
the recovery of part of our works. I represented this to the Newab,
and begged Mr. Conolly to explain our situation. In consequence, about
one P.M., I received another letter from the Newab, agreeing to our
movement, and promising that he would protect us as far as he could;
and it is my duty to state that he did so to the utmost of his power;
but the quantity of baggage delayed the march of the rear-guard, which
was obliged to retreat with severe loss, abandoning two guns and much
baggage, notwithstanding it did not reach the bivouac at Begramee till
two the next morning.”—[_Major Pottinger’s Budeeabad Report: MS.

[228] Brigadier Shelton says: “I knew nothing of the arrangements
for the retreat till they were published the evening before. The
order was for the baggage to assemble at eight A.M. At that hour I
went to Elphinstone’s quarters, to beg he would let the carriages
of the gun-waggons go out that were to form a foot-bridge for the
infantry over the Caubul river, about 300 yards from cantonments,
and got offended for my trouble. He was just sitting down to
breakfast. They did not go out till between nine and ten, and having
to be dragged through a canal caused further delay, so that the
bridge was not completed for the advanced-guard to pass till past
twelve.”—[_Statement of Brigadier Shelton: MS._]

[229] Eyre says that “the General had often been urged to destroy
these guns rather than suffer them to fall into the enemy’s hands; but
he considered that it would be a breach of the treaty to do so.” We
cannot restrain a smile at Elphinstone’s simplicity; but at the same
time, the circumstance noted affords rather a pleasant indication of
the General’s honesty of purpose and singleness of character. As an
honourable English gentleman, having covenanted to give up his guns,
he considered himself bound to deliver them over in the state in which
they were at the time the covenant was made. The enemy do not seem
to have appreciated Elphinstone’s generosity, for they burned the
carriages of the guns, as soon as our troops evacuated the cantonments.

[230] Lieut. Hardyman, of the 5th Cavalry, was shot through the heart.

[231] A writer in the _Calcutta Review_ says: “Major Pottinger told us
that when the retreat was decided on, and no attention was paid to his,
Lawrence’s, and Conolly’s advice to concentrate in the Balla Hissar, he
urged the officers to have all the old horse-clothing, &c., cut into
strips, and rolled round the soldiers’ feet and ankles after the Afghan
fashion, as a better protection against snow than the mere hard leather
shoes. This he repeatedly urged, but in vain, and within a few hours
the frost did its work. Major Pottinger said that there was not an
Afghan around them who had not his legs swathed in rags as soon as the
snow began to fall.”

[232] The mountain-train guns here fell into the enemy’s hands, in
spite of the gallantry of Lieutenant Green, who was in charge, and the
artillerymen under his command. Green succeeded in spiking the guns,
but being poorly supported by the infantry, he could not recapture
them. Two horse-artillery guns were abandoned soon afterwards.

[233] “About mid-day I received a letter from Newab Zemaun Khan
and Naib Ameen-oollah, requesting us to halt till they dispersed
the fanatics, and promising us supplies of provisions and firewood
if we did so. I communicated this to General Elphinstone, with the
information that the defile in front was strongly occupied. The General
having taken this into consideration, the utter confusion which
prevailed, the exhausted state of the Sepoys, who had been under arms
in deep snow from daylight of the 6th (with scarcely any rest, and
neither food nor water at the bivouac), joined with the pressure on
the rear-guard, he determined to halt till night and then pursue his
march.”—[_Major Pottinger’s Budeeabad Report: MS. Records._]

[234] “I had just formed up a corps near Boot-Khak to resist a
threatened attack, and was moving on again, when I heard the General
had ordered a halt. I immediately hurried forward and entreated him
to continue the march, having only come three miles, and assured him
a halt on the snow, without tents or food, would destroy the troops;
but he was immoveable, talked of the Sirdars’ promises, and sending
a letter to Caubul to know why they had not sent us a safeguard.
Here was another day entirely lost, and the enemy collecting in
numbers.”—[_Statement of Brigadier Shelton: MS. Records._]

[235] _Eyre’s Narrative._

[236] Lieutenant Melville.

[237] “I volunteered to go in his place, thinking that such a mark
of confidence would induce the chief not only to spare that officer
(Shelton), but also Captain Lawrence (whose presence was requisite in
charge of the Mission, as my wound rendered me incapable of exertion),
and probably some other officers whose services in the disorganised
state of the force could scarcely be dispensed with.”—[_Major
Pottinger’s Report: MS. Records._]

[238] The Jezailchees whom he commanded had been by this time nearly
annihilated, and “his services with them, therefore,” said Pottinger,
“could be of little further use.”

[239] “Down the centre,” says Eyre, “dashed a mountain torrent, whose
impetuous course the frost in vain attempted to arrest, though it
succeeded in lining the edges with thick layers of ice, over which
the snow lay consolidated in slippery masses, affording no very easy
footing for our jaded animals. This stream we had to cross and recross
eight-and-twenty times.”

[240] “On leaving Caubul,” says Captain Johnson, “each Sepoy had 40
rounds of ammunition in pouch, and about 60 camel loads per regiment,
with 100 spare loads. We have not at present (January 8), for the whole
force, three camel loads in box, and numbers of the Sepoys have not a
single cartridge in pouch.”

[241] Eyre says: “On the force reaching Koord-Caubul, snow began to
fall and continued till morning.”—[_Military Operations_, page 210.]
General Elphinstone says: “Ere we reached the bivouac snow fell and
continued during the night.” Brigadier Shelton says, on the other
hand, “On approaching Koord-Caubul it begun to snow, but fortunately
cleared up about dusk.” Such discrepancies as these may well excuse the
historian, if he be guilty of any slight errors of detail.

[242] _Statement of General Elphinstone._

[243] The party consisted of Lady Macnaghten, Lady Sale, Mrs. Sturt
and one child; Mrs. Trevor and seven children; Captain Boyd, wife and
child; Captain Anderson, wife and child; Lieutenant Waller, wife and
child; Lieutenant Eyre, wife and child; Mr. Ryley, wife and child;
Mrs. Mainwaring and child; Serjeant Wade and family. Captain Troup and
Lieutenant Mein, being wounded and unserviceable, went with them. Eyre
says that it was the intention of the General that all the wounded
officers should go; but that there was not time to make known his

[244] Eyre says “seventy files.” I give the above number on Shelton’s
authority—they were men of his own corps, and he was with them.

[245] _MS. Records._ Eyre says: “Brigadier Shelton commanded the
rear with a few Europeans; and but for his persevering energy and
unflinching fortitude in repelling the assailants, it is probable the
whole would have been sacrificed.”

[246] “As scarcely any Europeans of the advance now remained, and the
enemy were increasing, the General called several of the officers
(about twenty of us) to form line and show a front. We had scarcely
done so, when my friend Captain Grant, who was next to me, received
a ball through his cheek, which broke his jaw. I lifted him off his
horse, and seated him on the ground.”—[_Capt. Johnson’s Journal._]

[247] “Subsequently,” says Captain Johnson, “we had the extreme
mortification to learn that not one particle of food or water had
been tasted by the troops from their arrival to their departure from

[248] Mahomed Shah Khan was father-in-law of Akbar Khan.

[249] Brigadier Anquetil; Col. Chambers, Captain Blair, Captain Bott,
and Lieut. Bazett, (5th Cavalry); Captain Nicholl (Horse Artillery);
Major Thain, A.D.C.; Captain Dodgin; Quartermaster Halahan; Surgeon
Harcourt (H.M.’s 44th); Lieutenant Steer (37th N.I.); Captain Marshall,
Shah’s force.

[250] This was written in 1851, since which time Dum-Dum has ceased to
be the head-quarters’ station of the Artillery—but the column, which
was imperfectly constructed, has been blown down, and I believe that
only the base with the inscription remains.

[251] _Captain Johnson’s Journal._

[252] _Ibid._

[253] The officers known to have perished at Gundamuck, were Captain
Grant, Assistant-Adjutant-General, who had been severely wounded at
Jugdulluck; Lieutenant Stewart (Horse Artillery); Captain Hamilton (5th
Cavalry); Captain Collins, Lieutenants Hogg, Cumberland, and Swinton,
and Assistant-Surgeon Primrose, of H.M.’s 44th; Lieutenant Horsburgh
and Dr. Metcalfe, of the 5th N.I.; Captain Reid and Lieutenant Hawtry,
of the 37th N.I.; Lieutenants Weaver, Morrison, and Cunningham, of the
54th N.I.; Lieutenant Hobhouse, of H.M.’s 13th; Captain Hay, Lieutenant
Green (Artillery); and Lieutenant Macartney, of the Shah’s service.

[254] The letters here alluded to are printed in the body of the work,
or above, in the Appendix.—_Author._

[255] Given at pages 278, 279, 280.—_Author._

[256] The 8th and 9th articles are scored out in the original by Akbar
Khan, as though, on consideration, they were distasteful to him.

[257] This article is scored out in the original.

[258] The whole of this article also is scored out. Its provisions seem
to have been extended, suggestively, by Pottinger, but disapproved by
Akbar Khan.

Transcriber’s note:

—Obvious errors were corrected.

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