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Title: The Afghan War of 1879-80 - Being a Complete Narrative of the Capture of Cabul, the Siege of Sherpur, the Battle of Ahmed Khel, the Brilliant March to Candahar, and the Defeat of Ayub Khan, with the Operations on the Helmund, and the Settlement with Abdur Rahman Khan
Author: Hensman, Howard
Language: English
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Being a Complete Narrative of the Capture of Cabul, the Siege of
Sherpur, the Battle of Ahmed Khel, the Brilliant March to Candahar,
and the Defeat of Ayub Khan, with the Operations on the Helmund, and
the Settlement with Abdur Rahman Khan.



Special Correspondent of the _Pioneer_ (Allahabad), and the _Daily
News_ (London).

With Maps.

Second Edition.

W. H. Allen & Co., 13, Waterloo Place, S.W.
Publishers to the India Office.
[All rights reserved.]

Printed by Woodfall and Kinder
Milford Lane, Strand, W.C.




                    THE 72ND (DUKE OF ALBANY’S OWN)


                     THE 92ND (GORDON) HIGHLANDERS,

                        RECEIVED AT THEIR HANDS





GENERAL SIR F. ROBERTS writes in regard to the letters now republished—

“Allow me to congratulate you most cordially on the admirable manner in
which you have placed before the public the account of our march from
Cabul, and the operations of 31st August and 1st September around
Candahar. _Nothing could be more accurate or graphic._ I thought your
description of the fight at Charasia was one that any soldier might have
been proud of writing; but your recent letters are, if possible, even


The interest aroused by the massacre of our ill-fated Embassy to the
Amir Yakub Khan, the subsequent capture of Cabul, and the hard-won
successes of our armies during the occupation of the city, can scarcely
yet have passed away; and I have, therefore, ventured to republish the
series of letters which, as a special correspondent, I wrote in the
field. They are a simple diary of the war; and though in this form they
may lack conciseness, they have at least the merit of such accuracy as
an eye-witness can alone hope to attain. It was my good-fortune to be
the only special correspondent with the gallant little army which moved
out of Ali Kheyl in September, 1879. The Government of India had
notified that “non-combatant correspondents” would not be allowed to
join the force, the history of whose achievements was to be left to
regimental officers, who might in their spare hours supply information
carefully _visé_, to such newspapers as chose to accept it. So
carelessly was this strange order issued, that Sir Frederick Roberts
never received official intimation of its existence, and he welcomed me
at Ali Kheyl on the eve of his departure for Kushi as, I am sure, he
would have welcomed any other correspondent who had chosen to cross the
frontier, and push on without escort and with their own baggage animals.
I make this explanation in justice to General Roberts, upon whom the
responsibility of excluding correspondents has been falsely thrown.
Regarding the letters now republished, Mr. Frederick Harrison in the
_Fortnightly Review_ has been good enough to describe them as “admirably
written, with very great precision and knowledge.” While not
sympathizing in the least with Mr. Harrison’s criticism of Sir Frederick
Roberts’s punishment of Cabul, in support of which criticism he mainly
relied upon my letters, I am grateful for his estimate of my work. I can
scarcely hope that all my critics will be equally generous.

I have carefully gone into details where military movements of
importance had to be described, and the sketch maps can be relied upon
as showing exact distances and positions.

                                  HOWARD HENSMAN,
                      Special Correspondent of the _Pioneer_, Allahabad.

Cabul, _August, 1880_.

                 *     *     *     *     *     *     *

The above was written when all was peaceful in Afghanistan, but the
disaster at Maiwand once more threw the Cabul army into excitement, and
General Roberts had to march to the relief of Candahar. This now
historical march and the victory at Candahar on September 1st, are
described in detail in Part II. of this volume.

                                                               H. H.

Allahabad, _November 1st, 1880_.



                                 PART I.

                               CHAPTER I.



                               CHAPTER II.
 YAKUB KHAN IN THE BRITISH CAMP                                        6

                              CHAPTER III.

                               CHAPTER IV.

                               CHAPTER V.
 CABUL OCCUPIED BY GENERAL ROBERTS                                    51

                               CHAPTER VI.

                              CHAPTER VII.

                              CHAPTER VIII.
 FIGHTING IN THE SHUTARGARDAN PASS, ETC.                              93

                               CHAPTER IX.
 ABDICATION OF YAKUB KHAN; HIS ARREST, ETC.                           99

                               CHAPTER X.

                               CHAPTER XI.

                              CHAPTER XII.

                              CHAPTER XIII.

                              CHAPTER XIV.

                               CHAPTER XV.


                              CHAPTER XVI.

                              CHAPTER XVII.

                             CHAPTER XVIII.

                              CHAPTER XIX.

                               CHAPTER XX.

                              CHAPTER XXI.

                              CHAPTER XXII.


                             CHAPTER XXIII.

                              CHAPTER XXIV.

                              CHAPTER XXV.

                              CHAPTER XXVI.


                             CHAPTER XXVII.

                             CHAPTER XXVIII.

                              CHAPTER XXIX.


                              CHAPTER XXX.

                              CHAPTER XXXI.

                                PART II.

                               CHAPTER I.
 THE MARCH TO CANDAHAR—ARRIVAL AT SHASHGAO                           464

                               CHAPTER II.

                              CHAPTER III.

                               CHAPTER IV.

                               CHAPTER V.

 CONCLUSION                                                          558

 APPENDIX                                                            565





       2. ACTIONS AROUND CABUL, DECEMBER 11 TO 14, 1879         188

       3. OPERATIONS NEAR CABUL, DECEMBER 13 AND 14, 1879       200


       5. THE BATTLE OF AHMED KHEL, APRIL 19, 1880              394

       6. THE ACTION AT URZOO, APRIL 23, 1880                   402

       7. THE BATTLE OF CANDAHAR, SEPTEMBER 1, 1880             512


       9. THE OPERATIONS ON THE HELMUND, JULY, 1880             546

      10. THE BATTLE OF MAIWAND, JULY 27, 1880                  552

                             THE AFGHAN WAR


                                PART I.




                               CHAPTER I.

Introduction—The Cavagnari Mission—Yakub Khan’s Evasion of the Gundamak
    Treaty—Turbulence of the Herat Regiments—Nakshband Khan’s
    Warning—The Outbreak—Yakub Khan’s Behaviour—Reception of the News in
    India—The Seizure of the Shutargardan, and Preparations for the
    Advance upon Cabul.

The Treaty of Gundamak had for its chief object the direct
representation of the British Government at the Court of the Amir Yakub
Khan, and, in pursuance of the terms of the Treaty, Sir Louis Cavagnari,
K.C.B., C.S.I., was received at Cabul, as Resident, on July 24th, 1879.
Mr. William Jenkyns, of the Indian Civil Service, accompanied him as
secretary to the Mission. An escort of twenty-five sowars and fifty
sepoys of the Guides’ Corps was the only means of protection at the
Embassy’s command, implicit faith being placed in the Amir’s promise to
guard the lives of his guests. Lieutenant Hamilton was in command of the
escort, and Dr. Kelly, surgeon of the Guides, was the medical officer
attached to the Mission. Including servants and followers, there were in
all some 200 souls gathered in the Residency in the Bala Hissar from
July 24th until the outbreak of the Herat regiments on the morning of
September 3rd. It would be out of place to describe at length the course
of events which culminated in the Massacre, but from the tone of Sir
Louis Cavagnari’s letters there can be no doubt the Amir was never
anxious to carry out to the strict letter the terms of the Gundamak
Treaty. Taking the official diary sent weekly from Cabul to the Indian
Government, it appears that every outward honour was paid to the Embassy
upon its arrival, but that Yakub Khan was so suspicious of his Ministers
and Nobles, that he told off men to watch the Residency. These spies
furnished the names of all who visited Cavagnari without the Amir’s
knowledge. Then came rumours of petty chiefs having been punished for
their friendship to the British during the late campaign, although one
of the main points of the Treaty was directed against this very
contingency.[1] The Amir always avoided reference to this subject, and
as Sir Louis Cavagnari could not obtain direct evidence of the amnesty
clauses being departed from, no redress could be obtained. Apart from
palace intrigues, which are always rife in Cabul, there seemed no direct
element of discord at work in the capital until the troops from Herat
reached Sherpur Cantonment on August 5th. These regiments had not shared
in the humiliation of the defeats suffered by the Cabul soldiery at Ali
Musjid and the Peiwar Kotal; they taunted their comrades in arms with
cowardice, and boasted of their own prowess; and their turbulence soon
assumed a dangerous form. A ressaldar-major of one of our cavalry
regiments, Nakshband Khan, an old and tried soldier, was spending his
furlough at his village of Aoshahr, two miles from Cabul, and he seems
first to have caught the alarm. When the Herat regiments marched, or
rather swaggered, through the streets of Cabul, with bands playing, many
of the soldiers abused the Kafir _elchi_ (ambassador) by name, calling
out to the populace, “Why has he come here?” and showing too clearly
that their passions were dangerously excited. Nakshband Khan learned
from a fellow-countryman in the ranks that the soldiers had been ordered
so to shout in the streets. Full of this news, he went to our Envoy and
warned him of the coming storm. Sir Louis Cavagnari was a man notorious
for his disregard of personal danger: he was brave to a fault, and this
turbulence among the Afghan soldiery scarcely shook his composure.
“Never fear,” was the answer to the Ressaldar; “keep up your heart, dogs
that bark don’t bite!” “But these dogs do bite; there is real danger,”
urged Nakshband Khan. The reply was characteristic of the man: he had
taken up his post and nothing could break down his determination to
remain at all hazards; he quietly said, “They can only kill the three or
four of us here, and our death will be avenged.”


Footnote 1:

  Sirdar Sher Ali Khan Kandahari, Governor of Candahar, assured Sir
  Donald Stewart that Yakub Khan, from the first, never intended to
  pardon the chiefs who had aided us. Such a course of policy would have
  seemed madness in the eyes of every Afghan, said the Sirdar; not a man
  would have understood it.


This is the story as told by the Ressaldar, who can scarcely be
romancing; but no word of the warning is given by Cavagnari in his
letters to the Viceroy, all of which are full of sanguine hope even as
late as August 30th. His last message was sent on September 2nd, and
concluded with the words “All well,”—and this within twelve hours of the
attack upon the Residency. He trusted altogether to Yakub Khan—for what
could an escort of seventy-five men avail against an army?—and almost
his last written words were: “Notwithstanding all people say against
him, I personally believe Yakub Khan will turn out to be a very good
ally, and that we shall be able to keep him to his engagements.” This
blind trust in the Amir was soon to be rudely broken down, for Yakub was
found wanting even in willingness to save the lives entrusted to his

The story of the outbreak in the Bala Hissar, and the massacre of the
Envoy and his followers, is written at length in the Bluebooks. The tale
is too well known to bear reproduction: the heroic struggle against
overwhelming odds has, perhaps, rarely been equalled, for there were
only four British officers and a handful of native soldiers to meet an
army. Yakub Khan sat in his palace, vacillating and sullen, with the
noise of the fight ringing in his ears, and the roar of the soldiery and
the fanatical populace surging into his council-chamber: but he made no
sign. There were councillors who urged prompt chastisement of the
mutinous sepoys: there were regiments at Bala Hissar which _might_ have
loyally obeyed orders; but the man who had pledged himself to preserve
our Envoy only took the cunning precaution of sending out Daoud Shah,
his commander-in-chief, to “remonstrate” with the armed rabble. It was
like remonstrating with a tiger when the hunter lies at his mercy: like
giving the word “halt” to the incoming tide: Daoud Shah was thrust back
by the first men he met, but they used their bayonets tenderly, and his
wounds were slight. And when it was all over, when the excited crowd
roared through the Bazaar, with Cavagnari’s head held on high, there
seems to have come upon Yakub that fear of vengeance which he had
hitherto thrust aside. Forty years before the body of another Envoy had
been hung on the butcher’s hooks in that same Bazaar; treachery had
scored a success which promised to be lasting; but Pollock had come with
a victorious army from Peshawur, while Nott fought his way from the
south, and the Char Chowk was soon a heap of ruins. How soon would the
vengeance of an outraged nation again fall upon Cabul?

Shortly after midnight of September 4th Sir Frederick Roberts, who was
in Simla, engaged on the work of the Army Commission, was called up to
receive a telegram. It was from the Kurram Valley, and conveyed the
first news of the Massacre, which he then and there hastened to carry to
the Commander-in-Chief. The shock was so terrible that men were
paralyzed for the moment, but the next day the machinery of Government
was put in motion, a council of war was called, and on the afternoon of
September 5th the following instructions were sent to Brigadier-General
Dunham Massy, then commanding the Kurram Field Force at the Peiwar

  “From the Quarter Master General in India to Brigadier-General D.
    Massy, commanding Kurram Field Force; dated Simla, 5th September,

“Move 23rd Pioneers, 5th Ghoorkas, and Mountain Train to Shutargardan,
crest of pass; to entrench themselves there and await orders. Ten days’


Footnote 2:

  This telegram is of some importance, as showing the quickness with
  which the Viceroy and the military authorities recognized the
  necessity of seizing the Shutargardan before the Cabul troops or the
  local tribesmen could occupy the Pass in strength.


In accordance with these instructions, Swinley’s Mountain Battery of six
7-pounder guns, escorted by the Pioneers and Ghoorkas, moved upon the
Shutargardan, which was occupied without opposition on the 11th of
September. Colonel Currie, of the 23rd Pioneers, commanded this small
force. The 72nd Highlanders and the 5th Punjab Infantry followed in a
few days to secure the road between Ali Kheyl and the Pass, while the
7th Company of Bengal Sappers and Miners was ordered up from Shulozan
(near Kurram) to improve the road beyond the Shutargardan. In the
meantime, the following appointments had been made:—Colonel Macgregor to
be Chief of the Staff to Major-General Sir Frederick Roberts, Commanding
the Force; Brigadier-General Macpherson, C.B., V.C., to command the 1st
Infantry Brigade; Brigadier-General T. D. Baker, C.B., to command the
2nd Infantry Brigade; Brigadier-General Dunham Massy, to command the
Cavalry Brigade; and Brigadier-General Hugh Gough, C.B., V.C., to be
Road Commandant. On September 12th General Roberts arrived at Ali Kheyl.
On the 13th General Baker took command of the troops in the
Shutargardan; which Pass, by the 18th of the month, was held by the
troops which had moved up originally, together with the whole of the
72nd Highlanders and the 7th Company of Sappers and Miners. The position
was strongly entrenched and every precaution taken against a surprise by
the neighbouring tribes.

Having secured the Shutargardan, Sir Frederick Roberts cast about for
means to complete his transport, it being intended to move 6,000 men
upon Cabul with as little delay as possible. With the usual carelessness
which marks the operations of Indian armies, and perhaps with a desire
to curtail expenditure, the transport of the Kurram Valley Field Force
had, upon Cavagnari’s departure for Cabul, been allowed to dwindle down
to insignificant proportions. There were in the Valley, when the news of
the Massacre was received, only 1,500 mules, 500 sickly camels, and 800
pack-bullocks. These were just sufficient to enable the Commissariat
Department to furnish supplies to the winter garrison of the Valley.
Without loss of time all the available animals in Peshawur and near the
frontier were ordered to be sent to Ali Kheyl, and eventually the army
was provided with almost 2,000 mules, between 700 and 800 camels, and
upwards of 600 bullocks.[3] The Gajis, Turis, and local Ghilzais were
induced to send in animals with drivers, and this “local carriage” was
of great service. Padshah Khan, the most influential of the Ghilzai
chiefs, declared himself willing to aid us in the collection of
supplies, and his friendship at this critical moment was all-important.
On the 14th of September the Nawab Sir Gholam Hassan Khan, who had
started from Candahar to join Cavagnari at Cabul, reached the
Shutargardan. He had heard news of the Massacre and had turned off the
Ghazni Road and made for our most advanced post. The fact of his
non-molestation on the road proved that the Logar Valley was quiet, and
this was confirmed by a reconnaissance on the 16th, when General Baker
went as far as the Shinkai Kotal, half-way between Kushi and the
Shutargardan. On the 22nd the Mangals to the number of 200 or 300,
raided upon a small convoy carrying telegraph stores near Karatiga, east
of the Pass, killed six sepoys of the escort (originally only eleven
men), and twenty-one coolies and linesmen. They also succeeded in
carrying off eighty-four mules. This showed that our convoys would
probably he attacked daily, and General Baker ordered that no escort
should be less than twenty-five armed men to 100 transport animals.


Footnote 3:

  On October 14th, at Cabul, the returns were:—Mules, 1,973; camels,
  675; bullocks, 604; and 230 yabus (ponies purchased in Cabul).


                              CHAPTER II.

Letter from the Amir—Baker’s Advance to Kushi—Arrival of Yakub Khan in
    the British Camp—The State of Cabul—Excitement along the Line of
    Communication—Departure of the Last Convoy from Ali Kheyl—Narrow
    Escape of Sir F. Roberts—The Amir’s Attempt to delay the
    Advance—Durbar at Kushi—The Advance ordered—Instructions to the

The news of the preparations at Ali Kheyl and the Shutargardan reached
Cabul very rapidly, and a letter from General Roberts to the Amir was
also safely received. In reply Yakub Khan wrote as follows:—

“To General Roberts. I have received your letter of the 7th, and was
much pleased. I fully understood what was written. Complete confidence
was restored, and a sense of relief felt in the friendship shown by the
Viceroy, as my prosperity found favour in his sight. I am dreadfully
distressed and grieved at the recent event, but there is no fighting
against God’s will. I hope to inflict such punishment on the evil-doers
as will be known worldwide; and to prove my sincerity, I have twice
written on this subject, and the third time by my confidential servant,
Sher Muhammad Khan. I now write to say that for these eight days I have
preserved myself and family by the good offices of those who were
friendly to me, partly by bribing, partly by coaxing the rebels. Some of
the Cavalry I have dismissed, and night and day am considering how to
put matters straight. Please God, the mutineers will soon meet with the
punishment they deserve, and my affairs will be arranged to the
satisfaction of the British Government. Certain persons of high position
in these provinces have become rebellious; but I am watching carefully
and closely every quarter. I have done all I could to ensure the Nawab
Ghulam Hussain’s safety. I trust to God for the opportunity of showing
my sincere friendship for the British Government, and for recovering my
good name before the world.”

The Amir’s anxiety, or perhaps terror it should be called, had reached a
climax at this time. On the one hand were the Sirdars who had thrown in
their lot with the mutinous troops, and were trying to persuade him to
raise a _jehad_, or religious war; and, on the other, General Roberts
and his army, already on the move from Ali Kheyl. With the idea that he
might save his capital from destruction, or, as was afterwards
suggested, that he might delay our advance until the tribesmen had
assembled at Cabul, Yakub Khan resolved upon throwing himself into the
British camp, and claiming such protection as we could afford. Before
doing this he sent two members of the Cabul Durbar to Ali Kheyl, viz.,
the Mustaufi Habibulla Khan and the Wazir Shah Muhammad, or, as we
should describe them, his Chancellor of the Exchequer and his Prime
Minister. They bore a letter in which their sovereign announced his
intention of flying from Cabul and placing himself in General Roberts’s
hands. Before this took place, however, the advance from the
Shutargardan had begun, General Baker having pushed forward the troops
at his disposal in the following order.

_On 24th September._—Four guns No. 2 Mountain Battery. 12th Bengal
Cavalry. One company 72nd Highlanders. 5th Ghoorkas.

_On 25th September._—F-A Royal Horse Artillery. Seven companies 72nd.

_On 26th September._—Two guns No. 2 M. B. 23rd Pioneers. 7th Company
Bengal Sappers. Six companies 5th Punjab Infantry.

_On 27th September._—14th Bengal Lancers.

_On 28th September._—One squadron 9th Lancers. 5th Punjab Cavalry. 92nd

On the 27th, Sir F. Roberts had moved his head-quarters from Ali Kheyl
westwards, and on the same day the Amir, with a considerable escort,
arrived at Kushi. He was received with every mark of respect, and a
guard of honour, furnished by the 92nd Highlanders, was placed at his
tent. His camp was pitched at a little distance from the British army.

Having joined General Roberts at Ali Kheyl on the evening of September
26th, I may take up the story of the advance from about that period. I
will therefore give my letters as they were published at the time:—

                                        ALI KHEYL, _28th September_.

The unexpected news of the arrival of the Amir Yakub Khan at Kushi last
night has been received with general satisfaction, as affairs are much
simplified as regards the military position. There has been much doubt
all along as to the sincerity of Yakub’s protestations, and it was not
easy to determine the line of action when Cabul should be finally
reached. But the Amir’s authority has plainly crumbled to the dust in
his capital; and, if not a fugitive, he must have come as a suppliant to
us to reinstate him on the throne, at the same time that we avenge the
Massacre of the Embassy. It seems far more probable, however, that he is
a fugitive; for it is stated that Cabul is in a state of anarchy, which
can only mean that the populace have fraternized with the mutinous
troops and have driven out a sovereign who had made terms with the
Kafirs. If this be really so, the fate of the city, in case any
opposition is shown when our army moves forward, should be sealed. The
only argument an Afghan understands is direct and severe punishment for
offences committed, and the punishment should now be dealt out without
stint, even if Cabul has to be sacked. Not a man in the force that is
now about to make the final advance would feel other than the keenest
pleasure in seeing Cabul burn, for it is hopeless to expect an armed
rabble, such as that which now holds the city, to show a steady front
when General Roberts’s army closes with them. They lack leaders to
direct their movements, and though arms and ammunition may be plentiful
in their midst, their organization is about equal to that of a European
mob suddenly placed in power after a long period of strict government.
Their capacity for mischief is as limited as that of any other rabble,
for their future movements are all dependent upon outside influences. If
left to their own will, they would probably split up into factions, of
which the strongest would eventually sweep away all rivals; but when
menaced by a stronger power, they must either dissolve, or by sheer
doggedness attempt to dispute possession of that which they have gained.
The Cabul mutineers are not of a type which “die but never surrender,”
and although they may risk a brush with the British forces, they will
most likely seek safety in flight before any severe thrashing can be
given them. It will be most aggravating if this proves to be the case,
but until the Amir has explained in detail the course of events from the
time of Sir Louis Cavagnari’s death, an exact estimate of the position
at Cabul cannot be arrived at. The conference which is sure to take
place with Sir Frederick Roberts in a day or two will settle what course
is to be taken, and it is to be hoped no undue tenderness will be shown
in laying down the lines upon which the policy of the next few weeks is
to be carried forward. By Wednesday at the latest a completely equipped
force of over 6,000 men will be at Kushi, and on the following morning
the march will begin. Sunday next should see the British troops encamped
before Cabul, and then will begin the punishment of a city which is only
connected in the saddest way with the expansion of our power in Asia.

Sir Frederick Roberts did not reach Karatiga, his first march from here,
yesterday, without a warning that the tribes are determined to do
mischief so far as lies in their power. The warning was conveyed in the
practical way of his party being fired upon at Jaji Thana in the Hazara
Darukht defile near the end of the journey, and I am sorry to say Dr.
Townsend was hit in the face, and is reported to be severely wounded. As
the telegraph line has since been cut we have not been been able to
learn full particulars of the attack, or with what loss the assailants
were driven off. No other casualties occurred in General Roberts’s
party, but a detachment of the 3rd Sikhs, who were sent down from the
Shutargardan to patrol the road, were not so fortunate. They were
attacked by a large body of tribesmen and lost five men. There has been
considerable excitement all along the line from Thull to Shutargardan
during the last forty-eight hours, as reports of intended attacks by
Mangals and Zaimukhts have been sent in by friendly villagers. The camps
at Ali Kheyl, the Peiwar Kotal, Kurram, &c., are very weakly guarded
now, as so many troops have been sent on, and this fact is evidently
known to the tribes, who are bent upon mischief. It is impossible to
foretell when an attack will be made; but so serious did the chance seem
yesterday, of large numbers of the Mangals coming down in this
direction, that the 67th Foot, who were to march to-day for Karatiga,
have been detained. It was fully expected that the Peiwar Kotal would
have been attacked last night, and as only two companies of the 8th
Regiment were there, the chance of a smart fight was looked upon as
certain. But nothing came of the alarm, so far as I can learn, and the
post will be strengthened by men from Kurram, as soon as possible. The
31st N.I. must now be well on its way to the Valley, and as soon as it
arrives, better arrangements can be made to protect the camps. The
Mangals are said to have asked permission from a friendly tribe in the
valley between this and Peiwar Kotal to pass through their territory,
and this request can only have been made with a view to harass our
communications. The camps are so large—having hitherto been garrisoned
by considerable bodies of men—that with reduced strength commandants can
scarcely be expected to guard every yard of _sungar_[4] that has been
raised for defence. With the 85th Foot and the 31st N.I. available for
use from Kurram to the Shutargardan all would be well, but the date of
their arrival here is uncertain. I do not think, however, that these
petty annoyances will hinder the all-important advance upon Cabul, as
General Roberts’s army will be so equipped as to be able to operate
independently for some time to come. It is too strong to fear anything
that may be in front, and once on the move the reality of our progress
to Cabul will present itself in very striking colours to the restless
tribes. The efforts of the _moollahs_, who have unquestionably been at
work for some time, may bring about results which will cause much
trouble to our garrisons, but beyond this there is nothing to be feared.
The ensuing winter will probably see an expedition on a large scale
against the Mangals and Zaimukhts, for when once the passes are closed
between this and Cabul there will be no necessity for stationary camps,
and six or eight regiments, with a due complement of artillery, may
march into the Mangal and Khost country, and once for all settle old
scores with the tribes that have so troubled us. Nearer Thull the road
is by no means safe, another man having been killed on the Kafir Kotal
between our frontier station and the first post westwards. The cowardice
of the assailants is so marked that the post bags and convoys are left
untouched, though the escorts are very small. There seems at present no
plan in the attacks that are made, though assemblies of 2,000 or 3,000
men are reported to have taken place among the more resolute sections of
the Mangals. The Hazara Darukht defile is the favourite spot at which
attacks are made, the difficulties of the road rendering rapid passage
impossible. The 67th Foot march to-morrow morning for Karatiga, and if
attacked in the usual place they will doubtless give a very good account
of themselves. They are escorting ammunition and baggage, but even with
these encumbrances they will have strength enough to handle very roughly
any number of assailants.


Footnote 4:

  Breastworks built with stones, greatly in vogue in Afghanistan.


                                         KARATIGA, _29th September_.

Early this morning the final complements of the Cabul Field Force left
Ali Kheyl, and they have now reached this post, which is near the foot
of the Shutargardan. To-morrow they proceed to Kushi, and then the army
which is to march upon Cabul _viâ_ the Logar Valley will be complete. As
early as three o’clock this morning the troops began to turn out in the
upper and lower camps at Ali Kheyl, and as there was a large convoy to
be marshalled, all officers were busily engaged in putting things
ship-shape. Two companies of the 67th Foot were started off at an early
hour and marched to Drekila, to which place half a dozen elephants,
under an escort of two companies of the 21st P.N.I., had been sent the
previous evening. Before daybreak the troops began to move out of Ali
Kheyl. They consisted of the remainder of the 67th Foot, and the 21st
P.N.I., G-3 Battery R.A., two Gatling guns, and details of various
native cavalry regiments. In all there were about 1,300 men, and the
convoy itself consisted of about 1,500 laden animals, camels, mules,
bullocks, and ponies. Besides the baggage of the troops marching, there
was a large quantity of ammunition being sent up, and it was a matter of
no little anxiety to get all well forward. General Macpherson was in
command, and among the other officers going on were Colonel Macgregor,
General Hugh Gough, and Colonel Heathcote, Chief Transport Officer. It
took about four hours to start the whole line, but once on the move
little time was lost. The road lies up a river bed, and the stream had
to be crossed and recrossed times innumerable. In many places nothing
but a mere track over stones and boulders was forthcoming, and the pace
was necessarily slow. The 67th men marched in such fine form, that halts
had frequently to be called in order to enable the baggage animals to
close up, for it was quite possible that an attack in force might be
made upon the convoy by the Mangals. The occurrence of Saturday, in
which five of the 3rd Sikhs were killed, and Dr. Townsend, of General
Roberts’s staff, wounded, has shown that the local tribes had come down;
and it was not unlikely that they would attempt to cut so long a line as
that which had to be formed between Ali Kheyl and Karatiga. Accordingly
General Macpherson so arranged the escort that armed men were scattered
from end to end of the convoy, in addition to there being a strong
advanced guard of the 67th, and an equally strong body of the 21st
P.N.I. in rear. On the troops from Ali Kheyl reaching Drekila—a post on
the road overlooked by some curiously shaped peaks, rain-worn so as to
resemble rudely an artificial fortification, with a suspicion of stunted
minarets thrown in—the elephants were started off, and the main body of
the convoy followed, the guns with their escort halting for an hour.
Then the whole line was again put in motion, and the Hazara Darukht
defile was made for. This defile is certainly one of the worst that
troops could ever hope to pass in the face of an enemy. The road still
follows the river bed, which is shut in by steep hills clothed with
fir-trees, offering splendid cover. The hills are so precipitous that it
would be impossible in many places for men to scale them, and a handful
of resolute soldiers could check an army with but little trouble. It was
about Jaji Thana, two or three miles from Karatiga, that an attack was
expected, and it was there that General Roberts had been fired upon, but
singularly enough the greater part of the convoy had reached the camping
ground before a shot was fired. Then a small party of tribesmen
appeared, and though they succeeded in scaring a few sowars they retired
very smartly when the escort opened fire. A company of the 5th N.I.
doubled out of the post here when the alarm was given, but their aid was
not needed. The whole convoy at the time I am writing (9 P.M.) is now
safely encamped here, and early to-morrow it will move on to Kushi. The
battery of artillery was to have made the Shutargardan this evening, but
they arrived too late for the march to be attempted. To-night strong
picquets are posted on the hills which command Karatiga on three sides,
and we have made ourselves as comfortable as possible.

It is unlikely, however, that any attempt will be made to harass us, as
the Mangals received a severe castigation on Saturday. The explanation
of the firing upon General Roberts and his staff on that day is very
simple. A large party of tribesmen cut the telegraph wire near Jaji
Thana, almost within sight of Karatiga fort, and then waited in ambush
for the party sent out to replace the wire. This party was guarded by
twelve of the 3rd Sikhs, and no sooner had they reached the point where
the line had been cut than they were fired upon from a high wooded hill
on their right. One sepoy was killed at the first volley, and while
directing their fire to the hill the men were attacked in rear by some
Mangals who had previously crossed the road. Four Sikhs were killed in
all, and as the hills were swarming with men, a party of eighteen of the
92nd Highlanders, under Colour-Sergeant Hector Macdonald,[5] and
forty-five of the 3rd Sikhs were hurriedly sent out. The enemy were very
strong, but the Highlanders got them well within range, and it is
calculated that at least thirty were killed and many more wounded. They
were driven over the hills in full retreat. Another large party fired a
volley at General Roberts and his party, of whom Dr. Townsend was
wounded. The General had only with him the head-quarters of the Cavalry
Brigade, a squadron of the 9th Lancers and the 5th Punjab Cavalry, as he
was riding hard to reach the Shutargardan, but very fortunately
twenty-five men of the 92nd Highlanders, who had been sent from Karatiga
to act as his advance guard, joined him near Jaji Thana. These and some
dismounted Lancers held the Mangals in check until the 28th Punjab
Infantry, on baggage guard in rear, came up and cleared the heights.
To-day there was no large gathering, as I have said, but the narrow
escape of our General made us extra vigilant.


Footnote 5:

  Received a commission for this and other acts of bravery.


                                          CAMP KUSHI, _1st October_.

The whole of the Cabul Field Force has passed beyond the Shutargardan,
and to-morrow morning at eight o’clock the real advance upon Cabul
begins. General Massy is now at Zerghun Shahr, eight miles from here,
with the 12th and 14th Bengal Cavalry, two guns R.H.A., two companies of
the 72nd Highlanders, and the 5th P.N.I. General Baker’s and General
Macpherson’s brigades will join him, and General Sir F. Roberts and
head-quarters, accompanied by the Amir and his retinue, will also start
for this advanced camp to-morrow. The force will then be concentrated,
and the three marches which remain to be made before Cabul comes in
sight will take place without delay. Sunday, the 5th,[6] will see us
before the walls of the city, but whether serious opposition will be
encountered is quite a matter of conjecture. The latest news here is,
that the four regiments sent by the Amir to quell the rebellion in
Badakshan are returning in hot haste to Cabul, but their feelings are
not known. It is only reasonable, however, to suppose that they are
anxious to share in the display of hearty enmity against the British,
and if this be so, there will be about eleven regiments to be met,
excluding artillery and cavalry, which do not count for much. At the
outside there would be 5,000 regular infantry; and as our force consists
of over 6,000 men of all arms, any opposition the mutineers may make
cannot he of long duration. If they obstinately cling to Cabul and
defend it according to the best of their ability, the city may perhaps
take us some days to capture; but it would be fearful weakness on their
part to allow themselves to be caged within walls from which there can
be no escape. The Amir, who is still in camp here, had an interview with
Sir F. Roberts this evening, and pleaded that nothing should be done
hastily, evidently fearing that his capital stood a very fair chance of
being destroyed. But the present temper of our policy runs directly
contrary to all delay, and it was useless to urge that there were many
waverers in Cabul who had not yet joined the mutineers, but who were
deterred by fear from attempting to favour the cause of others—which in
this case is the cause of an Amir who has thrown himself into the arms
of a late enemy. Sir F. Roberts told the Amir distinctly that not even a
day’s delay would take place, and that to-morrow would see the whole
army on the way to Cabul. In deference, however, to the Amir’s wishes, a
proclamation would be issued and circulated in advance, in which all
liege subjects of the Amir would be asked to declare themselves, and due
notice of punishment be given to such as continued rebellious. At this
announcement the Amir and his nobles seemed much pleased, though its
value may prove practically _nil_. If Cabul has not been sacked by the
mutineers, but is still held by them, it would be a dangerous matter for
the Amir’s adherents to come out, as they would inevitably be cut down
as traitors. As a test of the disposition of the citizens, it may be
useful in deterring the soldiers from attempting to defend the place, as
their position would be untenable were the feeling of the people shown
to be against them. From all points of view it is obviously to the
advantage of our policy that Cabul should be quickly occupied: on the
one hand, to punish the mutineers severely, if, in the heat of their
fanaticism, they resolve to fight; and, on the other, to prevent it
being looted, if they consider it safer to load themselves with booty
and make for some of the independent khanates.


Footnote 6:

  This expectation was a very fair one at the time, but the inevitable
  transport difficulties occurred and the halt had to be called.


As a sign of the times, it must be noticed that Wali Mahomed Khan[7] and
his friends, who treasure up the traditions of Dost Mahomed’s rule, have
left Cabul in order not to be implicated in any actions of the
rebellious troops, and are now at Zerghun Shahr. They form
unquestionably a powerful faction in Cabul, and it will perhaps be a
difficult matter to keep them from intriguing, if they see that Yakub
Khan is suspected of treachery by the British. When General Roberts met
Wali Mahomed yesterday, the Sirdar was most profuse in his professions
of friendship; but it was plain that the friendship was dictated by
self-interest. The turn of the wheel may, in Wali Mahomed’s own opinion,
throw Yakub Khan out of power, and a new ruler must be cast about for.
Such a ruler would only govern under the shadow of our arms, and to meet
us half-way before the crisis comes is a deep stroke of policy. How far
it will succeed no one can yet tell, but our faith in the Amir so far is
not sufficiently shaken to justify the countenancing of a pretender.
Wali Mahomed was ordered to remain with General Massy in the camp at
Zerghun Shahr, but to-morrow he and Yakub Khan may meet, and much
discretion will be needed to keep up a show of amicable relationship
between them. The story of the Massacre has yet to be sifted in all its
details, and Wali Mahomed may be among the witnesses cited to give
evidence. With Yakub Khan and his sirdars in Kushi, and Wali Mahomed and
his followers only eight miles away, the position is a delicate one, and
it will be interesting to watch its development.

Footnote 7:

  A son of Dost Mahomed Khan, and therefore uncle of Yakub Khan.

From what I can learn, the following would seem to have been the order
of things at the so-called Durbar on September 29th. At 11 A.M. Sir
Frederick Roberts and the principal officers of his divisional staff
(with whom was General Hills, C.B., V.C.), rode to that part of the camp
where tents had been pitched for the Amir’s use. The veteran Daoud Shah
met the party, and after general hand-shaking conducted them into the
durbar tent where the Amir was waiting. The usual formal ceremonies and
inquiries were gone through, and Sir Frederick Roberts then left. At
four o’clock in the afternoon the Amir with the heir-apparent and his
sirdars returned the visit. A guard of honour of the 92nd Gordon
Highlanders was drawn up to receive him; the band played, and every
attention was scrupulously shown. There were many British officers from
the various regiments present, who watched rather critically the display
of ceremonial politeness which, as a matter of course, followed. The
Amir was lost in admiration of his guard of honour, and he may well be
pardoned for his earnest study of the men: the Gordon Highlanders are in
physique and bearing perfect specimens of British soldiers. When the
visit came to an end the Amir mounted his horse (one of those presented
to him at Gundamak), and rode to his own camp, outside the British
lines. The band of the Gordon Highlanders followed him and played before
his tent, and directly afterwards he was visited by Generals Baker and
Hills. Several officers also strolled down to the camp and found much
food for amusement in the demeanour and costume of the 300 horsemen who
form the escort of Yakub Khan. These include such novelties as mounted
Highlanders, who ride madly about camp on the least provocation. At dusk
a guard of the 72nd Highlanders, under a British officer, was mounted
over the Amir’s tent, and the same attention has been paid to him day
and night since. It is a sign of our loving-kindness towards him, and of
our deep anxiety that his personal safety should be assured. After
having come to us as a guest, it would be the height of inhospitality
not to show him all honour, whatever little accounts may have to be
settled hereafter in our camp at Cabul.

The following order has been issued by Sir F. Roberts:—

“The Government of India having decided that the Kurram Field Force
shall proceed with all possible despatch to Cabul in response of His
Highness the Amir’s appeal for aid, and with the object of avenging the
dastardly murder of the British Representative and his escort, Sir F.
Roberts feels sure that the troops under his command will respond to
this call with a determination to prove themselves worthy of the sacred
duty entrusted to them, and of the high reputation they have maintained
during the recent campaign. The Major-General need address no words of
exhortation to soldiers, whose courage and fortitude have been so well
proved. The Afghan tribes are numerous but without organization, the
regular army is undisciplined and whatever may be the disparity in
numbers, such foes can never be formidable to Her Majesty’s troops.

“The dictates of humanity require that a distinction should be made
between the peaceable inhabitants of Afghanistan and the treacherous
murderers for whom a just retribution is in store, and Sir F. Roberts
desires to impress on all ranks the necessity for treating the
inoffensive population with justice, forbearance, and clemency. The
future comfort and well-being of the force depend largely on the
friendliness of our relations with the districts from which our supplies
must be drawn; prompt payment is enjoined for all articles purchased by
departments and individuals, and all disputes must be at once referred
to a political officer for decision.

“The Major-General confidently looks forward to the successful
accomplishment of the objects of the expedition and the reestablishment
of order and a settled government in Afghanistan.”

As regards the military position here, it is scarcely necessary to
enumerate the regiments now on the ground, as, with the exception of
those at Zerghun Shahr, under General Massy, all the troops detailed for
the Cabul Field Force are now mustered ready for the march. The march of
the 67th Foot, 21st N.I., G-3, R.A., and the Gatling guns from Karatiga
to Kushi occupied two days, General Macpherson considering it wise to
halt the 1,500 baggage animals on the Shutargardan last night and give
them an extra feed, so as to prepare them for future hard work. This was
an excellent idea, for the poor beasts are in the worst condition, and
good food can alone make them equal to the heavy loads they have to
carry. The Shutargardan is indeed a bleak wilderness even now, and the
road which descends to the bed of the river would try the stamina of the
best pack animals in the world. The thin line of the convoy was,
however, worked safely down, and all day it wound its slow length along
through narrow gorges, over the stony river bed, up the steep Shinkai
Kotal (surely the most desolate spot in all the desolation of
Afghanistan), and thence along the broad road traversing the open plain,
which spreads out in stony barrenness from the foot of the mountains.
There was a large amount of ammunition being brought up, and so jealous
were we of the valuable boxes, that special guards were told off to all
animals carrying them. But nothing was seen of any hostile clansmen
until late in the evening, when a few shots were fired, and some
marauders succeeded in carrying off three mules. Taking into
consideration the length of line of the convoy and the difficulty of the
way, such a loss is most insignificant, although every brute that can
bear a load is now of exceptional value. It is believed that the larger
bodies of Mangals and independent Ghilzais who had assembled on the
route have dispersed to their homes, and only stray robbers are now
about. These, however are capable of much mischief. A syce was shot
through the leg yesterday, and several camp followers have been cut up.

This camp will be broken up to-morrow, as all the troops are under
orders to leave for Zerghun Shahr, and for the next fortnight or so no
attempt will be made to keep up the line of communication between the
advancing force and the old Kurram stations. Heliograms of course will
be sent by Captain Straton’s signallers, and the post will be carried as
regularly as the conditions of the runner service permits, but beyond
this we shall be in our own little world, self-contained, and
self-supporting. As much local carriage as possible has been hired, and
the influence of the Amir upon neighbouring villages has been freely
exercised. Grain paid as tribute has also come in, and this has been
handed over to the Commissariat, which has also purchased largely of all
who are willing to sell. At present all is favourable to a rapid and
successful advance. The days are clear and warm, and a bright moon
renders night surprises impossible. The weather is so mild that the
camp-followers can live in comfort without additional warm clothes being
served out, and the whole force is very healthy. To say that the men are
anxious to advance and are all in high spirits is scarcely necessary.
They are too good material to need any such praise.


                              CHAPTER III.

The March to Zerghun Shahr—Proclamation to the People of Cabul—The
    Composition of the “Avenging Army”—March to Sufed Sang—Transport
    Difficulties—Hostility of Villagers—March to Charasia—Cavalry
    Reconnaissance—The Battle of Charasia—Defeat of the Afghans.

                                       ZERGHUN SHAHR, _2nd October_.

The camp at Kushi was all astir early this morning, for it was our first
day’s march, and the capacity of our baggage animals had yet to be
tested. It is true we had only to march eight miles to Zerghun Shahr,
where General Massy had been in camp for some days; but still there were
large quantities of stores and ammunition to be moved. General Baker’s
Brigade was the first to move, and at eight o’clock they followed in the
wake of the 5th Punjab Cavalry, which was ordered to cover their front
and flanks. The greatest anxiety was regarding the baggage, but the
arrangements were well made by the transport officers, and as the
animals had an easy road to follow the march was a very satisfactory

With one or two exceptions the line was well kept, and the baggage
reached its destination pretty rapidly. The 5th P.C. advanced as if in a
country swarming with enemies, the advance guard being thrown out a mile
in front, and flankers working on either hand over the stony hills which
traversed the plain. Following the cavalry were F-A, R.H.A., a small
party of signallers, the 23rd Pioneers, the 72nd Highlanders, No. 2
Mountain Battery, 5th P.I., one company Sappers and Miners, Baggage,
Field Hospital, Engineer Park, 5th Ghoorkas (as rear-guard), and a few
troopers of the 5th P.C. All the troops looked very fit, and they
marched with an _élan_ that could not be mistaken. The road taken was
over the stony plain which extends for two or three miles on either
hand, and the march was absolutely without incident. Zerghun Shahr was
reached before noon, the troops halting for half an hour about four
miles out, and the regiments filed off to their camping grounds on the
open plain. The village lies a few hundred yards to the west of the
road, and is of very small dimensions. A running stream supplies the
camp with water, the principle of the _karez_ (the sinking of a
continuous line of wells, connected by an underground channel, carrying
the water to a lower level) having been largely applied. With the
exception of the fruit trees in the village there is no vegetation
anywhere to be seen, and the country is nearly a repetition of that
previously passed over; bare hills looking down upon stony plains which
do nothing but reflect the sun’s rays upon unlucky travellers. The
desolate aspect of everything is most distressing, but we are hoping for
better things after another march.

To return to the march from Kushi: General Macpherson’s Brigade left at
ten o’clock, Sir Frederick Roberts and staff starting about an hour
later. With them was the Amir and his Sirdars, who could not fail to be
impressed with the compactness and fitness for any kind of work of the
soldiers before him. Every effort was made, too, to keep the baggage
animals well together under strong escorts, so as to show His Highness
that our army was not careless on the march, and would not lay itself
open to surprise. When such grand regiments as the 67th, 72nd, and 92nd
are on the move, it is not likely there will be any slackness, for the
men are of the old stamp, and know what discipline and smartness mean.
The Amir upon arriving here was shown to his encamping ground, which is
well away from that of Wali Mahomed, meeting between the two at the
present juncture being studiously avoided. The camp is overrun with
wild-looking Afghans, generally galloping at headlong speed without any
special object in view, and but for the sturdiness of our sentries these
mangy horsemen would invade the privacy of even head-quarters and
brigade camps. Our soldiers bear them no goodwill, and usually return
their look of insolent braggadocio with a frown which expresses a good
deal. Tommy Atkins is on the whole a very honest sort of fellow, and his
ire is now roused against these swaggering cowards, who were in Cabul
when our Embassy was attacked, and would not raise a finger to aid the
handful of men who perished. Poor old Daoud Shah is perhaps entitled to
some little respect; but for the others contempt is almost too good. The
Amir is our guest—a guest perhaps upon whom a friendly watch is kept as
a matter of precaution—and we cannot therefore give expression to our
feelings very frankly, but if the Camp were canvassed the general
opinion would be one of rather a strong kind as regards his vacillation
and cowardice on the 3rd of September. However, he is now in the midst
of an army which will soon be at the gates of his capital, and then he
will have to sit down quietly until our policy is duly shaped—this time
simply in accordance with our own aims, and utterly regardless of his
protestations. He is now profuse in his thanks for the proclamation
which is to go before us to Cabul; at the same time he is doubtful of
its effect upon the mutineers. His tone might change, perhaps, if he
could see any way out of his present difficulties other than that to be
made by our bayonets.

The proclamation alluded to was dated October 2nd, and was sent off
to-day to Cabul. It is as follows:—


  “Be it known to all that the British army is advancing on Cabul to
  take possession of the city. If it be allowed to do so peacefully,
  well and good; if not, the city will be seized by force. Therefore all
  well-disposed persons who have taken no part in the dastardly murder
  of the British Embassy or in the plunder of the Residency are warned,
  that if they are unable to prevent resistance being offered to the
  entrance of the British army and to the authority of His Highness the
  Amir, they should make immediate arrangements for their own safety,
  either by coming into the British Camp or by such other measures as
  may seem fit to them. And as the British Government does not make war
  on women and children, warning is given that all women and children
  should be removed from the city beyond the reach of harm. The British
  Government desires to treat all classes with justice, and to respect
  their religion, feelings, and customs, while exacting full retribution
  from offenders. Every effort will therefore be made to prevent the
  innocent suffering with the guilty. But it is necessary that the
  utmost precaution should be taken against useless opposition.
  Therefore, after the receipt of this proclamation, all persons found
  armed in or about Cabul will be treated as the enemies of the British
  Government; and further, it must be clearly understood that if the
  entry of the British force is resisted, I cannot hold myself
  responsible for any accidental mischief which may be done to persons
  and property, even of well-disposed people who may have neglected this

                                          “Signed, &c., F. ROBERTS.”

Two sowars belonging to the 12th Bengal Cavalry, who were spending their
furlough at Cabul, arrived here to-day, and report that the mutineers
mean to fight. We have just heard of an unsuccessful attack upon the
Shutargardan by Mangals and Ghilzais.[8]


Footnote 8:

  The Shutargardan was held by the 3rd Sikhs and 21st Punjab Infantry
  with four guns of No. 1 Mountain Battery. Colonel Money of the 3rd
  Sikhs was in command.


The force is now concentrated, for the first time, for the march onward
to Cabul. It is made up as follows:—

                    CABUL FIELD FORCE, OCTOBER 1879.

                                  │ British  │    Other Ranks.     │
                                  │Officers. │                     │
                                  │          │  British.│   Native.│
    Divisional and Brigade Staff  │        60│        - │         -│
    F-A, R.H.A.                   │         7│       118│         -│
    G-3, R.A.                     │         7│       137│         -│
    No. 2 Mountain Battery        │         3│        - │       223│
    9th Lancers                   │         4│       118│         -│
    5th Punjab Cavalry            │         7│        - │       325│
    12th Bengal Cavalry           │         6│        - │       328│
    14th Bengal Lancers           │         7│        - │       407│
    67th Regiment                 │        18│       686│         -│
    72nd Highlanders              │        23│       746│         -│
    92nd Highlanders              │        17│       717│         -│
    5th Punjab Infantry           │         8│        - │       610│
    23rd Pioneers                 │         6│        - │       671│
    28th Punjab Infantry          │         8│        - │       636│
    5th Ghoorkas                  │         7│        - │       574│
    7th Company Sappers and Miners│         3│         2│        93│
    Two Gatling guns              │         1│        34│         -│
                Total             │       192│     2,558│     3,867│

There are about 6,000 “followers” and some 3,500 baggage animals.
Fourteen days’ supplies are being carried, with tea and sugar for two
months. Lieutenant-Colonel B. L. Gordon, R.H.A., commands the artillery
(twelve 9-pounder and six 7-pounder guns, with two Gatlings); and
Lieutenant-Colonel Æ. Perkins, R.E., is in command of the Engineers. The
Cavalry Brigade is of course commanded by General Massy; while the
Infantry are brigaded as follows:—1st Brigade (General Macpherson),
67th, 92nd Highlanders, and 28th P.I.; 2nd Brigade (General Baker), 72nd
Highlanders, 5th Ghoorkas, and 5th P.I. The 23rd Pioneers are not
attached to any particular brigade.

                               SUFED SANG, ZAHIDABAD, _4th October_.

Yesterday the march was continued, and Macpherson’s Brigade with the
cavalry reached Sufed Sang in the evening, after a march of nearly
fifteen miles. The same open plain was traversed, but there were more
signs of cultivation as the Logar River, which was hidden from sight at
Zerghun Shahr by a range of hills, was neared. Along its banks are
villages scattered at short intervals, and the orchards of these form a
very pleasant relief to the bare barrenness of the Ghilzai Hills on our
right. The Logar River is spanned by a narrow bridge near Zahidabad
village, but it was found impossible to get wheeled guns across it, and
the ford adjacent to the bridge was not so shallow as it should have
been, the villagers having turned a large volume of water into the
stream from a neighbouring irrigation channel. This was the first sign
of the latent hostility of the people in the Logar Valley, but as the
_maliks_ (headmen) of Zahidabad and the near village of Sufed Sang came
in and paid their respects, we could do nothing in the way of
punishment. The troops forded the river, the baggage being sent by way
of the bridge. Some of the men were swept off their feet by the force of
the current, but as the stream was only fifty or sixty yards in width,
no lives were lost. The Prince of Bokhara, who is a refugee at the
Amir’s Court, met General Roberts at Zahidabad. He had followed Yakub
Khan’s example, and had fled from Cabul in the night. He reported that
the troops were being incited to fight by certain disloyal Sirdars, but
that no general rising of the people had taken place: the flight of the
Amir had prevented any great tribal combination so far.

Our camping ground is in the midst of cultivation, and we are halted
here to-day awaiting the arrival of General Baker’s Brigade. Yesterday
it was found that the carriage of the force was quite inadequate to
carry all the stores and ammunition, now that the whole army had been
concentrated, and accordingly General Baker was ordered to halt his
brigade at Zerghun Shahr for the night and guard the Commissariat
supplies and the Ordnance park. This he did by forming a rude sort of
laager, within which the transport animals were placed. He was not
molested during the night. The call upon the Transport of the Force to
do double work was answered with great alacrity by Lieutenant-Colonel
Mark Heathcote and the officers working under him. After the heavy march
of fifteen miles the beasts were well fed and given a few hours’ rest;
but at one o’clock in the morning all the strongest camels were paraded
and marched off to Zerghun Shahr. There they were loaded up, and with as
little delay as possible began the return journey to Sufed
Sang—forty-five miles in thirty-six hours.[9] On the previous evening
some shots had been fired near the Logar Bridge, but no mischief was
done; and we took but little notice of this expression of enmity, except
to station strong picquets and warn the sentries to show extra
vigilance. This evening, however, a determined attack was made upon the
rear-guard, the villagers of Kuti Kheyl and other hamlets creeping up,
under cover of darkness, and hiding themselves in _nullahs_ and behind
orchard walls. Fortunately they were badly armed, and although they kept
up a desultory fire at close quarters, Major Stockwell of the 72nd
Highlanders drove them off by firing volleys and by throwing skirmishers
out to protect his left flank. As the rear-guard crossed the river the
villagers grew bolder and followed them up pretty closely, but no
baggage was lost; and a few companies being sent from camp to hold the
bridge the firing died away, and now (10 P.M.) all is again quiet. The
halt to-day has been of service in enabling us to get in a few supplies,
but the transport difficulty is a serious one, as it is now clear only
one infantry brigade can march daily, and the baggage animals must he
sent back day by day to bring up the stores and reserve ammunition.
To-morrow General Baker’s brigade will move on to Charasia, and the 92nd
Highlanders will probably be added to the regiments composing it. There
is news to-day from Cabul to the effect that the mutinous regiments have
not yet left, but are busy looting the arsenal in the Bala Hissar,
wherein are stored many hundred rifles, and an enormous quantity of
small-arm ammunition.


Footnote 9:

  This will show the difficulties General Roberts had to contend with,
  even in the few marches from Kushi to Cabul. The transport train was,
  as usual, the weakest link in the chain, and everything had to be made
  subservient to it.


                                       CAMP CHARASIA, _5th October_.

The village of Kuti Kheyl was chiefly responsible for the attack upon
General Baker’s rear-guard last night, and we have now a number of
prisoners in our hands who were captured in that neighbourhood, and who
are said to have been concerned in the skirmish. This morning (Sunday),
before striking camp, a small force was sent out with two mountain guns.
A squadron of cavalry surrounded Kuti Kheyl, and upon the 9th Lancers
finally going in, several men showed fight. Three were run through, one
just as he was levelling his piece at an officer, and five were
captured; two of whom were wounded on the head with lance-butts. The
_maliks_ of the village were also brought in, but were released after
receiving a warning as to their future behaviour. The five prisoners
were sent on with the advanced guard here, and were tried this afternoon
by drum-head court-martial. One of them was a sepoy of the Amir’s, and
he, with two others, was sentenced to death for being in unlawful
rebellion against his sovereign. The other two were released, no doubt
much to their astonishment.

As the march to Charasia was only a short one of six miles from Sufed
Sang, we did not start until ten o’clock. Early in the afternoon the
encamping ground was reached, and tents were pitched on the fallow
fields which stretch to the foot of the hills on either side. The road
followed a due northerly direction, through a cultivated tract of
country, for about three miles, to some very low hills which traverse it
at right angles, and near which is the village of Childukhteran.[10] On
crossing these hills, a long valley lay stretched before us in the shape
of a parallelogram; and at the farther extremity could be seen the
village of Charasia, with its orchards stretching in front of it, with
clumps of trees dotted farther to the west. Beyond was the mass of hills
which shut in Cabul, and hinder any view of the city from the valley.
The hills to east and west also close in; and the valley cannot be much
more than two miles across. It is all under cultivation by means of
irrigation channels. The hills overlooking Charasia are, first, a low
range of a light-coloured slaty character, then a higher series of rocky
heights, and in the immediate rear, forming the sky-line, is a
precipitous range with four or five peaks standing out in bold relief.
This range runs sharply down, on the east, to the road which leads
direct to the old Cabul camping ground and the Bala Hissar, and, with
another high range sloping similarly down on the other side of the road,
forms the Sang-i-Nawishta defile, which, if held in strength, would be
very difficult to force. Through this defile the Logar River passes into
the Cabul Valley. Our encamping ground is south of the village, the
head-quarters of Sir F. Roberts being a mile or more from the orchards.
The ranges of hills east and west of us are very high and steep; but
directly to our left front is only a gradual slope, over which lies the
beautiful Chardeh Valley, filled with orchards, and apparently rich in
cultivation. A road skirting the hills leads through the valley into
Cabul. There is a third road among the hills immediately in rear of


Footnote 10:

  Forty daughters.


A cavalry reconnaissance to-day did not cause any of the enemy to show
themselves; but perhaps to-morrow, when more ground is covered, there
may be a different result. Emissaries from Cabul are said to have been
in the Charasia village yesterday, and the difficulty we have had in
getting supplies this afternoon is a proof of their efforts to influence
the villagers against us. However, only a few shots have been fired at
our cavalry, and we are resting in camp, which is protected by strong
outlying picquets. To-morrow morning 1,500 baggage animals go back to
Sufed Sang to bring up the rest of the stores, and this delay will cause
us to halt here a day. General Macpherson, with the 67th Foot, 28th
N.I., three guns, and a squadron of cavalry, has been left behind to
take charge of to-morrow’s convoy. He will draw in his camp as much as
possible, as the affair at Kuti Kheyl has shown how badly disposed the
villagers are towards us.

The Amir and Wali Mahomed have come in with us, but the former does not
seem to have—or will not exercise—control over the villagers we have to
deal with. There is plainly much trimming of sails among them as to
their immediate attitude, but we are wide-awake enough not to trust them
in any way. In case of any check, there cannot be the least doubt that
the groups which now watch us marching past would shoulder their
_jhezails_ and turn out to harass us on all sides. The men with us who
know the local character best are strong in their assertion that until
we have occupied Cabul we shall be annoyed by these tribesmen, who are
loth to let long strings of baggage animals pass through their midst
without trying to loot some of the riches they carry. Even to-day a
kahar in charge of a mule-load of baggage was cut up. He had wandered
from the road, and had made no sign when the rear-guard passed. Half a
dozen men watched their opportunity, and when the coast was clear they
killed the kahar and walked off with the mule and its burden.

The news that the regiments in Cabul looted the arsenal yesterday would
seem to indicate that they mean fighting, and this intelligence is the
best that we have had for a long time. The only way in which they can be
punished lies in resistance when we advance; for, if they run away, it
will be difficult to chase them all over Afghanistan, even if we were
disposed to do so. The health of the troops is excellent, although the
sun has laid up a number of men with fever. It is of the mildest kind
and soon passes off.

                                    CAMP BENI HISSAR, _7th October_.

We are now encamped within a few miles of the Bala Hissar and the city
of Cabul, the mutinous troops having yesterday been defeated and driven
from the heights above Charasia, which they had occupied with the idea
of barring our further advance. The details of the action are as
follows:—At daybreak yesterday morning (October 6th) a strong working
party was sent out to improve the road through the Sang-i-Nawishta
defile, but before they had gone two miles from camp the cavalry patrol
in advance reported that the enemy were in great strength on the hills,
and had guns in position commanding the road. The working party
consisted of the 23rd Pioneers, under escort of a wing of the 92nd
Highlanders and two guns of No. 2 (Swinley’s) Mountain Battery; and upon
the cavalry patrols being fired at and falling back, this party received
orders to halt and act on the defensive. As the morning advanced it was
seen that not only was the Sang-i-Nawishta held in force, but the hills
beyond Charasia, from the Chardeh Valley to the Logar River, were
crowned with armed men. It was plain that our farther progress towards
Cabul was barred, and as there was only one brigade available for the
attack the position was not an encouraging one. Fortunately the 92nd
Highlanders had been detached from General Macpherson’s brigade for the
time being, and this gave us another British regiment to fall back upon.
Sir Frederick Roberts deemed it wise to attack without delay, as to
remain inactive before the mutinous regiments now facing him would
probably encourage a general tribal rising, and instead of 10,000 we
should have 50,000 men to deal with. Already the hills to right and left
of the camp had a few white-clad men upon them, plainly sentinels sent
from the near village to watch the progress of the fight and aid in the
pursuit if our army were driven back. General Macpherson had to make his
way from Sufed Sang to Charasia, and as his baggage train was seen
stretching along the valley, the tribesmen grew bolder and opened a
desultory fire upon the escort. This was the signal for many men to join
the sentinels I have spoken of, on the hills, and so numerous did the
gathering become that a squadron of cavalry was sent back to reinforce
General Macpherson, who was further ordered to make all possible haste
to Charasia.

In the meantime the camp was astir with preparations for the attack upon
the enemy in front, and the men were full of enthusiasm at the prospect
of meeting face to face the regiments which had brought about
Cavagnari’s murder. The following troops, under the command of
Brigadier-General Baker, marched out of camp towards the village of
Charasia about eleven o’clock:—

Four guns of No. 2 Mountain Battery, under Captain G. Swinley, R.A.

Two Gatling guns, under Captain A. Broadfoot.

7th Company of Sappers and Miners, under Lieutenant C. Nugent, R.A.

72nd Highlanders, under Lieutenant-Colonel W. H. J. Clarke.

Six companies of the 5th Ghoorkas, under Major A. Fitz-Hugh.

200 of the 5th Punjab Infantry, under Captain C. McK. Hall.

This force was strengthened by 450 of the 23rd Pioneers, withdrawn from
the road leading to the Sang-i-Nawishta defile;[11] while at the same
time our right attack was also modified. Major White, of the 92nd
Highlanders, assumed command in this direction, the troops entrusted to
his charge being:—

Three guns, G-3, R.A., under Major S. Parry, R.A.

Two squadrons of cavalry, made up of detachments of the 9th Lancers, 5th
Punjab Cavalry, and 12th Bengal Cavalry, commanded by Major Hammond, 5th

A wing of the 92nd Highlanders, under Major Hay.

100 men of the 23rd Pioneers, under Captain H. Paterson.


Footnote 11:

  It should be noted that no cavalry accompanied General Baker. A
  similar mistake was made on several other occasions later on. Our
  infantry lacked the _immediate_ support of cavalry to make defeats


This force was to keep the enemy in play at the Sang-i-Nawishta by rapid
artillery fire, and so to distract their attention that they would give
time for our main attack to be delivered on their right, where they had
no guns in position, and had not a narrow gorge to defend. The old
tactics of turning their flank and taking their main line in reverse
were to be followed; and knowing the Afghan inability, as a rule, to
make a counter-attack, General Roberts weakened his right, so as to
concentrate a strong infantry force for the outflanking movement over
the hills overlooking the Chardeh Valley. Sirdar Nek Mahomed Khan (son
of Dost Mahomed), who was in command of the Afghan troops, seemed to
think we should make a determined effort to force the Sang-i-Nawishta
Pass, and he had accordingly posted on the heights overlooking the road
twelve guns, while three or four Armstrong-pattern breech-loaders were
on the plain below. The enemy’s disposition seemed to indicate that if
we tried to force the Pass their guns would have held us in check, while
their right was swung round to take us in flank, the series of ridges
which they covered offering a good manœuvring ground for such a
movement, while the undulating plain below, with its belt of trees round
about Charasia, would have given excellent cover. The accompanying map
will show the relative positions, and also make clear the strength of
the defending force which was able to cover so much ground.

[Illustration: Plan of Engagement on Heights near Kabul, 6th October,

After leaving the camp, General Baker made for the village of Charasia,
which consisted of a number of detached walled enclosures such as are
common all over the country. There were numerous orchards and gardens
adjoining these, so that his first movements were well concealed from
the enemy, whose attention up to this point was directed chiefly to
Major White’s movements on the Cabul Road. Seeing how greatly he was
outnumbered, General Baker took the precaution of occupying a strong
walled enclosure on the outskirts of Charasia, and here he placed his
reserve ammunition and his field hospital. The temper of the villagers
was so uncertain that he telegraphed to General Roberts for another
regiment of infantry to strengthen his reserves, and 100 men of the 5th
Punjab Infantry hurried out at once and joined the hospital and reserve
ammunition guard. The remainder of the regiment were sent out soon
after, although this left the camp very weakly guarded, only 1,000
cavalry and infantry with six 9-pounder guns being left at
head-quarters. However, as General Macpherson was coming up with his
brigade, the risk was well worth running, as failure on General Baker’s
part might have meant disaster to the whole army. The 72nd Highlanders
led the way out of Charasia, and bullets soon began to drop among their
ranks while the enemy’s picquets were seen to be retiring up the ridges.
As the brigade pushed forward with the intention of outflanking the main
line of hills lying between Chardeh and the Sang-i-Nawishta, their
progress was checked by a strong position on their left front on which
the Afghans had raised _sungars_, and from which they began to open a
heavy musketry fire. Two mountain guns replied to this, and the 72nd
extended in skirmishing order, one company under Captain Brooke-Hunt
turning off to the left, while the main body of the regiment worked away
to the front, the ground affording but slight cover. Captain Hunt’s
company scaled a hill 500 or 600 feet high, climbing over difficult
rocks, which hindered their rapid advance. The enemy were exceedingly
numerous on their extreme right, another and steeper hill enabling them
to pour a heavy fire upon the company. Two more mountain guns and the
Gatlings were ordered to open fire upon this hill, and upon such bodies
of men as were visible on the near ridges; but the Gatlings were in such
bad order, owing to their defective make, that after a few rounds the
drum “jammed” and they had to be taken out of action. Our true attack
had now been recognized by Nek Mahomed and he hastened to reinforce his
right; a stream of men was seen pouring along the rearmost ridges from
the direction of the Sang-i-Nawishta, and standards borne by Ghazis
began to thicken on our left. General Baker lost no time in pushing
forward part of his reserves, in order to force their first position
before it could be strongly reinforced. The 5th Ghoorkas, and 200 men of
the 5th Punjab Infantry, doubled forward, while the enemy’s fire
increased in intensity. Captain Hunt’s company was strengthened by two
companies of the 5th Ghoorkas, under Captain John Cook, V.C.; while two
more companies of Ghoorkas and 200 of the 5th P.I. joined the advanced
skirmishers of the 72nd in the main attack. The skirmishing line was
thus extended so as to outflank the left of the ridge, which the Afghans
still clung to with great obstinacy, as it was the key of the position
on their right flank. This was at 1.30 P.M., when our troops had been
engaged for an hour and a half without having made much impression upon
the enemy. With the strengthening of our advance success was soon
declared: the hill on the extreme left, from which a flanking fire had
been directed on our skirmishers, was carried in splendid style by the
company of the 72nd and the two companies of the 5th Ghoorkas, while the
other companies of the two regiments, by a series of gallant rushes,
turned the enemy’s left. At two o’clock our advanced line was enabled to
direct a cross fire upon the 2,000 men who held the ridge, and who now
showed symptoms of wavering. A general advance was ordered, and the
72nd, 5th Ghoorkas, and 5th P.I. were in a few minutes in possession of
the Afghan’s first line. But not without loss, for the enemy were
chiefly armed with Snider and Enfield rifles, and their fire was rapid
and continuous. Fortunately they had so little knowledge of the
principles of musketry that their bullets mostly passed over our men’s
heads as the rush uphill was made. The 72nd Highlanders bore the brunt
of the fighting, and their casualties amounted to thirty-six. They had
on several occasions to cross open ground, and in spite of the exposure
they rushed forward with an _élan_ that could not have been surpassed.
Private MacMahon, one of their number, particularly distinguished
himself on the left. Almost single-handed he scaled a hill on the crest
of which was a _sungar_ filled with men: loading and firing as he went,
his coolness incited four or five Ghoorkas to follow him; and when he
finally leaped into the _sungar_ its defenders took to flight and were
shot down as they ran. MacMahon is to be recommended by General Baker
for the Victoria Cross, his gallantry having been observed by the
General and his Staff as well as by the officers engaged in the attack.
It was such incidents as these which caused General Baker to express his
great satisfaction with the behaviour of the troops under his command.

After their first position had fallen into our hands, the enemy rallied
on some low hills 600 yards in rear and re-opened fire, to which our
mountain guns replied, while our men were resting on their arms. A
company of the 23rd Pioneers, under Lieutenant Chesney, was thrown
forward on the right, while two companies of the 92nd, under Captain
Oxley, which Major White had detached to hold in check any flanking
movement the enemy might attempt on General Baker’s right, also came
into action. The enemy’s second position was attacked by the 72nd
Highlanders and the 5th Ghoorkas, aided by the three companies just
mentioned, and at three o’clock the Afghan right had been broken up, and
their regiments were flying towards the village of Indikee. The mountain
guns fired shrapnel into their midst, and the Gatling guns, for the few
moments they were able to work, also did some execution, while volleys
from the 72nd at long ranges caused the fugitives to hasten their
flight. Major Stockwell, with a wing of the 72nd, followed them rapidly
until he reached the open ground leading down into the Chardeh Valley,
when his further advance was stopped by General Baker, as the turning
movement along the ridge towards the Sang-i-Nawishta had to be made. The
want of cavalry was here painfully apparent, as the retreating masses of
the Afghans could easily have been overtaken, the sloping ground between
Indikee and the hills being admirably suited for a pursuit. While Major
Stockwell had thus been completing the defeat of the enemy’s right, two
companies of the 23rd Pioneers had gained a footing on the main ridge
itself, whence the enemy were rapidly retiring as they recognized that
their line would in a few minutes be taken in reverse. General Baker
swung round his left, ordered a general advance, and at 3.45 P.M. the
ridge was in our hands without any serious opposition having been met
with. Not that they had not shown great determination before, for bands
of ghazis had made good their footing behind the _sungars_ until our
bayonets had forced them down. The 5th Ghoorkas were charged by a number
of these madmen, but they met the rush by a counter bayonet charge and
cleared all before them.

Leaving General Baker with the main body of his force sweeping over the
high ridge in the direction of the Sang-i-Nawishta Gorge, I must now
turn to Major White’s movements on our right, where had been done one of
the most gallant feats of the day. The feint in this direction had been
turned into a successful attack, resulting in the capture of twenty
guns, although our infantry numbered only a few hundreds, and our
cavalry were unable to act. Skirting the east of Charasia, Major White
found the enemy scattered about among the trees, and also holding the
hills to right and left of the defile. The three guns of G-3 were soon
in action, and a few shells well placed, with the fire of skirmishers
thrown out among the trees and gardens, drove back the more venturesome
of the enemy to the shelter of the _sungars_ in the hills, and behind
some boulders in the bed of the Pass. Our guns were then moved forward
and made beautiful practice, the answering fire from the enemy’s
artillery being quite harmless. One of our shells struck an Afghan
field-piece, dismounted it, and killed two of the horses standing near,
while another struck a standard in a cluster of men. In fact, the 103
rounds fired by G-3 were of the greatest value in preparing the way for
the infantry attack. This attack was led personally by Major White, who
at the head of only fifty Highlanders charged the first hill on the
right, where several hundred Afghans were posted. Our men went up with a
rush under a severe musketry fire, and the enemy waited as if to receive
them at the point of the bayonet. With such odds in their favour, and a
_sungar_ to aid them, European troops would have swept back the handful
of men attacking with scarcely an effort; but Afghan courage and
steadiness are very limited. When the Highlanders were within five or
six yards of the _sungar_ the enemy turned and fled, and were shot in
the back as they made for the next hill. The success thus gained was
mainly due to Major White’s personal gallantry, one striking instance of
which may be quoted. Not caring to expose his men in a particularly
steep bit of ground, which was enfiladed by a few Afghans well placed in
rear of some rocks, he took a loaded rifle from one of the Highlanders
and “stalked” the enemy single-handed. By cautious climbing he reached
the rocks behind which they were concealed, and as he showed himself
they jumped up and ran, no doubt in the full belief that the single
figure they saw was only the leader of a number of others. One man
stayed to fire, but missed his aim, and as he turned Major White shot
him through the head. Unfortunately, he had no more cartridges with him,
or some of the others would have fallen. This hill is to be called
“White’s Hill” in memory of his gallantry. The capture of this point
enabled the guns to be advanced still further towards the entrance of
the Pass, but Major White was not content. Having given his men
breathing time, and being reinforced by another fifty men from below, he
again went forward and captured two lower hills on the right, in the
same grand style, and with only trifling loss. It was by these movements
that he was able to send Captain Oxley with two companies well to the
left, to co-operate with General Baker’s Brigade. Six Armstrong guns
fell into Major White’s hands on the open ground below the hills; and
when our turning movement in the Chardeh direction had been completed,
and the enemy began to evacuate the main ridge, the cavalry were sent
forward, and the infantry occupied the hills commanding the
Sang-i-Nawishta Pass on the left. Here twelve more guns were captured in
position, while the cavalry found two more abandoned on the road. The
twenty guns brought out from Sherpur, therefore, to fortify the Pass
have all fallen into our hands. Upon Major White gaining the ridge to
the left he could see no further sign of the enemy, who had stampeded to
the Bala Hissar. The cavalry could not follow as the Pass narrows, and
the narrow paths beyond are not adapted for a body of horse charging.
Our information was to the contrary, it being stated that the road
opened into a plain, and our cavalry being accordingly sent to the right
to cut off the retreat of the enemy when driven towards Cabul by General
Baker. As events occurred, the two squadrons would have been invaluable
if they had accompanied the General. The progress of the brigade along
the main ridge was very slow, as the ground was rugged and difficult;
and it was not until nightfall that a junction was effected with Major
White. The 23rd Pioneers and the 5th P.I. moved down into an open bit of
ground beyond the Pass, while the 72nd Highlanders, the Ghoorkas, and
mountain guns remained above, throwing out strong picquets over the
range of hills. Major White’s force bivouacked on the ground they had
occupied when their last movement was made.

It is worth mentioning that two elephants, three camels, and 200 mules
carrying stores, &c., were safely piloted over the precipitous hills
which were taken, and the men were thus able to bivouac in comfort. Not
the least important arrangement of the day was that of signalling.
Captain Straton had parties of men with General Baker and Major White,
and a third batch of signallers was sent to a high hill to watch the
Chardeh Valley, and the movements of large bodies of tribesmen, who
lined the crests of the range overlooking the camp from the west.
Heliograms were exchanged between these points and the head-quarters
camp, and General Roberts was kept fully informed of all that was
happening in these directions. This focussing of all information upon a
common centre enabled the General to make his dispositions with accuracy
and effect: without the signallers dangerous delays might have occurred.
The heliographing was so thoroughly well done that Sir F. Roberts
complimented Captain Straton personally on the success of his
arrangements. The only drawback was a succession of small sand storms,
which swept across the camp and blotted out everything for the time

The attitude of the tribesmen in our immediate neighbourhood, _i.e._, on
the ranges of hills east and west of the camp, was one of expectancy
modified by an earnest desire to harass our picquets by spasmodic
firing. Their ill-will was first shown by firing upon the signallers on
the hill, and the party had eventually to be withdrawn. Two guns were
sent down and a few shells pitched upwards, which caused these guerillas
to withdraw to a safe distance. The convoy from our last camp at Sufed
Sang, Zahidabad, was also fired upon, and General Macpherson had to
throw out skirmishers to protect his baggage animals. At least some
hundred men appeared on a high peak to the east of the camp, and fired
upon a picquet of the 92nd who were on a lower level. A brisk fire was
kept up for some time, and the enemy driven off to higher ground.[12] As
they re-opened fire the R.H.A. were ordered to try a shot at the peak.
The first shell dropped a little short, but the second burst on the
point occupied, and the next instant it was quite clear, its late
occupants running in disorder into the valley beyond. There were several
of the Amir’s soldiers among them, still wearing his uniform. The camp
after this was left undisturbed: tents were struck at sunset in
readiness for the early morning march which it had been decided to make
to Beni-Hissar, just beyond the Sang-i-Nawishta Pass.


Footnote 12:

  As I have, perhaps, scarcely done justice to this incident in my
  letter, I now quote the General’s despatch on the subject:—“One party,
  bolder than the rest, caused so much annoyance to a picquet of the
  92nd Highlanders, that it became necessary to dislodge them, and this
  difficult service was performed in a most gallant manner by a small
  party of the 92nd under Lieutenant R. A. Grant. Colour-Sergeant Hector
  Macdonald, a non-commissioned officer, whose excellent and skilful
  management of a small detachment when opposed to immensely superior
  numbers in the Hazara-Darukht defile, was mentioned in my despatch of
  the 15th instant, here again distinguished himself.” Colour-Serjeant
  Macdonald afterwards received a commission in the 92nd.


The enemy are believed, in this action, to have had 9,000 or 10,000 men
on the ridges, including thirteen regiments of regulars. They left 300
dead on the field, but their total loss in killed and wounded must have
been much greater. Our loss was twenty killed and sixty-seven[13]
wounded, among the latter being Lieutenant Fergusson, 72nd Highlanders,
bullet contusion, left leg, slight; Dr. Duncan, 23rd Pioneers, bullet
wound in the chest, severe; and Captain Young, 5th Punjab Infantry,
bullet wound in the left thigh, severe. Of the British Infantry
regiments the 72nd lost three killed and thirty-four wounded; and the
92nd three killed and six wounded. Among our camp followers five
dhoolie-bearers were killed and four wounded, returns which show that
the _kahars_ were well under fire in carrying off the injured.


Footnote 13:

  Seven of the wounded men afterwards died.


                              CHAPTER IV.

Effect of the Action of Charasia—Advance to Beni Hissar—Cavalry
    Reconnaissance—The Bala Hissar Deserted—The Sherpur Magazine Blown
    up—Attitude of the Amir—Operations of the 8th and 9th of
    October—Capture of Sherpur Cantonments—The Affair of the Asmai
    Heights—Cavalry Pursuit towards Ghazni—The Force moves to Siah
    Sung—Leaders of the Mutinous Regiments.

                                    CAMP BENI HISSAR, _8th October_.

There can be little doubt that the action at Charasia has broken up the
combinations against us, and that Cabul is now at our mercy. It cannot
be too fully borne in mind that, but for the promptness with which
General Roberts decided to attack, instead of allowing the enemy to
gather strength by our own inaction, serious consequences might have
ensued to our compact little army now within three or four miles of the
Bala Hissar. Not that defeat was to be feared in any sense of the term,
but that the slightest hesitation or check in our advance would have
raised against us crowds of enemies whom we should have had to deal with
in, perhaps, as difficult a country as could be fought over. It was a
bold bid for all doubtful and wavering hearts to join them—this move of
the mutinous regiments seven or eight miles out of Cabul right across
our path; and if they had been allowed to hold the hills even for
twenty-four hours, there can scarcely be a doubt that their numbers
would have been doubled, and our loss in dislodging them proportionately
greater than that which even now we have suffered.

I have described the position of our camp at Charasia in my last letter,
and from this it would be seen that our best route to Cabul was by way
of the Sang-i-Nawishta defile on our right front. At daybreak yesterday
we moved out of Charasia camp, and at the mouth of the defile Sir F.
Roberts was met by Major White, who explained the positions occupied by
the enemy, and the action he had taken in dislodging them. The General
congratulated him heartily on his success, and then passed on to where
General Baker had bivouacked at the northern end of the defile. High
hills shut in the road on either hand, the Logar River, here a deep
stream, also running to the right of the path, which at times is very
rough. Two or three men had hidden themselves behind rocks on the steep
hillsides to the east, and they now fired down as the troops filed
along. Their shots were wide of the mark, and our men firing freely back
soon silenced them. Rounding the corner of the hill on our left, we came
upon General Baker’s bivouacking ground, and here followed more
congratulations; Sir F. Roberts hearing in detail from his Brigadier an
account of the action upon the success of which so much had depended.
General Baker with his brigade was left to keep open the Pass while the
baggage and stores were passing through, and he remained there until
this morning, by which time the ground at Charasia had been cleared.

In the next three miles to Beni Hissar the road runs among rich
corn-fields, irrigated by the diversion of the stream, and the route to
the Bala Hissar was followed by our troops until the ground fixed upon
for the camp was reached. This was just under the walls of some gardens
belonging to the Amir and his Mustaufi (Minister of Finance), where
water was plentiful and trees afforded shade. While the Infantry were
marching in, General Massy went forward with the cavalry through Beni
Hissar village and into the fields beyond. The hills to the left shut
out for a mile a view of Cabul, but after ten minutes’ riding the Cabul
plain was reached, and before us was the Bala Hissar and the fortified
ridge running upwards and commanding it. The heights were crowned by a
wall fifteen or twenty feet high, and the line of fortification could be
seen following the sky-line, until the hill dipped down to the bed of
the Cabul River to the north of the city. Again, the ridge rising on the
left bank of the river presented a similar sight, the zig-zag wall being
apparently endless. Our videttes rode out well towards the Bala Hissar,
and, accompanying them, I had a good view of the fortifications, but
could not see a single soldier lining the walls. All was deserted, and
we knew that the mutineers, if they meant fighting, were not foolish
enough to allow themselves to be caught in a trap such as the Bala
Hissar would have proved. The small portion of the city that could be
seen also lay as if abandoned by the inhabitants, and we made up our
minds that the fortified camp at Sherpur, lying over the low Siah Sung
hills which blocked our view to the north-east, was the position taken
up by the enemy for a final struggle with our force. The plain on which
our cavalry reconnoitred was all under cultivation, rich fields of
clover and lucerne relieving the general brownness of the land, the
crops of which had been lately reaped. Cultivation extended as far as
the eye could reach on the right, while on all other sides high hills
blocked the view, the gigantic Hindu Kush lying away in the distance to
the north, keeping sentinel over Afghanistan as impassively as the
Himalayas look down upon Hindustan.

We returned to camp to speculate upon the chances of further fighting,
and in the afternoon we had to listen to the many stories brought in by
local friends of the Amir and merchants from Cabul, who came to pay
their respects to Sir Frederick Roberts. In the evening the firing of
heavy guns was heard in the direction of Sherpur, and it was surmised
that the rebels were marking out ranges; but when a tremendous explosion
succeeded it soon became known that the magazine at their fortified camp
had been blown up, and it was then concluded that they were discharging
guns before abandoning them. Accordingly this morning we are not
astonished to hear that Sherpur Camp is deserted, and a force of cavalry
is now going out under General Massy in search of the enemy. This force
I am accompanying, as it is most probable some of the fugitives—if the
regiments have really decamped—will be overtaken. To-morrow we move camp
to the Siah Sung ridge directly overlooking Cabul.

The attitude of the Amir is not altogether satisfactory, and he is
plainly afraid that the soldiery will make a stand in the city, and that
Cabul will be stormed and destroyed by our army. He assured us that we
should not meet with any resistance at Charasia, and yet it is now
believed that Nek Mahomed visited him in our camp, told him of the force
ready to fight, and appealed to him to desert the British and head a
national rising. All Yakub Khan vouchsafed to tell the General was that
the Bala Hissar was no longer in the possession of people whom he could
trust, and that his own family had been moved into the city. He now
confidently explains that the mutinous regiments have dispersed, and
that we have nothing more to expect in the way of opposition.

                                     CAMP SIAH SUNG, _10th October_.

The force of cavalry sent under General Massy on the 8th instant, to cut
off the retreat of the enemy, who was said to have abandoned Sherpur
entrenched camp after blowing up the magazine on the previous evening,
was made up as follows:—102 men of the 9th Lancers, 140 of the 5th
Punjab Cavalry, 260 of the 12th Bengal Cavalry, and 220 of the 14th
Bengal Lancers,—in all 722 lances and sabres. I accompanied this force,
which left Beni-Hissar camp at eleven o’clock in the morning, passed
through the village adjoining, and then took its way across the Cabul
plain (leaving the Bala Hissar and the city on the left) to the Siah
Sung ridge, on which we are now encamped. This was easy going for the
horses, who were pushed on rapidly until the ridge was crested on the
extreme right, and a gradual descent led us towards Sherpur. Soon the
level plain lying north of Cabul was reached, and rich cultivation was
passed through, the ground being everywhere intersected by watercourses
and irrigation channels. The Cabul river, at this season a shallow
streamlet only a few yards broad, was crossed, and on our right, at a
few hundred yards’ distance, was the long line of wall, with bastions
for heavy guns at regular intervals, which marked the fortified camp of
which we had heard so much. Our scouts found it quite deserted, and
their first prize was a heavy gun which had been dragged some distance
across the fields, no doubt with the intention of using it in another
position. There were no guns at the embrasures in the bastions; but
General Massy had the good luck to find seventy-five pieces of various
calibre parked within the walls. These guns were in very good order, but
little damage having been done to them. There was not much ammunition
left with them, the Afghan troops having carried off a large quantity;
while the magazine itself had been blown up to prevent the remainder
falling into our hands. The guns included four English 18-pounders, one
English 8-inch howitzer, and two Afghan imitations of this weapon; and
forty-two bronze mountain guns (3-pounders) with part of their

This fortified camp of Sherpur is built at the base of the low, stony
Bemaru hills, running for about two miles at a slight angle to the
general direction of the plain itself. It has only three sides
fortified, the hill in rear being quite sufficient to shield it from
attack in that quarter, as an open plain stretches away to the hills of
the Koh-Daman and Kohistan. The main wall is about a mile and a half
long, with three strongly-guarded entrance-gates, and from each
extremity the fortification is carried at right angles till it reaches
the ridge in the rear. There is a fourth gateway on the western flank.
The plan followed throughout is a thick mud wall (25 feet in height)
built with bastions for guns, and a low parapet to shield troops manning
the outer wall. The entrance-gates are lofty structures, with
comfortable quarters on either side for officers, and are so wide that
four or five men could ride through them abreast. They are each defended
by a curtain built in the same way as the outer wall. Inside the
cantonment is an open space quite clear of buildings, exactly answering
to an English barrack-square, and on this 20,000 men might be paraded
with room to spare. To the right, on the hillside, is the small village
of Bemaru, with the usual flat-roofed houses, burnt brown by the sun,
and with but little sign of life in it. The novel feature in this
cantonment is the arrangement of the barrack-rooms. At about 20 feet
from the outer wall, and parallel to it, is built a range of rooms,
extending along the three sides of the place. Each room would hold at a
pinch twenty men, and there are some hundreds of these dormitories,
which are snug enough even for a variable climate such as this. Along
their front is a narrow verandah-like space, pucca brick pillars and
arches supporting the flat mud roof, which rests on strong beams and
unhewn poles. This arrangement has a very pleasing effect when viewed
from within the cantonment, the regularity of the arches and their
supports grouped in threes before each room, with a wider span then
following, giving the appearance of a long colonnade. Broad staircases
lead at certain intervals to the roof of the barracks, which would give
a second line of musketry fire in resisting any attempt to storm. Open
spaces are left at rare intervals between the rooms to admit of the
passage of men and guns to the outer wall. Altogether this fortified
camp could, if properly victualled and garrisoned, be defended for an
indefinite period against any force without artillery. The water supply
is from streams diverted from the fields and carried by low culverts
underneath the walls; but if this were cut off, wells, no doubt, could
be sunk to supply the deficiency. From the absence of trees and the
utter barrenness of the space enclosed by the walls, with the stony
hills in the rear, the place must be insufferably hot in summer, though
at this time of the year it would be much better than tents. When our
cavalry rode through the gates into the middle of the cantonment there
was no sign of an enemy, and it must have been deserted many hours
before. A few cartridge papers were lying about, and the rude fireplaces
of the men were still black with smoke; but beyond this nothing could be
seen. In one or two places an attempt had been made to burn the barracks
down, but the fire had not obtained sufficient power over the timbers
for this to be accomplished. Doors and loose woodwork had been looted by
the villagers, who claimed to have put the fire out; but their story was
a very questionable one. People were passing freely through the place as
we entered, but they did not show much interest in our proceedings. In
the north-west corner the wall had been partly blown down, and the ruins
of the magazine were strewn in every direction.

It was upon arriving opposite Sherpur Cantonment that we sighted the
enemy; the Asmai Heights to the left, overlooking the old Afghan quarter
of Cabul, being crowded with men. We were 3,000 or 4,000 yards away, and
at that distance they did not consider us worth a shot, though their
guns could be distinctly seen. A halt was called, the cavalry forming up
at the farther end of the cantonment; while General Massy heliographed
back to Sir F. Roberts the news of the enemy having been found occupying
a position of strength. We were told, in reply, that General Baker was
leaving Beni Hissar with infantry to attack the heights, and we
accordingly hurried on, skirting the hills and passing through
grain-fields and meadows, with here and there a country villa in its
fertile garden surrounded by huge walls. Our object was to reach a break
in the hills and to pass over into the Chardeh Valley, so as to cut off
the enemy from taking the road which leads to Ghazni, Bamian, and
Turkistan. We worked round almost on the arc of a circle, of which Cabul
might be the centre, keeping the ridge occupied by the enemy at first on
our left rear, then on our left, and, finally, on our left front, when
we galloped through the break we had been making for, near the village
of Aoshahr, and faced round towards Cabul itself. The rich Chardeh
Valley was all before us, and we passed down into it, and could then see
the disposition of the men General Baker was to attack. We had learned
that they numbered three regiments and had eleven guns in position, and
this information was fairly accurate. They had 2,000 regulars, besides
700 or 800 untrained men who had joined them, and had twelve guns.
Videttes were thrown out right across the plain, and a rapid
reconnaissance made. An old ressaldar of Fane’s Horse, who was
accompanying us as guide, stated that three roads led from the valley
and united to form the chief road to Bamian. The 5th P.C. were
accordingly sent well on to the right to block the road there; two
squadrons were sent back into Sherpur plain to watch a path leading down
from the hills in that direction; another squadron returned a mile and a
half to Aoshahr, so as to prevent the fugitives escaping along the crest
of the hills down the dip we had passed through; while the General and
Staff remained in the open with the rest of the cavalry, including the
9th Lancers. We had mounted signallers with us, and heliographic
communication was opened with the high Takht-i-Shah Peak overlooking the
Bala Hissar Ridge. Captain Straton thence signalled down that the
enemy’s working parties had been strengthening their _sungar_ on the
Asmai Hill, and that some of General Baker’s troops were on the same
side of the ridge as ourselves. We could see the enemy distinctly on the
hillside, and at its foot was their camp, made up of forty or fifty
tents. These were close to the village of Dehmazung, half-hidden by
orchards, and a gun was slued round and pointed at us as soon as we
appeared. The 9th Lancers withdrew 1,000 yards just as the enemy fired a
few shells at our videttes. The shells buried themselves in the soft
ground and never exploded. We could not push farther forward, as deep
watercourses cut up the fields at every few score yards, and the rows of
closely planted willow-trees along these would have broken any cavalry
formation. In the various villages, too, large bodies of the enemy were
gathered, who could have shot our horsemen down from the towers and
walls without at all exposing themselves. A narrow road to the left led
along the foot of the hills to the enemy’s camp, but only three men
could have gone abreast, and it was commanded on the left and front by
the guns, and on the right by the troops in Dehmazung, underneath the
walls of which it passed. At a quarter to four we heard the first gun
fired, and from that time to dark we watched for the infantry attack to
develop. Some of the 92nd Highlanders were seen to our right centre
among the trees of a village a mile from Dehmazung, and a small party of
the 9th Lancers was sent by General Massy to open communication with
them. These found the enemy swarming in the orchards they had to pass
through, and after being fired upon from several walls they had to
return. The mountain guns with General Baker, posted upon the high ridge
commanding the Bala Hissar, were shelling the Asmai Heights lined by the
enemy, whose guns returned the fire shot for shot. Having twelve guns to
General Baker’s two mountain guns, they had much the best of it, though
the range was so long that little real damage was done on either side.
The ridges upon which this shell practice was going on form the defences
of Cabul from attack from the Bamian direction. Running up from the Bala
Hissar, and following every dip and rise of the hillside, is a strong
wall ten or twelve feet high, pierced for musketry. This wall is
continued at right angles along the crest of the Sherderwaza Ridge and
down the precipitous hillside of the gorge through which the Cabul River
runs. It ends a few yards from the broken arches of a bridge spanning
the stream—at this time reduced to very small dimensions, by being
largely drawn upon for irrigation purposes in the Chardeh Valley—but
begins at once on the opposite side of the river. A strong tower, with a
base of stones fifteen feet high, raised on the solid rock, is the
starting point on this, the northern side of the river, and the wall
zig-zags up just in the same way as that in continuation of the upper
Bala Hissar. The line of fortification extends along the hill top, and
then turns down for some distance along a spur facing towards Sherpur.
On the crest of this ridge (the Asmai Heights), three white standards
were flying near the guns of the enemy, who had one heavy piece on the
summit, the report of which made the bark of the mountain guns sound
quite contemptible. The line of fire on both sides was at right angles
to the bed of the Cabul River, the shells flying over the gorge and
bursting on the opposing heights. From our position in the plain below
we could watch the artillery and judge pretty accurately as to the fall
of the shells, and it was annoying to see that as it was “end-on”
firing, the enemy were receiving but little injury. Their policy was
plainly to hold on till nightfall and to attempt to escape under cover
of darkness; and as the sun sank slowly behind us, it became obvious
that unless the infantry attack was soon delivered, they would succeed
only too well. Our chagrin was great that there were not guns with our
cavalry, as we could see men in little clusters of 50 or 100 lying under
the lee of the rocks on our side of the ridge, perfectly sheltered from
General Baker’s shells. General Massy had applied for horse artillery
before leaving Beni Hissar; but it was reported that the country he
would have to pass over was cut up by deep irrigation channels which
would hinder the guns from keeping up with the cavalry. It was decided
therefore not to send out artillery. With a couple of R.H.A. guns we
could have made the enemy’s camp and the hillside quite untenable, and
the 2,800 men gathered there would either have had to come down into the
plain, where our cavalry would have chosen their own ground to charge
them, or to take refuge in Cabul city, which they could easily have
reached. An old native officer, a Cabuli, who saw service in the Mutiny,
was much struck with our plan of cutting off the retreat; and when he
saw the cavalry debouch into the Chardeh plain, he said in his fervent
thankfulness:—“God has delivered these _budmashes_ into your hands even
as the Embassy was delivered into theirs.” And it certainly did seem as
if these three regiments, which were said to have been chief in the
attack upon the handful of men under Sir Louis Cavagnari in the Bala
Hissar, were about to be exterminated. But night fell, and still our
infantry attack was not delivered. General Massy ordered his videttes
and the chain of cavalry to be maintained until it was quite dark, so as
to induce the enemy to believe the cordon would be maintained during the
night; but he would not run the risk, in such an awkward country, of his
men being shot down in detail. He therefore withdrew them eventually
within two or three of the rude forts in the plain and waited for
daylight. It seemed almost hopeless to intercept in the darkness men who
had a valley six or seven miles across, with hills on either side, to
escape by. That they did escape is now a cause of much heartburning in
the force. If, like Joshua, we could have made the sun stand still, say,
for only two hours, the day would have been as grand a success as the
6th at Charasia; as it was, it can only be looked upon as one of great
disappointment to all concerned.

The only troops available for despatch with General Baker were 320 of
the 92nd Highlanders, two companies of the 72nd Highlanders, and seven
companies of the 23rd Pioneers. With these were two mountain guns and
one Gatling. The road up to the ridge commanding the Bala Hissar and
the passage over the Kotal down into the Chardeh Valley were so
difficult, that although this force moved out of Beni Hissar at noon,
it was a quarter to four before the mountain guns got into action, and
it was some time later before the 92nd Highlanders reached the village
to the west of Dehmazung. The enemy were in greater force than was
expected, and as the 92nd men were unsupported, they were ordered to
wait for reinforcements before making any attack. They were directed
to take up a position on a spur of the Sherderwaza Heights, parallel
to the Cabul River, and this they did without loss, although the enemy
opened fire from two breech-loading field-pieces in their camp. The
shells and round shot were pitched too high, and greatly amused our
men. Marksmen were posted at sheltered points, and their aim was so
good that the Afghans soon retired from these two guns, leaving them
in the open. The two companies of the 72nd were at this time on the
hillside nearest to Beni Hissar, and the 23rd was in reserve. A gun in
the tower I have mentioned fired occasionally, and the Gatling was
tried at this; but the drum hitched after a few rounds, and the gun
had to cease firing. General Baker had made up his mind to attack the
instant his reinforcements—consisting of a wing of the 67th, two
companies of the 5th Ghoorkas, and four more mountain guns—arrived.
These, however, did not reach him until half-past five, and it was
then quite hopeless to think of storming the heights in the dusk. The
troops accordingly bivouacked where they stood, and a very cold night
they had of it. General Macpherson arrived at 6.30 A.M. with the
remainder of the 67th, the 28th P.N.I, and four horse artillery guns
on elephants. He started with some infantry and guns to follow General

There is no doubt the enemy began evacuating their position as soon as
it was dark; and when a strong patrol crept into their camp at midnight
they found all had fled. Guns, tents, camp equipage, &c., fell into our
hands. Seven bodies were found buried on the heights, and three others
were lying on the rocks. Whether the fugitives carried off others, we
have no means of telling. There were no casualties on our side. General
Baker sent information to General Massy of the flight of the enemy, and
the cavalry started off on the Bamian Road at 5.30 A.M., but only one
small party of twenty-one was overtaken on the Kotal-i-Takht. These took
refuge on a low hill and fought desperately, the good luck of
surrounding and shooting them down falling to the 5th P.C. The single
combat between Rahmat Ali, a native officer, and the leader of the
party, was a pretty piece of business. The Afghan tried to escape on a
fast pony, but was overtaken by Rahmat Ali, who, after warding off two
blows from his opponent’s _tulwar_, got well down upon the man’s head.
Unluckily his sword snapped at the hilt, but the blow had knocked the
fugitive off his horse, and he was pistolled before he could recover
himself. It was the hardest day’s work the cavalry have had for a long
time, over thirty-six miles being covered in the day. The men were
without food both days they were out, but they behaved splendidly, not a
grumble being heard. For instance, the 9th Lancers started on the
morning of the 8th, after having received one loaf to every three men.
They carried no food, as only a reconnaissance was intended, and at
night some sheep were killed for them, and they tried to eat the flesh
after roasting the animals whole. They had nothing but their swords to
use in cutting up the carcases, and they found it quite impossible to
eat the flesh; so on the 8th they went supperless to bed. On the 9th
they were in the saddle from 5 A.M. to 9 P.M. (when they reached this
camp), and the pursuit and return were made in such quick time that
again there was no chance of their getting food. Horses and men of all
the regiments out with General Massy were quite exhausted when they at
last reached their quarters here. Some score of horses were lost on the
road, having literally died in harness. There was no slackness in the
pursuit when once it began, but the enemy had too great a start to be
overtaken, and it now seems probable they dispersed to the hills and
made for their homes, many doubtless taking refuge in the city. One
piece of experience was certainly gained, and that was that the
villagers about Cabul are hostile to us almost to a man. Five of them
belonging to Aoshahr were made an example of by Colonel Ross, of the
14th Bengal Lancers. They treacherously fired into the Lancers, after
having salaamed to them as they passed. The ruffians were captured with
their guns still in their hands, and were shot without further parley.
It is only by such severity, and by taking no prisoners in action, than
any impression can be made upon the Afghan mind. Such prisoners as are
brought in are tried by a military commission, and the great majority
are shot. There is just a fear that too much leniency may be shown, as
the work is rather distasteful to British officers; but as we are an
“avenging army,” scruples must be cast aside.

The army moved into this camp yesterday afternoon. It was only about a
four miles’ march from Beni Hissar, and the 72nd were left in charge of
all stores that could not be got off by the transport animals in the
day. On the night of the 8th there was some lively firing by small
bodies of _budmashes_, who tried to shoot down men on picquet and sentry
duty; but, as is usual, the bullets did no mischief. Last night there
was news of what threatened to be a better organized attack by local
villagers and tribesmen. Mounted sowars, it seems, were sent round to
the tribes in this neighbourhood asking them to gather in force and to
attack the camp, as much loot could be got, and only a few men had been
left in camp. The exemplary severity we have shown in shooting all the
men caught in arms against us, deterred the villagers from combining
together, and no attack was made. The 72nd had drawn in their camp well
under the walls of a garden overlooking the ground, and had formed a
kind of laager with flour bags, &c., but not a shot was fired all night.
The 72nd were ready for any number of assailants, and from behind their
barricades of flour bags they would have read the Afghans as sharp a
lesson as the Zulus received when trying to storm the mealie redoubt at
Rorke’s Drift. The whole of the stores were brought in here to-day. The
5th Ghoorkas hold the ridge overlooking the Bala Hissar, and the 5th
Punjab Cavalry are in the Sherpur Cantonment, to prevent the barracks
there being destroyed by the local peasants for the sake of the woodwork
and other material. In two or three days we shall probably move into the
Bala Hissar, in which five months’ provisions are to be stored. The city
is quiet, and the camp is quite thronged with petty traders, who bring
in food, clothing, &c., for sale, and move freely among our troops. Sir
Frederick Roberts inspected the Sherpur Camp and the captured guns
to-day, but no movement of troops took place. In a short time a small
force under General Gough will march back to the Shutargardan to re-open
communications in that direction, pending further news of the Khyber
Force, whose advance seems to be very slow owing to transport

Cabul itself is quite open to us now, and we can enter it whenever we
choose. The guns captured on the Asmai ridge were six field-pieces and
six mountain guns. Two field-pieces were also found in camp, and an
immense store of ammunition. Thirty camels, four elephants, and several
mules and ponies also fell into our hands.

It is now well established that the leaders of the mutineers are the
Amir’s most trusted friends. Kushdil Khan, who was sent specially by him
to meet Cavagnari at Shutargardan, was a prominent leader both at
Charasia and on the heights yesterday. Mahomed Jan, a general in Yakub’s
army, and of some importance among the powerful Wardak section of the
Southern Ghilzais, is also mentioned. There is no doubt of concealed
action among the Amir’s officers, and unluckily none of the leaders have
been taken. Sirdar Nek Mahomed Khan is really the head of all. It now
appears that only one quarter of the magazine in the Bala Hissah was
looted, and there are now in that fortress about twenty-six guns in
perfect order and several rockets, old presents of the Indian
Government. Nawab Khan, colonel of artillery, came in yesterday to know
what orders General Roberts had to give about them, and was told they
were to remain there for the present. No one can suppose any captured
guns will be given to the Amir, who is still with us.

It was rumoured that 800 sepoys had kept together in a body, but this
story is now said to be false, all having dispersed except 100 who
escorted their leader, Mahomed Jan, towards Turkistan. The three
regiments at Ghazni are reported to be only five miles out of that
place, while four days ago our force from Candahar was at Makr, four
long marches from Ghazni. The enemy has been extremely well informed of
all our movements, though their source of information cannot be
absolutely fixed upon. Regular news was probably given by some of the
Amir’s retainers, who see all that goes on in our camp.

The political situation shows no development; the Amir coinciding in all
that is done, now that the flight of the mutineers has removed his
apprehension of Cabul being sacked. If the attack on the 8th had been
made earlier in the day, the only outlet for Mahomed Jan and his 2,000
troops would have been to Cabul itself.[14] The city would then of
course have been taken by storm, and, as Sir Frederick Roberts said in
his proclamation, we could not have been held responsible for the
consequences. At present the strictest orders prevail against any one
entering the city, which perhaps even now may harbour many mutineers.


Footnote 14:

  General Massy’s withdrawal of his patrols was severely criticized, and
  capital was afterwards made out of it by the military authorities in
  India. As showing how utterly helpless the troopers would have been in
  the darkness to check an enemy, I may quote my own experience. On the
  morning of the 9th I rode from General Massy’s force to join General
  Baker, taking an Afghan guide and two sowars as escort. Innumerable
  watercourses had to be jumped, and both sowars were left behind in the
  ditches. My horse had nearly to swim one stream, and the strain and
  toil of climbing up the banks were such that I lost even the felt
  _numdah_ from under my saddle. The willow-trees lining the stream were
  also great obstacles to horses and men, even in daylight.


                               CHAPTER V.

Visit to the Residency—Description of the Bala Hissar—The Ruins of the
    Residency—Probable Plan of the Attack and Defence—The Amir’s
    Palace—Formal Occupation of the Bala Hissar, and Proclamation to the
    People of Cabul—The Punishment of the City—Arrest of the Amir’s
    Ministers—Text of the Proclamation.

                                     CAMP SIAH SUNG, _11th October_.

To-day Sir Frederick Roberts and his Staff visited the ruins of the
Residency within the walls of the Bala Hissar. The visit was made
quietly and unostentatiously, only a sufficient escort being taken to
guard against such accidents as a ghazi running amuck, or a handful of
quondam rebels making an attack upon the leader of the army that has
punished them. There is so much of historical interest attaching to the
fortress which guards Cabul, and this interest has been so intensified
by late events, that all of us who rode from Camp yesterday were full of
expectation as to what we were likely to see. Following for half a mile
the Jellalabad Road, lined on both sides with closely-planted trees, we
turned sharply to the left when nearing the city, and were soon
underneath the walls of the Bala Hissar itself. The shallow bed of the
moat supposed to surround the city is nearly dry, and the road runs only
a few yards from the foot of the rock against which the walls are
reared. The masonry is crumbling to decay, but there are still signs of
great stability in it, and the natural features of the ground have been
so utilized that a precipitous face of 30 or 40 feet is presented to any
enemy. This is on the eastern side to the right of the entrance-gate,
just where Shere Ali’s palace, with its zenana, tops the wall. The road
rises some 10 or 12 feet to the gate itself, which must once have been
of enormous strength, as solid masonry 20 feet thick still remains.
Here, again, there is evidence of ruin, the inner supports having
crumbled away and the defensive position overhead lost its protecting
parapets. The lower Bala Hissar once entered, one comes upon the usual
narrow winding lanes and commonplace mud buildings of all eastern
cities. The place looks filthy and uncared for, and the doorways leading
to the courts of the tumble-down houses give a view of squalor and
dilapidation suggestive of worse to follow. The few shops are miserable
specimens of their kind, and their owners are in keeping with the
general associations of the place. There is nothing better to describe
than dust, dirt, and dreariness, on every hand; and even the small
square, where a few guns were standing in front of a dozen dirty tents
used by the gunners, gave as little idea of the interior of a fortress
as a few grains of sand would of a desert. Six field-pieces and as many
mountain guns were parked in the square. This was part of the
artillery-quarters, and a few gunners with a trumpeter were standing
near the guns. The men wore no uniform and looked like unwashed coolies.
They saluted as Sir Frederick Roberts rode up, and the trumpeter
welcomed us by blowing monotonously for several minutes upon his

It must be more than thirty-five years since British infantry marched
through the filthy streets of this much-vaunted citadel; and our only
regret was that they had now entered it so peacefully. Sir Frederick
Roberts was accompanied by the Mustaufi, the Wazir, and Daoud Shah, the
Commander-in-Chief. After a few minutes’ stay in this square, we
retraced our steps and entered a narrow lane with a high wall on the
right, shutting in the Amir’s garden. On the left were the stables in
which the horses of the Royal household were tethered in the open air,
rude bins being made in the mud walls on a pattern which is common where
Afghan cavalry are quartered. The lane led to the high ground on which
the buildings assigned to Sir Louis Cavagnari and his companions stood.
From this the city could be seen lying at our feet, to the north.

Our first view of the Residency was of the rear wall, still intact, but
blackened on the top where the smoke from the burning ruins had swept
across. At each angle where the side walls joined were seen the
loop-holes from which the fire of the little force on the roof had been
directed against the overwhelming numbers attacking them. Every square
foot round these loop-holes was pitted with bullet-marks, the balls
having cut deeply into the hard mud plaster. The western wall, which
faced towards the Upper Bala Hissar, commanding it, was scarred with
these marks, proving only too well how severe had been the fire from the
higher level occupied by the mutineers in the Arsenal. At this end the
Residency was of three stories, but the present wall does not indicate
the height of more than two, the upper part having collapsed when the
fire obtained a mastery over the building. A lane six or eight feet wide
runs between this wall and the buildings on the right in which the
Guides were quartered. Plans hitherto published have made the Residency
and these quarters one block; but this is a mistake; they were quite

Riding along the lane we came to the southern end of the Residency,
built upon the edge of the wall looking towards Beni Hissar, and here
were two graves marked by neatly-piled stones in Mussulman fashion, each
with its head-stone, but no inscription. Whether any bodies are buried
beneath remains to be seen; it is suspected these neat mounds may have
been raised as “a blind.” The Kotwal stated that two _sahibs_ were
buried there, Lieutenant Hamilton and Mr. Jenkyns; but this does not
coincide with the story told by Taimus, a sowar of the Guides, who says
the bodies were buried some distance to the west of the Residency.
Passing through a narrow gateway, half-blocked with rubbish, just in
rear of these graves, we entered the main court of the Residency, and
were soon thoroughly able to appreciate the fate of its defenders. The
southern end on our right hand was standing untouched, and consisted of
rooms built on wooden pillars so as to form a kind of oblong pavilion.
The mud basement is three or four feet from the ground, and the whole
structure, except a few partition walls and the roof, is of wood, and,
from the dryness of the climate, very inflammable. It is neatly
whitewashed, and the upper rooms, being open on both sides, must be cool
and pleasant. These were Sir Louis Cavagnari’s quarters, and from them
the rich Cabul plain beneath can be seen stretching away to the Tezin
Hills. The courtyard of the Residency is about 90 feet square, and at
its northern end, where formerly stood a three-storied building like
that I have just described, are nothing but the bare walls, blackened
and scarred by fire, and a huge heap of rubbish, the ruins of the walls
and roof which fell in as the woodwork was destroyed. Portions of the
partition walls still remain, jutting sullenly out from the mass of
_débris_, and these only serve to make the place more desolate. The
whitewashed walls on the left are here and there bespattered with blood,
and on the raised basement on which the building stood are the remains
of a large fire, the half-charred beams still resting among the ashes.
The ruins are still smouldering. Whether, as suggested, any bodies were
burned there, is still an unsettled point; but in one room into which I
went there can be no doubt fire had been used for such a purpose. The
ashes were in the middle of the chamber, and near them were two skulls
and a heap of human bones, still fetid. It would seem as if a desperate
struggle had taken place in this room, the bloodstains on the floor and
walls being clearly discernible. The skulls are to be examined by
surgeons, as it is possible they may be those of Europeans. The
Residency was looted so thoroughly, that not even a peg has been left in
the walls. In Sir Louis Cavagnari’s quarters the windows overlooking the
Bala Hissar wall have been torn out even to the sashes, and a few bits
of glass on the floor alone remain of them. The chintz hangings and
purdahs have been stripped away, a fluttering bit of coloured rag on a
stray nail being the only sign of such cheerfulness as these once gave.
Bare cross-poles and rafters, floors rough with dirt and defiled with
filth, staring white walls with here and there a bullet-mark—such are
the once comfortable quarters of our Envoy. The view over the Cabul
plain is still as peaceful as when poor Jenkyns described it so
enthusiastically; but all else is changed. The one consolation is that a
British army is encamped within gunshot of the walls.

It is still difficult to make out the point at which the mutineers
obtained entry into the Residency buildings, unless it was by a hole in
the eastern wall, a little to the right of a small doorway leading to a
lower range of houses adjoining. Round this hole are scores of
bullet-holes, and their direction seems to show that the defenders on
the roof fired down as the men streamed in, in the vain hope of checking
them before they could rush forward and set fire to the woodwork. Once
the lower part of the three-storied building was in flames, nothing
could save the brave men on the roof, as all retreat was cut off. We
viewed the scene of desolation for some time from the roof of Sir Louis
Cavagnari’s quarters; and General Roberts gave orders that nothing
should be disturbed until careful sketches had been made of the interior
of the Residency and its surroundings. Careful excavations for bodies
will also be made among the ruins. It is absurd to talk of the Residency
being a safe place for a garrison; it is commanded completely from the
walls of the Arsenal in the Upper Bala Hissar, and also from the roofs
of some high houses to the south-west. In addition, houses closely
adjoin it on the eastern side; and an attacking party sapping the walls
would have perfect cover in this direction the whole time: this may
account for the breach in the walls through which I have suggested the
mutineers made their rush. Riding into the quarters occupied by the
Guides’ escort, on the western side of the lane, I found but few
bullet-marks on the walls. Facing was a high door firmly closed and
seemingly uninjured; but on going into the Sikh quarters on my right,
and following a broad passage which turned at right angles towards the
wall, a huge breach was visible. This was where the Afghans had blown in
the gate after Lieutenant Hamilton’s noble, but ineffectual, efforts to
check them. Three times he charged out, killing many men with his sword
and pistol, but what could one hero do against a mob of fanatics? No
doubt when it was seen that a breach was made the Guides withdrew to the
Residency proper, and there made the last stand, first in the courtyard
guarding the doors and afterwards on the roof.

On returning we stayed for a short time in the Amir’s garden, where
fruit and tea were served to us. Afterwards we visited Shere Ali’s
palace on the wall near the gate. Two or three dark passages had to be
traversed before a staircase was gained which led to his State rooms.
Persian carpets of value were spread in two rooms, in the second of
which hung gaudy glass chandeliers, while on the ground (as if purposely
placed out of harm’s way) was a collection of glassware of sorts showing
all the colours of the rainbow. A few cheap prints, including one of the
Czar Alexander, hung on the walls, and on a chair near was a _Graphic_
folded so as to show a portrait of Cavagnari. On taking this up I came
across a diary of Sir Louis Cavagnari’s, which seemed to have been used
chiefly for recording lists of visits and visitors. The book was handed
over to Major Hastings. Two or three maps of Central Asia were also
among the papers; but it is doubtful to whom they belonged.

                                     CAMP SIAH SUNG, _12th October_.

This morning the first formal declaration of our occupation of Cabul was
made by the troops taking possession of the Bala Hissar, followed by a
durbar, at which the terms imposed upon the city were announced. As I
have before said, there was nothing to hinder us marching into the
fortress the day after the battle of Charasia, for our cavalry videttes
were within 200 yards of the walls, and not a sentry could be seen
within the fortifications. They had been abandoned in hot haste by the
mutineers, who had first of all drawn off to the Sherpur cantonments and
thence betaken themselves to the Asmai Heights, from which they fled on
the evening of the 8th. But there was no occasion for haste: our camp on
the Siah Sung Ridge dominates the city, and we could have shelled it at
our leisure if any signs of discontent, or an armed rising, had been
observed. Besides, in dealing with Afghans, there is always the element
of treachery to be considered, and it was not impossible that mines
might have been laid ready to be sprung if we occupied the place
precipitately. The explosion of the magazine at Sherpur, on the night of
the 7th, had shown the desperate character of the men we were fighting
against, and it was well to be on our guard against any surprise. It is
impossible to say what vast stores of gunpowder may be hidden in the
Upper Bala Hissar, where the Arsenal buildings are situated; and until
we have thoroughly examined the godowns and vaults within the walls we
are in the position of “playing with fire,” which may at any moment pass
beyond our control. Sir F. Roberts’s visit to the ruins of the Residency
yesterday went off quietly enough, and the fortress seemed deserted,
save for the few Afghan residents in the houses within the outer walls;
but a few reckless men may still lurk about waiting for an opportunity
to work serious mischief.

This morning all the troops in camp paraded at eleven o’clock and
marched down with bands playing to the Jellalabad Road, which they at
once lined on either side. The men were arrayed in their gayest
uniforms; and although many were worn and travel-stained, the general
appearance of all the regiments was very smart and soldierlike. At noon
word was brought to Sir F. Roberts that all was ready, and, accompanied
by his Staff and Brigadier-Generals Massy, Macpherson, Baker, and Hugh
Gough, and Major-General Hills, he rode down the Siah Sung Ridge, and
took the road to the Bala Hissar. The cavalry lined the road for the
first half-mile nearest to camp, the lances of the 14th Bengal Lancers
glittering among the branches of the trees until they merged into the
line of sabres of the 12th Bengal Cavalry, who looked none the worse for
their late hard ride on the Bamian Road. Two rows of crimson turbans
marked where the 5th Punjab Cavalry were drawn up; while the handful of
9th Lancers, gorgeous as on a parade at home, closed the cavalry array.
First in the Infantry line were the scarlet coats of the 28th Native
Infantry, contrasting vividly with the dull _khaki_ uniform of the 23rd
Pioneers—as fine a fighting and working regiment as ever drew batta. The
mountain guns were next in order, looking down each other’s muzzles from
either side of the road; while flanking them were the 5th Punjab
Infantry, well known for good service on the frontier. The 7th Company
of Sappers and Miners, stalwart men, bestrapped with spade and shovel,
were then passed; while near them were the two Gatling guns, quite
overpowered by their neighbours, the nine-pounders of G-3 Battery of
Royal Artillery, which made themselves heard with good effect at
Charasia. The Highland regiments, forming two living walls stretching
far away towards the city, were the great representatives of British
Infantry; the 92nd Gordon Highlanders, kilted and gaitered, resting on
the 72nd, more warmly clad in tartan trews. Nothing could exceed the
splendid form in which these regiments turned out, the bronzed and
bearded faces of the soldiers showing that but few “six-year men” were
in their ranks. The F-A Battery of Royal Horse Artillery was drawn up in
a field just off the road, ready to fire the salute, and the post of
honour next to the gate was assigned to the senior regiment, the 67th
Foot, a well-set-up body of men, equal to any amount of work. On the
ridge above the fortress we could see the dark figures of the 5th
Ghoorkas, six companies of which had moved down and occupied the Upper
Bala Hissar. As the General rode slowly down the long line of troops,
the trumpets of the cavalry brayed out a _fanfare_ and the band of each
infantry regiment played right heartily, the men presenting arms with
automatic precision. A halt was called just below the entrance to the
Bala Hissar; and as the Union Jack was run up over the gateway by some
red-jackets of the 67th, the first gun, of the royal salute of
thirty-one, was fired by the Horse Artillery. At the same instant the
opening bars of the National Anthem were heard as the bands struck up,
the shrill pipes of the Highlanders ringing out above the din. The sight
was a most impressive one, the sun lighting up the double line along
which 4,000 bayonets sparkled, and throwing into bold relief the darker
forms of men and horses where the cavalry were drawn up. In the
background were the brown slopes of the Siah Sung Ridge, crowned by the
white lines of tents which marked our camp, then almost deserted. Only a
few spectators from the city clustered on the road from the Lahore Gate,
and watched the spectacle, the mass of the people remaining sullenly
within the walls.

The smoke of the first three or four guns had not cleared off when the
company of the 67th nearest the gate faced round, and followed by their
band, marched into the Bala Hissar—the first British regiment that had
entered its narrow streets since 1842. (It is worthy of record that the
“quick-step” played by the 67th is the same as that of the ill-fated
44th Regiment, not a man of which escaped to tell the tale of the
disastrous retreat from Cabul which Pollock avenged.) Following the
band, General Roberts and his little train of mounted men rode into the
fortress, and took their way through its narrow streets to the Amir’s
garden under the walls of the Upper Bala Hissar. At either end of this
garden, which is now merely a neglected wilderness, are two of the
ordinary wooden native pavilions, the one to the south containing what
is called the “Audience Chamber.” This is approached by a flight of
dirty wooden stairs, and is about twenty feet above the ground-level.
The chamber is quite open on the side facing the garden, so that a crowd
below could be addressed from it, and it also gives a good view over the
city, with its background of high hills. The room was soon filled with
the gay uniforms of the General and his staff and such officers as were
not on duty with their regiments, and then the Durbar began, the Cabul
Sirdars crowding in at a signal, and pressing forward to make their
salaams to their latest conqueror. It was intended that the Amir should
have accompanied General Roberts into the Bala Hissar; but at the last
moment he pleaded indisposition, and was excused.[15] His eldest son,
the heir-apparent, was sent instead. He is a child of five or six years
of age, with a monkeyish cast of face, which not even the glitter and
colour of his _bizarre_ coat and hat, gorgeous in green and gold, could
soften or render at all prepossessing. The youngest was of little
account, being squeezed against the wooden framework of the pavilion by
the greasy Sirdars, who could not control themselves in their eagerness
to pay their respects. The General was not at all cordial in his
reception of them; and it was not surprising, for a more servile or
repulsive audience could not have been selected. Scarcely a face was
visible that was not stamped with the marks of sensuality, and where age
had softened these, it had replaced them by deeper lines of cunning and
deception. There was a look of subdued malice in one or two faces,
mingled with expectant fear of what terms were about to be imposed upon
Cabul. The full figure of Daoud Shah, the late Commander-in-Chief, stood
out prominently from the _bunniah_-like crowd about him, and, both in
figure and bearing, he contrasted favourably with the sirdars. He was
clothed simply in a long grey coat, belted at the waist; while the
perspiring crowd of his fellows boasted garments of silk and
beautifully-dyed clothes, some of the coats of many colours being so
startling as to make one almost colour-blind. There was one thin red
line, however, which never moved; it was that formed by some twenty men
of the 67th, who, with fixed bayonets, were standing to “attention” at
the back of the narrow room, stolid sentinels at their posts. Below, the
rest of the two companies were formed up, and the band played some
lively “troops,”—the airs played at the trooping of the colours. When
these came to an end, a little space was cleared about the General, who
read out the Proclamation, by which the punishment of Cabul was made
known. It was translated, sentence by sentence, by the _munshi_ of Major
Hastings, Political Officer, and was listened to in perfect silence, the
only token of approval being given by an old ressaldar of Hodson’s
Horse, now enjoying his pension among his native orchards of Cabul. This
man, with his breast decorated with medals earned by service in India,
cried out emphatically “_shabash!_” when one or two sentences meting out
punishment to the rebels were read, and it was clear all his sympathy
was with us; for, with a true soldier’s instinct, he could not forgive
the cowardice of the attack upon the Residency by an armed rabble, bent
upon taking the lives of a few men who were their guests. The sirdars
seemed relieved when they heard Cabul was not to be destroyed, and the
disarmament of the population and the fine that had to be paid must have
appeared to them small punishment so long as their city and fortress
were left untouched. When the Proclamation had been read through, they
were summarily dismissed, the Wazir, the Mustaufi, Yahiya Khan
(father-in-law of the Amir), and his brother, Zakariah Khan, also, being
asked to stay, as the General wished to speak to them. They doubtless
thought they were to be consulted on questions of high policy, but their
chagrin was great when they were told they would have to remain as
prisoners until their conduct had been thoroughly investigated. They
would be confined in separate rooms with sentries over them, and beyond
one servant they would be forbidden to communicate with any of their
associates. The Mustaufi fell to telling his beads at once, and the
others appeared in a very wholesome state of fear. It was a startling
surprise to them after all the smooth-sailing of the past few days, and
they are now at leisure to ponder over their double-dealings with the
British authority. This bit of by-play having been successfully got
through, General Roberts left the audience chamber, and in a few minutes
rode back to camp, the 67th cheering him right heartily as he passed out
of the garden. The long line of bayonets, sabres, and lances was
traversed at a gallop, and Siah Sung camp reached in a few minutes. The
67th moved into the Bala Hissar and encamped in the Amir’s garden, and
thus the first day of our triumph over Cabul ended as happily as it
began. Yakub Khan’s tent was removed during the day to the
head-quarters’ camp, a guard of honour from the 72nd Highlanders keeping
strict watch over it.


Footnote 15:

  It was not made known until afterwards that Yakub Khan had placed his
  resignation in the hands of Sir F. Roberts.


The following is the full text of the Proclamation:—

                   SIR FREDERICK ROBERTS, K.C.B., V.C.

             DATED BALA HISSAR, CABUL, _12th October, 1879_.

  “In my Proclamation of the 3rd October, dated Zerghun Shahr, I
  informed the people of Cabul that a British army was advancing to take
  possession of the city, and I warned them against offering any
  resistence to the entry of the troops, and the authority of His
  Highness the Amir. That warning has been disregarded. The force under
  my command has now reached Cabul, and occupied the Bala Hissar; but
  its advance has been pertinaciously opposed, and the inhabitants of
  the city have taken a conspicuous part in the opposition offered. They
  have therefore become rebels against His Highness the Amir, and have
  added to the guilt already incurred by them in abetting the murder of
  the British Envoy and of his companions—a treacherous and cowardly
  crime, which has brought indelible disgrace upon the Afghan people. It
  would be but a just and fitting reward for such misdeeds if the city
  of Cabul were now totally destroyed and its very name blotted out. But
  the great British Government is ever desirous to temper justice with
  mercy, and I now announce to the inhabitants of Cabul that the full
  retribution for their offence will not be exacted, and that the city
  will be spared. Nevertheless it is necessary that they should not
  escape all penalty, and that the punishment inflicted should be such
  as will be felt and remembered. Therefore such of the city buildings
  as now interfere with the proper military occupation of the Bala
  Hissar, and the safety and comfort of the British troops to be
  quartered in it, will be at once levelled with the ground; and further
  a heavy fine, the amount of which will be notified hereafter, will be
  imposed upon the inhabitants, to be paid according to their several
  capabilities. This punishment, inflicted upon the whole city, will
  not, of course, absolve from further penalties those whose individual
  guilt may be hereafter proved. A full and searching inquiry will be
  held into the circumstances of the late outbreak, and all persons
  convicted of bearing a part in it will be dealt with according to
  their deserts. I further give notice to all, that, in order to provide
  for the restoration and maintenance of order, the city of Cabul and
  the surrounding country to a distance of ten miles are placed under
  martial law. With the consent of the Amir, a military Governor of
  Cabul will be appointed to administer justice, and to punish with a
  strong hand all evil-doers. The inhabitants of Cabul and of the
  neighbouring villages are hereby warned to submit to his authority.
  For the future the carrying of dangerous weapons, whether swords,
  knives, or firearms, within the streets of Cabul, or within a distance
  of five miles from the city gates, is forbidden. After a week from the
  date of this Proclamation, any person found armed within these limits
  will be liable to the penalty of death. Persons having in their
  possession any articles whatsoever which formerly belonged to members
  of the British Embassy are required to bring them forthwith to the
  British Camp. Anyone neglecting this warning will, if found hereafter
  in possession of any such articles, be subject to the severest
  penalties. Further, all persons who may have in their possession any
  firearms or ammunition formerly issued to, or seized by, the Afghan
  troops are required to produce them. For every country-made rifle,
  whether breech or muzzle-loading, a sum of Rs. 3 will be given on
  delivery; and for every rifle of European manufacture, Rs. 5. Anyone
  found hereafter in possession of such weapons will be severely
  punished. Finally, I notify that I will give a reward of Rs. 50 for
  the surrender of any person, whether soldier or civilian, concerned in
  the attack on the British Embassy, or for such information as may lead
  directly to his capture. A similar sum will be given in case of any
  person who may have fought against the British troops, since the 3rd
  September last, and has therefore become a rebel against the Amir. If
  any such person so surrendered or captured be a captain or subaltern
  officer of the Afghan army, the reward will be increased to Rs. 75;
  and if a field officer to Rs. 120.”

Copies of this Proclamation, printed, in the Persian and Pakhtu
character, will be extensively circulated in Northern Afghanistan.

                              CHAPTER VI.

The Entry into Cabul—Description of the City—Its Commonplace
    Features—Sullenness of the People—The Order against Intrigues with
    Afghan Women—Precautions against Fanaticism—The Bazaars—Subjection
    of the City—Capture of Twelve Guns on the Ghazni Road—Explosion in
    the Bala Hissar—Death of Captain Shafto—Destruction of Munitions of
    War—Attack on the Shutargardan—Return of Captured Ordnance.

                                     CAMP SIAH SUNG, _13th October_.

Cabul has been spared, so far as regards the wiping out of its name by
the destruction of the city; but to-day it has had to suffer the
humiliation of seeing our troops march triumphantly through its streets,
and to feel, for the first time for many years, that its freedom has
passed away. The terms of the proclamation, read by Sir F. Roberts in
the Bala Hissar yesterday, have been made known to the turbulent
populace; and though they have not so far thought fit to surrender their
arms, they are wise enough to keep them all out of sight for fear of
consequences. Our troops paraded this morning at ten o’clock, and by
eleven the cavalry had begun to enter the Lahore Gate to clear the way
for the General and his Staff. I described very fully the appearance of
the little army yesterday when the Bala Hissar was taken possession of,
and there is therefore no need to dwell upon their bearing to-day. They
were as smart and fit as any martinet of the old school could have
wished, and their steady march through the narrow streets and bazaars
was as imposing as the spectacle of the previous day. A circuit of the
city had to be made; and by the time the cavalry were well on their way
back to the starting-point, the last of the infantry filed in. Following
closely on the heels of the 14th Bengal Lancers, the Major-General
commanding rode through the Lahore Gate, and, turning off soon to the
left, took the street leading to the Chandaul Bazaar, the Hindu and
Kizilbash quarter of Cabul. General Macpherson, at the head of the First
Brigade, led the infantry; and General Baker, with the Second Brigade,
closed the procession. Of course, the 67th and 5th Ghoorkas were absent,
as they are now garrisoning the Bala Hissar. There was no artillery
brought in, as the streets are so tortuous and the bazaars so narrow,
that it would have been difficult for the guns to have worked through.
We have not much artillery with us; and, accustomed as the Cabul people
are to seeing large parks, our three batteries would not have impressed

There has been for so many years such a peculiar interest attaching to
the name of Cabul, that one naturally expected to be struck with the
appearance of the city; and it was therefore disappointing to find
nothing in its features remarkable or impressive. Viewed from the ridge
in which we are now encamped, the town presents a mass of mud walls and
flat roofs, with trees and gardens scattered among them, and belting
them on the north and east with rich verdure. To the west the bastions
and walls of the Bala Hissar, and the double line of fortifications
about the Arsenal, stand out in bold relief; the steep hills to the
north and south, with the open gorge through which the Cabul river runs,
forming an imposing background. Apart from these there are no
distinctive signs to distinguish the place from any other Eastern city;
in fact, it lacks the tall buildings, mosques, and minarets which many a
centre of Mahomedan fanaticism boasts. The strong wall which once
guarded it and made it a place of strength has crumbled away, or been
broken down, and in its place are the wretched mud structures called
houses, in which it pleases the citizens to live. There is one landmark,
the tomb of Taimur Shah: its low dome standing out in solitary state,
and only noticeable by reason of the dead level of dreariness which
surrounds it. The Cabul River is now dwarfed to a shallow streamlet
which a child could wade, and the paltry bridges of masonry which span
it are half ruinous, and of a style which any Western engineer would
despise. The fact that there is a river at all is only patent when we
come suddenly upon it; and though it may in flood-time swirl along with
some attempt at dignity, it is now beneath contempt. The broad current
which roars by Daka, and finally swells the Indus above Attock, would be
angered if it could see its parent stream crawling so sluggishly along
that even a _dhobie’s_ stone might turn it from its course. It is not at
Cabul a river to be proud of, however much it may fertilize the valleys
through which it runs. It is practical and commonplace, and the latter
epithet applies with some little reserve to Cabul itself. There is not
the overwhelming interest aroused as one traverses its streets that
might be reasonably anticipated; and the picture of its teeming life and
swarming bazaars has certainly been overdrawn. I do not mean to infer
that its streets are deserted and its stalls forsaken. There are 23,000
houses and some 70,000 people within its bounds; but there is no greater
sign of active commerce than Peshawur and half a dozen other cities of
Northern India present to a stranger. As it is far from civilization,
and is the first and last stage between Central Asia and India,
accordingly as the current of trade sets in either direction, it has
drawn to itself merchants of varied nationality, and become an exchange
where trafficking in Eastern and Western goods goes on side by side. In
one stall the silks of Bokhara and indigenous products of the Khanates
are packed side by side with the cloths of Manchester; while in another
Sheffield cutlery and “Brummagem” goods are the near neighbours of the
rudely-made iron-ware and roughly-finished jewellery of native
artificers. That the bazaars are full of goods of all kinds, from
diamonds to _dhoties_, and from _kabobs_ to cabbages, is quite true, but
it all seems petty trading, and the stalls, if numerous, are small and
insignificant-looking. The city feeds as it trades—in its bazaars; and
the picturesque view of a silk-merchant’s shop is marred by its
association with the masses of meat on the butcher’s stall adjoining, or
the incongruous grouping of the filthy goods of a clothesman near by.
And yet when once the feeling of disappointed expectations has been
overcome, there is much to notice and criticise, both in the people and
the place. Our ride through was necessarily a hurried one—it is never
good policy to make long halts when traversing for the first time the
streets of a conquered city—and apart from the above comments, which I
have set down, as they are the general impressions left upon my mind
after a hasty visit, I will try to give a rough sketch of Cabul, such as
we saw it to-day. That it was seen under abnormal circumstances should,
of course, be steadily kept in mind.

After entering by the Lahore Gate, wide enough to admit two horsemen
abreast with comfort—the gate is nothing more than the usual tall wooden
framework let into the dilapidated mud wall—we entered a dirty, ill-kept
street, and followed it for a short distance until it branched off right
and left, to the Char Chowk, or chief bazaar in the Afghan quarter on
the one hand, and to Chandaul on the other. We took the latter road to
the left, the dead walls of the houses shutting in all but the immediate
view. Little gaps on the left, where side passages had been made,
enabled us to see the wall of the Bala Hissar, in places only forty or
fifty yards off. It looked strong and menacing when compared with the
city itself. Leaving the fortress behind we turned to the right, and
were soon in a narrow, but well-kept, bazaar. The stalls, raised two or
three feet from the ground, were filled with articles such as one always
meets in native Indian cities, varied occasionally by heaps of grapes,
melons, apples, and fruit and vegetables of the kind which the gardens
about produce so lavishly. This was the Hindu quarter, and the
stall-owners watched us ride past with every expression of satisfaction,
salaaming smilingly, and no doubt praying that the English _raj_ might
now be established and last for ever. These Hindus have had rough times
to endure when their Afghan masters have played the tyrant, and they now
see an era of safety and rupees before them which shall repay them for
all their past sufferings. The bazaars continued for a considerable
distance, and Hindu faces with their caste marks were replaced after a
time by a new type, which showed that we were among the Persian
residents, the Kizilbashes,[16] who form so large a proportion of the
population. They are, as a rule, orderly and well-disposed, and, being
keen traders, are glad to see us as their neighbours. Traversing the
main street of Chandaul, we left the bazaar and came to a better class
of houses, all, however, gloomy and uninviting to look at, the high
courtyard walls hindering any view of the interior. There were crowds of
men and boys at every street-corner and gateway, and at intervals we
caught sight of a white-robed figure veiled from head to foot, out of
which a pair of eyes just glanced for a moment to look at the cavalcade,
and were then hidden by a deft movement of the hand or a turn of the
head. On house-tops or at narrow windows high above the street, similar
figures looked down, feminine curiosity proving too much even for the
restraint which controls life in the zenana. With such faint glimpses we
could form no idea of the charms of the women of Cabul; against
indiscretions with whom, by the bye, we have been solemnly warned in the
following order issued by our General:—

“Sir F. Roberts desires general officers and officers commanding corps
to impress upon all officers under their command the necessity for
constant vigilance in preventing irregularities likely to arouse the
personal jealousy of the people of Cabul, who are, of all races, the
most susceptible in all that regards their women. The deep-seated
animosity of the Afghans towards the English has been mainly ascribed to
indiscretions committed during the first occupation of Cabul; and the
Major-General trusts that the same excellent discipline, so long
exhibited by the troops under his command, will remove the prejudices of
past years, and cause the British name to be as highly respected in
Afghanistan as it is throughout the civilized world.”


Footnote 16:

  Literally, “Red-heads,” from the colour of their turbans.


There is another version of this old story, that the indiscretion was
all on the side of the Afghan ladies; and it is to be hoped the order
will be translated into Persian for their benefit. Until this is done,
the virtue of our brave soldiers must tremble in the balance, the
conjugation of _amo_ in Persian being described as the most fascinating
step in Eastern philology—when the teacher is draped in a _yashmak_.

From Chandaul we passed through one of the usual gates, and, crossing
the Cabul River by a narrow masonry bridge of three small arches, rode
along a path in the western suburbs of Deh-i-Afghan skirting the bed of
the stream. Several gardens filled with fruit trees, but otherwise much
neglected, were passed, and some houses of sufficient size to warrant
the belief that their owners were men of importance. The handsome villas
Cabul is said to be proud of were certainly not to be seen. Re-crossing
the river by another bridge not far from Taimur Shah’s tomb, we entered
the Afghan quarter of the city, the route lying through the Char Chowk,
so called from the four small squares with drinking fountains which are
found at about equal distances along the bazaar. The place was crowded
with people, from gaudily-dressed merchants to poor, ill-clad Hazara
coolies (the Hazara _log_ are the hewers of wood and drawers of water
all over Afghanistan), and there was much diversity of costume and
character. No sign of resentment was shown towards us; but a sullen
silence was maintained, and the villainous faces seen from time to time
caused many of us to wish that a little decimation, or some equally
healthy operation, had been performed among these ruffians. The
side-streets were more crowded than in the Chandaul quarter, and a sharp
look-out was kept for any fanatical attempt to run amuck among us. The
lances of the General’s escort and the rifles of the orderlies on foot
were ready for an emergency; a bloodthirsty little Ghoorka among the
orderlies having hitched his _kookrie_ round so as to have it handy. But
no _ghazi_ or _budmash_ appeared anxious for martyrdom, and we wended
our way onwards peacefully. Not an arm of any kind was carried by any
person in the crowd, and the armourers’ shops were quite empty; the
grindstones, on which many a _chura_ and _tulwar_ has been sharpened,
were lying idle on the ground. This turbulent populace has been cowed by
our prompt march upon their city, and as the Afghans heard behind us the
shrill shriek of the pipers and saw the Highlanders in their kilts
stepping along in easy confidence, they must have known their time had
gone by. Of course, all trade was suspended while the march was going
on, and the stall-keepers looked far from pleased at our intrusion.
There was none of the impulsive salaaming we had been received with in
Chandaul, and many stood up almost defiantly as if to vindicate their
claim to be considered the salt of the earth. What lay behind in the
thickly-packed houses on either side of the bazaar none of us could
say,—General Hills, the new Governor, may soon know; but we could quite
believe from the scowling faces seen in the side-streets that fanatical
hatred against us was still alive, if for the time it was held in check.
When we proceed with our work of disarmament, perhaps it may flash out;
and then who knows that a repetition of Pollock’s policy may not follow,
and the Char Chowk be blown to the four winds of heaven.

The bazaar is covered in at some height above the stalls, which can be
numbered by the hundred; and is very narrow and cramped. It would be
impossible to describe in detail the arrangement of the shops; but the
most attractive were certainly those of the silk merchants, whose goods,
with their brilliant colours and fine texture, were openly displayed.
Richly-braided caps and coats; boots elaborately worked in gold and
silver; cutlery and cloths, both English and native; sweets, fruit on
every hand in huge heaps, grain, spices, saddles, harness for mules and
camels, piles of blankets and felt _numdahs_ of wonderful patterns, and
scores of other articles that I cannot set down, succeeded each other as
stall after stall was passed; and a further medley was formed by the
heaps of parched gram and _chupaties_ (flat unleavened cakes), plates of
horrible stews and greasy-looking messes which were exposed for sale.
Next a butcher’s shop full of meat curiously cut up and hung about in
admired disorder, would be a _kabob_ stall, the keeper of which would be
cooking his dainty morsels in the open air, and tempting passengers to
try his savoury little sticks. In all the small squares which I have
before mentioned as giving the name to the bazaar, groups of men were
lounging or squatting about the tank in the middle of the open space,
and here, doubtless, much of the bartering with strangers and merchants
from a distance is carried on. The buildings in the squares are more
pretentious than elsewhere, rising to a height of three or four stories,
and their fronts and chief doorways are handsomely ornamented.

Our ride through was soon over, and we arrived at the street where we
had turned off to Chandaul in about an hour and a half from the time of
entering the city. Only one mosque was passed on the way, just as we
were leaving the Char Chowk, and the voice of a _moollah_, shrieking
“Allah-il-Ullah,” and perhaps cursing us under his breath, could be
heard within the courtyard, rising over all the din made by our horses
as they stumbled over the rough ground. Whatever fanaticism there may be
in Cabul—and that it is highly fanatical historical events have only too
sadly shown—it is clearly under a cloud now; and as long as we remain in
the Bala Hissar, with a force ready for all contingencies, it can never
make much headway. Our march through having been happily ended, Sir F.
Roberts drew rein outside the Lahore Gate, and watched the infantry
brigades file out with bands playing and colours flying. Thus ended our
second and final triumph in the humiliation of Cabul, and now there lies
before us the work of detection and punishment of those who shared in
the massacre of our Envoy. That there are many in the city all our
information leads us to believe, and we are not likely to let them

It is reported that nine regiments are marching down from Turkistan to
Cabul, and are even now at Charikar in Kohistan. Two squadrons of the
12th Bengal Cavalry go out to-morrow to reconnoitre the road. Two fatal
cases of cholera occurred to-day; generally, however, the force is in
splendid health. Too liberal indulgence in fruit may possibly have been
the cause of the cholera. Brigadier-General Gough will start in a few
days, with a small force, for the Shutargardan, whence he will bring on
supplies. The 14th Bengal Lancers have captured twelve guns (six
9-pounders and six mule guns) on the Bamian Road, which were abandoned
by the Ghazni Regiments. The horses had been taken away. So far we have
heard nothing of the Khyber Force, which is supposed to co-operate with
this division, and our letters are still sent to the Shutargardan.

                                     CAMP SIAH SUNG, _16th October_.

We had begun to settle down to a quiet life in camp here after our
full-dress parade through the Bala Hissar and the city, and after all
our late excitement a little rest was very welcome; but we have been
suddenly shaken into action by such an untoward event as the explosion
of the vast stores of gunpowder in the Cabul Arsenal, in the
neighbourhood of the 67th Regiment and the 5th Ghoorkas, who were
garrisoning the fortress. It was announced, while we were marching here
from Kushi, that the rebels in Cabul had plundered the Arsenal and
looted the magazine, but this was found afterwards to be only partially
true. They had certainly carried off many rifles from the Arsenal and
several thousand rounds of ammunition, but there was still left
munitions of war sufficient to have supplied all Afghanistan. A
systematic examination, under the direction of Captain Shafto, of the
Ordnance Department, was set on foot immediately our troops went into
garrison in the Bala Hissar, and the result was the discovery of some
millions of cartridges, Enfield and Snider, of English and Afghan make,
and some 150,000 lbs. of gunpowder, besides valuable stores, such as
could he useful to an army engaged in active warfare. Daoud Shah, the
late Commander-in-Chief of the Afghan army states, there is at least
1,000,000 lbs. of gunpowder hidden in the place. The Arsenal was little
worthy of its name; there were no regular workshops, no foundry and but
little machinery, the building being merely made up of a score or more
of godowns (sheds) arranged under the strong walls of the upper part of
the Bala Hissar, on the hill immediately overlooking the Residency and
the Amir’s pleasure-garden, where the Durbar was held by Sir F. Roberts.
In these godowns there was none of that care and precaution taken, such
as is insisted upon in English arsenals and magazines. The gunpowder was
chiefly stored in huge earthen gurrahs and dubbers (such as ghee is
usually carried in), and in many instances these had been tilted over
and loose powder scattered on the ground. Bits of iron, stray caps, and
friction tubes for artillery lay about in dangerous proximity to these,
and Captain Shafto had to display the greatest caution in examining the
place. There was no magazine proper to speak of; though one godown,
which was looked upon as specially worthy of the name, had in it 410
jars of about 150 lbs. each, or over twenty-seven tons of gunpowder.
This was a little detached from the other godowns, and was looked after
carefully, as the effect of such a quantity of powder exploding would be
terrific. The Arsenal walls face to the four points of the compass, that
on the north looking over the city, while the eastern wall frowns down
upon the lower Bala Hissar, and commands the whole of the houses below.
The walls are of great thickness at the base, arising out of the solid
rock, which runs down precipitously on three sides, while to the west it
rises gradually until it forms part of the narrow spur joining the
fortress to the high ridge above. On the eastern side, just at the foot
of the rock, is built the Amir’s pavilion with its oblong garden, some
one hundred yards in length, which I described in one of my late
letters. About this garden are clustered houses of all kinds, and at the
base of the rocky hill on the north are also dwelling-houses. The
Guides’ quarters, the Residency, and some high buildings are near the
south-eastern corner, past which a road leads up to the gate of the
Arsenal in its southern wall. The outer walls of the fortress are less
than one hundred yards away, facing over the Cabul plain, the strong
bastions giving them the appearance of great stability. The 5th Ghoorkas
were in tents near the south-west corner of the Arsenal, and had luckily
moved a little distance away this morning, as the wall looked
suspiciously weak. The whole of the 67th Foot were encamped within the
walls of the Amir’s garden, and had in their custody the Mustaufi and
four other prisoners now awaiting trial. The two Gatling guns were with
the troops in the Bala Hissar. In order that a just idea may be formed
of the two explosions which occurred, and the probability of a third
greater than all, which we are now expecting, I give below a list of the
godowns and their contents furnished to me by Captain Shafto two days
ago. He had examined up to that date seventeen godowns, and their
contents were:—


No. 1.—Copper sheeting, punches, rolling machines.

No. 2.—15 sacks of Enfield copper caps, 87 jars of powder, many friction

No. 3.—42 dubbers of powder.

No. 4.—410 big jars of powder.

No. 5.—190         ditto

No. 6.—Full of rope and _chuts_ (nets for carrying guns and straw on
baggage animals).

No. 7.—Hemp, thread; paper, Russian foolscap; 52 jars of powder, filled
cartridges, 3 skins of loose powder, cartridge-boxes.

No. 8.—Gun cartridges, wax lubricators, &c., 103 dubbers of powder.

No. 9.—150 jars of powder: charcoal, saltpetre, sulphur, &c.

        Total: 1,000 jars of powder, each 150lbs. = 150,000lbs.

Nos. 10, 11, 12.—Filled with rope, _chuts_, mussucks, shelves for axes
and spades, wood for tent-pegs and timber; godown full of shot and shell
and bullets; and small room full of plates of lead piled up to the roof.

No. 13.—Boxes of percussion caps and a vast number of Enfield
cartridges: boxes marked “Ferozepore, 1857,”

Nos. 14, 15, 16, 17.—Boxes of Snider cartridges, English and Afghan
pattern, about 520,000 from Dum-Dum in perfect order. Also Enfield
cartridges, old iron, and lead.

There were therefore some millions of cartridges and nearly seventy tons
of gunpowder, besides stores of highly inflammable character in these
few godowns, and these have nearly all been destroyed.

The first intimation we, in camp on Siah Sung Ridge, received of the
explosion was a dull report, which would not have attracted much
attention but for a huge column of smoke which rose from the Bala Hissar
several hundred feet in the air, and plainly showed something was wrong.
It was a beautiful sight, as the silvery column with the sun lighting up
its soft edges slowly spread itself out; but there was little time to
admire it, for we trembled for the fate of the brave little Ghoorkas who
were so near the Arsenal. The smoke settled over the lower Bala Hissar
and the city, obscuring all the buildings; and as it slowly drifted away
the Arsenal became visible, with its outer wall, facing us, still
standing, but lighted up from inside by little sheets of flame and
sudden rushes of smoke, which proved that gunpowder was still exploding.
There was then no doubt that some of the godowns Captain Shafto was
inspecting had been blown up, and General Roberts at once sent
messengers to inquire into the extent of the disaster. Riding down to
the Bala Hissar, we were not long in learning, so far as was known, what
had occurred. The road leading upwards past the Residency was blocked by
the rubbish of the upper part of the southern wall of the Arsenal, which
had been blown outwards; and the explosions, which could distinctly be
heard, were all near the south-eastern bastion, the very point, it may
be added, from which a murderous fire was poured upon Sir Louis
Cavagnari and his companions by the mutineers. In the Amir’s garden the
tents of the 67th were covered thickly with dust, and every pane of
glass in the pavilions had been shattered, though the buildings
themselves were quite intact. The men had been marched out as quickly as
possible into the square adjoining, and with faces, beards, and helmets
grey with dust, they looked as if some shadowy change had came over
them. Colonel Knowles, who was in command of the regiment, had tried to
send working parties up to the Arsenal; but they could not force a way,
and he had soon to think of the safety of his own men, as he learnt that
only a small portion of the powder had exploded, and that at any minute
the larger stores might ignite. The explosion, as heard in the garden,
was described as a smart shock, mistaken at first for an earthquake:
this idea was soon dissipated, as a darkness equal to that of the
darkest night blotted out everything, and showers of bullets, stones,
cartridge-cases, and burning rubbish fell into the garden. Two or three
beams of timber were also blown down; but, happily, no one was injured
beyond a signaller. This man was with a sentry on the roof of the
pavilion in which the Mustaufi, the Wazir, the Kotwal, and two others
were confined, and he was seen to jump three or four feet down to a
lower roof as the explosion occurred. Nothing more was seen of him until
his dead body was found on the stones below. The sentry escaped
uninjured. The men, once the danger was appreciated, were quickly on the
alert, and the gates were guarded in case of any attempt to rescue the
prisoners. No such attempt was made, and leaving all their kits behind
the men filed out towards the gate. In the by-streets I came across two
or three Ghoorkas with faces bleeding from wounds inflicted by falling
bullets and stones, but their only anxiety seemed to be for their
comrades above. Of these I am sorry to say the subadar-major, four
havildars, and sixteen men are missing.[17] Twelve were on guard in the
Arsenal, and the others were counting out the pay of the men which had
been drawn this morning. They were buried under a wall which the force
of the explosion broke down. Anxious inquiries were also made for
Captain Shafto, who had been seen in a powder godown, but all inquiries
proved fruitless. His pistol, with the stock blown off, was found in the
Amir’s garden; and as he has not since appeared, there can be little
doubt he was killed.


Footnote 17:

  The casualties were proved to be eventually twelve killed and seven
  wounded: among the former were the subadar-major and the four


The order was given for every person to leave the Bala Hissar in
anticipation of another explosion; and after riding out to see if the
outer wall of the fortress had been injured, I returned to watch the
people turning out. It was a mixed throng of soldiers, camp-followers
carrying the ammunition boxes, and frightened inhabitants hurrying to
the gate. The soldiers marched steadily and with the unconcern of men
equal to the occasion, a few on fatigue duty working heartily in seeing
the ammunition safely out. One man was dragging a Gatling gun which
rattled over the rough stones and drowned many of the other noises;
while others were keeping back such suspicious Afghans as wished to
return to the place, no doubt in the hope of loot. Women draped in
white, many with children in their arms, made hastily for the gateway,
their lords and masters carrying a few _rezais_ (quilted bed-covers), to
make them comfortable hereafter. The _yashmak_ hid the faces of these
refugees, but they were quite safe from molestation, and this they
seemed to know, as they mixed freely with the throng and passed out to
seek refuge with friends elsewhere. Dr. Bourke, with a strong party of
dhoolie-bearers, was sent down from camp, and after trying to get them
up to the Arsenal past the garden, he worked round outside to the
southern wall. A difficult path led up to the ramparts, and a few
Ghoorkas made this more passable by breaking down a portion of the wall.
Drs. Bourke, Duke, and Simmonds, with two European soldiers and some
Ghoorkas, went up this way into the fortress and succeeded in rescuing
five wounded men. They approached to within thirty or forty yards of the
burning godowns, but the explosions were so frequent that they had soon
to withdraw. No more wounded men could be found, and nothing was seen of
those who were known to have been on guard. The place was then deserted
except for a few mulemen who obstinately kept with their animals on the
walls as far as possible from the Arsenal.

The 67th formed up just outside the Bala Hissar gate, but by order of
General Roberts they were withdrawn still farther away on the Jellalabad
Road. We then watched for the next explosion, and it came at a
quarter-to-four. The report was terrific, a dense black column of smoke,
fivefold as great as the first, shot upwards, out of which burst a few
flashes as live shell exploded. This time the smoke sank in almost solid
masses upon Cabul, and with it fell large stones, beams, and bullets in
profusion. A little group of Afghans with two sowars and some European
officers and soldiers were standing near the Bala Hissar gate. Through
this was blown a shower of stones with terrible force; four men
(Afghans) were killed on the spot, the two sowars and a fifth Afghan
being badly hurt. This must have been 300 or 400 yards from the Arsenal.
The panic in the city was very great, the shops being shut and the
streets deserted. Several of the inhabitants are reported to have been
wounded by falling bullets, and this has given rise in their minds to
the idea that we have destroyed the Arsenal purposely. When we have
examined what is left of it, perhaps we may take that course in earnest.

All this evening we have been watching from camp the burning of the
Arsenal and listening to the constant explosions and the incessant
firing of cartridges, the reports of which as they exploded singly or in
little groups from the heat could be distinctly heard. As I am writing
now (2 A.M.) these reports are still heard, and vivid flashes are seen
on the hillside: a third explosion has just occurred, but it was not so
great as the others. The largest store of powder is supposed to be still
untouched, but whether it will explode is doubtful; if it does, Cabul
will, indeed, be shaken to its foundations. Nothing is known as to the
cause of this disaster. Our regret is not much for the Bala Hissar,
which many of us would delight to see destroyed, but for the brave
fellows who are now lying dead within its walls, scarcely a stone’s
throw from the still smouldering ashes of the Embassy. Search will be
made to-morrow for Captain Shafto’s body.

                                     CAMP SIAH SUNG, _18th October_.

There seems to be a very general opinion in camp that the explosion at
the Bala Hissar was not due to any accident, but was intentionally
brought about by some of the enemy who had trusted to our occupying the
place in force. Captain Shafto, who was examining the war material
stored in the godowns which have been destroyed, was careful to a fault
in all his work; and it is argued that so great an explosion could not
have occurred unless preparations had been made for it beforehand.
Further, it is believed that the powder which did the mischief was
lodged in vaults below the open ground within the walls; and of the
existence of these vaults we were quite in ignorance. The mode in which
so large a quantity of gunpowder was stored was safe enough under
ordinary conditions, the large earthen jars and dubbers exposing a
minimum of open surface—just at the mouth—to the action of any
inflammable material. Several officers, who had just left Captain
Shafto, state that where he was engaged there was not sufficient
explosive material of any kind to have done more than purely local
damage; whereas the shock felt was terrific. Information by the Amir and
Daoud Shah has since been volunteered that the place was vaulted, and
that a tower, which still stands untouched, was full of gunpowder. Even
as it is, the three largest godowns examined by Captain Shafto have
escaped, and as these contain many tons of powder, and were considered
the largest magazine, it is plain that the loss of life, regrettable as
it is, might still have been much greater. If treachery has been at
work, there has been some bungling, for the explosion of the one large
godown filled with 410 jars, each weighing 150lbs., would have sufficed
to have killed nearly every living person within a radius of a quarter
of a mile, or even more. As it was, the second explosion at a
quarter-to-four burst open the outer gate of the Bala Hissar, and on the
road beyond several persons met their deaths. The mud walls and roofs
are dented and broken by the huge stones which showered thickly upon
them and were driven down from the Arsenal with terrific force. Beyond
two tents belonging to the 67th Regiment being burnt in the Amir’s
garden, there was not much damage done to property outside the Upper
Bala Hissar, the height of the hill on which it is built diverting the
shock upwards. It has now been decided that the Bala Hissar shall be
destroyed,[18] and Cabul thus rendered a defenceless city. The old
respect which was paid to it must inevitably disappear when its citadel
and defences are swept away; and this must put a new feature upon the
political situation in Afghanistan. What the political state now is it
is most difficult to say, for the Amir still remains in our camp, and
the numerous sentries guarding his tent seem to point to his presence
being absolutely required in our midst until we have decided upon whom
the blame of Sir Louis Cavagnari’s death is to rest. The trial of the
five sirdars now in custody has not yet commenced; but evidence is
accumulating, and when once the Commission begins to sit, witnesses will
not be wanting.


Footnote 18:

  This intention was, unfortunately, never carried out owing to the
  outbreak in December.


To return to the only excitement we have had since the fight on the
Asmai Heights on the 8th. Early yesterday morning it was observed that
the fire in the Upper Bala Hissar had died out, and that only a smoking
heap of rubbish marked the spot where the explosions had occurred. Half
the southern and western walls of the Arsenal had been thrown outwards
down the hillside, and within was a chasm in which cartridges still
exploded, though only faintly, as if in protest at being ignominiously
smothered under crumbling walls. It was by no mean safe walking in such
near proximity to half-consumed boxes of cartridges; and as there was
the off-chance of a jar of powder going off at any moment, the risk was
proportionately increased. Besides, there might be vaults loaded with
powder, and Sir F. Roberts very wisely ruled that the lives of his
soldiers were too valuable to be endangered in such a neighbourhood. It
was, however, necessary that search should be made for the poor fellows
who had been killed; and, accordingly, a number of the city people were
impressed and made to work upon the ruins. Dry earth and rubbish were
thrown down upon the smouldering embers, and the three godowns filled
with powder were banked up with mud and made as fireproof as possible in
the time. _Kahars_ from the ambulance corps were also sent up, and in
the afternoon they discovered Captain Shafto’s body and the charred
remains of the Ghoorkas. They had all been buried under the falling
walls. The loss to the regiment of the subadar-major and four
pay-havildars is very serious; while we all deplore poor Shafto’s death,
as he was a universal favourite. He was buried with military honours
this morning; the 67th furnishing the firing party.

Yesterday afternoon a strong wind swept across the ridge for several
hours, and in the evening the fire in the ruins broke out afresh and
blazed up till long past midnight. Small explosions occurred from time
to time, showing that much powder was still buried and ready to ignite.
Fortunately, the wind dropped about ten o’clock, or the remaining
godowns might have been burnt down. To-day valuable stores of poshteens
and warm clothing, enough for many hundreds of men, were come upon, and
these have been carried into camp by fatigue parties without delay. They
will be of immense service, as warm clothing for the followers is much
needed. The troops, also, are not too well provided for; but now
European and sepoy alike can be made comfortable for the winter. It is
already bitterly cold at night, and it has been decided to move us all
into the Sherpur Cantonment, where are already barracks equal to
accommodating 3,000 or 4,000 men. Huts will also be built below the
Bemaru Ridge, which forms the fourth side of the fortified
parallelogram, and the Bemaru village will be cleared of its
inhabitants. All the houses therein will then be available for our army
of followers, who are always the greatest sufferers when snow falls and
frost sets in. This ridge on which we are now encamped is very exposed;
and as the sun is still powerful in the day, the health of the men will
be sure to suffer unless they are protected against the cold wind which
rises as the sun sets.

There is but little news of military moment just at present. From the
Shutargardan we hear of another attack by 3,000 Mangals and Ghilzais;
but three companies of the 3rd Sikhs and the 21st P.N.I. scattered them
in the most admirable manner, charging up hill at the _sungars_ and
carrying them with the bayonet. This hand-to-hand fighting is far better
than pitching shells at long ranges, as it teaches these ruffians the
material our men are made of. There were only 300 sepoys engaged, but
they were more than enough. The gallant way in which they took the
_sungars_ and bayoneted forty of the defenders on the spot has given us
all, from the General downwards, unqualified satisfaction. There is
grand fighting material still to be found in many of our native
regiments, as Colonel Money’s two engagements on the Shutargardan have
clearly proved. General Gough, with the 5th P.C., the 5th P.I., and four
mountain guns, left Cabul yesterday for the Shutargardan to bring down
all the supplies accumulated there, and to close the line by way of
Kotal for the winter. Snow may now fall at any time at such an altitude
as the Shutargardan, and it behoves us to clear out the post before
further difficulties are added to what is already a very difficult bit.
General Gough may be molested on his march, as the districts of the
Logar swarm with robbers; but it is unlikely any organized attack will
be made upon his party, whatever attempt to loot his convoy may be
attempted upon his return journey. As he will bring back the
head-quarters and a squadron of the 9th Lancers, the 3rd Sikhs, and the
mountain guns now on the Shutargardan, he will be able to defend his
charge without fear of consequences. If, as we learn this afternoon, the
Mangals have occupied the heights in force, and have cut off even the
grass-supply of Colonel Money’s little garrison, General Gough’s arrival
may be most opportune, and the tribesmen may receive another sharp
lesson. Sixty headmen of the Gajis, Turis, Mangals, and other tribes
between here and the Shutargardan have come in at Sir Frederick
Roberts’s request. The General pointed out to them how utterly useless
resistance was to the British, as exemplified in the fall of Cabul, and
this they acknowledged, promising to keep their followers in good order
and not to molest us.

As we shall soon be moving into our winter quarters, I send you a
complete list of the guns captured up to date:—

                           ORDNANCE CAPTURED.

 Nature of Ordnance.                │   A   │ B   C │ D   E   F   G   H │Total
        ⎛         ⎛                ⎛│12  pr.│  -   4│  -   4   -   -   -│    4
        ⎜         ⎜ Guns           ⎜│ 9  pr.│  -   2│  2   -   -   -   -│    2
        ⎜         ⎜                ⎜│ 6  pr.│  1  16│  -   -   -  17   -│   17
        ⎜ Bronze  ⎜                ⎝│ 3  pr.│  -  51│  -  42   -   3   6│   51
        ⎜         ⎜ Howitzers      ⎛│ 8  pr.│  -   2│  -   2   -   -   -│    2
 Smooth ⎜         ⎜                ⎝│12  pr.│  -   5│  -   -   -   5   -│    5
 Bore   ⎜         ⎜ Mortars        ⎛│ 8  pr.│  -   6│  -   -   -   6   -│    6
        ⎜         ⎝                ⎝│ 5½ in.│  1   6│  -   -   -   7   -│    7
        ⎜         ⎛ Guns           ⎛│24  pr.│  -   2│  -   -   -   2   -│    2
        ⎜ Iron.   ⎜                ⎝│18  pr.│  4   -│  -   4   -   -   -│    4
        ⎝         ⎝ Howitzers       │ 8  in.│  2   -│  1   1   -   -   -│    2
        ⎛         ⎛                ⎛│20  pr.│  -   6│  -   6   -   -   -│    6
        ⎜         ⎜                ⎜│12  pr.│  -   6│  -   6   -   -   -│    6
        ⎜         ⎜                ⎜│ 9  pr.│  -  14│  1   -   -   7   6│   14
 Rifled ⎜ Iron    ⎜ Breech-        ⎜│ 8  pr.│  -   6│  -   -   6   -   -│    6
 Guns   ⎜         ⎜ -loading       ⎜│ 6  pr.│  -  22│ 10   6   -   6   -│   22
        ⎜         ⎜                ⎝│ 4  pr.│  -  11│  -   -   5   6   -│   11
        ⎜         ⎝ Muzzle-loading  │ 7  pr.│  -  26│  -   -   -  26   -│   26
        ⎝ Steel Muzzle-loading      │8   pr.│  -  21│  6   5  10   -   -│   21
                 Grand Total        │      —│8   206│ 20  76  21  85  12│  214
        A: Calibre
        B: English
        C: Afghan
        D: Charasia, 6 October
        E: Charasia, 8th October.
        F: Heights above Cabul,
        G: Bala Hissar, 12th October.
        H: Ghazni Road, 14th October.


                              CHAPTER VII.

Execution of Five Prisoners—The Kotwal of Cabul—His Proclamation to the
    People—Nek Mahomed and the Amir—Aghir Khan’s Crime—The Moollah
    Khwaja Nazir and his Attempt to raise a _Jehad_—Effect of the
    Executions upon the People—Preparing Winter Quarters—Dispersion
    of the Tribes at the Shutargardan—Execution of Afghan
    Officers—The Course of Justice—Stern Reprisals necessary—Afghan
    Fanaticism—Hostility of the Mass of the People—The Position of the
    Amir—Political Problems.

                                     CAMP SIAH SUNG, _20th October_.

To-day we have had the satisfaction of seeing marched out to execution
in the Bala Hissar five prisoners, more or less directly concerned in
the events of the last few weeks, whose guilt was very clearly
established in our eyes. As might have been expected, it has been no
easy matter to collect evidence in Cabul, many witnesses being afraid of
after-consequences if they bore testimony to the conduct of men under
suspicion. We have not notified in any way what is to be the duration of
our stay here, and once our protection over our well-wishers is removed,
their fate may be readily imagined. There is no one who cherishes
revenge more fervently than an Afghan, and every witness would be marked
down by the kinsmen of those against whom he had appeared. By a little
judicious management, however, in which Hyat Khan, Assistant Political
Officer, has been chief agent, pretty full evidence has been obtained
without publicity, and after being carefully sifted, it has been
submitted to the Military Commission,[19] of which General Massy is
President, as the various prisoners implicated have been brought up.
Yesterday this Commission had before it five prisoners, all of whom it
sentenced to death by hanging, and to-day this sentence was carried out.
The terms of the proclamation issued by General Roberts from Zerghun
Shahr left no outlet of escape for all such persons as were concerned in
the massacre of Sir Louis Cavagnari and his companions, or who offered
armed resistance to the British troops advancing with the Amir under
their protection. Death was the penalty incurred in either case;
assassination being the one offence, and treason against their lawful
sovereign the second. This dual mode of dealing with offenders was no
doubt due to the inference that those who chose to fight against us must
have so far committed themselves in prior events as to make them in
technical term “accomplices after the act.” To aid and defend a murderer
is to participate in his crime; and the leaders at Charasia and on the
Deh-i-Afghan Heights, though nominally only accused of high treason
against Yakub Khan, were really guilty of abetting the men who had fired
the Residency and slaughtered its inmates in the early days of


Footnote 19:

  The members of the Commission were Brigadier General Massy
  (President), Major Moriarty, Bengal Staff Corps, and Captain Guinness,
  72nd Highlanders.


In the attack upon our Embassy and in the after-tumult and organized
resistance to our troops, it was known that the city people had borne a
prominent part, and it was therefore necessary that one of their leaders
should be made to suffer for their offences. Accordingly, the Kotwal, or
chief magistrate of Cabul, was arrested immediately after the
proclamation of Sir F. Roberts had been read in the Amir’s garden, and
he was the chief personage among the five tried yesterday. The evidence
against this man, Mahomed Aslam Khan, was that after the Residency had
been stormed, he ordered and superintended the throwing of the bodies of
the Guides over the Bala Hissar wall into the ditch below, where they
now lie in a deep hole covered over with stones and rubbish. This was
his active participation in the first series of events, and there was no
doubt the influence his position gave him was exercised in every way in
favour of the mutineers, and that he made no effort to control the city
rabble. When it became known in Cabul that our forces were encamped at
Charasia, he showed himself most active in organizing measures to drive
us back. On the night before the fight, when all the fanatical passions
of the soldiery and the populace were excited to the utmost, he issued a
proclamation in which all faithful Mahomedans were called upon to
assemble and march out to do battle against the British. This was
circulated throughout the city and neighbourhood, and brought in many
recruits; while, to keep the ill-organized army up to its work, he gave
Rs. 1,000 to the bakers to cook food for the troops. This they were to
carry with them to the Charasia Heights. The police were further
employed to turn out, in the early morning of October 6th, all
faint-hearted citizens who shirked the duty imposed upon them of meeting
our army. With a boldness that seemed almost like bravado, Aslam Khan
did not seek safety in flight when we encamped before Cabul, but
actually acted as our guide, when Sir Frederick Roberts visited the
ruins of the Residency. He explained very vividly all that took place,
and even pointed out the grave of the Guides below. His defence before
the Commission was, that the bodies were thrown over the wall by his
people without his knowledge; and that in respect of the proclamation,
he issued it at the instigation of Sirdar Nek Mahomed Khan,
Commander-in-Chief of the rebels, who said the Amir had given orders to
that effect. There was just a colourable excuse in this, as it is now
established beyond doubt that Nek Mahomed visited the Amir in our camp
the night before Charasia. The Amir was really a puppet in the hands of
the men then about him, and it is quite on the cards that they
authorized Nek Mahomed to use his name freely; and that in this way the
proclamation was published. The double dealing of the Wazir, the
Mustaufi, and Zakariah Khan and his brother, have since come to light,
and they are now under arrest awaiting trial, though sufficient evidence
to hang them is not yet forthcoming. It is an ill-return on the part of
the Amir’s retinue that the freedom granted to them on the march to
Cabul should have been thus abused. The messengers we allowed him to
receive and despatch in all good faith seem to have been merely
emissaries of the mutineers preparing a trap in which to destroy our
force. That Nek Mahomed should be in our camp on the 5th and fight
against us on the 6th, in command of 4,000 or 5,000 troops, was the
outcome of our generosity towards Yakub Khan, whom we treated as a guest
instead of a prisoner. He himself is so weak-minded and helpless, that
one hesitates to accuse him of direct treachery. But the case is very
different with his most trusted ministers, who are now in safe custody
in the quarter-guards of our British regiments. Nek Mahomed is a
fugitive, and it is doubtful if we shall ever capture him, unless he is
ill-advised enough to try conclusions with us in the winter months; but
if he is ever caught, and can be tempted to make a clean breast of it,
the truth of the whole business in which he was the leading spirit will
be made clear. It is only bare justice to Yakub Khan to give his own
version of Nek Mahomed’s interview with him. The Amir states that he
entreated Nek Mahomed to return and order the dispersal of the mutinous
regiments then in the Bala Hissar: to forbid the city rabble from
showing any resistance to us; and to issue a warning against any one
appearing armed in or near Cabul. This is the Amir’s statement, and
until Nek Mahomed is forthcoming, it must be looked upon as trustworthy.

The second prisoner, if lowest in rank, seems to have been most
intimately connected of the batch with the revolting scenes following
the Massacre of the Embassy. This was Aghir Khan, chowkidar of Mundai,
who was sworn to as having carried the head and shoulders of one of the
English sahibs from the smoking ruins of the Residency to the ridge on
which stands the Upper Bala Hissar, overlooking the city. This was on
the morning after the place had been sacked, and it was generally
believed that it was Sir Louis Cavagnari’s head that was carried along.
Aghir Khan’s defence was, that he took the head with the intention of
preserving it until the British should come; but that on reaching the
ridge the Kotwal’s people seized it, and that he could not learn what
afterwards became of it. His story was quite unsupported, and the man’s
general demeanour and known character were all against him. A more
ruffianly-looking face could scarcely be found in the whole of
Afghanistan, which is very prolific of such growths.

In this outbreak of fanaticism in Cabul, it was quite impossible that
the _moollahs_ could remain quiet, their known hatred to foreign
intrusion being always a dangerous element in local politics. One of the
five prisoners was Khwaja Nazir, a priest of great influence, who
preached a _jehad_, collected large numbers of his most fanatical
followers, gave them a standard, and sent them out to Charasia. The
fourth man tried was Sultan Aziz, a Barakzai, son of the Nawab Mahomed
Zaman Khan, ex-Governor of Khost. Being related in blood to the reigning
family, it was all the more significant that Sultan Aziz and his father
should have fought at Charasia, after being leading spirits in arming
the mob which flocked into the Bala Hussar on the evening of the 5th
October. The fifth and last prisoner was Kaisruh Khan, ex-General in
rank and Superintendent of Army Clothing: he played a similar part to
that of Sultan Aziz. All five prisoners were condemned to death by the
Commission, and this sentence was confirmed by the Major-General
Commanding. This morning they were marched out of camp at half-past
nine, under escort of a company of the 92nd Highlanders, a fatigue party
following with picks and shovels as grave-diggers. There was very little
ceremony observed, and only a few Cabulis from the city looked on as the
men were escorted towards the Bala Hissar gate. Two scaffolds had been
raised, the Kotwal being honoured with a special rope outside the door
which young Hamilton so gallantly defended, and which was eventually
battered in by the fire of the field-piece dragged up by the mutineers.
The other four were hanged on a scaffold built in the courtyard, round
which the Guides had been quartered. With the usual apathy of
Mahomedans, the men did not seem to appreciate their fate, and gave no
trouble when told to mount the scaffold. They were buried in a
rudely-dug grave near where they were hanged, and the gallows still
remain ready for any other prisoners who may be considered worthy of
death. The news of the execution is said to have had a healthy effect
upon the city, it being now made clear to the populace that our old,
absurd mode of dealing with assassins as if they were saints, has no
longer a place in our policy. However distasteful the office of hangman
may be, it has to be filled; and in the present case our army is but
taking the place of the executioner by pressure of circumstances. The
mutineers had not the courage to defend the city they had incriminated
by their acts; and having spared the city, all that remains for us to do
is to punish such of the rabble whose guilt is brought home to them.

There have been few changes in camp beyond a reduction in the number of
regiments encamped on Siah Sung Ridge. The 5th Ghoorkas, 23rd Pioneers,
and F-A, R.H.A., are now in Sherpur cantonments busily engaged in
hutting themselves. The place is so filthy that a systematic cleansing
and fumigating process is being instituted by Dr. Porter, in chief
medical charge. The floors of the rooms are being scraped to a depth of
three or four inches, and new floors laid down, while the wholesome
influence of whitewash is also being brought to bear upon the walls. Our
troops are very healthy now—no cholera has been reported for a week—and
it would be absurd to risk the chance of typhoid fever and kindred
diseases by neglecting ordinary sanitary precautions. The barracks are
expected to prove very comfortable quarters for the winter, as it seems
plain we shall have to stay here for four or five months. Since the
capture of the twelve guns, abandoned so hastily on the Ghazni Road, we
have heard no more of regiments marching down upon Cabul, and for the
present at least the enemy may be looked upon as non-existent. From the
Shutargardan, too, we hear of the dispersion to their homes of the
Mangals and Ghilzais who have worried Colonel Money so persistently, and
perhaps there may now be a chance of our fortnight’s post reaching us.
It will be the last from that direction, as it has been resolved to
trust in future to the Jellalabad route. What is the reason of the slow
advance from the Khyber? This is what every one is asking, and the
answer is generally brief enough: “Want of transport.”

                                     CAMP SIAH SUNG, _23rd October_.

Yesterday two ressaldars of the Afghan cavalry, who were proved to have
been in the Bala Hissar during the attack upon the Embassy, and to have
shared in the after-events, were marched out to execution in the Bala
Hissar. When told they were to suffer death ignominiously by hanging,
they showed no alarm, answering merely “It is well.” This indifference
to death stands these men in good stead; for, if found guilty, they are
executed within twenty-four hours, thus leaving them only a very short
time in which to consider the awkward termination of their careers. As a
little trait of character it may be mentioned that one of these
ressaldars, a fine portly man, picked out the stone from his signet-ring
during the night, his pride no doubt prompting him to destroy the stone
sooner than it should fall into infidel hands. It may be that he found
means to convey it away secretly to his friends; but so close a watch is
kept upon condemned prisoners that this seems unlikely. Ten o’clock is
the hour at which men are generally hanged; and now, daily, a little
crowd of soldiers, camp-followers, and traders from the city gathers
near the 72nd quarter-guard, from which starts the road down the ridge.
The soldiers, in shirt-sleeves and with the favourite short pipe in
their mouths, betray but faint curiosity, looking upon the culprits with
hearty contempt, and only regretful that they have not had to meet them
in fair fight. “If we’d been the French,” I heard one man plaintively
say, “there’d have been more than two or three.” No doubt there would;
but our mode of warfare with men, compared with whom the Arabs of
Algeria are gentlemen, is very different to that followed by the
generals of Napoleon III. The few Afghans who watch the little company
of British infantry marching down with the prisoners in their midst are
almost as much attracted by the bayonets of our men as by the presence
of their unlucky countrymen; and they soon turn back to our tents to
mulct us in rupees by sharp bargaining in poshteens (sheep-skin coats),
furs, carpets, and Russian chinaware. The two ressaldars stepped out
boldly enough to keep pace with their escort; and whatever their
feelings may have been, they concealed them stolidly enough. They looked
less brave when standing pinioned, with the rope about their necks,
facing the ruins of the Residency; and not one on-looker felt the least
pity for them, for the shot-marked walls on every side call up bitter
memories and silence any thought of mercy. Our Black Assize is a very
small one so far; for the majority of the leaders have escaped, and we
have to content ourselves with the small fry. Even as it is, men are
remanded from day to day if the evidence is at all faulty, and the
Military Commission are careful to avoid jumping to conclusions. To-day
a sepoy of the 1st Herat Regiment was hanged; and as he was caught in
the city by a Kizilbash, it is expected that more of his companions are
still hidden within the walls. With a temerity that showed his desperate
case, this man had his rifle and ten cartridges with him, but he made no
show of resistance. The difficulty of obtaining evidence is gradually
disappearing, the Kizilbash who handed the sepoy to General Hills,
Military Governor of Cabul, coming forward openly and stating all that
he knew. It is to these Kizilbashes that we shall have greatly to trust
in examining into the details of the Massacre, as the city people are
all against us. Being semi-independent, and forming a powerful section
among themselves, the Kizilbashes have less to fear, than others, from
any measures of revenge that may afterwards be taken against them; and
if we can once get them to speak openly, our work will be greatly
simplified. Of the secret combination which Kushdil Khan, Nek Mahomed,
and the other influential chiefs about the Amir’s person promoted, it
will be far more difficult to take up the threads; but there is still
some hope of tracing the conspiracy to its source. As the investigation
proceeds, and the various statements forthcoming are dove-tailed into
each other, it will become plain upon whom the chief guilt is to rest.
There are still several prisoners to be tried, and each day adds its
little quota of evidence against the large class of “suspects.”

There will no doubt be exception taken to the course Sir F. Roberts is
pursuing, and political capital may be made out of it;[20] but unless
the mission of the army now before Cabul is to be a failure, there is no
option but to follow out to the end the lines of policy laid down. The
murder of our Envoy and his escort was, as the Proclamation in the Bala
Hissar of October 12th sets forth, “a treacherous and cowardly crime,
which has brought indelible disgrace upon the Afghan people,” and there
is but one punishment for treachery and cowardice of this kind. If daily
executions are to be the rule for the next few weeks, they can only be
those of isolated persons who may fall into our hands; and their death
is a very small atonement for the crime in which so many participated.
The city rabble is unpunished; the Herat regiments have escaped; and if
we are nominally in possession of Northern Afghanistan, that possession
means very little to the ruffians we have to deal with. They will pocket
our rupees and thrive upon us as long as we remain; and the instant we
take our departure, their arms, now hidden, will soon be furbished up
again for future mischief. Apart from this view of the case—which is, of
course, only taken as regards the discontented and fanatical part of the
nation more nearly concerned in the events of the first week in
September—there are two other considerations which have to guide us in
all that we are doing. The first is that our presence is not desired by
any Afghan of spirit in the country, and the second and far more serious
is that we have on our hands and are proclaiming ourselves the
protectors of a sovereign who has scarcely a vestige of power. Of our
position towards the Amir Yakub Khan I will speak presently; but the
sullen submission of the people can more readily be disposed of.
Whatever despot has governed Afghanistan his subjects have always
preferred to suffer under his rule than to submit to outside
interference; and this jealousy of foreign intruders has always been a
stumbling-block in our dealings with Amirs in days gone by. We have had
to calculate not only upon the sincerity of the ruler, but upon his
capacity for controlling the fanaticism of his subjects. Up to the
Treaty of Gundamak, we blindly believed that such capacity could exist.
Now, after being roughly undeceived, we have taken for a time these
subjects under our immediate control, and we find them submitting to
superior force, but yielding in no way cordially to their fate. We can
trust them while an army is among them, but our acts are only looked
upon as temporary, and not the least active assistance can be counted
upon in our search after those whom we have come to punish. The people
will give supplies when each village is visited by a purchasing party,
strongly escorted by our cavalry; but otherwise they would gladly let us
starve sooner than open their grain-stores for our benefit. The few days
on which we had to fight, every villager who thought he could do so with
safety to his own skin pulled trigger upon detached parties of our men;
and if the headmen are now coming in, seeing Cabul is at our mercy, it
is because they dread a visitation from our troops. They are as
insincere in all their protestations of friendship as forty years ago;
but we put the proper value now upon their promises, and are strong
enough to punish them if occasion arises. Such is the attitude
relatively of our army and the people: the only sign we give of our
supremacy being by keeping a tight hand upon Cabul itself, and by
hanging such of our prisoners as participated in its crime.


Footnote 20:

  This expectation proved only too well-founded.


Our relations with the Amir are on a very different footing, though it
would puzzle a Russian diplomatist to say what is the basis of our
policy. It is a mixture of suspicion, forbearance, and contempt. Once
Yakub Khan had thrown himself upon our protection and disowned the acts
of the mutineers, his personal safety was assured, and this, no doubt,
was his first aim. But how much further did he mean to go? That he
heartily desired his turbulent regiments to be punished one can well
believe, and that he schemed to save Cabul from the fate it had courted
is quite possible; but unless an accomplice in their acts, he could not
have expected that his most trusted ministers and kinsmen would be
arrested and himself confined to our camp. Here he must see our
suspicion peeping out: but, then, mark our forbearance. In our
proclamations rebellion against the Amir has been cited as worthy of
death; we are living upon tribute grain collected as due to him; the
citizens of Cabul have been declared “rebels against His Highness,” and
our Military Governor of the city is “administering justice and
punishing with a strong hand all evil-doers” with his “consent.” This is
one side of the picture, and these acts are the direct outcome of our
efforts to re-establish something like order after the anarchy which
prevailed when we began our march upon the capital. There is nothing of
contempt in them; it is merely laying the foundation for replacing the
Amir on his throne more securely for the future. Our forbearance is
further shown by the consideration displayed towards his subjects:
nothing is taken that is not paid for—and, in most instances,
exorbitantly paid for—and there is not the slightest affectation of
treating the country through which we pass as conquered territory. But
there is another side of the picture where new aspects appear and some
anomalies crop up. The Amir’s authority is proclaimed as justification
for many of our acts; and yet at the same time we loot his citadel, and
seize upon, as spoils of war, all guns and munitions of war which for a
few weeks only had passed out of his hands into those of the rebels. Did
he, by abandoning his capital and its defences, lose all right and
interest in the cannon which guarded them, in the ammunition collected
for years past in the Bala Hissar, and in the very clothing prepared for
his regiments? Apparently he did, for the two hundred and fourteen guns
now in our camp are looked upon as captured from an enemy who used many
of them against us; the untold quantity of gunpowder which the explosion
of the 16th untouched is to be destroyed; and our camp-followers are
masquerading in the warm uniforms of Afghan Highlanders. This is the
feature of contempt in our policy. Our war, unlike that of last year, is
against the subjects of the Amir, and not against the Amir himself; and,
so far as we have gone, we have assumed the functions of the sovereign
in their fullest sense, using his name only to smooth away difficulties
that would otherwise have to be overcome by force. This assumption has
had to be made for the simple reason that Yakub Khan is too weak and
vacillating to exercise the authority which we have so ostentatiously
recognized, and his ministers too corrupt to be trusted near his person.
But beyond the immediate exercise of military power in Cabul and its
neighbourhood, we can do nothing. There is no responsible Government
which could take out of our hands the task of hunting up the men who
have been guilty of treachery and murder; and as our first duty is to
our dead Envoy and not to the living Amir, it follows that our present
work is that of judges and not of king-makers. That work has to be done,
and we are doing it unflinchingly, and until it is completed, the Amir
must be content to accept his position as a sovereign in leading
strings. By the time we have dealt with all the culprits that can be
captured, the cloud of suspicion now resting upon Yakub Khan will either
have deepened or been dissipated, and our second duty of punishing or
aiding him under his difficulties will then have to be fulfilled. The
drift of evidence seems now fairly in his favour, _i.e._, he was not
involved in the work of Nek Mahomed and Kushdil Khan; and taking it as
most probable that he will finally be convicted of nothing worse than
weakness, it will remain with us to say if he is again worthy of our
trust. With his army dispersed, and his artillery (which goes for so
much in the eyes of Asiatic nations) in our hands, the only semblance of
power he can derive will be reflected from our arms—if we reinstate him
in good faith. And if his weakness is held as our justification for
reducing him to the rank of a political pensioner, comfortably housed in
India, are we to fit out his successor with new war-trappings, which may
at any moment be seized by mutinous regiments and turned against us at
the first opportunity? More unlikely things have occurred than this; but
unless our army carries back with it to India the trophies it now boasts
of, there will be sad disappointment in every mind.

I have dwelt with great pertinacity upon the political side of the
Afghan question as it is developing under the walls of Cabul, because
our late successes may have overshadowed the great problem which has now
to be worked out, viz., what are the future relations between India and
Afghanistan to be? From what I have written, a fair judgment may be
formed as to whether the sanguine view, that the line of policy laid
down in the Treaty of Gundamak still remains good, can be consistently
maintained. The arrest of the Mustaufi, the Wazir, and their two
intimate friends, has raised the revolt in Cabul far above the level of
a local _émeute_ of discontented soldiers.


                             CHAPTER VIII.

The Line of Communication with the Kurram Valley—Hostile Action of the
    Tribes—Skirmish on the Surkhai Kotal—Defeat of the Tribesmen by the
    Shutargardan Garrison—The Enemy Reinforced—The Garrison
    Surrounded—Serious Complications—The Shutargardan relieved by
    General Charles Gough.

                                     CAMP SIAH SUNG, _24th October_.

There is one great consolation for the troops who did not share in the
advance upon Cabul, and that is, they have not been allowed by the
tribes in our rear to rest in peace at the stations guarding the Kurram
line of communication. General Gordon at Ali Kheyl, and Colonel Money at
the Shutargardan, have had their hands very full indeed during the past
few weeks; Mangals, Ghilzais, and their allies considering it a grand
opportunity for attack. The bulk of our army was too far ahead, and had
too important a mission to fulfil, to send back reinforcements; and no
doubt these mongrel tribesmen believed they would have it all their own
way. I hear that they called upon the Shinwaris and Khugianis on the
northern slopes of the Safed Koh to come over and join in the rare
chance that was presented of cutting up our troops; but the ill-timed
zeal of the Mangal _moollahs_ spoiled the whole arrangement. They gave
out that we had been defeated at Cabul, and further promised their
fanatical followers that bullets and bayonets should leave them
unscathed for a few days if they would only attack the handful of
infidels then left at their mercy. Accordingly Ali Kheyl was attacked,
and the result of the fighting in that neighbourhood was the complete
dispersal of the tribesmen. At one time the situation seemed so full of
peril that General Gordon made up his mind to abandon the Shutargardan,
Colonel Money having informed him that he was surrounded on all sides,
his forage cut off, and his water-supply threatened. Such a step would,
of course, have only been resorted to in the last extremity, for a force
retiring through the Hazara Darukht defile, followed by swarms of our
enemy, confident that their success was assured, might have ended in a
disaster. But there were at the Shutargardan two splendid fighting
regiments, well-officered and in perfect trim, and their stubborn
resistance, kept the enemy in check until it was too late for them to
profit by our difficulties. During the worst period at the Shutargardan,
General Hugh Gough, with the 5th Punjab Cavalry, 5th Punjab Infantry,
and four mountain guns was on his way thither to bring down supplies and
close the communication, as it was no longer needed; and a welcome flash
from Captain Straton’s heliograph informed Colonel Money that help was
at hand. The Mangals and their allies seem to have had earlier
information, for they had already begun to disperse, though their stray
shots into camp kept the garrison alive, and cost them something in the
way of chargers and baggage animals. The abandonment of the post in the
face of an enemy far superior in number was thus happily avoided, as
well as the ill-effect it would have had upon every tribesman from Thull
to Cabul. It is believed here that there was a tendency to exaggerate
the danger at Ali Kheyl, and that undue importance was attached to the
attack there; but we are loth to think that General Gordon would have
recalled the two regiments from the Shutargardan merely to strengthen
his own post. Such a step might have brought about a really serious
conflict, as it would have been too glaring an admission of weakness not
to have been appreciated by the neighbouring tribes. Of the earlier
fighting at the Surkhai Kotal on the 14th, we have now full accounts
from Colonel Money, which I give below.

On the 13th instant information was brought into the camp at
Shutargardan that the Machalgu Ghilzais were assembling in force, and
would probably appear near Karatiga and the Surkhai Kotal, on that side,
for the purpose of blocking up the road to Ali Kheyl and molesting our
picquet on the Kotal. That mischief was on foot was proved by the
telegraph wire to Ali Kheyl being cut at nine o’clock the same evening.
The next morning Colonel Money, in sending the usual relief of 90 men to
the picquet, ordered Major Collis, commanding the 21st P.N.I., to take
two companies of his regiment and two guns of the Kohat Mountain
Battery, and see what was occurring. He was further to attack and
disperse any bodies of tribesmen who might have assembled, to detach a
party to bring up ammunition left at Karatiga, and to repair the
telegraph wire. On arriving at the Kotal, Major Collis found the picquet
already engaged with a large body of Ghilzais, who had attacked at
daybreak. His first step was to seize a hill on the right commanding the
Kotal, which the enemy had failed to occupy. Fifty sepoys under a native
officer were soon swarming up this, and in the meantime Captain Morgan
opened fire with the mountain guns upon _sungars_ filled with men, on a
hill to the east. The shells were well pitched, and the enemy were so
shaken that when 50 rifles of the 21st P.N.I., under Captain Gowan, and
a similar number of the 3rd Sikhs under Lieutenant Fasken, went in at
them with the bayonet, they abandoned their _sungars_, leaving several
killed and wounded on the ground. The tribesmen then attacked on the
south of the position, and came under fire of the 50 men first sent up
to occupy the hill, commanding the Kotal. A company of the 21st P.N.I.,
under Lieutenant Young, was detached to strengthen this point, and at
the same time a welcome reinforcement of 100 of the 3rd Sikhs under
Major Griffiths arrived. One company of these doubled over the open, and
got in rear of 600 of the enemy whom Captain Gowan and Lieutenant Fasken
were driving back, and soon the hills to the north were all cleared. But
on the south there were still 2,000 men to be dealt with; and as they
were showing a bold front, Major Griffiths judged that a combined
movement must be made against them as soon as the two companies returned
from pursuing the 600 men they had scattered. The advanced company of
the 21st P.N.I. under Lieutenant Young was bearing the brunt of the
enemy’s fire, and Major Collis was left on the Kotal with instructions
to proceed to their relief along the crest with his two companies when
they returned, their right being protected by 100 of the 3rd Sikhs and
two guns. Major Griffiths took the guns to the 3rd Sikhs, but on
rounding the shoulder of the hill he found that it would be dangerous to
wait any longer, as the enemy were growing bolder every minute. The
company of the 21st P.N.I. under Lieutenant Young accordingly charged
along the ridge and captured two standards, while the 3rd Sikhs under
Lieutenant Cook (with whom as volunteers were Captain Turner, Political
Officer; Captain Waterfield, R.A.; Captain Nicholson, R.E.; Lieutenant
Fisher, 10th Hussars; Lieutenant Sherstone, Aide-de-camp; and Mr.
Josephs, Superintendent of Telegraphs) came to close quarters on the
slope below. The enemy retreated till they reached a spur running at
right-angles to the ridge on which they had raised more strong
_sungars_. The sepoys soon found themselves checked in their rush, the
21st getting into broken ground commanded by the main _sungar_, while
the Sikhs had to halt at a ravine, the opposite side of which was bare
of cover and swept by the fire of the Ghazis. Captain Waterfield, having
shot down a man with his revolver, was himself shot through the thigh
directly afterwards, and was pluckily removed out of danger by
Lieutenant Cook. The mountain guns were brought into action again over
the heads of the troops, as Major Collis was still waiting for his two
companies to come up; but the enemy seeing so small a number of men
opposed to them, charged out of the _sungars_, sword in hand, at
Lieutenant Young’s company; and, though checked by a hot fire, secured a
good position from which to repeat the manœuvre. Just in the nick of
time Major Collis arrived with his two companies, and three shells
having been dropped right into the enemy’s advanced position, he led the
20th straight at the _sungars_ and cleared the ridge in fine style. The
enemy fought most pluckily, hurling stones at our men as they went up to
the _sungars_ and leaping out to meet them; opposing their short swords
to the sepoys’ bayonets. Their numbers were, however, of no avail
against the splendid form of our gallant fellows, and after a short
hand-to-hand struggle they broke and fled towards Spegha. They were
pursued for over a mile, and the mountain guns harassed them still
further. Their number was calculated at between 3,000 and 4,000, and
they were beaten in fair fight by 150 of the 21st P.N.I. and 100 of the
3rd Sikhs, aided by two mountain guns. Forty of their dead were counted
on the ground, and their total loss is estimated at 200 killed and
wounded; while our casualties were only two killed and Captain
Waterfield and seven sepoys wounded.

Meanwhile, a little affair had been going on at the Shutargardan itself.
When Colonel Money had sent off Major Griffiths to reinforce the Surkhai
Kotal, he took precautions for his own safety by ordering up two
companies of the 21st P.N.I. with a mountain gun to the ridge which
overlooks the Shutargardan camp. The move was a wise one, for the enemy
were on the other side within fifty yards of the crest, and were only
driven back with difficulty. They gathered together again and made a
second attempt, but were again unsuccessful. Their persistency induced
Colonel Money to proceed with two companies of the 3rd Sikhs and the
fourth mountain gun to the ridge, and he was able from this point to
watch the fight at the Surkhai Kotal. Seeing that Major Griffiths was
hotly engaged, he sent Jemadar Sher Mahomed (the native officer who did
such gallant work at Karatiga on the 27th of September) with a company
of the 3rd Sikhs to make a diversion on the enemy’s flank, and when the
tribesmen fled, this party doubled down upon them, and after killing
eight and wounding several others, joined in the general chase.

It was altogether a brilliant skirmish, this defeat of so large a body
of the enemy at the Surkhai Kotal; and we hope to give the 3rd Sikhs an
ovation when they march in here with General Hugh Gough in a few days.
The 21st move back to Ali Kheyl.

The garrison had, after the skirmish, to hear a siege which came about
in this way:—On the morning of the 14th it was found that the main body
of the enemy still held the position they had taken up after being
driven off the Surkhai Kotal. A wing of the 21st Punjab Native Infantry
was sent with orders to attack if they moved towards the Kotal, and a
company of the 3rd Sikhs went to the Karatiga Fort to bring up the
stores and ammunition left there. The fort was found to have been
thoroughly looted. Allahaddin, a brother of Padshah Khan, the Ghilzai
chief, reported that the enemy had been largely reinforced, and said
from 10,000 to 17,000 men had assembled, the whole country being in
arms. Colonel Money therefore wisely resolved to draw in his defences
under cover of night. The Surkhai Kotal was abandoned on the 15th. News
of 300 or 400 regular soldiers of the Amir’s army, armed with Sniders
and Enfields, joining the tribes was given soon afterwards. The enemy
showed in such numbers southwards of the ridge and to the south of the
camp that the outlying picquet was withdrawn and fell back upon the
strong picquet posts near the camp. On the 17th the enemy occupied the
road from Karatiga to Kassim Kheyl, and cut off the grass-supply. Their
numbers were so great that reasonable anxiety was felt about an attack,
so our men worked at strengthening the defences, and Captain Nicholson,
R.E., laid down wire entanglements at weak points to check any rush. In
the evening Allahaddin brought in the _jirgah_ who proposed some absurd
terms of surrender,[21] but they were sent back with a hint to go to
Cabul and settle terms there. The garrison had only regimental
ammunition with them, and this had been greatly reduced by the action of
the 14th. The mountain guns also having a small number of rounds,
Colonel Money resolved to husband his ammunition and act on the
defensive, as he did not know when he might be relieved. On the 18th the
enemy showed in still greater force, and pushed to within 300 yards of
our outpost picquets, and cut off the water supply. On both the 17th and
18th, they had kept up a incessant fire into the camp, but with little
result. On the 19th, when matters looked very serious, the heliograph
was seen flashing at Kushi, and Colonel Money learnt that General Hugh
Gough was there with two regiments and four guns. Upon this he knew he
was safe, and after sending skirmishers down towards the springs on the
Kushi Road he got his guns into action and shelled the enemy’s line with
common shell and shrapnel right heartily. The shells soon silenced the
opposition musketry fire, and the tribesmen gradually drew off, not a
man being left at evening. Their loss is estimated at 100 killed and
wounded. Our casualties were seven men wounded. The enemy had brought
200 of their women to witness the final successful attack, but they were
all disappointed. General Gough occupied the Shinkai Kotal on the
evening of the 19th and reached the Shutargardan next day in a
snow-storm. His arrival was the signal for the dispersion of all tribes.


Footnote 21:

  An officer wrote at the time:—“In the evening the enemy sent in five
  confidential men to say that, of course, we must now give in, that two
  regiments could not hold out an hour, but they were willing to allow
  us to leave the Shutargardan and to provide us with carriages and
  hostages; we to be at liberty to retire to Ali Kheyl or to Cabul, and
  for this consideration we were to pay them two lakhs. Poor Allahaddin
  Khan was at his wits’ end.”


                              CHAPTER IX.

Camp Life at Cabul—Afghan Costermongers—Curiosity of Villagers—The
    Hazaras—Surrender of Firearms—City Traders—The Purchase of Transport
    Animals—Peaceful State of the Country—The Abdication of the Amir—His
    Reasons for the Step—Assumption of the Government by the
    British—General Roberts’s Proclamation—Arrest of the Amir—Progress
    of the Inquiry into the Massacre—The Murder of Abdul Karim—Military
    Executions-Seizure of Treasure.

                                     CAMP SIAH SUNG, _25th October_.

Our lines are cast in pleasant places just at present; for, apart from
the political puzzle which some of us study, and which I have already
tried to explain, there is nothing to disturb our equanimity. We have a
high and dry encamping ground, from which we can travel down at our
leisure, either citywards, to explore the mysteries of Cabul and ponder
over the Bala Hissar, now rapidly being cleared out; or else down into
the Cabul plain, to exercise our horses on the racecourse, or over the
water-channels which everywhere intersect the fields. The view on every
side is an impressive one, for the mountains which keep watch and ward
over Cabul are very picturesque, rising abruptly from the fields below,
and seeming to shut us out securely from the petty world beyond. News of
that outer world has been very scant of late, and it is with
ill-concealed impatience that many of us turn eastward to where the
Khurd Cabul and Jugdulluck Hills hide the long valley up which the
Khyber column is crawling with tortoise-slowness. There comes no
heliographic flash down to cheer us, and one might as well consult the
impassible Hindu Kush itself. But there is a pleasanter outlook
westwards. Through the gorge in rear of the city we catch a glimpse of
the Chardeh Valley, a very Eden of fertility, and in the far background
is the high range of mountains forming the sky-line towards distant
Turkistan, over which we have gorgeous sunsets that more than atone for
the chilliness which creeps over Siah Sung Ridge as the day closes. We
have the sharp air of the early morning to brace us for routine work
that must be gone through, and such genial warmth all day as to make the
shade of our tight little tents seem almost superfluous. Whatever of
cold and discomfort there may be in store for us, we are comfortable
enough now, though perhaps the air bites shrewdly at mid-night to the
sentry at his post. His outlook is chiefly for thieves who may think
there is loot to be got in our camp; but we seem to have frightened the
people into honesty, for robberies are unknown. Our camp is thronged
with petty traders, and in convenient spots are little bazaars for our
soldiers and camp-followers, to whom they are a rare boon. Fruit in
abundance is exposed most temptingly: grapes, apples, pears, and
pomegranates being sold so cheaply that a few pice will buy sufficient
to satisfy even a soldier’s appetite; while melons of a flavour and
succulency almost unknown to us poor dwellers in Hindustan are piled
together in profusion. The usual curry-stuffs and native delicacies are
ranged alongside these edibles; and occasionally some delicious beetroot
or a gigantic cabbage nestling in a heap of bright-skinned onions tempts
a _khansamah_ doing his day’s marketing to halt and haggle in a lordly
manner until a fair bargain is struck. The Afghan “coster” is not an
easy personage to deal with, for he has learnt the value of our rupees,
and is determined to make the most of the present opportunity. In our
canvas streets there is all day long a busy stream of men and boys
eagerly selling wares from the city and surrounding villages, and if so
inclined we could spend hours in making casual purchases. In the early
morning villagers with their simple produce of fowls, ducks, pigeons,
eggs, jars of milk and clotted cream—the latter particularly good—come
sauntering in and pass away their time in intently gazing at our strange
freaks in the way of early “tubs” or substantial breakfasts. Their
livestock slung across their shoulders, or carelessly carried head
downwards, appears quite a secondary consideration, until they are
pounced upon by some _bon-vivant_, who thinks life is not worth living
if it is merely to be sustained by commissariat rations—now, alas! minus
their redeeming feature of wholesome rum. Once the villager sees a
bargain may be made, he wakes up suddenly to the fact of having
something to sell, and in the _patois_ of the country explains the
number of rupees or annas he requires. That he does not get them need
scarcely be said, as his first prices are exorbitant; but after some
pantomimic action, or by calling in the aid of some Pathan sepoy near at
hand, terms are arranged, and with the silver bits stowed away
mysteriously in his waistcloth the innocent native wends his way to
another part of the camp, there to dispose of more of his stock. When he
has got rid of his little store he does not, as a conscientious
husbandman should, go quietly home, but hangs about our tents with a
face full of inquiry and amazement. He pushes his curiosity at times
almost to impertinence, perhaps with the philanthropic idea of giving us
a few wrinkles as to the proper mode of living in this part of the
world; but at the first sharp word he “moves on” a few paces, and turns
his attention to some other feature of our local life. That he is poor
and strictly dishonest there can be no reasonable doubt; but his poverty
will pass away if we stay long at Cabul, and his dishonesty will be
covered with the cloak of simplicity as long as military law prevails.
This class of peasant who comes into our midst is not of the usual
bloodthirsty Afghan type; and he comes too, without arms, for our
proclamation against carrying weapons is now widely known, and whatever
he may be on his native heath, when his tribe is on the war-path, he
looks inoffensive enough now.

Among our other visitors are the Hazaras: the hewers of wood and drawers
of water, as they have been called, of all Afghanistan. Their Mongol
type of face, beardless and with the true slanting eyes of their race,
is noticeable at once among the Jewish-looking Afghans whom they serve
so well. Sunburnt, and with many coats of dirt upon them, they look the
real labourers of the land; and as their stalwart backs are generally
bent under heavy loads of firewood or huge sacks of forage, it can be
seen they are no drones. They are always very intent upon their work,
never loitering or wonder-struck; and in this respect they resemble the
Ghoorkas. They are good-humoured and happy enough, and any stray
salutation cast to them is always answered by a smile and a nod of their
felt-crowned heads, as if kindness were too rare not to be acknowledged.
Sometimes their burdens are very different from those just mentioned,
for they come staggering in with a score of matchlocks or Enfield rifles
on their backs which their village _maliks_ have sent in to be bought up
and destroyed by the Sirkar. This bringing in of arms has been quite a
feature of camp life, it being by no means unusual to meet a file of
these men, each laden with the guns that are to be given up. They are
thrown down, and counted by soldiers told off for the duty, and the
idlers from the city gather round to stare at our contemptuous
examination of the weapons. As most of the guns are loaded and even
doubled-loaded, it is somewhat risky to meddle with them; but curiosity
prompts us to look down muzzles and cock triggers in a most reckless
way. The Sniders are safe enough to handle, as the breech can be opened
and any cartridge withdrawn; but with the others it is different.
Tower-marked Enfields rest side by side with the old two-grooved
Brunswick rifle; while Cabul-made smooth-bores and imitation Enfields
are mixed with jhezails and the “Brown Besses” the Indian Government
gave away so lavishly in the days of their foolishness. We are
destroying these arms—locks, stock, and barrel—except in the case of
such Sniders as seem really serviceable. The Afghan Snider is by no
means a badly-made weapon, and the cartridges from the Bala Hissar
Arsenal are equally good. The latter are of a kind known as solid-drawn,
with strong bases, and if recapped can be used several times with
perfect safety. Where machinery and skilled mechanics are scarce, this
is, of course, a great consideration. We do not find many cartridges
delivered up, and it seems a pity that a small price was not fixed upon
powder and lead so as to make disarmament more complete. There are
thousands of good rifles still scattered over the country, in the hands
of the Amir’s soldiers; and, in the future, ammunition will be greatly
in request, now that the Bala Hissar has fallen into our hands. A few
swords, bayonets, and knives, have come in, but they are of no account.
We have received over 3,000 rifles and guns of the different kinds
mentioned, and more will, perhaps, be given up.

Far removed from the villagers and the Hazaras are the more pretentious
city traders, who bring poshteens, furs, native cloth, chinaware, old
coins, Bokhara silks, Persian carpets, jewellery, and precious stones
for sale. They are mostly Kizilbashes and Cabul-born Hindus, many of
whom have travelled far and have seen most of the cities of Central and
Western Asia. As traders they are as keen as Jew pedlars: as visitors
they make themselves as much at home as our intimate friends. To bargain
with them is an exercise in chicanery that would quicken the wits of a
Shylock: to listen to their soft flattery as they extol the benefits of
British rule is to believe that we are the finest race in the world. The
chicanery is glossed over and hidden by the soothing praises of our
benevolence, and the crimson-turbaned Kizilbash or caste-marked Hindu,
who has sat himself on our stool or squatted in our tent is enriched
accordingly. We buy furs that would cost us less in Peshawur, and silks
that, perhaps, have never seen a Bokhara loom, and think we have done
well in our bargaining; whereas, most likely, the worthy traders have
netted excessive profits. It is the old story of our rupees filling the
coffers of the people we have come among as conquerors, and of our pride
forbidding us to acknowledge it. And yet we enjoy the chaffering with
these rascals, and find an amusement in making them turn out their
pockets. From one will be produced a rare fox-skin, from another a
Russian tea-cup and saucer (made in England, but stamped with the Moscow
dealer’s name); from a third a little packet of diamonds or
turquoises—the latter often of a beautiful colour, but marred by flaws.
Then the rings on the man’s finger are taken off and examined, the owner
fixing a price that is almost prohibitive on each stone; or a
curiously-worked belt and pouch is unbuckled at our insistance, and
appraised in the usual way. And so on to the end of the chapter. But
Kizilbash or Hindu is more than a match for the Western Kafir; and one
is tempted to believe that the Caucasian is really “played out” as far
as astuteness in trading goes. Perhaps we may be more successful in
dealing with the genuine Afghan in the city bazaars which we are now
beginning to visit.

Besides the mercenary bartering that wiles away our leisure, there is
plenty of stir and excitement in our camp life. _Maliks_ and chiefs from
a distance are met in little knots, seeking out the political officers,
or waiting upon the commissariat officers to enter into contracts for
food supply; gaily-apparalled horsemen come to show off the graces of
their Turcoman steeds; while ragged urchins on _yaboos_, the strong
ponies peculiar to the country, ride here and there in easy confidence,
halting occasionally to exchange opinions on local affairs. Near the
head-quarters of the 1st Brigade is quite a little horse-fair, where
General Macpherson passes in review some hundreds of _yaboos_ daily, and
purchases largely for transport purposes. The noisy, chattering crowd is
densest here, and the _yaboo_ fights are numerous, each pony choosing
his nearest neighbour as a fit object of attack. Near by is the Amir’s
tent with its little cluster of attendants’ _pals_ about it, and a
sentry from a guard of Europeans stationed over them pacing smartly to
and fro. At times a few prisoners with an escort of sepoys are marched
past on their way to the tent in head-quarters, where the military
commission sits which is to try them; or on “execution days” a company
of Europeans swing past with one or two men in their midst, and take the
path down the ridge to the Bala Hissar, where the gallows is waiting
ready. On the circular bit of raised ground, at the western end of the
head-quarters’ camp and overlooking the city, is a little party of
signallers near a large brass field-piece captured at Sherpur, and now
used as a time-gun. The heliograph flashes up in response to one on the
Bala Hissar ridge, which is speaking to Kushi, and we know that news is
travelling to and from the Shutargardan. In the evening one of the bands
plays on this natural band-stand, around the flag-staff which is reared
in the centre, and with the last strains of “God Save the Queen” our day
closes, the flag is furled, and we pass into the warmth and comfort of
our snug little tents. Beneath all this surface of visible camp-life is
the steady current of routine work, which goes on unceasingly and
smoothly, no outside influences acting as disturbing agents. Our men are
healthy and contented; their wounded comrades are doing well; supplies
are coming in abundantly; and, looking down upon Sherpur, we see that
warm winter quarters are being got ready; so all, apart from political
questions, is rose-coloured.

                                     CAMP SIAH SUNG, _28th October_.

This morning only did it become publicly known that Yakub Khan had
abdicated the Amirship, the newspapers brought in by the mail from India
giving all beyond General Roberts and his immediate advisers their first
news of the occurrence. It was, of course, on account of possible
mischief ensuing if the abdication were made known and the Government
afterwards refused to accept it, that secrecy was observed regarding the
Amir’s act; and, singularly enough, while people in India and England
have been speculating as to the probable consequences of the step, we on
the spot have been in happy ignorance of the under-current of events.
The incidents of the abdication were as follows:—October 12th was the
day appointed for the Proclamation in the Bala Hissar, at which the Amir
had been ordered to attend. At six o’clock in the morning of that day he
left his camp below the Siah Sung Ridge, and went with only two servants
to Major Hastings, Chief Political Officer, and asked for an immediate
interview with General Roberts. In a few minutes he was ushered into the
General’s tent, and at his request a private interview was granted.
Yakub Khan was greatly excited, and he abruptly announced his intention
of resigning the Amirship. His life, he said, had become so miserable
that he could no longer endure it. Sir F. Roberts at once asked him to
consider what he was saying, as abdication was a very serious step. The
Amir persisted in saying that his mind was made up; he had intended to
resign at Kushi, but was persuaded by his Ministers not to do so. Now he
would sooner be a grass-cutter in the British camp than remain Amir of
Cabul. He earnestly wished that his resignation should be accepted; and,
for himself, he was ready to go to India, London, Malta, or wherever the
Viceroy should choose to send him. General Roberts again requested him
to reconsider the matter, and placed a tent at his disposal near
head-quarters. At ten o’clock, the hour fixed for falling in for the
procession to the Bala Hissar, the Amir again visited the General, and
announced that his decision was fixed: he wished to resign at once. Sir
F. Roberts replied that he himself could not accept the resignation
without having consulted the Viceroy, and he asked the Amir to let
matters remain _in statu quo_ until an answer could be received from
Simla, the British authorities in the meantime carrying on the
Government in the Amir’s name. Yakub Khan agreed to this without further
parley, but asked permission to absent himself from the Bala Hissar that
morning, as the excitement and trouble he had undergone had made him
ill. He would order his eldest son and all the principal sirdars to
attend and hear the Proclamation read. He was accordingly excused, and
the same afternoon his tents and those of his personal attendants were
moved to the head-quarters. He knew nothing of the contents of the
Proclamation of October 12th, and was quite unaware of the intended
arrest of his Ministers. Such were the circumstances attending his

Up to this afternoon it was believed that the ex-Amir was acting in good
faith, but within the last few hours we have had reason to change our
opinion. Since the entrance into the Bala Hissar, on October 12th, Yakub
Khan has been living in a large tent close to head-quarters, and has had
about him a little army of servants, whose tents also have been pitched
about that of their master. He was reported to be much happier in his
mind now that his scheming Ministers had been removed from about his
person, and once or twice he had shown himself among us in the evening,
walking with General Roberts up and down the row of tents in which the
Staff are lodged, and listening with much delight to the band playing
near. The restraint placed upon him after he had come voluntarily into
our camp from among his own people on the lower slope of the Ridge, was
merely that a guard of twenty European soldiers was stationed over his
tents, while two sentries paced before them night and day. This was his
“guard of honour” nominally, though if he had tried to escape they would
instantly have become his gaolers. It was most important that we should
have him with us while we were examining into the guilt of the various
persons concerned in the Massacre; for if once he had been a free agent,
he would probably have been made an instrument of intrigue by such men
as the Mustaufi and the Wazir. This was proved by the episode of Nek
Mahomed’s visit to him at Charasia the day before the action of the 6th,
the commander-in-chief of the rebel army returning to Cabul and
proclaiming that the Amir had ordered all men to resist the British
force. Thus was there every reason to keep him under fairly close
surveillance, as the scattered units of his disbanded army are still
capable of doing harm if once gathered together. In my letter of the
23rd I pointed out very fully the anomalous position we were occupying
here: proclaiming the Amir’s authority on the one hand, and
appropriating all his stores and munitions of war on the other. This
was, of course, written without knowledge of what had occurred on the
12th; and, viewed in the new light that has now scattered the political
darkness here, the anomaly at once vanishes. Yakub Khan had voluntarily
cast away all power and responsibility, and the only course remaining
for Sir F. Roberts was to assume the discarded authority and take every
means to secure order in Cabul. The clearing out of the Bala Hissar and
the appropriation of all that it contained, except Yakub Khan’s personal
property, now stands out as merely an ordinary taking over of effects
surrendered to us, and not the spoliation of a sovereign whose authority
we were re-establishing. We could not, in fact, have done otherwise,
unless we had waited for a declaration of the ministerial policy at
home, and the delay might, perhaps, have had mischievous results.

Now it is all plain-sailing. We know what our course is to be, and we
can follow it out consistently. Yakub Khan as Amir was merely a puppet;
and government through such a medium is always unsatisfactory. Now his
position is simplified—and simplified, too, by his own act—though his
future position in life not a man in camp can foreshadow. The
proclamation accepting his abdication was received here from Simla by
cypher telegram on the 26th; and to-day a translation of it was issued
to the chief sirdars of Cabul, who cannot mistake the meaning conveyed
in the following terse sentences:—

“I, General Roberts, on behalf of the British Government, hereby
proclaim that the Amir having of his own free will abdicated, has left
Afghanistan without a Government. In consequence of the shameful outrage
upon its Envoy and _suite_, the British Government has been compelled to
occupy by force of arms Cabul, the capital, and take military possession
of other parts of Afghanistan. The British Government now commands that
all Afghan authorities, chiefs, and sirdars do continue their functions
in maintaining order, referring to me whenever necessary. The British
Government desires that the people shall be treated with justice and
benevolence, and that their religious feelings and customs be respected.
The services of such sirdars and chiefs as assist in preserving order
will be duly recognized; but all disturbers of the peace and persons
concerned in attacks upon the British authority will meet with condign
punishment. The British Government, after consultation with the
principal sirdars, tribal chiefs, and others representing the interests
and wishes of the various provinces and cities, will declare its will as
to the future permanent arrangements to be made for the good government
of the people.”

Judging from internal evidence, this Proclamation bears the stamp of the
home Ministry, and it has been hailed with unbounded satisfaction by all
among us who have been fearing a repetition of the old shilly-shally
policy which has had such disastrous results. The Government has now
committed itself to a distinct policy which can be proclaimed throughout
Afghanistan, and our duty now is to wait until “the principal sirdars,
tribal chiefs, and others representing the interests and wishes of the
various provinces and cities,” have been made aware of what has
occurred. Messengers will be sent with copies of the Proclamation to
them; and they will no doubt be invited to come to Cabul, and hear the
“will” of the British Government. It is no longer a question of the
“wishes” of the Viceroy of India, but a distinct assertion of our
newly-acquired power in Afghanistan.

To-day has been marked, also, not only by the issue of the Proclamation,
but by a new change of front on the part of Yakub Khan. Whatever his
fears or suspicions may be, or whatever guilty consciousness he may have
of participation in the Massacre, he has withdrawn so far from his
position of the 12th—when he said he would willingly go wherever the
Viceroy might deport him: to India, London, or Malta—that he has
contemplated flight to Turkistan. Such, at least, is the information
generally believed to have been received; and the action taken this
afternoon proves that he has so far committed himself as to jeopardize
his future freedom. About five o’clock his tent was isolated by the
removal of all those of his servants pitched about it: his guard was
increased to forty British soldiers, and instead of two sentries there
are now four pacing to and fro with fixed bayonets. A fifth sentry is
within the tent itself, and the ex-Amir is as close a prisoner as he can
be made. Four personal attendants only are now allowed to him, and
these, also, are under guard. His food will be examined carefully before
it is passed to his servants, and every possible precaution against
outside information being conveyed to him will be taken.

                                     CAMP SIAH SUNG, _30th October_.

Since the issue of the Proclamation and the close confinement of Yakub
Khan to his tent two days ago, there has been no further development of
the situation, and it seems as if we should quietly wait here for the
winter in order to allow events to develop themselves without further
demonstration of our force. We have Cabul city and its guilt to deal
with; and though there are few outward signs of the investigation into
the circumstances surrounding the Massacre of our Embassy, there is a
steady stream of work running on, the results of which have yet to be
declared. This has been done chiefly by Colonel Macgregor, aided
hitherto, by Hyat Khan, Assistant Political Officer, who ferrets out
persons likely to give evidence; and now that Dr. Bellew (the third
member of the Commission) has arrived, still further progress is being
made in unravelling the complicated web of falsehood which has been
drawn about the occurrence. Sixty witnesses have been examined
privately; and, as each one is quite in ignorance of what has been said
before, the truth of the various stories told can be tested by the
comparisons drawn between the testimony of the friends and enemies of
Yakub Khan. Such of his late confidential advisers and adherents as have
come under cross-examination have generally injured his cause by
affirming too much; and plausible stories have been concocted to divert
attention from his shortcoming in not affording material aid to Sir
Louis Cavagnari. Much, for instance, has been made of the little flash
of energy he showed in sending Daoud Shah and thirty men to remonstrate
with the mutineers; and it has been asserted that the determined
attitude of the rabble was proved by Daoud Shah being bayoneted and all
his escort killed. But when this episode is looked closely into, and a
little independent evidence is taken, it becomes apparent that Daoud
Shah had merely a few attendants with him, and none of these were
killed; while he himself was by no means so maltreated as he would have
us believe. There is another incident, too, which assumes a new
complexion when carefully examined. Soon after the Massacre, Yakub Khan
put to death Abdul Karim, a powerful Kohistani chief, whose English
proclivities were very pronounced. The explanation of this act, as given
by Abdullah Gyaz (a confidential adviser of the ex-Amir, arrested
yesterday) is that Yakub Khan sent that chief from his palace to
remonstrate with the troops, and that, instead of carrying out his
orders, he gave direct encouragement to the mutineers, and urged them to
continue their attack on the Residency. Upon Abdul Karim’s return to the
palace, Abdullah Gyaz affirms, Yakub Khan was informed of his
treacherous disobedience, and, after the Massacre had taken place,
ordered that he should be executed. This story is so utterly improbable
that it is scarcely worth consideration; but its falsity has been proved
very directly, as the name of every man of importance who went near the
mutinous troops has been obtained from various sources, friendly and
otherwise, and Abdul Karim has never before been mentioned in the list.
The inference that suggests itself is that the wire-pullers about Yakub
Khan were distrustful of Abdul Karim, whose honesty of purpose and known
sympathy with the English rendered him a dangerous personage in their
eyes, and on the principle that dead men tell no tales, they induced the
Amir to sanction his execution. He probably knew too much, and was put
out of the way before he had an opportunity of using his knowledge. In
an investigation, such as that now going on, it is only possible to
shape out conclusions by inference, for even such witnesses as profess
unbounded friendship towards us lie so circumstantially to serve their
own ends, that very little reliance can be placed on them. It is not as
if a long period had elapsed since the events took place: the occurrence
must still be fresh in the minds of everybody: but there is such a
tendency to intrigue now that our power is established in Cabul, that
distrust is bred in our minds in an increasing ratio as the evidence
accumulates. There is no bottom to the well in which Afghan truth was
sunk ages ago, and it is disheartening to sound it now. The ex-Amir’s
partisans have lied honestly enough to shield their master, while he was
still protected by us; but now that he is a nonentity, and all semblance
of power has passed from him, there may be a change in their attitude.
They have a certain rude idea of faithfulness to their salt; but when
they see their Chief arrested without a word of warning, after being
allowed to move freely among us for weeks, their fortitude may not be
equal to the emergency, and they may seek to purchase their own safety
by voluntary disclosures. For these we must wait.

In the mean time the smaller fry are being dealt with by the Military
Commission, under whose orders eleven prisoners have been hanged. The
order of procedure is that the case against men under arrest is fully
gone into by Colonel Macgregor, aided by Hyat Khan; and when the
evidence and witnesses are ready, the prisoners are “committed,” so to
say, to the Commission, just as in ordinary criminal inquiries they
would be passed from the Police Magistrate to the Assize Judge. There is
no unseemly hurry or vindictive haste displayed in the inquiry. All goes
on systematically and deliberately; and before the Commission the men
under arrest are allowed to hear all that has been stated against them
and to give such explanation as they desire. If there then appears new
matter for inquiry, they are remanded from day to day; and no effort is
spared, in common fairness to them, to test the truth of their
statements. If found guilty, they are condemned to death; but even then
the sentence is not carried out without reference to a third source of
authority—that of Sir Frederick Roberts himself. If he approves the
finding, he signs the order for execution, and the Provost-Marshal has
then to fulfil the duty of his office without delay. But if there seem
doubtful points strong enough to be yet a third time considered, the
sentence of death is held in suspense; and even now we have in our
quarter-guards men in this stage, with the halter dangling before their
eyes. It will be seen that nothing can be fairer than the course taken
by Sir Frederick Roberts to punish such as deserve death for their past
actions in the early weeks of September; and in the face of it there is
none of that reckless blood-spilling which we may get the credit for. In
our Assize the old line—

               “And wretches hang that jurymen may dine—”

is unknown: and if there is grumbling occasionally at the pains taken to
convict prisoners instead of hanging them on mere suspicion, it is all
the more creditable to our Chief and his Commissioners that no attention
is paid to it. To-day two men were marched off to execution who richly
deserved their fate. The one was the _jemadar_ of the rascally Kotwal of
Cabul, himself hanged on the 20th. Like the Kotwal, he was most servile
in offering aid to us _after_ our arrival, and, on the night of the 8th,
acted as a guide to some troops marching up the Bala Hissar Ridge, in
connection with the action against the rebels on that day. The second
prisoner was a Mahomedan resident of Cabul, in whose house a box, marked
“Cabul Embassy,” was found by a searching party of the 28th Regiment. He
could give no explanation of how he came by the box, except the
colourless one that it had been placed in his rooms by an enemy. Several
guns and swords were also found in his house; and, nothing in his favour
being forthcoming, he was sent to execution. The guilt or innocence of
the confidential friends of Yakub Khan, who are now prisoners, is still
a question of doubt; but none are arrested without justification, and
their cases will undergo the usual scrutiny.

There is a probability that the taking of Cabul may not be so barren as
we first thought in the matter of loot. The city itself having been
respected, there was not much to get out of the Bala Hissar beyond
warlike stores and ammunition. But to-day the news has been made known
that a vast store of treasure is hidden in houses belonging to Yakub
Khan, or his near relatives living within the walls. Our treasure-chest
has sunk very low of late by reason of the enormous purchases made by
the Commissariat, which has to provide five months’ stores for the army.
Carriage was so scarce when we marched up from Ali Kheyl, that only a
few lakhs were brought up, and poverty is staring us in the face. Such
expedients as giving bills upon India to Hindu and Kizilbash merchants
in Cabul, or in receiving from Wali Mahomed and his sirdars many
thousands of Bokhara gold _tillahs_ (worth Rs. 9 or Rs. 10 each), or
Russian five-rouble pieces said to be worth Rs. 11-8, though nobody
really knows their legitimate market value—such expedients could not
last long; and as nothing has been done to exact the fine imposed upon
the Cabulis, it was clear that specie would have to be raised from some
source yet untouched. It is said that Yakub Khan, on assuming the
Amirship, appropriated many lakhs of rupees which his father had given
to the mother of Abdullah Jan, Shere Ali’s favourite son, and these he
had cleared out of the Bala Hissar, and, with other property of value,
had hidden in the city. A little party of British soldiers filed off to
the house indicated by our informers this morning, and the officer in
charge of our treasure-chest (Major Moriarty) and Lieutenant Neville
Chamberlain, Assistant Political Officer, had soon their eyes gladdened
by bags and boxes of gold coins, besides finding on all sides rich
silks, brocades, and other portable property of enormous value. About
eight lakhs in gold were secured, and native rumour affirms that before
the examination comes to an end, a million sterling may be unearthed.
Boxes innumerable have still to be opened, and our spies are firm in
their assurance that the value in coin and precious stones alone is
eighty lakhs of rupees. To-morrow the examination of the place will be
continued, and it is hoped another good day’s find will be the result.
This prize-money, for no doubt it will be considered as such, if it is
confiscated, will be a just reward for the energy and dash our commander
and his troops have shown in the capture of Cabul; and even if it is
found necessary to use the money now for our immediate wants, the debtor
and creditor account should be carefully kept in view of future
distribution. Such scandals as that of Delhi and Kirwee need not be
repeated in the case of Cabul.[22]


Footnote 22:

  It has since been ruled that the treasure is not to be considered
  prize-money. Abdur Rahman, upon his accession to the Amirship, was
  given 19½ lakhs of rupees, of which 9½ will appear in the accounts as
  “refunded to the Afghan Government.” This was the sum found in Cabul
  as detailed above.



                               CHAPTER X.

The Force moves into Sherpur Cantonments—Building Winter Quarters—The
    Sirdar and the Soldier—A Trying Climate—General Macpherson starts
    for Jugdulluck—Arrival of Stores from the Shutargardan—The Khyber
    Line of Communication—Various Routes to Jugdulluck—The Luttabund
    Kotal—The Chinari Route—The Khurd Cabul Defile—Its Difficulties
    Exaggerated—General Macpherson marches to Sei Baba—Reception of the
    Shutargardan Garrison—Padshah Khan dismissed to his Home—Death of

                                SHERPUR CANTONMENTS, _1st November_.

The scattered camp on the Siah Sung Ridge, though well situated from a
military point of view, and extremely healthy and dry, involved such
heavy duties for the troops, that it was resolved to move into these
cantonments sooner than was originally intended. The reserve
Commissariat stores were all sent here; and as a large quantity of food
had also to be kept at Siah Sung, there was double guard-duty to be
done; and this in addition to such work as furnishing a picquet on the
Bala Hissar Heights, a strong guard in the city, another over the Amir’s
tent, and a third to watch the excavations in the Residency and the
Arsenal ruins. Besides all these, the European regiments had nearly
every day to send a company to guard prisoners on their way to
execution, while the cavalry were out on escort duty with Commissariat
officers, buying up food, forage, and firewood. All these multifarious
duties resulted, technically, in giving the men only two nights a week
in bed; and as after sunset the cold makes itself felt very sharply, the
work became very trying. The 5th Ghoorkas and 23rd Pioneers, too, were
separated from the rest of the force, being sent down here to build
their winter quarters, the barracks built by Shere Ali not being equal
to accommodating all the regiments. Under these circumstances it was
thought best to move everybody to Sherpur—except, of course, such
regiments as were to move out towards Jugdulluck for the purpose of
opening up communication with the Khyber Force. We struck our tents on
Siah Sung Ridge yesterday morning at nine o’clock, and we are here
encamped on the cultivated fields which the three walls of the
cantonment enclose. The change is one for the better, as all duties are
lightened, picquets only being wanted on the Bemaru Heights, which shut
us in on the north side. A few sentries at the five large gates, and
others scattered about the camp, are all that are required; and orders
can be transmitted to regiments or brigades in a few moments, as all are
within the line of walls. Some thousands of masons, carpenters, and
Hazara coolies are busily engaged under our Engineer officers in
plastering, whitewashing, and making generally comfortable the long rows
of rooms once intended for the Afghan army, while blocks of rooms are
also being built in the open for such regiments as have not had quarters
assigned to them in Shere Ali’s barracks. The foundations of a
pretentious palace had been begun by our late enemy at the foot of the
Bemaru hills, and three sides of this had been raised some six or seven
feet high—good, solid masonry, well cemented together. Mud buildings,
with wooden framework, are being raised on both sides of these walls by
the Ghoorkas and as they work with their customary earnestness in things
great and small, they will soon be under first-rate shelter. The
Pioneers are building their barracks a little higher up the Ridge to the
north-east, but only one company is now engaged on them, the regiment
being away on service with General Macpherson, who has started eastwards
to join hands with General Charles Gough’s Brigade, now somewhere near
Gundamak, on the Khyber side. Wood in abundance, from the houses in the
Bala Hissar, has been brought in; and in the matter of doors and
windows, Cabul _mistris_ are hard at work all day, turning them out by
the score. There is much to be done yet before we are all housed for the
winter, and the camp-followers and kahars have yet to be provided for,
it being found impossible to clear out the Bemaru village for them, as
the inhabitants are more numerous than were at first supposed, and they
would have difficulty in finding shelter in Cabul or the villages about.
Bemaru, which is embraced within the line of fortifications, will,
therefore, remain undisturbed, for the present. If Bemaru could be
turned into a large bazaar it would be a great gain, as the Cabul bazaar
is a mile and a half away; and when snow is on the ground, such a
distance cannot be travelled daily by our sepoys and followers without
much discomfort. With native troops, and even European soldiers
accustomed to Indian stations, a bazaar is almost a necessity, as little
additions to the men’s rations and clothing can be picked up in it—all
tending to keep them more contented and in better health. It is needless
to say that stringent rules will be framed against the vending of native
liquors; but these are most unpalatable, as a rule, and are not likely
to be much in request. A mixture of strong Hollands gin and fusil oil,
flavoured with turpentine, may give you some idea of Afghan arrack, but
it must be tasted to be fully appreciated. We have been so long without
rum, that a few strong stomachs have been found equal to grappling with
it when largely diluted with water; but, as a “dram,” it would choke off
a highly-seasoned Dutch skipper. Then, as food is good and plentiful,
there is not the demand for strong liquor that there might otherwise be.
Besides, hard work keeps the soldiers from that idle lounging which is
such an incentive to drink. One little incident, however, while I am
dealing with this matter of drinking, is worth mentioning. Some casks of
Commissariat rum were left, too temptingly unguarded, near one of the
British regiments; and a toper, who had scarcely seen a dram since the
fight at Charasia, yielded to the temptation. As a consequence, he was
soon under arrest. In the bustle of camp-life, there is but little
accommodation for prisoners; and the lucky Highlander—we have had no
“lucky Ghoorka” yet as at Jellalabad last campaign—was marched off to
the spot in the ditch (the space between the outer wall and the line of
barracks) where the Afghans awaiting trial are lodged. The man was
placed in a tent where a sirdar (an Afghan noble) was calmly reflecting
on his _kismut_ in being delivered into our hands, and the two prisoners
were left to “make friends” as best they could. The sirdar was equal to
the occasion, and made first advances. Taking his snuff-box from his
belt, he offered it to the soldier, who, astonished, even in his
drunkenness, by the politeness of his companion, half held out his hand,
saying, in his maudlin humour,—“It’s little we ever take from you
niggers, and it’s —— little you niggers ever give us.” Having thus
satisfied his conscience, he allowed the snuff-box to be nearly emptied
into his hand; and still grumbling out complaints at our policy,
proceeded to “take in snuff” most ferociously. The sirdar stared in
silent awe at the madman who could take snuff by the _tolah_; but
presently such an explosion of sneezing followed, that he withdrew to a
safe distance. His politeness had imperilled the safety of the tent. The
soldier sneezed himself into such an exhausted state, that he fell
asleep where he lay, and the sirdar watched over him with unfeigned
interest, this new experience of Kafir life having apparently reconciled
him to his fate. I am afraid this letter is a strange jumble of
trivialities and more serious affairs; but such is our life at present.
On one side Ghoorkas making mud-pies and laughing good-humouredly at
their own architecture; on the other, a gleam of bayonets showing where
an Afghan prisoner is on his way to the gallows. In one tent, the chaff
and anecdote of the mess-table; in the next, Yakub Khan at his prayers.

It is to be hoped we shall not remain long under canvas here, for the
cold at night is already intense. Nine degrees of frost were registered
last night, and in the morning the watercourses were all frozen over. It
is these watercourses which make Sherpur so uncomfortable just now. The
soil is light and porous, and has all been under irrigation for vine and
wheat culture; and as the channels are raised a foot or so higher than
the fields, and steady little streams are coursing along from the higher
level of the Cabul river, the whole place is damp and excessively cold.
The water lies in places only a foot from the surface, and, near the
eastern end of the cantonments, bursts forth in a spring, proving how
saturated the subsoil must be. No cold is so trying to men living in
tents, without fires of any kind, as that which strikes upward, and a
water-proof sheet is but a poor protection from it, however much it may
neutralize the actual damp. At Siah Sung water was in request, every
drop used having to be carried up the steep hillsides; but here we have
too much of it. The channels are carried under the walls by low
culverts, and some of these will have to be filled up if we are to
counteract the effects of past irrigation. This can be done without much
trouble; and the existing wells, aided by a few more that can be sunk in
a week, would meet all our drinking requirements, while the channels
outside could also be used by the _bhistees_ and followers.

There is such a turmoil here with the building and improvements going on
and the storing of five months’ supplies in the Commissariat godowns,
that one almost forgets military movements; but when the Pioneers
marched out this morning, we were reminded that an important step was
being taken towards opening up the Gundamak and Khyber line of
communications. General Macpherson commands the brigade which has left,
and he has with him the following troops:—67th Foot, 23rd Pioneers, 28th
Punjab Native Infantry, 12th Bengal Cavalry, and two guns F-A Battery,
Royal Horse Artillery. Swinley’s Mountain Battery will also join him at
Butkhak, ten miles east of this, on the 3rd, and a few days later on he
will march for Jugdulluck. We are anxiously awaiting this movement, as
our postal arrangements are very uncertain, it being impossible to send
off bags while the tribes are infesting the roads. I have complained of
the slowness of the Khyber Force; but it is only just to General Charles
Gough heading the advance to say that he has pushed on as rapidly as
General Bright would allow him. He has had but few troops, little
transport, and scarcely any supplies; and with Khugianis and Shinwaris
in front, and fickle Afridis behind, great caution had to be exercised.
A long convoy with stores, which had accumulated at the Shutargardan,
came in to-day. Since the breaking up of the tribal combination at the
Shutargardan on October 19th, all has been quiet south of Cabul, and our
convoys have marched along without molestation. The little exemplary
severity we showed in shooting three villagers, who fired upon General
Baker’s rear-guard when near the Logar Bridge at Zahidabad on October
4th, had the best results; while the fact of our being in possession of
Cabul itself has so far acted like a charm.

                                                     _3rd November._

The Shutargardan route having been finally closed, it has, of course,
become imperative to open up the Gundamak and Khyber line of
communication, and General Macpherson, with a force already detailed, is
now engaged upon that work. From Cabul to Butkhak the road runs in a due
easterly direction through the Cabul plain, and is so good that cavalry
can travel at a gallop over it. To the south a range of hills shuts out
the valley through which the Logar river runs after passing through the
Sang-i-Nawishta defile; and when this range is passed a swampy _maidan_
is entered upon, which gradually changes into a dry, open plain,
overgrown with short tufts of coarse grass. The Logar river is crossed
at right-angles by the road which is carried over a stout masonry bridge
of six arches. The river is turbid, but its current runs at about four
or five miles an hour to its junction with the Cabul stream, creeping
away under the high hills which bound the view to the north, two or
three miles away. Irrigation channels are cut from the Logar, and these
serve as a source of fertility to the fields about Butkhak, a walled
village prettily situated in its orchards, with shallow streams running
near the walls. Butkhak is to be the first post on the road, its
garrison consisting of forty rifles, who will be placed in a square
enclosure easily capable of defence. The telegraph wire has been already
laid to this village from Sherpur cantonments. The hills which bound the
Cabul plain to the north and south close in near Butkhak, and to the
east sink down 1,000 feet, affording the only out-look towards
Jugdulluck. One can see even from Cabul that this break in the
continuous ranges which guard the plain must give an outlet into the
Jellalabad Valley, and it is accordingly in this direction that we shall
unite our little army with the supporting force that has marched out
from Peshawur through the Khyber. The ordinary road from Butkhak to
Jugdulluck, and thence to Gundamak, is through the Khurd Cabul Pass; but
this has been represented of so formidable a kind, that alternative
routes have been sought. Moreover, the Khurd Cabul Road makes a
considerable detour to the south, and thus adds many miles to the
distance, measured as the crow flies. To satisfy himself as to the
practicable nature, or otherwise, of other routes, General Roberts,
accompanied by Colonel Macgregor and a few members of his Staff, left
Sherpur early on Sunday morning, and rode over to Butkhak, where General
Macpherson was encamped.

The first route examined was that known as the Luttabund Road, which
runs due east, in a straight line from Butkhak as far as Kata Sung, 28
or 30 miles distant, and then turns down in a southerly direction to
Jugdulluck, five miles further on. This would make the whole distance to
be marched over only 35 miles, whereas the Khurd Cabul Road is at least
55 miles long. A reconnoitring party of six companies of infantry, one
squadron of cavalry, and two mountain guns, was sent out from Butkhak
with the General towards the Luttabund Kotal,[23] and the country was
thoroughly examined. The road was found to traverse open rolling hills
for about 4 miles, and then by a gradual ascent to lead up to the Kotal.
The hills were not at all precipitous, and nowhere closed down upon the
road, which all along permitted of flanking parties working to right and
left without the slightest difficulty. In one place only did a ridge
break the even run of the path, and a few days’ blasting would cut away
the obstruction. The Kotal is 9 miles distant from Butkhak, and was
calculated to be 8,000 feet above sea-level. From the summit a splendid
view was obtained on all sides; and it would be a perfect heliographing
station, as not only could Sherpur and Cabul be distinctly seen, but
also the whole range of the Safed Koh and the peaks above Lundi Kotal in
the Khyber range. In fact, it is not too sanguine an estimate of the
position to say that Cabul, Ali Kheyl, and Lundi Kotal could all be
connected by the heliograph. Sikaram stood out prominently in the long
range of the Safed Koh, and the various minor peaks could also be
observed. Native report had said that to the Kotal the road was easy
enough, the difficulties being on the eastern side, where precipitous
descents had to be overcome. So far, however, as General Roberts could
judge, looking down towards Kata Sung, there was nothing that skilled
road-makers could not overcome: a short ravine with almost perpendicular
sides seeming the chief difficulty. It was too late in the day to
continue the reconnaissance, and the party accordingly returned to
Butkhak, well satisfied with their visit. On the following day the
Chinari Road was tried, General Roberts taking a few of the 12th Bengal
Cavalry with him; while a force, similar in strength to that of Sunday,
was sent round through the Khurd Cabul. The Luttabund route was again
taken by the General for 4 miles, and then a turn to the south was made
and the bed of a stream followed for 3 miles until the Chinari defile
was reached.


This was found to be of a really formidable character, the hills closing
down upon the stream, which wound along through a gorge where horsemen
could only march in Indian file. High pinnacle-shaped peaks jutted up on
either hand, and the scenery was of the wildest nature. This defile was
4 miles long; and although a few Kushi camels were being driven along it
by their nomadic owners, it would be quite impracticable for the passage
of anything but infantry. The gorge ended, rolling hills, rising here
and there to round-topped mounds, were crossed for 5 miles; and then the
road joined that from the Khurd Cabul on the south about 3 miles west of
Tezin. A halt was called at this junction, 16 miles from Butkhak, and in
a short time the reconnoitring party came up. They had passed through
the Khurd Cabul without seeing a single armed man, and such villagers as
were met were quite friendly. The General rode back to Butkhak by way of
the Khurd Cabul, and they saw all three roads, and could decide as to
their merits. The old descriptions of this famous Khurd Cabul Road had
led every one to expect tremendous difficulties; but at this time of the
year there are no obstacles sufficiently great to prevent horse
artillery trotting through. The scenery is imposing enough and the high
pinnacles of the Chinari gorge are repeated on a grander scale; but the
Pass is never so narrow as to forbid the orderly march of an army of all
arms, and the real gorge is only 2 miles long, or even less. A rapid
mountain-stream runs through it and boulders are plentiful but they are
not so large as to hinder progress; and the heights above, though
formidable-looking, would not, if crowned by an enemy, be an absolute
bar to an advance through. Besides, a path to the south-west enables the
heights to be occupied very easily, the cavalry and mountain guns from
Butkhak taking this road and crossing over the height without any check.
The gorge at Ali Musjid, with precipitous crags added, will give a good
idea of this part of the road. There is, of course, the objection to
this route that, in the melting of the snows, the river bed would be
covered by a roaring torrent of ice-cold water; but, for present
service, the road can be used without any improvements being required.
From the juncture with the Chinari Road to Butkhak is 17 miles; and
after riding this distance General Roberts rested a short time, and then
started for Sherpur, which he reached at dusk. It was a hard day’s ride,
42 miles, partly over bad ground; but the valuable information gained as
to the future line of communication with the Khyber and Peshawur was
ample recompense. The conclusions arrived at may be summarized very
briefly: the Chinari Road is, once for all, condemned as out of the
question; the Khurd Cabul can be used for all present emergencies
without labour being expended upon it; while the direct Luttabund route,
so far as it has been examined, is to be made the road of the future. It
has followed from this that General Macpherson has marched along with
his force to Jugdulluck by the Khurd Cabul, as it is of the first
importance that he should join hands with General Charles Gough’s force
pushing onward from Gundamak. He will not strike the Luttabund Road
until Sei Baba is reached, 5 miles west of Kata Sung: and on his return
march he will no doubt be able to test the truth of native rumour as to
the difficulties immediately to the east of the Luttabund Kotal, which,
so far as General Roberts could see, have been much overrated. Having
the 23rd Pioneers with him, whose knowledge of roads and roadmaking is
exceptionally good, General Macpherson will be able to form an exact
estimate of this Luttabund route. If it is pronounced practicable, it
will save, as I have said, fully 20 miles, and, having no awkward defile
in its entire length, will be much safer for an army to work through.
Even if it is rejected, there is still the Khurd Cabul open, the
“formidable” features of which have been torn down by closer


Footnote 23:

  The word “Kotal” is applied usually where the road passes over a hill,
  instead of through it; “Pass” being used in the latter case.

                                                     _5th November._

With the exception of the brigade under Brigadier-General Macpherson,
which has been detached on the important work of securing our winter
line of communication by way of Gundamak, General Roberts’s force is
once more concentrated, the arrival yesterday of Brigadier-General Hugh
Gough with the troops lately at Kushi and on the Shutargardan having
prevented the army here from dwindling to too small proportions. At noon
on the 1st we had here only the following regiments:—72nd and 92nd
Highlanders, 5th Ghoorkas, one company 23rd Pioneers, and one company of
Sappers and Miners, as our infantry force; 120 of the 9th Lancers, and
the 14th Bengal Lancers, as cavalry; two guns F-A, Royal Horse Artillery
and G-3 Royal Artillery, with the two Gatling guns, as artillery. This
was a very small force, and, if it had remained unstrengthened, might
have given rise to a suspicion of weakness on our part; but between
Kushi and Cabul was a long line of troops, who soon began to arrive at
their destination here. The convoys they were escorting from the
Shutargardan were all safely on their way; and on the afternoon of the
1st two companies of the 5th Punjab Infantry, a squadron of the 5th
Punjab Cavalry, and four guns of Swinley’s Mountain Battery, reached
Sherpur with the last loads. On the morning of the 2nd this mountain
battery started again to join the force at Butkhak. On the 2nd there
were no further arrivals here; but on the morning of the 3rd news was
brought in that General Hugh Gough had reached Beni Hissar, and General
Roberts rode out to meet him. The troops which were so near at hand were
two squadrons of the 9th Lancers and head-quarters, two squadrons 5th
Punjab Cavalry, six companies of the 5th Punjab Infantry, the 3rd Sikhs,
and four guns of the Kohat Mountain Battery (Captain Morgan’s). General
Gough had not followed the route taken by the main force when advancing
upon Cabul, but, starting from Kushi, had immediately crossed the Logar
river, and encamped for the first night on the left bank at Payo Kheyl.
His next halting-place was Bagh Sultan; and thence onward to Charasia he
followed the usual road. His march was perfectly orderly, none of the
villagers molesting him, the fall of Cabul having checked any warlike
tendencies among the Logaris.

As we rode out to Beni Hissar we found the band of the 5th Ghoorkas
waiting upon the bridge over the Cabul river to welcome the 3rd Sikhs
and Captain Morgan’s battery, to whom all of us were anxious to give
every praise for their steady defence of the Shutargardan. At the gate
of the Bala Hissar the band of the 72nd was waiting with a similar
object. Taking the bridle road which leads to Beni Hissar through the
Cabul plain, we presently met a few of the 5th Punjab Cavalry, the
advance guard of the little force, and immediately in rear of them was
Padshah Khan and a few attendants. The powerful Chief of the local
Ghilzais was eager to greet General Roberts, and looked very much as if
he would kiss his stirrup. He is a man of common appearance, with no
pretence of dignity, and lacks the fine features often seen among the
independent hill chiefs. He is past middle age; but is well-formed, and
has, seemingly, many years of life before him in which to pursue the
“tricky practices” for which he is so celebrated. At present he is
rather humbled by the ill-luck which has come upon him in the loss of
his brother, Allahaddin Khan, whose arm was blown off by a shell from
the Kohat Battery during the investment of the Shutargardan. Allahaddin
was left in a dying state at Charasia, secondary hemorrhage having
broken out some days after his arm was amputated. I may as well state,
once for all, that he has since died, and that Padshah Khan to-day
received his _congé_ from the General, and was told he might return to
his home to bury his brother and to find, if possible, some letters
which the members of his tribe have looted in the Khurd Cabul. After a
few words with Padshah Khan, General Roberts rode on, and, upon meeting
his Brigadier, faced round again for Cabul. A halt was called just
outside the Bala Hissar gate; and, after the 9th Lancers, the 5th Punjab
Cavalry, and 5th Punjab Infantry had passed on, the Mountain Battery and
the 3rd Sikhs were formed up to receive the thanks of the General. The
battery in its equipment and general turn-out of men and mules looked
but little worse for wear; while the 3rd Sikhs, though dusty and
travel-stained, marched along in excellent form. They are as fine a set
of men as could be desired, and a red standard, captured from the
Ghilzais, flying alongside their regimental colours, bore testimony to
the successful fighting they had gone through. They are 730 strong, and
will be a great addition to the force, as there is no question of their
ability to meet an enemy of far superior strength on equal terms. The
regiment is made up chiefly of Sikhs, but there is also a fair
sprinkling of Pathans among them, and all have fought equally well under
very trying circumstances. Having halted them alongside the Mountain
Battery, General Roberts proceeded to compliment them on their late
exploits. He said:

“It always gives me much pleasure to meet the 3rd Sikhs and the Kohat
Mountain Battery, and this is more particularly the case now, after
their gallant behaviour at the Shutargardan. When the force left Kushi
for the march upon Cabul, there was only one point which gave me
anxiety, and that was the post to which, with the 21st Punjab Infantry,
they had been told off to hold. The safety of my right flank and rear
depended mainly upon the safety of the Shutargardan; for, if once the
latter had fallen, the tribes would have attempted to hinder my march.
Repeated attacks were made upon the position you were holding; and so
confident were the Ghilzais of their success, that I hear they brought
down their women to witness your discomfiture. You were able, however,
to beat them off with heavy loss, though far outnumbered; and this shows
how, with the weapons you are now armed, you can hold your ground
against almost any number of these tribesmen. You have set a good
example to the whole force by showing what a few men can do when
properly led; and I do not think I could have chosen a better spot on
which to thank you than here, beneath the walls of the Bala Hissar, to
the capture of which you have, indirectly, so much contributed.” General
Roberts then alluded to the excellent dispositions.made by Colonel Money
in meeting the attacks made, and complimented Captain Morgan upon the
good practice of his gunners. He referred also to the bravery of Major
Griffiths, who, although wounded in the early fight at Karatiga, had led
his men at the Surkhai Kotal on the 14th, and worked bravely with them
on the following days of the investment. The native officer, Jemadar
Sher Mahomed, 3rd Sikhs, who distinguished himself both at Karatiga and
on the Surkhai Kotal, was called from the ranks and briefly praised;
and, in conclusion, the General said the Viceroy had sent a special
message, thanking the Shutargardan garrison for their bravery; and if it
had not already been made known to the sepoys, he should wish the
message to be published in full orders. The 3rd Sikhs and the Mountain
Battery then marched to Sherpur without further delay, no doubt well
pleased with the hearty reception given to them.

The 3rd Sikhs had five prisoners with them, who were hanged in the Bala
Hissar this morning. Four of these were the headmen of villages about
the Shutargardan who were in our pay, but who, with the treachery of
their race, played a double game. At the time they were receiving pay
from us to keep the road safe, they were proved to have been active in
stirring up the neighbouring tribes to attack Colonel Money. Their
object was either to obtain large sums with which to buy off the Ghilzai
chiefs assembled, or to share in the loot if the Shutargardan were
captured. They failed to accomplish either object, and when with
consummate coolness they turned up after the tribesmen had been
scattered, they were summarily arrested. The fifth prisoner was a
villager, who was stopped by Major Griffiths when out on a foraging
party. The man thought that officer was unarmed as he had no sword with
him (his right arm was stiff from his wound and he had discarded his
sword); and as the sepoys were some distance away, the fellow put his
hand upon his tulwar and stepped forward as if to cut down Major
Griffiths. The latter drew his pistol, and his self-possession put an
end to the meditated attack, two or three Sikhs overtaking the man as he
tried to escape to the hills. The 3rd Sikhs have also with them a
havildar, who deserted from one of the regiments at Candahar. He was
disguised as an Afghan villager, but was recognized on the roadside by
an old companion, who addressed him by name, and called out “halt,”
which order, with his old respect for discipline still clinging to him,
he obeyed at once. He is to be tried by court-martial.

All hands are still busily engaged in preparing to meet the hardships of
a Cabul winter, but it is difficult to see how adequate provision can be
made for the followers unless some part of Bemaru is cleared out for
them. Private servants and kahars are so numerous, that the housing of
them is a serious question. As a subsidiary portion of the force, but
one which could not be dispensed with under the conditions of Indian
warfare, it is worth while drawing attention to the kahars forming the
ambulance corps. There are 900 of these men with General Roberts, and to
them is entrusted the charge of carrying off the wounded in action and
conveying the sick in _dandies_ and _doolies_ on the line of march. They
have been drilled into good order by Surgeon-Major Bourke, by whose
energy they have been kept much better in hand than is usual in
campaigns similar to this. They correspond to the bearers of the Army
Hospital Corps at home, but in camp they are also employed in any rough
work which may require to be done. Their behaviour on the 6th of October
at Charasia was extremely good; they were constantly under fire, and
their indifference to danger was very marked, their belief in _kismut_
supplying the place of steady courage. In the Ambulance Corps two were
killed and three wounded; while with the regiments three more were


                              CHAPTER XI.

The Inquiry into Yakub Khan’s Conduct—Visit to the Chardeh
    Valley—Dismantlement of the Bala Hissar—The Amir’s Palace—A curious
    Picture—A Sirdar’s House in the Fortress—General Baker’s Raid upon
    Indikee—Arrest of Sepoys—Seizure of Arms—The Guilt of the Herat
    Regiments—Opening up of Communication with General Bright—Failure to
    keep the Road Open—The Execution of Forty-nine Sepoys—An Amnesty
    Issued—The probable Fate of the Amir—Punishment of the Shutargardan
    Tribes—First Signs of Winter.

                                            SHERPUR, _7th November_.

The Commission which is inquiring into the massacre of Sir Louis
Cavagnari and his escort may be said to have reached the first stage of
its work—the examination of nearly 100 witnesses, who have spoken as to
what occurred at the Bala Hissar and in Cabul afterwards, having been
completed. This has furnished materials, so to say, for the brief
against the Amir, who, from the 5th, may he considered to have been on
his trial. Explanations will, of course, be required of him of such
suspicious circumstances as point to something beyond mere helplessness
and vacillation, and his statements will be weighed against those
already in the hands of the Commission. In the present stage of the
inquiry great reticence is observed as to what evidence has been taken,
and it would be idle to indulge in too free conjectures. This much may
be taken as certain, that not the least respect of persons will be shown
in the decisions arrived at by the Commissioners. The hanging of such
wretches as the Kotwal of Cabul and the _chowkidar_ of Mundai was an
example to such small fry as those who make up the rabble population of
Cabul; but higher game may be flown at, as the faithlessness of chiefs
and influential leaders must be punished. The Mustaufi and the other
Ministers under arrest have yet to be dealt with; and if their
complicity in the treachery which we are punishing is established, they
will have short shrift.

Yesterday General Roberts, taking his usual personal escort and a troop
of the 9th Lancers, rode into the Chardeh Valley with General Baker. The
position of the enemy on the Asmai Heights on the 8th of October was
explained by General Baker, and also the disposition for the attack. The
Cabul gorge was passed through, the river crossed, and the road at the
foot of the hills blocking Chardeh from Charasia followed. Walled
homesteads and richly-cultivated fields alternated with orchards, on the
right; and as the road gradually ascended, a beautiful view of the whole
valley was obtained. Even so late in the year as now it will answer the
description given of it by a member of the Embassy: “a mass of
vegetation.” Rows of willow-trees rise from the sides of every
irrigation channel, and orchards innumerable are scattered on all sides.
The walled enclosures, with their small towers, are dotted here and
there, breaking the even monotony of the view, and whichever way one may
turn, the steep hills which run out from the Pughman Range shut in this
fertile valley. We followed the path from the gorge to the village of
Indikee, and halted on the plain immediately in rear of the heights
which the 72nd Highlanders and 5th Ghoorkas stormed on October 6th. It
was across this plain that the enemy fled; and, seeing how clear it is
of all obstacles, one can well understand General Baker’s regret that he
had not cavalry ready at hand to cut up the retreating Afghans. If the
nature of the ground had been better known to us, the loss of Nek
Mahomed’s force would have been much heavier. Turning back from Indikee,
we retraced our steps through the narrow, winding streets of the
village, perched on the steep hillside with a roaring brook running
through it, and struck the Bamian Road. This was followed for three
miles into the heart of the valley, where nothing but wheat-fields and
irrigated plots under water, or lying fallow for the plough, was seen.
Then a bee-line was taken to the break in the hills to the east, and
after a good gallop the northern suburbs of Cabul were reached, and the
road to Sherpur followed until Camp was gained. Such villagers as we had
seen were quiet enough: and if any sepoys were hidden away, they did not
think it worth while to risk a shot at the General. Fanaticism seems at
present incapable of producing a Ghazi equal to the fear of meeting
certain death.

The dismantlement of the Bala Hissar has made such rapid progress, that
within the walls the houses are now in ruins, all the beams and wooden
supports, as well as every scrap of timber of every kind, being in
course of removal to Sherpur. We are looking forward to a severe winter;
and, however snug our quarters may be in the long ranges of barracks
built here by Shere Ali, there will be much discomfort, not to say
sickness, if firewood runs short. There are no forests from which large
supplies can be drawn: the hillsides all around being bare rock or
shingly deposit on which no vegetation can grow.

Some of the large houses in the Bala Hissar, though now deserted and
partially demolished, show signs of luxury and comfort which speak
highly of the pains taken by rich sirdars to enjoy life in their own
rude way. The palace in which Yakub Khan lived was furnished
luxuriously, no doubt, in his estimation; thick Persian carpets,
bright-coloured rugs and _dhurries_ covering the floors; while
English-made tables, sideboards, and chairs were ranged side by side
with the usual Eastern pillows, cushions, and _rezais_, which are the
delight of indolent loungers. In one small room the ceiling was so
closely hung with glass chandeliers that to move about was to risk a
small shower of pendants falling; while the shades for the candles were
of such brilliancy in light green and pink that the effect in the bright
sunshine was quite dazzling. “Pearls and barbaric gold” there were none
to be seen,—they had been removed for safe-keeping to his
father-in-law’s house in the city, where the ladies of the harem were
also lodged,—but such gimcracks as usually light up the houses of the
poorest classes in England were not wanting. Cheap pictures in common
gilded frames, the kind turned out by the thousand in Germany, all gaudy
colours and painfully real, were hanging on the walls; while a few
well-executed portraits of Russian officers, in full uniform and
bedecked with orders, were found scattered about. These were all neatly
framed in wood, and were so well got up that most probably they had been
presents to Shere Ali from the Embassy, whose stay in Cabul gave rise to
such serious results. One small picture was discovered, which is
certainly a great curiosity. It is plainly the work of an Afghan artist,
and carries us back to the disasters of 1841-42, when for a time our
arms suffered so serious a reverse. The subject of the drawing is an
Afghan on horseback, in full splendour of gold-braided coat of many
colours, enormous black Astrakan hat with its characteristic cone shape,
small black boots peeping out of the white drapery of his wide-flowing
trouser, and the silver scabbard of his sword dangling at his side. His
saddle is gorgeous in red and gold, while the trappings of his charger
are bright with elaborate gilding. The horse is, in the language of
heraldry, _rampant_, while his rider sits proudly in the saddle, staring
out over the wide, wide world with an expression of haughty contempt,
which is almost awe-inspiring. On the green foreground, which represents
the grassy sward of the Cabul plain, a dog, abnormally developed in some
particulars, gambols along, barking joyously (if the protrusion of a
crimson tongue as big as his head means anything), and thoroughly
enjoying his master’s triumph. What that triumph is has yet to be told!
On the flank of the horse, and so close as to be in danger of its heels,
is the figure of a British officer, clad in the old Pandy uniform, with
a musket at the trail in his hand, and crouching in the most abject
terror. His face, that of a boy subaltern, is turned upwards; while his
eye, full of fear and respect, is watching his Afghan conqueror with
great intentness. He is at the double, to keep up with the horse, and
the artist has cleverly depicted in figure and expression the
humiliation he is undergoing. Nothing could be finer than the contrast
between the black-bearded Afghan, with his enormous pouting lips of a
purple tinge, and staring eyes, and the smooth boyish face, full of
timidity, of the unlucky Briton he is leading captive. We can afford to
laugh at the picture, for “the wheel has come full circle,” and the
subject now for an artist to draw would be an English Lancer, perfect in
his array as a lily of the field, leading captive at his stirrup a
typical Afghan (say Yakub Khan, for example) with a halter round his
neck and clad in all the simplicity of a _dhotie_. The picture I have
described is a standing curiosity in Camp, and is to be the nucleus of a
future Cabul Picture Gallery.

In Cabul the better class of houses all present the same appearance
outside: that of high brown mud walls, with one or two small doorways.
Nothing can be more uninviting than these sun-baked walls, which, from
the Mediterranean eastwards, always mark the residence of a Mussulman
population. But within them there is much to atone for their forbidding
exterior. Entering one of these large houses in the Bala Hissar some
days ago, I found myself in an inner courtyard full 20 yards square. At
either end were sets of rooms with open verandahs in front, built of a
framework of wood fitted in with bricks, and then carefully plastered
over. The lower rooms were four or five feet above the level of the
courtyard, and broad flights of steps led up to them. Every bit of wood
used as supports or for partition walls had been carved and fretted with
great skill, while the inner rooms were cut off from the glare outside
by carved wooden screens, some of the patterns being extremely pretty.
But the greatest wealth of ornamentation had been lavished above, in
what were the quarters of the women. A handsome wooden staircase, broad
enough for four persons to walk abreast, led up to these; and once on
the higher level the change from the dull brown below was quite
refreshing. There was the same repetition of carved woodwork and open
screens; but the inner walls were gay with frescoes in every colour, the
plaster being covered with native designs of scroll-work, filled in with
birds of startling plumage and flowers of hues to shame the rainbow. The
ceilings and cornices were similarly adorned, the latter being set with
mirrors in long narrow strips of various sizes. The recesses for lamps
and the lintels of the doors had all shared in the general
ornamentation, and to its inmates the _zenana_ must have seemed a
triumph of artistic skill. All was deserted now, not even a door
remaining on its hinges. The carved work was smashed as if some reckless
soldier had thrust his rifle stock through it; the bits of mirror were
starred with stray blows, and the plaster had been broken from the walls
as the woodwork had been torn away. The wood from the staircases leading
to the roof, the favourite evening gossiping place of the sirdars,
ladies, and attendants, had all been carried away, and the gaping holes
through which the sunlight poured were eloquent of desolation. And it is
a desolation well deserved, for it was in just such a house, with
courtyard and pleasant upper rooms (perhaps not so elaborately
decorated, the whitewash covering the beauties of the frescoes) that
Cavagnari was lodged. The Bala Hissar may at last meet with the fate
which it deserved, and narrowly escaped, when Pollock was master of
Cabul in 1842: and soon not one mud wall may remain to stare its
neighbour out of countenance. The large godowns in the Upper Fortress
are still full of powder—nearly a million pounds; but, with this
exception, the place has been cleared of all its warlike stores. The
excavations at the Residency are still carried on, but the remains of
our officers have not been found. Two English watches were unearthed a
few days ago: one had stopped at 2.45 P.M., and the other at 8.15 P.M.

                                                     _9th November._

There seems to be an impression gaining ground outside that the army
here has been rather tardy in its work of vengeance, and has not
fulfilled its mission in so bloodthirsty a way as might have been
expected. Much, however, has had to be done in the clearing of the
Shutargardan, laying in stores for the winter, and making inquiry
quietly into the probable intention of the scattered regiments. It would
not have been advisable to alarm such of the Afghan sepoys as had left
their homes in Cabul and the villages near, and we have, therefore,
hitherto only picked out a few of the worst characters and hanged them
as an “encouragement to the others.” Seeing that no general action was
taken in thoroughly searching such villages as were close at hand, the
disbanded soldiers have returned in many instances to their homes, and
now that we have some of the muster-rolls of the regiments in our
possession, we have suddenly begun to sweep into the net of the Military
Commission every one against whom suspicion exists. Flying parties of
cavalry are sent out, some with sealed orders, to bring in such men as
have been marked down by informers eager to earn the rewards offered for
the apprehension of guilty persons, and yesterday a swoop was made into
the Chardeh Valley, only two or three miles from Camp. The village of
Indikee and its neighbours sent out most of their armed men to fight
against us, and for the last month they have been revelling in fancied
security, in the belief that their misdeeds were unknown. They have just
been rudely awakened from their pleasant dream. On Friday evening the
3rd Sikhs, 5th Punjab Cavalry, and two mountain guns of the Kohat
Battery were warned for service with General Baker for the morrow, but
their destination was kept a secret. There are so many channels by which
information may leak out that if it had been stated whither they were
bound, some kind friends of the Afghans, who are favourably received in
Camp, might have given warning to the men whose lives were in danger.
General Baker formed up the troops outside the walls of the cantonments
at daybreak yesterday morning, and at once moved off through the suburbs
of Cabul to the gorge through which the rivers enters the city. The road
to the left was taken after Dehmazung village had been passed just
beyond the gorge, and the cavalry pushing on formed a _cordon_ round
Indikee. In my last letter I described the village, which General
Roberts visited three days ago. It is commanded from several points on
the hillside, and at one of these the two guns were posted ready to open
fire if resistance were offered. There was, however, no thought of
fighting: the village was taken quite by surprise, and the headmen came
out in fear and trembling as General Baker and the 3rd Sikhs marched up.
The headmen were briefly told that all sepoys belonging to the Afghan
army must be brought out and surrendered. They were given five minutes
to produce the men, the threat of a forcible search, with, perhaps,
worse to follow, giving point to the request. In a very few minutes they
brought forward thirty men, unarmed, and with no uniform on their backs,
and these were at once made prisoners. The General had a list in which
the names of certain sepoys known to be in Indikee were entered; and,
upon calling this over, several were found to be missing. The _maliks_
explained that twenty-two sepoys were absent in various directions, and
promised faithfully to bring them into Sherpur when they should return.
This promise was accepted, and the disarmament of the village then
began. The orders were that all arms, even to the knives so commonly
worn by Afghans, should be laid at the door of every house before our
sepoys entered. This was done, the whole place being divided into three
parts: two companies of Sikhs were sent to each section to collect the
weapons. Wherever the arms were not before the doors the houses were
searched, and in such a manner that but few weapons could remain hidden.
Indikee having made itself so particularly obnoxious, was further
punished by a fine of 1,300 maunds of grain and 800 loads of _bhoosa_
being levied upon it. This quantity of grain and forage was ordered to
be delivered in Sherpur within a week, and two headmen were taken as
hostages for the due fulfilment of the bargain. In case of their failing
to carry out the order, the village will be burnt to the ground. Other
villages which had shared in the guilt of Indikee were then visited, and
eighteen more Afghan soldiers taken. Many of these belong to the Herat
regiments, and answered to their names when called upon. They fell into
rank at the word of command; and, when “right about face” was called
out, preparatory to marching back to Sherpur, obeyed with alacrity. All
the arms taken were humbly carried into camp by the villagers, escorted
by our sepoys and _sowars_, much to the edification of such Cabulis as
were met upon the road. The raid was altogether a very successful one:
and if all the towers in the Chardeh Valley are blown up as a pendant to
the excursion, the villagers will have been taught a severe lesson.
To-day the _maliks_, true to their word, brought in between twenty and
thirty sepoys, many of the latter marching quietly in, and surrendering
themselves as calmly as if they were our own soldiers who had overstayed
their leave and expected a slight punishment. What their fate is likely
to be, appears from the result of the sitting of the Military Commission
to-day. Sixteen prisoners were brought up, and eleven of these will be
hanged to-morrow morning. Five poor wretches, _khalassies_ belonging to
the Artillery, were released, as there was nothing to inculpate them. We
seem at last to have got hold of certain sepoys who were concerned in
the first outbreak in the Bala Hissar. They do not attempt to conceal
their names, or those of the regiments to which they belong, and hear
their sentence of death as stoically as if each man were a Spartan. It
makes one exasperated to see the rank and file of these wretches being
marched off to execution, while their leaders are still at large, and
but few of the Cabul rabble have been brought to account. One grows sick
of hanging ten common men a day; and there is already a talk of an
amnesty being shortly proclaimed—only ringleaders and certain marked men
being excepted. There will be no difficulty, I imagine, in the future in
capturing a few score sepoys if the executions have to be begun over
again, as the muster-rolls give very fully the names and residences of
the sepoys. The rolls are framed somewhat on the Indian pattern, and are
fairly complete. One is the crack regiment, called the “Asnider
Regiment,” and these men are still at large with good rifles in their
hands. Perhaps they may have courage enough to die as soldiers, fighting
openly, rather than come to an end on the scaffold.

We are unhappy in our minds as to our winter line of communications, our
hopes of the road to Gundamak being secured by the meeting of General
Macpherson’s and General Charles Gough’s forces having suddenly dropped
below zero. It is difficult to understand what has occurred: but the
most important step in our recent operations has certainly been
neutralized in some way. Whether it is divided authority,—General
Roberts on the Cabul side being unable to give orders to General Bright
on the Gundamak line so long as the latter remains senior in army
rank,—or some local exigency, is not at all clear; but this much is only
too plainly evident, that the force under General Charles Gough, after
joining hands with our brigade at Kata Sung, four miles west of
Jugdulluck, has fallen back upon Jugdulluck, while General Macpherson
has marched down the Tezin river to the Lughman country. Consequently we
have been cut off again from the Khyber Force for several days. We are
most anxious to ensure the safety of our postal and telegraphic line
through the belt of mountains which shuts us off from our reinforcements
if we chance to need them. Besides, we are anxious to send our sick and
wounded back to India before the full rigour of winter comes upon them
here; and, with snow likely to fall early in December, there is not much
time to spare. General Macpherson, on his part, has crossed the Cabul
river at a point where, it is said, a pile-bridge could be easily built,
and has explored the Lughman Valley at its western end. Shortness of
supplies is given as his reason for leaving Kata Sung. He has found a
good road running for 30 or 40 miles over nearly a hill country; but
whether it will be of service is quite another matter, which may be
dealt with when we have _one_ route open. The troops with him are needed
here, as one or two local punitive expeditions have to be sent out; and
he has therefore been recalled. The Luttabund route is to be adopted as
the one best calculated to be followed to Jugdulluck, and the Pioneers
will be left behind to make it practicable. Blasting powder is being
sent up to the Kotal, and the work will, it is thought, soon be
accomplished. In the meantime, General Hugh Gough has left Sherpur to
arrange for all the posts between Luttabund and Jugdulluck being held.
There was no opposition to the advance from Gundamak beyond a few shots
fired by a knot of men near Jugdulluck; the only damage they inflicted
was the wounding of one of the Guides’ horses.

                                                    _12th November._

The last few days have been remarkable for the trial and execution of no
less than forty-nine prisoners, nearly all of whom were sepoys belonging
to the Herat regiments which attacked the Residency. As already
mentioned, General Baker captured forty-eight men in the Chardeh
villages in his excursion of the 8th; and others were brought in by the
headmen in fulfilment of their promise. In all, eighty-nine were tried
by the Military Commission; and of these, eleven, twenty-eight, and ten
were hanged on the 10th, 11th, and 12th instant. The remainder were
released, as they were able to give a fairly satisfactory account of
themselves, two only being retained, as they have promised to lead our
search parties to villages where men are still lying hidden. These two
men were to have been hanged this morning, and were only reprieved at
the last moment. Every opportunity was given to these Afghan sepoys to
explain their actions, and such lame stories as were invented were easy
of disproof. Their _maliks_ stated what men were absent from the
villages, and whether they were with their regiments, or away at distant
points during September and October. The muster-rolls in our possession
showed the rank and regiment of the men, and in no case did the
prisoners deny their identity. Such as were released were either poor
wretches like gun-_khalassies_, or sepoys, who could show that they were
nowhere near Cabul from September 1st to October 8th, and could not
consequently have shared in the attack upon the Embassy, the battle of
Charasia, or the fight on the Cabul Heights. These wholesale executions
were mainly intended as a punishment to such as disregarded the
Proclamation issued at Zerghun Shahr by General Roberts on October 3rd,
and it is now thought an example, severe enough, has been made. The
Afghan army, or such of it as exists, must see that we were thoroughly
in earnest in threatening with death all who chose to appear as rebels
against the then Amir, in whose name we were advancing. Of course the
instant men came in and surrendered, putting themselves at our mercy,
the task of hanging them became a very ungracious one—if they had only
been guilty of contesting an advance. To-day, therefore, an amnesty was
issued, under which all of this latter class were pardoned on condition
of surrendering their arms. The following is the full text of the

                  PROCLAMATION OF NOVEMBER 12TH, 1879.

  “To all whom it may concern. On the 12th of October a Proclamation was
  issued, in which I offered a reward for the surrender of any persons
  who had fought against the British troops since the 3rd of September,
  and had thereby become rebels against the Amir Yakub Khan. I have now
  received information which tends to show that some at least of those
  who shared in the opposition encountered by the British troops during
  their advance on Cabul, were led to do so by a belief that the Amir
  was a prisoner in my camp, and had called upon the soldiery and people
  of Cabul to rise on his behalf. Such persons, although enemies to the
  British Government, were not rebels against their own sovereign, and
  the great British Government does not seek for vengeance against
  enemies who no longer resist. It may be that few only of those who
  took up arms were thus led away by the statement of evil-minded men,
  but rather than punish the innocent with the guilty, I am willing to
  believe that all were alike deceived. On behalf of the British
  Government, therefore, I proclaim a free and complete amnesty to all
  persons who have fought against the British troops since the 3rd of
  September, provided that they now give up any arms in their possession
  and return to their homes. The offer of reward for the surrender of
  such persons is now withdrawn, and they will not, for the future, be
  molested in any way on account of their opposition to the British
  advance. But it must be clearly understood that the benefit of this
  amnesty does not extend to any one, whether soldier or civilian, who
  was concerned, directly or indirectly, in the attack upon the
  Residency, or who may hereafter be found in possession of any property
  belonging to members of the Embassy. To such persons no mercy will be
  shown. Further, I hold out no promise of pardon to those who, well
  knowing the Amir’s position in the British camp, instigated the troops
  and people of Cabul to take up arms against the British troops. They
  have been guilty of wilful rebellion against the Amir’s authority, and
  they will be considered and treated as rebels wherever they may be

It was not to be expected that clemency would be extended to such men as
joined in the actual attack upon the Residency, or to the leaders, who
misled the sepoys afterwards, by declaring that the Amir was an
unwilling prisoner in our hands, and was calling, from his captivity,
upon all true Mussulmans to resist the British, and to release him from
the hands of his own and his country’s enemies. As we have had daily to
watch the string of men passing along under escort to the Bala Hissar,
many a keen regret has been felt that leaders like Nek Mahomed and
Kushdil Khan have not been in their ranks. The demeanour of the men
hanged has, in all cases, been one of stolid indifference: they accepted
their fate as a matter of course, and, when surrounded by the bayonets
of the Highlanders, tried to keep up a semblance of soldierly bearing,
by marching in time and keeping shoulder to shoulder. But that one
remembers the bitter treachery we have come to punish, and can almost
look down from the foot of the scaffold into the pit in which the bodies
of our brave Guides are lying, one might feel pity for the wretches
whose fanaticism has put their heads into the noose. There were no extra
precautions taken, even when twenty-eight men had to be hanged; a small
guard of fifty men under a commissioned officer was told off from one of
the British regiments, and the prisoners were marched off in the usual
way. They apparently never thought of attempting to escape; and Cabul is
so cowed by the military law it is now enjoying, that its rabble
population has not spirit enough left to cry “a rescue.” Nothing can be
quieter than the city, which has always been so notorious for bloodshed
and turbulence: the shadow of the scaffold is over it, and not one among
the ruffians who throng its narrow streets, and hide in its filthy
purlieus, but feels its influence. They have hitherto traded upon our
known weakness—the worship of the quality of mercy,—and it is only now
that they understand the new principle of retribution we have introduced
into our policy. Like Pollock, General Roberts might have destroyed
their bazaar and left Cabul to its fate; but whether we withdraw again
or not, there will be the tale of lives taken by our hangmen still to be
counted over in the city and the villages; and who knows yet what
powerful names may not top the list?

The work of the Special Commission dealing with the Massacre and
intrigues of the Ministers has so far progressed, that, in a few days, I
believe, the report will be ready. Each of the members—Colonel
Macgregor, Dr. Bellew, and Hyat Khan—is writing a report; and from the
three will be framed a final one, to be submitted to the Government,
with such recommendations as General Roberts and his advisers may deem
fit to make. The chief interest, of course, attaches to the Amir, whose
fate now hangs in the balance. That he will at least be deported to
India seems beyond doubt. What punishment will be meted out to the
Mustaufi, the Wazir, Yahiya Khan, and Zakariah Khan, cannot of course be
estimated; but if the evidence against them of inciting the rebel
regiments to continue in arms is at all clear, they ought certainly not
to be spared. They see day by day how unyielding we are in carrying out
the work we have undertaken; and, if guilty, they must uneasily count
their beads while calculating the chances of ultimate escape. The
amnesty is so framed that they do not at present come within its scope,
and they cannot tell the exact evidence which has been forthcoming as to
their intrigues. They are closely guarded, and all access to them will
be forbidden until their sentence is pronounced. There is one prisoner
in the row of tents where our captives are confined who is to be treated
to-morrow to the smart punishment of fifty lashes, and his case is a
peculiar one. When the Ghilzais and their allies were investing the
Shutargardan, Colonel Money received a _jirgah_ who proposed certain
terms which I have before characterized as absurd. The tribes proposed,
first, that the force then in Shutargardan should retire to Ali Kheyl,
the Ghilzais finding carriage for their stores and giving hostages as a
guarantee of good faith. This was declined, and they then made a similar
proposition, giving Kushi as the destination of the troops instead of
Ali Kheyl. On this also being rejected, the _jirgah_ said that on
promise of payment of two lakhs of rupees they would disperse the
tribes. This was laughed at by Colonel Money and Dr. Bellew, and the
_jirgah_ were dismissed. One Ghilzai chief, losing his temper,
said:—“Very well, to-morrow morning we will come and cut all your
throats.” This part of the programme did not come off, and this man had
afterwards the audacity to come into Camp here, no doubt to see how we
were progressing. He was recognized and arrested, and to-morrow he will
be sent back to his tribe well scored with the lash. He will, perhaps,
use greater discretion in future. While on this matter of the
Shutargardan investment, it is worth mentioning that one section of the
tribes has been punished in a manner that may rather astonish their
chiefs. When it was believed that the telegraph line would be
permanently laid to Cabul from Ali Kheyl, large quantities of timber
were purchased from local _maliks_, one section (the Ahmed Kheyls, I
believe) supplying Rs. 6,000 worth. They had been paid half this sum;
but as they broke faith by joining the other tribesmen during the late
disturbances, General Roberts has sanctioned the confiscation of the Rs.
3,000 still due to them. This will be a heavy fine, and is a ready mode
of punishing them. The cost of laying the line from Ali Kheyl westwards
to within a few miles of Dobundi was over Rs. 20,000, and nearly all the
wire and posts have been carried off by the hillmen—a costly experiment
to us, which it is to be hoped will not be repeated.

We are now rejoicing in the probable opening of the road from here to
Jugdulluck, as arrangements have been made by General Hugh Gough for the
garrisoning of the posts. Our quarters in barracks are not quite ready,
and such a sudden access of cold as that now experienced is difficult to
withstand in the light tents our men have to live in. Yesterday there
were signs from the early morning that some change was threatening, the
sun being obscured by a haze which, in the eyes of the natives, meant
snow. Late in the afternoon one of the local _khak-bads_, or small
dust-storms, swept over Camp, and this was followed by light rain, just
sufficient to lay the dust. A great fall of temperature occurred, which
drove us to seek the warmth of poshteens and over-coats, and just before
sunset sleet began to drift down. For about an hour it fell, not very
heavily however, and soon the whole cantonment was whitened over. The
hills about were all obscured by light clouds, which closed down upon
the plain, and we began to fear heavy snow would fall. Fortunately,
however, for our comfort, it cleared up soon after six o’clock; but a
sharp frost set in, and the night was bitterly cold, water freezing even
in our tents. To-day the sky was as blue and clear as in June, and the
frozen sleet soon disappeared as the sun shone out. In sheltered places
little patches of white are still seen, while the Pughman mountains are
covered with snow. An early and severe winter is expected from this
sudden change, although it is possible two or three weeks of bright
genial sunshine may still be in store for us before the real winter
snow-fall covers the country. A flying column, made up from General
Baker’s brigade, was to have started for Ghazni on the 15th, General
Roberts in person accompanying it; but it is probable that the
expedition will now be postponed. It would involve great hardships to
march troops between 80 and 90 miles exposed to sleet and snow storms;
and as the chief object of the journey would be to secure food and
forage, other means may, perhaps, be found to gain the end in view. The
proclamation of an amnesty will give confidence to villagers at a
distance, who may now be tempted to bring in supplies.

There has not been much excitement in Camp apart from the news of a
skirmish at Doaba, in which the 67th had, at last, a chance of
distinguishing themselves. We shall only gain particulars of this little
fight, which has cost us four killed and five wounded, when General
Macpherson comes in on the 14th.


                              CHAPTER XII.

Winter Supplies—The Forage Difficulty—Lack of Civilized Appliances and
    Inventions—Compressed Hay—The Sick Convoy for India—Alleged
    Atrocities—The Inquiry into Dr. Bourke’s Statement—An Exaggerated
    Description of the Charasia Battlefield—General Macpherson’s
    Excursion to Tagao—Attitude of the Safis—Shere Ali’s Military Road
    along the Northern Bank of the Cabul River—The Skirmish at
    Doaba—Narrow Escape of Captain Poole’s Company—Defeat of the Safis.

                                           SHERPUR, _14th November_.

The fall of sleet on the evening of the 11th led us to believe that
severe weather might be setting in; but, to our surprise, the same
genial days which delighted us before have returned; and after three
sharp nights, in which a cheerful fire in a walled building would have
been very welcome, we are hoping that winter will spare us further
inclemency at least for two or three weeks. The Ghazni expedition may, I
think, be looked upon as abandoned; and we are trusting to local sirdars
to bring us in the large supplies of forage which we were going out to
seek. Advances in hard cash are made to these men, so that they may go
out with the practical evidence of our willingness to buy up all the
_bhoosa_ in the country, and from Daoud Shah downwards they promise us
great things in the way of supplies. As I said in a late letter, the
question of forage is the most pressing, as, once the ground is covered
with snow, the scanty supply of grass which now comes in will be
entirely cut off. From Kohistan, the Logar and Chardeh Valleys, and the
villages in the Cabul plain eastwards to Butkhak, we have drawn some
thousands of maunds;[24] but with the horses of the 9th Lancers, three
native regiments, and two batteries of Artillery, as well as the mules
of two mountain batteries, to be kept in good condition, and all the
transport animals to be fed, the consumption is enormous. Pressed hay
would he worth its weight in silver if we could only get it here; but,
of course, we might as well long for sea-coal fires. One sees much
written of what ought to be done by armies advancing from India into
Afghanistan, and the slowness of our marches is sometimes criticized
very rabidly; but the critics seem to forget that we have no railways
upon our lines of communication, and that we are asked to make war in
almost as rude a way as the barbaric hordes which swept to and from
India centuries ago. Barring our weapons and ammunition—and even here we
have been served with Gatling guns that will not work—we have but the
old means of advance: the camels, mules, and ponies, which have been
time-honoured carriers since the days of Alexander; and we have them in
such small numbers, that the loss of even 100 is a serious matter. We
feed them as the old warriors fed their beasts of burden—on such corn
and forage as we can get; but whereas they appropriated every maund that
was to be found, and asked no questions, we pay exorbitant prices,
dealing as traders, and not as conquerors, with the people. Civilization
has done this much, that it has shown there are ways by which forage for
a month can be carried in so small a compass that it is but little
encumbrance; but we reap no benefit from the discovery, and are thrown
into a by-no-means fertile country to do as best we can with such
supplies as may be forthcoming. The very hackeries which ply along the
road from Jhelum to Jumrood groan out reproaches against the
civilization which permits them to linger out their lives; and every
grass-cutter’s pony, half hidden by his huge bundle of worthless straw,
or burnt-up grass, kicks against the absurd pricks which force him to do
as his ancestors did—fetch and carry bulky loads of which he himself
eats nearly half. We could do mighty deeds, and march mighty distances,
were it not that our transport equipment is usually _x_—an unknown
quantity, which can never be relied upon. In the morning x may equal the
equivalent of 10,000 camels; in the evening it may be 9,500; after six
months’ campaigning it may be 500. We have not merely to forage for the
chargers of our fighting men—we have to feed the very animals which
carry the forage, and carry it often in its bulkiest form. If we had
merely to do the latter, we might trust to the country, especially where
the local baggage animals are used for carriage. A Cavalry Brigade that
could carry its own forage—and such a brigade could be created if
advantage were taken of the principle which reduces bulk to
one-twentieth or even less—would be so powerful an aid to an advancing
force, that delays would be almost unknown. There would be no question,
as there is now, of sending back regiments to pasturing-grounds; there
would be the means of sustaining them always at hand. A pony that now
carries a load which a horse can eat in a day, could carry food for
twenty days. A trooper could strap his forage to his saddle as he now
does his gram-bag. We might take many a hint from the nomads of Central
Asia—perhaps the horsemen who can travel long distances, and keep their
horses always equal to the work, better than any other race in the
world. The Turcoman carries with him, in the ingenious shape of small
balls of food, such concentrated nourishment, that his horse never flags
in a sixty-mile ride; and if he can do this in his own rude way, and be
independent of passing supplies, we, with elaborate hay-presses and
chemical processes, might surely put ourselves at least on his level. I
have been led into this dissertation chiefly by reason of the proposed
splitting up of our cavalry brigade. It is said that the 12th Bengal
Cavalry will probably remain for the winter in the Jellalabad Valley,
where forage is fairly plentiful; and it is also possible that another
cavalry regiment will be sent from our camp here to join them. We all
regret that the cavalry which has been with us during the march upon
Cabul should have to be sent back even for three or four months; and yet
what can be done? 150,000 maunds of _bhoosa_ (chopped straw) is the
estimate made by the Commissariat Department of the quantity of forage
required from the 1st of November to the end of March, and we have only
gathered in between 15,000 and 20,000 maunds. The deficiency is so great
that, unless the sirdars we are now employing as purchasing agents keep
their pledges, our cavalry must starve or be sent back. Besides, we have
been busy in providing the army with several hundred _yaboos_ as
transport animals. These _yaboos_ will have to be fed during the winter,
in addition to the mules and camels we brought up with us from Ali
Kheyl: there were not many certainly, for we did wonders in the way of
removing with little carriage. It may seem trifling, with passing
events, to grow eloquent upon so dry a subject as hay; but in warfare,
such as we are engaged in, cavalry are so indispensable, that their
position should be fairly represented. We hear of hay-presses being made
for the Candahar Force, but we do not want to be encumbered with these.
Could not the forage, ready compressed, be sent to us without further


Footnote 24:

  One maund = 40 seers = 80 lbs.


The convoy of sick and wounded, which left Sherpur to-day, was made up
of fifty-two Europeans, seventy-two native soldiers and followers, and
eight officers. There were also a number of time-expired men, and a
sufficient escort was sent to take care of the convoy as far as Butkhak,
whence the 12th Bengal Cavalry and the 28th Native Infantry will be
detailed to see them through the mountainous country lying between the
Cabul plain and the Jellalabad Valley. All the elephants here have also
been sent away to General Bright’s force, as we are not likely to want
them until the spring, and they would have probably died off when the
snow came. The convoy will do the distance to Peshawur by easy marches,
and every precaution will be taken against possible attacks in the
Passes that have to be gone through. The sick have not been sent away a
day too soon, as the cold nights here are very trying to weakly men. The
hospital quarters in the barracks are now ready, and are very
comfortable. Such invalids as are only suffering from slight ailments
are now in the rooms, the strong mud walls of which set at defiance the
cold which penetrated so easily the thin canvas of the tents.

Further examination of the Luttabund route has shown that a good road
can be made with very little trouble, the difficult bits near the Kotal
being avoided by a slight diversion. Scarcely any blasting will be
needed, and as this kind of skilled labour is generally very protracted
and tiresome, the saving of much valuable time is a great consideration.
The Pioneers will be enabled to return to Sherpur to finish their lines
and to carry out such defensive works on the Bemaru Heights as may be
thought necessary. These works will probably be on a large scale, so far
as the general design goes; but the immediate work to be done will be
the building of block-houses, or towers, where the picquets can be
posted under shelter from the cold wind which sweeps across the ridge.
Three or four tents are now pitched on the heights; but it is very
trying, especially for native troops, to do sentry-go in such an exposed
spot. An enemy would scarcely venture to attack the Camp from the north,
as they would have to cross a level, grassy plain, on which the cavalry
would have them at their mercy. The long, shallow Wazirabad lake,
bordered by marshy ground, shuts in this plain to the north, a spur from
the Pughman range again bounding the lake still further to the north.
The _maidan_ is now used as a polo-ground, or for giving our horses a
gallop; while the lake affords wild-fowl shooting for sportsmen lucky
enough to have guns and cartridges.

There has not been much to excite us in Camp lately, except two slight
shocks of earthquake yesterday; and as the executions have for the
present ceased, there seems falling upon us that fatal period of
inactivity which always follows successful movements against an enemy
who runs away after the first brush. But one unpleasant incident has
occurred, and it has been made the most of. We have had a Court of
Inquiry, and the subject thereof has been nothing less than
“atrocities.” In a letter from the correspondent of the _Civil and
Military Gazette_ appeared a paragraph in which “a noble corps” was said
to have disgraced itself by burning alive the wounded Afghans left
behind by their friends on the Charasia Heights. The paragraph implied,
from the context, that the 72nd Highlanders had been guilty of this
cruelty; but, on inquiry being made, Dr. Bourke, the correspondent of
the Lahore paper, said that, although he had not named the regiment, it
was the men of the 5th Ghoorkas who had burned the Afghan wounded. This
was the first General Roberts had heard of any such occurrence, as Dr.
Bourke had made no report on the subject, although he had drawn a
highly-coloured picture of the scene in his letters. The General at once
ordered a court to assemble and to take evidence, not merely to clear
the good name of the 72nd, but to investigate the charge against the
Ghoorkas. The President of the Court was Major Pratt, of the 5th Punjab
Infantry. Being a closed court, it has not, of course, transpired what
evidence was taken; but I believe the following are the facts of the
cases of cruelty said to have taken place. When the heights were cleared
by the general rush of General Baker’s troops, the Afghans left their
dead on the ground as well as several men wounded at close quarters. A
Ghoorka was seen stooping near one of the latter; and when Dr. Bourke,
with the ambulance, came up, it was found that the Afghan, who had been
shot through the breast and almost disembowelled by a bayonet thrust or
slash from a _kookrie_, had had his clothes set on fire. A box of
matches was lying near the body. The man was _in extremis_, and was said
to be insensible; and by Dr. Bourke’s orders a European soldier shot him
through the head. Another Afghan lying near had also his white clothing
smouldering, and he was shot in a similar way. This seems to be the
plain truth about the affair, which has been exaggerated into the
wholesale burning alive of wounded men. The Ghoorkas know the
superstitious dread among Mussulmans of any part of their body being
destroyed after death; and, on the face of it, there is the probability
of a lighted match having been applied to the clothes of men seemingly
dead, in order to send their souls to perdition. The passions of the
Ghoorkas have also been highly inflamed by a story which reached Ali
Kheyl from Cabul, that a Ghoorka, with the Guides’ escort, was led
through the city streets with his face blackened, was horribly tortured,
and afterwards burned alive. They believed fervently in this story, and,
as I have said, they may have thought to kill the Afghans in the next
world as well as this. No one in the force would seek to be an apologist
for such cruel acts as burning alive, deliberately and systematically,
the wounded men of an enemy even so cruel as are the Afghans; but the
reflections cast upon the 72nd Highlanders and upon General Roberts
himself, as letting such acts go unpunished, are as unjust as they are
absurd. The General knew nothing whatever of the incident until his
attention was called to it in the newspapers, and his action then was
prompt enough. I understand that he has now called upon Dr. Bourke to
give his reasons for not reporting the matter officially.

                                                    _16th November._

Yesterday Sir Frederick Roberts and Brigadier-General Baker rode over to
Butkhak, where Brigadier-General Macpherson is encamped after his late
excursion in the Tagao country. There have been so many movements of
troops in the Cabul plain lately, that the only escort the General
thought it necessary to take with him was six sowars of the 5th Punjab
Cavalry. Since the first brigade marched to Butkhak on the 1st instant,
the villagers in the plain and in the lower Logar Valley, which runs
down from the Sang-i-Nawishta defile, have seen small parties of cavalry
constantly on the move backwards and forwards, and within the last few
days have watched the 23rd Pioneers encamped on the banks of the Logar
and the long convoy of sick and wounded march along on the way to India.
There have been so many evidences of our presence, that any unruly
tribesmen or disbanded sepoys have wisely kept very quiet. The road may
be considered safe, even for a solitary traveller; the telegraph wire
has hitherto been scrupulously respected; and our foraging parties have
never been molested.

We were, of course, anxious to learn some particulars of the late
skirmish, in which a company of the 67th had come to close quarters with
the Safis; and, leaving the invalid camp, we passed up to the
head-quarters of the 1st Brigade near the village walls. Sir Frederick
Roberts heard the details of the affair from General Macpherson as well
as an account of the work done by the Brigade in opening up
communication with the Khyber Force. I may here incidentally state that
Sir F. Roberts has now received the local rank of Lieutenant-General,
and commands all the troops in Eastern Afghanistan, Jumrood being the
point in the Peshawur direction to which his power of control extends.
Some severe strictures have been passed upon those who have hitherto had
the supreme control of the force operating from Peshawur, and the answer
given to these is that General Bright’s advanced Brigade was a “flying
column.” If that were so, how was it that it took twenty-four days to
“fly” from Jellalabad to Kata Sung, a distance of about sixty miles?
Surely its wings must have been clipped by Transport or Commissariat
scissors, in which case it would cease to be a flying column at all, and
would drop down to the lower level of a sedate brigade moving two and a
half miles a day, sleeping comfortably in tents, and living on the fat
of the land. But in that case there should have been supplies sufficient
to have justified the stay of the troops at Kata Sung, and so to have
secured the road. General Macpherson had of course no supplies with
_his_ force, as everything is being gathered into Sherpur for the
winter; and he could not stay at Kata Sung, but had to try and find food
north of the Cabul river. Here accordingly came in the story of the
reconnaissance northward into Tagao and of the collision with the Safis.
The bed of the Cabul river lies about ten miles north of Kata Sung, Sei
Baba, and the Luttabund Kotal, its direction being due east and west.
From the vast pile of mountains which shut out the Cabul plain from
Gundamak high spurs run down towards the river, and among these the
Tezin stream, with two or three small tributaries, finds its way. When
General Macpherson found that the force he had come to meet at Kata Sung
had withdrawn, he turned off to the north, and proceeding down the bed
of the Tezin stream for six or seven miles, reached the banks of the
Cabul. He encamped at Sirobi, and on the 8th, resolved to cross the
river to the village of Naghloo, on the opposite bank, two miles higher
up. The natives had reported that a good road was in existence on the
northern side of the Cabul from that point, and that it had been
regularly used as the military convoy route between Cabul and
Jellalabad. General Macpherson found, without much difficulty, a ford
over the Cabul, which is here a stream with a strong current travelling
very rapidly on account of the descent of 4,000 feet, which the river
makes from Cabul to Jellalabad. Like all fords, however, in the Cabul
river, this crossing-place was found to have its dangers, the least
divergence from the narrow roadway—if the word can be used where there
is no dry land—plunging men and horses into deep water. The fatal
experience of the 10th Hussars at Jellalabad last spring was remembered,
and ropes were stretched across the stream by which the men were guided.
This marked the road to be taken and minimized the danger. On the
evening of the 8th half the force had crossed to Naghloo without any
accident, except that Lieutenants Forbes and Macgregor, of the 92nd
Highlanders, acting as orderly officers to the General, were swept away
by the current. By a little hard swimming they managed to reach the bank
again. The troops bivouacked without tents. On the following day a
reconnaissance was made from Naghloo eastwards, towards the Lughman
country, Lieutenant Manners Smith, Assistant Quartermaster-General,
going out with a few cavalry to examine the district. The orders given
to the troops were not to fire upon any of the local tribesmen, unless
the latter first opened fire; and this order was rigorously carried out.
Working down on the left bank of the Cabul, a _kotal_ was gained eight
or ten miles from Camp, from which a splendid view of the Lughman Valley
was obtained. There was a track right through this, and this was
undoubtedly the road used by the late Shere Ali for his military
convoys. It seemed to traverse an almost level country; and except that
to use it would involve two bridges—one near Naghloo and the other at
Jellalabad,—there can be no question that it would he far easier than
_viâ_ Jugdulluck, Gundamak, and Futtehabad. The country, however, north
of the Cabul is known to be inhabited by Safis—converted Kafirs, whose
fanaticism exceeds that of almost any other Mahomedans. Tagao, in which
they live, boasts of several fertile valleys, watered by the Panjshir,
Tagao, and Uzbin rivers, and might furnish supplies if the people could
be reduced to obedience. Their chief is one Usman Khan,[25] a noted
robber; and of the temper of his followers we have already had an
example. When the reconnoitring party were looking into the Lughman
Valley, some seventy Safis, all armed with _jhezails_ and swords,
appeared a few hundred yards off, and threatened to attack the troops if
they proceeded further into their country. As they did not open fire, no
notice was taken of their threats, and Lieutenant Smith returned to
Naghloo in peace. On the next day, the 10th, a foraging party of one
company of the 67th Foot, under Captain Poole, was ordered to march up
the Cabul river to a village some six or seven miles to the west of
Naghloo. This village is in close proximity to Doaba, at the junction of
the Panjshir and Cabul rivers. The villagers near the Cabul are not
Safis; and as they had expressed their willingness to sell grain and
forage, only a small party of men were sent out in charge of about 100
camels and mules. The road taken was found to be rather difficult, a
narrow defile close to the river having to be passed through, four miles
from Naghloo. After passing through this, the narrow camel-track passed
over a small semicircular piece of open ground, the hills falling away
to the north. At the western end was a second defile, with a high ridge
running up to the right and shutting out from view the village beyond.
When Captain Poole was crossing the open with thirty men, some distance
in front of the baggage animals, he met a number of villagers hastening
along with their household goods and cattle. They were evidently
panic-stricken and shouted wildly to Captain Poole, but as he did not
understand their language he pushed on to the second defile. It appears
that what they really said was that the Safis were in force over the
defile, had attacked their village, burned their houses, and murdered
some of the inhabitants. Upon getting through the second defile, Captain
Poole saw on the slope below some 800 or 1,000 armed men, who
immediately opened fire. The thirty men of the 67th returned the fire
and checked the enemy, who had tried to rush forward. It was important
to keep them back until the baggage animals with their small guard of
twenty-four men could retrace their steps through the first defile.
After firing for some time, our men observed 300 or 400 Safis creeping
round over the hill to the north, with the evident intention of getting
into the open plain and cutting off all retreat. The position of the
handful of men then became so hazardous, that Captain Poole ordered them
to fall back, and for an hour and a half he faced towards the Safis, who
advanced to within 40 yards. It was in the open that our men began to
drop, although one had been shot dead in the defile. Cover was taken
under the river bank, which was three or four feet above the level of
the stream; and though the enemy opened fire from the southern bank,
they could not do much mischief. The steadiness of the soldiers, who
used their Martinis with good effect, was remarkable throughout, one or
two incidents being worth recording. The crack shot of the regiment,
Corporal Woolley, was with the company, and his practice was wonderfully
good. He was unfortunately shot through, the leg, but still continued
firing. One of his comrades, on being shot down, fell into the river,
and struggled hard to gain the bank. Two Safis ran down to cut him up;
and these men Corporal Woolley shot before they could make their way to
the wounded man. The latter was so exhausted by his efforts that he fell
back, and was drowned in the stream. Corporal Woolley also brought down
two standard-bearers. The fighting was so close that Captain Poole could
not carry off his dead (two others were killed in the open besides the
men in the defile); and the Safis mutilated them in a horrible way.
Their eyes were gouged out, and faces cut to pieces by sharp knives, so
that the bodies could scarcely be identified. While fighting across the
open, Captain Poole was struck by a bullet in the calf of the leg, and
four other soldiers were wounded. One, who was too badly hit to be able
to walk, was put upon a camel, and carried safely away. Lieutenant
Carnegy kept the men together after his Captain had been hit; and
although eight men and an officer out of fifty-six had been either
killed or wounded, the others never wavered. A sowar had galloped back
to Naghloo for assistance, and General Macpherson sent out at once a
squadron of the 12th Bengal Cavalry and four mountain guns; 150 of the
67th, and a company of the 28th Punjab Native Infantry following. The
cavalry arrived at the trot, but the defile was so blocked by the
baggage animals, that to get through was impossible. The sowars
dismounted and went up the hill to use their carbines, and the guns,
also arriving, went up the crest under escort of the 28th and one
company of the 67th, under Major Baker, and opened fire at 1,000 yards
into the mass of the Safis below. The shells had a wholesome effect upon
the enemy, and volleys from the Martinis and Sniders were also fired at
long ranges. One man of the 28th was killed by a stray bullet. The other
company of the 67th, under Lieutenant Atkinson, went along the river
bed, and the enemy then retreated behind a _sungar_ on the ridge to the
north of the second defile, and covering their right flank. The mountain
guns came into action again at 1,700 yards, having been brought down
into the plain, and Major Baker marched over the hills to take the
_sungar_ in flank. Lieutenant Atkinson advancing at the same time, the
Safis fled towards the Doaba, the cavalry pursuing them for six miles.
Their loss must have been heavy, as they left many of their dead behind;
seven bodies were found in one nullah. The mutilated bodies of three men
of the 67th were recovered: the fourth had been swept down the river.
The whole affair proves how great a risk small foraging parties run in
an unexplored country, where the temper of the inhabitants is uncertain.
It is true no resistance was expected; but the fanaticism of the Safis
is so well known, that extra precautions should have been taken. The
difficult ground to be traversed also put a small body of infantry,
encumbered with baggage animals, at a great disadvantage. That one-sixth
of Captain Poole’s company was put out of action is too significant to
be lightly regarded.


Footnote 25:

  Afterwards killed on the Asmai Heights on December 14th.


                             CHAPTER XIII.

The Report of the Commission of Inquiry upon the Massacre—The Suspicion
    against the Amir Yakub Khan—The Report forwarded to the Government
    of India—Probable Deportation of the Amir to India—Gatherings of
    Tribesmen at Ghazni—The Necessity of collecting Supplies for the
    Winter—The Khyber Line of Communications—No Supplies obtainable from
    Peshawur—Slowness of the Khyber Advance—Projected Expedition to
    Ghazni—The Reason of its falling through—The Strength of the Army of
    the Indus—General Baker’s Excursion to the Maidan Valley—The Chardeh
    Valley in Winter—Sir F. Roberts joins General Baker-The Destruction
    of Bahadur Khan’s Villages in the Darra Narkh.

                                           SHERPUR, _18th November_.

One part of the important work which the British force came to Cabul to
fulfil has been done: the Commission appointed to inquire into the
circumstances of the massacre of our Envoy and the after-events,
culminating in the battle of Charasia, has completed its task, and
to-day the report was duly signed by Colonel Macgregor, Dr. Bellew, and
Mahomed Hyat Khan. For the past two days Sir F. Roberts has had the
report before him, and has telegraphed a summary of it to the Government
of India, who will thus be put in possession of its main features
several days before the text of the document can reach them. In due
course the Government will, no doubt, furnish a connected narrative of
the events of the early part of September, and the world at large will
then be able to judge on what basis of proof our suspicions against
Yakub Khan and his most favoured ministers have rested.[26] The
Commission began examining witnesses on the 18th of October; so that it
is exactly a month to-day since the first step was taken towards
compiling the mass of evidence now understood to have been recorded. I
have before pointed out very fully how difficult was the work which lay
before the Commissioners: there was scarcely any clue to be laid hold of
which would lead them direct to their chief point—the cause of the
outbreak of the Herat regiments; and they had to take such witnesses as
were forthcoming, and to trust to later evidence to clear away the
darkness in which they were at first groping. The consideration shown to
the Amir seemed, to the suspicious minds of the Cabulis, a sign which
foreboded his future restoration, or that of his near relatives; and
those who were well inclined to us shrank from declaring their
partisanship too boldly, for fear of after-consequences, when the
Barakzai family should again be all-powerful in the country. There was a
slight dissipation of this feeling when the Proclamation of October 28th
was issued, announcing Yakub Khan’s voluntary abdication, and ordering
all chiefs in Afghanistan to look to the Commander of the British force
at Cabul for their authority in future; but we are known to be so
eccentric a people that there still lurked uneasiness in many minds, and
mouths were sealed that might reasonably have been expected to be open.
The actual presence of the late sovereign in our Camp—even though he was
known to be under a close guard—was too powerful an influence to be
easily swept away: if he had been hurried away to India in disgrace, the
atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty would have cleared up. But our ideas
of justice are too strict to be warped by passionate anger, and it was
resolved to give Yakub Khan as fair a chance of defending himself as he
could possibly expect. That he lost his personal liberty by listening to
foolish councillors, who thought he might gain something by flight, was
nothing to us. One cannot always guard a man against his own stupidity.
Having, then, to keep Yakub Khan with us, we had to do as best we could
in gaining means of judging what were his relations with the men who
stood forth as leaders of the rebel army, and how far he had sympathized
with their plans. In endeavouring to trace out the palace intrigues
which Nek Mahomed, Kushdil Khan, and others had set on foot, the
Commission had often to rely upon men themselves tainted with suspicion;
and when this was the case the statements had to be carefully weighed
and critically compared with facts which were attested beyond doubt. To
dwell, as I have dwelt before, upon the strong point of an Afghan, and
the strongest of a Barakzai—the capacity for lying—would be merely to
repeat an old story: the lies might contain in them a germ of truth
shining out as a silent protest against the mass of falsehood; and many
of these germs have, after careful nursing, borne such fruit, that very
tangible results have been arrived at. In spite of the religious
antipathy always manifested by Mussulmans against Christians, increased
a thousandfold when it is thought a Mussulman’s life is in danger; in
the face of a strong feeling against the restoration of a Barakzai Amir
on the one hand, and of the feudal reverence shown towards the dynasty
on the other; in silent but cautious calculation of those opposing
influences, the Commission felt its way forward. Such men as professed
friendship for us were invited to tell us all they knew, and that _all_
seemed so little that it was disheartening to listen to it; such others
as were Yakub Khan’s faithful followers were asked to give their version
of events, and their garbled stories were just as disappointing. Towards
the close of the inquiry, however, there was more tangible matter to be
used as a lever by which to force disclosures; and I believe that such
fair evidence as will fully justify Yakub Khan’s deportation to India
was obtained. That it will justify more I cannot venture to hope, and I
must guard myself against misconception by saying that officially no
sign has been given as to the conclusions of the Commission. There are
inferences which observant men cannot fail to draw from little episodes
in a camp-life so limited as this, and the rigorous attention paid to
the safe-keeping of Yakub Khan is but one in a string of collateral
circumstances which have been interesting us since the Proclamation in
the Bala Hissar and the arrest of the Wazir and his fellow-ministers. We
may be all wrong in our surmises as to what will occur: there is only
the charmed circle of three, who have had to shape the conclusions now
before the Government of India, in which speculation may be safe; but we
believe in our prescience, and are proportionately happy. The final
decision on so important a step as the punishment of a sovereign
supposed to have been guilty of treachery—whether of the blackest kind,
or merely of the nature arising from pusillanimity and indecision—must
rest with the highest authorities; and if we were tempted to chafe at
our helplessness in having the knowledge of all that has transpired
withheld from us, we should be consoled at once by the thought that it
is the voice of the Government alone which can pronounce the final
sentence. That the Commission will have spoken freely, and not have
shrunk from any startling conclusions it may have been driven to, I am
fully convinced—they are not the men for half measures who have composed
it—and in the full expectation that their recommendations will be
carried out, even if the end is more than usually bitter, all of us who
have sojourned before Cabul since we camped on Siah Sung Ridge, on 8th
October, are content to rest until everything is made known.


Footnote 26:

  Contrary to expectation, no such narrative has ever been published.


The latest arrivals in Camp are Mahomed Syud, Governor of Ghazni, and
Faiz Mahomed, the Afghan General, whose name became so familiar when Sir
Neville Chamberlain’s Mission was turned back in the Khyber. Faiz
Mahomed was then in command at Ali Musjid, and his interview with
Cavagnari just below the fortress is matter of history. He does not seem
to have shared in the rebellion, and his adherence to Yakub Khan was
never shaken. Mahomed Syud was compelled to leave Ghazni, as he found
himself powerless to control the local _moollahs_, who have been
preaching a _jehad_ on their own account, and have gathered together
several thousand tribesmen from the villages in the district. There are
but few trained sepoys in their ranks, and, although they have made the
road between Ghazni and the more northern districts very unsafe, their
efforts are too insignificant to be at present seriously regarded.

                                                    _21st November._

“Nae, nae! I’ll nae fa’ out till I’ve washed ma’ hands in th’ Caspian!”
These were the words, not of any veteran soldier looking forward to
crossing bayonets with the Russians, but of a plucky little drummer boy,
of the 92nd Highlanders, when toiling painfully along the road to Cabul.
The lad had his heart in the right place at any rate; and if the
strength of an army is to be judged by its marching powers, we have rare
material in our ranks. It is a long cry from Cabul to the Caspian; but
the drummer boy may have many years of soldiering before him; and if
ever the Gordon Highlanders form up on the shores of Russia’s inland
sea, to that boy should belong the honour of leading the van. But we are
only at Cabul, and it now seems beyond doubt that we shall not advance
any further this year. The winter has come down upon us with a
suddenness that we little expected from the mildness of the last season;
and 20° of frost have warned us that bivouacking out would be nearly
impossible for well-clad soldiers, and would be certain death to
hundreds of camp-followers. The news of the disturbances on the Ghazni
Road may, perhaps, call forth the remark, that after Cabul had been
captured, and the country around cowed into order, a rapid march to
Ghazni should have been ordered. There is much virtue in sudden and
striking displays of force in an enemy’s country, particularly when the
enemy is disorganized by defeat, and is debating as to the possibility
of waging guerilla warfare. But there are considerations which must
override even rapidity of action, and the first of these is the
provision of supplies on which an army can subsist when far removed from
its base of action. Cabul was practically in our possession on the 9th
of October, though the formal march into the Bala Hissar did not take
place until three days later; and our cavalry and spies had shown us
that no organized resistance was being prepared within many miles of the
capital. The rebel regiments had melted away; the city people were
cowering in abject submission; and the local tribes had seen that their
day had not come and were once more in their homesteads, nursing their
wrath and their _jhezails_ until the Kafirs should be delivered into
their hands. Sir. F. Roberts was at this time quite cut off from India,
so far as a connected line of communication went; the Shutargardan post
was the only link between Cabul and Kurram, and that was beset by an
army of hill-men. From that direction he might hope, by relieving the
garrison, to get one convoy through; but beyond that point he could not
go. The great height of the Shutargardan Pass precluded all hope of
keeping troops there during the winter. He had come from Ali Kheyl with
but a few days’ provisions; and it was plain that, unless supplies came
by way of the Khyber, the army must rely upon the country for food for
its 18,000 soldiers and followers. That one might have reasonably
expected a long string of baggage animals to be moving westwards from
Peshawur at the end of October did not seem so preposterous as men with
General Bright’s column would now have us believe. To say that Peshawur
was swept clean of all transport animals for Kurram, is begging the
question. The Kurram Valley Force was only half-equipped when it began
the advance upon Cabul, and northern India still held many thousands of
mules, donkeys, camels, and their kind. We hoped that some of the energy
our own Commander had shown would have been displayed in the “Army of
the Indus,” and that a few troops at least would have kept pace with us,
or, say, have moved on a parallel line five marches in rear. If this had
been done, and a well-equipped brigade of 2,500 men had been pushed
forward to Jugdulluck, the massing of 12,000 men in rear might have been
postponed—for a few months, say,—and some of the transport (swallowed up
by regiments who will never be wanted west of Peshawur) then liberated.
But to look to the Khyber for supplies was soon found to be an expensive
amusement. The troops would starve before a seer of _atta_ or grain
passed Jumrood. We could live from hand-to-mouth for a week or two; but
there were the four months of winter to be thought of; and it became
merely a question of arithmetic whether a brigade strong enough to march
to Ghazni could be spared, with all its equipment of baggage animals and
followers, and at the same time four months’ supplies could be bought up
and swept into our Camp by those left behind at Cabul. There seemed just
a chance of this being done, if our broken reed in the Jellalabad Valley
could be propped fairly straight for a few weeks. The work of collecting
grain, forage, and all other supplies, was begun in earnest; and we
resigned ourselves to hard labour until the troops from the Shutargardan
should come in, and our communications _viâ_ Jugdulluck be well
established. Expeditions to Kohistan and Ghazni were looked upon as
certain of accomplishment in the near future. We knew that Jellalabad
had been occupied by the advanced brigade of General Bright’s force on
October 12th, and it was only sixty miles from that post to the point
beyond Jugdulluck, where they would join hands with the Cabul Army. The
end of October would surely see them within a few marches of us. But it
had been apparent from the first that drag-ropes were upon the “Army of
the Indus,” and that every tug forward made by Brigadier Charles Gough
was responded to by a double tug behind. The end of the month came; the
convoys from the Shutargardan were well on their way, the troops under
Brigadier Hugh Gough had also started; and the Jugdulluck route seemed
about to be opened. On 1st November Brigadier Macpherson was at Butkhak,
and four days later he shook hands with General Bright at Kata Sung.
Then it was decided at head-quarters here that a force should visit
Ghazni. The mass of our supplies were being stored away in Sherpur;
General Macpherson could march his brigade back after garrisoning
Luttabund and Butkhak; Cabul would not be denuded of troops; and from
Sherpur to Peshawur the road would be guarded by an overwhelming force.
But the programme went all wrong: the broken reed, after being
straightened for twenty-four hours, failed us. The Khyber advanced
brigade had no supplies; General Macpherson had to cross into Tagao to
feed his force; and we, in Sherpur, saw the 15th November—the day fixed
for our departure for Ghazni—come and go, and still the army remained
stationary. The weather, too—an element that can never be despised in
our calculations in a semi-barren country like Afghanistan—had punished
our delay by declaring against us. Snow and sleet fell in and around
Cabul, and no man knew when the next storm might come. So the Ghazni
expedition fell through; and if the ruffians who are now trying to make
capital out of our failure to visit the place, succeed in their efforts
to cry a _jehad_, the blame for any mischief that may ensue cannot be
thrown upon the Cabul Army, but upon the short-sighted policy which
could leave it to its own resources, while nominally moving a supporting
force in a parallel line in order to secure its alternative
communications. Foreign military critics have reflected severely upon
the want of skill shown in the plan of the campaign, and have condemned
the rashness of the Shutargardan-Cabul advance, without support from the
Khyber. But the supports were said to be there, and General Roberts
could not know that they would be steadily kept back, and would be
unable to take up their share of the alternative road a month after he
had captured the position they were both supposed to be converging upon.
Supports which travel at the rate of two or three miles a day are worse
than useless.

When it is considered what the numerical strength of the Khyber
supporting column is, one cannot understand the timidity of the advance.
There may have been tribes in front, in flank, and in rear; but so there
were on the Shutargardan route, and tribes far more capable of mischief
than Afridis and Shinwaris. Yet the menace at Budesh Kheyl, Ali Kheyl,
the Shutargardan, and on either flank at Charasia, did not check the
forward movement of an army half the strength of that supposed to have
been put in motion from Peshawur simultaneously with the advance from
the Kurram side. Looking at General Bright’s force at the end of
October, we find that, inclusive of troops at Nowshera and Peshawur, he
had under his orders over 16,000 men, viz., British troops: 148 officers
and 4,287 men; Native troops: 147 British officers and 11,795 men. These
included five batteries of artillery and one mountain battery, and six
cavalry regiments, three British and three Native. Out of the total, two
batteries were in Peshawur; and there must also be subtracted the
following regiments, which had not crossed the old frontier:—11th Bengal
Lancers (356), part of the 17th Bengal Cavalry (338), 1-17th Foot (443),
1-25th (715), part of 51st (209), 1st Native Infantry (774), 22nd Native
Infantry (638), and 39th Native Infantry (609). Deducting all these,
there was left a force of 11,800 men actually moving on, or garrisoning
the Peshawur-Gundamak line; supports equal, it might have been supposed,
to any work required of them. That there were conflicting ideas as to
the object with which such a body of troops had been sent from India,
must have been apparent even to a superficial observer; but upon whom
the responsibility of playing with such an army rests, no one here
pretends to say. The local rank of Lieutenant-General, which has at last
been given to Sir F. Roberts, brings these 11,800 men under his command,
and their future movements are likely to be directed in sympathy with
the advanced army at Cabul. For the next few months they will probably
be required to do little more than keep the road; but during the winter
their transport equipment and commissariat arrangements—defects in which
are said to have been the chief cause of their tardy movements—will have
to be so far put on a footing of efficiency that, if the necessity
arises in the spring for the Cabul Army continuing its march westwards,
they will be able to keep pace with its movements. There are good men
and tried soldiers enough in the Khyber Force to do all that is
required, if they are allowed scope for their energies, and are not
trammelled and crippled at every step by those influences in the
background, which I have already described as being “drag-ropes” upon
their freedom of action. General Roberts has now in his command—that of
Eastern Afghanistan—two divisions of 8,000, and 11,800 men,
respectively: in all, nearly 20,000 troops, whose movements he controls
from his headquarters at Sherpur. Matters of detail on the Khyber side
are left, as before, to local commanders. I have dwelt at length upon
the shortcomings of the Peshawur column, not so much because very
serious results have followed its laggard advance, but as showing how
helpless the small force here would have been if, in case of a check, it
had looked for support to “the Army of the Indus.”

General Macpherson’s brigade returned to Sherpur cantonments yesterday,
having left at Luttabund 300 of the 23rd Pioneers and half the 28th
Punjab Native Infantry. Before the brigade marched in, a strong body of
troops had been warned for service, their destination being the district
of Maidan, twenty-five miles distant on the Ghazni Road, where large
supplies of grain and _bhoosa_ are said to have been collected for us by
the sirdars employed to purchase it on our account. Over 100,000 maunds
of _bhoosa_ are still wanted to complete our winter supply; and as the
villagers have not sufficient carriage to bring in their supplies so
long a distance, we must needs go out ourselves. Every available baggage
animal will be employed for the next week or ten days in carrying in
this forage; and as there are rumours innumerable of gatherings on the
Ghazni Road further south, it has been determined to run no risk with
reference to our valuable mules and _yaboos_. A string of between 2,000
and 3,000 animals needs to be well protected, and the brigade which
marched out this morning under General Baker was therefore very strong.
It was made up as follows:—500 of the 92nd Highlanders; 400 of the 3rd
Sikhs; 400 of the 5th Punjab Infantry; two guns, G-3, Royal Artillery;
four guns Kohat Mountain Battery; one squadron 9th Lancers, two
squadrons 5th Punjab Cavalry, and two squadrons of the 14th Bengal
Lancers. The display of so large a force half-way to Ghazni is sure to
have an excellent effect upon the surrounding country. Sir F. Roberts
rides out to-morrow to join General Baker at Maidan.

A Divisional order was issued to-night, directing the public reading of
an order of the Commander-in-Chief dismissing Subadar Mahomed Karim
Khan, 1st Punjab Infantry, from the service for having failed in his
duty to the Queen-Empress on the occasion of the attack upon the
Residency. This man is a Logari, and was on furlough at Cabul in
September. On the morning of the outbreak he was in the Residency, and
after the lull following the first collision of the Herat troops with
the Guides—while the Afghans went for their arms—he was sent with a
message to the Amir by Sir Louis Cavagnari. This he does not seem to
have delivered with the spirit that might have been expected from a
soldier in our service; and afterwards, when Gholam Nubbi, Cavagnari’s
_chuprasse_, found money and horses for him to carry the news of the
disaster to the British Camp at Ali Kheyl, he behaved in a dastardly
way. He changed clothes with Gholam Nubbi and started out, but only went
as far as Beni Hissar. There he stayed for two days, and then returned
to Cabul, where he hid himself for five days in the Kizilbash quarter.
Afterwards he quietly made his way to his own village; and, upon our
troops appearing at Kushi, came into camp and told some wonderful
stories of what he had done. These were afterwards proved to be false,
and the Military Commission when trying prisoners found that his conduct
had been really that of a poltroon. They recommended his dismissal from
the service, and he has now been summarily discharged, all arrears of
pay being forfeited. This is another striking instance of the shifty and
untrustworthy nature of our Pathan soldiers, for Karim Khan was an old
native officer.

                          CAMP MAIDAN, GHAZNI ROAD, _24th November_.

The Lieutenant-General Commanding is now out on a visit to the force
under Brigadier-General Baker, which is collecting supplies of forage
from the villages along the Ghazni Road. Leaving Brigadier-General
Macpherson in command at Sherpur, Sir F. Roberts, accompanied by his
personal Staff and Colonel Macgregor, Chief of the Staff, with a small
escort of ten men of the 14th Bengal Lancers, rode through the Cabul
gorge on the afternoon of the 22nd, and, following the road which
traverses the Chardeh Valley, made for the village of Argandeh, about
sixteen miles away. The Chardeh Valley, which we passed through, gave
evidence on all sides of that fertility which has earned for it the name
of the “Garden of Cabul;” but it is so late in the year that only autumn
tints mark the fields on either side. Here and there the young wheat is
shooting up, but the small green blades are scarcely strong enough to do
more than chequer the general area of brownness. The long lines of
willows and poplars which line the hundreds of watercourses threading
the valley, are mere skeletons of trees; their leaves rustling down in
eddying circles as the cold wind sweeps blusteringly from the snowy tops
of the Pughman Hills. The valley is shut in on all sides by high
mountain ranges, the hills which guard Cabul from approach on the west
seeming to rise perpendicularly from the plain. The range above Indikee
village is overtopped by the sheer cliffs which dominate the plain
between Zahidabad and Charasia, and these are already covered with snow,
which gleams out in startling whiteness above the barren rocks in the
foreground. Far away to the north lies the Hindu Kush, with its long
undulating sky-line similarly snow-laden, the lower intermediate hills
of Kohistan being still mere brown masses jostling each other in grand
confusion. Looking towards Bamian the view is bounded scarcely ten miles
away by the Pughman spur, which boasts of several lofty peaks rising in
sullen grandeur from the hills about Argandeh. For fully twelve miles,
or about as far as Kila Kazi, the road is an extremely good one; stones,
the curse of Afghanistan, being few and far between. After this the dry
bed of a snow-fed stream has frequently to be crossed or followed, and
boulders are not uncommon. Guns, however, could be got along without
much trouble, and if necessary a new track on a higher level, across the
cultivated land, could be laid out. The road ascends gradually the whole
way, and when near Argandeh a _kotal_ is gained, about a mile and a half
across and two or three miles long. It is now a bare plain without tree
or shrub, but for the most part is under cultivation, the fields of
course lying fallow during the winter. To the right or north the hills
are rather precipitous, and in a sheltered curve at their base the
village of Argandeh lies. It is fully a mile from the road, and all
about it are terraced fields said to yield magnificent crops of wheat
and barley. The high pitch to which irrigation attains in Afghanistan is
strikingly exemplified in this district, the water-channels being so
arranged that the distribution of the water is admirable.

Sir Frederick Roberts rested for the night at Argandeh, and yesterday
morning rode on to Maidan. Striking the Ghazni Road a mile from
Argandeh, we followed its course over the _kotal_ and soon began to
descend. The hills on either side were as bare as any in Afghanistan,
and the plain between them was only partially cultivated. After about
four miles a _chowki_ (watch-tower) was reached on a little rise, and
looking to the south we saw the district of Maidan stretching before us.
It is a beautiful valley, landlocked on every side, the Cabul river
running through it about a mile from the foot of the western hills. The
valley must be at least four miles across; and, with the exception of
low rolling downs, covered with stones and rocks, for about a mile on
its eastern flank is as flat as its name, Maidan (open plain), implies.
Twenty or thirty walled enclosures and villages on the banks of the
Cabul stream stand out from amid poplars, willows, and plane trees,
which fringe the banks of the sparkling little river, and for many
square miles nothing is seen but endless corn-fields, each with its
little boundary of mud, along which the water slowly wanders as it does
its work of irrigation. The road falls rapidly from the _chowki_, and a
few hundred yards below bifurcates, the main route to Ghazni going
straight to the south over the rolling downs I have mentioned, and a
bridle-path leading down to the villages of the plain. General Baker’s
camp is pitched at Naure Falad, two miles from the _chowki_, down in the
plain near the first of the fortified enclosures, its rear being guarded
by a high rocky ridge. From the summit of this a splendid view of Maidan
is obtained, and the extraordinary fertility of the valley fully
appreciated. To the west the ridge runs sharply down into the plain, and
the valley is there narrowed to half a mile, but it opens out again to
the north among the hills. The main road to Bamian, which strikes off
from the Ghazni Road before the _chowki_ in the _kotal_ is reached, runs
across this part of the valley and enters the Ispekhawk Pass, a few
miles further on.

Yesterday afternoon a small party of cavalry were fired upon in the
Darra Narkh, a valley running in the Bamian direction, and to-day
Bahadur Khan, who was responsible for the action, and who is known to be
harbouring Afghan soldiers, has been visited and punished. He had
already given much trouble. General Baker, since his arrival in Maidan,
has found much difficulty in inducing the _maliks_ of the villages of
the district to bring in corn and _bhoosa_. They have given the tribute
grain and forage readily enough, but have evaded furnishing the amount
we required in addition to this. Every maund was paid for at a forced
rate, which, I may state, was far higher than the normal prices; but the
village headmen hung back, and, though profuse in promises, made but
little effort to meet our wants. Several of them were very insolent in
their bearing, and no doubt thought to worry us out by their
procrastination. But General Baker is not the stamp of man to have his
orders disobeyed, and by confining some of the _maliks_ to the camp for
a few days, he had gradually brought them to their senses. One _malik_,
however, trusting to the obscure valley in which he lived, wherein
Europeans had never been known to penetrate, was obstinate. This was
Bahadur Khan, whose fort is about eight miles from the Maidan villages,
along the branch road which leads to Bamian. He not only refused to sell
any of his huge store of grain and forage, but insolently declined to
come into camp. He was known to have great influence among the tribesmen
in his neighbourhood, and it was reported that some sepoys of the Ardal
regiments were living under his protection. When Sir F. Roberts heard of
the contumacy of this _malik_, he agreed with General Baker that it
would be well to fetch him in by force, and at the same time to arrest
any sepoys found in his villages. To accomplish this double object the
cavalry were sent out yesterday, with the result already stated, that
they were fired upon by a large body of men, including some 200 sepoys
armed with Sniders. It was necessary to make an example of Bahadur Khan,
and at the same time to break up the tribal gathering, which, if left
alone, might grow to serious proportions. Our foraging parties would
probably have been roughly handled in scattered villages, all of which
boast of towers and fortified enclosures, if the rumour had been allowed
to circulate that our cavalry had been driven back.

Tents having been struck at daybreak, the baggage of the force was
packed up and placed within a fort near the Cabul river, under a guard
of 300 men, drawn equally from the 92nd Highlanders, 3rd Sikhs, and 5th
Punjab Infantry, with a squadron of the 14th Bengal Lancers and a troop
of the 9th Lancers. The two guns of 9-3[prev G-3], R.H.A., were also
left behind, as the road to the villages was known to be difficult for
wheeled guns. The troops which marched out were 400 of the 92nd, 300 of
the 3rd Sikhs, 300 of the 5th N.I., a troop of the 9th Lancers, a
squadron of the 14th B.L., and four guns of the Kohat Mountain Battery.
General Baker was in command of this compact little column, which was
not encumbered with transport animals, as a rapid march was intended.
Sir F. Roberts, with Colonel Macgregor, also rode out with his personal
escort. It was bitterly cold in the early morning, and all but the
swiftest running streams were coated over with ice. The troops carried
with them one day’s cooked provisions, but were otherwise in light
marching order. A point was made for a little to the south-west, where
the Darra Narkh stream falls into the Cabul river, and then a due
westerly course was followed up the narrow valley through which the
former stream runs. The usual mountainous country was seen on either
hand, high hills closing down on the valley, and presenting treeless
slopes barren of all verdure. The two rivers had to be crossed by fords,
and the men went through the icy-cold water as carelessly as if wading a
stream in summer. The sepoys stripped off their _putties_, and made
light of the floating ice which barked their shins, while the
Highlanders in their kilts seemed rather to enjoy the bracing cold. The
road was fairly well-defined and ran through cultivated fields, with an
occasional fortified homestead or country villa relieving the monotony
of the landscape. Information was brought from time to time of the
movements of Bahadur Khan, it being at first stated that he had 2,000 or
3,000 men ready to meet us. About seven miles from the camp the road was
commanded by a high ridge on the left, and beyond this, we were told,
lay the open valley in which the cavalry had been attacked. This ridge
was at its highest point 800 or 1,000 feet above the roadway, and on the
previous evening had been lined with men. Now it appeared quite
deserted, and the cavalry swept round it and waited in a friendly
village until the infantry could come up. A local _malik_ volunteered
the news that Bahadur Khan and his followers had taken all their movable
property away during the night and had fled to the hills. When the
Lancers first appeared round the ridge and pushed forward into the
horseshoe-shaped valley, they saw fifty or sixty men on some low hills
to the north, a gunshot from Bahadur Khan’s chief fort; and as these
moved down the slopes, it seemed probable that a body of tribesmen might
be lying hidden behind the crests. Possibly the Ghilzais expected that
only cavalry were again about to pay them a visit, and were emboldened
to come to the lower levels. As soon as the advanced company of the
Highlanders appeared on the road, the “enemy,” if fifty are worthy of
the name, drew off hurriedly to the highest hill, a couple of miles
distant, and watched our movements. General Baker directed one company
of the 92nd to advance in skirmishing order, and occupy a rocky hill
overlooking Bahadur Khan’s fort, and commanding it at 700 or 800 yards,
and sent a company of Sikhs round to the north, with orders to drive out
any men who might be occupying the lower hills. It was soon seen that
the place was quite deserted, and not a shot was fired from any of the
hills. The whole valley lay before us dotted over with fortified
homesteads, surrounded by grain-fields already green with sprouting
corn. It seemed wonderfully fertile, and extended over many square
miles; other and smaller valleys penetrating between the hills wherever
there was a break in their continuous line. The exact extent of these
minor valleys could not be estimated, but native report stated that the
fertility was equal to that of the rich plain stretching away to the
north-west for five or six miles. When it was seen that no opposition
was to be offered, the Sikhs doubled down upon the fort from the low
hills above it, and at the same time another company raced across the
fields from the southern entrance to the valley, all being anxious to be
in “at the loot.” It was a pretty sight watching the sepoys doubling
along and spreading out as the fort and the village near it were gained.
Clouds of dust with the gleam of lance-heads shining out soon arose
further to the left in the heart of the valley, showing where the
cavalry were galloping off to more distant homesteads. All Bahadur
Khan’s villages, some ten in number, were marked down to be looted and
burnt, and Sikhs and sowars were quickly engaged in the work. The houses
were found stored with _bhoosa_, straw, firewood, and twigs for the
winter as well as a small quantity of corn, and as there was not time to
clear this out, and we could not afford to leave a force for the night
in such a dangerous position so near to the hills, orders were given to
fire the villages and destroy the houses and their contents. No better
men than Sikhs could he found for such work, and in a few minutes
Bahadur Khan’s villages were in flames, and volumes of dense black smoke
pouring over the valley, a high wind aiding the fire with frantic
earnestness. The villagers had carried off all their portable property,
not even a _charpoy_ remaining, but the Sikhs ransacked every place for
hidden treasure, and smashed down the earthen corn-bins in hope of
gaining a prize. These corn-bins seemed quite a feature of every house.
They are three or four feet square and made of sun-dried clay, often
fancifully ornamented with scroll-work. They stand on a raised platform
in the living-room, and have near the bottom a small hole in which a
piece of rag is stuffed. This answers to the tap of a barrel, for when
the rag is withdrawn the grain pours out, and the daily supply can he
drawn just as we would draw a tankard of beer in an English farm-house.
Indian corn, from which rich _chupaties_ (unleavened cakes) are made, is
chiefly stored in this way, and near the bins stand the grinding-stones,
at which the women of the house prepare the flour for the household.
Generally an adjoining room is turned into a kitchen, the earthen floor
being skilfully burrowed to form ovens, and round holes cut out on which
to place the _dekchies_ which serve for Afghan pots and kettles. Such of
the rooms as I went into were dark and dirty enough, small square holes
in the walls serving as windows, and the roofs being made up of thick
logs laid a foot apart, and covered over with twigs, on which a foot of
mud had been plastered. The Sikhs fired house after house, and every
room was soon converted into a huge reverberating furnace, the fire
having no means of escape through the roofs, which were very strong.
Nearly all the houses were two-storied, with narrow wooden or mud
staircases, and many a sepoy in his haste first fired the lower rooms,
stored with wood or _bhoosa_, and then rushed upstairs intent on loot,
soon to be driven down again by the smoke and flames from below. The
search after household goods was varied by exciting chases after the
fowls, ducks, and donkeys of the village. Sikhs and _kahars_, who had
come up with the _dandies_ (stretchers for wounded men), scrambled over
housetops, and through blinding smoke, to capture the dearly-prized
_moorgie_, while below an unoffending donkey would be chased frantically
round awkward corners and over frozen watercourses, where pursuers and
pursued alike came to grief. A donkey when captured was laden with such
little loot as the men thought worth while carrying off. Each fowl had
its neck wrung on the spot, was thrown into a convenient bit of fire in
some blazing house, and having been singed clean of its feathers, was
cooked in a few minutes, and eaten with infinite enjoyment. The cavalry
were fortunate enough to secure fifty sheep and a few cows, which were
driven to camp. After two or three hours had been spent in firing the
various villages owned by Bahadur Khan, the order to fall in for the
homeward march was given, and leaving the valley draped in smoke and the
fire still working its will, the troops filed off for Maidan. They
reached camp by evening, having marched seventeen miles over difficult
ground and through half-frozen streams without mishap. As the rear-guard
left, a few men appeared on the heights of the north and fired a few
shots at long ranges, but these were merely in bravado.[27] We could
learn nothing of the body of tribesmen and the 200 sepoys, and it is
believed they have dispersed. The punishment of Bahadur Khan will have a
great effect upon the whole district of Maidan, as it will show the
_maliks_ that they are not safe from our troops even in their most
obscure valleys. General Baker remains in the neighbourhood of Maidan
until next week, all the available transport animals from Sherpur being
now engaged in carrying to our cantonments the large quantities of corn
and _bhoosa_ collected. Our winter supply of forage seems likely to be


Footnote 27:

  This is a plain statement of the foray in the Darra Narkh, and our
  indignation was greatly aroused afterwards by seeing sensational
  articles in English papers describing how old men, women, and children
  were turned out to die in the snow. There were _no_ old men, women,
  and children seen, and _no_ snow. There were forty or fifty other
  villages in which they had taken refuge long before we arrived.



                              CHAPTER XIV.

Deportation of Yakub Khan to India—Review of his Reign—The Scene on the
    Morning of December 1st—Precautions along the Road to
    Jugdulluck—Strengthening of the Posts—Tribal Uneasiness about
    Cabul—Attitude of the Kohistanis—General Baker’s Brigade ordered to
    Sherpur—The State of Afghan Turkistan—Its Effect upon
    Kohistan—Gholam Hyder and his Army—The Extent of his Power—Return of
    his disbanded Regiments to their Homes in Kohistan—Our Policy
    towards the Afghans—Failure of the Attempt to conciliate the
    People—Modifications necessary—Murder of our Governor of Maidan.

                                            SHERPUR, _1st December_.

The ex-Amir of Afghanistan, Sirdar Yakub Khan, is now well on his way to
India: the order for his deportation having been carried out so silently
and quickly that, while I am writing, the majority of men in Sherpur
cantonments are ignorant of his departure. As I ventured to predict in
forwarding the news of the close of the Commission of Inquiry, Yakub
Khan’s fate is that of an exile to India; but even now we are in the
dark here as to whether he will be treated as a State prisoner, and
allowed to live in luxurious comfort, or will be sent to the Andamans,
to drag out his life as a common malefactor. If the latter, it will be
an ignoble ending of a career which in its earlier stages promised such
brilliant achievements. Yakub Khan was once the first soldier in
Afghanistan, but from the evil moment when he confided in the word of
his father, his fame was at an end. Five years’ captivity—and such
captivity as only Shere Ali could devise—broke his spirit, dulled his
intellect, and left him the weak incapable we treated with at Gundamak,
and confided in so blindly until the fatal week in September. That under
fairer auspices he might have proved a strong ruler, such as the Afghans
require, can scarcely admit of a doubt; that he would have been a Dost
Mahomed even his most ardent admirers would hesitate to assert. The
conditions of government in a country like Afghanistan compel the
sovereign either to be a tyrant or the tool of factions: Yakub Khan,
during his few months of power, was the latter. His accession to the
throne took place under circumstances to cope with which, even in the
prime of his manhood before imprisonment had crippled him, would have
taxed his power to the uttermost. After five years in a dungeon he was
suddenly liberated by his father, only to find that father in the last
stage of defeat and despair, his kingdom practically at the mercy of a
powerful invader, and himself a panic-stricken fugitive. Left first as
Shere Ali’s regent, Yakub Khan could do nothing beyond watch, with
Oriental submission to fate, the advance of the two invading armies up
the Jellalabad and Kurram Valleys. The help which Shere Ali expected to
receive from his Russian friends over the Oxus was not forthcoming; in a
few weeks came the news of the death of the Amir at Mazar-i-Sharif, and
Yakub found himself in possession of a kingdom already tottering to its
fall. If he had had the energy of Dost Mahomed he might have organized
armies, called upon the semi-barbarous tribes still lying between Cabul
and India to join his soldiers in a holy war, and make a supreme effort
to check the invasion which had driven his father from the capital. But
that energy was lacking; he made but a faint-hearted appeal to the
fanaticism of the hill-tribes, and, unsupported as this was by any real
attempt to collect the scattered units of Shere Ali’s once-powerful
army, it necessarily failed. Nothing was left to him but negotiation;
and, thanks to the clemency of the enemy to whom he was opposed, he was
granted terms which, in his position, he could scarcely have hoped to
gain. He allied himself with the most powerful State in Asia, and the
safety of his kingdom was assured against all foreign aggression. If he
had been a tyrant to his subjects, and thoroughly determined to make his
will their law, the reception in his capital of an Embassy from the
Power with which he was allied would have been fraught with no danger
either to himself or to the Ambassador. But he had not the strength of
tyranny sufficient to control the factions of which he was a mere tool,
and it seems only too probable that he gradually drifted from his first
position of sincerity towards his new allies, to that of a timid
spectator of intrigues against the alliance. His weakness and
vacillation could not check the danger that was growing so formidable,
and, when the final outbreak came, his personal influence was even
unequal to saving the life of the man who had trusted so implicitly in
his good faith. That Yakub desired the death of Sir Louis Cavagnari we
do not believe; that he had been led, insidiously, by men about him to
coincide in the view that the Embassy should be forced to leave may be
readily credited. And once that Embassy had been destroyed, there is
only too much reason to suppose that he was inclined to parley with the
men who had brought about its destruction, and to listen to their
plausible reasoning that what had been done was irrevocable. The access
of personal fear, which drove him to seek safety in the British camp, no
more excuses him of responsibility for his acts of omission or
commission, than does the voluntary surrender of a murderer condone the
crime he has committed. So far as human canons are concerned, repentance
cannot blot out guilt, however much it may modify judgment: the supreme
quality of mercy is impossible under ordinary conditions of life. Taking
the most pitiful estimate of Yakub Khan’s offence, putting aside the
idea even of participation in the views of the men who wished him to
break the engagements to which he stood pledged, there is the one
unpardonable crime still clinging to him—that he stood by, and made no
sign, while the lives of men were sacrificed which should have been
sacred to him, even according to the narrow creed of the fanatics who
surrounded him. His own words, when refusing the help that was so dearly
needed, rise up against him when he appeals to our forbearance: “It is
not to be done.” Perhaps, hereafter, the same answer may be given when
we are asked to preserve the integrity of a country which has always
repaid friendship with falsehood, trust with treachery.

From the 28th of October until his departure for India this morning,
Yakub Khan had been a close prisoner in our camp, the tent in which he
was confined being always strongly guarded, and no one beyond our own
officers being allowed access to him. The monotony and solitude have
told upon him, of course, and he is now thinner and more worn than when
he first took refuge with General Baker at Kushi. Before the closing day
of the inquiry he was contented and placid enough; but of late he has
displayed some anxiety as to his probable fate, the irksomeness of the
restraint under which he was placed having, no doubt, largely
contributed to this. He could hear all the busy life in camp about him,
but was as much shut out from it as if a prisoner again in the Bala
Hissar. The bayonets of the sentries who quartered the ground day and
night about his tent were a barrier beyond which he could not pass. The
departure for India, Malta, or London, which he had expressed himself so
willing to undertake nearly two months ago, must have seemed to him
hopeless, even so late as six o’clock last night, when Major Hastings,
Chief Political Officer, paid his usual visit to the tent, then guarded
by fifty men of the 72nd Highlanders. Major Hastings said nothing of the
orders which had been received from the Government, as it had been
resolved to give as short a notice as possible of the intended journey,
for fear of complications on the road to Peshawur. Not that it was at
all likely an effort would be made to rouse the tribes to attempt a
rescue, but that nothing was to be gained by an open parade of the
departure. At eight o’clock Major Hastings sent word to Yakub Khan that
he intended paying him a second visit; and, accompanied by Mr. H. M.
Durand, Political Secretary to the Lieutenant-General, he again went to
the tent. Yakub Khan was a little astonished at the unusual hour chosen
for the visit; but when told that he would have to leave Cabul for India
at six o’clock the next morning, he kept his composure admirably. He
expressed surprise that such short notice should be given, but beyond
this did not question the arrangements. He asked that his father-in-law,
Yahiya Khan, and two other sirdars now in confinement should be released
and allowed to accompany him. This, of course, could not be granted, and
he then asked to what place in India he was to be taken, and where the
Viceroy was. This was all the concern he showed. The orders received
here are to convey him safely to Peshawur; so but little information as
to his final resting-place could be vouchsafed him. I may here
incidentally mention that he will probably go on to Umritsar or Lahore,
where, perhaps, the decision of the Government will be made known to

All the arrangements for the journey had been carefully made beforehand.
There were, this morning, at Butkhak, the 12th Punjab Cavalry, and
between that post and Sei Baba 400 of the 72nd Highlanders, 300 of the
23rd Pioneers, and a wing of the 28th Punjab Infantry; while the convoy
of sick and wounded, with its escort, was between Kata Sung and
Jugdulluck. The escort from Sherpur was simply two squadrons of cavalry
drawn from the 9th Lancers and 5th Punjab Cavalry, under the command of
Major Hammond, of the latter regiment. Soon after five o’clock this
morning the little camp in which the ex-Amir was lodged, not far from
head-quarters, was all astir with preparations for the journey. A bright
moon was shining overhead and a few watch-fires were blazing brightly
among the tents, by the light of which the mules and _yaboos_ were
loaded up. The squadron of the 5th Punjab Cavalry drew up outside the
gateway which leads from the cantonments near the western end of the
southern wall; while the Lancers passed from their lines, opposite the
break in the Bemaru Heights, to a bit of open ground between the
quarters of the 72nd Highlanders and Yakub Khan’s tent. The early
morning air was bitterly cold, and the usual light mist which settles
nightly over the Cabul plain still hung about. The camp was silent and
deserted, every soldier being at that hour asleep, except the sentries
at their posts and the patrols, stalking like armed ghosts from picquet
to picquet, seeking for any rabid Kohistani who might have invaded the
sanctity of our lines. The Lancers moved smartly round and round in
small circles to keep themselves and their horses from freezing as they
stood; and through the dust and mist enveloping them their lances shone
out now and again as the steel-heads caught a glint from the moon. It
was a fantastical sight, this endless circling of misty horsemen, moving
apparently without aim or object and growing momentarily more and more
distinct as dawn began to creep up over the distant Luttabund and Khurd
Cabul hills, and struggle with the clear moonlight which had before been
supreme. In an hour everything was ready for departure. Yakub Khan’s
horses were waiting ready saddled, and the Lancers had ceased their
circling, and were formed up waiting for the order to march. Sir
Frederick Roberts, Colonel Macgregor, Chief of the Staff, and Major
Hastings were present to see the prisoner start on his rapid journey,
and at half-past six exactly Yakub Khan rode off surrounded by Lancers.
He had exchanged salaams with the General and those about him, and, if
not positively elated, was seemingly quite content to leave Cabul.
Captain Turner was the Political Officer to whose care he was assigned;
and Abdullah Khan, son of the Nawab Gholam Hussein, was the native
officer in attendance. His four body servants and a favourite attendant,
Abdul Kayun, who had been released at the last moment, rode with the
escort. No notice was given beforehand to his servants; and when the
royal cooks heard that they were to start for India, they abandoned
their master and took refuge in the city. They were afterwards sought
out and sent on to Luttabund, the halting-place for the night, as the
comfort of Yakub Khan is to be strictly considered. The news of the
departure soon spread through Cabul, and the Mussulman population,
according to a Hindu informant, are greatly depressed and uneasy. They
are now convinced that the Durani dynasty is at an end; and, while not
regretting Yakub personally, they mourn over the fall of that reign of
turbulence which they could always carry out in the city under a
Barakzai. Double marches are to be made the whole way to Peshawur, where
Yakub Khan is expected to arrive in eight days. Part of the Cabul Field
Force escort will accompany him to Jugdulluck, where the advanced Khyber
Brigade will assume charge, and he will be passed through the various
posts until the Punjab Frontier is reached.[28] His son, the so-called
heir-apparent, remains here, as well as the members of his harem, who
will be pensioned and properly cared for by the British authorities.


Footnote 28:

  I may here state that Yakub Khan made the journey to Peshawur without
  incident; the rapidity of his movements preventing any tribal
  combination being formed with the object of attempting his rescue.


During the past few days reports have come in of growing uneasiness
among various sections of the tribes about Cabul, and these culminated
yesterday in the news that the Kohistanis had actually risen, and were
at Khoja Serai, on the Charikar Road. They were said to have cooked
three days’ food, and to meditate attacking Sherpur on the last day of
the moon. From the Luttabund direction also it was reported that the
Safis of Tagao and the hillmen west of Jugdulluck were also meditating
mischief, though beyond gathering together in small bands they had not
made open demonstration of hostility. The change in the attitude of the
Kohistanis has warned us that it is idle to expect a peaceful quiet
among men who have always been unruly and turbulent. The sections which
will probably give us most trouble now and in the future are—the Wardaks
inhabiting the country about the Ghazni Road, who may drag in the
Logaris, the Safis of Tagao, and the Kohistanis. With the two former we
have already come into collision; General Macpherson having ventured
into Tagao in search of supplies, while General Baker on a similar
mission at Maidan has had to burn Beni-Badam in the Wardak country.[29]
It is probable that both Safis and Wardaks will seek hereafter to have
their revenge; but in the meantime we shall not trouble them further, as
we have the Kohistanis to deal with. Kohistan lies due north of Cabul
between the Pughman, a spur of the Hindu Kush, and Tagao, and includes
the upper valley of the Panjshir River, which stretches away north-east
from Charikar, the most important town in the province. The lower
portion of Kohistan is known as the Koh-Daman (Mountain Skirt), and is
the district renowned for its vineyards and orchards, from which Cabul
is largely supplied with fruit. It is fertilized by innumerable streams
running down from the Pughman mountains, and uniting to form a river,
which, turned to the north by ranges of hills facing Pughman, eventually
empties itself into the Panjshir on the western border of Tagao. Looking
northwards from the Bemaru Heights above Sherpur cantonments, one sees
nothing but a mass of hills piled together in picturesque confusion, the
foreground being a low range running parallel to the narrow swampy lake,
which borders the plain from which Bemaru rises. The road from Cabul to
Kohistan passes close to Sherpur on the east, crosses the grassy plain,
and over the lake on a raised causeway at a point where it is very
narrow and shallow, and thence over a low _kotal_ called Paen Minar.
Koh-Daman is then fairly entered upon, and the route northwards is as
follows:—Paen Minar to Kila Ittafal Khan, six miles; Ittafal Khan to
Khoja Serai, five miles; Khoja Serai to Istalif, seven miles; Istalif to
Charikar, _viâ_ Isturgehteh, thirteen miles; or a total from Paen Minar,
four miles from Sherpur, of thirty-one miles. While we were encamped at
Siah Sung the Kohistan Chiefs came in and made professions of
friendship, which were gladly accepted by General Roberts. They remained
with us for several weeks, but were plainly disappointed that no large
subsidy was promised to them for their future good behaviour. A
Governor, Shahbaz Khan, a Barakzai sirdar who had intermarried with the
Kohistanis, was appointed, and was sent to Charikar, his mission being
chiefly to furnish supplies for our troops, and to prevent any Chief
arrogating to himself power in the province. No sooner do the _maliks_
seem to have returned to their villages than they began to concert
measures to annoy us. They gathered armed men together, set at nought
Shahbaz Khan, and, as I have said, have been bold enough to declare
their intention of attacking Sherpur. That they will do this seems too
absurd to believe, unless there is a general combination, but the
precaution of building breastworks on the Bemaru Heights has been taken,
and yesterday afternoon a small party of cavalry were sent out to
reconnoitre past Paen Minar. They saw no signs of any gathering, but
still there may be bands of men lurking about. We have but a very small
infantry garrison in Sherpur at the present time, as 500 of the 92nd,
400 of the 3rd Sikhs, and 400 of the 5th Punjab Infantry are out in
Maidan, while the troops sent to hold the road as far as Jugdulluck on
the occasion of Yakub Khan’s journey down are, as already stated, very
numerous. General Baker has, therefore, been warned to march to Sherpur
with his brigade as rapidly as his foraging arrangements will allow.


Footnote 29:

  General Baker nearly fell a victim to Afghan treachery at Beni-Badam.
  He visited the village with twenty or thirty troopers of the 9th
  Lancers, leaving his infantry on the Ghazni Road, 2½ miles away. The
  villagers brought out milk and fruit for the officers, and provided
  corn and forage for the horses, protesting their friendship loudly.
  General Baker noticed that only old men seemed in the village, but did
  not suspect treachery until suddenly two large bodies of armed men,
  with banners flying, were seen rushing down the hill to cut off his
  retreat. The troopers had to skirmish on foot with their carbines, and
  after a sharp fight the General managed to rejoin his infantry. The
  next day he destroyed the village.


                                                     _4th December._

The attitude of the Kohistanis continues far from satisfactory, though
they have not, as yet, been reckless enough to carry out their threat of
attacking Sherpur. The author of the late disturbances is said to be the
mother of Yakub Khan, a woman well advanced in years, but still capable,
through agents, of doing much mischief. She is in Cabul with the harem
of the ex-Amir; and as we do not war against women, she has had full
liberty to intrigue with discontented chiefs. Of the gathering of
hostile bands at Khoja Serai, south of Istalif, we have heard little of
late. The man who will probably give us most trouble is Mir Butcha;
while, to show how interests clash in this once “God-governed country,”
I may state that the nephew of Daoud Shah, the ex-Commander-in-Chief of
the Afghan army, is a prominent leader of the malcontents. His uncle is
striving in every way to ingratiate himself with the British, and has so
far succeeded, that he is freely made use of by our Political Officers.
He has several times given valuable information and has been of great
service in aiding us in the collection of supplies. He has warned us of
the disaffected nature of the Kohistanis; and though he over-estimates
their strength as opposed to our army, his warning has been partially
justified by late events. The southern part of Kohistan, the Koh-Daman,
is not so turbulent as that further north, about Charikar, in which
Shahbaz Khan is supposed to exercise power. One road from Northern
Turkistan passes over the Hindu Kush and runs through Charikar to Cabul;
and this near proximity to a province, supposed at present to be safe
from our army, has a tendency to foster local disaffection. In fact, the
state of Turkistan re-acts upon all Kohistan, and indirectly upon the
country about Cabul; and, in view of further complications, it is worth
while looking critically upon the present position of that important

The capture of Cabul and the dispersion of such of the rebel regiments
as fought at Charasia had a great effect, at first, in showing every
province of Afghanistan that the impregnability of their capital was a
myth. Our arms having been so successful in so short a time, checked the
incipient state of anarchy into which the whole country was fast
falling, as it seemed rational to suppose that an army which in a few
days had captured Cabul would be more than equal to the task of visiting
Charikar, Bamian, or even Balkh, if occasion required a further display
of force. But, as time passed on, and it began to dawn upon the minds of
men somewhat removed from the captured city that we were settling down
for the winter in local quarters, the latent hostility to our presence
in Afghanistan revived. In Turkistan it could scarcely be called a
revival, as it had never died out. In that province were still organized
regiments (well armed and boasting of being in possession of guns),
whose sepoys had never suffered the disgrace of a defeat at our hands.
It was not, therefore, surprising that our attempts to open up
communication with Gholam Hyder, the Afghan Governor of the northern
districts, should have failed. In the first place, it was extremely
difficult to get trustworthy news of what was going on over the
Koh-i-Baba range, and Gholam Hyder’s movements were absolutely unknown.
He was believed to be at Mazar-i-Sharif, or Balkh, and rumours then
reached us that he had left with Nek Mahomed to seek aid from the
Russians over the Oxus. This news was never confirmed; but from
incidents which occurred and were verified in several ways, it
transpired that, wherever Gholam Hyder might be, his power was very
limited. The troops on which he relied for support either revolted, as
in the case of the regiments at Ghori, a post fifty miles south of
Kunduz, the nearest station to Badakshan, on the Balkh, Tashkurgan,
Kunduz, and Faizabad Road, or were deserted by their Generals, who
sought safety with the British. The sepoys knew there was really no
Government in existence, and, with arms in their hands, felt themselves
masters of the situation. Badakshan was in revolt. Ghori and the
district between Balkh and Badakshan could not do better than follow the
example. They did so, and Gholam Hyder’s power was gradually narrowed,
no attention being paid to his commands. To make his position of
Governor still more absurd, an Uzbeg Chief, Mahomed Shah, appropriated
the country about Sar-i-Pul and Maemena, distant only eighty miles to
the west and south-west of Balkh. The nominal Governor of Turkistan,
therefore, found himself at last ruling the tract of country south of
the Oxus, as far as Tashkurgan and Aebak on the east, and Akcha on the
west: southwards, to Bamian, he governed as far as men chose to obey
him, and no further. From Aebak to Akcha, in a bee-line, is less than
130 miles: from the Oxus through Balkh to Bamian is 160 miles. This
was—and for all we know is—the extent of territory Gholam Hyder governs.
He is responsible to no one but himself: and as long as he can find
money to pay his troops, he may rely upon exercising a certain
influence. If we had got as far as Bamian, 100 miles from Cabul, he
might still have retained a show of independence, Balkh being so near
the Oxus that to escape to Bokhara would have been easy if our troops
had been pushed on, before winter set in, towards the northern frontier.
But Gholam Hyder has been left undisturbed; and now that the Kohistanis
have broken faith with us, his name is being freely used to induce men
to gather together. A few days ago it was reported that he had reached
Charikar with eight guns and a force of cavalry; but later reports show
this was a false rumour circulated in Cabul to excite the Wardaks and
Ghilzais on the Ghazni Road and in Logar. He may have left Mazar
i-Sharif; but if, as seems likely, he looks for Russian gold to aid him
in keeping his hold upon Turkistan, he would scarcely have deserted
Balkh and the neighbourhood for the questionable glory of raising an
army of hill-men in Kohistan. What is far more probable is, that the
regiments which disbanded and scattered to various villages are forming
bands among themselves, and some of these may think Charikar as good a
centre to make for as any other place. Turkistan can furnish any number
of these sepoys; and as the Bamian route to Cabul is long and tiresome,
they may prefer taking the road over the Hindu Kush to Kohistan, there
to await for further development of events. If the British force menaces
them, they can return to Turkistan: if we leave them alone, as we
probably shall, they will have to find a way of living during the
winter; and this to an Afghan well-armed, and with the bluster of a
bully, is not a difficult task. From what I have written above, it will
be seen that Northern and Eastern Turkistan is in the state into which
it might have been expected to fall without a strong hand controlling it
from Cabul. Of Herat I know nothing, as it is too far removed from us
for even rumours to drift down to our camp.

With this condition of affairs in a province most open to outside
influence and trans-Oxus intrigue, it becomes of serious moment to
consider what modification of our policy, as set forth in the
Proclamation of October 28th, is necessary. The Proclamation concluded
as follows:—“_The services of such sirdars and chiefs as assist in
preserving order will be duly recognized; but all disturbers of the
peace, and persons concerned in attacks upon the British authority, will
meet with condign punishment. The British Government, after consultation
with the principal sirdars, tribal chiefs, and others representing the
interests and wishes of the various provinces and cities, will declare
its will as to the future permanent arrangements to be made for the good
government of the people._” Now these stilted periods either mean a
great deal, or nothing at all. As regards Turkistan there are within it
at the present moment numerous “disturbers of the peace,” as there are
in Kohistan, Maidan, and Logar; and, to be consistent, we must fulfil
our pledge to punish them condignly; if not now, at some future date.
But these disturbers have this much in their favour, that beyond the
empty words of the Proclamation they have had no evidence of the British
authority which has supplanted that of the Amir. To them it is
non-existent. It may flourish within 20 miles of Cabul and eastwards
along the Jellalabad Valley to the Khyber, but it has never shown itself
north of the Hindu Kush: it has left Balkh and Herat untouched: it has
not been felt at Bamian or Ghazni, each within 100 miles of the 7,000
men encamped at Sherpur: how, then, is it to be acknowledged at more
distant points? An authority, to be respected, must be tangible. The
British authority at Cabul is in the tangible shape of a conquering
army: it is respected—at Cabul. But Cabul is not Turkistan, and it is
idle to expect a Proclamation, or even a thousand, to cause provincial
governors, now free from all control, voluntarily to submit to an
authority which makes, apparently, no effort to reach them.
“Consultation with the principal sirdars and tribal chiefs representing
the various provinces and cities of Afghanistan” is admirable from the
view of closet politicians, but how if sirdars and chiefs decline to
consult? It may have been intended, when the Proclamation was issued,
that a demonstration of force should be made to bring about the
consultation, but that demonstration has never been carried out—probably
as much from political considerations as military difficulties. Sir
Frederick Roberts and his army did their first work of capturing Cabul
with such rapidity that, with troops pushed forward from Jellalabad to
garrison the captured city and collect supplies for the winter, they
might have ventured into Turkistan with the prospect of meeting with no
opposition; and there might have been now, at Bamian and Balkh, agents
who had been installed by our army and left in the position of governors
ruling in our name. This programme was believed at one time to be on the
cards, and we calculated how many marches it was to Bamian and the Oxus;
but with no supports forthcoming up to the middle of November (a flying
column at Jugdulluck was not worthy of the name), and with the usual
stupid outcry at home against even the appearance of annexation, the
project fell through. An attempt has been made to carry out the spirit
of the Proclamation—to make “permanent arrangements for the good
government of the people”—by consulting with such sirdars as have deemed
it wise to join us. From their number four men have been chosen as
governors of districts; but, so far, this system has been a failure.
However much they may represent us, they are rejected of the people; and
the three who, to use an official phrase, have “joined their
appointments,” have had a very rough time of it. These were Shahbaz
Khan, Mahomed Hasan Khan, and Abdulla Khan, all sirdars of local
influence about Cabul, who were posted to Kohistan, Maidan, and Logar,
respectively. (Turkistan, so far, has not received its governor, Sirdar
Wali Mahomed, who had made many preparations for starting.) They were
sent without armed escorts, and have been worried and threatened by
malcontents, who have resented their intrusion with menaces that can
scarcely be lightly regarded. In one case, that of Hasan Khan, son of
Dost Mahomed and half-brother of Wali Mahomed, assassination has been
added to threats. News was brought in from Naure Falad, the village in
the Maidan Valley which General Baker’s force only left on the 1st
instant, that a body of men, including some sepoys of the Ardal
Regiments, had attacked the fort in which Hasan Khan was living, and had
murdered our lately-appointed governor and one of his followers. They
shot the old man through the head, and then hacked his body to pieces.
Hasan Khan was quite a favourite in our camp at Maidan, his kind
disposition and hearty frankness being qualities very foreign to the
nature of the ordinary Afghan sirdar. The men who killed him are said to
have come down the Darra Narkh from the hills about Bahadur Khan’s
villages; and their action was in revenge for our burning of their
villages. They returned to Upper Maidan as soon as they had murdered our
representative, having, according to their own rude idea, shown us that
they had no intention of accepting our authority. It is evident that
from Ghazni northwards much excitement has arisen since General Baker’s
departure. From Charikar and Logar our governors report that they are
looked upon with disfavour, and even hated, by many _maliks_; and as
they also have no escorts, their lives may be considered in jeopardy.
When the Kohistanis, a few days ago, were up in arms, Shahbaz Khan’s
position was very ticklish; and to relieve the pressure put upon him,
Sirdar Ibrahim Khan, an elder brother of Yakub Khan, was sent out to
bring back the chiefs to the allegiance they had promised when in our
camp. Though he succeeded in inducing twenty or thirty of the minor
chiefs of Koh-Daman to come in, he was reviled by others as a “Feringhi”
and “Kafir,” and was warned to return to Sherpur, or his life would be
taken. These are the results of the first experiments of governing
provinces through chiefs selected by us as representing the interests
and wishes of the people.

                              CHAPTER XV.

Parade of all Troops in Sherpur—Strength of the Garrison—The
    Commencement of the December Operations—General Macpherson’s Brigade
    at Aoshahr—General Baker’s Flank March upon Maidan—The _Jehad_
    preached by Mushk-i-Alam—Strength of Mahomed Jan’s Force—The Plan of
    Operations—Defeat of the Kohistanis at Kila Karez—General Macpherson
    starts for Argandeh—General Massy’s March up the Chardeh Valley with
    the Guns and Cavalry—First Sight of Mahomed Jan’s Army—Unexpected
    Strength of the Afghans—The Action of December 11th in Chardeh—Loss
    of Four Guns and Repulse of the Cavalry—Defence of the Dehmazung
    Gorge by 200 of the 72nd Highlanders—Recovery of the Guns by Colonel
    Macgregor—Macpherson’s Arrival at Dehmazung—Attack on the
    Sherderwaza Picquet.

                                            SHERPUR, _9th December_.

General Baker’s Brigade returned to Sherpur a few days ago, and the
result of his visit to Maidan is now visible in the large stacks of
_bhoosa_ and the bags of grain near the Commissariat Gate. Sir Michael
Kennedy, Director-General of Transport, with a small party of officers
has arrived from India on inspection duty and is now a guest of Sir
Frederick Roberts. The ex-Amir is now well on his way to India, and the
troops sent to strengthen the posts between Cabul and Jugdulluck have
returned to quarters. So far no attempt has been made by the tribes on
the Peshawur Road to rescue Yakub Khan, but there is much latent
fanaticism about Cabul, and the _moollahs_, who always gave us so much
trouble, may seize upon the deportation of the sovereign as a

Yesterday a parade of all the available troops in garrison was held on
the large _maidan_ which lies to the north of the Bemaru hills, and
extends to the borders of the narrow Wazirabad Lake at the foot of the
southern Kohistan hills. No better place for a review of even 20,000 men
could be desired, as the ground is very level, and is covered with short
grass, which prevents dust accumulating. The nominal object of the
parade was to present four men of the 72nd Highlanders with medals for
distinguished service at the storming of the Peiwar Kotal last
December.[30] There were 4,710 men and twenty guns on the ground. The
guns were twelve 9-pounders, belonging to F-A and G-3, and eight
7-pounders of the Mountain Batteries. The following table shows only the
troops paraded; it was necessary, for the safety of the cantonment and
the valuable stores now collected within its walls, that a strong guard
should remain in Sherpur, and 100 men were detached from each infantry
regiment for this work. In-lying picquets were posted, signallers with
heliographic apparatus placed on the Bemaru Heights and over the
Commissariat Gate (that nearest the city), and, to prevent any
incendiarism being attempted, orders were given to refuse admission to
all the Hazara coolies employed on the quarters until the parade was
over. Our _bhoosa_ stacks and wood-piles are so nearly completed now,
that we cannot afford to let them be burnt down.

The following is the full strength of the troops drawn up for the
Lieutenant-General’s inspection:—

                           │         │         │ Non-commissioned│     │
                           │         │ Native  │Officers and Men.│     │
          Troops.          │Officers.│Officers.│    ————│    ————│Total│
                           │         │         │British.│ Native.│     │
 F-A, Royal Horse Artillery│        5│        —│     106│       —│  111│
 G-3, Royal Artillery      │        6│        —│     107│       —│  113│
 No. 1 Mountain Battery    │        2│        1│       4│      80│   87│
 No. 2 Mountain Battery    │        4│        —│       4│      74│   82│
 9th Lancers               │       16│        —│     265│       —│  281│
 5th Punjab Cavalry        │        8│       11│       —│     342│  361│
 14th Bengal Lancers       │        7│       10│       —│     213│  230│
 67th Foot                 │       15│        —│     439│       —│  454│
 72nd Highlanders          │       18│        —│     553│       —│  571│
 92nd Highlanders          │       15│        —│     561│       —│  576│
 23rd Pioneers             │        4│        6│       —│     295│  305│
 3rd Sikhs                 │        8│       10│       —│     525│  543│
 5th Punjab Infantry       │        4│       11│       —│     503│  518│
 5th Ghoorkas              │        5│        8│       —│     389│  402│
 7th Company Sappers       │        3│        —│       4│      69│   76│
           Total           │      120│       57│   2,043│   2,490│4,710│


Footnote 30:

  These were Sergeant-Instructor of Musketry Salmond, Sergeant Cox,
  Private McIveen and Private Bonar.


To these have to be added the Staff, which was made up as follows:—

Commanding Cavalry Brigade—Brigadier-General Massy;
Brigade-Major—Lieutenant Brabazon; Orderly Officer—Lieutenant Hearsey.

Commanding 1st Infantry Brigade—Brigadier-General Macpherson;
Brigade-Major—Captain Guinness; Orderly Officer—Captain Macgregor.

Commanding 2nd Infantry Brigade—Brigadier-General Baker;
Brigade-Major—Captain Farwell; Orderly Officer—Lieutenant Kane.

Commanding Royal Artillery—Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon; Officiating
Adjutant—Lieutenant Allsopp.

The parade went off very successfully, and seemed to impress Sirdar Wali
Mahomed Khan, Daoud Shah (the late Commander-in-Chief of the Afghan
army), and other persons of importance who were present.

We mix work and play a good deal at Cabul: for scarcely had the parade
ended than the more serious business of sending out a brigade into the
Chardeh Valley was begun. In the afternoon the following troops, under
the command of Brigadier-General Macpherson, left the cantonment and
marched to Aoshahr, five miles due west of Sherpur:—

                      6 companies 67th Foot;

                      7 companies 5th Ghoorkas;

                    550 of the 3rd Sikhs;

                      4 guns F-A, Royal Horse

                      4 guns No. 1 Mountain Battery;

                      1 squadron 9th Lancers;

                      2 squadrons 14th Bengal Lancers.

This movement is due to the gatherings in Koh-Daman and Maidan. The
efforts of old Mushk-i-Alam, the Ghazni _moollah_, to raise a _jehad_
have been so far successful, that Mahomed Jan has 5,000 men with him
between Argandeh and Beni-Badam, on the Ghazni Road. This would not have
been of much consequence were it not that pressure had been brought to
bear upon the local villagers, who were bringing in grain and _bhoosa_.
In the Logar Valley our Governor has been defied and the supplies which
were pouring in from that district have almost entirely ceased. We still
want about 15,000 maunds of wheat and 50,000 maunds of _bhoosa_, and as
we are anxious to get it all in before the snow falls, it has been
determined to attack the tribal bands and once more open the road. If
our supplies were collected, we should probably have left Mahomed Jan
alone until he had got a large force together, and then have gone out to
meet him. General Macpherson has halted to-day at Aoshahr, as a plan has
been carefully prepared by which it is hoped Mahomed Jan’s “army” will
be forced to fight. In the carrying out of this plan, two separate
forces will be employed—the second brigade, under General Baker, being
now at Charasia with secret orders. This force is made up as follows,
and is a “flying column” in the true sense of the word:—

                    450 of the 92nd Highlanders;

                    450 of the 5th Punjab Infantry;

                      5 troops of the 5th Punjab

                      4 guns of No. 2 Mountain

                     7th company Sappers and Miners
                     (detachment with gun-cotton).

General Macpherson will to-morrow march up the Chardeh Valley and
endeavour to get between the enemy and the road leading to the Unai
Pass, so as to cut off their retreat towards Bamian. General Baker,
moving in sympathy with the Chardeh Force, will leave Charasia and make
a feint of going up the Logar Valley. This intention will be openly
proclaimed; but, after leaving Charasia a few miles in rear, he will
turn sharply to the south-west and throw himself across the Ghazni Road
below Beni-Badam, cutting off Mahomed Jan’s retreat to Ghazni. The 5,000
men said to have assembled would then be practically encompassed about,
and, being unable to run away, they would probably make a stout
resistance. If General Macpherson can only keep them in play and get
well above them in the Bamian direction, blinding them to the movements
of the other column, we shall at last be able to punish the Ardal Pultan
right smartly. Our information leads us to expect that Mahomed Jan will
fight. He certainly held on to the heights above Cabul, even after we
had reached Beni Hissar on October 7th; and, perhaps, his courage may be
equal to again resisting us. The detachment of so many men has, of
course, weakened the garrison of Sherpur, and the Guides, Cavalry, and
Infantry have been ordered up from Jugdulluck in consequence. They will
probably arrive in a day or two. The Kohistanis have not ventured to
display further hostility to us, but Mir Butcha still keeps about him a
gathering of discontented men, and may try to join Mahomed Jan at
Maidan. Amid all this tribal disturbance it is satisfactory to know that
the Ghilzais, Lughmanis, Shinwaris, and Afridis on our line of
communications with India are still quiet: whether suspiciously so, I
cannot say. Beyond the cutting of the telegraph wire between Dakka and
Jellalabad occasionally, they seem to be on their best behaviour.

[Illustration: Map to Illustrate the Actions of December 11th to 14th.]

                                                    _11th December._

The strategical move of two columns out of our cantonment here, to
disperse Mahomed Jan’s force, has had a most unexpected result. The
enemy have beaten us at our own game—has outmanœuvred us—and, instead
of Mahomed Jan being a fugitive, he is calmly occupying the peaks to the
south of the Bala Hissar Ridge, and his standards are flying in sight of
Cabul and all the country round. We have been complaining of want of
excitement here lately, but to-day has given us more than our fill. I
explained in my last letter that Brigadier Macpherson moved out, on
Monday, to Kila Aoshahr, just through the Cabul gorge and at the eastern
end of the Chardeh Valley; while Brigadier Baker, on the following day,
marched to Charasia, and intended cutting off Mahomed Jan’s retreat, on
the Ghazni Road, at Maidan. Yesterday the force under General Macpherson
left Kila Aoshahr at dawn; four guns of F-A, Royal Horse Artillery, with
an escort of two squadrons of cavalry, drawn from the 9th Lancers and
the 14th Bengal Lancers, remaining on the camping-ground, with orders to
check the retreat of the enemy if they turned towards Cabul. The
infantry, with four mountain guns and a squadron of the 14th Bengal
Lancers, under Colonel Ross, took the Kohistan Road, and finally gained
the Surkh Kotal—a ridge running down from the Pughman Range, and
dividing Chardeh from the Koh-Daman, the celebrated “fruit country” of
Kohistan. The chief object of General Macpherson was to head back
Mahomed Jan, who was reported to be making for Kohistan, in order to
unite his force with the bands gathered by Mir Butcha at Khoja Serai.
The 14th Bengal Lancers were sent forward to reconnoitre on the Pughman
plain to the north of the _kotal_, and they soon found themselves in the
face of several thousand men near Kila Karez. The whole country seemed
covered with masses of armed tribesmen, and on every low hill banners
were flying. The infantry halted on the Surkh Kotal while the baggage
came up, and preparations were made for dispersing the Kohistanis, who
were plainly on the way to swell Mahomed Jan’s gathering. As
Macpherson’s force formed up on the _kotal_, the enemy advanced very
confidently, and our cavalry were obliged to fall back. Two mountain
guns were got into action, and a few shells broke up the most advanced
bodies. A sufficient guard was left over the baggage, and General
Macpherson then attacked with the following infantry: four companies
67th Foot; six companies 5th Ghoorkas; three companies 3rd Sikhs—two
mountain guns moving with them. The enemy broke and fled in confusion as
soon as our rifles began to make good practice. There was one hill,
defended by _sungars_, at which a few Ghazis tried to make a stand; but
the 67th were not to be denied, and they raced up it in fine form,
driving out its defenders very smartly. The 5th Ghoorkas took by a rush
a hill on the extreme left, and the 3rd Sikhs, in assailing another
hill, were equally successful; but two fanatics jumped over the
_sungars_ and charged upon the men nearest to them, sword in hand. They
wounded two sepoys, and then rushed back to their comrades. The guns
shelled the Kohistanis as they streamed away up the valley, and the
cavalry, dismounted, also fired at a few hundred yards into them. The
watercourses and enclosures prevented the Lancers charging. The
Kohistanis, who were commanded by Mir Butcha in person, lost heavily;
many bodies were found on the ground by our men, and many of the dead
were seen to be carried off. Our casualties were—one man 67th, two
Ghoorkas, and four of the 3rd Sikhs, all wounded. Major Fitz-Hugh,
commanding the Ghoorkas, received a slight flesh-wound from a bullet in
the right leg. He was not so badly hurt as to be incapacitated from
duty, though, at the Lieutenant-General’s request, he has since remained
in cantonments. Having thrashed Mir Butcha, General Macpherson encamped
for the night at Mahomed Surwar Khan’s Kila, close to Kila Karez, ready
to deal with Mahomed Jan on the following day. The presence of a large
force of sepoys and tribesmen at and near Argandeh, on the Ghazni Road,
14 miles from Sherpur, was known beyond doubt: and General Macpherson’s
aim was to get between them and the Unai Pass leading to Bamian, so as
to drive them down towards Maidan, where General Baker was waiting with
950 infantry, five troops of the 5th Punjab Cavalry, and four mountain
guns. There was a chance that Mahomed Jan would break back into the
Chardeh Valley, towards Cabul, but it was not believed that he had with
him a sufficient number of men to do any mischief in that direction. He
had, however, double the force reported (5,000), and was sufficiently
confident to take the bold step of entering the valley. Whether he
contemplated an attack upon Sherpur, knowing there was nothing between
him and the cantonments, except a small party of cavalry and four guns,
is not known; but if he had learnt the weakness of the place, such an
attempt was highly probable. In any case, while General Macpherson
marched from his camp at the fort, where he had passed the night, and
took the path to Argandeh behind a range of hills running right across
the Chardeh Valley from the Surkh Kotal, the enemy, to the number of at
least 10,000, debouched into the villages on the Cabul side of the
range, and waited there the movements of our troops. They were rewarded
for their manœuvre by the appearance of the Horse Artillery guns and
their small escort of cavalry, making their way to join the infantry at
Argandeh. This movement of our guns and the after-events, which have
been extremely serious, can best be explained by following the action of
the cavalry from the evening of yesterday.

The four Horse Artillery guns, under Major Smith Windham, were, as I
have said, left at Kila Aoshahr with an escort of cavalry. They were
ordered to move this morning along the Argandeh Road to rejoin the
infantry, and they started, with this object in view, under the command
of Colonel Gordon, R.A. Brigadier Massy, with another squadron of the
9th Lancers, from Sherpur, overtook them soon after starting, and took
command of the whole. He had then as escort to the four guns of F-A, 170
troopers of the 9th Lancers (under Lieutenant-Colonel Cleland) and 44
sowars of the 14th Bengal Lancers (under Captain Neville), or a total
strength of 214 lances. A troop of the 9th Lancers (43 strong), under
Captain Butson, had been sent off by General Massy to open
communication, if possible, with General Macpherson. General Massy made
Kila Kazi on the Ghazni Road his objective point, that being about 4
miles distant; and he reached this without incident. Just after it had
been passed, however, his advance-guard, which consisted of a troop of
the 9th Lancers under Captain Gough, reported the enemy in sight on the
hills in front. It soon became apparent that the Afghans had thrown
themselves across the Argandeh Road, but as only 2,000 or 3,000 appeared
in sight, it was thought they were fugitives flying either from General
Macpherson or General Baker. As they began streaming down from the hills
General Massy got his guns into action at 2,900 yards, which range, at
Colonel Gordon’s suggestion, was changed to 2,500, and 2,000 yards, the
guns advancing towards the left to make their fire more effective. After
a few shells had been fired, the enemy showed themselves in full force
and advanced in skirmishing order upon the guns and cavalry. Their line
of advance was fully two miles in extent, and was of good formation.
There were about 4,000 men thus extended in the shape of a crescent, and
in rear of them was an irregular body, numbering 6,000 more. Thus
Mahomed Jan’s force was found to be 10,000 strong, instead of 5,000. It
was admirably led, and boasted thirty or forty standards, mostly common
red, white, or green cloth floating at the end of a rude staff 12 or 13
feet long. Though the shells from the four guns were pitched into the
thick of the enemy, no effect was produced in the way of breaking the
line of advance. It never wavered, but came steadily on; and as General
Massy had no infantry with him, he was obliged to retire. The guns
changed position “right back,” and re-opened fire at 1,700 yards.
Bullets from Snider and Enfield rifles began dropping among the cavalry
and the gunners, but no casualties of any moment occurred. Thirty of the
9th Lancers dismounted and opened fire with their Martini carbines, but
the enemy were too numerous to be checked by so small a body of men—a
regiment of infantry was what was required. While the artillery was thus
in action, Sir F. Roberts and Staff, with Sir Michael Kennedy and party,
joined General Massy, having ridden out from Sherpur to watch the
movements of the brigade. The fire from the steadily-advancing line of
the enemy was well sustained, and to check their forward movement and
cover the retirement of the guns the cavalry were ordered to charge.

When General Roberts sent instructions to General Massy to order the
Lancers to charge, as the enemy were approaching dangerously near to the
guns, Colonel Cleland, with one squadron of the 9th Lancers (126
lances), was directly in face of the Afghan line, with the 44 sowars of
the 14th Bengal Lancers in rear, some distance nearer the guns. The
other troops of the 9th (44 lances) under Captain Gough, which had been
acting as the advance-guard, were away on General Massy’s right flank,
watching the Afghans in that direction. When the charge was sounded
Colonel Cleland led his squadron straight at the advancing masses, the
14th Bengal Lancers following in his wake, but not close up, as the
order to charge had not reached them so quickly. Captain Gough, with his
troop of the 9th, seeing his Colonel charging, also took his men into
action on the enemy’s left flank. Some 220 men against 10,000 were odds
that could scarcely be expected to turn in our favour; but the Lancers
had to risk a heavy loss in the hope of saving the guns. The three
bodies of men disappeared in a cloud of dust as they headed for the
masses of the enemy, and nothing could be seen for a few moments of the
fight. Then riderless horses came galloping back, followed by scattered
parties of troopers, evidently quite out of hand. They had been received
with a terrific fire, which had killed many horses and men, and, upon
trying to force their way through the enemy, had been surrounded and
their progress blocked by sheer weight of numbers. Men and horses went
down in the _mêlée_, and, once down, there was but a faint chance of
being rescued. In one or two instances, however, men were dragged from
under their dead horses, mounted on others, and got well away out of the
ruck.[31] Even among Sir F. Roberts’s party watching the fight, bullets
fell thickly, killing three or four horses under their riders and
wounding others. When the dust cleared away, it was seen that the
cavalry charge had made no impression upon the enemy, who were still
advancing steadily across the fields, waving their knives and _tulwars_,
and carrying their banners more proudly than ever. Mounted men were
galloping about from end to end of their line, directing their movements
and keeping them well together. The fire from their Sniders and Enfields
was deliberate and well-directed; and though any of our English
regiments would with their Martinis have checked them in a few minutes,
the broken ranks of the cavalry could not hope to stand against them.
The 9th Lancers had suffered terribly in the charge: sixteen of their
troopers, with two officers (Lieutenants Hearsey and Ricardo), had been
left on the ground, dead; their colonel had come out badly wounded by a
sword-cut, and a shot through the side; Lieutenant Stewart Mackenzie had
been disabled by his horse rolling over him; and seven troopers had
received wounds more or less severe. It was Colonel Cleland’s squadron
which was so shattered in this charge. This squadron having lost its
officers, and being broken up by the bad ground, got out of hand; but
Captain Gough’s troop, being more fortunate, served as a rallying point;
while the 14th Bengal Lancers, not getting well into the enemy, as a
nullah checked them, were kept compactly together. The rally was
sounded, and Colonel Macgregor and other officers of the General’s party
collected the Lancers together, while the guns advanced 400 or 500
yards, and re-opened fire. The squadron of the 14th Bengal Lancers had
lost but one officer, Lieutenant Forbes (whose body is still missing),
and with Captain Gough’s troop of the 9th were able still to keep
between the guns and the enemy, now only 1,000 yards off. A second
charge of these two troops, together with all the troopers who had been
collected, was ordered, but it was made in a half-hearted way, the
country being of extraordinary difficulty for horses, and the enemy
swarming behind every tree and the banks of the higher water-channels.


Footnote 31:

  The Chaplain of the Force, the Rev. —— Adams, was recommended for the
  Victoria Cross for extricating one man, under a heavy fire.


As Major Smith-Windham was retiring with his two guns, which had been
advanced after the first charge, he found one of the other two guns
stuck firmly in a watercourse, Lieutenant Hardy trying vainly to drag it
out with such horses as had got over. This was found to be beyond the
strength of the horses, already worn out by the severe work of the
morning; and as the enemy were closing around on both sides the gun was
spiked and abandoned. Lieutenant Hardy was killed by a shot through the
head while near this gun. The other three guns had been got 400 or 500
yards further on to the village of Baghwana, but were stopped by a
channel deeper and steeper than any yet crossed. Guns, men, and horses
floundered into this, and the guns at least would not come out again;
they, also, were spiked and left in the water and mud, and drivers and
gunners moved off with the cavalry, the villagers firing rapidly upon
them. The long line of the enemy came straight on, passed through the
village, shrieking and waving their knives, and put their faces towards
the Nanuchi Kotal, which leads from the Chardeh Valley to the Western
gate of our cantonments. Sir F. Roberts, with a small escort, had gone
across country towards the village of Dehmazung, commanding the western
entrance to the Cabul gorge. He had sent urgent messages to General
Macpherson to hasten down the valley, and the Brigadier was soon engaged
with 2,000 men, left behind by Mahomed Jan to keep him in play. The
cavalry fight had been watched through telescopes by several officers
with General Macpherson, who had heard the artillery fire. Sending his
baggage under a strong guard of infantry, and a squadron of the 14th
Bengal Lancers, under Colonel Ross, by way of the upper road nearest
Kohistan, General Macpherson marched through a break in the hills and
debouched into the Chardeh Valley. The appearance of his troops away in
their rear seems to have influenced the movements of the enemy, who
turned off from the road to Sherpur, and, swinging their left flank
round, made direct for Dehmazung, with the evident intention of getting
into the city, and occupying the Bala Hissar Heights above it. General
Roberts, upon seeing the new movement, sent off a message by his
aide-de-camp, Captain Pole-Carew, to Brigadier Hugh Gough, commanding at
Sherpur, ordering 200 men of the 72nd Highlanders to double out to the

After the second charge, in which the 9th Lancers lost several men shot
down, Captain Gough’s troop did rear-guard work, dismounting and firing,
so as to hold the enemy a little in cheek. Only such Lancers as were
wounded, or had their horses disabled, were sent back to Sherpur, by way
of the Nanuchi Kotal, the rest escorting General Roberts to Dehmazung.
Once the broken squadron of the 9th were got together, they settled down
resolutely to their work of keeping the enemy in play, and their
carbines were used with good effect until Dehmazung was reached. Here
they got cover, and, with the sowars of the 14th, opened a smart fire
upon Mahomed Jan’s force as it streamed up towards Cabul. Alone and
unaided they could not have hoped to stem the rush, and matters were at
a crisis when Colonel Brownlow, with the 200 rifles of the 72nd
Highlanders, arrived. The Highlanders were in the nick of time: Colonel
Brownlow doubled out a company to occupy Dehmazung, the 9th cheering
them lustily as they saw the welcome relief, and soon from the roofs and
walls of the village rapid volleys were being poured into the Afghan
ranks. The enemy streamed down upon the village “like ants on a hill,”
as a Highlander described it, but Colonel Brownlow’s admirable
disposition of his handful of Highlanders soon checked the rush. The men
were told not to throw away a shot; the Martinis soon blazed out in one
persistent line of fire—and such a fire, that even Ghazis shrank from
encountering it. In less than half an hour the enemy were forced back,
and they then split up into two parts—one going on to the south, to
Indikee village, and thence scaling the Takht-i-Shah Peak and the
heights to the south of the Bala Hissar fortified ridge, the other
facing round to the west, as if to get upon the hills south of Kila
Kazi. Their entrance into Cabul had been frustrated, and all that was
left to them was to raise their standards on the hills they had occupied
and flourish their knives in defiance at distant Sherpur. This they did,
as we could see plainly enough through our binoculars.

In the meantime General Macpherson had fallen upon a large body of
Afghans higher up the valley, and with the 67th Regiment and the 3rd
Sikhs had completely broken their ranks and pursued them towards
Argandeh. General Macpherson did not then know of the loss of the guns,
but in facing round towards Cabul he came upon the scene of the charge,
and was then able to recover the bodies of Lieutenants Hearsey and
Ricardo and of the troopers killed in action. His own loss was not
heavy, Lieutenant Cook of the 3rd Sikhs being the only officer wounded.
Sir F. Roberts remained at Dehmazung until Macpherson’s force reached
it, about nightfall; and then, leaving the Brigadier with his men
encamped below the gorge, where Wali Mahomed had a camp with some
mountain guns (he was preparing to start for Turkistan), the
Lieutenant-General returned to Sherpur. He had before received the news
that the guns had been pulled out of the watercourses into which they
had fallen, and were on their way to cantonments. How they were
recovered, well deserves telling.

When Sir F. Roberts trotted across to the Cabul gorge, there were
Lancers, gunners, and drivers, making their way towards Sherpur, and
most of them were out of hand, their officers having been either put out
of action or being missing. At the Nanuchi Kotal, facing the western end
of Sherpur, most of these rallied about Colonel Macgregor, Captain Dean
also having gathered some stragglers together. When the enemy veered off
towards Dehmazung, Colonel Macgregor saw that the village of Baghwana,
near where the guns were lying, was not guarded by any of Mahomed Jan’s
rear guard, and he thought there might be a chance of recovering the
guns without waiting for General Macpherson’s advance. With a scratch
lot of Lancers and Artillerymen, he accordingly followed the upper
Argandeh Road; and, beyond stray shots from villagers (who, as on
October 8th, blazed at us whenever we were within range), the party met
with no opposition. The baggage of Macpherson’s brigade was met making
its way to Sherpur; and as the enemy were then well on their way to
Indikee, Colonel Macgregor took thirty men of the 67th, and about the
same number of Sikhs and Ghoorkas—sixty in all—and, extending them in
skirmishing older, made for the abandoned guns. On arriving at the
village he placed his men in an enclosure well adapted for defence
against any numbers; and such artillerymen as were with him set to work
to get out the guns. This was done after a long struggle, and then it
was found that teams sufficient only to give four horses per gun were
present. The rest had galloped into Sherpur with their officer, Major
Smith-Windham. With no artillery officer, but with the Chief of the
Staff, rests the credit of recapturing the guns. Colonel Ross was told
to bring them safely into camp with the baggage escort and the scratch
gathering of mounted men, and this he did.

Our losses in the day’s action, so far as the R.H.A. and the cavalry are
concerned, are four officers killed, two wounded, and twenty-three men
killed and ten wounded. The officers killed and wounded were well to the
front in the desperate charge their squadrons made upon the unbroken
masses of infantry, and most of them were hit by the volley which the
enemy poured into them as they got to close quarters. Colonel Cleland,
in spite of his two wounds, was helped into the saddle and rode eight
miles to Sherpur, fainting as he was lifted from his horse into a
_dhoolie_ at the gate. The bodies of those killed were brought in, and,
I am sorry to say, they had been fearfully mutilated. The passions of
our men are likely to be dangerously aroused in future fighting by the
remembrance of these mutilations, which will not bear description.

In Sherpur, an anxious afternoon was passed. When stragglers from the
9th Lancers and F-A battery rode in, wounded, mud-splashed, and many
without lances or swords, it was known that a serious action had taken
place, and all troops in the cantonment were ordered to stand to their
arms. Major Smith-Windham, with half a dozen drivers of F-A battery, was
the first officer to arrive; and when no guns followed him, and he
reported them “spiked and abandoned,” and the enemy advancing towards
Sherpur in overwhelming force, the anxiety of Brigadier Hugh Gough was
greatly increased. No gunner would leave his guns if there were a chance
of recovering them, and they were given up for lost. The western wall of
the cantonments was manned by 150 of the 3rd Sikhs. At its northern end,
where there is a gap between it and the Bemaru hills defended by a
shelter trench, wire entanglements were laid down from the foot of the
hill to the end of the wall. All the gates were occupied by small
detachments of infantry, and the two remaining Horse Artillery guns were
placed upon the Bemaru Heights facing towards the Nanuchi Kotal leading
to Chardeh. If an attack were really about to be made, it would be sharp
work defending the three miles of walls enclosing the cantonments, as
less than 1,000 men were available for the duty; but the news that
Mahomed Jan with his 10,000 followers had turned off towards the Cabul
gorge dissipated the anxiety felt; and when, later, the fire of the 72nd
Highlanders was heard at Dehmazung and then died away, everyone knew
Sherpur was safe. It was ticklish work for the time being; but Brigadier
Gough made his arrangements quietly, and without listening to any absurd
suggestions. As a precautionary measure, a heliogram was sent to Colonel
Jenkins, commanding the Guides, who had reached Luttabund from Sei Baba
in the morning: he was ordered to come in with his cavalry and infantry,
without baggage. At seven o’clock we heard he was at Butkhak, and as I
am writing (at midnight) his corps is marching in over 700 strong—200
more will arrive to-morrow with the baggage. Sir F. Roberts, after
sending up 200 of the 72nd Highlanders to reinforce the picquet on the
Bala Hissar Heights, rode into cantonments, within the walls of which
all is made snug for the night. The reinforcement to the picquet was
caused by the belief that Mahomed Jan would attempt to occupy the
heights commanding the Bala Hissar and Cabul, and there is no doubt this
was his intention. Since seven o’clock the picquet has been assailed on
all sides, and even now the circle of fire shows where the 250 British
soldiers are holding their own.

                              CHAPTER XVI.

Attempt to storm the Takht-i-Shah Peak—Natural Strength of the
    Position—Heliograms exchanged with General Baker—Failure to take the
    Peak—Casualties—The New Plan of Attack—The Action of the 13th of
    December—Storming of the Beni Hissar Ridge by the 92 Highlanders and
    the Guides—The Cavalry Charges in the Plain—Death of Captain
    Butson—The Position of Affairs at Nightfall—Reinforcements from
    Kohistan—The Action of December 14th—Storming of the Asmai
    Heights—Retreat of the Safis—Captain Vousden’s Charge—Counter-Attack
    by the Enemy from Indikee—Death of Captain Spens, and Retirement
    from the Cuncal Hill—Loss of Two Mountain Guns—Withdrawal of all
    Troops from the Asmai and Sherderwaza Heights—The State of the
    Sherpur Defences—Total Casualties.

                                 SHERPUR, _12th December, midnight_.

I left Mahomed Jan and his followers in possession of the hills to the
south of the Sherderwaza Heights, with a part of General Macpherson’s
brigade on the latter, ready to attack him. To-day a party of 560 men,
made up in nearly equal proportions from the 67th Foot, 72nd
Highlanders, 3rd Sikhs, and 5th Ghoorkas, aided by two guns of Morgan’s
mountain battery, have made that attack, and have established themselves
on a lower hill between the Sherderwaza Heights and the high conical
peak of Takht-i-Shah, whereon the enemy muster in great force and have
sixteen standards flying. This peak is the highest of the clump of
mountains south of Cabul and lying between the city and Charasia, and
was the point whence Captain Straton tried to heliograph to the
Shutargardan in the early days of our occupation. It is cone-shaped,
looked at from Sherpur, and on its southern side joins a ridge running
southwards above the village of Indikee. The sides facing Cabul are very
steep, and covered with huge boulders polished by wind and rain, and of
a kind to check any storming party. Perfect cover is afforded to men
holding it, and on the summit is a well-built _sungar_ of great
thickness, covering a natural cavity in the rocks which has been made
bomb-proof by some Afghan engineer, who understood the strength of the
point. Fifty men could lie in perfect security behind the _sungar_ or in
the hole below it, and could choose their own time for firing at an
advancing enemy. Outside the _sungar_, and a little lower down, is a
cave, wherein another strong body of men could hide themselves and act
in a similar way, while their flank to the left would be guarded by a
broken line of rocks extending down to the _kotal_, where the Bala
Hissar Ridge meets them. Just between the two ranges is a low,
dome-shaped hill, blocking up the otherwise open _kotal_; and round this
a footpath winds, leading to the _sungar_, but so narrow as only to
admit of men going up in Indian file. The enemy occupied this morning
the Takht-i-Shah Peak and the line of rocks I have mentioned, and had
also a few score of men on the lower hill in the _kotal_. Away on the
south, hidden from our view, were some 5,000 or 6,000 men, waiting for
an attack to develop, in order to reinforce the peak. At eight o’clock
our guns opened fire from the picquet on the ridge. There were then only
seven standards on the peak, but during the day nine others were brought
up; and the long ridge, stretching downwards to Beni Hissar, was lined
with men. These were, by the contour of the ground, safe from our
shells, and they quietly watched the guns all day. From eight o’clock
until evening Captain Morgan fired shell after shell into the _sungar_
and the rocks below. The enemy were of quite a different order to those
we have hitherto had to deal with. They stood up boldly to their flags,
and waved their rifles and knives in derision at each shot. We could not
spare more infantry for the attack, as we had to protect Sherpur, which,
we learnt, was to be attacked by Kohistanis from over the Paen Minar
Kotal, north of the lake. The city, too, was known to be in a ferment,
and a demonstration might at any time be made from it against our
cantonment. General Baker with his flying column was still absent, and
our object was rather to hold the main body of Mahomed Jan’s force in
check, than try to disperse them with 560 men. At nine o’clock
heliographic communication was opened with General Baker, then on the
Argandeh Kotal. He reported that his rear-guard had been harassed for
the last two days, and that the hills in all directions were lined with
tribesmen. He was ordered to march without delay to Sherpur, and it was
hoped at first that he would arrive in time to assist General Macpherson
in attacking the enemy’s position. As he had to march fourteen miles
with his rear-guard engaged from time to time, he did not reach Sherpur
until evening, so his troops, footsore and tired, were not available.



After several hours’ shelling of the Takht-i-Shah Peak, the 67th, the
Highlanders, Sikhs, and Ghoorkas made their attack; and, in spite of the
stubbornness with which the Afghans fought, established themselves on
the low hill on the _kotal_. They tried to work upwards to the _sungar_;
but the fire of the Afghans was so true and sustained, that the attempt
had to be given up. Our men also ran short of ammunition, and they
contented themselves finally with holding the position captured, so as
to be able to co-operate on the morrow with any force sent out from
Sherpur to attack by way of Beni Hissar on the enemy’s flank. Our
casualties included Major Cook, V.C., 5th Ghoorkas, shot below the knee;
Lieutenant Fasken, 3rd Sikhs, bullet wound in both thighs; and
Lieutenant Fergusson, 72nd Highlanders, seriously wounded in the face.
The enemy this evening still hold the Takht-i-Shah Peak in strength, and
large reinforcements are said to have joined them from Logar, the
Ghilzais from that district being up in arms. It has been decided
to-night to send a brigade, under General Baker, to attack the peak from
Beni Hissar village to-morrow at the same time that Colonel Money, of
the 3rd Sikhs, moves up another force from the hill on the kotal.

                                           _13th December, evening._

To-day the Takht-i-Shah Peak has been carried, and a strong picquet now
holds it. The action has been a great success, but there are still large
bodies of the enemy above Indikee; and as they may try to regain the
position, General Macpherson has abandoned Dehmazung altogether, and
posted his brigade on the Sherderwaza Heights. At eight o’clock this
morning General Baker left cantonments with the following troops:—

                  G-3, Royal Artillery, four guns;
                  No. 2 Mountain Battery, four guns;
                  92nd Highlanders (six companies);
                  Guides’ Infantry (seven companies);
                  3rd Sikhs (wing of 300 men);
                  5th Punjab Cavalry.

General Baker took the road past the Bala Hissar, and, upon debouching
into the plain north of Beni Hissar, found the enemy posted in force all
along the ridge in front, leading down from the Takht-i-Shah Peak. Beni
Hissar was also full of Afghans, and in the fields about it were
detached parties. These, seeing our force advancing, began to stream
towards the ridge, and the original plan of attack was so far modified
that, instead of working round through Beni Hissar village, the
Highlanders and Guides were sent straight across some marshy ground at
the ridge. The object in view was to cut the enemy’s line in two, and it
was attained most successfully. Our eight guns opened fire at 1,400
yards upon the masses of Afghans on the ridge, and the shells kept under
the musketry fire opened upon our infantry. The 3rd Sikhs protected
General Baker’s left flank, while the cavalry aided in keeping the
scattered parties about Beni Hissar in check. Nothing could be finer
than the advance of the 92nd and the Guides; they reached the slope of
the hill, and opened fire upon the enemy, one continued roll of musketry
being heard as they pushed upwards. They gained the crest, and the
Afghan line was severed, about 2,000 being left about Beni Hissar while
the assault was made upon the peak. The rapid fire from our
breech-loaders swept away such of the enemy as stood firm, while the
bayonet made short work of the ghazis who defended the standards. At
some points twenty and thirty bodies were found lying piled together,
shot through and through by Martini and Snider bullets, showing how well
the volleys had told. In a very short time the majority opposed to the
storming party had broken and fled. A few ghazis fought desperately, but
upwards went the Highlanders in the same gallant style they had shown at
Charasia, and under the same leader, Major White. The Guides, under
Colonel Jenkins, were equally eager, this being their first chance in
the campaign, and they shared with the 92nd the honour of scattering the
defenders of the ridge. One young Highland officer fell a victim to that
uncalculating courage which becomes rashness when pushed to extremes.
Lieutenant Forbes, with only a few men, scaled the ridge, and got
detached from the regiment which was toiling up as fast as the men with
their heavy load of rifles and ammunition could climb. He was left at
last with only Colour-Sergeant Drummond, an old twenty-one years’ man,
and a band of ghazis turned back and attacked him. The Sergeant was shot
down, and Lieutenant Forbes rushed forward to save his body from
mutilation. After cutting down a ghazi he was overpowered and killed
before the Highlanders could save him. Not a man of the ghazis who had
turned back escaped: they were shot and bayoneted on the rocks. As the
attacking party neared the Takht-i-Shah Peak the Afghans deserted it;
and when a party of the 72nd Highlanders and 5th Ghoorkas from the Bala
Hissar side reached the _sungar_, they found the flags still flying, but
no one guarding them. The position had been captured in about two hours,
and as the mid-day gun was fired in Sherpur, the heliograph flashed from
the _sungar_, and the peak was known to be ours. Some of the enemy
ventured too near the Chardeh plain in their retreat, and a squadron of
the 14th Bengal Lancers charged among them, killing between twenty and

While the Highlanders and Guides were storming the ridge, an attack had
been attempted from Beni Hissar upon General Baker’s left flank, but the
3rd Sikhs drove back the enemy, who began to move round towards Siah
Sung, and eventually collected in force upon these hills. They were
shelled by our guns, and the 5th Punjab Cavalry were reinforced by two
squadrons of the 9th Lancers, a squadron of the 14th Bengal Lancers, and
the Guides’ Cavalry. Wherever the ground was good, our sowars and
Lancers charged and did great execution. The Afghans fought bravely,
forming up to receive the cavalry with a steadiness that trained
infantry would not have surpassed, and reserving their fire until the
horses were close upon them. One brilliant charge by the 9th Lancers
cost that regiment one officer killed and two wounded, besides the loss
of several troopers. Captain Butson and Captain Chisholme, at the head
of their respective squadrons, swept down upon 500 or 600 men, taking
them on the right and left flank. Captain Butson turned in his saddle as
he faced the enemy, and cried out:—“Now, men, at them for the honour of
the old 9th,” and the next moment he fell dead, shot through the heart.
He was in command of the regiment, the affair of the 11th having sadly
thinned the ranks of the officers, and his death is universally
regretted. Captain Chisholme was shot through the leg, the flash of the
rifle burning his clothes, so steadily had the Afghan in front of him
waited before discharging his piece. Lieutenant Trower was also slightly
wounded, while the Sergeant-Major and three troopers were killed and
seven wounded. The Lancers rode through and through the Afghans opposed
to them, and scattered them all over the plain. The 5th Punjab Cavalry
also made a successful charge, and the Guides twice got well among the
fugitives. Their second charge was upon a body of Kohistanis, who had
crossed the plain east of Bemaru and made for Siah Sung with the
intention of joining Mahomed Jan. They were shelled from the eastern end
of the Bemaru Heights; and, upon seeing General Baker’s force engaged,
halted irresolutely near Siah Sung. They tried to retrace their steps,
but were suddenly charged down upon by the Guides, who had waited for
them behind the northern slopes of Siah Sung. Sixty are said to have
been killed in this charge alone, the Guides chasing them as far as the
Logar river, where the swampy ground checked the cavalry. Altogether the
day’s fighting has been a wonderful success; and though our casualties
are eleven killed and forty-three wounded, the enemy’s loss in killed
alone must have been between 200 and 300. 150 of the 5th Punjab
Infantry, sent out to reinforce General Baker, came upon a large party
of Afghans marching down the Bala Hissar Road. They were at first
mistaken for Highlanders; but when they fired a volley at the officer
who rode up to speak to them, the mistake was soon apparent. The
Punjabees at once extended themselves in skirmishing order among the
willow plantations on each side of the road, and opened a rapid fire.
The Afghans faced about and made for the Bala Hissar, but a company of
the 5th cut off half their number, and in a hand-to-hand fight killed
forty. These men, who are believed to have been from the city, were
really run to earth, and were so exhausted that they could scarcely use
their knives.

One feature of the day’s fighting has been the attitude of the villagers
about Cabul. A straggler from the 92nd Highlanders was found cut up
between Sherpur and the Cabul river; officers riding alone have been
fired at, and pelted with stones; and two villages on either side of the
road to Beni Hissar opened a heavy fire upon our troops. General Baker
halted on his way back to cantonments to burn these villages as a reward
for their treachery. The lives of the men in one were spared on
condition that they fired the other, the gates of which could not be
forced open by our guns. The defenders were shot as they tried to escape
from the ruins. From the Bala Hissar and near the city shots were fired,
and the flanking parties of the 92nd, in their homeward march, came upon
200 or 300 men in the willow plantations, who fled towards the city
walls. A convoy of wounded sent from the Sherderwaza Heights to Sherpur
had also a narrow escape, the bravery of the non-commissioned officer in
charge of the escort alone preventing a catastrophe on a small scale.
After General Baker had captured the Takht-i-Shah Peak, a number of
_dhoolies_, containing officers and men wounded on the 11th and 12th on
the Sherderwaza Heights, were sent down the hill to Sherpur. Sergeant
Cox, with twenty men of the 72nd, was in charge of the _dhoolies_, and
among the wounded were Major Cook, V.C., 5th Ghoorkas; Lieutenant
Fergusson, 72nd Highlanders; and Lieutenant Fasken, 3rd Sikhs. Upon
arriving at the foot of the hill, the road leading under the southern
wall of the Bala Hissar was followed, and it was soon seen that parties
of armed men were lining the parapets. Sergeant Cox, fearing to draw the
fire by striking across the fields towards Beni Hissar, where General
Baker was shelling some villages, put on a bold face, and marched on
steadily. This had the best effect, as not a shot was fired from the
walls. Ten Highlanders were at the head of the _dhoolies_, and ten in
rear. Just as the little party got near the Bala Hissar gate a large
body of Afghans sprang out from among the willows lining either side of
the road, and, drawing their knives, came straight upon the
advance-guard. The road from Beni Hissar joins the road to Sherpur just
at this point, and seeing that it would be impossible to cut through the
enemy, or to retreat the way he had come (as in the latter case the men
on the walls would probably open fire), Sergeant Cox pushed on, ordering
his men to reserve their fire. His object was to get the _dhoolies_
fairly on the Beni Hissar Road on his right, and then to fall back until
help should come from that quarter. The manœuvre succeeded admirably.
Waiting until he was within twenty yards of the Afghans, he ordered the
ten men with him to fire a volley. This was too much for the enemy, who
broke and took cover in the trees. The _dhoolie_-bearers thought all was
over, and those carrying Major Cook dropped their _dhoolie_ in the
middle of the road. They were about to run, when Sergeant Cox threatened
to shoot them down unless they did their duty. They soon recovered
courage, and while rapid volleys from the advance-guard kept the Afghans
in check, all the _dhoolies_ were got safely upon the Beni Hissar Road,
and finally reached General Baker’s force in safety. Sergeant Cox
managed the whole business splendidly, and under such leadership the men
were cool and collected, skirmishing and retiring without being touched
by the scattered fire directed at them. After waiting an hour, the
escort was strengthened by some cavalry, and the little convoy of
wounded reached cantonments in safety. The position in which Sergeant
Cox was placed was a most dangerous one, as the least hesitation or want
of decision would have been fatal: the Afghans were, indeed, so sure of
success, that they did not fire at first, but trusted to cutting up the
guard at close quarters with their knives. The three officers, whose
lives were saved by Sergeant Cox’s steadiness, reported the incident to
Colonel Money, who had sent the _dhoolies_ down the hill. Sergeant Cox
was one of the men decorated with the distinguished service medal on
December 8th for gallantry at the Peiwar Kotal. General Baker’s force is
now safely in quarters again. General Macpherson has sent back to
Sherpur the 72nd Highlanders and the 3rd Sikhs, and, with the 67th Foot
and the 5th Ghoorkas, holds the Bala Hissar Heights and the Takht-i-Shah
Peak. The enemy are still in force above Indikee and at Dehmazung, which
commands the Cabul gorge, and the road into the city has been abandoned.
They may try to work round in that direction—that is, if to-day’s defeat
has not disheartened them. This evening a party of Kohistanis have come
over the Surkh Kotal, and are bivouacking on a hill a mile and a half
west of Sherpur. These are the reinforcements sent by Mir Butcha, who
has no doubt heard of the success of Mahomed Jan on the 11th. The
casualties to-day were eleven killed (two officers) and forty-three
wounded. Of these the 92nd lost one officer and two men killed and
nineteen wounded. The Guides had three killed and eight wounded.

                                                    _15th December._

Yesterday the severest fighting we have yet gone through took place on
the Asmai Heights above Deh-i-Afghan, and a lower conical hill adjoining
them on the north. The enemy have been so largely reinforced, that their
numbers are estimated at 40,000, and they have shown a recklessness in
sacrificing life which has hitherto been considered quite foreign to the
Afghan character. There must be many ghazis in their ranks from what we
have seen to-day, and these fanatics always show a contempt for danger
which makes them formidable enemies. They sacrifice their lives,
satisfied if, before death, they have killed a Kafir, and so secured a
future reward. Our own losses have been heavy, and for the first time
our men have had to retire before the enemy, who are wonderfully elated
at their success. It is true it was but an isolated case of a handful of
men having to meet 5,000; but with the evacuation of the position our
men were holding, we lost two mountain guns, which Mahomed Jan is sure
to make the most of as trophies, if he does not turn them against us. To
give in detail the incidents of yesterday:—Between seven and eight
o’clock in the morning some thousands of men were seen gathering on the
slopes above Deh-i-Afghan, a suburb of Cabul lying northwest of the city
upon a low eminence, which overlooks Timour’s tomb. The evacuation of
Dehmazung had, of course, given free passage to such of the enemy as
wished to pass into Cabul and the Bala Hissar, and these now poured out
by way of Deh-i-Afghan and manned the heights. The usual standards were
carried, and in a very short time the sky-line was alive with men, until
there must have been 8,000 or 10,000 looking down upon Sherpur and
within range of our guns. The array extended upwards from the suburbs,
along the crest of the Asmai Ridge, down the dip to the north, and over
the conical hill I have mentioned; while, again, further to the north,
was a higher lumpy hill, on which were a number of Kohistanis, who had
bivouacked there the previous night. General Baker was ordered to clear
the hills, and for this purpose he took out the following troops:—

Four guns G-3, Royal Artillery;

Four guns No. 2 Mountain Battery;

14th Bengal Lancers;

72nd Highlanders (225 men);

92nd Highlanders (45 men under Captain Gordon, who fell in with the
72nd, as the six companies of the latter were so weak);

Guides’ Infantry (460 sepoys);

5th Punjab Infantry (470 sepoys).

This gave a total of 1,200 bayonets and eight guns. The cavalry were
employed in the open to keep in check, or cut up, stray bodies of the
enemy. General Baker left cantonments by the head-quarters’ gate in the
western wall, and made straight towards a mound near Kila Buland, a mile
and a half away, facing the conical hill, on either side of which were
roads leading into the Chardeh Valley beyond. He got his guns into
action at once, in order to clear the way for the infantry attack, and
sent his cavalry round on his right flank towards the Chardeh Valley to
reconnoitre in that direction. The Guides’ Cavalry were ordered out to
reinforce the 14th Bengal Lancers, and were fired at several times from
walled enclosures just over the Nanuchi Kotal. The mountain guns drew
off to a low ridge on which stood the ruins of a fort, Kila Buland, and
shelled such bodies of men as were visible in the direction the cavalry
had taken. The party told off to take the heights were the Highlanders,
under Colonel Brownlow, and Guides’ Infantry, the 5th Punjabees being
held in reserve near the guns. The low, conical hill was captured
without much trouble, but there then remained for Colonel Jenkins,
commanding the attack, the difficult task of taking the Asmai Heights,
every foot of the crest bearing an Afghan firing from behind the
excellent cover given by rocks and boulders. Rising up from the captured
conical hill was a steep hillside, with here and there shelving rocks
hiding men from the view of those above, and up this rugged ground our
soldiers went steadily and rapidly, utilizing every bit of cover, and
answering from time to time the heavy fire they were met with. The guns
shelled two strong _sungars_ which had been built on the northern and
southern points of the crest; and made such practice, that the enemy
began to move downwards towards Cabul. They clustered in masses above
Deh-i-Afghan, where the shells of G-3 could not reach them, and afforded
so tempting a mark, that Sir F. Roberts, who was watching the attack
from the signalling station on the roof of the officers’ quarters in the
western gate, ordered two Horse Artillery guns out to open fire from
under the cantonment walls. A wing of the 3rd Sikhs and some cavalry
went out as escort, and extended themselves into the fields beyond. The
shrapnel fired from these two guns made the hillside almost untenable;
but still in the _sungars_ on the crest a few determined ghazis resisted
the advance of the Highlanders and Guides. Our men fought up, however,
and the _sungar_ on the northern point was taken with a rush. The
banners waving above it were obstinately defended by ghazis, who were
killed to a man. Colonel Jenkins then worked his way under a heavy fire
along the crest, which has a total length of a quarter of a mile; and
there only remained the southern _sungar_, built on the peak of the
hill, to be taken. In this _sungar_, which was unusually strong, were
forty or fifty men who, by their fire, checked the advance for some
time. Major Stockwell, with a few Highlanders, passed through a gap in
the wall which runs down the ridge, and galled the Ghazis by a cross
fire. Private Gillon, of the 72nd, climbed up the wall, and, creeping
along the top, pulled out a standard from among the stones of the
_sungar_. There was an open bit of ground between our front attacking
party and the _sungar_ walls, and this was swept by such a fire that
even the bravest might have hesitated to cross it. Such of us who were
watching the fight saw that the stubborn defence would cost us some
valuable lives; but presently, when the Drummer was seen on the walls,
there was a rush of Highlanders and Guides—one plucky Highlander,
Lance-Corporal Seller, 72nd, leading full 20 yards in front, with a
Guide quite close behind him. As the _sungar_ was neared, most of its
defenders cleared out on the opposite side, but a few Ghazis stood to
their post; one fanatic jumping, knife in hand, on the low stone walls.
The bayonet made short work of such of his companions as had remained.
Lance-Corporal Seller had a tough fight for the last standard on the
_sungar_. As he got up to the wall he pulled the flag out and, at the
same moment, a Ghazi cut down at his head with a long knife. Seller
parried the blow with the standard, and then the Ghazi jumped over and
closed with him. They rolled over together, and another Highlander
bayoneted the Afghan. Seller was cut over the arm, and is now in
hospital. He certainly deserves the highest reward for his gallant
conduct: the “V.C.” has been given for much less. The _sungar_ was
filled with dead men, fifteen bodies being counted in a heap as if a
shell had burst among them. Our loss had been heavy, as much
hand-to-hand fighting at difficult points had taken place; many of the
Guides were cut and slashed by the knives and _tulwars_ of the Ghazis;
while the ranks of the 72nd Highlanders were thinned by numerous
casualties, mostly of a dangerous kind. Lieutenant Egerton, who only
joined the regiment a few weeks ago, was shot through the neck on the
crest of the hill. He showed courage that even an old soldier might have
envied, being always well to the front in the attack. Lieutenant
Frederick Battye, of the Guides, was also shot through the neck at about
the same time.

Colonel Jenkins was now holding the whole crest of the Asmai Heights;
but on the slope towards the city were many thousands of the enemy. The
two guns of F-A Battery shelled them at 1,700 yards, and the mountain
guns, with General Macpherson, were also turned upon them. A wing of the
3rd Sikhs were extended in skirmishing order across the fields towards
Deh-i-Afghan, and with their Sniders were easily able to reach the men
pouring down into Cabul. Deh-i-Afghan, however, held many of the enemy;
and from the house-tops, walls, and orchards about, the 3rd Sikhs were
fired upon. The watercourse gave our sepoys good cover, but still there
were one or two casualties; and General Roberts resolved to sack and
burn Deh-i-Afghan. The two guns of F-A began to shell it vigorously, and
two more guns of the same battery were brought out and joined in the
work. Shell after shell was pitched among the houses, and the defenders
of them drew off before such a fire. Some 1,500, supposed to be Safis
from Tagao, went through the city and made for the Cabul plain so as to
reach Deh-i-Sabz, to the north of Butkhak. Some of them ventured too
near the King’s Garden, outside Sherpur, where the 5th Punjab Cavalry
are quartered, and Captain Vousden charged out upon them and killed
thirty. He had only twelve sowars with him, and of these two were killed
and four wounded; Captain Vousden killed five Afghans with his own
hand.[32] The main body got well away beneath Siah Sung; and although
some Lancers were sent in pursuit, and two Horse Artillery guns went out
under escort of a party of the 92nd Highlanders, the Safis could not be
overtaken. They ran at a sling-trot for miles, just like wolves in a
pack, and had plainly had enough of fighting for the day. We had thus,
apparently, disposed of the body of the enemy (those who had manned the
heights from the city); but there were many more to take their place,
and General Baker, with his 1,200 bayonets, had yet to learn the full
strength that was against him.


Footnote 32:

  For this he was strongly recommended for the Victoria Cross.


About midday the signallers with General Macpherson heliographed down
that a vast body with many standards were streaming out from Indikee
into the Chardeh Valley, and were taking a northerly direction, which
would bring them under the hill occupied by Colonel Jenkins. The
movement was well made, and eventually developed into an attack upon the
conical hill which the Guides and Highlanders first stormed. This hill
was held by thirty-three men of the 72nd Highlanders, a small party of
Guides under a Subadar, the whole being under the command of
Lieutenant-Colonel Clark, 72nd. While the upper hill was being taken,
parties of the enemy’s infantry and cavalry were seen coming across
Chardeh from the direction of Kila Kazi, as if to take Colonel Jenkins
in flank, and the conical hill was strengthened by Swinley’s Mountain
Battery, with an escort of 100 men of the 5th Punjabees, under command
of Lieutenant Wilson, of the 10th Hussars, serving for the day as a
volunteer. This gave Colonel Clark about 200 rifles, with which to hold
the hill. The mountain guns opened fire upon the body of Afghans in the
plain, who broke up and dispersed out of range. In the meantime the
enemy from Indikee—to the number of fully 15,000 or 20,000; they covered
the plain for miles—had marched out as if going to Kila Kazi, or
Argandeh. Their array was orderly enough; and when they had all reached
the plain, they suddenly faced about and came down in the shape of a
crescent upon the heights we were holding. Their right flank had for its
object the scaling of a ridge extending down from the southern _sungar_
on the Deh-i-Afghan hill; their centre, the assault of the low conical
hill, which was General Baker’s weakest point; and their left flank
swept round upon the lumpy hill to the north of Colonel Clark’s
position, and commanding it. They seemed to our handful of men to be
myriads as they came steadily on; and although volleys were fired from
the conical hill, and the mountain guns shelled them at short ranges,
they never faltered. They were literally mowed down; but as one Ghazi
fell, another sprang to the front, and their standards were at last
placed on a little mound within 150 yards of our bayonets. Their left
flank had gained the lumpy hill which we had left alone, not having men
enough to occupy it, and a cross fire was opened upon Colonel Clark’s
party. There was a bit of open ground between the mound on which their
standards were placed and the rocks in rear, under which their main body
had clustered in face of our fire; but across this small space numbers
rushed with reckless audacity until, behind their advanced standards,
several hundred men were hidden. Colonel Clark thought that at all risks
they must be driven from this mound, as they might make a rush in
overwhelming numbers: and Captain Spens volunteered to make the attempt.
Taking with him five of the 72nd Highlanders and a few Guides, he made
for a bit of rising ground below the mound and reached it safely. His
fire could not dislodge the Ghazis, who suddenly rushed out upon the
little party. Captain Spens was attacked by four or five men: he cut
down one, but in a second he was overpowered and hacked almost to
pieces. There followed in rear of the Ghazis, who had sprung out, a
dense mass of Afghans, who swarmed up to the thin line of defenders, who
could scarcely hope to stop them. The mountain guns were on Colonel
Clark’s left, and their guard of 5th Punjabees had been, perhaps too
sanguinely, sent forward to repel the attack. Our men lost heart as they
saw four or five thousand men nearly upon them; and when Captain Hall,
with a reinforcement of 150 more of the 5th Punjab Infantry, got near
the crest of the hill, he found such of its defenders as had not been
shot down retiring in disorder. To rally them was impossible at that
point, and they fell back down the hillside. The fire of the enemy at
such close quarters cost us a score of wounded, and the mules of one
mountain gun being shot, it had to be abandoned where it stood. A second
gun was being carried safely downwards when the mule carrying it was
also knocked over. The handspike in the muzzle used for lifting it was
broken, but the gunners rolled it for some yards down the hill until the
Afghans were close upon them, when it also had to be left. Two guns were
thus lost, but fortunately there was but little ammunition left behind.
At the foot of the hill our men rallied, and re-opened fire, which
checked the rush of the enemy. The 3rd Sikhs doubled across the fields
from near Deh-i-Afghan and reinforced General Baker, driving back such
Afghans as had ventured down the slope towards the village where the
guns of G-3 were placed. These guns were withdrawn to a safe distance;
but, although the enemy in half an hour had 10,000 men on and about the
conical hill, they did not venture down to attack. Our cavalry were
ready in the plain to charge down upon them if they gained the fields;
but they had quite a different intention. As I have said, their right
flank were scaling a spur running down from the southern _sungar_ to the
Chardeh plain, and they hoped to cut off Colonel Jenkins and his party.
This soon became evident, as a long string of standard bearers began to
climb up towards the northern _sungar_, following exactly the path taken
by our storming party in the morning. From over the crest of the hill
came the rattle of musketry; and estimating the difficulty of holding
the crest all night, and so weakening the defences of Sherpur, General
Roberts sent word to Colonel Jenkins to evacuate the position.

The enemy has shown such unexpected strength—40,000 men in all are
believed to have been present in Chardeh Valley and in the hills above
Deh-i-Afghan—that it was running considerable risk to keep our garrison
in cantonments short of a man; accordingly at the same time that Colonel
Jenkins was ordered to retire, a message was sent by heliograph to
General Macpherson to hasten back to Sherpur with all his force. He was
to take the road above the Deh-i-Afghan suburb. General Baker was
ordered to hold on to the village he had occupied since the morning
until all the troops from the heights were within the walls. Meanwhile
Colonel Jenkins had met the attack up the spur from Chardeh. Major
Stockwell, 72nd, was sent down a few score yards with a small escort,
who kept up a hot fire upon the advancing masses. A few Ghazis, with
their standards, got from point to point; but they were still at a
respectable distance when the order to evacuate the hill was received.
Major Stockwell withdrew his men from the little _sungar_ they had
built, and retired leisurely, so as to give the Afghans no idea that the
crest also was to be evacuated. Captain Gordon, of the 92nd, was shot
through the right shoulder while this movement was being made. Five
minutes after our men had left their _sungar_ a banner was planted upon
it, showing how rapidly the Ghazis rushed up the hill. Major Stockwell’s
party having been safely withdrawn, the retirement down the hill facing
Sherpur was begun. The enemy, who were nearly at the northern _sungar_,
led by a Ghazi with a green flag, were kept in check by volleys fired by
covering parties thrown out on Colonel Jenkins’s left flank. There was
not the least appearance of undue haste, the Highlanders forming up
quietly to cover the Guides scrambling down, and the Guides then doing
the same in their turn for the Highlanders. The hillside was so exposed
that our casualties were rather severe, among the killed being
Lieutenant Gaisford of the 72nd. Not a man was left behind, however, all
the wounded and dead being brought in. All anxiety about Colonel
Jenkins’s force being now at an end, there only remained General
Macpherson’s brigade to come in. Two companies of the 92nd Highlanders
were marched out to cover them across the plain, and to help General
Baker’s rear-guard in its final retirement; but they were not wanted.
Presently shots were heard in Deh-i-Afghan, and then the baggage of the
brigade was seen entering the fields under a strong guard. The 67th
Foot, 5th Ghoorkas, and 3rd Sikhs followed with the mountain battery,
and, before long, entered the head-quarters’ gate. In coming through the
Cabul gorge, General Macpherson had been able to help the Highlanders
and Guides by his fire. He sent two companies of the 67th, under Colonel
Knowles, to hold a knoll half-way up the slope from Deh-i-Afghan to the
southern _sungar_. Bodies of the enemy tried to rush down the hill to
overtake Colonel Jenkins and even to harass the brigade under General
Macpherson; but the steady shooting of the 67th could not be faced, and
the most adventurous Ghazis being shot down, the rest withdrew to the
crest. Colonel Knowles handled his men with a coolness that could not
have been excelled. General Baker then retired slowly, his rear-guard,
under Major Pratt, 5th Punjab Infantry, by a brisk fusillade for about
ten minutes, stopping the few Ghazis who came down from the conical
peak. By dusk everyone was in cantonments, and we could count our
casualties. They were unusually heavy for Afghan fighting, but have
given us valuable experience, as we no longer despise our enemy. That
Afghans when in overwhelming numbers will fight and rush blindly on,
regardless of loss of life, has been fully exemplified, and we shall no
longer send flying columns over the hills and break up our army into
three weak parts. With Generals Baker and Macpherson both out of
Sherpur, an attack upon cantonments might have resulted in a disaster.
Now that our force is once more concentrated, Sherpur may be looked upon
as safe.

When all our troops were once more in quarters, we had to think about
our defences, though it was highly improbable that Mahomed Jan would try
a night attack. Our men were quite fagged out with all the hill-climbing
they had done to so little purpose; but the majority of them had to turn
out to do picquet duty, and keep a sharp look-out on the walls. Shelter
trenches were hastily thrown up at our weakest points on the Bemaru
Heights; the gates in the walls were barricaded with gun carriages
belonging to the guns captured on October 8th; and we waited patiently
and a little anxiously, it must be confessed, for a night alarm. Every
regiment was told off to particular points, and a reserve—made up of a
wing of the 67th, a wing of the 72nd, and the whole of the 92nd—were
ready to fall in below the gap in the Bemaru Hills in the centre of the
cantonments. We did not fear any attempt to scale the walls; but at
either end of the heights which shut us in on the north were open gaps;
Shere Ali’s line of wall, intended to include the Bemaru Hills within
the fortified square, never having been completed. At the eastern end of
Sherpur, the 28th Punjab Infantry have built a line of huts extending
from near the corner bastion towards Bemaru village; and as the ground
beyond it is covered with walled enclosures, towers, and orchards,
excellent cover would be given to an attacking force which might gather
under cover of darkness, and make a rush to get in. On the 14th,
_abattis_ had been laid, the orchards near giving plenty of wood, and
above Bemaru village were strong picquet posts and trenches which
commanded the road leading from Kohistan. Two guns of G-3 were at this
point, but they were withdrawn, as to remove them in face of a
determined attack would have been nearly impossible, the ground towards
camp being very steep and much broken up. Wire entanglements, made with
telegraph wire and tent-pegs, were laid down, wherever there was open
ground over the walls, and extra vigilance was shown by sentries. The
block-houses on the crest of the Bemaru Heights were also filled with
our men, ready to reinforce any points assailed. But the night passed
quietly, the soldiers being undisturbed even by stray shots. The enemy
were, perhaps, as tired as ourselves, and were holding high revel in the
city and the Bala Hissar, where no doubt they found many friends to
welcome them. Our garrison at Butkhak, consisting of some fifty rifles,
and the whole of the 12th Bengal Cavalry, arrived safely at Sherpur
during the night, it being deemed unwise to leave them so far away from
cantonments. As they also had to be supplied with food from our godowns,
and we could not spare a force to escort convoys across the Cabul plain,
it was necessary they should be brought in. This withdrawal has cut us
off from Luttabund.

To-day (the 15th) has been one of almost absolute quiet. Beyond cavalry
parties patrolling outside Sherpur, our men have not been sent out,
although the Afghans crowded out upon the slopes above Deh-i-Afghan,
inviting us to come out and attack them. There can be no good object
attained, however, in again storming the heights, as we cannot weaken
the garrison by telling off a couple of regiments and a mountain battery
to hold the hills when captured. We had not, either, ammunition to throw
away; there are only about 300 rounds per rifle of Snider and
Martini-Henri, and we are as yet uncertain when reinforcements from
Gundamak, bringing a further supply, will reach us. Luckily the
telegraph remained open until five o’clock this morning, so full
particulars of our condition were sent down the line. General Charles
Gough has been ordered to bring in his brigade as quickly as possible;
and he is now concentrating them at Jugdulluck. Colonel Hudson,
commanding at Luttabund, has been ordered to hold on with the 300
Pioneers and the 28th Punjab Infantry, until General Gough reaches him.
He will then come on to Sherpur. With the arrival of the brigade we
shall be able, not merely to hold Sherpur in comfort, but also to send
out 2,000 or 3,000 men to attack Mahomed Jan in whatever position he may
take up. With more ammunition for our batteries, we can shell
Deh-i-Afghan, the Bala Hissar, and even Cabul itself if occasion
requires. At present we cannot afford to waste shells; as in the case of
any check to General Gough’s brigade, we should have to rely upon our
own strength until more troops could be sent forward from Jellalabad,
and further down the Khyber line. We must make our calculations on this
basis until we hear of the brigade from Jugdulluck being at Luttabund or
Butkhak, which they should reach by the 19th or 20th at the latest.
Asmatullah Khan, of Lughman, with his powerful section of Ghilzais, is
reported to be anxious to join Mahomed Jan with 10,000 or 15,000 men,
and he may try to intercept the force moving from Gundamak. As he would
leave his villages west of the Darunta cliff at the mercy of a flying
column from Jellalabad, he may, perhaps, hesitate before taking such a
step. The Safis of Tagao, who returned to their homes yesterday
afternoon, before our reverse, will soon learn that Cabul is still in
the possession of Mahomed Jan, and they also may try to block the
Luttabund Road.

Our losses in yesterday’s action were very severe, and among our wounded
are many dangerous cases. The proportion, usually, of severe wounds is
one-third out of the total wounded, but nearly every case now in
hospital is “severe.” The list of casualties from the 10th to the 13th
and on the 14th is as follows:—

                   CASUALTIES FROM 10TH TO 13TH DECEMBER.
         Regiment.        │         British.          │   Natives.   │Total.
                          │    Officers.│    Men.     │       │      │
                          │    K.│    W.│    K.│    W.│     K.│    W.│
 F-A, Royal Horse         │     1│     —│     —│     1│      —│     —│     2
 Artillery                │      │      │      │      │       │      │
 No. 2 Mountain Battery   │     —│     —│     —│     —│      —│     2│     2
 9th Lancers              │     3│     4│    21│    16│      —│     —│    44
 5th Punjab Cavalry       │     —│     —│     —│     —│      3│     —│     3
 14th Bengal Lancers      │     1│     —│     —│     —│      7│     4│    12
 67th Foot                │     —│     —│     —│     2│      —│     —│     2
 72nd Highlanders         │     —│     1│     —│     5│      —│     —│     6
 92nd Highlanders         │     1│     —│     2│    21│      —│     —│    24
 3rd Sikhs                │     —│     2│     —│     —│      4│    10│    16
 Corps of Guides          │     —│     —│     —│     —│  3[33]│     9│    12
 5th Punjab Infantry      │     —│     —│     —│     —│      1│    10│    11
 5th Ghoorkas             │     —│     2│     —│     —│      1│    10│    13
           Total          │     6│     9│    23│    45│     19│    45│   147

                        CASUALTIES ON 14TH DECEMBER.
                          │    K.│    W.│    K.│    W.│     K.│    W.│
 No. 2 Mountain Battery   │     —│     —│     —│     —│      1│     6│     7
 5th Punjab Cavalry       │     —│     —│     —│     —│      —│     8│     8
 14th Bengal Lancers      │     —│     —│     —│     —│      —│     5│     5
 67th Foot                │     —│     —│     —│     5│      —│     —│     5
 72nd Highlanders         │     2│     1│15[34]│    16│      —│     —│    34
 92nd Highlanders         │     —│     1│     —│     3│      —│     —│     4
 3rd Sikhs                │     —│     —│     —│     —│      —│     5│     5
 Guides’ Infantry         │     —│     1│     —│     —│     13│    27│    41
 5th Punjab Infantry      │     —│     —│     —│     —│      1│    13│    14
 5th Ghoorkas             │     —│     —│     —│     —│      3│     2│     5
           Total          │     2│     3│    15│    24│     18│    66│   128


Footnote 33:


Footnote 34:

  One missing.


The total loss in the five days’ fighting is, therefore, eight British
officers killed and 12 wounded; 38 British soldiers killed and 69
wounded; 37 Native soldiers killed and 111 wounded; or a total of 275
casualties, viz., 83 killed and 192 wounded.

The officers killed on the 14th were Captain Spens and Lieutenant
Gaisford, 72nd Highlanders: those wounded were Captain Gordon, 92nd
Highlanders; Lieutenant Egerton, 72nd; and Lieutenant Frederick Battye,
Guides’ Infantry.


                             CHAPTER XVII.

The Defences of Sherpur Strengthened—Continued Inactivity of the
    Enemy—State of the Walls and Trenches—Mounting of Captured Guns—The
    Reserve—The State of Cabul—Attacks upon the Hindu and Kizilbash
    Quarters—Threat to assemble 100,000 Afghans—Reflections upon Past
    Events—Neglect of Military Precautions—Non-destruction of Forts and
    Villages—Review of the Fighting—City Rumours—Musa Jan proclaimed
    Amir—Seizure of Treasure by Mahomed Jan—Demonstration by the Enemy
    on December 17th—The Distribution of Commands in Sherpur—Immunity
    from Night Attacks—Steadiness of the Troops—The Attack of December
    18th—Heliograms exchanged with Luttabund—The First Fall of Snow at

                                    SHERPUR, _15th December, night_.

To-day’s respite from fighting has been of the greatest value to us. The
shelter trenches thrown up in the darkness have, in many instances, been
found to be defective, accordingly Colonel Perkins and the engineers
with the force have laid out new lines, and the northern and eastern
defences are now quite strong enough to assure our safety in those
directions. The northern end of the western wall was partly blown down
when the mutineers fired their magazine the day after Charasia; the
breach in it has been closed with earth and rubbish; and the corner
bastion, looking towards the lake, has been made thoroughly defensible.
From this bastion to the foot of the Bemaru Heights is an open space,
about 100 yards across. The trees beyond it, which shaded our cemetery,
have been cut down, and a strong entrenchment thrown across, with wire
entanglements, 20 yards in front. Here, again, Afghan ammunition waggons
have been of great use. They are placed sideways, one wheel facing
outwards, and the other forming the inner side, over which the defenders
can fire. A deep trench has been dug along the outer face, and the earth
thrown up between the wheels, so as to give stability to the barrier.
This has made a formidable obstacle, which could not be readily taken
when defended by breech-loaders. From the end abutting on the steep
slope of the heights a trench and parapet run up to the block-house on
the crest. An _abattis_ has been made of the branches of trees 30 yards
in front of this, faced again by wire entanglements, and two 18-pounders
from among the captured guns are placed on a platform cut in the slope
and commanding the ground in front of the lower barrier of ammunition
waggons. The fire from the block-house and the trench on the hillside
would take in enfilade any force making a front attack. Along the crest
of the Bemaru Heights is a line of earthen breastworks extending to the
break in the hills above the Ghoorka quarters on the foundations of
Shere Ali’s intended palace. It was in this “gorge,” as it is now
called, that our troops in 1841-42 had much severe fighting, their old
“Brown Besses” being unequal to carrying from slope to slope. From the
camp, paths lead up a gentle slope through the gap. The northern side,
facing Kohistan, is much steeper, and the centre is cut up by deep
nullahs formed by the streams which rush down when the snow melts.
Immediately below, at the foot of the hills, cultivation begins and
reaches out half a mile to the open _maidan_, where we held our review
on the 8th instant. On either side of the gorge are flanking trenches
with _abattis_, while wire entanglements have been laid across the paths
below. Two block-houses look down upon the nullahs from either side of
the gap; while right in the mouth is a third, built very strongly, and
loop-holed for musketry. A Gatling gun is placed near this defence, and
guns could also move up in case of attack. The eastern Bemaru hill is
also entrenched, and has a block-house in the centre, and another at the
northern point, which was, at first, very weak. The village of Bemaru,
with strong towers and walls, lies at the bottom of the hill; and the
ground is so rugged and steep, that men could creep up almost without
being seen. Flanking trenches, wire entanglements, and _abattis_ have
here, again, given strength to the defences. Bemaru village itself is
now occupied by the Guides; the quarters of the 23rd Pioneers, and the
mule and _yaboo_ lines being just below. There now remains the eastern
line of defence; which, even now, is not completed, and has given us
much anxiety. I have already mentioned that the huts of the 28th Punjab
Infantry have been built between the end of the cantonment wall and
Bemaru; and I may add that every means of rapidly strengthening the
place has been taken. Shelter-trenches and positions for guns have been
made, and the orchards outside have been cut down wherever they gave
shelter. The bit of country outside cantonments in this direction is
very fertile, being irrigated from a wide canal, and some dozen villages
and forts are clustered together on its banks. The walls bounding the
orchards and gardens as well as the near forts would, if time permitted,
be razed to the ground; and until this is done, there will be a chance
of strong bodies of the enemy annoying us thence. Until we know Mahomed
Jan’s tactics, and whether he really means to attempt an assault, we
cannot do more than strengthen the actual lines of defence, leaving the
walls and towers in the fields to be destroyed hereafter. Regarding the
walls of Sherpur itself, they are in a thorough state of defence; such
openings as had been cut in them for the convenience of soldiers and
followers having been blocked up with arm chests filled with stones and
rubbish. The outer wall is about twenty feet high, with numerous
flanking bastions, and is pierced for musketry at every six feet. The
actual parapet is six feet high, giving perfect shelter to soldiers
manning the walls; and our men, preferring to fire over the top, have
cut resting-places with their bayonets for their rifles. No bullet can
penetrate more than a few inches into the sun-dried mud, which is really
so hard that 9-pounders could not breach it. The blocks of mud solidify
so thoroughly after a time, that they will turn the edge of a pick, as
we have found in improving our quarters in the long line of barracks. A
dry ditch, twenty feet in width, follows the line of walls, which, in an
early letter, I described as three sides of a parallelogram. The
barracks form the inner line of defence, a low parapet on the roof
overlooking the dry ditch below.

There are four high gateways in the walls; one facing westwards, known
as the “Head-quarters’ Gate,” and three in the southern wall facing
Cabul. The middle one of these is the “Commissariat Gate,” and abuts on
the road leading through the old cantonment over the Cabul river to the
Bala Hissar. All the Commissariat godowns are in the barracks and
verandah to right and left of this gate. A line drawn at right angles
from these across the cantonment would strike the gap in the Bemaru
hills; and in anticipation of our having to draw in our defences, the
engineers are preparing an inner line of entrenchments stretching
between these two parts. Our food supply, firewood, and _bhoosa_, would
be enclosed within it, and our men would be far less harassed. We should
probably continue to hold the north-eastern Bemaru hill as an outwork;
but to do this we should have to destroy very thoroughly Bemaru village,
the huts of the 28th Punjab Infantry, and the barracks and wall at the
eastern part of Sherpur. There seems but little probability of our
having to do this, as the reinforcements will lighten our work, give an
ample garrison, and also permit of a brigade moving out to meet the
enemy. We are mounting one of the 8-inch howitzers, captured here, in a
bastion of the western wall, whence we can shell Deh-i-Afghan and the
road leading from the Cabul gorge. We have plenty of loose powder for
this howitzer, and any number of empty shells left behind by the
mutineers. Some of Shere Ali’s mountain guns are also being got ready
for use. Our own batteries are kept free to move from point to point as
required, special stations being told off for them at night. Morgan’s
mountain battery is the artillery reserve: the infantry and cavalry
reserve is made up of the whole of the 92nd Highlanders, a wing of the
67th, a wing of the 72nd, and six squadrons chosen from among the 9th
Lancers, 5th Punjab Cavalry, Guides’ Cavalry, 12th Bengal Cavalry, and
the 14th Bengal Lancers. The remainder of the troopers and sowars are
dismounted, and used as infantry to man the defences. The reserve, in
case of a night attack, is to form up in the open ground in the middle
of cantonments below the Bemaru gorge. We have thus made all our
preparations, and shall probably pursue a waiting policy, leaving
Mahomed Jan to his occupation of Cabul city and the Bala Hissar until
General Charles Gough arrives. What that occupation is likely to be, we
are already learning: the houses of all known friends of the British are
being looted and destroyed, and the Hindu and Kizilbash quarters are
also being attacked. Constant firing is heard from the city, and the
Kizilbashes are resisting the attacks to the best of their ability.
Against such numbers, however, they cannot make a stand, however bravely
they may fight. Several of them have sought refuge with us, and we have
also, as our guests, Sirdar Wali Mahomed Khan, young Ahmed Ali, and
their personal retainers. Daoud Shah has been put under arrest “as a
matter of precaution,” and the Mustaufi is also again in confinement, as
well as other Afghan sirdars, whose honesty is a doubtful quality.
Hazara coolies and city people, employed hitherto as labourers, masons,
and carpenters, have also been turned out of Sherpur, as they are now
only a drag upon us, and might also be bearers of information to the

This evening large bodies of men with standards appeared on the road
above Deh-i-Afghan until the slope of the hill was completely covered.
Beyond waving their knives and _tulwars_, and shouting defiance, they
did nothing to annoy or irritate us. General Roberts at first ordered
some guns out to shell them, but changed his mind, and declined to waste
ammunition upon them. In the evening they returned to the city, but kept
two large signal fires burning on the heights. They are said to expect
reinforcements from Kohistan, Turkistan, and the Shutargardan district;
but we have no news of these being on the move. They boast of being able
to get 100,000 men together in a week, and have sent to Ghazni for guns.
At present they have not been able to rig up the two mountain guns they
captured, or to use two others taken in Wali Mahomed’s camp above
Dehmazung. If they were to shell Sherpur they might cause us some loss,
as our cavalry are picqueted in the open.

While I am writing (on the evening of the 15th) we are expecting a night
attack; but we are quite ready for it, every post being fully manned.
The Mohurrum has now begun, and fanaticism is sure to run high among the
Ghazis and followers of Mushk-i-Alam, but it will scarcely prompt them
to attack so strong a position as we have now made. Orders have been
issued that, in the event of any of the enemy getting within cantonment
walls, they are to be bayoneted. Shooting is forbidden, as in camp our
bullets would probably be more dangerous to our own troops than to
scattered parties of Afghans. Every man is resting on his arms ready for
an emergency.

                                                    _16th December._

The second night has passed without any demonstration by Mahomed Jan
against Sherpur; and while the fire-eaters in our force are longing for
an attack, in order that the Afghans may learn how mud walls and
entrenchments can be defended by men with breech-loaders in their hands,
most of us are glad that our soldiers have had time to rest, and have
not been obliged to stand out all night in the bitter cold. Four
blankets per man have been served out; and, wrapped in these, the
soldiers have been able to keep themselves fairly comfortable, while
sleeping in the trenches and bastions. The sentries are on the alert,
and have, of course, had to endure cold and discomfort; but the great
body of men have rested quietly. To-day also, no attack has been
attempted; and while we are settling down to the new conditions imposed
upon us—for we are now practically in a state of siege—our spirits are
as high as ever. We chafe under the delay which must necessarily ensue
before we can once more disperse the enemy; but we hope that the troops
from Jugdulluck and Gundamak will soon put us in a position both to hold
Sherpur and to have a few thousand men outside, dealing with the Ghazis.
There can be no doubt we have been lulled during the past two months
into false security. Our only anxiety hitherto has been to find an enemy
to fight; and the opinions I have expressed in former letters as to the
Afghan weakness for running away have been simply those held by every
one here. When we sent our brigades out to fight, they found no one to
face them; and we were unaware that such a powerful combination as that
now against us was possible. After the dispersion of the remnants of
Yakub Khan’s mutinous army, there was such an appearance of peace, at
least for many months, that the ordinary military precautions were not
taken. Our hands were full with laying in supplies for the winter and
getting the troops into barracks. Sherpur, with its three sides already
fortified, and ample accommodation in its long lines of rooms, was ready
to our hand, and we occupied it at once, although the strength of our
army was scarcely adequate to defending it[35] and keeping our
communications open. The original plan of placing two or three regiments
in the Bala Hissar was certainly a good one; but the explosions in the
fortress, and the dread that it might still contain mines unknown to us,
deterred General Roberts from carrying out his first intention.


Footnote 35:

  This was the view taken by Colonel Macgregor, Chief of the Staff.


Further, when Sherpur was occupied, the sense of security then
prevailing led us to spare the forts and villages in its vicinity. Even
the old walls and isolated towers in the fields about were left
untouched. We make war so humanely that, even in a country like
Afghanistan, we are loth to let military exigencies override all other
considerations. That we shall suffer for it now in loss of life is
beyond question; for, at several points about the walls, cover is given
to an attacking party, who can get within 400 or 500 yards of our
bastions. On the eastern and southern sides this is particularly the
case. Outside Bemaru, as I have said, are forts, villages, and orchards;
while, between the three gates facing towards Cabul, the ground is
similarly occupied. Fort Mahomed Sharif, so well known in the dreary
days of 1841-42, still stands intact within 700 yards of the “72nd
Gateway,” and about it are high walls and walled enclosures, which are
sure to be occupied by sharp-shooters. Outside Deh-i-Afghan also are
orchards and gardens, each with its strong open walls, and in the fields
are ruinous walls, with an occasional tower, which we could easily have
destroyed if we had foreseen that an investment was hanging over us. It
is easy to be wise after the event; but there can now be but one view as
to the defects of Sherpur. To defend it, simply, is now comparatively
easy, even with the 6,000 men we have within its walls; but beyond
defence, we can do nothing. It covers such an enormous area of ground,
that when all our picquets and sentries have been placed, we have no one
to spare; and though we have dismounted nearly the whole of our cavalry,
there are not even 1,000 men available for outside work. If it were half
the size, we should be as comfortable as in an Indian cantonment; or if
we had 10,000 men here, and three or four more batteries of artillery,
we could break up Mahomed Jan’s army without difficulty. But neither of
these conditions exists, and we are quietly accepting the humiliation of
investment, and witnessing the looting of Cabul and the Bala Hissar
without being able to strike a blow against the enemy. The suddenness of
the whole business is the most remarkable feature, and we now see to
what imminent danger Sherpur was exposed when Generals Macpherson and
Baker were sent out to force the fighting in Maidan. In the first week
of December native rumours of 40,000 or 50,000 men gathering together to
attack Cabul were freely circulated in the city, but little attention
was paid to them. Later, there was the plain evidence of our cavalry
scouts that 4,000 or 5,000 men were between Maidan and Argandeh, and to
cut them off was the object of General Macpherson’s march into the
Chardeh Valley, and of the _détour_ made by General Baker from Charasia
to Maidan. General Macpherson, in carrying out his flank march to get
between Mahomed Jan and Bamian, came unexpectedly upon Mir Butcha and
his Kohistanis; and he had first to deal with them before turning his
attention to the Ardal Pultan and their friends from Wardak and Ghazni.
His defeat of Mir Butcha, on December 10th, was of great value, as
preventing the Kohistanis from joining the other force; but on the 11th
there followed the defeat of our cavalry and the temporary loss of two
guns. That afternoon was really most pregnant with danger to the
cantonment. Two brigades were miles away from the walls, and between the
nearest men of General Macpherson’s brigade and Sherpur were 10,000 of
the enemy. If they had streamed over the Nanuchi Kotal, near where the
action of the 14th was fought, and had shown the same determination in
assaulting our lines as they had done in resisting the cavalry and guns,
we must have lost Sherpur long before help could have come from the two
Brigadiers. That the enemy streamed off to the Cabul gorge, with the
intention of seizing the Bala Hissar and the city, was the saving of our
cantonments. Two hundred rifles of the 72nd checked them at Dehmazung,
and they contented themselves with occupying the hills to the south of
the Bala Hissar Heights, and waiting for reinforcements. We kept them in
play, on the 12th, with 600 men, who partly captured their position; and
by that time General Baker had reached Sherpur. On the 13th our success
was unqualified; we stormed and occupied the enemy’s position, and our
cavalry in the Cabul plain cut to pieces such fugitives as left the
hills. That evening we believed we had seen the enemy’s full strength
and had broken it; but after the action on the Asmai Heights, and the
retreat of our troops to cantonments, we were undeceived. It became
apparent that there were between 30,000 and 40,000 men, quite sufficient
to keep us within our walls, as with such numbers many points could be
threatened at the same time. It came to this: that we must he content to
let them occupy Cabul, the Bala Hissar, and whatever other points they
chose, while we watched them carefully from Sherpur, ready to repel
attack, or to clear them out of forts and villages dangerously near our
walls. _They_ have liberty to roam whithersoever they will; while _we_
are so numerically weak, except for cavalry reconnaissances, that we
must accept the usual conditions of a beleaguered garrison. We have
accepted it, cheerfully enough, I venture to say; and when we again go
out to clear Cabul and the Bala Hissar, we shall do it with all the more
zest after being penned up in Sherpur by sheer weight of numbers.

To-day there has not been much done beyond hard work at the
entrenchments, at which the men labour heartily, as they know the
importance of having continuous lines of defence. Our curiosity is fed
by rumours from the city, from which we gain a certain amount of
trustworthy news; though our spies, as a rule, are the most
treacherous-looking ruffians we have seen for a long time. Our
intelligence department has such bad tools to work with, that scarcely
any information proves correct; for an Afghan is a greater adept at
fabrication than any other Asiatic. We cannot _trust_ them: they go and
come, and bring strange tales, and fill our minds with the idea that
40,000 Ghazis mean to fight to the death, so as to capture Sherpur; and
then nothing comes of it. We hear to-day of scaling-ladders being made,
and of an assault to be delivered simultaneously at seven points; but
when or how it will be made not even the most pronounced liar among the
spies ventures to say. Two or three bankers from the city have been in
Sherpur to-day, and from them we have learnt that Mahomed Jan and his
followers are bursting with pride at finding themselves in possession of
Cabul, and holding the British army in check. There is so much
confidence among them, that, no doubt at the instigation of Yakub Khan’s
mother, they have proclaimed young Musa Jan, Yakub’s son, Amir. This is
to give a semblance of order and patriotism to their movements, we
suppose; and, perhaps, their leaders hereafter may be bold enough to
proffer negotiation. They will be the mouthpiece of their new Amir, and
Sir F. Roberts will be nothing more than the representative of the
British, who will be told, as in olden times, that they are not wanted
in the country. Further, they have found that no Governor of Cabul now
exists, General Hills, our nominee, having, of course, left the
_kotwali_ for the safer quarters of Sherpur. The fanatics have therefore
nominated Mushk-i-Alam, the old _moollah_, to be Governor, and, with all
his ninety years heavy upon him, he sits dispensing justice and
encouraging the _moollahs_ to work upon the religious feelings of
soldiers. Whether he expects long to enjoy his dignity does not appear;
but, apart from his great age, there is the contingency of Cabul once
more falling into our hands. His _jehad_ has certainly been a wonderful
success, and it is long since so large a number of armed men have been
assembled in and about Cabul. They are likely to experience the same
difficulty we have always felt—supplies. Each villager carries with him
_chupaties_ and dried mulberries sufficient for three or four days’
consumption; but their food-bags now want replenishing. With her usual
energy, Yakub’s mother is said to have given her jewels and money to the
“troops”—if they deserve the name—and they have now ample funds to carry
them on for a short time. The citizens also have been called upon to
show their patriotism. By beat of _tom-tom_ it has been proclaimed that
all surplus grain and other food must be given up, each family only
retaining enough for its own consumption. The _bunniahs_ and others will
be heavy losers by this enactment; but as death is threatened in case of
disobedience, there is no option but to obey. They will find Mahomed
Jan’s short rule far different from ours, under which they amassed
rupees by thousands, and fleeced the strangers handsomely. The wholesale
looting that has gone on during the last two days has given the enemy
vast stores of treasure; and one report states that Yahiya Khan’s house,
which we only partially cleared out, has proved a mine of wealth to
them. The usual result has followed: they have begun to quarrel among
themselves. Every Afghan is not a Ghazi; and to the mind of the village
tribesman, far away from his home, it seems folly to risk farther
fighting, while such plunder has been already obtained. The Ghazis would
at all costs try to storm Sherpur, and repeat the victory of 1841-2, but
their fanaticism has not extended far, and it will have to rise to
fever-heat before it will face an assault. We have not much to fear in
that direction; but still with our small stock of ammunition, it would
be better, perhaps, if it did not take place. If made at night, our men
would probably blaze away 70 or 100 rounds; and if our reinforcements
were checked, we might seriously feel the want of ammunition.

To-day the sky has been overcast and the hills obscured with mist, so we
have been unable to communicate by heliograph with Luttabund. We believe
the garrison there to be quite safe, as news of any attack in that
quarter would reach us very soon. Colonel Hudson knows that we are
invested, and he will have taken every precaution to ensure his own
safety. There seems no disturbance among the Tezin Ghilzais as yet, and
the Safis of Tagao have not yet returned to their friends in Cabul.
Their losses must have been heavy on the 13th and 14th. The Kohistanis
who got away from the cavalry on the 13th did not all escape to their
homes. While the fight was going on near Cabul, the 12th Bengal Cavalry
at Butkhak were ordered to patrol the plain between that post and the
Logar river. Towards evening they came across eight men who were at once
made prisoners. They were all armed and well mounted, and, upon being
questioned, said they were friends of Wali Mahomed, on their way to
Tezin, to bring the Ghilzais down to aid the British. This statement was
telegraphed to Sherpur, but Wali Mahomed knew nothing of the men; and as
they had the accoutrements of a Guide sowar on one horse, and three new
Snider rifles, with 400 rounds of ammunition, they were ordered to be
shot. When told they were to die, they half-admitted that they were not
friends of Wali Mahomed. Their leader was a young Kohistani, who met his
death bravely enough: the second was a petty sirdar, who, in fear and
trembling, begged for his life; and the third was a village priest, who
tried to induce the Mahomedan sowar told off to execute him to let him
go. “You are a Mahomedan,” he said, “and I am one of your holy men. You
cannot shoot me! Let me get past the sentry, and I can escape.” The
sowar’s answer was characteristic of our men: “You have been fighting
against the _Sircar_, and it is your _kismut_ now to be shot. You must
fulfil your _kismut_.” The _moollah_ saw that his prayers were of no
avail, and as he was walking out, he added half-apologetically:—“I tried
to persuade these others not to fight, but they would come down to
Cabul, and they brought me with them.” This was admission enough, even
if it were not the whole truth. It is the _moollah_ usually who
persuades the tribes to turn out, not the tribesmen who have to persuade
the priest to come with them. The four other prisoners were servants of
the three men named: as they were all bearing arms they also were shot.

                                                    _17th December._

To-day the enemy seem to have awakened to a sense of their
responsibility as an investing force. Having made their permanent (?)
political arrangements for the good government of Cabul and Afghanistan,
they have begun to turn their attention to the stranger within their
gates. They fondly imagine that a parade of their strength may overawe
us, and strike terror to our souls: quite forgetting that it can only be
for a short time that we shall be the attacked, and not the attackers.
About ten o’clock this morning they poured out of the eastern and
western gates of Cabul, with banners flying and _tom-toms_ beating, and
drew up in dense masses upon the Siah Sung Heights on the one side and
the slopes of the Asmai hill above Deh-i-Afghan on the other. Horsemen
were seen galloping about in their midst, and trying to keep them
together in military order; but their efforts were, as a rule, of no
avail, only the men of the Ardal Pultun marching at all like soldiers.
The men in that regiment (Guards) still carry their Sniders, and dress
in a soldierlike manner, their cross-belts and pouches giving them the
appearance of regular sepoys. At eleven o’clock the Afghans assembled
must have numbered fully 20,000, and it was believed that they meditated
an attack on the eastern and western walls of Sherpur. The alarm was
accordingly sounded in cantonments, all work at the trenches was
stopped, the Reserve formed up at its appointed place below the Bemaru
gorge, and every man went to his post. It was a bleak December day; the
sun was obscured, a cold wind sweeping down from the Pughman hills, and
heavy clouds louring as if threatening snow. Our men in the trenches and
on the walls were all clad in their over-coats, and dreary work they
found it waiting for an enemy who never came. The hundreds of
scaling-ladders we had heard so much about were not visible, and the
thousands of men who crowded upon Siah Sung were only valorous enough to
wave their knives and scream out curses which never reached our ears.
After several hours of this unsatisfactory waiting, the order was given
to shell the enemy, most of whom were out of rifle-range. G-3 and two
guns of F-A opened upon Siah Sung, and their practice was excellent. G-3
got the range exactly, and two or three shells burst right in the thick
of the masses upon the ridge. The effect was instantly seen: “they jist
ran like skelpit bairns,” as a Highlander remarked. The dead and wounded
were dragged away by the heels, and in an hour the heights were clear,
except of such small parties as disdained to run away. A few marksmen of
the 67th, with their Martinis, knocked over one or two of these at 1,700
yards, and this long range shooting caused the Afghans to disperse, some
going to the Bala Hissar, and others running down to the villages below
Siah Sung. On our eastern wall the 8-inch howitzer, placed in position
on one of the bastions, was fired for the first time, and its huge
shells, dropping into and over Deh-i-Afghan, scattered the crowds there
assembled. The terrific report of the howitzer, and the bursting of its
heavy shells, did much to alarm the enemy, who have hitherto only had
7-pounders and 9-pounders fired against them. There was some difficulty
at first in getting the range and fixing fuses in the shells, which are
of Afghan make; but our gunners soon overcame this, and the howitzer is
now in perfect working order. It will be very useful in shelling such
villages near Deh-i-Afghan as may be occupied by sharpshooters.

The only attempt to open fire upon the cantonment walls was made by a
small body of the enemy, who took possession of the small walled garden,
where the 5th Punjab Cavalry was quartered before the investment. This
garden lies to the right of the road leading to the city, and is about
700 yards from the “72nd Gateway.” It is all that remains of the old
“King’s Garden” of 1839-42. The walls are about ten feet high, and
within them are numerous large trees, up which some of the more daring
Afghans climbed. Their best shots aimed at our men lining the walls; but
although their bullets struck the parapet from time to time, or dropped
far over into the open space where our tents used to stand, no harm was
done. Two mountain guns of Swinley’s battery were placed in the bastion,
fifty yards to the west of the “72nd Gateway,” and these shelled the
garden, while a few marksmen fired at such Afghans as exposed
themselves. In the afternoon two companies of the 5th Punjab Infantry
were ordered out to clear the garden. Colonel Brownlow, of the 72nd, who
has charge of the wall from the gateway to the south-western bastion,
rode out with them. They doubled across the open, covered by the fire
from the gate and bastions, and got well round to the westward of the
garden. The enemy fired a few shots, and then rushed out at the opposite
side, making for Mahomed Sharif’s fort on the other side of the road.
One was shot and bayoneted; and on our side a sepoy of the 5th was
slightly wounded by a bullet in the leg. The garden was thoroughly
searched, but none of the enemy could be found, so our men returned to
Sherpur, two companies of the 72nd being ready inside to cover their
retirement if they had been followed up. Beyond one or two dropping
shots, they were allowed to march back unmolested. While this was going
on, the Bala Hissar was seen to be crowded with armed men, and word was
brought in that the _moollahs_ were haranguing them, and urging them to
attack in earnest. Their exhortations had some effect, as several
thousand men took the road which would have brought them across the
Cabul river and well within range of our rifles; but their courage or
fanaticism was not equal to the demand made upon it, and they eventually
turned off and went into the city. A few are reported to have gone to
some villages outside Bemaru and the eastern wall of Sherpur; but
whether they will remain there all night is doubtful. There is no
organized plan of attack among them; and unless more determination is
shown than that displayed to-day, our investment is likely to be of a
very mild kind. The numerical strength opposed against us seems also to
have decreased, and our spies report that many villagers have returned
home with their dead and wounded, taking also with them such loot as
they can carry. The boasted reinforcements to swell their ranks to
100,000 men are not forthcoming; and beyond the annoyance of being
confined within cantonments, we do not suffer much from Mahomed Jan’s
successes. The wells we have sunk since our water-supply was cut off
give us good water; and except the cavalry, whose lines are in the open,
we are all snug under cover in our barracks, so that stray bullets
cannot do us harm. For the better purposes of defence the cantonment has
been divided into sections, and each of these is in charge of an
officer. From the head-quarters’ gate northwards to the end of the wall,
and thence along the heights to the Bemaru gorge, Major-General Hills
has charge; Brigadier-General Hugh Gough takes from the gorge and along
the line of entrenchments to Bemaru village; Colonel Jenkins, of the
Guides, has the eastern wall, from Bemaru to the corner bastion looking
towards Butkhak; Brigadier-General Macpherson the southern wall, from
that bastion to the 72nd Gate; Colonel Brownlow from the gate to the
corner bastion on the south-west, facing Deh-i-Afghan; and Colonel Hogg
from that bastion to the head-quarters. Major Hanna is Brigadier-General
Gough’s orderly officer. The Reserve is under Brigadier-General Baker,
and at night all the men belonging to it sleep on the hillside below
Bemaru gorge. During the day the position of the infantry is as
follows:—From the head-quarters’ gate to the western foot of the
heights, the 5th Punjab Infantry; below the heights to the west of the
gorge, the 3rd Sikhs and 5th Ghoorkas; east of the gorge, the wing of
the 23rd Pioneers; in Bemaru village, the Guides’ Cavalry and Infantry;
near the eastern wall, 100 men of the 28th Punjab Infantry and part of
the 67th Foot; in the barracks, on the south, the remainder of the 67th,
the 92nd, and the 72nd; and in the western wall the Sappers and Miners.
Dismounted cavalry are also employed at a few of the bastions and near
the gorge. The guns are moved from point to point as their fire is
wanted. To-day parties of cavalry were out, reconnoitring towards
Kohistan, in the direction of the Surkh Kotal; but beyond seeing a few
score men moving about, they reported nothing unusual. They did not come
under fire of the enemy. Our cavalry videttes take up a position on two
low hills, a mile beyond the north-western bastion, whence they can
watch the Aliabad and Nanuchi Kotals leading from Chardeh Valley, and
also warn us of the movements of the enemy along the road at the foot of
the Asmai hill from Deh-i-Afghan. No large bodies of Afghans could move
from this direction without the garrison having timely warning of their

[Illustration: Sherpur Cantonment]

Again to-day we had no heliographic communication with Luttabund, and
the position of General Charles Gough’s brigade is quite unknown to us.
We are calculating that he will be here by the 20th; but this is a
sanguine estimate, as the troops on the Khyber side are still weak in
their transport arrangements. He may be unable for a few days to
concentrate his troops at Jugdulluck preparatory to starting for Cabul;
but the exigency is so great, that we may reasonably hope great energy
will be shown in pushing on when once a start is made. He is to bring
with him the 9th Foot, the 2nd and 4th Ghoorkas, and a mountain battery;
and if the baggage is limited to the merest necessaries, the march
should be a rapid one. It is a heavy blow to our prestige to be forced
into Sherpur after having ruled Cabul for two months; and the sooner the
present humiliating state of affairs is changed, the better will it be
for our future control of the country. Our men are equal to bearing the
exposure of night work well enough under the influence of excitement;
but when the reaction comes, there will be a long list of hospital
cases, for, even with four blankets and an overcoat, a soldier cannot
but feel the effects of sleeping out in the open air. To-day has been
the coldest we have yet experienced, and the wind is very trying to the
sentries, who have to stand motionless at their posts, watching for the
enemy. If snow falls, the discomfort will be increased, and the men in
the trenches and bastions will have to bear great hardships.

                                                    _18th December._

Night attacks, which would cause us much trouble and seriously harass
our troops, do not seem to be advisable in the eyes of the Afghans. Not
even the Ghazis, who showed such courage on the 14th, can persuade their
friends to venture forth at night; and as the moon nightly gives more
and more light, we feel less anxious as we “turn in,” fully dressed, at
ten o’clock. Not that we relax our vigilance in the least: there is too
much at stake for this; but that we sleep sounder, now that for three
nights we have been left undisturbed. A sentry occasionally fires a
shot; but no sooner does the report ring out, than an officer visits the
post and personally sees if there are signs of danger. In the Reserve
below the gorge the officers of each regiment watch for an hour in turn;
and thus, in addition to the sentries, there are always eyes and ears
ready to detect anything unusual. Tents have been pitched for some of
the men to sleep in; but the majority roll themselves up in their
blankets and waterproof sheets, and rest as cheerfully as if within four
walls. The officers on duty on the walls sleep among their men, and are
called whenever suspicion is excited by moving objects outside, so that
a night surprise is impossible. The officers in charge of sections visit
their walls and trenches nightly, to see that all arrangements are
properly carried out; and General Roberts and his Staff sometimes make
the entire round of cantonments. If an enemy were besieging us in a
civilized manner, and pushing forward parallels and entrenchments, we
could not be more vigilant; and it is satisfactory in the extreme to see
the soldierlike bearing of all the troops engaged in the weary work of
keeping watch and ward over nearly five miles of defences. British and
native are fully alive to the serious duties they have to fulfil; and
down even to the dismounted Lancer, with his carbine ready for use,
doing the unwonted task of sentry-go in the trenches, there is not a man
who has not accepted cheerfully the hardships imposed upon him.

It was understood that to-day an attack would be made in earnest. The
_moollahs_ had been at their prayers in the early morning, and had
blessed innumerable flimsy standards which were to be planted on our
walls when their victorious followers had driven us from our defences.
There certainly was more appearance of resolution in the movements of
the enemy than has hitherto been the case. The small party in the
villages beyond the eastern wall had cleared out during the night, and a
demonstration in force was made from the south-western direction. Our
cavalry videttes on Siah Sung and the hills near the north-west bastion
gave us warning of the approach of several thousand men, who moved out
with their standards from the Jellalabad gate and Deh-i-Afghan, and took
up positions in the gardens and enclosures which cover the plain to the
north of the city. I have said that good cover for an attacking force
still remains in front of the southern wall and the south-west bastions,
and this was made use of by Mahomed Jan, to push his men well towards
Sherpur. The alarm was sounded in cantonments at eleven o’clock, as on
the previous day, and in a quarter of an hour we were ready for the
attack. A hot fire was begun from behind walls, watercourses, and
towers, upon the soldiers lining the walls of Sherpur, and we answered
it with our guns. Shells were dropped into the gardens where the enemy
were in most force, six guns of G-3 and F-A being taken out at the
north-west corner of the cantonment, and making good practice at 1,500
and 2,000 yards. Orders were given for no small-arm ammunition to be
wasted, and small volleys only were fired upon the men fully exposing
themselves. A few Ghazis worked from wall to wall, until within 400
yards of the corner bastion nearest Deh-i-Afghan, but they could do
nothing beyond planting their standards, for at that distance our
marksmen, with their Martinis, could scarcely fail to hit even so small
an object as a man’s head. Afghans are good skirmishers, and in the art
of taking cover they are almost unequalled; but there was an open space
between their advanced standards and the walls, which even a Ghazi would
not venture to cross. All that we could see were the flashes from their
rifles and _jhezails_ from loopholes in the enclosures and towers, or
from behind trees, ditches, and stones. Our shells were so effective,
that two or three bursting in a garden were enough to drive its
defenders to seek other protection; and as they passed from wall to
wall, they were shot down by our rifle-fire, which never grew wild or
irregular. Eight picked men out of the 72nd Highlanders firing a volley
at a signal from their officer accounted for six men out of ten who were
trying to reach a small isolated tower only 400 yards from the
south-west bastion; and their comrades near were so disheartened that
they left their standards, and crawled back several hundred yards.
Solitary Ghazis, walking in sheer bravado out of cover, were killed at
longer ranges, and all heart seemed to die out of the attacking party,
who could make no headway against such a deadly fire. For the greater
part of the day the enemy’s fire from the villages continued, and
bullets came singing over the walls into cantonments, making it
dangerous for any one to venture beyond the shelter of the barracks.
Spent bullets dropped a few yards over the roofs, and Lieutenant
Sunderland, of the 72nd, was struck on the foot and slightly wounded by
one of these. A _bhistee_ near head-quarters was hit in the chest, and
General Vaughan’s horse was wounded while standing picqueted near the
same spot. Every tree and every yard of wall outside Deh-i-Afghan and
Murad Khana, the northern part of Cabul, seemed to hide skirmishers; and
the rattle of musketry for several hours told of the continuous fire
they were keeping up. Not a man on Sherpur walls was hit, though narrow
escapes were numerous. General Roberts, with several members of his
Staff, was watching the movements of the enemy from the roof of the
head-quarters’ gate when a bullet passed just over the parapet and
struck the wall behind. The heliograph instrument on the same roof was
also hit. The Union Jack was flying just below, and it was believed that
this was taken as a target, as the shooting was so accurate. A score of
Mahomed Jan’s nondescript cavalry galloped along the road below the
Asmai hill, as if to cut off our videttes, but a few shells checked
them; while a small body of infantry, which tried to work round in the
same direction, were kept back by a few shots from the sowars’ carbines,
aided by a cross fire from twelve picked shots of the 5th Punjab
Infantry, snugly ensconced in the fields, behind a little _sungar_ 600
yards from the guns. These twelve men—six Afridis and six Dogras—also
prevented any stragglers from firing at the guns; and the coolness with
which they kept their post and fired upon 200 or 300 Afghans who tried
to dislodge them was admirable. In the afternoon the 67th Foot moved out
along the fields in front of the southern walls, and skirmished along
the enemy’s right flank, so as to draw their fire, and make them show
their real strength. They were also to examine the ground, and see if it
were possible for cavalry to work across. They lined such walls as gave
cover and drew a smart fire upon themselves, which they returned rather
too freely considering that ammunition is so valuable. There was not
time for them to clear the gardens and forts, so at sunset they returned
to their quarters, their withdrawal being the signal for the enemy to
follow their old tactics of creeping forward again to the positions they
had evacuated. The fire from the bastions was again effective in
covering the retirement, and the regiment reached cantonments without
any casualties. The King’s Garden had been occupied since the morning by
two companies of the 5th Punjab Infantry, Colonel Williams (commanding
5th Punjab Cavalry) having reported that it was easily defensible by
infantry. The Punjabees were withdrawn at the same time as the 67th
retired; two companies of the 3rd Sikhs, who had gone out to strengthen
the right flank of the 67th, keeping the enemy back while the garden was
evacuated. No sooner had the sepoys withdrawn than the garden was filled
with Afghans, who fired the quarters of the sowars, and amused
themselves by shrieking and howling about the place, as if they had
gained a great success. The 5th Punjab Cavalry have had all their
trouble for nothing: they had made themselves comfortable for the
winter, and had got in _bhoosa_ and firewood; and this is now either
burnt or carried away. In a village near Mahomed Sharif’s Fort are large
stores of forage, and this, also, will probably be looted.

To-day the sun shone out for a short time, and we were able to
heliograph to Luttabund, although the mist over the hills beyond Butkhak
was very dense. A message was received from Colonel Hudson, commanding
at Luttabund, reporting all well; he had not been attacked; Gough’s
brigade had not been seen, and it was supposed he was still at
Jugdulluck. General Roberts signalled back, ordering the brigade to
advance instantly, even if they had to leave their tents behind for want
of transport; but whether the signallers at Luttabund could read our
message, is not certain, as no answering flashes came back, heavy clouds
obscuring the sun over the distant _kotal_. It was signalled twice, so
that it might be understood, and we have but little doubt that it was
“read” correctly. It is now plain that our reinforcements will not be
here by the 20th, and we must wait patiently for another five or six

Snow began to fall at seven o’clock this evening, and it is still
steadily snowing now (midnight). At ten o’clock I visited the bastions
held by the 72nd Highlanders, and gained some idea of the work our men
are called upon to do. The sentries in their greatcoats were simply
white figures standing rigidly up like ghosts, the snow-flakes softly
covering them from head to foot, and freezing as they fell. Men on guard
in the bastions were walking briskly to and fro in their limited space
to keep themselves warm, and at their feet were their sleeping comrades,
covered with their waterproof sheets. A cold wind had been blowing in
the early part of the evening, and this had driven the flakes into every
crevice, and had caused several inches of snow to drift about the feet
of the sentries in the parapet. In the ditch below our horses were
tethered, and our syces and followers sleeping, the snow covering all
alike, and whitening the ground as far as the eye could reach. Inside
cantonments was one wide sheet of snowy brightness, the Bemaru Heights
rising up in the background and looming through the snowflakes like a
snowy barrier blocking us from the outer world. It was bitterly cold on
these heights, over which a cold wind nearly always blows; and we knew
that, hidden from our view, were 2,000 or 3,000 men sleeping at their
posts, with snow about them, every man ready to answer the first call of
his officer, stalking about among the sentries. Picquet duty under such
conditions is a real hardship; but with Balaclava caps and warm gloves
frost-bite is guarded against, and with the early morning comes hot soup
and cocoa, which cheers the men, and gives them heart to face the cold.
By order of the General, the Commissariat serve out, night and morning,
tinned soups and cocoa to all European soldiers; and it is fortunate
that a large supply of these stimulants—for such, indeed, they are in a
climate like this—reached us a few weeks ago. The small tins are easily
carried by the men, and all that is wanted is a cup of hot water to give
a “drink” with which rum cannot hope to compete. The sepoys and sowars
of the native regiments are not forgotten, additional comforts being
served out to them; and they are cheery as their English comrades,
though the snow is far more trying to men from a tropical climate.

Our wounded generally are doing well, though one trooper of the 9th
Lancers, who was injured by his horse being killed in a charge, has
died. Colonel Cleland, the Colonel of the same regiment, who was wounded
in the disastrous affair of the 11th, is pronounced out of danger; while
Lieutenant Egerton, shot through the neck on the 14th, is walking about
again, though still on the sick list. I am sorry to say that Major Cook,
V.C., 5th Ghoorkas, is dying, mortification having set in from the wound
he received below the knee on the Bala Hissar Heights. His brother,
Lieutenant Cook, of the 3rd Sikhs, who was wounded in Chardeh, is
rapidly recovering.


                             CHAPTER XVIII.

The Siege of Sherpur continued—General Baker’s Attack upon Kila Mir
    Akhor—Destruction of the Fort—Telegraphic and Heliographic
    Arrangements in Sherpur—News from Luttabund—Despatch of a Convoy to
    Colonel Hudson—Movements of the Enemy at the Butkhak Road—Want of
    Military Knowledge among the Afghans—Dissensions in their
    Ranks—Mahomed Jan offers Terms—Heavy Guns got into Position in
    Sherpur—Bombardment of Kila Mahomed Sharif—Failure to dislodge the
    Enemy—Arrival of General Charles Gough’s Brigade at Sei Baba—Night
    March of the 12th Bengal Cavalry to Luttabund—Occupation of Villages
    East of Sherpur by the Enemy—Trustworthy News of a contemplated
    Attack—The Preparations to resist an Assault—The Attack of December
    23rd—Repulse of the First Attack on the Eastern Trenches—The Attack
    renewed—Dispersion of the Enemy—Cavalry Pursuit—Deaths of Captain
    Dundas, V.C., and Lieutenant Nugent, R.E.—General Charles Gough at
    the Logar Bridge—Return of Casualties.

                                           SHERPUR, _19th December_.

The enemy during the night occupied two strong forts a few hundred yards
beyond the eastern wall, and were in such numbers that their fire
annoyed us in that direction. Near the 28th N.I. lines is a high walled
enclosure, in which sick and wounded sepoys are placed; and in front of
this again, outside the lines, is a small fort in which fifty men, of
the 67th Foot, under Captain Smith, had been stationed during the night
as an advanced post. The fort nearest to them in possession of the enemy
is known as Kila Mir Akhor, named after the Afghan Master of the Horse,
and to-day General Baker was ordered to destroy this. He took with him
400 of the 67th, under Major Kingsley, 400 of the 3rd Sikhs under
Colonel Money, the 5th Punjab Cavalry, two mountain guns of Swinley’s
Battery, and a party of Sappers and Miners. These moved out about eight
o’clock; but the morning was so misty after last night’s fall of snow,
that nothing could be seen twenty yards away. A wall of mist shut out
the view on every side, and it was difficult to feel the enemy and to
test their strength. Just as the guns were being got into action, a
terrific fire from the two forts held by the Afghans was opened upon
General Baker, and several men fell wounded. Lieutenant Montenaro, of
the Mountain Battery, was laying a gun when a bullet struck him in the
chest and lodged in the spine, inflicting a mortal wound. General Baker
moved back the 67th in rear of the fort occupied by Captain Smith, to
act as a reserve, and extended the 3rd Sikhs in skirmishing order
through the orchards to open fire upon Kila Mir Akhor. The guns tried to
get round on the left, but found no position to suit them in the
orchards, and it was then reported that the fort was commanded from the
south-eastern bastion. They were moved into this bastion, and, aided by
two guns of F-A, shelled the place for some time. Covered by this fire,
the 67th advanced to see if the fort were still held, as the fire from
it had slackened. As they were not fired upon, the Sappers, under
Lieutenants Nugent and Murdoch, pushed on with powder bags and got
within the walls, which were surrounded by Major Kingsley and his men.
The towers were mined and blown up, and the buildings set on fire. The
enemy still held the further fort, which was of great strength, with
walls 30 feet high, and beyond some skirmishers of the 67th checking the
fire from its towers, it was left untouched. The enemy were crowded
within it, and were reinforced by men from the Siah Sung Heights. Our
cavalry and a company of the 67th kept a sharp look-out on General
Baker’s left flank in the Kohistan direction, while the towers and
bastions were being blown up, and Kila Mir Akhor having been destroyed,
the force returned to cantonments. This kind of work is full of danger,
as the Afghans make good shooting from loop-holes and behind orchard
walls; and in this skirmish we had six of the 67th and six of the 3rd
Sikhs wounded, besides Lieutenant Montenaro fatally hit.

There was again to-day constant firing at the walls by detached parties
of the enemy, and several casualties occurred—horses, ponies, and
camp-followers being hit. Our men do not answer the fire, except when
certain of their aim, as one rifle discharged from the walls is the
signal for twenty answering shots. The bullets go wide of their mark and
drop into cantonments, doing, as I have said, some damage. A trooper of
the 9th Lancers, while in the open, was badly hit in the chest; and one
of the 3rd Sikhs, while on the Bemaru Heights, was also struck. The
bullet was from a Snider rifle, and must have travelled 1,500 or 1,700
yards. The Ardal Pultun was running short of Snider ammunition, and the
irregulars with them are equally short of lead. Slugs made of telegraph
wire, revolver bullets, and, in some cases, even cartridges have been
picked up within the walls. They were probably fired from Enfields,
smooth-bores, or _jhezails_. They would make an ugly wound at short
ranges, but they are mostly spent by the time they reach us.

Though we are cut off entirely from the outer world, our internal means
of communication are perfect. The heliograph works from the
head-quarters’ gateway to the eastern end of Bemaru, and telegraph
offices have been opened about cantonments by Mr. Luke and Mr. Kirk in
charge of the line. There is plenty of wire left even after so many
hundreds yards have been used for entanglements, and branch lines have
been laid from the chief office to the more distant quarters. General
Roberts is thus kept informed of all that is going on, and much orderly
work is saved by these means. Orders can he transmitted to General
Macpherson and Colonel Jenkins in a few seconds, and troops warned for
duty without the least delay. At night, lamps are used for heliographic
signalling from the gateways and the heights whereon there are no
telegraph offices; and though the light draws fire occasionally, the
signallers have not yet been hit. Such of the cavalry as were picqueted
in the open have been moved nearer to the line of barracks, so as to be
out of fire, and there is now an open _maidan_ where, a month ago, our
tents covered the ground. The ordnance stores have also been moved to a
safer spot than that formerly occupied, in rear of General Baker’s
garden, and the office tents and post-office near head-quarters have
been repitched on safer ground. There have been so many bullets singing
about that away from the shelter of the walls there was positive danger
in walking from point to point. On the northern line, the Bemaru
Heights, no shots have been fired, as the enemy cannot get within range
without laying themselves open to being cut off in the plain beyond by
our cavalry.

We have heard from Luttabund to-day that none of the special messengers,
conveying letters and telegrams, has reached there since the 15th. We
are afraid after this to entrust important letters to the messengers,
who may have taken them to the enemy, or been captured on the road to
Luttabund. Beyond keeping a diary of events, such as I am now writing,
nothing can be done; and it is hardly likely that beyond the mere fact
of being invested and of stray shooting at the walls there will be
anything left to chronicle for a few days.

Major Cook, V.C., as good a soldier as ever served, and a universal
favourite in the force, died this evening. Lieutenant Montenaro still
lives, but paralysis has declared itself, and his death must be a matter
of a few hours. Our loss of officers is painfully great, and the total
casualties of all ranks since December 10th must now be nearly 300. The
9th Lancers have been the worst sufferers: they have lost three officers
killed and four wounded, and twenty-one men killed and seventeen
wounded, or forty-eight casualties in their ranks. The 5th Punjab
Cavalry is the only regiment whose officers have escaped scot-free
during the five days’ fighting, from the 10th to the 14th.

                                                    _20th December._

Waiting for the attack has grown so terribly monotonous, that we daily
curse the tactics pursued by Mahomed Jan, who only sends out 200 or 300
sharp-shooters to blaze away their ammunition at our sentries. It has
become so apparent that no real assault is likely soon to take place,
that we are half-inclined to go out and deal with the enemy. But,
fortunately for them, they are in Cabul, and street fighting with our
small force would be almost a useless sacrifice of life. We could burn
the city down certainly; but there are political considerations which
tie our hands, as to destroy Cabul means much more than burning so many
thousand houses. We have still no news of General Gough’s brigade,
although the 20th has come and gone, and now even the most sanguine
among us do not expect the investment to be at an end till Christmas
Day. Our little garrison at Luttabund has had a small fight of its own,
but has come well out of the scrimmage, having killed fifty of the
assailants. Mahomed Jan is afraid to split up his force, or he would
before this have detached 5,000 or 6,000 men to hold Butkhak, and
advance thence to carry the Luttabund Kotal. It is the presence of our
troops at Luttabund and Jugdulluck which has no doubt kept the Tezin
Ghilzais in check; and as Asmatullah Khan seems to be quietly waiting in
the Lughman Valley for further news of Afghan successes, the march of
our reinforcements should be made without a shot being fired—at least as
far as Luttabund. A small convoy of _yaboos_, in charge of their Hazara
drivers, carrying food to Colonel Hudson, was sent from Sherpur last
night, and reached Luttabund safely. Another will be sent to night; but
as parties of the enemy have been seen taking the road to Butkhak, it is
not unlikely that it will be intercepted. The Hazaras are very plucky;
they go out willingly for a small reward, and we are now using a few of
them to carry letters and despatches. They pass out of the north-west
corner, make for the border of the lake, and thence work along the
northern edge of the plain between Sherpur and Butkhak, avoiding the
latter place as much as possible. We are anxious as to the safety of the
bridge over the Logar river, halfway to Butkhak. It is believed at
present to be intact; and unless it is very thoroughly blown up, its
strong masonry piers and arches can be easily repaired. Luckily, we are
not fighting an enemy with many resources. There is no one from Mahomed
Jan downwards who understands, in the first place, how to make an
investment really worthy of the name. To deal with walls such as we have
to defend, the only mode to harass the garrison successfully is to
concentrate an enfilading fire so as to sweep the parapet. We have not
had time to make traverses of sand-bags on the bastions or walls; and
our men would suffer greatly if the bullets, instead of passing
harmlessly over the parapet at right-angles, were directed so as to rake
it from gate to gate. If the enemy threw up earthworks during the night
at some distance from the corner bastions, and fired in a line parallel
to the ditch, they could not fail to do some mischief. As it is, not a
man on the walls has yet been wounded, and our answering volleys, when
fired, have always been effective. Four men out in the open were shot
down by one volley from the marksmen at the south-west bastion, the
range being 450 yards. A Martini rifle, resting in a neatly-cut channel
on the parapet, is, in the hands of cool, collected soldiers, a most
deadly weapon at these short ranges; and as no one is allowed to fire
without an officer’s permission, the shooting is nearly always good. One
of the many rumours from the city was that powder-bags were to be
brought to blow in the gates. In only one case, at head-quarters, has an
attempt been made by us to permanently close the gateways. There is a
strong guard at each, and the open space is usually blockaded with
Afghan ammunition waggons, strong _abattis_ outside being so arranged as
to check a rush. On either side of the waggons, which can be easily
drawn away when troops are sent out, are low walls built up of
flour-bags, from behind which ten or twelve men can command the entrance
if it comes to close fighting. At the head-quarters’ gate strong doors
have been placed on hinges let into the wooden supports to the mud wall
on either side, and gun carriages are closely jammed against these.
Twelve picked men are on duty day and night on the wall commanding the
entrance, and their orders are to reserve their fire until the enemy
with their powder-bags are within twenty yards of the gateway. A strong
wooden platform, with a parapet of sand-bags, stretches from wall to
wall six feet above the gun-carriages, and this post is entrusted to the
care of the thirty Ghoorkas who came up with Sir Michael Kennedy as
escort. Even if the door were blown in, the ghazis at the head of a
storming party would have to face a heavy fire from above, which they
could not return while clambering over the barricade. This gateway would
probably be the one first assailed, as the Afghans know quite well that
General Roberts and his Staff have their quarters within it.

Some of our spies state that the men now holding Cabul have seriously
contemplated an assault; but that their ranks are split up by quarrels
as to the right of tribal sections to appoint a new Amir. Old
Mushk-i-Alam still continues to prophesy that a repetition of the
victory of 1841-42 is sure to come to pass; and, as a first step towards
this, Mahomed Jan has had the coolness to “open negotiations.” One would
be inclined to look upon his self-assurance as ludicrous, were it not
that he has the gratification of seeing us shut up in Sherpur, as if at
his mercy. The propositions offered are of such a “mixed” order that
they seem, at first sight, scarcely serious. One is that we should at
once retire to India, after having entered into an agreement to send
Yakub Khan back to Cabul in the state befitting an Amir; and we are to
leave two British officers of distinction as hostages for the faithful
carrying out of our contract. Another is made on behalf of the
Kohistanis, who offer to accept Wali Mahomed as Amir, if we will march
away without concerning ourselves further with Afghan matters. The
leaders, who have been bold enough to make these proposals, think,
perhaps, that we are as weak as our unfortunate army thirty-eight years
ago, and that by frightening us into concessions they will be able to
cut us up in detail as we toil back to Peshawar. As all the advantages
of arms, equipment, and ample supplies are now on our side, we only
laugh at the terms so considerately offered. “We have a lakh of men:
they are like dogs eager to rush on their prey! We cannot much longer
control them!” is said to have been one of the messages sent to shake
our faith in our own strength; but such absurd vapouring is taken at its
real value, and contemptuously passed over. Yet a few days, and we shall
have 6,000 men hammering at the gates of Cabul; and unless our soldiers
belie themselves, there will be a great revenge taken for the
humiliation our army has had to endure. The idea of creating a new Amir
has turned the heads of our foes to an extent that is absurd when it is
remembered that they are merely in Cabul on sufferance for a few days
until our reinforcements come up. The Kohistanis, who have nominated
Wali Mahomed, are at loggerheads with the Ghilzais from Logar and
Wardak, who wish to put Yakub Khan’s son, young Musa Jan, on the throne.
They are politicians enough to know that Yakub himself will never he
sent back as ruler of Afghanistan, and nothing would suit them better
than to have an infant as Amir, and their own chiefs as a Council of
Regency. Such a government would be on lines which would give full scope
to ambitious men, and the country would be plundered for the benefit of
the Ghilzais and their friends. In this wrangling about the Amirship,
the more warlike work, ready at hand, is forgotten, though the more
fanatical have held councils of war and told off leaders to various
sections which are to assault Sherpur at a given signal. There is,
however, but little attention paid by the rank and file to the commands
of their leaders; and though when a ghazi rushes upon his death, a
handful of desperate men will follow him, the great majority hang back
when they see the task before them.

The firing into cantonments to-day was of the usual desultory kind, and
our mountain guns pitched a few shells into such gardens as contained
fairly large bodies of men. Two Highlanders were wounded while on
picquet duty at the line of entrenchment from the commissariat godowns
to the Bemaru gorge. Kila Mahomed Sharif, so well known during the
disastrous winter of 1841, still stands near the site of our old
cantonments between Sherpur and the Cabul river, overlooking the road
from the Bala Hissar. From this fort, which is only 700 yards from the
72nd Gateway, men fired at the southern wall all day, while others could
be seen, with rifles slung across their backs, superintending the
carrying away of the _bhoosa_ stored by the 5th Punjab Cavalry in a
village near for winter consumption. Hazara coolies were made to do this
work, and also to dismantle the cavalry quarters in the “King’s Garden,”
which, as before stated, we have abandoned. This morning three
18-pounders and an 8-inch howitzer, part of the siege train given to
Shere Ali by the Indian Government, were got into position on the
bastions east and west of the 72nd Gateway, and to-morrow these will
open upon Kila Mahomed Sharif and the villages in rear. We want
40-pounders at least to batter down the thick walls of the fort; but
still the heavy guns now ready to be fired will probably have a good
effect upon the enemy. Round shot will be used for these 18-pounders,
and bits of iron, bullets, &c., have been sewn up in canvas to serve as
canister if the enemy make any demonstration in force. There was no
difficulty in getting the guns and howitzer up the bastions, twenty or
thirty men at the drag-ropes moving them easily into position. It is
strange that guns which were given to Shere Ali as a reward for his
fidelity to the British should now be turned against the Afghans, who
have shown themselves unable to appreciate the value of an alliance with
India. Now that the siege train has returned to our possession we shall,
perhaps, be less confiding in handing over munitions of war to a nation
which has treated us so treacherously.

Beyond throwing out our usual cavalry videttes, we have done nothing
to-day to show the enemy we are on the alert. The cavalry have been
terribly hard worked since the 10th, and horses and men have suffered in
consequence. At one period the saddles were never taken off the horses
of the 5th Punjab Cavalry for sixty hours, and the other regiments have
been nearly in the same condition. Lieutenant Montenaro died this
evening from the effect of the wound received yesterday. This makes the
tenth officer we have lost in as many days, and there are still eleven
others under treatment for wounds.

                                                    _21st December._

The three 18-pounders and the howitzer opened fire about ten o’clock
this morning upon Kila Mahomed Sharif, and fired round-shot and shell at
its walls and the village in rear, where the enemy mustered in strength.
The bombardment was so far successful that the fire from the fort at our
walls ceased; but the thick walls were too strong to be battered down by
anything under a 40-pounder; unless, indeed, our guns had been kept
playing upon it for two or three days. After three or four hours’
incessant firing, a party of the 5th Punjabees went out, accompanied by
Major Hanna, of the Quartermaster-General’s Department, to examine the
place, and see if the enemy had really withdrawn. It was soon found that
they were only hiding themselves from the shot and shell; and when the
Punjabees got in the open, the Afghans rushed back to their positions
and re-opened fire. They used the holes made in the walls by the
round-shot as loop-holes, and it must be confessed they were admirably
adapted for the purpose. All day long bullets have been dropping over
the walls, and five soldiers and several camp-followers have been
wounded. The tactics of the enemy are annoying, as they withdraw at the
first sign of our men moving out, and return again as soon as we retire.
Two or three of their marksmen are daily posted to the same points, and
blaze away steadily at any one incautiously peeping over the parapet.
Our men quietly sit down inside, smoke their pipes, and laugh at the
bullets. A few watch the movements of the sharp-shooters; and as soon as
they show in the open, a volley from four or five Martinis is fired,
generally killing one or two men. One of the Afghan modes of skirmishing
is for a few men to get in rear of a wall, cut holes through the bottom
a few inches above the ground, dig another grave-like hole in which to
lie down flat, and then to fire their pieces from their loop-hole. The
effect is very singular: the flashes seem to leap out of the ground
itself, and when a score of men are firing, the bottom of the wall
bristles with flame. This manner of firing gives greater steadiness of
aim, and is far safer than resting the rifle on the wall-top, or
thrusting it through a slit cut half-way up. This afternoon the enemy
showed in large numbers in the orchards about Deh-i-Afghan, and were
plainly trying to skirmish round towards the north-west gap between the
walls and the Bemaru Heights. General Hills commanding at that corner
sent out a party of the 5th Punjab Infantry and 3rd Sikhs to occupy some
low hills half a mile from the north-west bastion; and these were enough
to intimidate the enemy, although we never fired a shot from our rifles.
The guns shelled the orchards, and, at dusk, the usual retirement of the
Afghans to the city followed. The Sikhs and the Punjabees were then
withdrawn to their lines, and all made snug for the night. We have
materially lessened the number of men on the walls and bastions to-day,
as the duties are so severe, but everything is held in readiness to
repulse an assault at a few minutes’ notice. As the Martini ammunition
is rather short, Sniders are served out to the Europeans behind the
parapets at night. We have plenty of Snider cartridges, as a large
quantity was captured in the Bala Hissar.

To-day heliograms were exchanged with Luttabund, and news was received
from General Hugh Gough, who is at Sei Baba with 1,400 men and four
mountain guns. He will reach here on the 24th at the latest, and then we
shall be able to turn the tables on Mahomed Jan and his 30,000 or 40,000
men. Our second convoy of _yaboos_ to Luttabund was cut off, only four
ponies out of fifty reaching Colonel Hudson safely. The villagers _en
route_ are believed to have killed the Hazara men in charge. The 12th
Bengal Cavalry start to-night for Butkhak, whence they will join General
Gough’s force. This is the first sign of the approaching termination of
the siege.

The Lieutenant-General commanding has published the following Divisional
Order, expressing regret at the death of Major Cook, V.C., 5th
Ghoorkas:—“It is with deep regret the Lieutenant-General announces to
the Cabul Field Force the death, from a wound received on the 12th of
December, of Major John Cook, V.C., 5th Ghoorkas. While yet a young
officer, Major Cook served at Umbeyla in 1868, where he distinguished
himself; and in the Black Mountain campaign in 1868. Joining the Kurram
Field Force on its formation, Major Cook was present at the capture of
the Peiwar Kotal: his conduct on that occasion earning for him the
admiration of the whole force, and the Victoria Cross. In the return in
the Monghyr Pass, he again brought himself prominently to notice by his
cool and gallant bearing. In the capture of the heights at
Sang-i-Nawishta, Major Cook again distinguished himself; and in the
attack on the Takht-i-Shah Peak, on the 12th December, he ended a noble
career in a manner worthy even of his great name for bravery. By Major
Cook’s death Her Majesty has lost the services of an officer who would,
had he been spared, have risen to the highest honours of his profession,
and Sir F. Roberts feels sure the whole Cabul Field Force will share in
the pain his loss has occasioned him.”

                                                    _22nd December._

We have been left almost undisturbed to-day, and it has been hard to
believe we are really in a state of siege. Scarcely a shot was fired at
the walls until the evening; but our spies bring in news that Mahomed
Jan is reserving his strength for an attack, which shall be final. He
has heard, no doubt, of General Gough’s approach, and is wise enough to
know that his opportunity is fast slipping away. The advance-guard of
our reinforcements is now at Luttabund; and the fact of the 12th Bengal
Cavalry going out from Sherpur last night must have shown him that we
are once more equal to sending troops down our old line of
communication. The 12th Bengal Cavalry had a fearful journey outwards.
On passing Kila Mahomed Sharif, on their way to the Cabul bridge, they
were fired upon by a picquet, and, the alarm being given, the enemy
turned out and blocked the way. The cavalry turned off from the road,
and struck the river lower down. The water was not very deep, but the
banks were steep and slippery, and men and horses fell backwards as they
tried to climb up the further bank. It cost two hours to ford the river,
the last squadron having to dismount in the stream, crawl up the bank,
and drag their horses after them. The sowars were wet through, and two
or three horses were drowned. Once over, the road to Butkhak was taken,
and from every village on the road turned out a few men, who fired upon
the horsemen. They, perhaps, mistook them for another convoy of
_yaboos_. The dismounted men had to be left to return to Sherpur, under
cover of the darkness. Upon nearing Butkhak, a patrol was sent out; and
as it was then near daybreak, they could see men moving about the
village. The place was occupied by several hundred Afghans, who opened
fire upon the cavalry. The latter could not stay to fight; and Major
Green, in command, knowing how impossible it was to return to
cantonments, resolved to push on to Luttabund. One sowar was shot dead
and three others wounded; and the enemy followed so closely that a
squadron was dismounted and ordered to skirmish out with their carbines.
This gave time for all stragglers to be got together again, and in a
short time the skirmishers were recalled and the whole regiment trotted
off to Luttabund. Twelve men were missing, but ten have since reported
themselves at Sherpur. They disguised themselves by altering their
uniform, and then hid away in nullahs until evening, when they crept out
and made a wide _détour_ to the north until they reached the open plain
between the Wazirabad Lake and the Bemaru Hills. Their horses and
accoutrements were lost. The enemy have occupied the village of Khoja
Durwesh, about three miles to the east of Sherpur, and are reported to
be collecting in force in the forts between Bemaru and this village.
They are probably Kohistanis, who have taken the precaution of securing
their line of retreat in case of defeat.

Sunjub, a trustworthy retainer of Ibrahim Khan, a ressaldar of native
cavalry in our service, has come in from Cabul and reported that Mahomed
Jan and the other chiefs have at last made up their minds to assault
Sherpur. The fighting men in Cabul have been told off to various
sections of attack, and the signal for the assault is to be the kindling
of a beacon fire of damp gunpowder, oil, &c., on the Asmai hill.
Forty-five scaling-ladders have been given to 2,000 men stationed in the
King’s Garden, and Kila Mahomed Sharif, and a demonstration with these
is to be made against the southern wall near its western end. This is to
be a false attack. The real assault is to be delivered upon the Bemaru
village and the eastern trenches; but in case of this assault
succeeding, an attempt, in earnest, is to be made to scale the wall near
the 72nd Gateway. We have made our dispositions accordingly, and the
Reserve will assemble below the Bemaru gorge, at four o’clock to-morrow
morning. The Asmai hill will be watched by many eyes, and when the
beacon light is seen we shall all be ready at our posts. A message has
been sent to General Charles Gough, ordering him to march to Sherpur
to-morrow instead of halting at Butkhak.

                                                    _23rd December._

After eight days’ investment Mahomed Jan has at last made his attack
upon Sherpur, and has been beaten off with ridiculous ease, though
nearly 20,000 men must have been sent to take part in the assault. Our
casualties have been very small, and but for an unfortunate accident, by
which two engineer officers were killed by the premature explosion of a
mine, the day has been one of perfect success. The tribal combination
may be looked upon as broken up, for Kohistanis, Logaris, and Wardaks
are reported on their way, in haste, homewards, and our reinforcements
are encamped within five miles of Sherpur. The news brought in last
evening turned out correct to the letter. From four o’clock this morning
nearly all eyes were turned upon the Asmai Peak, and even before the
signal light appeared, sharp firing was heard near the King’s Garden and
the Fort of Mahomed Sharif. Our sentries on the walls in that direction
had been strengthened, but they did not answer the fire, as it was
desirable to get the enemy well within range by encouraging them in the
belief that we were not on the alert. Our men fell silently into their
places; two mountain guns had been placed below the block-house on the
eastern end of the Bemaru Heights, the reserves were standing to their
arms, and the officers in charge of the sections of defence were all at
their posts. At half-past five there was seen on the Asmai Height a
little flash of fire, which in a moment grew to a bright glare, and
streamed up into the air until it must have been seen by all the country
round. For a few moments it burned brightly, as if fed with oil or
inflammable matter, and then died away. As it flashed out, a continuous
fire was opened below the bastions on either side of the 72nd Gateway,
the flashes from the rifles and matchlocks showing that a large body of
men had crept up within 200 yards. The bullets whistled harmlessly over
the walls and barracks, our men still remaining quiet; as, in the
semi-darkness and with the mist still hanging over the fields, nothing
could be seen distinctly 100 yards away. We were waiting for the
development of the real attack, and shortly before six o’clock it came.
From beyond Bemaru and the eastern trenches and walls came a roar of
voices so loud and menacing that it seemed as if an army 50,000 strong
were charging down upon our thin line of men. Led by their ghazis, the
main body of Afghans hidden in the villages and orchards on the eastern
side of Sherpur, had rushed out in one dense mob and filled the air with
their cry of “_Allah-il-Allah!_” The roar surged forward as their line
advanced, but it was answered by such a roll of musketry that it was
drowned for an instant, and then merged into the general din, which told
us that our men with Martinis and Sniders were holding their own against
the attacking force. For ten minutes the roar was continuous, and then
the musketry fire dwindled down to occasional volleys and scattered
shots from the south-eastern bastion to the Bemaru Heights, where the
mountain guns were waiting for daylight before opening fire. The eastern
defences were in charge of Brigadier-General Hugh Gough at the eastern
end of the heights, and Colonel Jenkins of the Guides from the trenches
on the slopes of the hill to the corner bastion facing Siah Sung. The
troops defending the position were the Guides’ Infantry in the trenches
about Bemaru, 100 men of the 28th P.I. in the native hospital, and 67th
Foot. The latter were reinforced by two companies of the 92nd
Highlanders from the Reserve. When the attack was made, it was still so
dark and misty that little could be seen in front of the trenches, and
the orders were to reserve fire until the advancing masses of Afghans
could be clearly made out. Then the men of the 28th were the first to
open fire, and they fired volley after volley at such long ranges that
they effectually scared away even the ghazis from their neighbourhood.
That the fire was not otherwise effective was proved by only one dead
body being found afterwards in front of their lines. General Hugh Gough
from the hillside, hearing such a tremendous fusillade below, fired
star-shells, which burst in the air and showed the attacking force in
the fields and orchards nearly 1,000 yards away. The Afghans opened fire
in turn, but their shooting was wild and ineffective, though the bullets
dropped dangerously about cantonments. The native hospital seemed the
point towards which the enemy worked, taking it perhaps as a landmark to
guide them; but their right flank was directed towards Bemaru and the
trenches on the slopes of the hill. The Guides joined in the fusillade,
and the attack was broken while yet the advanced ghazis were 500 or 600
yards away. Sniders at that distance told with precision, and to make
headway against them was impossible. The bullets searched every yard of
open ground, and made even the orchards almost untenable. To the right
of the sepoys of the 28th were the 67th and the 92nd Highlanders,
waiting with characteristic discipline the order to fire. Through the
mist at last appeared a dense mass of men waving swords and knives,
shouting their war-cry, and firing incessantly as they advanced. The
order came at last for our soldiers to open fire, and the Afghans were
then so close that the volleys told with murderous effect. Some of the
ghazis were shot within 80 yards of our rifles, so patiently was the
attack awaited; while thirty bodies were counted afterwards well within
200 yards’ range. The attack collapsed as suddenly as it had begun, the
Afghans saw what execution men in trenches and behind parapets can do
with breech-loaders in their hands, and they took cover behind walls and
trees, from whence they expended thousands of cartridges, doing us but
little damage. Our ammunition was too precious to be needlessly wasted,
and only when clusters of men got within range were volleys fired to
scatter them. As day broke the two mountain guns, with an 18-pounder and
two of F-A Battery in the corner bastion, shelled the villages and
orchards, and it was believed that the ghazis were too disheartened to
try a second assault. About eleven o’clock, however, after five hours’
skirmishing, they succeeded in getting a few thousand of their more
desperate followers together, and tried again to assault our lines. They
were driven back more quickly than on the first occasion; and could,
indeed, scarcely be said to have advanced 100 yards in their rude
formation of attack. Shortly after this they began to waver and to
slacken their fire, and when their scouts reported, as no doubt was the
case, that a new force was crossing the Logar river, they became a
demoralised mob bent upon seeking safety at the earliest opportunity.

General Charles Gough had left Luttabund in the early morning, and upon
arriving at Butkhak had been able to communicate by heliograph with
General Roberts. The heliograph flashing away to the east in the Cabul
plain must have warned Mahomed Jan of the near approach of our
reinforcements, and the clouds of dust rising between Butkhak and the
Logar river showed him that troops were moving onwards, and would
perhaps take him in rear. In any case the villages east of Sherpur were,
in two or three hours, nearly empty of men; the plain beyond was covered
with Afghans streaming towards Siah Sung and Cabul. The Kohistani
section, to the number of fully 5,000, went away to the north,
homewards, taking their women, whom they had brought down, to witness
their triumph, with them. It was now our turn to attack instead of being
attacked. The guns shelled the fields wherever parties of men were
within range; two guns of F-A and an 18-pounder making grand practice at
so close a range as 300 yards; and the cavalry were sent out by way of
the Bemaru gorge to cut up the fugitives. First of all went the 5th P.C.
with four guns of G-3, R.A., which shelled the villages near Bemaru. By
one o’clock the enemy were completely broken. The 5th P.C. were
fortunate to get among a detached body on the north side of the lake.
When their first charge was over, thirty Afghans were lying dead on the
plain. The 9th Lancers joined them, and soon our horsemen were charging
over the Siah Sung slopes. The main body of the enemy had got well away
to the city, but all stragglers were hunted down in the nullahs in which
they took shelter, and then despatched. Two or three lancers or sowars
were told off to each straggler, and the men, dismounting, used their
carbines when the unlucky Afghan had been hemmed in. Following in the
wake of the 9th Lancers and the 5th Punjab Cavalry came the Sappers,
with every engineer officer in camp, their orders being to blow up and
burn all the villages and forts lately occupied by the enemy. The
cavalry had cleared the fields and open ground of all Afghans, but in
the villages some fanatics remained, and these, fastening themselves up
securely in houses or towers, were blown up by the mines laid by the
engineers. Lieutenant Murdoch had a very narrow escape. Entering a
fortified village he kicked open the door of a house, and was greeted
with a volley from three or four men inside. He was wounded in the neck,
but not dangerously, and as the Afghans refused to surrender, the
blasting charge was laid near the house, and they were killed when the
mine was fired. A sad accident occurred in another fort. Captain Dundas,
V.C., and Lieutenant Nugent, Royal Engineers, had constructed three
mines which were to destroy the walls and towers; and all being ready
they went back to light the fuses. The sappers were drawn up outside
under their European non-commissioned officer, and noticed that two of
the mines exploded almost instantly. Their officers were still within
the walls, and when the dust and smoke cleared away, they were still
missing. Search was made, and the bodies of Captain Dundas and
Lieutenant Nugent were found lying under the _débris_. Both officers
were dead. It is conjectured that the time-fuses, instead of burning
slowly, flared up like a train of powder, and that the mines exploded a
few seconds after the fuses were lighted. We have thus lost two good
officers by an accident which might have been prevented if the equipment
of the Sappers had not been cut down by the parsimony of the Government.
So few fuses were sent up from India when the force advanced upon Cabul
that the engineers had to make others, and these were of course
defective. It was two of these which were being used when the explosion
occurred. While the cavalry were covering the operations of the Sappers,
several thousand men marched from the Bala Hissar and opened fire upon
the 9th Lancers and the 5th Punjab Cavalry on Siah Sung. Several men
were hit, and Captain Gambier, of the 5th Punjab Cavalry, was wounded by
a bullet passing through his thigh. The Cavalry withdrew under the heavy
fire directed against them, and for a few hours the Afghans remained on
the heights with banners planted. They retired to the city at nightfall,
and all the villages between Sherpur and Cabul are now quite deserted.

While the attack was being made on the eastern defences, three or four
thousand men had kept up an incessant fire at the southern wall, and
such a rain of bullets fell about the Commissariat and 72nd Gates that
many of our camp-followers in cantonments were wounded. Kila Mahomed
Sharif and the King’s Garden were full of Afghans, and two 18-pounders
and two mountain guns shelled them until late in the afternoon, while
the marksmen behind the walls shot down such men as retreated across the
open. Dead bodies were seen lying in the fields, and two or three
scaling-ladders, so heavy that six men would have been needed to carry
them, were scattered about on the ground less than a thousand yards
away. When the Afghans on the southern side saw our cavalry sweeping
over Siah Sung, they began to retire hastily to the city, and as they
crossed the road 1,000 yards away from our bastions, they were fired at
from the 72nd Gateway, and many were seen to fall even at that distance.
The men who stopped to carry off the dead behaved in the coolest way,
one Afghan returning again and again to drag off the bodies of his
comrades. Earlier in the day four men were killed by a volley at 600
yards, and two or three who escaped tried to face the bullets which
swept the ground about their dead. Finding it was certain death to
appear in the open, they crawled behind a wall, and with a long crooked
stick dragged their dead away. Several of the best marksmen of Mahomed
Jan, who had come daily to the same posts and fired persistently at the
ramparts, were shot to-day, our men having at last got the exact ranges.
The waste of ammunition on the part of the enemy was enormous; they knew
perhaps that it was their last chance, and they fired round after round
all day long.

From the ladders found in the fields there can be no doubt the feint on
the southern side of Sherpur would have become a real attack if the
eastern line of defences had been forced; but the scaling ladders were
only high enough to reach half-way up the wall, and the assaulting party
could never have gained the parapet. We should have been well satisfied
if they had come on, as their punishment would have been fearfully
severe. On the south-west and west no attack was made: a few hundred men
from Deh-i-Afghan occupied our vidette-hill towards the lake, and
planted a white standard on the crest, but they never fired a shot, and
a few shells in the evening warned them to retire, which they did about
five o’clock. A few standards were also placed in the fields to the
west, but the ghazis with them hid themselves behind little _sungars_
they had thrown up, and did not annoy us at all. The northern line of
trenches along Bemaru Heights were never assailed, the steep hillside
facing Kohistan being clear of cover; and though, once, it was expected
that the gorge would be attacked, and guns were ordered up to the
trenches there, the appearance of the 5th P.C. on the _maidan_ below
checked such of the enemy as were working round from the village north
of Bemaru. In fact, after the first unsuccessful attack, the enemy did
not know what to do, and though their leaders on horseback galloped
about and harangued them, they could never be got together in a cohesive
body. Several of the horsemen were shot, and we are hoping that Mir
Butcha, the Kohistani Chief, is among the number. At any rate, a
horseman who was most energetic was struck by a volley, and immediately
he fell from his horse 200 or 300 men rushed from a village near, placed
him on a _charpoy_, and went straight away across the _maidan_ over the
Paen Minar Kotal, which is on the southern road to Kohistan. The man
must have been a chief of distinction to be thus guarded, for his escort
never looked back upon Sherpur, but hurried their chief away as fast as
the bearers of the _charpoy_ could walk.

To-night we are resting on our arms, but all is quiet in the fields
about Sherpur, and we look upon the investment as at an end. The brigade
under General Charles Gough is halted tonight on the Jellalabad Road at
the Logar river, and is holding the bridge, which after all was never
destroyed by Mahomed Jan. Our reinforcements will march in to-morrow,
but it is scarcely likely there will be any more fighting, as spies from
the city report that the tribesmen are in full retreat. Very glad,
indeed, are we to be once more free after nine days’ close confinement
at Sherpur. As a soldier remarked on the walls when the
Lieutenant-General was making his rounds:—“Well, I should think this is
the first time in his life that General Roberts has been confined to
barracks!” The confinement has harassed men and officers so much that we
dread the re-action: the excitement is over now, and the exposure night
after night in snow and slush must have broken down the health of many.
The worst cases in hospital even now are men suffering from pneumonia:
the wounded are doing well, though some of the wounds are very severe.
Snow has begun to fall again, and winter has now set in thoroughly.

The casualties to-day, including followers, are thirty-two in number.
General Hugh Gough was knocked over by a Snider bullet, which must have
been nearly spent. It cut through his poshteen in the right breast, but
was caught in the folds of a woollen vest, and fell at his feet as he
shook himself together again. The returns for to-day are as follows:—

                     CASUALTIES ON 23RD DECEMBER.
                           │       British.        │
          Regiments        │ Officers. │   Men.    │  Native.  │Total.
                           │   K.│   W.│   K.│   W.│   K.│   W.│
  Royal Engineers          │    1│    1│    —│    —│    —│    —│    2
  F-A, Royal Horse         │    —│    —│    —│    1│    —│    —│    1
  Artillery                │     │     │     │     │     │     │
  G-3, Royal Artillery     │    —│    —│    —│    1│    —│    —│    1
  No. 1 Mountain Battery   │    —│    —│    —│    —│    —│    1│    1
  No. 2 Mountain Battery   │    —│    —│    —│    —│    1│    —│    1
  9th Lancers              │    —│    —│    —│    1│    —│    —│    1
  5th Punjab Cavalry       │    —│    1│    —│    —│    —│    7│    8
  67th Foot                │    —│    —│    —│    1│    —│    —│    1
  92nd Highlanders         │    —│    —│    1│    5│    —│    —│    6
  23rd Pioneers            │    —│    —│    —│    —│    1│    —│    1
  Guides’ Infantry         │    —│    —│    —│    —│    —│    3│    3
  Sappers and Miners       │    1│    —│    —│    —│    —│    —│    1
  3rd Sikhs                │    —│    —│    —│    —│    —│    2│    2
  5th Punjab Infantry      │    —│    —│    —│    —│    —│    2│    2
  28th Punjab Infantry     │    —│    —│    —│    —│    —│    1│    1
            Total          │    2│    2│    1│    9│    2│   16│   32

Of our followers one was killed and six wounded. The total casualties
during the siege and on the day of the final attack were eighteen killed
and sixty-eight wounded (including seven followers killed and twenty-two


                              CHAPTER XIX.

The Re-Occupation of Cabul—Signs of Mahomed Jan’s Occupation—Complete
    Dispersion of Mahomed Jan’s Army—General Hill’s Return to the
    City—Christmas in Sherpur—Universal Character of the late
    _Jehad_—Necessity for reinforcing the Army of Occupation—General
    Baker’s Expedition to Baba Kuch Kar—Examination of the Bala
    Hissar—Demolition of Forts and Villages about Sherpur—Cabul
    Revisited—A New Military Road—The Destruction of Shops by Mahomed
    Jan’s Force—Despondency of the Hindus and Kizilbashes—State of the
    Char Chowk Bazaar—A Picture of Desolation—The Kotwali—Wali Mahomed’s
    Losses—Ill-treatment of Women.

                                                    _24th December._

Our expectations have been fully realized; the enemy which held us in
check since December 14th has disappeared, and our troops are once more
in Cabul, which shows terrible marks of Mahomed Jan’s occupation. Every
house belonging to Sirdars known to favour the British has been looted,
and in the bazaars all the shops are gutted except those of the
Mahomedans. Doors and windows broken in, walls knocked down, all
woodwork destroyed, floors dug up, and property carried off: these are
the signs of the Reign of Terror lately instituted among the Kizilbashes
and Hindus. The search for treasure was carried out in a systematic way,
and the loot now in possession of Kohistanis, Ghilzais, and other
tribesmen must be worth many lakhs. Two lakhs of treasure belonging to
Hashim Khan alone, are said to have been seized, while the Hindus
complain of being utterly ruined. We shall have to inquire further into
this when things are once more firmly settled, but at present we have
enough to do in pursuing the enemy, and arresting such local Afghans as
joined their ranks. These men now hide their arms, and appear in all the
beautiful simplicity of peaceful citizens, but the subterfuge is too
easily detected for them to escape punishment. We were not sure early
this morning that Mahomed Jan’s host had vanished, although, as the
night had passed quietly, there was every reason to believe the siege
was at an end. Our first movement was to occupy Kila Mahomed Shariff,
and Colonel Brownlow sent out a party of the 72nd Highlanders to the
fort at dawn. They found it quite deserted, and the other forts and
villages near were also without occupants. Two or three wounded men were
lying within the walls, and the bodies of some thirty Afghans were
scattered about near the loop-holes, or in the open where our bullets
had struck them down. This was on the southern face, near the 72nd and
Commissariat gateways, so that the false attack in this direction must
have cost the enemy many lives. Afghans do not, as a rule, leave their
dead behind, and doubtless there were carried away double the number
found. Scaling-ladders covered with blood were lying in the fields and
forts, and heaps of powder and some hundreds of ball-cartridges were
discovered. Unlimited ammunition must have been served out to each man,
and as an examination shows that all the powder and caps in the Bala
Hissar have been carried off, or destroyed, it is clear that every
tribesman filled his pouch with an ample supply before making the
attack. Those who have got safely away will have powder enough to last
them for two or three years, as many tons were left by us in the
magazine. But for their losses, which are calculated at 2,000 or 3,000
killed and wounded since December 10th, the army of Mahomed Jan may
consider their sojourn in Cabul during the Mohurrum a grand success,
temporary though it was. They blockaded the British army, caused it a
loss of between 300 and 400, and proclaimed a new Amir, whom they have
still with them. Young Musa Jan has been carried off by Mushk-i-Alam,
who may, if he chooses, establish the new sovereign at Ghazni, and
invite all Afghanistan to rally about him. The old _moollah_ is reported
to have fled with the lad last night, while Mahomed Jan remained in
Cabul until eight o’clock this morning. He then saw that his army had
deserted him, and he followed the example of Mushk-i-Alam, and took to
the hills. Strong parties of cavalry have been out all day in the
Chardeh Valley and round by Charasia, but beyond a few men on the
snow-covered hills no one was met with. It was difficult work pursuing,
as snow was falling steadily. The 30,000 men have dissolved, and, with
their loot, are taking mountain roads, where they are safe from pursuit.
The villages contain many men who fought against us, and hereafter we
shall visit them with our flying column. On the 11th, 12th, and 13th
every fortified enclosure our men passed was barred against them, and
the occupants fired at stragglers and turned out to harass rear-guards.
The Mahomedan population of Cabul joined Mahomed Jan almost to a man,
thinking the British rule was at an end, and now these citizens, whose
homes we spared when we came among them in the flush of success, are
hurrying away in anticipation of the reprisals we shall inflict. The
time has gone by for weak sentimentality: military law alone should now
guide Sir F. Roberts in his dealings with the people, for it has been
proved beyond question that to act humanely is merely to encourage the
Afghans in their belief that we are unequal to controlling them. Instead
of leaving an indelible mark upon Cabul, we have enriched it by our
purchases of winter supplies, and have poured lakhs of rupees into the
purses of the very men who had nothing to expect but the fate of a
conquered race.

The Hindus and Kizilbashes who relied upon us for protection may well
revile us, since we have left them to their fate; while the Mahomedans
who have looted their homes, insulted their women, and terrorized over
them for ten days, are now laughing at our inability to follow them to
their distant villages. The unlucky Hazaras, who have worked so well for
us, were hunted down, beaten, and reviled wherever they showed their
faces in the streets; and were told jeeringly to call for help upon the
British locked up in Sherpur. Our humiliation is so great that to risk a
repetition of it would be ruinous. We must show that the investment of
Sherpur can never again occur, and to do this 10,000 troops must hold
Cabul, and our line of communication with India be so permanently
established that even 100,000 tribesmen cannot break it. An immediate
declaration of policy should be made: to wait quietly for “events to
develop” may be disastrous. We must create events, not allow others to
turn the current of them in whichever direction they please. If we are
to hold Cabul—and this is now ten times more imperious even than it was
before, for to retire would be to acknowledge that we have failed in our
occupation, and dare not risk another reverse—we must hold it by our
bayonets and not by our rupees. Half-measures will only imperil our
safety: to put trust in Afghan cunning and be guided by Afghan
insincerity is only to risk the lives of our soldiers. Those soldiers
have done all that soldiers can do, and they may well look to their
commanders to make success once obtained sure and stable. We lost less
than 100 men in capturing Cabul; we have lost nearly four times that
number in fifteen days’ fighting, after we had occupied the place for
two months. There must be no longer a state of false security; for it is
not improbable that the _jehad_ will be revived before the winter is
over, and the _moollahs_ may again influence the religious fanaticism of
the people against us.

To-day General Hills, our Governor of the City, once more visited the
_kotwali_, guarded by the 5th P.I., while the sepoys were busy all day
in searching the Mahomedan quarter, and in arresting such citizens as
they could find remaining. One hundred Punjabees garrison the _kotwali_
for the night, and the Kizilbashes and Hindus are once more plucking up
courage. The Bala Hissar has been examined, and not an Afghan found in
it, and in two or three days the 9th Foot, and the 2nd and 4th Ghoorkas,
which arrived at Sherpur this morning with General Charles Gough, will
be quartered in the fortress. Butkhak is also to be re-garrisoned with
100 of the 9th and the whole of the 12th B.C., and in a short time we
shall be once more holding a strong line of communication with Peshawur.
Our most urgent want is ammunition. The reinforcements have only brought
about 200 rounds per man, and our own supply cannot be much more than
250 rounds, taking the regiments all through.

Among our political prisoners now is Yakub Khan’s mother, who was
chiefly instrumental in raising the _jehad_. She will be closely watched
for the future, and as she is a woman of great resource, it may be
advisable to deport her to India. The camp has also received with due
hospitality forty or fifty ladies, the wives and other relatives of
Sirdars among us, as guests.

                                                    _27th December._

After all the excitement of our ten days’ siege it is a great relief now
to pass beyond the walls of Sherpur, even though the roads and fields
about are ankle-deep in mud and half-melted snow. Not a shot now
disturbs our peaceful quiet, and the only unusual sound is the dull
report of a mine exploding where our engineers are busy demolishing
forts and walls which only four days ago sheltered our enemy. Our
Christmas has been of the sober, thoughtful kind. We have so lately been
released from the painful constraint of constant vigilance and hard
fighting, that our spirits could not rise very high in the scale of
festivity; and our losses have so sobered us that it would seem almost
sacrilegious to “feast and make merry” with the death of so many
comrades still fresh in our memory and with the hospitals full of
wounded men, sufferers in the actions fought since the 10th. Besides,
every one is worn out with watching, and it will be some time before
officers and men can once more take life placidly, and enjoy heartily
such little pleasures as are forthcoming. Christmas day was one of rest
for all of us, for our cavalry reconnaissances had shown that the enemy
had dispersed far out of our reach; and as the snow lay six inches deep
on the ground, there was little chance of our troopers overtaking even
such small bands as might have followed the main roads to Logar, Ghazni,
or Kohistan. On the 24th the horses had to be led back by the troopers
from Charasia, the snow having “balled” their feet and made riding
dangerous, and there was nothing to be gained by sending them out again
on a similar errand. We were not all convinced that none of Mahomed
Jan’s followers were lurking about, and strong guards were still held
ready at night, to repel any sudden attack. But the precaution might
have been neglected; for never before has an “army” 30,000 strong melted
so rapidly away. The tribesmen must have travelled quickly during the
night of the 23rd after we had beaten them from our walls, and now the
country about for miles seems deserted of its inhabitants. Such villages
as are passed have their doors barred and bolted, and not even a ghazi
turns out to throw away his life. The snow-covered hills, which now shut
us in on all sides, stand out in pure whiteness and make no sign. They
have seen the scattered thousands who held high revel in Cabul pass away
in hot haste; but the snow has blotted out their footprints, and the
trail is lost. By-and-by we shall take it up anew, and search out our
enemy in his secluded villages and forts, for a force is even now
toiling over the snow in Kohistan, and will in a few days be at Mir
Butcha’s gates. Logar also may see another column marching upon its
villages, but more distant Wardak and Ghazni are probably safe until the
spring; that is, if Mahomed Jan and his powerful friend, the _moollah_
Mushk-i-Alam, do not keep their promise of returning to Cabul at the
festival of Nauroz, March 21st. They have had such an unexpected
success, and have secured such valuable loot, that, in spite of their
losses, they may be tempted again to repeat the experiment of coming
boldly to meet our army, instead of waiting in their homes for an

The fuller we examine into the _jehad_, the more clear it becomes that
the late combination more nearly approached a general movement among all
sections than any that has yet been attempted. In the short period
during which it existed, nearly every available fighting man in
North-Eastern Afghanistan flocked to the banners consecrated by
Mushk-i-Alam; and if the success of the _jehad_ had been a little
longer-lived—say by the interception of our reinforcements—there would
have been streams of men setting in for Cabul from Turkistan, Badakshan,
and the Shutargardan district, which would have made Mahomed Jan the
leader of that “lakh of men” of which he boasted. Every chief of
importance among the wide-spread Ghilzais and the more compact
Kohistanis and Safis was up in arms, and the fighting at Jugdulluck
showed that Asmatullah Khan and his Lughmanis were at one with their
friends besieging Sherpur. Even Padshah Khan, whose virtues
short-sighted politicians have extolled, brought a contingent to Cabul,
and fought against us with desperate hatred, although he had greatly
smoothed our path during the first march from Ali Khel. With Mahomed Jan
were also Mir Butcha and several other Kohistani chiefs—Usman Khan, the
Safi leader of Tagao; Gholam Hyder Khan (Logari), and Aslam Khan,
Colonel of Artillery, both of whom fought at Charasia; and several minor
Ghilzai leaders, who had each brought their following of 500 or 1,000
men. The countenance Mahomed Jan and Mushk-i-Alam received from Yakub
Khan’s mother and wife gave them a status which they did not fail to use
to the best of their advantage; and while, perhaps, half their followers
were freebooters, intent upon looting Hindus and Kizilbashes, they made
it appear in their attempt to negotiate with Sir Frederick Roberts that
they were the patriotic leaders of a movement which had for its object
not so much the ejectment of the British army, as the revival of the
Amirship. Singularly enough, the removal of Yakub Khan was made a
pretext for their occupation of Cabul, and this in the face of their
callousness as to his fate when he was a prisoner in our camp. Yakub’s
mother, working through Mushk-i-Alam and his _moollahs_, turned the full
tide of religious enthusiasm aroused by the _jehad_ into channels which
should serve to place either her exiled son or her grandson on the
throne, and the proclamation of Musa Jan as Amir was a bold step, which
may yet give us much trouble to nullify. Musa Jan is in the hands of
Mushk-i-Alam, who may renew his _jehad_. By setting up the child in
state at Ghazni, and formulating decrees and proclamations in his name,
he may give the people a pretext for denying the existence of British
authority further than the few acres commanded by our guns about Cabul:
and taking religion again as a rallying cry, he may by Nauroz be ready
with another 30,000 men to try conclusions with us again. The late army
which besieged us does not exist, save in scattered units. The feeling
which drew it together is still alive; for fanaticism only slumbers in
this country, and has sometimes so rapid an awakening that it must be
constantly watched. The ten days’ success of Mahomed Jan will be quoted
as proving that, under more favourable conditions, it might be extended
indefinitely; and unless, by our preparations, we show that the
conditions in future, instead of being more favourable, become steadily
less and less attractive to men who may be called upon to join a new
_jehad_, the British army of occupation may be again isolated. It is to
be hoped that no false measure of economy will prevent the strength of
the force here being so raised that from 3,000 to 4,000 men will
_always_ be available for outside work, after Sherpur or whatever lines
we may occupy have been strongly garrisoned. Our reinforcements number
only 1,400 men, and Luttabund is still left without a garrison; while
100 of the 9th Foot and the whole of the 12th Bengal Cavalry have been
sent to Butkhak to hold that post. We may seem strong enough now when we
have not an enemy within twenty miles; but so we seemed equally safe
three weeks ago, when we disbelieved in the possibility of 30,000
Afghans ever collecting together. If our experience is to go for nothing
we shall revert to the old order of things, perhaps allowing the other
division to garrison Luttabund and Sei Baba; but if we are to convince
the late leaders of the jehad that a second can only be a ridiculous
failure, we shall have the whole of Generals Charles Gough and
Arbuthnot’s brigades west of Jugdulluck.[36] There may arise some
difficulty in regard to winter supplies; but if the policy, now begun,
of requisitioning the villages belonging to hostile chiefs be carried
out to its full extent, our reinforcements can live comfortably.
Besides, the Kyber transport should at once be so remodelled that it
will not be frittered away for want of due supervision, and then,
surely, supplies can be sent from Peshawur as far as Jugdulluck,
Luttabund, or even Cabul itself. If we have to face the possibility of a
second siege of Sherpur, and of another blow at our prestige by tribes
of Asiatics, we may as well face it with our eyes open and our powder
dry. This same question of powder may involve us in difficulties yet,
for we want ammunition badly; and if it has to be brought up from
Peshawur, it will take three weeks to reach here. As we are sending
flying columns out again, the troops comprising which may get rid of 100
rounds per man in a few days, the prospect does not seem so bright of
our 250 rounds each lasting very long. If Mahomed Jan had persistently
attacked our force in the manner he at last did on December 23rd, we
should now be left with about seventy rounds in each man’s pouch.
Fortunately for us, Mahomed Jan is not a military genius.


Footnote 36:

  The plan here suggested was afterwards carried out.


I have spoken of the flying columns we are sending out. The first of
these left Sherpur this morning, bound for Baba Kuch Kar, where the
villages belonging to Mir Butcha are said to lie. This is about
twenty-four miles away on the Charikar Road, through the heart of the
Koh-Daman, and it is not improbable that our force may meet with
opposition. This is the first time we have interfered with the
Kohistanis since 1841, and they have a belief in their own powers among
their native hills, which may cause them to fight bravely in defence of
their villages. They have an unlimited supply of ammunition taken from
the Bala Hissar, and this to tribesmen is half the battle. The country
is quite unknown to us, and, with the snow lying thick on the hills, our
men are sure to suffer great hardships. General Baker’s column is made
up as follows:—

                  Hazara Mountain Battery (four guns);
                  Guides’ Cavalry (200 sabres);
                  67th Foot (500 men);
                  Guides’ Infantry (400);
                  2nd Ghoorkas (400);
                  5th Punjabees (400);
                  Sappers and Miners (1½ company).

The 2nd Ghoorkas were too weak to muster 400 bayonets for service, so
the 4th Ghoorkas were called upon to make up the number. The Sappers
take with them materials for demolishing forts and villages; and it is
intended to loot the place thoroughly, so 15 per cent. of the transport
animals in Sherpur accompany the column in addition to their own
complement of mules and _yaboos_. 200 rounds of ammunition per man and
five days’ rations are carried for the men. Two survey officers
accompany the column, and three parties of signallers under Captain
Straton. The signalling branch of the service has come, deservedly, to
be looked upon as playing a most important part in every operation
undertaken. The column is strong enough both to punish Mir Butcha and to
collect supplies; but there is a strong opinion in camp that before any
reprisals were begun our communications with Jugdulluck should have been
secured. We have had no news from Jugdulluck since the 20th, and we are
in doubt as to the safety of our despatches. The news of Mahomed Jan’s
flight should cause the local Ghilzais to settle down peacefully again;
and as more troops move up from Gundamak and Jellalabad, the line will
doubtless be re-opened in ten days. When General Baker returns from
Kohistan, another column is to be sent to the Logar Valley, and more
supplies collected; this time, perhaps, without the expenditure of two
or three lakhs of rupees.

A report has been spread that the Bala Hissar has been mined, and for
the present no garrison will be placed within its walls. The Engineers
are busy examining the fortress, and when they have decided as to its
safety, General Charles Gough’s brigade will be moved into it for the
winter. Gangs of Hazara coolies are employed demolishing the walls of
villages and forts about Sherpur, and also in clearing away detached
walls in the fields, the remains of old fortified enclosures. One of the
guns given by us to Wali Mahomed, when it was expected he would go to
Turkistan as Governor, has been brought in; but the two guns of
Swinley’s Battery, lost on the 14th, are still missing.

                                                    _29th December._

I have visited the city of Cabul, which is now again in our hands, and
have seen the havoc made in its bazaars by the army of Mahomed Jan and
the fanatical followers of Mushk-i-Alam. The city is considered safe
again for visitors, though officers visiting it have to go in pairs, and
carry arms. This is a precaution against any stray ghazis who may still
be in hiding within its walls. My guard was simply four Sikhs, and with
this small escort I was able to examine the place thoroughly, without
molestation. The Mussulman population still remaining is in a wholesome
state of fear, and as our search-parties go from house to house seeking
men who played us false, there is a tendency among the citizens to draw
off to obscure nooks and corners. Passing out by the head-quarters’ gate
in the western wall, I followed the muddy footpath across the fields to
Deh-i-Afghan, the walls and ditches about which yet show signs of the
late fighting, in the presence of cartridge-cases thrown away after
being fired by the Afghans. In the gardens about the suburb the trees
are cut and “blazed” where our shells exploded, but the damage really is
very slight. We had not sufficient ammunition to waste shells on these
enclosures, and two or three doses of shrapnel or common shell were
generally enough to silence the fire of the enemy in any given orchard.
Climbing up the path to Deh-i-Afghan, which stands on a low rounded hill
at the foot of the Asmai Heights, and on the left bank of the Cabul
river, I came across a few disconsolate-looking Hindus and Kizilbashes
on their way to Sherpur, to relate their woes and file their bill of
damages against “the great British Government,” which had promised to
protect them. Besides these unlucky men were strings of Hazara coolies,
staggering under their heavy loads of wood or _bhoosa_, and to
all-seeming as happy as ever in their rags and wretchedness. All the
doors and windows of the houses were barred and locked, and but few
Mussulman faces could be seen. Here and there were knots of men
discussing, with subdued looks, the late events. The gossipers were
profuse in salaams, but moved off as our little party moved onwards.
Deh-i-Afghan was shelled, on the 14th, by six guns for about an hour,
and during the siege an 8-inch howitzer occasionally pitched a shell
into the crowds which always gathered within and about it. I therefore
expected to see some great damage done to the houses. But beyond a hole
in a wall or roof, or the branches of trees cut off in the courtyards,
there was nothing to show that our shells had fallen within its walls.
Most of the houses are so strongly made, the walls being four or five
feet thick at the base, and firmly built up of stone and mud cement,
that to breach them would require a 40-pounder, and we have no guns here
of this calibre. The streets of Deh-i-Afghan were so deserted that it
was quite a relief to leave them behind, especially as the whole place
seemed to smell of the shambles—due, perhaps, to the bodies of men
killed in action being buried in shallow graves. At the foot of the
Asmai Heights, where the road turns off to the Cabul gorge, a company of
the 3rd Sikhs was halted, while Captain Nicholson, R.E., was deciding
the direction a new military road should take from Sherpur to Dehmazung.
General Hills, Governor of the City, with a number of “friendly”
Cabulis, explained to them what houses were to be pulled down, and in a
few days we shall have some 500 or 600 men busy in demolishing the
place. As yet we have not destroyed a house in Cabul, and our merciful
policy has only encouraged its turbulent ruffians to turn and harass us
at the first opportunity. Military considerations alone should be now
allowed to prevail, and any course decided upon as contributing to the
safety of Sherpur should be carried out unswervingly. We have seen how
great was the protection afforded by Deh-i-Afghan to the enemy, as
enabling them to collect beneath its walls in perfect security, in
occupying or in retiring from the Asmai hill, and this protection should
now be swept away, even if every wall and house between the foot of the
hill and the Cabul river has to be pulled down. General Macpherson’s
retirement from above the Bala Hissar on the evening of the 14th had to
be made by way of Deh-i-Afghan, and his troops were under fire the whole
time in getting from the Cabul gorge to the fields beyond, where our
troops from Sherpur were waiting to cover their retirement. Our anxiety,
so long as a man remained within the shadow of Deh-i-Afghan, was at the
time very great.

From Deh-i-Afghan across a bridge which spans the Cabul river, and
thence by a winding path among high walls and sombre-looking dwellings,
to the Chandaul quarter, is only a few minutes’ walk. The melting snow
had made the narrow, ill-paved streets almost impassable in places, and
we had to splash through mud and slush to make any progress at all. As
this end of the city was entered there were a few more signs of life,
and one or two shops were open, but few wares were displayed. All these
shops belonged to Mahomedans; they had escaped looting, and their happy
owners were now placidly returning to their every-day life, though,
perchance, during the Mohurrum they ruffled it with the best, and
swaggered about, threatening death to all Kafirs. They know our weakness
for sparing a fallen foe, and they trade upon it systematically. They
will take our rupees to-day, and be all subserviency or sullen
independence—not so much the latter now—and will cut our throats and
hack our bodies to pieces to-morrow as part of the beautiful programme
drawn up by a far-seeing Providence. Passing by these few shops tenanted
by Mahomedans, I soon came to those owned by Hindus, and here the wreck
was great. Like all Eastern bazaars, those of Cabul consist of rows of
little stalls raised three or four feet above the street level. The rear
and side walls are built of mud and sun-dried bricks, while the front is
all open, except where the rude wooden shutters are put up at nightfall,
and the little door securely padlocked. But few of the shopkeepers live
“on the premises;” they have houses in the back-streets, where their
wives and families are secluded; so that, when the day’s work or trading
is over, the bazaars are deserted, except by wanderers or strangers in
search of their night’s resting-place. These little stalls have been
gutted; nothing is left except the bare walls. Every scrap of woodwork
has been carried away, and the floors have been dug up in search of
hidden treasure. The walls in several places are broken down, and their
ruins lie across the street; while in one or two instances the very
poles of the roofs have been purloined, and the snow and mist have
wantoned through the nice snug corners where Bokhara silks, Manchester
cottons, or Sheffield cutlery lay stored away. A description of one
stall will serve for all. Scarcely a Hindu shop has been left untouched,
and Defilement has followed upon Devastation, until the twin-sisters
have made the havoc complete. The wretched shopkeepers sit among the
ruins in helpless misery, and are already debating whether it would not
be better to pack up their household goods and move for Hindustan rather
than wait for a second irruption of the hungry horde of tribesmen who
are now hurrying away to their homes laden with the loot of Cabul. These
Hindus make the most of their losses unquestionably, in the hope of
obtaining compensation from the British; yet there can be no doubt they
have been robbed of a large amount of property. The Shore Bazaar is
nearly all wrecked, and one part of the Char Chowk, the large covered-in
bazaar of Cabul, has been cleared out even to the nails in the walls.
The practice of burying articles of value is so common among Cabulis,
and indeed among Asiatics generally, that part of the strong masonry of
which the main walls of the Char Chowk are built up has been broken
down, and huge holes and gaps left to show the earnestness of the
search. Such shops as have been spared in the heart of the city are
still closed, for their owners do not care to display their goods too
soon, as they have to bear the inquisitorial questions of their less
fortunate neighbours. A more wretched picture of desolation than Cabul
presented as I rode through it cannot be imagined. All the life and
turmoil had died out of it, and the only persons who seemed to take
advantage of the general stagnation were the women, many of whom were
flitting about in their long white robes as if free from all restraint.
The _kotwali_ had been made the temporary head-quarters of Mahomed Jan,
who had garrisoned it with a few hundred resolute men. Their first act
had been to destroy and defile the room where General Hills sat as
Governor of the City; and they had done this very completely, even the
roof and floor being torn up. Loop-holes had been knocked into the walls
of every room, both above and below, as if in anticipation of a stand
being made if it came to street-fighting. The _kotwali_ is a high square
building; an open courtyard, with two tiers of rooms round it, and a
parapet above all whence the neighbouring roofs and streets can he
commanded by musketry fire. It is so closely hemmed in by buildings,
however, that it would not be a good position to defend. The entrance is
from the middle of the Char Chowk Bazaar, and it is the centre round
which all Cabul circulates when any excitement arouses the people. When
I visited it in my ramble through the city I found 100 Sikhs and
Ghoorkas garrisoning it, and ready to turn out at a moment’s notice if
an alarm of “ghazis” were raised. Speaking to a friendly Cabuli, he
assured me that lakhs of property had been looted; he himself had had
five houses cleared out, while sirdars in our camp had been treated in a
similar way. Wali Mahomed especially had been a sufferer, and the ladies
of his _zenana_ had been subjected to great indignities. Believing that
they had ornaments of value hidden upon their persons, they were
stripped of every stitch of clothing, and turned out in all the shame of
nakedness into the streets. Questioned as to the number of Mahomed Jan’s
followers, the Cabuli said there were fully 30,000 men, and this
coincided with estimates given by our spies and others who have been
examined since. Padshah Khan, the man whom we trusted so implicitly on
our march from the Shutargardan, was among the leaders, and brought a
small contingent to swell the army of fanatics. The systematic way in
which the looting was carried on will appear from the statement that,
when a man defended his house against a small band of marauders, they
retired for the time, and then returned, as a Hindu put it, “10,000
strong.” It was useless to offer opposition to such numbers, though I
believe many of the Kizilbashes, by professing to be good Mahomedans,
saved their property. There were not many inoffensive shopkeepers
killed, eight or ten at the highest estimate: but the fear and terror in
which they lived hidden away in cellars and holes made their life during
the Mohurrum scarcely worth the living. I left Cabul, feeling that it
was, indeed, a hapless city. The industrious classes, who had been our
friends and had rejoiced at our coming, had been despoiled under our
eyes; while those who had cursed us in their hearts, and longed to drive
us out, were once more cowed after a short triumph, and were calculating
how many of their number would shortly grace the gallows. The Military
Commission under the presidency of Brigadier-General Massy has again
been ordered to assemble. This time, it is to be hoped a few men of
importance may be executed—always provided that we can find them. The
members of the Commission are General Massy, Major Morgan, (of the 9th
Foot), and Major Stewart (of the 5th Punjab Cavalry).

The remains of Captain Spens were found to-day by Dr. Duke, about ten
yards from the spot where he was cut down. General Roberts, with a small
force, visited Chardeh Valley to-day, to examine the ground where the
cavalry and guns came to grief on the 11th. One mountain gun of
Swinley’s Battery, lost on the 14th, has been found. It was lying in a
_jheel_ (a shallow pool) a few miles up Chardeh Valley, where it had
been abandoned by the enemy in their flight.


                              CHAPTER XX.

The Probabilities of the Revival of the _Jehad_—Insincerity of Native
    Chiefs—The Need of further Reinforcements—The Difficulties of
    Warfare in Afghanistan—Return of General Baker from Baba Kuch
    Kar—Recovery of the Bodies of Lieutenants Hardie and Forbes—Review
    of the _Jehad_—The Attitude of the Tribes on the Line of
    Communications—Asmatullah Khan’s Position—Failure to check our
    Reinforcements—The Importance of the Luttabund Post—Attack upon
    Jugdulluck—Repulse of the Lughmanis—Deportation of Daoud Shah to
    India—Military Executions.

                                                _1st January, 1880._

The New Year has come upon us so suddenly that we have had no time to
cast vain regrets upon worn-out months, which have witnessed the making
of important pages of history, and given us a new starting-point in our
relations with Afghanistan. A month ago we were dying of weary
inactivity, but this feeling was swept away by the stirring events of
the Mohurrum, and we have not yet sunk back into our old state of
lassitude. Our losses have been so heavy, that it behoves us to take
precautions to prevent a repetition of the late investment; and we are
bestirring ourselves right heartily to give the ghazi-_log_ a reception
worthy of their impetuous nature, if they keep their promise to return
in March. Musa Jan, Yakub Khan’s son, is now with Mushk-i-Alam (that
unsavoury _moollah_, whose title means “Scent of the Universe”) at Bad
Mushk, twelve miles from Ghazni; and when the _jehad_ is revived, all
true Afghans will be called upon to rally round their rightful
sovereign. The waverers will be wrought upon by promises of endless
loot; the fanatical by opportunities of future bliss after they have
died as ghazis; and the mass of the tribesmen by an appeal to their
warlike instincts which lead them to fight for the sake of bloodshed. It
was a grave mistake which left Musa Jan, with the women of Yakub Khan’s
household, in Cabul; for now a status is given to the leaders of the
up-rising which they lacked before. We have Wali Mahomed with us still;
and if we so far modify our policy as to make him Governor of Cabul and
the districts about,—and all things are possible in the see-saw of
politics,—we could make a counter-appeal and declare Musa Jan to be
merely a puppet in the hands of mischief-makers. Whether this appeal
would be disregarded, one cannot say; but if it were backed by a strong
display of force, say 12,000 men holding Sherpur and every post down to
Jellalabad well garrisoned, it might have some effect. No faith can be
put in Afghan promises; we have learned that by the falling away of
Padshah Khan, if we did not already know it from past experience; and
our safety from constant attack must lie in the completeness of our own
preparations, rather than in contracts made with sirdars who will only
serve us so long as fair weather lasts. Padshah Khan is said to have
remained faithful at least until the 14th of December. When he learned
that the British had been obliged to withdraw within the walls of
Sherpur, and had lost two mountain guns in the day’s fighting, he may
have thought that a disaster was impending, and so joined Mahomed Jan
with as many Ghilzais as he could collect together. He now affirms that
he was more a spectator than an active participator in the siege; and
that this was so evident to the other chiefs that, after assigning him a
post in the fore-front of the attack, they withdrew him from his command
at the last moment, so great was their mistrust of his sincerity.

The Khyber Force will relieve us of all garrison work at Luttabund,
which sets free 800 men and two guns for duty here; so that with the
1,400 men General Charles Gough brought with him we shall be over 2,000
stronger. But our losses have been heavy, and there are now 800 men on
the sick list, many of whom must be sent back to India. The present
campaign cannot be brought to a successful conclusion without a much
greater display of force than we have hitherto made; and I believe every
effort is now being put forth to collect further supplies, so that, if
necessary, 15,000 or 20,000 men could be fed during February and March
preparatory to our resuming the offensive in the spring. The warning of
Sir Henry Durand, in his criticism of the old war, must have recurred to
our leaders when contemplating a new accession of strength to the force
now here. He wrote:—“Everything in the expedition was a matter of the
greatest uncertainty, even to the feeding of the troops; for Afghanistan
merited the character given to Spain by Henry IV. of France: 'Invade
with a large force, and you are destroyed by starvation; invade with a
small one, and you are overwhelmed by a hostile people.'” We have tried
the latter alternative, and, after being shut in by 50,000 Afghans (for
such it is now said was the numerical strength of Mahomed Jan’s
following), we have no wish to repeat the experiment. To avoid it, we
must have a large and handy force ready to cope with the enemy before he
can reach Cabul; and here the starvation difficulty crops up. After
paying fabulously high prices for everything—from a sheep to an onion—we
had laid in stores sufficient for the consumption of our original
division until the spring; but these will not suffice when they are
drawn upon by the troops which have since joined us (9th Foot, Guides,
2nd and 4th Ghoorkas, Hazara Mountain Battery, and Sappers), apart from
any others that may yet come up. The Khyber transport is not strong
enough for much reliance to be placed upon it in the matter of bringing
up supplies from Peshawur, and we shall probably have to requisition the
country and force the people to sell their hidden stores at our own
prices. We cannot starve, and the military exigencies of the position
render it imperative that we should have Sherpur not only well
garrisoned, but a movable force of sufficient strength to disperse all
Cabul gatherings, and regiments stationed along our line of
communication, equal either to punishing chiefs like Asmatullah, or
moving westward to Cabul if a second _jehad_ brings about another great
combination of the people. Our latest reinforcement, which arrived here
on the 24th, under General Gough, is now garrisoning the Bala Hissar;
while the Guides have been attached to General Macpherson’s Brigade, and
will remain in cantonments. They have done good service since their
arrival, and well deserve to be attached to the army which captured
Cabul single-handed.

General Baker returned yesterday from his excursion to Baba Kuch Kar,
where he destroyed the forts and villages belonging to Mir Butcha. This
place was demolished by Sale on the 8th of October, 1840. It was
considered at that time a stronghold which would have given an army
without a battering-train much trouble; but now the fortified enclosures
were less formidable. They were not defended, Mir Butcha and his
retainers have fled northward to Charikar when he saw how quickly we
were following him after his retreat from Sherpur on the 3rd December.
No opposition on the road to, or from, Baba Kuch Kar was offered to
General Baker, who was only away five days. The snow-covered roads and
hills were very trying to the soldiers and followers; and it was
conclusively proved that camping out in this weather is likely to sow
the seeds of much sickness among our men. The country visited was not
Kohistan proper, which lies north of Istalif, but the Koh-Daman (“Skirt
of the Hills”). The valleys were found to be marvellously fertile, the
orchards and vineyards on the hill-slopes stretching away on either side
for miles. Cabul is said to draw most of its delicious fruit from the
Koh-Daman, the fertility of which we had every opportunity of observing.
In the spring the district must be the most beautiful spot in
Afghanistan, the Chardeh Valley sinking into insignificance before it.
Great difficulty would be experienced by an army marching through in the
face of determined opposition. Sunken roads, irrigated tracts, walled
fields, and innumerable watercourses form such a network of obstruction,
that if the forts and villages, with their acres of orchards and
vineyards, were defended, progress would be laborious and dangerous in
the extreme. For miles there is admirable cover for skirmishers to
harass an army with all its impedimenta of baggage and followers; and
every fort would have to be stormed, as mountain guns would make no
impression on the mud walls. General Baker not only looted and levelled
to the ground all forts and villages owned by Mir Butcha, but cut down
his vineyards, and set the Ghoorkas to work to “ring” all the fruit
trees. This will he a heavy loss to the villages, which mainly derive
their local influence from the return yielded by their orchards and
vineyards. Baba Kuch Kar is a little over twenty miles from Sherpur; and
from it Istalif could be seen, with its white walls gleaming out on the
hillsides, surrounded by orchards extending as far as the eye could
reach. Istalif is about ten miles further north, and the country between
is all under cultivation. Arrangements were made with local headmen to
bring in supplies, and large quantities of grain and _bhoosa_ are
expected to reach us from the Koh-Daman.

The quickness with which we resumed the offensive after being besieged
in Sherpur has favourably impressed all the country about. Such chiefs
as were hostile to us now see that they are not safe from reprisals; and
within easy marches of Sherpur many villages which turned out their
fighting men during the _jehad_, are now being punished. One village in
Chardeh was said to contain the bodies of Lieutenants Hardie and Forbes,
who fell in the cavalry action on the 11th of December. On our troops
visiting it, the _maliks_ denied that the bodies had been seen. Two of
the headmen were tied up and flogged, but still refused to speak; but
upon a third being seized, he offered to show the officers’ graves. The
bodies were exhumed, and were found to be unmutilated. The village has
been destroyed on account of the contumacy of the _maliks_, and also
because our troops were fired upon from its walls when the guns were
lost. Several other missing bodies of Lancers have been found; and on
New Year’s Day an impressive funeral of the bodies of Captain Spens,
Lieutenant Hardie, Lieutenant Forbes, and a non-commissioned officer
took place at the foot of the north-western slope of the Bemaru Heights.
We have lost twelve officers killed and fourteen wounded since December
10th, which shows the severity of the fighting; while of the rank and
file and camp-followers, ninety-eight have been killed and 238 wounded.

                                                      _4th January._

One feature of the late investment of Sherpur cantonment which deserves
considerable attention is the part played by the powerful Ghilzai tribes
between Cabul and Jellalabad. Their attitude, from the 14th of December,
was the same as that taken up in the war of 1841-42, and they no doubt
looked for a similar result. It might have been foretold with absolute
certainty that once a British army was besieged at Cabul, the tribesmen
on the route to India would rise to a man and try to block the road
along which reinforcements must pass. The _jehad_ which Mushk-i-Alam
headed had its origin far from the rocky barrier which shuts in the
Cabul plain on the east: its birth was at Ghazni, and its growth
extended on the north to Kohistan, and on the south to Logar, the two
districts which furnished at the outset its principal strength. The
Safis of Tagao were drawn within its influence by their close
neighbourhood to Kohistan; but the Ghilzais of Tezin and the valleys
about, as well as the more distant Lughmanis, held aloof at first by
reason of their position between the two British forces. If Mahomed Jan
had failed in his march upon Cabul, and had been driven back upon the
Ghazni Road, we should probably have heard little of the hostility of
the tribes westward of Butkhak; the preaching of the _moollahs_, which
had for weeks before fallen upon the ears of the Ghilzais as the
prediction of a great triumph over the Kaffir army, would have borne no
fruit beyond an occasional raid upon our convoys. The local clans would
have felt that, if a powerful combination, such as that which had
gathered about the Ghazni priest, had failed to drive back the British
army, they themselves were powerless to do so. But once the vast host of
50,000 men had occupied Cabul and the Bala Hissar, and had made it
impossible for the garrison of Sherpur to move beyond its defences, the
Ghilzais felt that the appeal to their fanaticism was a safe lead to
follow, and they began to muster in strength. The messengers from
Mahomed Jan were welcomed, and our evacuation of Butkhak proved that his
promise to surround and cut to pieces the small army which had captured
Cabul was not widely removed from the possible, as our leaders were
concentrating their force to resist an attack. If we had not needed
every man at Sherpur, why should we hurry away from our first outpost
under cover of darkness? This was the argument which went home to the
hearts of the men in the hills about Khurd Cabul and Tezin; and all the
local chiefs, with one exception, turned out their fighting men, and
thought of the slaughter of our army in the terrible defile of 1842.
Padshah Khan, in his villages nearer the Shutargardan, was carried away
by the same reasoning; and, with customary treachery, he hastened to
Cabul to fight against the men he had pledged himself to support. His
contingent was more needed there than that of the chiefs along our line
of communications, who had a similar mission to perform to that so
successfully carried out nearly forty years ago—to block all outlets of
escape; and in addition, to drive back our reinforcements to Jellalabad.
In the first flush of success it may have occurred to Mahomed Jan that
he was destined to become a second Akhbar Khan, and that a siege of
Jellalabad would follow the annihilation of the force at Cabul. To carry
out the programme with success, it was needful that all posts west of
Jellalabad should be swept away; and this work he entrusted to
Asmatullah Khan, of Lughman, a chief, perhaps, more powerful than any
other single tribal leader in North-Eastern Afghanistan. Asmatullah
accepted the part assigned to him, and the Lughmanis were soon actively
at work: the telegraph line west of Gundamak was destroyed, and then, in
full confidence, the troops at Jugdulluck were attacked. But though it
was easy enough in theory to lay down plans on the old lines, the
Lughmanis found that, with superior weapons, our soldiers were able
without difficulty to hold their own against twentyfold odds. The road
might be made unsafe, and all convoys stopped; but when it came to
turning out enemies snugly entrenched, and armed with breech-loaders, it
was a very different story. While Mahomed Jan fondly imagined that for
two or three months the Ghilzais would hold the Passes, and check the
movement of a relieving force, Asmatullah Khan was not equal to keeping
back the stream of men which set westwards from Gundamak, and could not
even dispossess the solitary native regiment which held Jugdulluck when
the small brigade under General Charles Gough had started for Sherpur.
The Ghilzais of Tezin had also found themselves non-plussed by the
abandonment of the old route of the Khurd Cabul, which was no longer
followed either to or from Sherpur. Although Maizullah Khan and every
local chief, with the exception of Mahomed Shah Khan, of Hisarak, were
in arms, their tactics were so faulty that, beyond menacing Luttabund,
they did nothing to harass our reinforcements. The mere fact of our
being able to hold the Luttabund Kotal was so strong an evidence that
the end had not yet come, that they hesitated to occupy the road between
that post and the Jugdulluck defile, fearing that they might be caught
between two fires. Then was demonstrated the full value of the decision
arrived at by Sir F. Roberts—to hold Luttabund at all hazards until its
garrison could be picked up by the column moving to his relief. The
flash of the heliograph from Sherpur to the _kotal_ where Colonel
Hudson, with less than 1,000 men, was watching for the reinforcements
from our eastern posts, told the tribes that the force in Sherpur,
though beleaguered by an army larger than Cabul had ever seen, was still
linked to its supports, and was by no means in the straits Mahomed Jan
had promised. Sitting on the hills about Luttabund, the Ghilzais were
too faint-hearted to attack in earnest, and Mahomed Jan was not General
enough to detach one-fifth of his force to sweep away the handful of men
forming our solitary outpost. Forty Sikhs of the 23rd Pioneers were
enough to scatter the bands which gathered about Luttabund; and so
little did the followers of Maizullah Khan prove worthy of the trust
confided to them by Mahomed Jan, that from Jugdulluck to Butkhak
scarcely a shot was fired upon General Charles Gough’s brigade. Mahomed
Jan, holding Cabul and the Bala Hissar in his grasp, must have felt that
his plans were falling to pieces when the Ghilzais were unequal to
breaking up the force passing through their midst; and once our
reinforcements had entered upon the Cabul plain, those plans ceased to
exist. In desperation the assault upon Sherpur was decided upon, and its
failure was the signal for the collapse of the _jehad_. Twenty-four
hours after the signal light blazed upon the summit of the Asmai hill,
not 1,000 men of the 50,000 who had held Cabul could be found within ten
miles of the city.

I have tried to explain the course of action taken by the Ghilzais of
Lughman and the Passes, and they have always been a bugbear when an
advance upon Cabul was made from Gundamak. It has been clearly proved
that they lack organization, and have not the resolute courage to attack
entrenched positions held by even small bodies of our men. Asmatullah
Khan, it is true, made a demonstration against Jugdulluck on the 29th of
December, six days after Mahomed Jan’s flight; but he was beaten back
with a loss, on our side, of one officer (Lieutenant Wright, 11-9th
Battery), and a native gunner killed, and one man of the 51st Regiment
slightly wounded. This was after eight hours’ fighting, and proves how
paltry a force Lughman can send out. As this was probably Asmatullah
Khan’s last attempt before withdrawing to Lughman again, I will give
Colonel Norman’s (24th Punjab Infantry) account of the affair. Writing
on the evening of the 29th, he said:—“At 10 A.M. to-day a party I had
sent out to reconnoitre on the hills to the south was attacked in force
by Asmatullah Khan. The party held its own until reinforced; but as the
enemy were in great strength, I had to send out nearly all my men. One
hundred and sixty of the 29th were on the _kotal_, and holding points on
the Pass to cover the advance of the 45th Sikhs, then marching up to
join me. About noon I received a telegram, saying that three companies
of the 51st Foot, 360 men of the 45th Sikhs, and four guns of 11-9th
Battery, were on the way up. I accordingly waited for the arrival of
these troops, to enable me to act more vigorously; but it was 4 P.M.
before they arrived, and before this I had driven the enemy back. The
reinforcements, directly they had arrived, took up a position in
prolongation of my right, to enfilade the enemy. Just as 11-9th Battery
came into action, I regret to say that Lieutenant Wright was killed by a
rifle bullet. The enemy had completely retired before sunset. The
practice of Anderson’s guns (Hazara Mountain Battery) was splendid.
Asmatullah Khan has most of the Lughman chiefs with him, and the
Governor of Jellalabad Mahomed Hasan Khan.” Colonel Norman also reported
that with the force at his command, he could not hope thoroughly to
disperse the Lughmanis, who retired from one range of hills to another.
These are the usual tactics of Afghan guerilla warfare, the tribesmen
returning as soon as the pursuit is over. The punishment of Asmatullah
Khan will be directed from another quarter. A flying column from
Jellalabad will enter his country and devastate it, dispersing any force
he may attempt to keep together. The news of this proposed expedition
has doubtless hastened his steps back to his own fertile valley. The
Ghilzais south of Jugdulluck will also be visited by a flying column
from Gundamak, which will penetrate as far as Hisarak, and punish
Maizullah Khan and the other chiefs who joined him. Each of these
columns will be made up of 1,500 infantry, four mountain guns, and a
squadron of cavalry, and they are to be kept always ready to move out at
short notice, apart from the regular garrison of Jellalabad and


Footnote 37:

  I may here state that both these expeditions were afterwards carried
  out, and their object attained.


Another prisoner of some importance has been deported to India: Daoud
Shah, the ex-Commander-in-Chief of the Amir’s army, was sent down the
line a few days ago. His honesty, which for a long time many of us
believed in, seems to have been tried, and found wanting. The story that
a letter was intercepted, incriminating him in the rising, is untrue;
but that communications of some kind passed between him and the hostile
chiefs is said to have been pretty conclusively established. The exact
relations between him and Mahomed Jan may never be known; but they were
probably on the basis that, if Daoud Shah would desert the British, a
high command should be his under the new Amir, Musa Jan. His military
experience would also have been invaluable in directing such an army as
that within Cabul, and his knowledge of our cantonment and its weak
points would have made him a leader whom the tribesmen would have
confidently followed.

The Military Commission has had before it many of the prisoners taken
after December 23rd, and five men condemned to death were hanged
yesterday. Four of these were villagers of Baghwana, near which place
the four Horse Artillery guns were lost on December 11th. Captain
Guinness, of the 72nd Highlanders, has taken the place of Major Morgan,
9th foot, on the Commission, which, it will be remembered, originally
consisted at Siah Sung Camp of General Massy, Major Moriarty, and
Captain Guinness. Very few prisoners are now left for trial.


                              CHAPTER XXI.

An Amnesty issued—Influences affecting the People during the
    _Jehad_—Invitation to the Chiefs to visit Sherpur—Leaders exempted
    from the Amnesty—The Malcontent Chiefs at Ghazni—Durbar of January
    9th—Principal Chiefs present—Padshah Khan—Address by Sir Frederick
    Roberts—Loyal Chiefs rewarded—Arrangements for governing
    Kohistan—Migration of Hindu Merchants to India—Reasons for the
    Movement—Mahomed Jan’s Plans—Proposal to Recall Yakub Khan—Reasons
    for such a Course being impossible—Improvement in the Intelligence
    Department—News of Abdur Rahman Khan—Additional Fortifications about
    Cabul and Sherpur.

                                                _7th January, 1880._

An amnesty has been issued by General Roberts, dated December 26th,
which is so framed that it should convince even the most sceptical
tribesmen that we are anxious to conciliate them rather by fair dealing
than by force of arms. Only five leaders are exempted from the pardon
which is freely offered to all tribes who will send in their
representatives to our cantonments. The losses which the Kohistanis and
other clans suffered by the _jehad_ were so heavy that the pride of
having been able to coop up the British army within Sherpur, must be
mixed with a feeling that the temporary victory was dearly bought, and
that to repeat it would involve still further loss of life. In the
proclamation it is assumed that the mass of ignorant people were misled
by the representation of certain “seditious men,” and rose in rebellion
against us; and our pardon is granted on the further assumption that
this ignorance was generally shared in by the coalition of tribesmen.
This is a very lenient view to take of what was really an outburst of
religious fanaticism, in which even chiefs who were friendly to us
shared; but it is a stroke of policy which may, for a time at least, win
over to us most of the leaders of the tribes. Before carrying fire and
sword into their villages, we invite them to come in and say what it is
they really want, and we guarantee their personal safety, even though
they lately stood arrayed against us. This is not the usual treatment
accorded to rebels; but it is felt, perhaps, that, with our half-hearted
declarations of policy regarding Afghanistan, it would he unwise to
punish, with the severity rebellion merits, the people who have given us
so much trouble. If we had formally annexed the country, we might
certainly punish with death men who rose in arms against our authority;
but all we have done is to declare that, at some unknown date, we shall
“make known our will as to the future permanent arrangements to be made
for the good government of the people.” Where our arms were felt, there
our authority was known and respected; but in the districts beyond, our
power was only nominal. To refuse to obey it was rebellion only in name,
under such circumstances; and, moreover, the abdication of the Amir
Yakub Khan was looked upon by his late subjects as rather compulsory
than otherwise. The ignorant people, whom we are now so ready to
forgive, argued that, if the abdication was voluntary, a successor would
instantly have been placed on the throne; whereas time had gone by, and
nothing had been done to show that our military occupation of the
capital and the districts between Cabul and Peshawur was not to be
permanent. An appeal to their loyalty to the Barakzai dynasty, and a
further appeal to their hatred of Kaffirs, were quite enough to call
them to arms; and they believed themselves strong enough either to drive
us pell-mell from Cabul, or to impose terms of their own making. They
did not succeed in either; and if we followed their own savage custom,
we should kill every man we could lay hands upon who had joined in the
attack upon our army. But, instead of these bloodthirsty reprisals, the
tribesmen find pursuing them messengers bearing offers of pardon if they
will merely visit Sherpur and make their obeisance to the British
General. They are not asked to submit to any conditions; their safety is
assured; and all that is required of them is that they will frankly say
what their opinions are upon the present state of Afghan politics, and
what suggestions they have to make to guide us in dealing with the
people. Some of the tribal chiefs are either in Sherpur, or on their way
thither; and we shall soon have an opportunity of hearing what their
wishes—if they have any—really are. But, whatever views are put forward,
and whatever points may be yielded by men who are in their hearts most
hostile to us, it will not be enough to take shallow promises as
trustworthy in the future. With all the cunning astuteness of Afghans,
the tribal leaders will come in and will try to outwit us, as they have
always tried before. If we accept their promises and leave them to be
carried out by themselves, they may be looked upon as a dead letter.
Rather would it be better to listen to all that they have to urge in
favour of a new order of things: Kohistanis, Wardaks, Logaris, Ghilzais
of all sections giving their views freely; and then to dismiss them to
their homes, warning them that they must rest peacefully until the
_will_ of the British Government is made known to them. Let a fixed date
be declared on which that _will_ shall be publicly proclaimed; and
whether the decision is that Afghanistan is to be annexed, to be split
up into provinces, or left to fall to pieces by internal disorder after
our return to India, let it be clearly understood that, so long as a
British General remains at Cabul, his orders are the law that is alone
to be regarded. These orders, also, must be enforced, when necessary, by
our soldiers, and something more must be done than sending some sirdar,
alone and unprotected, into tribal districts, to carry out our wishes.
The only fear is that the amnesty may be looked upon as a sign of
weakness on our part, meaning that we dread another uprising; but if,
along with our philanthropic forgiveness, we mix the leaven of military
preparations on a large scale, the eyes of the people will be opened to
our real resources and the power we have at hand to crush rebellion. It
must never occur to us again to be shut up in Sherpur for nine days;
such investments are fatal to our prestige, both here and elsewhere. The
memorandum of a Military Secretary in India, who can seek to reassure
the country by the absurd statement that 2,500 men can garrison a
cantonment with over four miles of walls and trenches to man, must not
be allowed to weigh against the ugly facts we have had to face. With
more than 5,000 men available for duty, the work was so terrible and
severe, the constant watch by day and night so trying, that over 800
sick and wounded are now in our hospitals. With these 5,000 we could
repulse assaults, but could not move outside to give battle to the enemy
who flaunted their standards on Siah Sung Heights, and planted others
within 250 yards of our bastions. Never was there a case in which the
motto “fore-warned is fore-armed” was more applicable than now: our
warning has been a rude one, and has cost us many lives; but it has done
this service—that it has shown us how to guard against another such
shock. Ten thousand men in Sherpur and the Bala Hissar can laugh at even
50,000 tribesmen; for, with such a force at our disposal, we could
always spare 3,000 or 4,000 infantry to fight beyond the walls; and our
past experience has shown that we have nothing to fear with brigades of
this strength. It is only when we invite attack by weakness that
hands-ful of our men are overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers. If we
are to continue in the country, and operations are to be extended in the
spring to Ghazni, Charikar, or Balkh, not less than 10,000 men should be
garrisoned in and about Cabul by the end of March. Our power now extends
just as far as our rifles can shoot; for we can no more rely upon the
fidelity of Chiefs who come into Sherpur, than Macnaghten could upon the
promises of Akhbar Khan. Every man’s hand would be against us, if we
again were encompassed about in these cantonments.

In the meantime, the proclamation of an amnesty has brought in most of
the Kohistani chiefs (even those of Istalif and Charikar) and the nearer
Lughman _maliks_. The latter were friendly enough to us before December
14th; but aver that they were forced to join Mahomed Jan, who threatened
to harry their villages if they refused to turn out their armed men. The
Kohistanis have seen Mir Butcha’s villages and forts destroyed within a
week from the dispersion of the investing force; and, true to their old
policy, they have come in and are as peaceable as when first they were
entertained on Siah Sung. Padshah Khan has suddenly grown very anxious
to be on good terms with us again, and his son and uncle are already
here. He himself will shortly put in an appearance, and his explanations
will be interesting to listen to. He forfeited the subsidy promised to
him for the aid he gave us, on our march from Ali Kheyl, by his tribe
sharing in the attack upon the Shutargardan; and he is astute enough to
know that now he has no claim upon our consideration. When General
Roberts has interviewed the chiefs of the various sections, he will be
able to comprehend, in its true light, the reason of the late _jehad_,
and what it is that the tribal leaders require. Upon this he may make
his calculations for a future campaign if they again prefer an appeal to
arms to a peaceful understanding. It must not be forgotten that the five
men exempted from the amnesty are still at large, and are supposed to be
planning a revival of the _jehad_; and doubtless every chief who now
comes in and accepts the pardon offered to him will make a mental
reservation to be guided by the course of events at Ghazni as well as at
Cabul. The five leaders are Mahomed Jan; Mushk-i-Alam, of Charkh; Mir
Butcha, the Kohistani chief, now said to be at Charikar; Samander Khan,
of Logar; and Tahir Khan, son of Mahomed Sharif Khan, the sirdar kept as
a prisoner at Dehra Dun. Tahir Khan was for a long time in our camp with
his brother, Hashim Khan, and was generally supposed to be a harmless
youngster. As he was instrumental in carrying off Musa Jan, and is
active in keeping alive the dying _jehad_ at Ghazni, he has suddenly
become a personage important enough to be severely punished if he is
caught. Mahomed Jan is all-powerful among the Wardak men, the most
restless and impetuous clan near Cabul. He would have been their chief
upon the death of his father, but that he was a General in the Amir’s
service, and could not fulfil both duties. His brother was elected
chief, but has since died, and the Wardaks look upon Mahomed Jan as
their leader. The malcontents at Ghazni have also been joined by the
ex-Governor of Jellalabad. This man, Mahomed Hasan Khan, finding his
friend, Asmatullah Khan, with his Lughmanis, was coming to grief at
Jugdulluck, doubted him, and, following by-paths through the hills north
of Luttabund, reached Deh-i-Sabz in safety. He thought the Safis too
weak to stay with, and passed thence through the Koh-Daman over the
Surkh Kotal until he gained the Ghazni Road below Argandeh. Once on the
southern road, he was safe; and by this time he is probably aiding
Mahomed Jan to get together a new army.

                                                      _9th January._

The policy of conciliation which we have so magnanimously adopted after
the ineffectual attempt of the tribesmen to drive us from our
cantonments has been declared in open Durbar to-day, to some 200
Sirdars, Chiefs, and _maliks_. The effect of the amnesty, issued on
December 26th, has been in the main so successful, that many Kohistanis,
Logaris, and Ghilzais have come into Sherpur and made their peace with
Sir F. Roberts—temporarily it may be, for but little reliance is to be
placed upon the promises of Afghans; but still openly, and with no
seeming reservation. What their course of behaviour may be hereafter, in
case the Ghazni malcontents are able to raise a second _jehad_ of
importance, we cannot tell; but they have been given clearly to
understand that our forbearance does not arise from any fear of our own
strength to crush them, but simply because we desire rather to live on
peacable terms with the people, than to be continually harrying them for
their misdeeds. It is almost too much to ask any tribesman to refrain
from joining in a movement which promises him plenty of bloodshed and
unlimited loot; but by first thrashing him and then treating him with
generous forgiveness, we may convince him that it is more to his
interest to be on friendly terms with us than to risk his life and
property by setting our arms at defiance. The Durbar to-day was held
chiefly for the purpose of presenting such of the Kohistani chiefs as
had remained friendly to us with substantial rewards, and of declaring
to the others what our present policy is likely to be. The Logari and
Ghilzai chiefs had also a chance of observing how we reward our friends,
and of being assured that an offer of pardon to such as have chosen to
accept it was not an empty promise, merely to entice them into Sherpur.

A large tent was pitched near head-quarters, and in this were assembled
the chiefs who were to make their salaam to General Roberts. They were
marshalled in due order by Mahomed Hyat Khan, Assistant Political
Officer, and knelt down in the fashion in vogue among Orientals when
serious business has to be gone through. A little square was left vacant
in the middle of the tent, and in this stood four of the 72nd
Highlanders with fixed bayonets, the only sentries among the
closely-packed Sirdars and _maliks_, many of whom were fighting against
our troops but a few days ago. Sir F. Roberts entered, when all had been
duly arranged, and the kneeling figures rose as with one accord, and
made obeisance with that courteous humility which seems to convey so
much, and yet, in reality, means so little. There was no parade of any
kind in the Durbar: General Roberts was attended only by an
Aide-de-Camp, Captain Carew, and Major Hastings, Chief Political
Officer. His native orderlies were of course at hand in case of a
fanatic appearing. The salaaming having come to an end, General Roberts
seated himself to receive the Sirdars as they were presented separately
by Mahomed Hyat Khan. Sirdar Wali Mahomed Khan was placed on the
General’s left hand, and from time to time explained the status and
characteristics of the more notable Chiefs. In addition to Wali Mahomed
there were many other members of the Barakzai family present, the chief
of whom were Sirdars Ibrahim Khan (brother of Shere Ali), Ahmed Ali Jan,
Mahomed Hashim Khan, Abdulla Khan, and Mahomed Yusuf Khan. One by one
the Chiefs were presented, and the formal ceremony of the Durbar
proceeded. Many of the Sirdars, and even some of the tribal chiefs, so
far conformed to English custom as to shake hands with the General. It
was a picturesque scene; the dense mass of kneeling figures, clad in
richly-coloured _chogas_, or with long-flowing garments shaped like the
old Roman _toga_. The wild and, in many cases, handsome faces of the
tribal leaders lighted up with interest and expectation as their fellows
stepped out and bowed meekly before the representative of that British
Government they had lately fought against. One incident was the
presentation of Padshah Khan to General Roberts. As his name was called
out, there was something like a titter all round—for even Afghans have a
sense of humour, and they could not help appreciating the shamefacedness
of this Ghilzai chief, who, after aiding the British to reach Cabul, had
striven to drive them out, and had then accepted the forgiveness so
freely offered. Padshah Khan came forward in his usual cringing way, and
on his sunburnt cheeks just a tinge of colour mounted, the nearest
approach to a blush that he could raise. Even General Roberts joined in
the general smile which spread from face to face at the evident
discomfort of the Chief; while the latter, recovering his
self-possession, went back to his place smiling also, as if a great
weight had been lifted from his mind. He must wonder at our generosity,
and, perhaps, be doubtful as to how far it may extend, in the future;
but, so far, he is grateful for our forbearance, as his villages have
not shared the fate of those of Mir Butcha. The Logari and Ghilzai
Chiefs having salaamed, there were presented _en masse_ some thirty-four
Jagri and Besud Hazara Chiefs and _maliks_. These men have remained true
to their promises; and as their country bounds Ghazni on the west, and
also marches with the Wardak districts, they are likely to be useful
allies. Being of the Shiah sect of Mahomedans, they have nothing in
common with the Afghan Sunis, and we shall be able to employ them in
harassing Mahomed Jan’s army if that leader collects a force at Ghazni.
With a column marching up from Candahar, and our own army moving down
the Ghazni Road from Cabul, the insurgents would be held in check
westwards by the Hazaras, and their only road for retreat would be
eastwards towards Khost and the Shutargardan districts. Saftar Ali Khan,
head of the Jagri Hazaras, was unable to attend owing to sickness; but
his son, Ahmed Ali Khan, was present to receive the handsome _khilluts_
bestowed upon his father and himself. The presentations being over, Sir
Frederick Roberts read the following address to the Kohistanis, which
was translated into Persian by Mahomed Hyat Khan:—


        “I am very glad to see that so many of the Kohistan _maliks_
  have taken advantage of the amnesty published on the 26th of December
  last, and have come to Cabul to pay their respects to the British
  Government, and to express their regrets for having taken a part in
  the recent disturbances. I trust that those _maliks_ who are still
  holding aloof, will follow the good example that has been set them,
  and will soon make their appearance at Cabul. I told you, when you
  visited me in my camp at Siah Sung, after the arrival of the British
  troops at Cabul, that the British Government had nothing but goodwill
  towards the people of Afghanistan; that it is their desire to respect
  your lives, your property, and your religion, and to molest no one who
  would live at peace with them. You have had ample proof of the truth
  of what I told you. At the instigation of ill-advised men you came
  from your homes in Kohistan to attack the British troops at Sherpur.
  All that you succeeded in doing was to plunder your own countrymen who
  live in the city of Cabul. You did the British troops but little
  injury, and in a few days you were beaten off, and had to return to
  your homes with the loss of several hundred killed and wounded. You
  brought this punishment upon yourself, and must not blame the British
  Government. What that Government did was to offer a pardon to all who
  would come in—except the _malik_ who, it is believed, was the main
  cause of your being led astray. It was necessary he should be
  punished; but, in doing so, every care was taken that no one else
  should suffer injury. The British troops marched through your country
  as far as Baba Kuch Kar, treating you all as friends, and paying
  liberally for everything in the shape of food and forage you were
  able, or willing, to provide. I hope the lesson will not be lost upon
  you, and that you will not misunderstand the generosity and
  forbearance with which you have been treated. It is a great pleasure
  to me to find that so many of the more intelligent and well-informed
  of the people of Afghanistan took no part in the recent disturbances.
  First and foremost I would name Sirdars Wali Mahomed Khan, Ibrahim
  Khan, Hashim Khan, Abdulla Khan, Mahomed Yusuf Khan, Mahomed Karim
  Khan, Shahbaz Khan, Ahmed Ali Jan, Mahomed Sirwur Khan, Ataullah Khan,
  Anitoollah Khan, Habibulla Khan (the Mustaufi), Malik Hamid Khan, and
  Khan Mahomed Khan. Then several of your own chiefs remained with me
  throughout. General Faiz Mahomed Khan, the son of Naik Aminulla Khan,
  of Logar, the family of the Mustaufi Sirdar Habibulla Khan, of Wardak,
  the Kizilbashes, and many other influential men in the city of Cabul
  refrained from joining the disturbers of peace and order; and I am
  glad to have this opportunity of thanking them on the part of the
  British Government for the good service they thereby performed. I am
  now about to give _khilluts_ to those Kohistanis who remained at
  Sherpur with me; after which you are at liberty to return to your
  homes. I am sending back with you to Kohistan Sirdar Shahbaz Khan,
  whom you have yourselves asked for as your Governor. He will settle
  your disputes, and preserve order in the country. Also that I may be
  fully informed by yourselves of all that passes, and of all that you
  may wish to represent hereafter, I invite you to select certain of
  your number who will remain here and act as a medium of communication
  between us. They will be treated with consideration, and will have
  free access to me. The rest of you may return to your homes, and for
  your own sake remember all that has passed.”

Sir Frederick Roberts then presented the _khilluts_, which consisted of
handsome _chogas_ and a certain number of rupees, to the Chiefs who had
remained with us, or faithfully kept their promises. Those who had
merely come in answer to the amnesty were, of course, not rewarded.
Besides the Sirdars mentioned in the speech, who were rewarded for their
loyalty to the British Government, there were eleven Kohistani Chiefs,
twelve Logaris (including Faiz Mahomed Khan, of Ali Musjid celebrity),
and thirty-four Jagri and Besud Hazara Khans and _maliks_. With the
distribution of _khilluts_ the Durbar closed, and the Chiefs were free
to depart.

In the meantime, our indecision has re-acted upon a section of the
citizens of Cabul, who dread another occupation by tribesmen. The Hindu
merchants are beginning to move out with their families and goods, and
are taking the road to Peshawur. I have had many chances of learning
their feeling from one of their number, an intelligent banker, well
versed in local politics. His explanation of the migration is that the
Hindus trusted in the British, and looked to them for protection—which
was promised. But when the rising took place, the British had enough to
do to hold Sherpur, and consequently they were left at the mercy of the
rabble about Mahomed Jan. They will not risk a second occupation, being
convinced that it will take place, as we have not really received any
considerable reinforcements. “Besides,” they add, “no man can say what
you will do next, whether you will go back to India, or occupy Cabul for
ever. We have waited for you to say what is to happen, and nothing has
come of it except loss to ourselves and insult to our women. We will
still wait, but this time in Peshawur, where we shall be safe. If the
Sirkar takes over Cabul, then we will return.” And so they are taking
their departure, and Cabul is losing many of its best citizens;
industrious, peace-loving men, whom we cannot easily replace. It is a
comment upon our “waiting-upon-Providence” policy which is not at all
pleasant. Besides, if these Hindus carry to India the idea that we
cannot protect them in Cabul, and spread this report throughout
Hindustan, the effect upon the minds of our own subjects east of the
Indus may be very serious. Prestige is such a delicate plant in Eastern
soil, that it should be carefully guarded. Our military preparations in
and about Cabul—the building of strong stone towers on the Bala Hissar
Heights and the Asmai Hill, the cutting of military roads to the Cabul
gorge, the re-occupation of the Bala Hissar, the clearing of the country
about Sherpur of forts and walls—do not convey much to these Hindus.
“You want more _men_ if you are to hold Cabul, and keep out your enemy.
What are 10,000 to 50,000? There must be 20,000 here to guard Sherpur
and the city.” They are men of peace, and their criticism of military
matters is weak; but they shrewdly enough ask if, after sickness and
wounds, our fighting men are more numerous now than two months ago. It
may be a small matter, after all, that these terror-stricken Hindus turn
their faces eastwards; but it should be remembered that, all through the
troublous times of the Durani dynasty, their forefathers, and they
themselves, have remained in Cabul, and they are only leaving the city
now, because they do not believe in the power of the British to hold it
against another army of 50,000 Afghans.

Our news from Ghazni still shows that there is energy left in Mahomed
Jan, and that he has held his own against the Jagri and Besud Hazaras,
who have tried to drive him from the neighbourhood. His latest plan to
collect a new army is very ingenious. He has placed Musa Jan solemnly
before his followers, and made the child repeat after him an oath upon
the Koran, by which all true Mahomedans who join in another attack upon
Sherpur shall be exempt from taxation for three years. The bait is a
tempting one to indigent tribesmen; but some of the more wary may refuse
the offer, as they must see how unlikely it is that our army will ever
be expelled by force.

There is not much cantonment news. The force has just experienced a
heavy loss in the death, from pneumonia, of Dr. Porter, principal
medical officer of the division. Dr. Porter was so universal a
favourite, both with his own medical officers and with every soldier in
the Cabul army of occupation, that his loss is a matter of personal
sorrow to all of us. His high professional ability gave him a prominent
place in the first rank of army surgeons.

                                                     _17th January._

The malcontents at Ghazni have at last given us an idea of the terms to
which they would be willing to agree: these being nothing short of the
recall of Yakub Khan, and his replacement on the throne. It is
difficult, in the present state of affairs, to gain accurate news from
Ghazni, but from letters which have been received, it would seem that a
secret council of chiefs was held at that place a few days ago, and it
was decided to send Sir Frederick Roberts a kind of diplomatic message.
The purport of this message was that Mahomed Jan and his adherents would
fight to the end unless the ex-Amir was instantly sent back from India,
and once more given charge of Afghanistan as supreme ruler. Young Tahir
Khan is the originator of this new scheme, but it is uncertain how far
it is shared in by Mushk-i-Alam. It is pretty certain that the latter
was sorely displeased by his _jehad_ being perverted into a raid upon
the city of Cabul; and on this point he quarrelled with Mahomed Jan,
even before the investment of Sherpur was at an end. This quarrel was
partly instrumental in causing the rapid dispersion of the tribal
gathering; factions being formed, and discussion running very high. The
more fanatical sided with the _moollah_; while the disorderly element
supported Mahomed Jan. The letter conveying the decision of the Ghazni
council has duly reached us, and we are rather amused at the coolness of
the proposal. The removal of Yakub Khan is in the eyes of many people a
very inadequate punishment for his culpable weakness in allowing an
Envoy to be slaughtered, and we should be stultifying ourselves if we
were even seriously to think of “giving him another chance.” If he were
a strong and capable ruler, able to carry out the terms of an alliance
with us; a leader who had been captured in opposing our armies, and had
been deposed after defeat, there might then enter into our calculations
such a possibility as making him Amir once more. In the old war we so
far sacrificed our pride as to send back Dost Mahomed to Cabul after he
had been deported to India; but Dost Mahomed was a ruler worthy of
respect, and a soldier who could keep his unruly subjects fairly well in
hand. One can almost imagine that a few fanatics are hugging the belief
that, as the Dost was reinstated, so will Yakub Khan be again placed in
power; but such a consummation can never occur. It is doubtful whether
Mushk-i-Alam has accepted the decision of the council. Our first
information was to the effect that the arch-_moollah_ had gone to Ghazni
and harangued a large meeting of the malcontents; but it has since been
reported that he was not present at the consultation. Mahomed Jan’s
movements, too, are difficult to follow. One day he is said to be among
his kinsmen at Wardak; the next that he is stirring up the Zurmut people
east of Ghazni; and then come all sorts of absurd rumours about his
being on the way to Kohistan to see what Mir Butcha is doing.

Our intelligence department is growing at last to be something more than
a name. Before the events of the 11th and 23rd December, the only
reports that were received as trustworthy were those given by paid spies
and followers of the sirdars—followers who are, as a rule, of the purest
type of ruffianism. One always looks upon a sirdar as a past-master in
the art of deception, who would sacrifice the British at any moment if
he could do so with impunity; and the hangers-on of these chiefs are not
a whit better than their masters. The action of the 11th in the Chardeh
Valley proved to demonstration that no trust could be placed in the
reports given by the sirdars: there were found to be 10,000 or 15,000
men within ten miles of Sherpur, whereas we had only heard of 5,000
being at Argandeh. Now there has been established a regular system of
patrols, and a certain number of Kizilbash horsemen are stationed at
various points on the Argandeh Kotal, Surkh Kotal, the Kohistan Road
northwards over the Paen Minar Kotal, and about Charasia. They are under
the command of one responsible native leader in Sherpur, who again is
directly controlled by Lieutenant-Colonel Lockhart, the
Quartermaster-General of the division. As these horsemen are paid, not
by results, but for regular service on patrol work, they are likely to
be more trustworthy than the highly-paid spies hitherto employed. If the
system could be a little more extended on the lines I have before
pointed out in previous letters—viz., regular establishment—it might be
a great aid to us in the guerilla warfare we are engaged in.

Important news has been received that Abdur Rahman Khan has left
Tashkend, and is now probably in Turkistan. If his residence among the
Russians has not thoroughly converted him to their views, he might be a
useful man for us to take up. He is ambitious, and, if we can trust Mr.
Schuyler’s estimate of him, has some ability which might now be turned
to good use. What his influence would be now in the country after so
many years of absence we cannot tell; but to-day, in mentioning his name
to an old Cabuli, and saying that he was possibly already in Turkistan,
my listener’s face lighted up with pleasure, and he eagerly asked if he
would return to Cabul. There are so many possibilities to be weighed in
calculating the chances of settling affairs here on a fairly safe basis,
that Abdur Rahman’s claims may come to be considered. Unless, as I have
said, he has been Russianised, he might fall in with our views, and, at
least as a provincial governor, be trusted with authority.

In the meantime we are making preparations to hold Cabul as well as
Sherpur in case of an attempted repetition of the events of December
11th to 23rd. General Charles Gough’s brigade in the Bala Hissar is busy
at work, cutting a broad road from the Shah Shehr Gate (that facing Siah
Sung) to the gate overlooking the city near Chandaul. The broken places
in the walls have been built up, and improvements made by the Engineers,
so as to give shelter to the garrison if an attack were attempted from
the city. The Sherderwaza Heights immediately above the Bala Hissar are
also to be held in future by one battalion (say 500 or 600 men),
stationed in three strong towers, now in course of construction. The
first and strongest of these is on the spur above the Arsenal; a steep
point completely commanding the Upper Bala Hissar already being crowned
with strong walls, the basement of the tower. The crest of the
Sherderwaza Heights already boasts of a strong wall, part of the Afghan
fortifications; and this position is naturally so strong, the hillside
sloping down almost perpendicularly towards Chardeh Valley, that with
the two towers now being built it could defy assault from any force
destitute of artillery. The ridge running down westwards to the Cabul
gorge would also be held if an enemy menaced the city, and on the Asmai
Heights on the northern side a strong fort is to be built. The military
roads converging upon Dehmazung from Sherpur cantonments unite in
Deh-i-Afghan and pass by the foot of the Asmai Hill, whence they are to
be continued in one broad road until the main Bamian Road through
Chardeh Valley is gained. The towers above mentioned are to be
provisioned and watered, always, for ten days, and are to contain
small-arm ammunition equal to the requirements of a battalion for that
period, calculated on the basis of serious fighting. A road broad enough
for guns will also be made about Cabul itself from Deh-i-Afghan to the
Bala Hissar, in addition to a circular road about Sherpur cantonments.
Another road is to be cut from Bemaru village to the Siah Sung Heights,
with a bridge spanning the Cabul river; and yet another from the 67th
Gateway (near the south-eastern bastion) direct to the Bala Hissar, this
also crossing the river by a new pile bridge. These two roads will
ensure communication between Sherpur and the fortress without our troops
having to pass near the city walls; and will give us alternative bridges
over the Cabul, whereas we formerly had only one bridge, that on the
city road from Sherpur. With regard to the cantonment itself, the clear
space for 1,000 yards about the walls is already partly made, although
the _débris_ of forts and villages destroyed requires much levelling
before it can be said that all cover has been swept away. The blocks of
solid mud and the loose rubbish could be utilized by skirmishers
advancing to attack, and until this accumulation of ruins has been
thoroughly levelled, our rifle-fire will not have a fair chance. On the
eastern point of the Bemaru Heights a very strong tower is now being
rapidly built, and the hill about it is to be scarped for ten yards, so
that to assault it from outside cantonments would be impossible. At the
north-west corner, below the western end of Bemaru Heights, the line of
trenches with their parapet of gun-carriage wheels (described in one of
my letters written during the siege) will also be strengthened by a
broad and deep wet ditch.


                             CHAPTER XXII.

Philanthropic Work in Cabul—Dr. Owen’s Hospital—Prejudices gradually
    Overcome—The Attendance of Women—The Hospital Wrecked by
    Fanatics—The Place Re-established—A Visit to the Wards—Gratitude of
    the Patients—Treatment of Men Wounded in Action—Confidence in the
    Surgeon’s Skill—Life in Sherpur—Freedom of Criticism upon Current
    Events—The Sherpur Club—Amusements of the Garrison—The First
    Theatre—The Pleasures of Skating and Sliding—A Snow Fight on Bemaru
    Heights—“How they Live in Cabul”—Zenana Life—Prevalence of
    Intrigues—Shopping—A Cabul Interior—A Lady’s Dress—Cabuli
    Children—Character of the Citizens of Cabul—The Sirdar—Ambition and
    Sensuality—A Sirdar’s House—The Rites of Hospitality—The Cabul
    Trader—His Manner of doing Business.

                                               _22nd January, 1880._

As there seems to be an impression gaining ground, at least in England,
that our army of occupation have adopted the Russian plan of settling a
country—the institution of a Reign of Terror—it may be worth while to
describe fully the means which we have taken for drawing the people
towards us. After the capture of Cabul in October, it was found that
there was a vast amount of disease and suffering among the poorer
inhabitants of the city, and that native surgery never attempted to cope
with these, except in the rudest way. With the benevolence which
generally characterizes our commanders in the field, Sir F. Roberts
ordered a charitable dispensary and hospital to be opened in Cabul; and
Dr. Owen, Staff Surgeon, was placed in charge of the institution. The
Kotwal’s house, vacant by reason of the execution of that official for
complicity in the Massacre, was turned into a hospital, and work was
begun at once. The rooms were cleaned and put in order, wards for men
and women arranged, the tottering walls shaken by earthquakes made safe
and sound, and then patients were invited to attend. On November 21st,
Dr. Owen was first “consulted,” twelve wretched beings, suffering from
various ailments, coming to him for treatment. They were carefully
treated, and although, on account of the scarcity of English drugs in
camp, no elaborate prescriptions could be made up, the best bazaar
medicines were freely given. The news of the Sircar’s latest
eccentricity soon began to spread throughout Cabul, and for several days
the place was visited by little crowds of persons, who were either sick,
or had sick friends who needed treatment. With the suspicion always at
work in Afghan minds, that every act of the stranger has some obscure
tendency to harm them, the citizens were full of mistrust. They could
not appreciate the generosity of their conquerors, and argued that it
was absurd to suppose that men who had come to destroy Cabul would sink
their ideas of vengeance, and, instead of taking life, would save life
and make it worth living. Gradually their ideas changed; they believed
in the disinterestedness of the English _hakeem_ (who, by the way, was
more than once mistaken for Sir Louis Cavagnari, risen to life again,
Dr. Owen slightly resembling our dead Envoy). The number of patients
increased; but, with customary jealousy, no women were permitted to seek
relief: there might be a plot to invade the sanctity of the Afghan
household. But attentions of this sort were not thrust upon the
citizens, and some women also were found waiting at the hospital doors.
A room was set apart for them in which they could wait without fear of
being molested; a middle-aged woman, a Cabuli, acted as matron, and
re-assured them, when their fears overcame their desire to be made

By the 11th of December the daily attendance had risen to 118, of whom
fully two-thirds were women, and Dr. Owen’s services were sought after
by well-to-do citizens, in whose _zenanas_ were sick wives or favourite
concubines pining under mysterious ailments. Just when attendances were
daily growing more numerous, came the rush of Mahomed Jan’s host upon
Cabul. The city was occupied, and in the stupid madness which prompted
the ghazis to destroy all marks of our occupation, the dispensary was
looted and partly wrecked. Fortunately, the few cases of instruments,
which Dr. Owen had to leave behind, were taken away by one of the
attendants and buried in a neighbouring house. But the bottles of
medicines still on the shelves were broken; chairs, tables, and
partitions smashed to pieces; and even doors and windows pulled out.
This was in the outer courtyard of the late Kotwal’s house; the rooms
grouped about the inner yard were not much interfered with, as they bore
but few signs of the stranger’s hand. When on Christmas Day, Dr. Owen
once more visited the place, nothing but empty rooms greeted him, and
these so filthy, that they could scarcely be entered. However, those in
the outer courtyard were soon cleaned, and on the following morning
patients were again found waiting at the doors. There were only eighteen
on that particular day; but as peaceful times were more assured, the
list soon grew to its old proportions; and yesterday, when I visited the
hospital, there were 207 patients on the books. The disease most
prevalent in Cabul is ophthalmia, caused by dirt and exposure; while
cataract and other serious affections of the eye are also only too
common. The type is very much the same as that found in Egypt; and
partial, or complete, blindness from neglect follows almost as a matter
of course. Luckily for the Cabulis, Dr. Owen is a skilled oculist, and
already his operations are bruited about the city as marvels that cannot
be easily understood by the people.

My visit yesterday was made with Dr. Owen a little before noon; a sharp
walk from cantonments, past the ruins of the forts of Mahomed Sharif and
Mahomed Khan and over the Cabul river, bringing us in a quarter of an
hour to the western skirts of the city, not far from the Bala Hissar.
Through a narrow, winding lane, so filthy and muddy that a Cologne slum
could not compare with it, and then into the Char Chowk Bazaar, just
where it tapers off towards the Peshawur Gate: along this for a few
yards, and over a doorway on the right, a wooden board catches the eye,
with the words “Charitable Dispensary,” painted upon it, with the
Persian translation below. As we passed through the doorway into an open
courtyard, where thirty or forty wretched poshteen-clad men were
squatting under a rude verandah, a Ghoorka guard of four men stood to
attention on the sunny side of the yard. The squatting figures rose up
and made their salaam abjectly, as poverty ever does; they were the
poorest of the poor—Hazara coolies, Mahomedan beggars, lepers, the
blind, the halt, the maimed—all whom wretchedness and disease have cast
out as a hideous fringe upon healthful life. Apart from the general
crowd were solitary men, whose appearance showed them to belong to the
shopkeeping class—an influential section in the busy life of Cabul. Two
or three women, veiled from head to foot, resembling nothing so much as
Sisters of Charity, followed us in, and, with faces carefully covered by
their _yashmaks_, passed quickly into a closed room, the door of which
opening for an instant showed other white-robed figures grouped
together. There are three rooms on the right of the courtyard—a small
one, in which stores are kept and an attendant lives; a second, which
serves as dispensary, surgery and consulting-room; and a third, the
_zenana_, the room in which the women wait in quiet seclusion. Around
the inner yard, which is reached by an open passage, are the wards
proper of the hospital, wherein surgical cases, or those involving
nursing and supervision, are treated. The rooms are warm and
comfortable, and the terraced roof is well adapted for convalescent
patients, who can “sun” themselves in comfort, that process which does
so much to restore strength after a weary illness. A room on the roof is
being fitted up for operations, as it is light and airy, and the
operator will not be liable to be disturbed by the curious crowd which
often collects now in the outer courtyard. Among the in-patients the
most noticeable was a man suffering from severe bullet wound in the leg.
He had been shot by us during the investment of Sherpur, and now, to his
surprise, found himself being treated kindly, and cured of a wound that,
if untended, would have caused his death. He seemed very grateful for
the attention paid to him: to be given comfortable quarters, food, and a
skilful surgeon by the Sircar against whom he had fought, was so
unexpected, that his mind had not quite grasped the whole idea. No
doubt, in time, he will see that it was done with no more evil intent
than to prove that we bear no malice, and are only anxious to conciliate
the people. Other wounded men have also been treated, and notice has
been sent round to all the villages about that any one suffering from
hurts received in the fighting will be admitted freely into the
hospital, and, when cured, will he allowed to depart without
molestation. Our “Reign of Terror” must surely be of the mildest when
our benevolence plays so chief a part in our policy.

After seeing the wards in which the patients were lying covered with
blankets, and with their feet thrust towards the middle of the room,
where was placed a wooden frame guarding a pan of live charcoal, the
heat of which is retained by thick, wadded quilts placed over the frame,
we returned to the dispensary where the “out patients” are dealt with.
_Place aux dames_: the women were first treated, two native doctors (one
a Cabuli educated in the Punjab) taking their tickets and dispensing
medicine, while Dr. Owen rapidly examined them. There were many
eye-cases, ophthalmia being most frequent, and the eagerness with which
the women pressed forward showed their faith in their newly-found
friend. They were nearly all old, wrinkled, and hideous; but their veils
were as carefully drawn until they were face to face with the surgeon,
as if they had been still youthful and attractive. Two or three children
were also brought. One bright-eyed little fellow, with a fractured arm,
which had been set a few days before, crying out with pain until it was
found that the sling in which the limb was carried had been carelessly
tied by his helpless mother, who had not understood the instructions
given to her. In a few minutes all was set right again, and the brave
little man bore the pain without a murmur. When the worst cases had been
seen, Dr. Owen went out to visit one or two patients in the city,
leaving the native doctors to deal with such trifling ailments as were
sought to be relieved. Medicines are given gratuitously; and though
patients with diseases of years’ standing expect to be cured in a few
days, everything done to relieve their suffering is gratefully accepted,
and belief in the _hakeem’s_ skill is a cardinal article of faith among
all of them, as only one death has occurred since the hospital was
opened. Dr. Owen is now freely admitted even to houses where Afghan
exclusiveness is most severe, and thus imperceptibly an influence is
being gained over the minds of the people which cannot fail to do great
good. The jealousy of Mahomedans where their women are concerned is
quite disarmed when they see how entirely devoted the English surgeon is
to his profession, and how little it affects him whether his patients
are street beggars, in the lowest depths of misery, or ladies of the
_zenana_, surrounded with every comfort.

I have described one phase of our rule in Cabul, and it will be seen
from it whether our policy, however defective it may be in its
indistinct outlines and indefinite aims, deserves the title of
“Russian.” When wounded ghazis are in our “charitable hospital,” our
vengeance must surely be of the most harmless kind. We have troubled
waters enough in Afghanistan, but we have also our pool of Siloam.


I give here two articles written a few weeks later, descriptive of our
life in Sherpur, and also of native life in Cabul:—

                       “HOW WE LIVE IN SHERPUR.”

We are a self-contained colony here, and a self-possessed one, too, for
the matter of that, but we are by no means self-satisfied. Every man
among us believes that if his advice had only been asked, the Afghan
difficulty would have been settled months ago, and we should now be
enjoying the delights of furlough in England, or revelling in the
fascinating gaieties of the cold season in the plains. A Briton without
his grumble would be unworthy of his country, and so we growl and swear
against the Powers that be, and ask why, in the name of all that’s
wicked, the wire-pullers in India and England do not make up their minds
to settle the matter. We are so conscious of our own unrecognized powers
as politicians and diplomats, that we laugh to scorn the idea that
affairs cannot be put on a footing that would satisfy even the
staunchest believers in a scientific frontier. The army in the old days
was merely a machine which, once set in motion by the hand of a
minister, ground out its life for years and years, without anything more
than an occasional groan when its wheels were not properly lubricated.
But, now, things are changed: every soldier is not only a fighting
machine, but a thinking machine, digesting rumours and theories with
marvellous voracity, and reproducing patched and piebald opinions of his
own, which will intrude themselves into prominence. There can be in our
ranks no “mute, inglorious” Wellingtons—or Wolseleys (for, in the eyes
of many purblind people, the terms are synonymous); an officer can now
through many channels criticize and smash up the strategy of a campaign,
and calmly sit upon the heads of his seniors while his comrades applaud
most heartily. Even the private soldier in the ranks knows full well
that if he only pulls the long bow sufficiently in a letter home, some
sympathizing party journal will accept his view of the situation, and
upon it draw with no uncertain hand the outlines of a new policy. If the
flood of criticism which is now surging about Sherpur could only be
collected in one stream, and be poured upon the devoted heads of the
clever politicians who hold our destinies in their hands, these
gentlemen would never stand high and dry again; they would be
overwhelmed once and for all. A shower bath braces the system; a
waterspout drowns all upon whom it falls; and if there were not a
feeling that our blundering along here, without a guiding light to show
General and soldier what to do, were now coming to an end, such a
phenomenon as a waterspout might arise in Sherpur. But I have before
sketched this phase of an existence here: if I said “life,” my own might
be endangered by the indignant army of Philistines, who only “exist;”
and it is useless to revive the cry of “Loot, Love, and Liberty,” for
not one of these blessings is forthcoming.

And yet from day to day we continue our being, and the days are not so
long as at first sight might be supposed. We have one panacea for all
the evils with which we believe ourselves beset: we make the best of
everything. Given the fine, bright weather which delighted us only a few
days ago, and Gymkhana meets, pony matches, polo and dog-hunting delight
our hearts and strengthen our digestions. Given a snow-fall and a rapid
thaw, when the ground underfoot is merely a quagmire: our rooms and
mess-houses, snug and warm, seem to invite us to a quiet rubber or an
earnest study of books and papers. And then there is our Club; it is an
accomplished fact, and, what is more, is an “institution.” It was
conceived in the calm which preceded the stirring events of December
11th to 24th, but its birth came not until a fortnight ago. It is not of
the imposing kind that was first intended, but still it suffices for all
our wants, and is made a rendezvous by all who care for some other
society than the familiars of their own messes. From Bemaru village,
where the Guides are encamped, and the choice spirits of the Transport
Department hold high revel occasionally on that spot sacred to the
memory of that foolish virgin who died _be-maru_ (without husband)—from
Bemaru to the quarters in the western wall is nearly two miles; and it
was not to be wondered at that friends at either end of cantonments saw
little of each other when there was no gathering-point. One might pay a
visit and, after tramping through slush and snow, find one’s friend
absent. To accept an invitation to dinner meant braving pitfalls and
watercourses in the darkness, or helplessly wandering about in the
darkness on the return journey, uncertain in what direction one’s home
lay. But now the Club is a recognized centre, about which, in the
evening, when work is over and dinner not yet on the table, many of us
gather. The excuse is a “nip” before dinner; the reason our sociable
instincts. A witty Frenchman has said:—“Wherever three or four
Englishmen are congregated, _voilà un club_!” It is so: there is nothing
to be ashamed of in our love of companionship. And our Club has the
charm of novelty, both in situation and design. It is the first
established under the shadow of the Hindu Kush, on historic ground; and
its architecture is a mixture of the nomadic and Public Works styles. We
pitched a large tent: we were nomads; we took down the canvas
side-walls, and built in their place walls of mud and bricks, pierced
with windows and doors, and with chimneys springing out above the canvas
roof. The structure was complete. From nomads we became clubmen. Could
civilization further go? And here we meet and exchange views upon things
in general and Afghanistan in particular, subaltern and Colonel
shouldering each other in true club style, the mixed crowd being
flavoured generally with a Brigadier or two, while the darlings of the
Staff air their gold-lace in a more congenial atmosphere than their
stuffy quarters, which are office, dining, and sleeping rooms all in
one. Certainly our Club is a success.

In the shape of indoor amusements, Christy minstrel bands are springing
up, and one theatre has already had a short season—three nights. The
72nd Highlanders have rigged up in the ditch near their quarters a
number of _pals_ resting against the stout mud wall, and in this a
first-class stage has been built with act-drop, scenery, footlights, and
all complete. On the opening night the 5th Ghoorkas, old friends of the
72nd, felt that their patronage was indispensable; and when two little
“Ghoorkis” struggled into the pit and tried to peep over the heads of
the crowd, a dozen eager hands hoisted them shoulder-high, and amid
great applause they were carried to the front and placed in the first
row. Here they smiled their thanks as only Ghoorkas can smile—from ear
to ear—and when the curtain rose, they watched the performance
critically and with unbounded satisfaction.

The severe weather that has declared itself during the last few days has
added new sources of amusement. A week ago the owners of skates were
disgusted with the non-appearance of hard frost; now skating goes on
nearly all day long, and the science of sliding is also being
cultivated. Europeans and natives alike indulge in a “slide;” and to see
half a dozen Guides contentedly coming croppers on the ice, and rising
again with immense satisfaction, only to sit suddenly down the moment
afterwards, would make Timour himself smile benignantly. Once on the
slide, every man seems but a child of larger growth, and right gleefully
the game is kept up until tired nature gives in, and various points of
our bodies remind the most hardy that bruises are painful when
excitement dies out. With the fall of snow on Monday came a
battle-royal, which will always live in the annals of our occupation. To
tell the story with due solemnity: at noon word was brought to the 72nd
Highlanders that the enemy (the 67th Foot and 92nd Gordon Highlanders)
had occupied the strong fort on the eastern end of the Bemaru Heights.
Without delay the regiment fell in 500 strong, and, reinforced by the
9th Lancers and some artillerymen, marched with banners flying and drums
beating to the attack. (The banners were those lately captured on the
Takht-i-Shah Peak and the Asmai Heights; the drums were various
cooking-pots.) On nearing the enemy’s position, the attacking force was
joined by a detachment of the 5th Ghoorkas under their British officers;
skirmishers were thrown out, and the bugle sounded the assault. The
storming party were headed by the standard-bearers, the cry of “Ghazis
to the front!” being answered by a rush of these reckless men up the
hillside. They were met by such a terrific fire, the air being darkened
by snowballs, that the assault seemed hopeless. But amid the din the cry
of their leader, “Ghazis to the front!” rang out—

          “Ho! Ghazis to the front! Ho! Ghazis bear the brunt
            Of the battle waged on snowy Bemaru!
          Let not the stinging ball your fiery hearts appal,
            But hurl the Kafirs down! Allah-hu!”

The despatch says:—

“A desperate resistance was made, but a bugler with the 72nd succeeded
by a _ruse_ in turning the fortunes of the day. He crept round in the
enemy’s rear and sounded the regimental call of the 92nd, followed by
the ‘cease fire’ and ‘retreat;’ the 92nd fell back and the attacking
party carried the position. Many prisoners were taken and the usual
atrocities committed—one gallant Highlander having three men sitting on
his chest at once; while others, equally gallant, were buried alive in
the snow. The conduct of all concerned fully bore out the estimate
previously formed of the splendid fighting powers of our men, and
several 'V.C.s’ are to be awarded. The number of wounded was unusually
great, but all are now doing well. The defeat of the enemy was so
complete that they at once sued for peace, and a treaty was signed at
the Club later in the day by the principal leaders. In consequence of
the ink being frozen, curaçoa and brandy were substituted.”

It will be seen from the halting sketch here drawn, that with all our
growling discontent at being left in the dark as to the future, we
manage to smooth away the rough edges of our life which so much gall us,
and that our petulance never grows into sulkiness. That we have to fall
back upon rough horse-play occasionally is not surprising: there is no
softening influence to keep our spirits at an equable temperature. We
are a colony of _men_—chiefly young men; and Cabul society is so very
select that we have not yet gained an entrance within its sacred limits.
If we were to make ceremonial calls upon the _zenanas_, we should
probably be confronted by some buck-Afghan, with a knife in his hand and
an oath in his mouth. Love and war do not go hand in hand now in Cabul,
although they did forty years ago; so we must sigh in vain for a glimpse
of that beauty which the _yashmaks_ hide so jealously when the Cabul
ladies flit by us in the narrow streets of the city. When a more than
usually coquettish white-clad figure passes, we turn hastily about; but
what can be seen?—

          “Nought but the rippling linen wrapping her about.”

And what is she like in the seclusion of the _zenana_? Ah, that lies
apart from our life in Sherpur; but perhaps I may be able to partly
answer the question. “How we Live in Sherpur,” can only have as its
companion picture—


                       “HOW THEY LIVE IN CABUL.”

It is not an attractive life, that which we have come upon in Cabul; but
it has its lights and shades and a certain robustness of its own, which
is now more than ever apparent. The reaction after the excitement of the
siege of Sherpur was terribly depressing for a time in the city, as
every Mahomedan citizen felt that a heavy punishment might fall upon
him, and in most cases justly. But these ignorant fanatics did not know
that the Government of England is a limited monarchy tempered by Exeter
Hall. Now they have fully realized that we were in earnest in offering
an amnesty to all who would return peacefully to their homes, and have
renewed their trading with a vigour which shows their appreciation of
our new rupees. As in every Oriental city, the life led by men and by
women runs on very different lines; the concerns of the bazaar and the
affairs of the _zenana_ are as distinct as day and night; the one is all
energy and strife, the other dulness and monotony. Woman has no place in
the creed of Mahomed beyond the base one of continuing the Mussulman
race; she is an inferior creature, to be shut up and kept from mischief
within the four walls of her master’s harem. If she loves her lord—or
some part of him, as she generally shares his affection and bodily
presence with other wives or slaves—she dutifully brings forth a son to
continue the race, and then her mission ends. She is a piece of
furniture, a belonging of the _zenana_; and if nature has not gifted her
with a love of intrigue, she must be content to vegetate in seclusion
until, in the ripeness of years, she drops out of life. She knows she
has nothing to expect beyond the grave; does not her creed teach her
that her lord will lie in the lap of _houris_ steeped in eternal sensual
bliss? Perhaps in her wildest flights of imagination, she may gain hope
from some such mad idea as that she and her fellows will be blended into
one great mass, from which will spring millions of _houris_ to people
the heavens, and wait with open arms for the souls of the faithful. May
not she, in _houri_ form, fall to the lot of the man she loved on earth,
who despised her as something too trivial for much consideration? Such a
belief may comfort her; let us hope it does.

But woman in Cabul has fewer restrictions placed upon her than in other
Oriental cities, and the semi-freedom she enjoys has been the theme upon
which travellers in old days delighted to enlarge. Cabul is declared by
them to be the city of intrigue. This belief arose from the practice of
women, closely veiled from head to foot, being allowed to pass
unmolested along the public streets, unattended and with no restrictions
upon their movements. One enthusiastic writer, speaking no doubt from
experience, asserts that the mind of an Englishman cannot imagine the
extent to which intrigues are carried on in this forward city. Wife,
daughter, or mother, could, according to his account, pass from the
_zenana_ into the narrow thoroughfares about, and with perfect
confidence visit any lover upon whom her eyes had fallen. Every figure
loses its identity in the folds of the white drapery which completely
envelopes a woman from head to heel, and the _yashmak_ covering the face
blots out the features more thoroughly than a mask. Undoubtedly this
freedom of action does exist, in appearance at least, still; white-robed
figures flit about the bazaars and the by-streets, and no one pays
regard thereto; but they are women of low degree, with no charms to
guard, and probably with but little thought of pleasure in their minds.
If finest linen, a gold embroidered boot, a coquettish mincing step,
attract the attention of a Kafir, the latter will invariably find that
the lady is attended by some duenna, or more probably by two or three
male domestics, who clear a way for their mistress through the motley
crowd. The Afghans are said to be peculiarly jealous of their women:
witness the proclamation issued to our soldiers before Kushi was
left!—and though love laughs at locksmiths, it seems incredible that any
sirdar or well-to-do citizen should allow the inmates of his _zenana_
liberty to wander about at will, with no eye to watch their movements.
We are rather at a disadvantage in Cabul; for a Kafir to explore the
_penetralia_ of the gloomy high-walled houses is next to impossible. We
have a Club, it is true, but it is not on the deliciously free
principles of the Orleans; and if we were to institute five-o’clock tea,
and send out cards of invitation to Madame Shere Ali and Madame Yakub
Khan, and harem, or any other ladies of distinction in Cabul, there
would be no chance of the invitation being accepted. The ladies might
rise to the occasion, but their grim guardians would baulk their
intentions with a vengeance. To make calls of ceremony would be equally
impossible, for there are no grass-widows in Cabul with whom to enjoy a
cosy _tête-à-tête_. If, by some lucky combination of the stars, a Kafir
were fortunate enough to gain the sacred ground of the _zenana_, its
simple-minded inmate would probably lisp out in fluid, but passionless,

         “I do not seek a lover, thou Christian knight so gay;
         Because an article like that has never come my way.”

In fact, a stranger in the harem would be a very indefinite article
indeed in Cabul, for it is not every one who can hope for the good
fortune of a McGahan, who, in the Khanate of Khiva, wandered into a
_zenana_, and was treated with hospitality and caresses by its inmates.

But it may be as well to be more definite in dealing with the life of
women in Cabul; and I will endeavour to describe, in all fairness, what
I have personally seen. To take the commonest figures seen in the
bazaar: It is not unusual for women to do their “shopping” in public,
though they lack the confidence of Western ladies, who parade their
men-kind on such important occasions.

A Cabul lady stops before a stall in the bazaar, puts out a small fair
hand, richly ringed, and touches any article she needs: generally a
piece of Bokhara silk or English linen. The shopkeeper, sitting
cross-legged among his goods, names his price; the customer quietly
pulls the silk, say, towards her, bows her head, and, raising her
_yashmak_ an inch, looks critically upon the article. The seller stares
over her head at the busy life about him, says not a word till the
examination is at an end, and finally, after a little bartering, sells
the silk, or throws it back into its place. In either case he cannot
have any idea of the identity of the customer, though from her jewellery
he may make a shrewd guess as to the length of her purse. Not every
woman’s fingers are circled by rings, or her _yashmak_ secured with
loops of gold. And so the lady passes on, pausing, perhaps, at other
stalls, but never for long. To loiter before the goods which may charm
her eye seems no part of her business, even when a more than usually
brilliant display of silk or embroidered shoes attracts her. Her walk is
hurried, her time, perhaps, is precious, and she glides among the crowd
quietly, and as if shunning attention, though no one, unless he be a
Kafir, pays the least regard to her presence. Finally, she turns off
into some side-street, and disappears in a narrow gateway leading, one
supposes, to her home. The majority of such women shrink from any chance
contact with a Kafir of any kind; though such little bits of comedy have
been acted as one of our gallants peering into doors and gateways only
to find an unveiled face turned towards him, and that face generally
very plain and unprepossessing. Such dames are of an uncertain age, and
are not coy in thus rewarding attention or admiration, though such
reward never goes beyond unveiling for an instant.

I had occasion quite lately to visit the house of a merchant in Cabul, a
Mussulman of some little standing, and by a lucky accident got a glimpse
of the home life of such a woman as I have described shopping in the
bazaar. My companion and guide—who or what he was matters not—led me
through tortuous streets, so filthy, that to tread them was alone a
trial, until at a nail-studded door he stopped and knocked twice or
thrice with the large iron “knocker” on its centre. All was still and
silent inside for a moment, and then a picturesque-looking ruffian, no
doubt the Afghan serving man of the period, suddenly withdrew a bolt
inside, after examining us through the wicket. We stumbled along a
passage dark enough to make the few holes about more treacherous than
holes ever were before, and then suddenly came a stream of light and we
were in an open courtyard. It was commonplace enough: there were no
“murmuring fountains, orange trees, or shady nooks,” such as Eastern
travellers love to dwell upon; simply a brown square plot of ground with
rooms, two storeys high, surrounding it on all sides. On the left,
facing the south, were the quarters of the owner; his reception-room and
_zenana_, side by side; with a narrow doorway, screened by a _purdah_
(in Western phrase, a _portière_), leading from one to the other. The
rooms were open to the air on the courtyard side, elaborately-carved
woodwork in the shape of sliding panels being the only screen from the
sun. The interior was comfortable enough: the floors were covered with
carpets, over which was laid clean white linen; the walls were either of
carved wood or plaster, painted in gay colours. The interior of the
_zenana_ I could not see while in the reception-room, but from it
presently appeared a bedizened youngster, who made friends at once. The
sound of whispers behind the _purdah_ came clearly enough into the room;
and I would not be sure that we were not being examined by feminine
eyes, while our host courteously served tea in beautiful little bowls
that would have delighted a china-maniac. In an inner room, divided from
the reception-room by light wooden pillars, were carved recesses, in
which was a wealth of china: teapots from Russia, howls from Kashgar and
China, and others of a nondescript kind, covered with richly-coloured
designs in yellow, green, and chocolate, the three colours most in
favour among Cabulis.

Our visit was a short one, but as the master of the house led the way to
the door, I lingered behind, and was rewarded by a glimpse into the
_zenana_. It differed but little in appearance from the other room; the
carpets were guiltless of any linen-cover, the walls were more
brilliantly painted, cushions and pillows were scattered about, and the
three inmates were on tiptoe of expectation as we passed. Two faces I
saw; one old and wrinkled, the other young and pleasing. “An old wife
and a younger rival” was the conclusion I arrived at, and their dress
bore out this idea. The elder wore nothing but pure white; the younger
was gorgeous in green and crimson silk. Just a glance, and it was over:
the child I have mentioned was being caressed by the third wife, whose
back was towards her companions, and another child was lying asleep
among the pillows. But for the presence of the children, it would have
seemed dulness personified, as signs of occupation or amusement there
were none. So much for the bit of quiet home life in Cabul: how
monotonous it must be, none can tell, except, perhaps, those who have to
endure it!

The dress of the Afghan women, especially those whose husbands have rank
or wealth, is extremely picturesque. A short, tightly-fitting bodice of
green, blue, or crimson silk, confines the bust, but buttons so closely
up to the throat, that one can only guess at the proportions of
shoulders and bosom. The bodice is generally embroidered with gold, and
then becomes so stiff and unyielding, that it is virtually a corset. In
this cold weather the short arms of this _sari_ are continued down to
the wrist, and the vest itself is padded with wool for the sake of
warmth. Trousers _à la Turc_, baggy and flowing as Fatima’s, and tightly
fastened at the ankles with gold or silver bands, a broad silk
_kummerbund_ of almost endless length about the waist, with the ends so
disposed that they become skirts; dainty white socks and a tiny slipper
or shoe, gold-embroidered—such is the indoor dress of a Cabuli lady;
while covering and hiding all save feet and ankles is the voluminous
white garment drawn over the head and face, and falling to the heels.
These veiled beauties wear jewellery alike about the forehead, hands,
wrists, arms, ankles, and ears; while handsome gold loops secure the
_yashmak_ at the back of the head; the hair being drawn from the
forehead and tied tightly into a knot, Grecian fashion. The length of a
silk _kummerbund_, which encircles a lady’s waist, is sometimes
astonishing: one I saw must have been 12 yards long by 18 inches broad,
and the end was even then not forthcoming. The slippers and shoes are of
Cabuli make, and are very pretty. On a pale green ground beautiful
patterns are worked with gold and silver thread and particoloured silk,
until the effect is more like that of a fairy slipper than one for daily
use. When a stout leathern sole is put on with high heels rudely bound
with iron, the work of art is complete. The stalls in which these
slippers and shoes are made are the gayest in the whole bazaar. A Cabuli
lady’s foot is small, almost to deformity, and the baggy trousers by
contrast make them appear exceedingly _petite_.

From the few faces seen, being chiefly those of old or _passée_ women,
it is difficult to judge of the famed beauty which the Cabulis are said
to boast. The children are certainly, as a whole, the prettiest I have
ever seen. Their complexions are red and white, with a tinge of olive
pervading the skin, eyes black and lustrous, well-shaped features, teeth
to make a Western beauty envious, and bright, intelligent looks, that
sadly belie the race to which they belong. Their mothers _must_ be
beautiful, for their fathers are generally villanous-looking: the men
losing all the pleasing traits which they possessed as boys. The lady I
have described as seen in the _zenana_ for a moment was certainly
handsome, and was far lighter in complexion than a Spaniard; her eyes
were really worthy of the praises sung by Hafiz, but the sensuous lips
were a little too full and pouting. It was just such a face as one
imagines in a harem, and would be in keeping with the langourous life of
a voluptuary, to whom sensuality is a guiding star. Such faces always
lack character, and would soon prove insipid in the eyes of the West.
The Cabuli lady, when journeying, is either carried in an elaborate
wicker-work cage covered with the inevitable flowing linen, or rides,
Amazon-fashion, on a pony behind her lord. At times she is coquettish
enough to throw warm glances at Kafirs, behind her husband’s back, and
is no doubt delighted at the admiration bestowed upon her
daintily-slippered feet.

What the mission in life is of such women, in such a country as this,
may be summed up in a few words. She must play the part of a mother,
rather than a wife, for her sympathies go all with the children left to
be brought up in the _zenana_, and not with their father, whose course
lies in different lines in the busy scheming world outside. That some
women of strong character occasionally share their husband’s ambition,
and aid him by advice and suggestions, is quite true. The mother and
wife of Yakub Khan are both women of exceptional ability, influencing
and guiding men, and well versed in state intrigues. But the exceptions
are few, and only prove the general rule obtaining in all Mahomedan
countries, that woman is a cypher outside the four walls of the

The life of her master is a most difficult subject. To fathom the
motives of an Afghan, or to explain his actions, would be a task for a
Machiavelli, and I must deal with it in such manner as I can. It has
always been held that the distinguishing features of a Cabuli are
turbulence and treachery, and late events have only confirmed men in
this belief. The arrangement of the city into quarters, each securely
shut off from its neighbours by strong walls and fortified gateways, the
part played by the Bala Hissar as a citadel dominating the tower below,
and affording a refuge for the sovereign during bloody _émeutes_, proved
to travellers in past days that the life of the populace was far from a
peaceful one. Even now, though the old subdivisions of the city exist
but in name,—except the Kizilbash quarter, which has still the means of
cutting itself off from outside by strong gateways,—it is apparent that
the Amirs never trusted their lives and property to the tender mercies
of their citizen-subjects. When our army arrived at Cabul, the Bala
Hissar was still a fortress capable of resisting successfully any attack
made without artillery, and within its walls were the palace of the
Amir, his harem, and his arsenal. Our Envoy, too, was lodged in the
fortress, as the fanaticism of the Cabulis might have prompted an attack
upon the Residency, if it had been in the heart of the city, with its
bazaars re-echoing to the prayers of the _moollahs_ and the cries of
_fakirs_. That safety was not found even in the Bala Hissar, was due
rather to the weakness of Yakub Khan and his contemptuous treatment of
an exasperated soldiery than to any independent action of the populace.
It is true that the city rabble joined in the attack upon the Embassy,
but that was only when military discipline was at an end, and the men
who should have guarded the lives of the Amir’s guests were in the full
cry of mutiny. Again, the building of Sherpur, with its range of
barracks and new fortress upon Bemaru (planned, but never executed) was
due to Shere Ali’s dread of Cabul and its armed mob. With the Bala
Hissar on one side and Sherpur on the other, he was sanguine enough to
hope for peace and quietness in his capital; and these he would no doubt
have secured if he had not foolishly quarrelled with the Indian
Government, whose subsidy gave him the wherewithal to raise and equip a
large army and rear the walls of his new fortress.

Every Afghan is a soldier, and the Cabulis are no exception to the rule.
Their stalls are to them what homesteads are to the mountain tribes and
peasants; and when extortion or taxation grows in their opinion
excessive, they are ready to turn out armed to the teeth, and by open
menace to intimidate their rulers. A tyrant alone can hope to keep them
in due subjection; and, as a rule, Cabul has been under the influence of
tyranny for many centuries. As a natural result, when turbulence
occasionally subsides, treachery flourishes; and the history of the city
is full of instances of treacherous plots, and successful if bloody
intrigues. Coming as we have done in the guise of an avenging army, we
have greatly modified the normal appearance of things in the city, our
proclamation forbidding the carrying of arms having destroyed the
picturesque ruffianism which used to stalk through the bazaars armed
with gun, shield, and knife, and ready for all emergencies. Not a weapon
now is seen except in an armourer’s shop, or on the person of some armed
retainer of a Sirdar who has thrown in his lot with the British. It is a
change for the better in our eyes; but when the people see our soldiers
passing along with Martini or Snider slung over the shoulder, they must
long to ruffle it again, and bring out from their hiding-places their
own rifles and matchlocks. But it is not to be _yet_; though, when we
again leave this “God-governed country” to its own devices, the good
people of Cabul will once more be able to resume their old habits.

The influential citizens of Cabul are broadly divisible into two
representative classes—the Sirdar and the trader; and in taking one from
each of these sections, I shall be able fairly to sketch the general
life led by the more orderly of the Cabulis. There are, of course, a
mass of men: artizans, street-hawkers, retainers, and hangers-on
generally, who furnish the rabble which has often made mob-law supreme
within the walls; but these may be left to themselves for a little. The
Sirdar has always been a prominent figure in Afghan history; he is to
all intents a feudal chief, and answers very much to the Baron who, in
the Dark Ages, had so much to say in the government of Western
countries. He is generally of royal blood, a cousin (some twenty times
removed) of the Amir; but this relationship with the sovereign is not
advantageous if the Sirdar is at all ambitious of power. There are so
many revolutions of the wheel in the Barakzai dynasty, that the
assumption of dignity by a subordinate is always jealously watched by
the Amir, and promptly nipped in the bud just when it bids fair to
become dangerous. Ties of kin are but little regarded in a country where
continually father is arrayed against son, brother against brother; and
where human life is held so cheaply that scarcely a man reaches middle
age without having blood upon his hands. The Sirdar has either to muzzle
his ambition and wait patiently for a chance of suddenly acquiring
power; or to accept a colourless life of ease, with nothing to trouble
his mind except the caprices of a favourite slave-girl, or the loss of a
valuable horse. It is not surprising, then, that in Cabul there are
Sirdars perfect in dissimulation and adepts in intrigue; and others mere
slaves of their sensuality, to whom the world means merely _pillaus_ and
pillows, cakes and concubines. Such men are those loved by Cæsar:

                          ... “men that are fat;
            Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’ nights.”

And the easy-going Sirdar answers so fully to this description, that it
would seem as if the cares of life sat very lightly upon him. Such men
are too characterless to repay observation; and though we see many of
them here, we pass them by contemptuously, except when a mountain of
flesh more than usually formidable looms upon us in cantonments. They
are not men given to fighting or political intrigue; and such as we have
now among us are anxious only as to their allowances which the “Great
British Government” guarantees to them while they are faithful to its
interests. If they are time-servers, it is simply because they have no
idea beyond the present one of comfort and quietness; if we were
defeated they would probably make their obeisance to the new rulers, and
would settle down calmly to their daily enjoyment of the fat of the land
in their well-stocked harems. There were such men among our own
hard-headed Barons ages ago, who watched their more ambitious compeers
make and ruin dynasties, and lived placidly through all the turmoil
without even being partisans.

But the other type of Sirdar is a very different person: he holds that
to be powerful is the salt of life, and his aim from youth to old age is
to seek power in all its forms. He is generally rich and a lover of
show; valuing money for the advantage to which it can be turned in many
ways, and estimating pomp at its real worth—to impress the ignorant and
humiliate the inferior. His life as now made up is not to outward
seeming one of much importance, but not one of us can hope to penetrate
beneath its surface, and examine the many schemes which pass through his
mind. He lives in one of the large, high-walled houses which are studded
about the city, though he has a “villa” or two in pleasant Koh-Daman, or
one of the near valleys. If one visits him, the courtesy with which he
receives a guest is that of a polished gentleman, flavoured, perhaps too
highly, with the Eastern affectation of humility. His house is reached
through byways and along covered-in streets, so dark and noisome that
one expects to meet a ghazi at every turn. But all is quiet, and finally
a bit of blue sky is seen overhead, a narrow doorway is passed through,
and the square courtyard of the house gained. A few horses, saddled and
bridled, are standing in a sunny corner; a dozen picturesque-looking
ruffians are lounging about; the great man is at home. We find him in a
long room squatting on an ottoman with a dozen friends and associates
about him, to whom he has doubtless been expounding some new and
brilliant idea that has occurred to him. He is politely anxious about
his visitor’s health, thanking God that it is well with him, and
inquires if “the General” also is well. His conversation is guarded, but
he makes up for his reticence by his hospitality: it would be derogatory
to his dignity if the rite were not duly honoured; and in a few minutes
trays bearing little cups of sweetened tea, sweetmeats, nuts and grapes,
are being handed round by two or three of the loungers we passed in the
courtyard. This tea is a mystery to me; it is always ready; it is always
_good_, and one can sip cup after cup with an enjoyment that positively
increases with indulgence. The Sirdar’s friends are mostly notable men:
that grey-bearded old gentleman on his right is a tribal chief of some
importance, who has come from his distant village to see how things move
in Cabul after the late _jehad_; that dark-visaged man is a Bokhara
trader, whose mind holds news of the White Czar and of the changing
fates of the Central Asian Khanates; while his counterpart is another
trader returned from Hindustan, where he has, perhaps, seen and learnt
much that may shape the Sirdar’s views in future. Behind the Sirdar is a
richly embroidered _purdah_ veiling the entrance to the _zenana_,
wherein the quiet life of the women slowly moves. Our conversation is
short and purely ornamental, and we take our leave, pleasantly impressed
with the courtesy shown, but pondering over the depth of Afghan
duplicity which is so cunningly hidden. The Sirdar passes his morning
among his friends, and in the afternoon he will probably visit General
Roberts or Major Hastings, the Chief Political Officer, to learn much,
but to impart little. How far he can be trusted no one knows, not
excepting even himself. If by serving us he can make his position
secure, he will “sell” his nearest friends; if he thinks his interests
are safe with men opposing us, he will thwart our projects with all the
skill he possesses. His life now is not so restless as in old days, as
our army has broken up all settled government, and the prospect is so
hazy, that to dabble too openly in dangerous schemes might land him in
distant Calcutta, to bear Daoud Shah company. Our Sirdar has lakhs of
money hidden away in his house or buried in some secret spot; but he is
cunning enough to swear that he lost greatly when Mahomed Jan held
Cabul, and asks the British Government to recoup him, as he has always
been faithful to its interests. The new influences at work upon his life
are not so welcome to him, as they are novel and not to be easily
understood; and he would far prefer the old order of things, when he
could pit himself against some rival and gain his ends by crooked ways
that he knows we should not countenance. If his chances just now of
being shot or stabbed are not so great as formerly, he does not, with
his fatalistic ideas, appreciate the change; and at times he grows
sullen, and is discontented with our temporary rule.

The trader is a very different personage: he has seen men and cities,
and his chief aim is to amass wealth, which he believes to be the
keystone of happiness. His vocation now in Cabul is to make fabulous
profits out of the British army of occupation which has invaded the
sanctity of the city, and cowed its fanatical populace. In his heart of
hearts the trader hates us sincerely; but he will endure curses from the
Commissariat, or hard words from under-strappers, for the sake of the
few lakhs of rupees he hopes to pocket. He will take contracts for
anything, from sheep to _charpoys_, and will fleece everyone dealing
with him with such calm self-assurance, that one is inclined to adopt,
once for all, the theory that the Afghans are, indeed, the lost tribes
of Israel. He is a power in the city, for he has money always at his
command; and though he may have suffered grievously from extortion, he
is shrewd enough to know that complaints are useless. He will visit our
friend the Sirdar, and will gain his countenance and help in some
nefarious transaction, perhaps such as “bearing” the money market,
cutting off our sheep supply, or raising the prices of articles suddenly
in demand. He may play the part of political spy in return for the
Sirdar’s help, or become a principal in some scheme that requires
delicate working. The trader has his house, which also serves as a
store-house for his goods, in some filthy corner of Cabul; and some near
relative acts as a partner, and does the dirty work of retailing his
goods from a narrow stall in the bazaar. Should a big transaction be
coming off, with some merchant from the Khanates, in silks, furs, or
precious stones, the trader has the universal tea-drinking, to which he
invites the stranger, and he spends days in ceaseless chafering until
the prices are duly fixed and the bargain concluded. In the bazaar
itself but little trade on a large scale is carried on, the travelling
merchants storing their goods in one or other of the large _serais_,
while they let it be known from stall to stall that they have
merchandise on sale. The trader is naturally of a peaceable disposition,
and as his house is usually stored with rich goods, and his hoards of
money are buried beneath the ground in his courtyard, he dreads an
outbreak by the populace, who may levy contributions upon his effects.
But he has within him the Afghan instinct of sturdy resistance to all
assailants. With his iron-studded door closed against intruders, with
half a dozen servants armed _à la Cabul_ with gun pistol, and knife, he
is no mean antagonist to deal with. He would scarcely join in a tumult
except when his fanaticism overcame his better judgment, for there are
too many risks to be run when once a populace like that of Cabul has
broken free from all control. The trader in this respect is considerably
removed from the mere stall keeper, who is always ripe for riot, and is
never better pleased than when turning out fully armed. We have seen a
great deal since our occupation of the trader, and he does not improve
upon acquaintance. He is cringing and subservient when a tight hand is
kept upon him, but beneath his plausibility is a fund of cunning, which
carries him triumphantly through all his knavery. Like the Sirdar, he is
an instrument we are forced to use in this unprofitable country, but
which is to be thrown away without compunction when done with.


                             CHAPTER XXIII.

The Afghan Army—The Amir Shere Ali’s Efforts to raise Disciplined
    Troops—The founding of Guns—Surferaz’s Failure—A Cabuli Gunsmith
    sent to Peshawur Arsenal—A Foundry established in Cabul—The
    Manufacture of Rifled Guns and Small Arms—Cabuli Gunpowder and
    Cartridges—Percussion Caps—Army Clothing Department—The Number of
    Guns and Small Arms in Afghanistan—Cost of Shere Ali’s Army—Weakness
    of the Organization—Regulars versus Tribesmen—Their Behaviour in
    various Actions—The Failure of the Regular Army—Suggestion for the
    Creation of a Militia—The Ghazi Element among Irregulars—How a Ghazi
    is Made—His Mode of Fighting.

                                      SHERPUR, _28th January, 1880_.

Afghanistan is a nation of soldiers, every adult being (apart from any
military training he may receive) a ready swordsman and a fair shot. In
our old wars we found but little organization existing among the
followers of the Dost and his son, Mahomed Akhbar, and the discipline of
our troops told in the long run against the masses they had to face.
Afghanistan then produced, as a writer has said, nothing but stones and
men: the stones made good _sungars_, which thousands of men were always
ready to defend. But after Shere Ali had assumed the Amirship, a change
came over the “war department” of the country: that shrewd sovereign had
his eyes opened to the necessity of having something more than an
unlimited supply of men to fight his battles, and after his visit to
India, in 1869, he began to cast about for means whereby he could arm
and equip his troops in civilized fashion. Fortunately for his project,
he was on the best of terms at that time with the Indian Government, and
among the valuable presents he carried back with him to Cabul were a
siege-train (consisting of four 18-pounders and two 8-inch howitzers), a
mountain battery of six guns, 5,000 Snider rifles, 15,000 Enfields, and
no less than 1,000,000 rounds of ball ammunition. This was the
groundwork upon which he hoped to build up a well-equipped army, with
artillery sufficient to make himself feared by all his neighbours, and
respected both by the English and Russian Governments, upon his
relations with which might ultimately depend the safety of his kingdom.
To a man of less energy than Shere Ali, the project he took in hand
would have seemed so full of difficulties, that it might have been
reasonably abandoned after a fair trial; but the then Amir was a man of
stubborn self-will; and his mind once made up, nothing could turn him
from his object. The story of his successful struggle to create an army
of all arms on the European pattern can be best told by reference to a
report drawn up on information supplied by various sirdars and artisans,
since our occupation of Cabul. Lieutenant Neville Chamberlain, Extra
Assistant Political Officer, is the compiler of this valuable report,
which gives in detail an account of Shere Ali’s steady progress in the
armament of his kingdom, until he made the fatal mistake of quarrelling
with the British. One cannot fail to be struck with astonishment at the
rapidity with which guns were made, rifles imitated, and cartridges
turned out by the 100,000 in a country which boasts of but few

Shere Ali could easily enough make regiments of infantry and cavalry,
dress them after the fashion of the men he had seen paraded in India,
and drill them in a few simple movements. If he were guilty of the
solecism of making Highlanders mount on horseback, there was no great
blunder committed; they were his mounted rifles, and were not likely to
come to grief, as every Afghan is more or less a horseman. But in the
question of artillery, the Amir had to face a problem which must have
cost him much anxious thought. The old brass cannon which had been used
for many years as wall-pieces in the different fortresses of
Afghanistan, sank into insignificance when compared with the guns Lord
Mayo had given him. The latter were few in number, and it was
all-important they should he multiplied, so that if three or four armies
took the field, each should have its due complement of guns. There were
skilled artisans in Cabul who had made brass guns; and one of these,
named Surferaz, was given funds by Shere Ali and peremptorily ordered to
turn out guns on the pattern of the siege-train and mountain battery
which had lately arrived from India. The unlucky man tried his best;
but, at the end of a few months, his work was pronounced a failure; and
as he had spent Rs. 12,000 in his experiments, he was summarily thrown
into prison, and all his property confiscated. This was his reward for
obeying the orders of a tyrant. But Shere Ali was not to be foiled, and
rightly attributing the failure to want of technical knowledge, he sent
the uncle of Surferaz, Dost Mahomed, a skilled gunsmith, to Peshawur, to
be instructed in the mysteries of rifled guns. Dost Mahomed may be
allowed to tell his own story, as it is full of interest. He says:—

“I am a Cabuli by birth and a gunsmith. My father was a gunsmith before
me. After Shere Ali’s return from India, I was sent to Peshawur with a
letter to Colonel Pollock, the Commissioner there, in which he was asked
to allow me to visit the Arsenal, and see how the rifled guns were made.
I remained in Peshawur for three months, until the permission of
Government arrived. I then visited the Arsenal daily, and saw exactly
how everything was done; and on my departure I was given models of guns
in wood, with complete drawings of the details. I returned to Cabul, and
with these models and some complete models of rifled breech-loading
Armstrongs, which had been given to the Amir during his visit to India,
I began work. I had three principal assistants: my nephew, Surferaz (who
had then been liberated), Mahomed Ali, and a man named Rashed. Any
number of workmen were at my disposal, as I had only to state the number
I required, and they were impressed from among the city smiths. Before
commencing a gun, a sum of money was given to me, which I was not to
exceed. The following were the prices in Cabuli rupees:—

             Field gun                                1,500
             Royal Horse Artillery gun                1,000
             Mountain gun                               300
                 ”    ”  (laminated steel)              600

“I never either lost or gained much by my contract. The iron for the
guns came principally from India—some through Shikarpur, some from
Peshawur. A small quantity was procured from Bajour and Zurmut. The core
of the gun was first welded by hand on an iron bar, the required length
and diameter. Long strips of iron having been placed all round the core,
they were well hammered together, and bands of iron placed over all to
keep everything in its place. The gun was then bored out by the
machinery at the water-mills of Deh-i-Afghan. The machinery for these
mills was set up by a Hindustani, named Muah Khan. He learned his trade
from a negro, named Belal, who was taught by one Ibrahim, a native of
Ispahan, who came years ago from Persia to the service of Sultan Jan,
late Governor of Herat. The gun was then rifled by hand, the
breech-block and details completed, polished by machinery, and handed
over to the Arsenal. The strength of the guns was never proved by heavy
charges being fired out of them, and they were at once taken into use.
Out of all the guns I have made only one has burst. I could turn out
four or five guns a month if necessary. My pay was Rs. 70 a month, and I
occasionally received presents.”

This was not a bad example of what perseverance can accomplish, for the
guns manufactured are said by our gunners to be very well made, lacking
only finish. The Armstrong breech-loaders would be creditable to an
English founder, and we are now testing many of them to see if they
cannot be used for the defences of Sherpur. A great number of small
brass guns for mountain batteries were also made. The old ordnance was
broken up, and new guns were cast in the Bala Hissar Arsenal, the boring
and polishing being done at the Deh-i-Afghan water-mills. The alloy in
these brass guns contains a larger percentage of copper than we
generally use. The water-mills to which reference has been made can
still be seen—a huge wheel with a long wooden shaft in which the
boring-tool was fixed. With such simple means it seems almost impossible
that heavy guns could be bored, but still the work was done, slowly it
is true, but effectually.

The manufacture of small-arms was not such a success. Kootub-ud-din, a
Cabul gunsmith, was placed in charge of the Bala Hissar Arsenal, and
workmen under his direction made 2,000 Sniders and 8,000 Enfields. The
Afghans placed but little faith in their imitation of our rifles; they
found that the breech-action of the Snider would not act, the extractor
often failing to throw out the cartridge-case after firing, while the
grooving of the Enfields was so imperfect, that the barrel quickly got
“leaded,” _i.e._ the grooves were filled with lead stripped from the
bullet as it was driven out by the charge. It is worth remarking that in
the Amir’s palace were found several rifles of different patterns (the
French Chassepot among them), and each had its Cabuli imitation. No
doubt various experiments were made before the Snider was finally

There was never any lack of gunpowder in Cabul, as the Amir employed six
contractors to turn out the quantities he needed. Each mill could make
two maunds a day, and the total daily out-turn on an emergency would be
nearly 1,000 lbs. These contractors were also ready to start other
smaller mills during war-time, so that doubtless a ton of powder could
have been supplied every day as long as funds were forthcoming. The
composition of the powder was seventy-five parts of saltpetre, ten of
sulphur, and fifteen of charcoal. Bamian supplied the sulphur, with
occasional small quantities from Hazara and the Derajat. Saltpetre
abounds near Cabul, and excellent charcoal is made from the thousands of
small willow-trees which line every watercourse in Chardeh and the near
valleys. The coarse-grain powder for muzzle-loading guns was paid for at
the rate of Rs. 2 per lb., while that used for breech-loading field-guns
and for rifles was Rs. 3 per lb. The powder, as a rule, is far inferior
to that of European make, as the Afghans do not understand the final
process of glazing, which adds so much to the strength of the
composition. Shot and shell were strictly copied from the patterns
brought from India, but time-fuses were not understood. A bursting
charge—the secret of which was held by a Herati—was used, and not until
just before the war of 1879 were fuses made in the Bala Hissar. They are
not a success, the delicate nature of the fuse not being properly
appreciated. In the matter of small-arm cartridges, the Afghan smiths
deserve much credit. Sixty of them were constantly engaged in the Bala
Hissar Arsenal making up cartridges, and their Snider ammunition is
excellent. The cases are made by hand, and are technically known as
“solid cold-drawn brass.” The bases are very strong, and the cases can
be refilled many times. In a country where there is no machinery for
turning out millions of cartridges in a few days this is a great
advantage. Two clever Cabulis, Safi Abdul Latif and Safi Abdul Hak,
invented a machine for making percussion caps, equal to turning out
5,000 a day. The detonating composition is fairly good, but spoils if
the caps are kept for two or three years. Considering there were
millions of caps still in the unopened boxes sent from Dum-Dum Arsenal
to Shere Ali, native-made caps were not much needed. Gun carriages and
limbers were made on the English pattern, the guns captured in the
disastrous business of 1841-42 serving as models in addition to the
siege-train given by Lord Mayo.

Among Shere Ali’s other improvements in his “War Department” was the
establishment of a Clothing Department, which had for its object the
equipment of his soldiers in proper uniforms. The tunics, trousers,
kilts, gaiters, helmets, &c., are all neatly made; and as each soldier
received a new uniform every two years, the regular regiments ought to
have been smart and well set-up. That they were not so was chiefly due
to the laxity of discipline and the incompetence of their officers.
Pouch-belts and bayonet frogs on the English pattern were served out,
and the cavalry were all furnished with new swords, slightly curved like
those used by our own sowars. The steel is generally very soft, but the
blade is well-tempered, and takes an edge so keen, that even a slight
blow leaves a deep gash. Shere Ali’s ambition, while thus perfecting his
armament, was to build a fortress of huge dimensions, and Sherpur was
accordingly begun. The subsidy paid yearly by the Indian Government gave
him money to lavish in this direction, and the cantonments our troops
are now occupying were laid out on a scale that even to European ideas
seems enormous. The fortress was to have been in the shape of a huge
square with walls 3,000 yards long; and on the Bemaru Heights, in the
middle, a strong citadel was to have risen—“the New Bala Hissar.” At the
foot of the southern slope, below the citadel, a splendid palace was
mapped out, the strong foundations of which even now show how imposing
the building would have been. Shere Ali’s quarrel with the British put
an end to his ambitious schemes, and Sherpur remains to this day
incomplete; while away in the Hazara Darukht defile, thousands of logs
are lying, ready squared, which the Gajis had got ready for the barracks
which will now never be built.

Lieutenant Chamberlain, in summarizing the result of his interesting
inquiries into Afghan armaments, makes out the following tabular

               NUMBER OF GUNS PREVIOUS TO WAR OF 1878-79.

       English Siege Train (Elephant)                           6
       Cabuli    ”      ”       ”                              10
         ”       ”      ”  (Bullock)                           18
       Horsed Guns     ⎛  (Breech-loaders,      89) ⎞⎟        145
                       ⎝  (Brass Guns,          56) ⎠
       Mountain Guns   ⎛  (Breech-loaders,       6) ⎞
                       ⎜  (Muzzle-loaders,      48) ⎟         150
                       ⎝  (Brass,               96) ⎠
       Various small guns of Position                          50
                                                Total         379
       Deduct Guns captured, 1879-80                          256
       Guns remaining in Country                              123

These are believed to be chiefly in Herat and Turkistan.

The number of rifles entered in the Government books as having been
issued to the troops are—

     English Sniders                                          5,000
       ”     Enfields                                        15,000
       ”     Rifled Carbines                                  1,200
       ”     Brunswick Rifles                                 1,400
       ”     Tower muskets                                    1,000
       ”     Cavalry Pistols                                  1,045
     Cabuli Sniders                                           2,189
       ”     Enfields                                         8,212
       ”     Rifled Carbines                                    589
     Kandahari Enfields                                         453
     Herati Enfields                                            516
     Various kinds for Cavalry (double-barrelled, &c.)        1,553
     Smooth-bores (probably many Tower Muskets)               1,418
     Flint Muskets                                            1,300
                                                Total        49,875

Of these 742 English Enfields, 560 English Sniders, and 5,427 muskets,
Cabuli Sniders and Enfields, flint muskets, &c., have been given up,
leaving 43,146 small-arms in the country.

It is worth noticing that no information could be got as to whence the
English rifled carbines, Brunswick rifles, Tower muskets, and cavalry
pistols were obtained. The “Brown Besses” were, perhaps, part of those
taken in 1841-42. This estimate of arms, it should be remembered, takes
no account of the many thousands of _jhezails_, native pistols, &c., in
the hands of the tribesmen. The totals are sufficiently great to prove
that the late Shere Ali had placed Afghanistan on such a military
footing, that he may well have believed he could, with the mountain
barriers between Cabul and India, defy any force the British could spare
to send against him. He was grievously mistaken; his weakness lying in
the want of discipline among his troops, and the incapacity of their

The cost of the army which he had raised and equipped was a serious item
in his exchequer accounts, if he ever kept any. Lieutenant Chamberlain
computes it at 19,21,195 Cabuli rupees, of which Rs. 17,81,238 went for
pay to the army, Rs. 1,20,235 for Arsenal expenses (not including Herat
and Turkistan), and Rs. 19,727 for uniform. Considering that Major
Hastings, Chief Political Officer here, has calculated the whole revenue
of Afghanistan at only Rs. 79,82,390, it will thus appear that nearly
one-fourth of the revenue was lavished in military (expenditure. The
Amir ought reasonably to have expected his army to have made a better
defence of his kingdom against invasion than the weak struggle at Ali
Musjid and the Peiwar Kotal. After the present campaign, Afghanistan can
never hope to rise to the position it occupied under Shere Ali. The easy
capture of Cabul and 214 guns is a blow that even a Dost Mahomed would
find it hard to recover from. Having dealt with the armaments of
Afghanistan, there remains the regular army to be considered. We used to
hear a good deal, at first, of the regular army of Afghanistan, which
Shere Ali had called into being and drilled according to his idea of
European tactics. So many “regiments” with a proportionate number of
guns were said to be encamped about Cabul, while others were hurrying in
from outlying provinces to swell the assembly. Now there had undoubtedly
been a determined effort on Shere Ali’s part to make every male in the
population subject to the conscription, and the carefully prepared lists
we afterwards found proved that the enrolments had been on a large
scale. But there was one fault in the organization which told against
all the Amir’s efforts,—and that was the want of competent officers to
train the thousands of men who were available for the army. Such
officers as were equal to their work were chiefly pensioners of the
Indian native army, but these could only teach the sowars and infantry
their drill, and could scarcely be expected to manœuvre even a
brigade in the field. An intelligent _malik_ once said to a British
officer:—“We can never hope to fight you with success until we are
educated.” “Well, why not have schools and colleges, such as the Sircar
builds in India for the people?” The answer was one given with a
half-contemptuous indignation:—“Not that kind of education; I mean until
our army is educated, and our officers can do their work as well as
yours.” It was military education the petty chief was craving for, and
he was unquestionably right in his aspirations. Shere Ali might be able
to distribute Enfield and Snider rifles among his sepoys, fit out
batteries with every kind of shot and shell, and teach his men such
rudimentary discipline as would enable them to march in fairly good
order; but he could never get beyond this. Instead of sending his young
nobles to Europe to learn the mysteries of military science, he
distributed commands among such favourites as were ready to take them
with their emoluments; and occasionally he made a good selection from
among men of the stamp of Daoud Shah, soldiers of fortune, whose courage
was above suspicion, and who could generally keep an army in order. Then
there was the childish desire ever uppermost in the Amir’s mind, of
clothing his troops in English uniforms, and his “Army Clothing
Department” turned out imitation Highland and Rifle costumes, or old
Pandy uniforms by the hundred. The plan might have succeeded if less
attention had been paid to dress and more to discipline and musketry.
The Afghan does not lack native courage, and in hill warfare he is
unrivalled so long as it takes the shape of guerilla fighting; but once
he is asked to sink his identity and to become merely a unit in a
battalion he loses all self-confidence, and is apt to think more of
getting away than of stubbornly holding his ground as he would have done
with his own friends, led by his own _malik_ or chief. In fact, the late
Afghan campaign proved beyond doubt that the Afghan “regulars” had
reached that most precarious stage where the men are in a transition
state: not yet trained soldiers, but a mob led by strange officers whom
they scarcely know, and whom they generally dislike because they are the
direct means of imposing the irksomeness of discipline upon them. A
tribesman who has never been enrolled is always comforted in action by
the thought that if the battle ends disastrously he can make good his
escape and probably reach his village in safety, there to play the part
of a peaceful peasant proprietor if his civilized enemy visits him
afterwards. But the Afghan sepoy is in a very different position: if he
is true to his salt he must remain with his regiment and retire in some
kind of order, which means to his mind that the pursuing cavalry will
have a much better chance of overtaking him. The result of this has been
that on nearly every occasion the most obstinate resistance has been
offered by tribesmen acting as independent bodies, with no organization,
but with a cool courage which made them at times foemen worthy of our
steel. To deal more particularly with the merits and weaknesses of the
regular troops, and to contrast their work with that of ghazi-led
tribesmen, may be of some interest.

Upon Sir Frederick Roberts’s arrival at Charasia, the Herat and other
regiments which had been in the neighbourhood of Cabul at the time of
the Massacre were induced by Nek Mahomed and other sirdars to oppose the
advance of the British force, and a strong position was taken up to
prevent the Sang-i-Nawishta defile being forced. Guns were placed in
position, commands distributed, and an effort made to fight a battle
with some approach to European methods. At the same time regiments were
strengthened by a number of the city people and by tribesmen from the
Chardeh Valley and Koh-Daman. For all practical purposes, however, the
action was fought on the Afghan side by regular troops, and the poor
show they made against General Baker’s 2,000 men, gave evidence of the
weakness before suspected. Our enemy was well armed with Enfield and
Snider rifles, had plenty of ammunition, and was in a position which
well-trained troops could have held against great odds; and yet on their
left Major White, with 100 Highlanders, drove them from their most
advanced position, while on their right the 72nd and 5th Ghoorkas, with
a few companies of the 5th P.I. and the 23rd Pioneers (supported only by
four mountain guns), turned their flank and drove them in confusion back
upon Indikee. Their rifle-fire was well sustained and very rapid, but
badly directed and not under control, and our men passed safely upwards
with the storm of bullets rushing far above their heads. There was no
counter-attack made, although we had practically no supports to fall
back upon, and any rush would have involved the brigade in a very
awkward position. On the road leading to the Sang-i-Nawishta _tangi_ the
enemy had twenty-six or thirty guns opposed to our single battery (G-3),
and yet our artillery held its own with ease, and succeeded in
dismounting some of their Armstrong breech-loaders. Their leaders had
shown great patience and skill in placing their guns on commanding
points, but the gunners were firing almost at random, as their training
was of a superficial kind. Had the ranges been marked out, as at Ali
Musjid, they would have done better; but our rapid advance destroyed
what little confidence they might have felt in their own weapons.

Again, on October 8th, they were bold enough to engage in an artillery
duel, and from Asmai answered our guns on the Sherderwaza, shot for
shot. But not a man was wounded by their fire, although round-shot,
shrapnel and common shell were all tried by their leaders. From this
moment the Afghan army ceased to exist as a real body, yet in the
actions which afterwards took place we had always fiercer fighting and
much greater determination shown on the part of the adversary. The
sepoys and sowars dispersed to their homes, carrying their arms and
ammunition with them, but sinking their drill and discipline and looking
upon themselves as once more tribesmen, but better armed than in the
days when they had only matchlocks and _jhezails_ as firearms. The
rising in December was not a reorganization of the army, but a gathering
of all the fighting-men from Ghazni to Charikar in answer to the appeal
of the _moollahs_ to their fanaticism. The short-lived success which
followed was due chiefly to the leading of the ghazis, who knew no more
of generalship or discipline than our own dhoolie-bearers. Occasionally
we saw some sort of marshalling going on in the leading lines, in which
the best-armed men were placed, but this was due more to the desire on
the part of the leaders to make the most of their strength than to any
idea of forming the mob into battalions. Mahomed Jan and Mushk-i-Alam
trusted to numbers and to fanaticism, not to discipline, to win their
battles, and their trust was fully justified. The losses they suffered
were proportionately small. Our artillery could never be concentrated on
a particular regiment or squadron, but had to be directed upon men in
small scattered groups, or on a line extending for many miles across the
country. Again, when the unsuccessful attack upon Sherpur was made, the
retreat or rather dispersion of the 50,000 men was so rapid, owing to no
regular army being with them, that we were powerless to overtake the
fugitives; they had spread themselves broadcast over the country, hidden
their arms, and had once more begun to play the part of an innocent

The reason for the signal failure of Shere Ali’s system is to be found,
as I have said, chiefly in the want of skilled leaders, more
particularly of regiments; but there is a further explanation, and one
which makes intelligible the comparatively slight losses we suffered
when our troops were greatly outnumbered. In our own army, even with all
the trouble and care devoted to instructing the men in the principles of
musketry, the rifle-fire is deplorably bad; thousands of rounds are
expended with very poor results, and company officers grow despondent
when volley after volley is fired and no impression is made upon the
enemy. If this be the case with our well-disciplined troops, it may be
readily believed that Afghan sepoys are far worse. I learned from one of
them in Cabul that although Enfields and Sniders were served out, each
man only received three rounds of ammunition per year with which to gain
a knowledge of his weapon, and that consequently they knew practically
nothing of the capabilities of their rifles. They felt that at close
quarters they might possibly hit their man, but at longer ranges they
could not hope to shoot well. Their natural steadiness of hand and
perfect eyesight, of course, served them in good stead; but position
drill, the manipulation and sighting of the rifle, were generally a
mystery to them. This was the cause of defeat when opposed to our
regiments, though holding positions, such as the Peiwar and Charasia
hills, which were capable of grand defence. For a time they fired
rapidly and resolutely, but seeing no effect produced, and our
skirmishing line always moving forward, they lost heart and abandoned
position after position, until they had at last to make a hasty retreat.
Again, with the artillery: to each gun issued from the Bala Hissar
Arsenal one cartridge was served out, and when this had been fired and
the gun had stood the test, no further practice was allowed. Could the
gunners hope to attain proficiency under such conditions? This economy
of ammunition was doubtless due to the difficulties of manufacture and
the necessity of husbanding cartridges; but it was a short-sighted
policy, and one which an Amir at all versed in the art of warfare would
never have adopted.

If the time should ever arrive when Afghanistan becomes a protected
State under the guidance of the Indian Government, and the people should
recognize the advantages to be gained by an alliance with the British,
the best plan would be, not to create a regular army, but to turn the
population into a huge militia. The peasantry would not object to annual
trainings, and if the principle were adopted of _issuing breech-loaders
only_, instructing the men in their use and allowing them a fairly large
number of rounds to be fired under the eye of their officers, and not to
be retained under any circumstances, a splendid contingent could be
formed. The men might retain their rifles, but the reserve ammunition
should be stored in such a way that they could not gain access to it. In
time of war they would assemble with rifles in their hands, but with
empty ammunition pouches; and upon the discretion of our officers would
depend the number of rounds to be served out to them. The mercenary army
we have raised in India owes its strength to the system of class
regiments, and Afghanistan could be similarly dealt with. No combination
between Pathans and Hazaras would ever take place, and with the latter
kept fully armed and equipped doing garrison duty, the militia could be
called out as a _Landwehr_ when occasion arose. These ideas may of
course seem to some Quixotic, but perhaps before another generation has
passed away they may be realized. If the French can reconcile Arabs to
serve in the Algerian army, there should be but little difficulty in
creating, hereafter, an Afghan militia—always provided that our
influence is supreme in the country, and the kingdom enjoying the
benefits of our administration.

When the irregular levies come to be considered, we are bound to admit
at once that the fanaticism which animates many of their number often
makes them formidable enemies. Their ghazis make splendid leaders in an
attack. The word “ghazi” has come to mean in Western eyes something very
different from its legitimate signification. It originally meant a
conqueror, or great hero, and in this sense it is used in modern Turkey.
Osman Pasha was dubbed “Ghazi” when his splendid resistance to the
Russians saved for a time the fate of his country; and the title is one
held in the highest respect by Mahomedans. From “conqueror” the meaning
has passed into lower grades, one of the commonest being “a gallant
soldier” (especially combating infidels); and at last, in the common
course of events, it has been appropriated in the all-comprehensive
vocabulary of the English language with a distinct and localized
meaning. To us, now, a ghazi is simply a man upon whom fanaticism has
had so powerful an effect that all physical fear of death is swamped in
his desire to take the life of a Kafir, and, with his soul purified by
the blood of the unbeliever, to be translated at once to Paradise. A
true ghazi counts no odds too great to face, no danger too menacing to
be braved: the certainty of death only adds to his exaltation; and, as
in the case of other madmen, desperation and insensibility to
consequences add enormously to his muscular powers and endurance. To
kill such a man is sometimes so difficult a task at close quarters, that
our men have learned to respect their peculiar mode of fighting, and a
rifle-bullet at a fair distance checks the ghazi’s course before he can
close upon his assailants with the terribly sharp knife he knows so well
how to use. If every Afghan were a ghazi, as I once said during the
siege of Sherpur, our defences would have been carried, and enormous
slaughter would have followed on both sides; but ghazis are few and far
between, though a spurious imitation is not uncommon. This imitation is
often taken for the real article, whereas _bhang_ or some other
stimulant is the motive power, and not desperate fanaticism. The misuse
of the word “ghazi” is strikingly seen in the accounts of the last war
forty years ago. We are told of bands of ghazis, many thousands strong,
harassing the retreating army and cutting off stragglers; and these
ghazis are always spoken of as being quite out of the control of Akhbar
Khan. If they had been true ghazis they would have made short work of
our little army long before it reached the Khurd Cabul. Their fanaticism
would have carried them into the midst of the soldiers; for what
resistance can be made to madmen who desire death, and have thrown all
thoughts of retreat to the winds? Only a few weeks after the dispersion
of Mahomed Jan’s army from before Sherpur, absurd alarmist telegrams
were circulated in India and England of a gathering of 20,000 ghazis on
the Ghazni Road, only fifty miles from Cabul, and another disaster was
foretold by every croaker, who found as much comfort in the awful word
“ghazi” as did the old woman in many-syllabled Mesopotamia. If that
number of ghazis had been within fifty miles of us, we might, indeed,
have had our work cut out for us; but not in the whole of Afghanistan
could so many be found. It is not given to every man to rise to such a
pitch of religious exaltation, and fortunate for an “infidel” army it is
not. To see how thousands of ghazis are always being spoken of, one
would imagine they were a powerful clan, similar to the Ghilzais,
Kohistanis, or Afridis. Just as the shining light of a missionary
meeting at home described “_zenana_ missions” as being missions sent to
“_Zenana_, a district of Northern India, fruitful and densely-populated,
but with its wretched inhabitants steeped in heathen ignorance,” so do
sensation-mongers dress out these ghazis as a distinct section of
Pathans, who gather together in their thousands whenever there is an
appeal to arms. To them it would seem as easy to collect ghazis as to
gather grapes—and certainly the two products are noteworthy enough in
this sterile country—but practical acquaintance with the form fanaticism
assumes about Cabul shows only too clearly that out of a crowd of 50,000
armed fanatics, such as lately held Cabul, not one in a hundred rises to
the supreme rank of a ghazi. They are not born and bred to the vocation:
chance makes them what they are, and our men know that a stray spark of
enthusiasm may kindle their fanaticism and send them into our midst. The
ghazi in Afghanistan, his true abode, answers to the assassin in Western
countries, where enthusiasm in religious or political matters arouses
him to shoot a priest at the altar, or stab a king in his palace. How
the ghazi, the “conqueror of death,” as he deserves to be called, rises
into being may be told with sufficient local colouring to make the story
more than commonplace.

An infidel army is in occupation of the country, and under the outward
cloak of sudden submission is hidden deep hatred of the intruders on
account of race and religion. In every village and hamlet the men listen
eagerly to the preaching of the _moollahs_, who stir up their passions
by lying stories of the coming time when their religion will be insulted
and their _zenanas_ violated by the Kafirs. The appeal is made first to
the two objects most precious in the eyes of an Afghan or of any other
Mahomedan—his faith and his women. When passions have been deeply enough
stirred, the _moollah_ warms to his work. A Koran, wrapped and rewrapped
in silks, and carefully protected from defiling influences, is drawn
from the priest’s breast, and every passage imposing upon true
Mahomedans the duty of destroying all unbelievers is quoted with
vehement eloquence. The _moollah_ is to these ignorant peasants the link
between this world and the next; in him they place all trust; and as
they listen to his fierce harangues, they are ready to do all that he
requires of them. He is vested with mysterious attributes, rising
occasionally to miracle-working; and with quiet assurance he promises
that, if they attack the infidels “in the proper spirit and in full
faith,” bullets shall turn harmlessly aside, bayonets shall not pierce
them, and their poshteens thrown over the cannon’s mouth shall check
shot and shell. The priesthood in all ages have traded upon the
credulity of the people, and have abused their power without qualms of
conscience to obtain their ends. Is it any more wonderful that an Afghan
tribesman, shut out from the wonders of the outer world, should believe
the clap-trap of his priest, than that highly-cultured scholars in the
full glare of civilization should accept the dogmas of Papal
Infallibility, or a crowd of devotees watch with awe-stricken faces the
liquefaction, periodically, of the blood of a saint dead and gone ages
ago? Yet such things have been in modern Europe, and the world has
forgotten to smile. The _moollah_ is merely a clever trickster in his
own sphere, though, like many other priests, he comes often to believe
in his own supernatural powers, and then sinks to the level of his
followers. And the ghazi is the creature of the _moollah_. The latter’s
eloquence is listened to by some more than usually susceptible villager,
whose enthusiasm is aroused to fever heat by a glowing story of a ghazi,
who went into the infidel camp, cut down two or three Kafirs, and died
the death of a martyr, his soul going straight to the laps of the
_houris_, and his name living for ever among his kindred. Shall he not
emulate such a glorious example, so that his children and his children’s
children may hand down his name to all generations as a Ghazi
Allah-din—a “Champion of the Faith?” The _moollah’s_ preaching has had
its effect, and a ghazi has been called into being. If a great _jehad_
is being preached, that man will always be in the forefront of the
battle, and will probably carry the standard of his clan, blessed by the
_moollah_ who has aroused the tribesmen. The fiery cross, which was sped
from end to end of the Scottish Highlands in the old days, when the call
to arms was made, was no more powerful than is the Koran now, carried
from village to village by the _moollah_ of Afghanistan. But a few weeks
ago the arch-_moollah_, Mushk-i-Alam, sent out his message from Charkh,
and how well it was responded to we are living witnesses. With ghazis in
their midst to lead the timorous, and _moollahs_ always at hand to fan
their fanaticism, Mahomed Jan’s rabble did wonders. How the ghazis
acquitted themselves our men well know—many poor fellows to their cost.

In the action in the Chardeh Valley the standard-bearers rushed on even
when our cavalry charged, and no more reckless rush was ever made. Many
went down, but about them were others equal in desperation. A trooper of
the 9th transfixed a man with his lance: the ghazi wriggled up like an
eel, grasped the lance with his left hand, and, with one stroke of the
knife, cut through the lancer’s hand and the tough shaft as it had been
of tinder. This is not romancing: the trooper is still living, but minus
the fingers of his right hand. On the 13th December, when the 92nd
Highlanders stormed the Takht-i-Shah Peak, isolated bands of ghazis
stood to their posts when their comrades were in full retreat, and were
shot and bayoneted in desperate hand-to-hand encounters. On the 14th the
ghazis were so prominent that Mahomed Jan owed all his success to their
daring leadership up the Asmai Heights, although many a white-clothed
figure went down before that success was gained. In the early part of
the day the last _sungar_ on the Asmai Heights was held by a score of
these fanatics when all else had fled. The banners were planted on the
rude stone walls; and when Colonel Brownlow and the Highlanders made the
final rush, the scene was an exciting one. What could be finer than the
desperate leap out of the _sungar_ by the ghazi who attacked
Lance-Corporal Seller, our first man forward? Nothing but fanatical
madness could have drawn a man from the temporary shelter of the
_sungar_ while there was still a chance of escape down the hill; the
ghazi fulfilled his _kismut_; so let us hope all is well with him. Then,
when the enemy streamed out from Indikee into the Chardeh Valley, and
came straight upon the hills held by our troops, their standard-bearers,
chiefly ghazis, were well in front, and the rush upwards was led by
these men, who at times were 100 yards in front of the main body. When
our men were forced back from the conical hill, the ghazis were the
first to crown the rocks; and the splendid way in which they planted
their standards on the Asmai Heights as the Highlanders and Guides were
withdrawn was worthy of all respect. The steady volleys of Colonel
Brownlow’s men kept back the main body; but yard by yard, as our
soldiers fell back, flags were pushed up from behind protecting rocks,
their bearers being at times within fifty paces of our rifles. With such
leaders, even cowards must have rushed on, and it must have been a proud
moment for the ghazis when they held the crest of the hill, and watched
our troops slowly filing off into Sherpur.

They played the same prominent part during the siege, but they were
ill-supported, and though a few succeeded once in placing a flag within
250 yards of the corner bastion looking towards Deh-i-Afghan, not a man
remained, when night fell, to remove their cherished trophy: our
Martinis had proved too fatal at so short a range. In the final assault
on December 23rd the fanatical leaders were again in the van; and if
they had been followed by the thousands who hung back so irresolutely,
then there might have been a hand-to-hand fight in our trenches. In
isolated instances, a ghazi would be seen within a few score yards of
our defences, only to go down riddled through and through, though one
more desperate than his companions reached the _abattis_, and had begun
to pull away the intercepting branches, when he also was shot. To quote
more instances of the audacity of the ghazi would be useless. I have
said enough to prove his recklessness, and to show that, with an army of
such men against us, even our splendid arms and steady discipline might
avail nothing. But the true ghazi is a phenomenon—he at least deserves
the scientific and sonorous title—and even Afghan fanaticism cannot
bring forth many, however great may be the eloquence of the _moollahs_.
Of the more despicable ghazi—the man who runs amuck in an infidel camp
or waylays a Kafir in the streets of a city—I have nothing to say. Cabul
has been free from such pests, and we do not wish to hear the cry of
“ghazi!” raised. The fanatic generally takes so much killing that our
revolver ammunition would run short were he to put in an appearance


                             CHAPTER XXIV.

The Outlook at Cabul in February—Appointment of Mr. Lepel Griffin to be
    Chief Political Officer—Abdur Rahman Khan in Badakshan—Nek Mahomed
    in Turkistan—Probable Movements of the Two Sirdars—Biography of
    Abdur Rahman Khan—His Struggle with Shere Ali—Takes Refuge with the
    Russians in Turkistan—Sir Richard Pollock’s Estimate of his
    Character—His Relations with the Russians—Biography of Mushk-i-Alam,
    the _Moollah_—His Power over the Tribes—Mahomed Hasan Khan’s
    Life—His Russian Proclivities—Asmatullah Khan and the Northern
    Ghilzais—Daoud Shah’s Career—Serves under Akhbar Khan and Shere
    Ali—Reasons for his Deportation to India.

It would be scarcely worth while to reproduce letters which dealt
chiefly with current rumours of Mahomed Jan’s movements, and I will
therefore only give extracts sufficient to make clear the course of
events. Our Governor of Kohistan was never able to get beyond Baba Kuch
Kar, and Mahomed Jan’s agents in Logar, Wardak, and Maidan were
constantly heard of. Writing on February 1, I said:—

It seems likely that we shall have to visit Ghazni, which is now the
head-quarters of the malcontents, unless some declaration of policy by
the Home Government puts an end to our occupation of Cabul. General
Roberts has asked for the heavy battery to be sent up from Peshawur, and
with three 40-pounders and two 8-inch howitzers, we could batter the
Ghazni fortress about the ears of its defenders. In Sherpur the guns
captured from the enemy in October are being tried, and a certain number
found serviceable are being put in order. Some garrison artillerymen
from Peshawur are being sent up, and will form our garrison battery

The political dead-lock remains unchanged. Our policy of “benevolent
inactivity” has not altogether pleased some of the local sirdars, who
are nothing, if not place-hunters. They have seen Wali Mahomed made
Governor of Cabul, and no doubt it was expected that positions of
“trust” would be assigned to them. But they have been disappointed, and,
in return, have vented their anger and disgust by posting four or five
seditious placards on the walls of the city. The tenor of these was to
point out how much better off the people were under the old Amirs than
under General Roberts, whom they accuse of sinning “through foolishness
and ignorance”—perhaps of their own personal wants. Such abuse hurts no
one, and can have but little effect upon the popular mind, for there can
be no mistake as regards our leniency towards Cabul itself. The
appointment of Mr. Lepel Griffin to be Chief Political Officer here has
been announced by the Government of India, and has given general
satisfaction in cantonments, as the political work now done by the
General will be minimized, and his hands will be free to deal more fully
with matters purely military. One thing is fervently desired, and that
is that Mr. Lepel Griffin will come with a programme of policy in his
pocket, as it is too aggravating to have a General and his army in the
unpleasant position of a ship at sea without orders: liable to be
knocked about by every gale that blows, and yet without any port to make
for. The best crew in the world would grow discontented under such
circumstances. We have had our buffeting, and have weathered it, and now
we should like fair weather and clear instructions as to our future

                                                    _16th February._

It is rather difficult at present to follow the movements of Abdur
Rahman Khan, whose name now is oftener in men’s mouths than that of any
other Afghan chief of importance. As I predicted, Abdur Rahman seems
likely to play a leading part in Afghanistan, and his reported arrival
in Badakshan shows that his influence may be felt upon local politics at
any moment. We have always had much trouble in getting news of Turkistan
affairs; and though we heard from European telegrams that Abdur Rahman
had been dismissed by the Russians, and had started to try his fortunes
again in Afghanistan, we could not gain trustworthy reports of his
arrival south of the Oxus. Once, it is true, he was said to be at Balkh;
but no confirmation of the report was forthcoming, and it was soon
disbelieved. Now, at last, we have new accounts of his movements.
Merchants in Cabul have received letters from agents at Balkh, in which
it is distinctly stated that the exiled son of Mir Afzul Khan is in
Badakshan, with 3,000 Turcomans, and is preparing to make good his
claims to the Amirship. Without jumping to any rash conclusions, it may
be possible to explain clearly enough the train of circumstances which
have brought Abdur Rahman once more to the front. The death of Shere Ali
and the accession of Yakub Khan might have tempted him to make another
effort for the throne; but without the assistance and countenance of
Russia he could scarcely hope to be successful. To raise an army money
is needed; and though the Russians were considerate enough to pay the
exiled prince a liberal pension, they were too anxious to keep on good
terms with England to subsidize a pretender to the Amirship just when
the Treaty of Gundamak had been signed. Abdur Rahman may have been
convinced, also, that Yakub Khan would never be strong enough to carry
out the treaty, and that his downfall, either at the hands of his own
subjects or of the British, would leave Cabul open to other competitors.
The massacre of our Envoy, the march of Sir F. Roberts’s force upon
Cabul, and the dispersion of the rebel army, followed each other so
rapidly that the country was paralysed, as far as active resistance
went. The flight of Nek Mahomed (uncle of Abdur Rahman) to Russian
territory was the signal for the collapse of the Afghan army, and
doubtless the fugitive General warned his nephew that, to attempt any
campaign while the British were posing as the protectors of Yakub Khan
and the conquerors of Cabul would be little short of madness. Besides,
if Yakub Khan were to be reinstated, and his rule made secure by a new
British alliance, rebellion against him would be full of danger. That,
in case of certain contingencies, a plan of action was arranged between
Abdur Rahman and Nek Mahomed would appear certain; and it is
half-suspected that Russian sympathy was freely extended to them, and a
hint given that practical aid would also be afforded when the plan was
ripe for execution. They were waiting upon Providence; and the first
reward for their patience was the deportation of Yakub Khan to India on
December 1st, and the assumption by the British of the temporary
sovereignty of Cabul. The Amirship thus became vacant; and Abdur Rahman,
as the son of Mir Afzul Khan, eldest son of Dost Mahomed, could fairly
lay claim to the throne. Yakub Khan’s son was a mere child; there was no
one of any great influence in the British camp who could hope to be
successful as Amir; and who so likely to be welcomed by the people as
Abdur Rahman, a favourite alike with the army and the tribes? The
_jehad_ preached by Mushk-i-Alam, and the temporary success of Mahomed
Jan’s army at Sherpur, must have more than ever convinced the exiles
that their chance had come and their plan might be put to the test. What
that plan was can only be judged by after-events; but its broad outlines
seem to have been the raising and equipping of a body of Turcoman horse
and the crossing of the Oxus at two points. Abdur Rahman directed his
steps towards Badakshan, where his wife’s kinsmen are in power; while
Nek Mahomed passed into Turkistan by the Kilif ferry, fifty miles
north-west of Balkh. Abdur Rahman’s force is said to have been 2,000 or
3,000 Turcoman horsemen; and his treasure-chest, by native report,
contained 12 lakhs of rupees in Bokhara gold _tillahs_ when he crossed
the river. Nek Mahomed’s escort is also made up of Turcomans; and his
object seems to be to gain over Gholam Hyder, Governor of Turkistan,
while Abdur Rahman raises levies in Badakshan. A powerful combination
would thus be formed north of the Hindu Kush; and by the spring, which
brings with it the melting of the snows and the opening of the Passes
about Charikar and Bamian, the pretender to the throne should have under
his orders a well-equipped and numerous army. Perhaps the most important
work to be done before Abdur Rahman could move out of Badakshan was the
gaining of Gholam Hyder’s co-operation. In a letter written two months
ago I showed that the Governor of Turkistan really held only the country
south of the Oxus between Aebak and Akcha; a Kirghiz chief having raided
into the districts west of Akcha, while the Khan of Kunduz (120 miles
east of Balkh) was supreme in the hill-country between Aebak and
Badakshan. Gholam Hyder’s power lies mainly in his possession of one or
two field batteries, and in having under his orders several regiments of
cavalry and infantry, many of whom are well-armed with rifles made on
English patterns. From reports which have reached Cabul it would appear
that he was very uneasy when the fact of Abdur Rahman’s and Nek
Mahomed’s presence to east and west of him became known. He was at first
doubtful of their intentions, and, as a precautionary measure, massed
his cavalry and guns at Mazar-i-Sharif, one march south-east of Balkh.
In the meantime Abdur Rahman, with the aid of his 12 lakhs (of which it
is shrewdly suspected that at least half was given to him as a subsidy
by the Russians), was making it clear in the eyes of the Badakshanis
that his new expedition was something more than a visionary attempt to
regain Cabul. One of his wives is a daughter of Jehandar Shah, late Mir
of Badakshan, whose son now governs at Faizabad, the capital of this
northern province. So successful has Abdur Rahman been, that he has not
only won over the Badakshanis, but also the Khan of Kunduz, who has
offered him help in his new venture. Rumour also states that Gholam
Hyder has cast in his lot with the pretender, and that an amicable
meeting between their forces is to take place at Mazar-i-Sharif. Of
course it is possible that affairs have not run so smoothly as
represented; but still native rumour is wonderfully correct as a rule,
and the appearance of Abdur Rahman is a new and most important factor in
the Afghan problem. He has with him Ishak Khan, son of Sirdar Azim Khan,
who was Amir for a short time when Shere Ali’s fortunes were at their
lowest ebb. I have before spoken of Abdur Rahman’s popularity, and his
soldierly qualities are universally acknowledged. What his future plans
may be can only be conjectured. The timid and characterless sirdars we
have now with us are rather alarmed at his approach, and their
uneasiness is, perhaps, justifiable. Probably, in the spring, he may
march an army from Balkh through Khulm, Aebak, and Saighan to Bamian, or
he may try the more easterly route over the Hindu Kush to Charikar and
Kohistan. What our course of action will be in such a case I am not
prepared to say; but that Abdur Rahman may yet be Amir of Afghanistan is
quite within the range of possibility. But for the fatal taint of
Russian influence which it is only fair to suppose has affected his
character during his stay in Tashkend, he would make a nominee whom we
could trust, for his ability is beyond question.

The following is a short sketch of his life—a life which has been stormy
even for an Afghan prince. His father was Mahomed Afzul Khan, eldest son
of the Dost Mahomed; but on his mother’s side he has Populzai blood in
his veins. In 1863-64, when the death of the Dost had rendered the
throne vacant, Afzul Khan, as eldest son of the deceased Amir, objected
to his claims being set aside in favour of his younger half-brother,
Shere Ali, and soon the country was in a state of civil war. Abdur
Rahman was placed by his father in charge of Takhtipul, in Turkistan,
and showed some genius as a soldier, but was eventually obliged to
confess himself beaten by Shere Ali’s forces. He made a half-hearted
submission, and, being suspected of still intriguing in favour of his
father, was summoned to Cabul. This order he refused to obey; but,
dreading the consequences, fled across the Oxus into Bokhara, where many
other sirdars had taken refuge. Turkistan was still very unsettled, and
Abdur Rahman induced many of the garrison of Balkh to desert Shere Ali
and cross into Bokhara. The Amir of that Khanate openly espoused his
cause, and aided him in many ways. With a small, but well-equipped,
force he at last recrossed the Oxus and made for Akcha, then in charge
of Faiz Mahomed Khan. The latter, finding himself unequal to any
successful resistance, threw over Shere Ali and united his garrison with
the force from Bokhara. The Governor of Turkistan, Fateh Mahomed Khan,
was not so easily won over, and resisted the new army. His soldiers,
however, proved faithless; and, leaving them to continue their own
course of action, he fled from Turkistan. Abdur Rahman thus found
himself, in a few weeks, at the head of a fairly powerful army; and,
pushing on to Takhtipul, he resumed his old position as Governor.
Turkistan had thus fallen easily into his hands, and so striking was his
success, that he resolved upon a march to Cabul. His uncle, Azim Khan, a
man of some ability, joined him; and Shere Ali, still having with him
Afzul Khan, a prisoner, was forced to leave his capital. On the 24th of
February Abdur Rahman entered the city without opposition; but he had
still to deal with Shere Ali, who was collecting an army in the South.
In May the two armies came into collision at Sheikhabad, on the Ghazni
Road, and Abdur Rahman gained a complete victory. His father was
released, and was proclaimed Amir in place of Shere Ali. But Afzul Khan,
a confirmed drunkard, was but a weak and incapable ruler, and his
brother, Azim Khan, practically held all power in his hands. Abdur
Rahman then, full of energy and flushed with success, tried to
counteract his uncle’s schemes; and the quarrel might have widened into
a serious breach between the two had not the presence of Shere Ali, with
a second army at Candahar, made it imperative to sink all differences
before a common danger. Uncle and nephew again took the field, and
marching southwards through Ghazni, met and defeated Shere Ali’s army at
Khelat-i-Ghilzai. This was on the 16th of January, 1867. But opposition
still had to be encountered, Faiz Mahomed, half-brother of Shere Ali,
having raised another army in support of the ex-Amir’s cause. Abdur
Rahman was again successful in his military operations, defeating Faiz
Mahomed at Kila Allahdad on the 17th September, 1867. But, while thus
fighting with invariable success for his father, he had to meet the
designs of his uncle, whose ambition was to be himself Amir. Afzul Khan
died in Cabul while his son was absent with the army; and when Abdur
Rahman returned to the capital, he found his uncle, Azim Khan, in
possession of the throne. The old quarrels broke out afresh, Abdur
Rahman naturally feeling aggrieved that, after all his successes, the
Amirship had slipped through his hands. Again fresh complications in
Turkistan saved an open rupture: Abdur Rahman started for the northern
province and tried to subdue the Usbeg chiefs. In this he was
unsuccessful, the Mir of Maemena, a district between Balkh and Herat,
sturdily resisting all attack, and eventually forcing Abdur Rahman to
fall back upon Takhtipul. The absence of the young soldier in the north
had been Shere Ali’s opportunity. His forces were successful in Western
Afghanistan, and he was soon _de facto_ Amir. Abdur Rahman’s position in
Turkistan then became untenable; his soldiers, hearing that Shere Ali
was once more in possession of Cabul, lost heart and deserted; and in
January 1869, in conjunction with Azim Khan, he was once more a
fugitive. After Azim Khan had appealed to the Indian Government for
help, and had been refused, the two sirdars sought refuge in Persia, and
afterwards, in the trans-Oxus Khanates. Azim Khan died in October 1869;
and Abdur Rahman, still entertaining his idea of regaining Cabul, went
to Khiva. Here his intrigues to raise a force with which to conquer
Afghan-Turkistan met with such slight success that he turned his steps
to Bokhara. Living as a refugee in that Khanate was Jehandar Shah,
ex-Mir of Badakshan. This chief had heartily aided Afzul Khan in his
struggle for the throne, and to cement the alliance had given his sister
in marriage to Azim Khan, and his daughter to Abdur Rahman. Shere Ali,
in August 1869, induced the Badakshan sirdars to depose Jehandar Shah,
who was imprisoned in his own capital of Faizabad. He persuaded his late
subjects to grant his release, and crossed the Oxus to Kulab, where
Abdur Rahman joined him. Their intrigues to gain possession of Badakshan
were on the basis of raising a force of Turcomans on the north, while
the Mir of Maemena, with an army of Usbegs, co-operated with them from
the west through Balkh and Kunduz. The want of money was a great
obstacle to success, and Abdur Rahman conceived the idea of supplicating
aid from Russia. While Jehandar Shah went to Chitral, to seek aid from
Aman-ul-Mulk, chief of that country, Abdur Rahman left Bokhara for
Samarcand, and reached Tashkend in May 1870. General Kaufmann received
him hospitably, but was deaf to all his appeals for troops to aid him in
conquering Afghan-Turkistan. A pension of about £5,000 sterling was
assigned to him, but a refusal was given to his request to visit St.
Petersburg and represent his case to the Czar. When Schuyler saw him he
expressed a confident belief that with £50,000 to raise and equip an
army he could once more make himself supreme in Afghanistan. With this
one idea in his mind he was saving nine tenths of his pension, and
hinted that, under favourable conditions, he might be aided by Russia.
Jehandar Shah, after raising an unsuccessful insurrection in Badakshan
in 1878, joined his son-in-law at Samarcand in 1875, but has since died.

Of Abdur Rahman’s character I have spoken in a previous letter; and the
following estimate of his ability by Sir Richard Pollock, late
Commissioner of Peshawur, is worth quoting as somewhat confirming my
view. Sir Richard Pollock writes:—“Abdur Rahman was well thought of as a
soldier and commander when in charge of the army, but showed less talent
for administrative work. He has now lost all his possessions, both at
his home and his place of refuge, and has no resources by which he could
collect a party. Without help as to money or arms, he could do nothing.
If supplied with money by Russia or Bokhara, and promised a backing, he
might attempt to recover his position. Probably, such an attempt would
be unsuccessful, if made in the Amir’s (Shere Ali) lifetime. If later,
after the Amir’s death, and when Turkistan had Mir Alam Khan as
Governor, or some equally corrupt, incapable person, the issue might be
in Abdur Rahman’s favour, as far as Turkistan is concerned. On the
Amir’s death such an attempt may be looked upon as likely, unless a good
Governor should previously have taken Mir Alam’s place. Abdur Rahman’s
influence has already declined rapidly, and fortune is never likely to
favour him again to the extent it did when he was fighting for Azim and
Afzul. There was strong sympathy on the part of the nation for the elder
sons, who had been set aside by the Dost in favour of Shere Ali Khan.
Besides, the King of Bokhara afforded assistance, which he is not likely
now or later to give.” This memorandum was written before the breach
between Shere Ali and the Indian Government; but its remarks are still
applicable. Abdur Rahman seems, without doubt, to have been supplied
with means by the Russians, and he has an “incapable person” Governor of
Turkistan—Gholam Hyder; so that it would not be unlikely if he possessed
himself of the northern province in a few months. The old sympathy in
his favour may once more be revived, and we could scarcely dispute his
authority, unless we were prepared to begin a campaign _viâ_ Bamian in
the spring. If Abdur Rahman is ambitious enough not only to claim
Turkistan, but Cabul also, we shall either have to meet his forces in
the field, or to offer him the Amirship and our support in the future.
Whether he would prefer England to Russia yet remains to be seen.

What Abdur Rahman’s relations have been with the Russians—and, perhaps,
still are—may be judged from a letter, written in May 1878, by Shahgassi
Sherdil Khan, then Governor of Afghan-Turkistan. He says:—

  “Mirza Salahuddin, whom I deputed towards Samarcand and Tashkend to
  collect news from those directions, has returned and made a statement,
  to the effect that the Russians intend to induce Abdur Rahman Khan to
  submit to them a petition, setting forth that he has been putting up
  there a long time under the protection of the Russian Government; that
  he has often petitioned them to help him in securing the restitution
  of his ancestral territory from the Amir of Cabul, but his prayer has
  not been acceded to; and that he has now heard that the Russians are
  preparing to fight against the British Government; that they have sent
  envoys to wait upon the Amir to request him to allow passage through
  his country to the Russian troops going to India and returning
  therefrom, should a necessity arise for such a passage; and that, such
  being the case, he offered his services in case His Highness refuses
  to grant the request of the Russian Government to capture Balkh with a
  small assistance from the Czar, and then subdue the whole of
  Afghanistan, which is not a difficult task.”

The conditions are certainly altered now, as Russia is not meditating
any such Quixotic campaign as an advance upon India; but Abdur Rahman
may still be credited with a desire “to capture Balkh with a small
assistance from the Czar, and then subdue the whole of Afghanistan.” In
any settlement we may intend making, it would be folly to ignore his
existence altogether. If we are not prepared to break up his army and
drive him back over the Oxus, we had better give him frankly a chance of
stating his case. He might by judicious management—say the promise of a
large annual subsidy—prove the best man we could place in power as
successor of the incapable Yakub Khan.

While on the subject of biography, I may as well give a slight sketch of
the lives of some of the men who have recently played a prominent part
in Afghan politics. We have been so shut off from Afghanistan for many
years, that, except in a few confidential reports furnished to
Government by officers on the frontier, but little has been made known
of the character and power of Afghan sirdars and chiefs. Even the
_Peshawur Diary_, which has received contributions from men of the stamp
of Sir Richard Pollock and Sir Louis Cavagnari, is a sealed book to all
but a few favoured officials; and as many of the communications to it
are of a secret nature, it would be idle to expect that its contents can
ever become generally known. During our present occupation of Cabul,
Major Hastings, Chief Political Officer, has been able to collect some
data upon which trustworthy biographies have been founded of the chiefs
and others who have been hostile to us. Incidentally, it has been found
that our Afghan friends have some marvellous pedigrees, one old
gentleman claiming direct descent from Adam himself—an ancestor,
perhaps, as respectable—all circumstances considered—as any he could
have fallen back upon. An Afghan genealogical tree is a fearful
instrument of torture to apply to the minds of our young “politicals,”
for the same name occurs over and over again generation after
generation, and the weakness of the men for taking wives of varied
nationality causes obscure relationships, which are most difficult to
follow. It would be useless to give genealogies of men who are only of
importance as regards their own acts and personal influence; and in now
dealing with several of the best known names in Afghanistan I shall
merely summarize their pedigrees. The _moollah_ who raised the late
_jehad_ deserves first place, and I will begin with a sketch of his

Din Mahomed, known as Muskh-i-Alam (the “Scent of the World”), belongs
to the Sayids of Hindustan, but his father’s name is unknown. His
ancestors were Khwaja Khel, a section of the Lukhan Khel of the Andar
tribe, south of Ghazni. He married and settled in Afghanistan, first
studying under Mahomed Wasil, Kakar, resident of the village of Kala
Ali, in the Shilgarh district, south-east of Ghazni. In the prosecution
of his studies as a _moollah_ he next went to Lughman, and lived in the
house of one Abdul Hakim, a priest, from whom he gained most of his
knowledge. In his zeal for learning he travelled to Peshawur and lived
with Abdul Malik, Akhundzada. Returning to Afghanistan, he again read
with Abdul Hakim for about two years, when his master died, leaving two
young sons. Din Mahomed remained with them for a few years, to protect
their lives and property, and his devotion had its reward. A learned and
influential man, named Mahomed Aslam, Sahibazda, a nephew of the
deceased _moollah_, Abdul Karim, took notice of him, and gave him
shelter, at the same time teaching him all he knew. In course of time
Mahomed Aslam nominated Din Mahomed as his successor. So far his life
had been that of an ordinary _moollah_, one of great simplicity and
occasional hardship. But we now find him showing signs of great zeal and
energy. A war broke out against the Kafiristanis, and he joined Haji Taj
Mahomed Saib, known as Haji Shahid (a descendant of one Haji Mahomed
Said, of Lahore, who had settled in the Surkhrud district of
Jellalabad). Taj Mahomed was killed at Pashgarh, and Din Mahomed carried
his body on his own shoulders to the shrine of Abdul Karim, in Lughman.
Thence he carried it in the same fashion to Taj Mahomed’s own village of
Masti Khel, where he buried it. This devotion caused his name to become
well known in Western Afghanistan, and his fame as a _moollah_ rose
accordingly. He returned to his own part of the country, near Ghazni,
and was for years engaged in teaching others. Nearly all the _moulvis_
of the Cabul and Ghazni districts are pupils of his, and his influence
over such powerful tribes as the Ghilzais, Lughmanis, and Mohmunds, has
been and is very great. The late _jehad_, which was certainly one of the
most successful ever preached in Afghanistan, was due to his summoning
the tribes to arms; and it is worth noticing that, while Sherpur was
being besieged by the tribes in its immediate locality, the Lughmanis,
under Asmatullah Khan, tried to block the Passes, and the Mohmunds made
a diversion on our lower line of communications. Mushk-i-Alam is now
ninety years of age, and has lately shown signs of approaching death.
Ten years ago he was still hale and strong, and took to himself a young
Mohmund wife, who bore him a son, who is still alive, and is called
Abdur Rahman. This son is actually younger than one of his grandsons,
who is twenty years of age. Mushk-i-Alam has two sons, Abdul Aziz and
Abdul Karim, aged fifty and forty-five respectively, and these men are
most active in carrying out their father’s orders, the old man himself
being unable to rise from his bed, except when urgent occasion gives him
passing strength.

A man of great ability, now at enmity with us, is Mirza Mahomed Hasan
Khan, Dabir-ul-Mulk, late Governor of Jellalabad, who is acting as
Mahomed Jan’s lieutenant in Logar, and has shown great zeal in his
efforts to renew the attack upon Sherpur. He is one of three grandsons
of Haji Aka Ashur, called Shamilo Turk-i-Rum. Hasan Khan has long been a
prominent figure in the Cabul Court. He first served as an officer under
Sirdar Gholam Hyder Khan, and, upon the latter’s death, was transferred
to the Amir Shere Ali Khan, whom he accompanied to the Umballa
Conference in 1869. The Amir, on returning to Cabul, appointed him
“Dabir-ul-Mulk,” or Secretary of State, and for several years he was his
sovereign’s chief confidant and counsellor. He was privy to all Shere
Ali’s intrigues with the Russians, and seems to have been a most trusted
agent. Upon the death of Naib Mahomed Aslem, Governor of Turkistan, who
was accidentally killed by the kick of a horse, he was appointed,
conjointly with Eshak Akasi (Shaghassi) Sherdil Khan, Governor of
Turkistan. The Russian Mission soon afterwards arrived on the banks of
the Oxus, and Hasan Khan was deputed to accompany its members to Cabul.
Further, when General Stolietoff started on his return journey, Hasan
Khan accompanied him, and journeyed as far as Tashkend. What his
instructions were from Shere Ali may never be known; but it is
interesting to learn that, during the first campaign in November and
December, 1878, Shere Ali had one of his ministers in Russian Turkistan.
Upon the Amir’s arrival in full flight at Mazar-i-Sharif, Hasan Khan
joined him. Shere Ali had then great hope that the Russians would aid
him, and he sent Hasan Khan, Shere Ali Kandahari, Moollah Shah Mahomed,
and Kazi Abdul Kadir to Tashkend. Their mission was a failure, and they
returned to Turkistan. When news of the Amir’s death reached Tashkend
Yakub Khan recalled Hasan Khan from Balkh, and made him again
Dabir-ul-Mulk. He was afterwards sent to Jellalabad as Governor, and
remained at his post as long as Yakub Khan was in our camp at Sherpur.
Upon the ex-Amir being deported to India, Hasan Khan fled from
Jellalabad, taking with him a lakh of rupees—revenue which he had
collected for his master. He reached Ghazni in safety, and has since
been actively engaged in recruiting for Mahomed Jan. He is a man of
great ability and keenness, and is said to be ready to take any views
which may suit his purpose. This has been shown of late by his sending
in messengers to learn how he would be treated if he made submission to
the British. There is no doubt that at heart he is thoroughly Russian,
his favourite uniform, when in full dress, being that of the Russian
staff. In any dealings we may have with him, it will behove us to be on
our guard against this side of his character. He has two brothers; one
Ali Ahmed Khan, a colonel in a cavalry regiment, and the other Mahomed
Ibrahim Khan, once Governor of Hazara. He has seven sons, who are as yet
of no consequence.

A tribal chief, who, on the Jellalabad side and about the Passes has
given us great trouble, is Asmatullah Khan, Ghilzai, of Lughman. He has
far more influence among the Ghilzais than any other leader, Padshah
Khan being a very small person compared with the Lughman chief.
Asmatullah Khan’s family history affords a striking instance of the
feuds which are so common in Afghanistan, where father fights against
son, and brother against brother, as if ties of blood were of no
consequence. Asmatullah Khan’s ancestors are of the Mariam Khel, a
subdivision of the Jabbar Khel section of the Ghilzai tribe. They are
called Mariam Khel, after the name of the mother, Mariam corresponding
to the scriptural Miriam, just as Ibrahim answers to Abraham and Ismail
to Ishmael. In the year of the Hejira 1157 (A.D. 1740), when Ahmed Shah
was Amir, Safa Khan, who had succeeded his father, Ashak Khan, as chief
of the Mariam Khel, was dispossessed of his Khanship owing to heterodoxy
in his religious views. His nephew, Mahomed Ali Khan, succeeded him. But
about A.H. 1184, when Taimur Shah was King, it was found that this man
was such a tyrant that he also had to be thrust out of power. Taimur
Shah was anxious for Safa Khan to resume the Khanship, and he did so;
but, on the day of his resumption of power, Mahomed Ali Khan murdered
him. Taimur Shah seized the assassin and imprisoned him; but, as it was
a blood-feud, would not put him to death. It was necessary that a near
relative of Safa Khan should kill Mahomed Ali, and this pleasant duty
fell upon Ahmad Khan, son of Safa Khan. He was a mere boy at the time;
but, as his elder brothers were away, he was fortunate enough to be the
executioner. He killed his uncle, Taimur Shah handing the man over to
him, and was greatly respected thereafter as being a youth of good
parts. After Taimur Shah’s death, Ahmad Khan became very intimate with
the Wazir, Futteh Khan, and through his influence was made Khan of the
Ghilzais. He met his death at Herat, fighting against the Persians. His
son, Abdul Aziz Khan, succeeded him, but being quite a youth, the new
Khan entrusted the control of the tribe to his uncle. Abdul Aziz, who
was devoted to his religion, had born to him during his Khanship six
sons. He was most anxious to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, but was
prevented for many years by the elders of his tribe. Taking the matter
at last into his own hands, he managed to reach the Ahmadzai and Zurmut
country east of Ghazni, and thence escaped to Arabia. He reached Mecca
safely, but on a visit to Medina was seized with a fatal illness, which
put an end to his wanderings. His eldest son, Niamatullah Khan, became
chief of the clan, and was a very popular ruler. Two of his younger
brothers, Abdul Hamid and Halim Khan, tried to dispossess him of his
inheritance, and some petty fighting followed. The family seem always to
have been in a rabid state of parricide or fratricide; and in the month
of Ramzan A.H. 1277 Hamid Khan killed Niamatullah Khan. The second son
of Abdul Aziz, the present Asmatullah Khan, then became head of the
Ghilzais, and still remains so. During the Amir Shere Ali’s reign he was
a member of the Council of State. Asmatullah Khan’s character is thus
curtly summed up:—“He is said to be dull, or slow of understanding, and
wanting in pluck; he owes his influence more to his birth than to his
capacity.” The half-hearted way in which he attacked Jugdulluck a few
weeks ago, and his inability to keep his force together, prove that he
lacks courage and administrative power, and now that one of our flying
columns has marched unopposed through the Lughman Valley, his dignity in
the eyes of his followers must have greatly diminished.

My last biographical sketch is of General Daoud Shah, late
Commander-in-Chief of the Afghan army, who is now a prisoner in India.
His father, Mahomed Shah, was of the Lakhan Khel, a branch of the Andar
tribe of Sohak Ghilzais (south of Ghazni). Like Nimrod, he was a great
_shikari_; but not content with the killing of beasts, he quarrelled
with his neighbours most persistently, and was never happy unless
engaged in tribal warfare. He lived in the village of Mandi Chinar, in
the Safi district of Tagao; and upon the British invasion of 1839 he
eagerly took up arms against the Kafirs. His career was ended in a fight
before Charikar, in which our troops were successful in beating the
tribesmen. His son, Daoud Shah, had his father’s warlike instinct, and
as a young man took service in the army of the Dost. He was Akhbar
Khan’s orderly officer, and gained much experience under that General.
His promotion was very slow, until Shere Ali Khan made him captain for
services rendered at the battle of Kajbaz, in which Sirdar Mahomed Ali
Khan, eldest son of Shere Ali, was killed. Daoud Shah showed great
bravery during the campaign in Khost, and was raised to the rank of
General. He it was who won the battle of Zana Khan, in which Shere Ali
defeated Azim Khan and Abdur Rahman Khan. His fame as a General was now
bruited all over Afghanistan, and his next campaign added to his glory,
as, in conjunction with Mahomed Alam Khan, he defeated Abdur Rahman’s
forces in Turkistan, and settled the country in Shere Ali’s name. Having
quarrelled with Mahomed Alam, he was recalled to Cabul and imprisoned by
Shere Ali. The latter could not afford to alienate so able a General,
and Daoud Shah was soon released, but was given no employment. When
Yakub Khan rebelled against his father, Daoud Shah officiated as
Commander-in-Chief, General Faramurz Khan, commanding the Amir’s armies
in the field, having been killed by Aslam Khan, son of the Dost. Upon
the new settlement of Turkistan, Daoud Shah accompanied Yakub Khan to
Cabul, and reverted again to the rank of General. Upon Yakub Khan’s
second rebellion, an army was again sent to Herat, in which Daoud Shah
was given a command; but Shere Ali, finding that he had no able General
at Cabul, recalled him and entrusted to him the management of all army
affairs in the capital. When the Amir fled to Turkistan, after the
capture of Ali Musjid and the Peiwar Kotal, Daoud Shah was left at Cabul
with Yakub Khan, and he accompanied the new Amir to Gundamak. He was at
the same time made Commander-in-Chief, and this office he held until the
massacre of our Envoy and Yakub’s flight to the British camp at Kushi.
Of Daoud Shah’s conduct during the attack upon the Residency nothing
very exact is known. He was said to have tried, with 200 or 300 men, to
check the mutineers. He certainly rode into the crowd with half a dozen
attendants; but it was then too late, and he was pulled off his horse
and beaten by the mutinous soldiery. He probably dared to take no action
without the Amir’s orders; and these, unfortunately, were not
forthcoming. Daoud Shah favourably impressed most of us with whom he
came into contact, his striking figure and open manner being very
different from the cringing obeisance of the Barakzai sirdars. During
the siege it was deemed inadvisable that he should be at liberty in
Sherpur; and he was, accordingly, placed under arrest. After such
treatment it was, of course, imperative that he should be deported to
India, as, if at first inclined to be faithful to the British, his
imprisonment must have turned him against us. He was undoubtedly the
ablest General in the Afghan army, and his popularity among the soldiers
would always have ensured many thousands of men answering to his call to
arms. He is between forty and fifty years of age, and is still an
active, intelligent soldier.


                              CHAPTER XXV.

Changes in the Northern Afghanistan Force—Completion of the Chain of
    Forts about Cabul—Composition of the Force on March 22nd—Arrival of
    Mr. Lepel Griffin at Sherpur—Declaration of the Government
    Policy—Candahar and Herat to be separated from Cabul—Discontent
    among the Barakzai Sirdars—The Future of Herat—Advantages of the
    Khyber Route—Arguments in favour of the Annexation of the Jellalabad
    Valley—The Mustaufi’s Mission to the Ghazni Malcontents—His Partial
    Success—Assembly of the Chiefs at Maidan—The Durbar in Sherpur on
    April 13th—Speeches by Sir Frederick Roberts and Mr. Lepel
    Griffin—The Policy of the Government explained—Annexation
    deprecated—Approval of the Policy in Camp—The Exigency of Party
    Politics in England—Abdur Rahman’s Movements at Kunduz.

With the near approach of spring there was a recasting of the commands
between Cabul and Peshawur, the following being the order of the
Commander-in-Chief directing the changes:—

  1. The Second Division of the Cabul Field Force, hitherto under the
  command of Major-General Bright, C.B., will be broken up.

  2. The Reserve Division, under Major-General Ross, C.B., will also be
  broken up, and absorbed into the Line of Communications.

  3. The Force in Cabul, under Lieutenant-General Sir F. Roberts, will
  be divided into two divisions. 1st Division under Sir F. Roberts’s
  immediate command, and the 2nd Division under Major General Ross, C.B.

  4. Major-General Bright, C.B., is appointed Inspector-General of the
  Line of communications, and will command all troops thereon
  stationery, in movable columns, or passing along the line.
  Major-General Bright will report direct to Army Head-Quarters.

  5. The Peshawur District will be temporarily commanded by
  Brigadier-General Hankin, 4th Bengal Cavalry, hitherto in command of
  the Cavalry Brigade Reserve Division.

  6. The line of communications will be divided into three sections:—

    1st.—From Jumrood to Busawul inclusive, under Brigadier-General Gib.

    2nd.—From Busawul to Sufed Sang, but not inclusive of either, under
      Brigadier-General Doran, C.B.

    3rd.—From Sufed Sang to Butkhak inclusive, under Brigadier-General

  7. The General Staff for Major-General Bright’s command will consist

    Colonel Wemyss, Deputy Adjutant and Quartermaster-General;
    Major Thompson, Assistant Adjutant-General;
    Major Creagh, Assistant Quartermaster-General;
    Lieutenant Maisey, Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General.

  8. The Divisional Staff under Major-General Ross, C.B., will consist

    Major Boyes, Assistant Adjutant-General;
    Captain the Honourable C. Dutton, Assistant Quartermaster-General;

  and a Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General, to be detailed by
  Lieutenant-General Sir F. Roberts.

  9. Colonel Evans, Commanding Royal Artillery on Line of
  communications, will proceed with the Staff to Cabul as commanding
  Royal Artillery, 2nd Division.

  Lieutenant-Colonel Purvis, Royal Artillery, taking up the duties of
  Commanding Royal Artillery, under Major-General Bright.

  Lieutenant-Colonel Limond will proceed to Cabul as Commanding Royal
  Engineers, 2nd Division, and Major Hill will assume the duties of
  Commanding Royal Engineer to Major-General Bright.

  10. Brigadier-General Roberts (5th Fusiliers) will proceed to Cabul to
  command a brigade in the 2nd Division.

  11. Brigadier-General Arbuthnot, C.B., will command the movable
  columns at Jellalabad and Sufed Sang.

  12. The Force under Sir F. Roberts in Cabul will be styled the Cabul
  Field Force, and the Force under Major-General Bright will be styled
  the Khyber Line Force.

These arrangements were all carried out; and the following extracts from
letters written in March will indicate what was occurring in and about

                                         SHERPUR, _March 3rd, 1880_.

Brigadier-General Dunham Massy left for Peshawur a few days ago, where
he will meet the Commander-in-Chief, and offer certain explanations of
his course of action on December 11th, which, it is not too much to say,
may modify the harsh step of recalling him from Cabul. The greatest
sympathy is felt for General Massy in the force here; and the decision
to be given on what is purely a question for military critics will be
anxiously looked for.[38] Brigadier-General Hugh Gough has taken over
charge of the Cavalry Brigade, his duties as Road Commandant being
performed by Lieutenant-Colonel Mark Heathcote.


Footnote 38:

  I have not gone at length into the question of General Massy’s recall,
  as there were too many points involved for the case to be treated in a
  work of this kind, which is only a diary of the war. I may state,
  however, that General Massy was given a brigade command in India,
  which he still retains.


There is no relaxation of the preparations for defending Sherpur and
Cabul against all-comers. Certainly there is not now a weak point in the
cantonment: the gap at the north-west corner, defended during the siege
by a trench and a parapet made out of Cabuli gun-wheels, has now been
closed by a wall six feet high on the inner side of the old barrier; the
bastion at the corner, partially destroyed when the mutinous regiments
blew up their magazine on October 7th, has been put in thorough order; a
zigzag wall, with traverses, is also being built up on the western slope
of the Bemaru hills; and, in addition to the block-house on the top, a
platform has been made for guns, guarded by a semi-circular wall, which
will eventually be joined to the zig-zag running up the hillside.
Looking at these new defences, and also at the block-houses upon the
Asmai and Sherderwaza Heights—to say nothing of the strong fort upon
Siah Sung—one is tempted to ask, “What will be the fate of all these
works when we retire?” We have made Sherpur practically impregnable now
against any attack unsupported by heavy guns: shall we leave it so, or
shall we order up a few tons of gun-cotton from an Indian arsenal, and
have everything in readiness to blow its walls down when it has to be
abandoned? Perhaps, as we shall inevitably be forced to annex Cabul in a
few years, we may leave the cantonment intact, though it would be
cruelty to expect our men to capture it, say in 1883, unless it had been
well-pounded by a battery of 40-pounders from Siah Sung. But, for all
outsiders may know, there may be a plan lying cut and dry in some secret
drawer of our Chief Engineer’s despatch-box, in which the fate of
Sherpur and its surroundings has been once for all decided. Colonel
Perkins has certainly been indefatigable in creating new defences;
perhaps he may show equal energy in destroying the work of his own hand
when the time comes.[39]


Footnote 39:

  At Abdur Rahman’s request all the forts, &c., were left intact when
  Sir Donald Stewart left Cabul in August.


                                                       _March 21st._

The garrison of Cabul has been largely reinforced, and we have at last
nearly 12,000 troops here. The 45th Sikhs and the 27th Punjabees, who
marched in from Butkhak on Friday, are now encamped on the Siah Sung
Ridge, and are holding the new fort built thereon. The 45th Sikhs have,
for the time being, been attached to General Macpherson’s Brigade, and
the 27th Punjab Infantry to General Charles Gough’s. The various forts
we have built upon Asmai and Sherderwaza Heights have had their
garrisons told off to them, and are at present held by half the number
of men assigned to guard them in case of a new outbreak. Each fort is
being stored with seven days’ provisions and water, and a liberal
quantity of ammunition; and the garrisons are warned against using any
of the reserve stores until necessity arises. The fort on Asmai is
practically impregnable; even our artillery could not hope to make any
impression upon it. The walls are twelve feet thick; and to carry it by
assault, if at all well defended, would be impossible. Our cavalry are
also showing themselves in the country about, to convince the people
that we are on the alert, and also to enable the 3rd Bengal Cavalry and
the Guides to become thoroughly acquainted with the nature of the ground
they may have to act over. Last week all the available troopers and
sowars in cantonment went out into Chardeh and over the ground where the
9th Lancers and 14th Bengal Lancers made their gallant charge on
December 11th. Our infantry are also marched out occasionally, to get
the men a little into condition, and they go swinging along over the
dusty roads in the same grand style they have shown since they left Ali
Kheyl six months ago. Drafts for the 9th and 72nd are now on their way
up from Peshawur, and soon we shall have each regiment mustering about
900 banquets. All the men here are very fit and hardy after the winter,
and are quite ready for another bout of fighting to relieve the
monotony, which is now becoming rather trying. No. 1 Mountain Battery is
to be relieved by the 6-8th, the screw-gun battery which did such good
service in the Zaimukht country with General Tytler; and the 3rd Punjab
Cavalry and 17th Bengal Cavalry are to come up to make our cavalry
brigade complete. The strength of the Cabul garrison (including the
outpost at Butkhak) was yesterday about 11,500 officers and men. The
details of the force are:—

                                     │ Officers.│      Men.
            2-9th Foot               │         3│       101
            5th Punjab Infantry      │         1│        83
            17th Bengal Cavalry      │         1│       133

                                     │ Officers.│      Men.
            F-A, Royal Horse         │         6│       162
            Artillery                │          │
            G-3, Royal Artillery     │         6│       178
            No. 1 Mountain Battery   │         4│       138
            No. 2 Mountain Battery   │         5│       201
            Hazara Mountain Battery  │         4│       151
            9th Lancers              │        17│       287
            3rd Bengal Cavalry       │         8│       372
            Guides’ Cavalry          │         4│       275
            2-9th Foot               │        15│       442
            67th Foot                │        25│       721
            72nd Foot                │        19│       691
            92nd Foot                │        20│       681
            23rd Pioneers            │         8│       759
            28th Punjab Infantry     │         8│       651
            3rd Sikhs                │        10│       634
            5th Punjab Infantry      │         7│       476
            5th Ghoorkas             │         8│       636
            2nd Ghoorkas             │         7│       532
            4th Ghoorkas             │         7│       692
            24th Punjab Infantry     │         8│       717
            5th Sikhs                │         8│       670
            Guides’ Infantry         │         6│       607

The two companies of sappers and miners which belong to this division,
but are now at Luttabund, are about 150 strong. Staff and departmental
officers number 90. The draft for the 9th Foot is 320 men, and for the
72nd Highlanders about 200. The artillery musters twelve 9-pounders and
fourteen 7-pounders. I give the details of our strength here, so that,
in case of any further operations, the force at General Roberts’s
disposal may be estimated at its proper value.

On Friday Sir F. Roberts met Mr. Lepel Griffin on the road to Luttabund,
and the General and his new Political Officer rode on to Sherpur
together in the afternoon. Sir F. Roberts ordered a guard of honour (one
company of the 5th Punjab Infantry) to escort Mr. Lepel Griffin from
Siah Sung to the cantonment. This unusual honour was paid to the
Political Officer in order that the local sirdars might be duly
impressed with a sense of his dignity. The said sirdars turned out in
great force, with their usual tag-rag of followers, and formed a
picturesque _queue_ in rear of the General.

                                                       _25th March._

Mr. Lepel Griffin has made known to the Barakzai sirdars here what is to
be the future of Afghanistan; and although many details of the scheme
sanctioned by the Government of India cannot, of course, yet be settled,
the outline is distinct enough. As to the difficulties to be overcome
before the new arrangements mature, they are incidental to our position
as conquerors of Cabul, and will be dealt with either diplomatically, or
by force of arms, according to the temper of the tribal chiefs and
others. As Mr. Griffin’s short speech to Wali Mahomed Khan, Hashim Khan,
and the other Barakzai sirdars was of an informal kind—though
necessarily carrying weight as an exposition of Government policy—I am
only able to give its general purport, about which there can he no
manner of doubt. It was to the effect that certain wrong impressions had
got abroad concerning Yakub Khan and his possible return to Cabul. Such
return the Government had decided could under no conditions take place;
tribal chiefs and their followers had believed that if a sufficient
turmoil were kept up, and turbulent demands made persistently for Yakub
Khan’s return, that end might be gained. This was a total mistake. The
ex-Amir would never be allowed to resume the power he had forfeited, and
all disturbances with that object would be unavailing. It had also been
found that during three generations the Durani sovereigns of Cabul had
been unable, or unwilling, to carry out treaty obligations with India,
and it had now been decided that their power should be curtailed and
certain subdivisions made of Afghanistan. While the British Government
had no desire to annex the country, they were resolved that Candahar and
Herat must henceforth no longer appertain to the sovereign of
Afghanistan. They would be separate and distinct, and the future ruler
of Cabul would have to look upon them as removed from his
jurisdiction.[40] It had also been determined that the army of
occupation should remain in Afghanistan until a new ruler had been
appointed strong enough to accept and carry out the obligations to be
imposed upon him, and such a ruler would have to be found. He must be
strong enough to ensure the protection of such Afghans as were the
friends of the British, in order that, when the army withdrew, there
might not be a risk of such men suffering for their fidelity to us. Our
friends must be the friends of any ruler placed in power, and he must be
prepared to protect them.


Footnote 40:

  This was the policy Lord Lytton intended to carry out.


Such is the distinct enunciation of what is to happen here, and, as
might have been expected, it is not altogether palatable to the Barakzai
sirdars. One and all are glad that Yakub Khan is not to return; he has
never been a favourite with his kinsmen since Shere Ali’s death, and
they would look upon his re-assumption of power as fatal to all their
hopes. But they feel, and it is only right they should feel, keenly
enough, the curtailment of the power hitherto vested in the hands of the
Amir. Hashim Khan, who has been buoyed up with the idea that his chance
of the Amirship was a very good one—though I must add, in justice to all
our officials, that he has never received even a hint from them of what
might be in store for him—showed considerable sullenness when he heard
upon what terms the next Amir would have to accept power at our hands.
He did not scruple to say openly that it would be impossible to
guarantee the safety of any faction friendly to the British when our
army had marched back to India. No doubt he holds this view as honestly
as an Afghan can be said to have honesty at all; but he might modify it
when he sees that such a condition will be insisted upon, and no
half-hearted promise accepted. Hashim Khan has further said that, in
freeing Candahar and Herat from their suzerainty to Cabul, we are
reducing the Amir from the status of a king to that of a Nawab. Herat
has always been considered the key of Turkistan and of Southern
Afghanistan, and to surrender it either to Persia or to an independent
ruler would be a severe blow to the Durani dynasty. Again, Hashim Khan
says that to expect a Durani sovereign in Cabul to hold his own against
the turbulent tribes in the immediate district, when he has been
deprived of the great support he receives from the strong Durani
factions about Candahar, is an impossibility. It is true that the
Duranis are most numerous in Southern Afghanistan, and at first sight
the objection seems tenable enough; but Hashim Khan has forgotten that,
by our occupation of Candahar, any Amir of Cabul will receive our
countenance and support from that quarter, and this will be as well
known to the turbulent spirits of Kohistan, Logar, and Wardak, as to the
Durani faction itself. Hashim Khan’s sullenness would be of no
importance were it not that he is the only man with a spark of ability
among the Barakzais now with us in Cabul; and as I have said in previous
letters, he has been favourably thought of in our plans for settling the
country on a firm basis. If he will not accept our terms, he will
inevitably be passed over, as far as the Amirship is concerned, for the
work now before us has to be done so thoroughly that all danger of
another _fiasco_, such as the treaty of Gundamak proved, must be guarded

Taking the broad lines laid down by Mr. Lepel Griffin, a forecast of
what is likely to happen in Afghanistan—putting aside purely military
complications, which I will turn to afterwards—may fairly be given. That
such a forecast must be tinged with conjecture is, of course,
unavoidable; but still, perhaps, a fair estimate of the situation may be
given. Candahar will be retained in our possession, but Herat will not
yet be annexed. Its future will more probably be that of an independent
city, with an important mission to fulfil in Central Asian politics.
History is full of instances of cities maintaining their independence,
and rising in course of time to the rank of Great Powers. Witness
Venice, once one of the first maritime Powers in Europe. Herat is
self-supporting, and is situated in so fertile a district that its
wealth of produce is a proverb among Asiatics. Its strength as a
military post is greater than that of any city in Afghanistan; it could
be defended against great odds with almost a certainty of coming out
victorious from the struggle. If we were to declare that it is to be
independent, and to guarantee such independence against all-comers, its
future would be assured. That this may be done is within the bounds of
possibility, and we should give it a Governor who could be trusted to
carry out our wishes. Being our nominee, and relying upon us for support
in time of need, he would jealously guard against encroachments on his
privileges; and would scarcely dare to risk loss of authority by
disobeying any wishes we might make known to him. To do so would be
madness with a British army at Candahar drawing its reinforcements by
railway from India; and the Heratis themselves finding security and
enormously-increased trade resulting from their new position of
independence, would probably be on the alert to check intrigues against
their autonomy. So far as regards Southern and Western Afghanistan:
there remain the eastern and northern provinces to be dealt with, and
here conjecture must be indulged in. Cabul will be freed from the
presence of our army when a new Afghan Government has been created; but
that our forces will retire behind Lundi Kotal is most improbable. By
general consent, the Khyber route seems to be recognized as that most
adapted for communication, hostile or otherwise, with Cabul; the Kurram
route is worthless during several months of the year, and Thull as a
base has not a single advantage. It then remains for consideration
whether Lundi Kotal is sufficiently advanced for our purpose. To enable
our influence to be supreme at Cabul, we must put ourselves in such a
position that our army shall always be within hail of the city. Lundi
Kotal certainly does not give such a position; Jellalabad is much
better, but its climate is so great a drawback that it also drops out of
consideration as an advanced post—such a post being on the plan of a
large fortified camp, holding a force fully equipped in the matter of
ammunition, supplies, and _transport_, and ready to move at the shortest
notice. Gundamak, or a position on the hills near, would unquestionably
give the site for the new outpost on the north-west frontier of India,
and its connection with Peshawur might be _not_ by Jellalabad, but by
the valleys along the northern slopes of the Safed Koh, viz., _viâ_
Maizena and Peshbolak. The Lughman route would involve a strong garrison
at Jellalabad, which is to be avoided if possible. Besides, Lughman
cannot compare with the fertile valleys in the shadow of the Safed Koh,
wherein grain, forage, fuel, and water are abundant. I can speak from
personal experience of Maizena and Peshbolak, having visited them during
the last campaign; and if the pacification of the Shinwaris were once
assured, the route would teem with advantages which cannot be found on
the Jellalabad Road. It would not be a task more difficult to reduce the
Shinwaris to a state of quietude than it was to convince the Afridis of
the uselessness of molesting us in the Khyber. As there is always a
great outcry against annexation, it might be worth while to abandon
Kurram, merely taking a _quid pro quo_ in the Jellalabad Valley. That
this will absolutely be done, is very problematical; but it is to be
hoped that the Government will be strong enough to disregard any
non-annexation outcry if the preponderance of opinion, both among our
military and political experts, is in favour of the holding of


Footnote 41:

  The Afghans cannot, of course, be expected to understand the principle
  of party-government at home; the defeat of the Conservative party and
  the recall of Lord Lytton put an end to such ideas as the retention of
  Candahar and the maintenance of the scientific frontier. Our change of
  policy was misunderstood generally in Afghanistan, where, to this day,
  it is believed we were too weak to carry out our original plans.


                                                        _6th April._

The Mustaufi, Habibulla Khan, who was sent by General Roberts some weeks
ago to negotiate with the Ghazni malcontents, and induce them to state
what their demands really were, has returned to Sherpur and reported
that he has the majority of the chiefs now at Maidan, and they are
willing to attend a Durbar. Young Musa Khan has, however, been left at
Ghazni with Mushk-i-Alam. When General Roberts first proposed to
Habibulla Khan to go to Ghazni, and sound the temper of the malcontent
leaders, with a view to arrange some basis upon which the settlement of
Afghanistan could be carried out, the answer was that it would be
useless—the irreconcilables would not listen to him. There the matter
ended for the time being, but some weeks afterwards the Mustaufi
voluntarily visited the General, and said that he was willing to go to
his home in Wardak, whence he could judge if it were possible to gather
the tribal chiefs together for purposes of consultation. He accordingly
set out, and for the past two months we have heard strange rumours of
what was happening in Wardak and Ghazni. The Mustaufi now reports that,
on arriving at his home in Wardak, he fell ill, and for some time was
unable to do anything in the way of negotiation. Upon recovering, he
began to sound the various Wardak chiefs as to their views, and was
careful to point out the folly of resistance, now that the British had
received large reinforcements and had strengthened Sherpur and the
heights above Cabul. At first, no one would listen to him, so he
proceeded to Ghazni to interview Mahomed Jan, young Tahir Khan
(half-brother of Hashim Khan), and finally Mushk-i-Alam. Here also he
met with but little success: Mahomed Jan would not adopt his views, but
talked of a new _jehad_, and the driving of the British out of the
country: the success of the first few weeks of December was to be
repeated on a larger scale, and every tribesman was to rise from Ghazni
to Jellalabad. Against such tall talk the Mustaufi could only urge that
the _jehad_ would come to as bitter and humiliating an end as the
previous one had done on December 23rd, when the force sent to attack
Sherpur had been beaten off with great loss. Then Mahomed Jan veered
round slightly, and said he would abandon all idea of fighting if Yakub
Khan were reinstated, or Musa Khan created Amir. The former scheme, he
was told, was impossible; the latter might possibly be considered. The
Mustaufi was much hindered in his work by young Tahir Khan, who had Musa
Khan in his keeping. This young sirdar cordially hates his half-brother,
Hashim Khan; and as he knew Habibulla was working solely in the latter’s
interest, he tried to thwart him in every way. This game of
cross-purposes would have been most interesting to an outsider if all
the intricacies of the intrigues could have been understood; but it must
sorely have tried the temper of the Mustaufi, who had everything to gain
by bringing the malcontents to look at matters from his point of view.
He was, however, more than a match for a drunken debauchee, such as
Mahomed Jan and an inexperienced youth like Tahir Khan. Turning his
attention to Mushk-i-Alam, he used different arguments to those employed
with the military leaders of the disaffected. He showed to the old
_moollah_ that the only way of getting rid of the infidels (whom he
hated just as much as any reckless fanatic) was by negotiation, and not
by resistance: the former course might put Cabul once more into a
position of importance; the latter only could result in disaster to
Afghanistan, as the British forces were daily growing in strength, and
it was fully intended to capture Ghazni from the Candahar direction, and
punish every tribe showing overt hostility. The _moollah_ was
half-convinced, and was left in such a frame of mind that good results
might be looked for. Then Habibulla Khan turned his attention to the
powerful chiefs of his own tribe, and by means which we are ignorant of,
won them all over to his side. They, perhaps, scented future rewards and
great power in the direction of the State when their kinsman should be
Finance Minister of a new Amir, and they announced themselves as
prepared to consult with the British upon the subject of a future
Government. The example of the Wardak chiefs was contagious, and soon
the Logar _maliks_ made common cause with them. Mahomed Jan thus saw
himself being deserted by the tribes upon whom he had mainly relied, and
he at last promised to accompany the Mustaufi to Maidan to take part in
a great tribal Durbar, although he refrained from pledging himself to
any fixed decision. Just about this time the Hazaras raided upon Nani,
south of Ghazni, and the Mustaufi was in fear that all his arrangements
would be upset, as Mahomed Jan started to repel the raiders. From that
point much uncertainty as to what was really occurring was felt in
Sherpur; and as it was known that Mr. Lepel Griffin’s declaration of the
partition of Afghanistan had been sullenly received even by Hashim Khan,
it was not unnaturally supposed that the Mustaufi would be left in the
lurch by the chiefs who had pledged themselves to follow his

Yesterday Habibulla Khan rode from Maidan to Sherpur, and all doubts, so
far as regards the chiefs being at Maidan, are set at rest. He reports
that he left there all the headmen of Wardak, Logar, Ahmadzai Ghilzais,
and Zurmut (the district east of Ghazni towards Khost), together with
Mahomed Jan, Mir Butcha, Kohistani; Mahomed Hasan Khan, ex-Governor of
Jellalabad; Sirdars Tahir Khan, Alim Khan, Surwar Khan, and other
notables, including Generals Aslam Khan, Gholam Jan, and Kurrim Khan,
who fought against us at Charasia.

The news that General Sir Donald Stewart with a large force left
Candahar a week ago for Ghazni has undoubtedly had an effect upon these
men. It is difficult to see what our own policy will be hereafter, as
the change of Government at home may bring about quite a new departure.
All General Roberts and Mr. Lepel Griffin can do is to endeavour to gain
the ear of the chiefs, and to obtain a knowledge of their wishes in the
matter of a settled Government. The chiefs now at Maidan will be asked
to attend a Durbar, shortly to be held in Sherpur. Mr. A. C. Lyall,
Foreign Secretary, has paid a flying visit to Cabul, and is now on his
way back to India.

                                                       _14th April._

The Durbar for the reception of such of the chiefs as chose to come in
has, at last, been held, and the fullest declaration yet made of the
intentions of the Government of India has been listened to by the Cabul
sirdars and the men whom the Mustaufi has induced to visit Sherpur. It
may be as well, once for all, to state that the chiefs represented only
a minority of the tribesmen, although a paper of requests which they
have presented was signed by nearly all the Wardak, Logar, and Southern
Ghilzai _maliks_. The Mustaufi’s personal interest in Wardak was
sufficiently strong to bring many of his kinsmen in; but Mahomed Jan’s
brother, who is head of the clan, would not accompany the rest,
considering his signature quite enough for all practical purposes.
Mahomed Jan himself would have come in willingly if a _khillut_ had been
promised and certain honours paid to him as a successful General; but
this we very sensibly declined to do, and he is now out in the cold.
Mahomed Hasan Khan, ex-Governor of Jellalabad, also declined at the last
moment, as he will have no one but Yakub Khan as Amir; while Mir Butcha
and Surwar Khan, Purwani, are too busy, levying men in Kohistan for
Abdur Rahman’s army, to think of wasting their time at Sherpur. We had
then, really, at the Durbar representatives of the Wardak, Logar,
Zurmut, and Koh-Dahman people, or sections of the people, and also all
the Barakzai sirdars with us in Cabul, as well as the three
Sirdars—Surwar Khan, Tahir Khan, and Alim Khan—who have been taking care
of young Musa Jan, at Ghazni, in the hope that he might some day be made
Amir by the British.

The Durbar was held in a large tent pitched near the Engineers’ Park in
Sherpur. The sirdars and _maliks_ rode into Sherpur from the city at
eleven o’clock, and spent their time until three o’clock in discussing
current events and admiring each other’s wonderful raiment. They were
marshalled in due order in the Durbar tent before four o’clock, Wali
Mahomed, Governor of the city, being placed on the right of the seats
assigned to Sir F. Roberts and Mr. Lepel Griffin, the Mustaufi and the
Nawab Gholam Hussain being just in rear; while Sirdar Hashim Khan,
Abdulla Khan, and the other loyal Barakzai princes were given chairs on
the right. The tribal chiefs squatted on the ground just within the
shadow of the tent, while such British officers as chose to attend were
seated on the General’s left. General Ross, commanding the 2nd Division,
and the Brigadiers, with the exception of General Baker, who is lying
ill from an attack of fever, were among the British officers present. A
guard of honour of 100 men of the 72nd Highlanders, with their band,
were drawn up—bayonets fixed, and ball ammunition in their pouches—on
the road leading from the General’s gateway; while small parties of the
3rd Sikhs and 5th Ghoorkas were stationed in rear of the tent as an
extra precaution. Afghan fanaticism takes, at times, such determined
shape that even in a Durbar a ghazi might declare himself; and it was
therefore only wise to be ready for an emergency. It would have fared
ill with any fanatic who might have attempted to amuse himself
preparatory to entering Paradise, for the Highlanders, Sikhs, and
Ghoorkas are too old soldiers to care for a knife-cut when their
bayonets are ready for use. Sir Frederick Roberts, with his personal
Staff, and Mr. Lepel Griffin, Chief Political Officer, walked from the
head-quarters to the tent; and as the General entered after the usual
honours from the guard outside, the sirdars and _maliks_ rose to their
feet and made obeisance with true Oriental humility. The scene was
picturesque enough, and yet there was a grim touch of irony in the
surroundings; for, preceding the General, came eight Highlanders with
the inevitable fixed bayonets, who opened out on either hand in the
tent, and stood to attention in the space between the chiefs and the
British officers. Sir Frederick Roberts’s native orderlies, two
long-limbed Sikhs, two wiry Pathans, and a pair of fierce little
Ghoorkas, who are always to be found at the General’s heels, took up
their places behind him, their bayonets shining out among the gold-laced
caps of the Staff and the undress uniforms of the officers of the
garrison whom curiosity had prompted to be present. After the
preliminary shuffling and gathering up of robes, the Afghan notables
followed the General’s example and quietly sat down, the _maliks_
falling upon their knees and folding their hands in an attitude of great
attention. There was not much to attract notice either in their faces or
demeanour: they were merely commonplace men, waiting respectfully upon
the General’s pleasure; but there was presently a stir among them when
the names of Surwar Khan, Tahir Khan, and Alim Khan were called out.
These three sirdars were presented to the General by Mr. Griffin, and
after shaking hands and making respectful bows they returned to their
places. Tahir Khan is a young man of nineteen or twenty, with a sullen
expression of face, and with none of the dignity of a prince: he might,
with a little trouble, be made to look like a decent Cabuli _syce_; but
even then he would be a poor figure among his compeers of the stable.
Sir Frederick Roberts did not receive any of the tribal chiefs, whose
position, indeed, would not have warranted such an attention, but
immediately opened the Durbar by a short speech, greatly to the purpose.
He said:—


      “I am very glad to meet you here to-day, especially those who
  through the good offices of the Mustaufi have been induced to come
  into Cabul to make their wishes known to me. I trust this Durbar is
  the beginning of the end, and that it will now be possible for us to
  enter into such an arrangement with the people of Afghanistan as will
  ensure an honourable peace and lasting friendship between them and the
  British. Some of you, I understand, hesitated to accompany the
  Mustaufi, fearing your treatment and reception by us might not be such
  as we had promised you, and that some evil might befall you. You need
  never have any such fear when your safety has been assured on the word
  of a British officer. The British do not say one thing and mean
  another. You who have come in have been honourably treated, and after
  this Durbar you are all at liberty to depart. I trust, when you leave
  Cabul, you will carry away with you a more friendly feeling towards us
  than some of you hitherto entertained; and that those of your party
  who are still holding aloof will be wise enough to follow the good
  example you have set them, and will accept our invitation to come into
  Cabul. Mr. Lepel Griffin, Chief Political Officer in North and Eastern
  Afghanistan, with whom you have already become acquainted, will now,
  on the part of the Government of India, answer the request you have

This speech having been translated into Persian, Mr. Lepel Griffin
addressed the chiefs. His speech, delivered in Persian, was to the
following effect:—


      “It has been my wish, for some time past, to meet you all in
  Durbar, and to explain to you collectively and publicly, as I have
  already done privately, the intentions of the British Government with
  regard to the settlement of Afghanistan. This is a favourable
  opportunity, when replies have been given to the request of certain
  chiefs and _maliks_ in the neighbourhood of Ghazni who have been long
  hostile, but who have, at last, listened to the advice of the Mustaufi
  whom Sir Frederick Roberts sent to reassure them, and have deputed
  many of their number to place their requests respectfully before the
  Government. It is to be regretted that the more important of the
  leaders have not come in person. When the Government promised them a
  safe-conduct, there was no reason for even those who had been most
  opposed to it, to fear for their lives, or their liberty. The British
  Government bears no ill-will to those who have fought fairly against
  it, and those of the representatives who have come to Cabul are free
  to leave when they wish; during their stay they will be treated as
  friends and guests. But those chiefs who have remained behind at
  Maidan, must not think their signatures on the paper of requests will
  be considered as equivalent to their presence; the more so as we know
  that the reason why some of them have not come is that they have
  secretly abandoned the cause they profess to support, and have made
  promises to others. When you return to Maidan, ask Generals Gholam
  Hyder and Mahomed Jan when they are going to desert you.

  “_Maliks_ of Ghazni, Maidan, and Logar, and Chiefs of the Ghilzai,
  Wardak, and other tribes in their neighbourhood,—I have met you more
  than once in private interview, and have discussed with you, in a
  friendly way, your requests; and I now only wish to say publicly, and
  for the information of the sirdars and the people of the city and
  neighbourhood of Cabul, whom it concerns as closely as it does you,
  what I have already said to you. You have first asked that the former
  friendship of the Government of the Queen-Empress of Hindustan should
  be restored, that the Amir Yakub Khan should be released and
  reinstated, and that the British Army should retire from Afghanistan.
  I reply, I would first remind you that the breach in our mutual
  friendship was made by the Amir Shere Ali Khan. The British Government
  not only always desired and still desires friendship with Afghanistan,
  but will not appoint any one as Amir who does not profess friendship;
  nor will it allow him to continue Amir unless he plainly shows himself
  the friend of the friends of the British Government, and the enemy of
  its enemies. For this reason, the Viceroy has decided that Yakub Khan
  shall not return to Afghanistan. You know whether he observed the
  promises he had made to the British Government; you know he rewarded
  those who opposed us in the first campaign; while those who had
  assisted us he turned out of their lands and appointments. You have
  told me privately that if Yakub Khan be not allowed to return, you are
  willing to accept as Amir any one whom the British Government may
  choose to select. This expression of the wish of a large number of
  respectable _maliks_ will be at a proper time laid before His
  Excellency the Viceroy, together with that of others who may wish to
  support the candidature of Wali Mahomed, Hashim Khan, Musa Khan, Ayub
  Khan, or any other member of the ruling family who may be approved by
  a large number of the people. Government has no intention of annexing
  Afghanistan, and will occupy no more of it than may be necessary for
  the safety of its own frontier. But the province of Candahar will not
  remain united to Cabul: it will be placed under the independent rule
  of a Barakzai prince. For the administration of those provinces that
  remain attached to Cabul, the Government is anxious to appoint an Amir
  who shall be strong enough to govern his people and be steadfast in
  his friendship to the British: and if only these qualifications be
  secured, the Government is willing and anxious to recognize the wish
  of the Afghan people and of their tribal chiefs, and to nominate an
  Amir of their choice. But no decision can be given at present. You who
  have assembled here represent but a small part of the people, and it
  is necessary to ascertain the views and wishes of many other chiefs
  and sirdars who are absent from Cabul. But your votes in favour of
  Yakub Khan’s immediate family will be remembered and considered, if,
  until, the decision of the Government be given, you absolutely abstain
  from all hostile action; otherwise do not expect that the Government
  will consider him likely to be a friendly Amir whose friends are its
  persistent enemies. The armies of the Queen-Empress will withdraw from
  Afghanistan, when the Government considers that the proper time has
  come. As they did not enter Afghanistan with your permission, so they
  will not withdraw at your request. When the country is again peaceful,
  and when a friendly Amir has been selected, the Government has no wish
  to remain in Afghanistan. The army came to Cabul to inflict punishment
  for the murder of its Envoy in time of peace, which some of you have
  called a regrettable accident, but which the British Government
  considers an atrocious crime. It will remain until some satisfactory
  settlement can be made.

  “You have been told that an army from Candahar is now marching on
  Ghazni, while another from Bombay has taken its place at Candahar. A
  third army is in Kurrum, a fourth at Cabul, a fifth at Jellalabad, in
  the Khyber, and at Peshawur. The General has ordered a strong force to
  march from Cabul in three days towards Maidan, to co-operate with the
  Candahar army. If you are wise, you will do everything to assist this
  force, which is not sent against you, nor will it molest you, if only
  the conduct of the people is friendly. If, on the contrary, you listen
  to leaders who only deceive you for their own advantage, and commit
  and excite hostility against the Government, punishment will quickly
  and certainly follow. The Khugiani tribe three weeks ago attacked the
  British Fort near Gundamak, at night; they have since had to pay a
  fine of Rs. 10,000 and five of their towers have been blown up. The
  Hisarak people have been committing outrages on the road and carrying
  off men and cattle. A large force has been sent by the General into
  Hisarak, and a fine of Rs. 15,000 has been imposed.

  “The Government is quite willing to be friends with you and to treat
  you as its friends; but it is also resolved to be obeyed, so long as
  its armies are in the country, and to punish severely any open
  opposition. You have a proverb that force and money are the only
  powers in Afghanistan. It is for you to choose which you wish.
  Government intends to keep the sword for its enemies and the money for
  its friends; and if you are wise you will count yourselves as our
  friends. Those people deceive you who preach a _jehad_, and say the
  English are the enemies of Islam. In India fifty million Mahomedans
  enjoy under the government of the Queen greater liberty, happiness,
  and security than in any country of the world; and it is the British
  Government which has many times, by a great expenditure of men and
  treasure, guarded and preserved the empire of the Sultan of Turkey
  against his enemies. Government is the friend and protector of Islam,
  and not its destroyer. As to your own requests for the appointment of
  a Mahomedan agent at Cabul, and a grant of assistance in money and
  material to the new Amir, I can only say that these requests have been
  made by you in ignorance, for they are matters which will be decided,
  by the Government of India, with the chief whom they agree to appoint
  as Amir. It is not fitting for small persons to discuss them. Of this
  only be assured, that he whom the Viceroy of India may select will be
  supported by the Government in every possible way, so long as he shows
  friendly intentions towards it.”

The chiefs listened silently and with the phlegmatic attention they
always show in Durbar, and they clearly understood the speeches. Mr.
Griffin spoke in Persian, and a Pushtu translation was also read out for
the benefit of such as were imperfectly acquainted with Persian. Such of
the British officers as could speak neither language were in the dark as
to the Political Officer’s declaration, but camp gossip soon furnished
them with a fairly-correct translation. The firmness of the language and
the uncompromising terms in which the sirdars and chiefs were told of
our intentions has been approved in camp in the fullest way. Our great
hope is that no exigencies of party politics at home will cause a
modification; it would be fatal to our prestige if we had to withdraw
from resolutions now made public. The Cabul chiefs had already been told
what they had to expect; and the Barakzai sirdars now learned what
decision the Government of India had arrived at—Candahar to be the fief
of an independent prince; an Amir to be elected by the voice of the
people, who should be friendly to the British; and the withdrawal of our
army when such a man had been found—these were the main points. Herat
was not mentioned, and this is the more significant as it was fully
known that the separation of Herat from the Durani kingdom was a sore
point, even with our friends in Cabul. The future of that district may
well be allowed to drop out of sight for the present, as until it
becomes clear who the new Amir is to be, we cannot possibly undertake to
say what shall become of Herat. If he is a man equal to holding
Turkistan and Herat as well as Cabul, and to be true, at the same time,
to his friendship to us, we might so strengthen his hands that he could
defy rebellion and intrigue and make his government all-powerful from
our north-western frontier to the borders of Persia. The allusion to
Turkey was certainly not a happy one; we may, it is true, have gone to
war several times to maintain that Mahomedan kingdom, but our late
desertion of the Sultan cannot recommend our policy to such fanatical
Mussulmans as the Afghans. Abdur Rahman’s name, too, was not mentioned;
and as he is already knocking at our gates, it might have been wiser to
make some allusions to him.

The result of the Durbar has been satisfactory enough as far as the
Cabul sirdars are concerned, who fully believe that one of their number
will yet be Amir. Sirdars Wali Mahomed Khan and Hashim Khan have
accepted the mediation of the Mustaufi, and have pledged themselves to
act in concert, if either of them is placed on the throne. They both
dread the advent of Abdur Rahman and the possible encouragement he may
receive from the British, if he comes as a friend, and they are very
anxious to show that their combined party would be strong enough to keep
the Durani kingdom together. They have, as yet, received no distinct
promises from us, and it is not too much to say that we are inclined to
treat their claims with contempt until we learn more of Abdur Rahman’s
intentions. The tribal chiefs, too, are not of sufficient importance to
justify us in believing that any arrangement made with them would be of
a lasting kind; and though we have so far respected their feelings as
not to send our force out to Maidan to-day, we still intend to move
4,000 men under General John Ross to Sheikhabad, on the Ghazni Road,
there to join hands with Sir Donald Stewart. News from Kunduz is to the
effect that Abdur Rahman Khan is collecting men and raising money, and
that his agents have been well received in Kohistan.


                             CHAPTER XXVI.

The Force sent to co-operate with Sir Donald Stewart—Strength of General
    Ross’s Division—A Force moved out to Charasia—Hasan Khan in
    Logar—Abdur Rahman and the Kohistanis—General Ross’s Advance on the
    Ghazni Road—Communication opened with Sir Donald Stewart—News of the
    Action at Ahmed Khel—Action at Charasia—Colonel Jenkins attacked by
    Hasan Khan—The Charasia Force strengthened—Description of the
    Action—General Macpherson’s Disposition of the Reinforcements—Defeat
    and Dispersion of the Logaris under Hasan Khan—Heavy Losses of the
    Afghans—The Leaders of the Attack.

The following extracts from letters will explain General Ross’s movement
towards Ghazni to co-operate with Sir Donald Stewart:—

                                                 _17th April, 1880._

Sufficient time having been given to the chiefs who attended the late
Durbar to return to their homes, the force told off to co-operate with
Sir Donald Stewart’s column advancing from Candahar, has started for
Sheikhabad on the Ghazni Road. It left yesterday morning under command
of Major-General John Ross, and took the road to Argandeh, halting for
the night at Kila Kazi, seven or eight miles from the Cabul gorge. Its
numerical strength was nearly 4,000 fighting men of all arms, made up as

                                        │Officers. │Rank and File.
    6-8, Royal Artillery (4 screw-guns) │         4│            131
    Hazara Mountain Battery (6 guns)    │         5│            200
    9th Lancers (1 squadron)            │         4│            100
    3rd Punjab Cavalry (2 squadrons)    │         6│            200
    3rd Bengal Cavalry                  │         8│            350
    9th Foot           ⎛  General C.  ⎞ │        21│            700
    4th Ghoorkas       ⎜  Gough’s     ⎟ │         7│            660
    24th Punjab Native ⎝  Brigade     ⎠ │         8│            660
    Infantry                            │          │
    23rd Pioneers                       │         8│            680
    3rd Company Sappers and Miners      │         2│             96
    Field Park (Captain Brackenbury)    │         1│             60
                   Total                │        74│          3,837

The officers of the Staff are—General Ross, commanding; Major Boyes,
A.A.G.; Captain Dutton, A.Q.M.G.; and Dr. Macnalty, Staff Surgeon;
Brigadier-General Charles Gough, C.B., V.C.; Major Gerard, Brigade
Major; Major Kinloch and Major Combe, D.A.Q.M.Gs. Captain Ridgeway is
the Political Officer with the Division.

This force is of sufficient strength to hold its own against any force
that can possibly be gathered together on the Ghazni Road, but it seems
unlikely that it will meet with any serious opposition in that quarter.
Mahomed Jan’s faction has been so split up, that he will have difficulty
in raising large bodies of men in future, particularly as the eyes of
the Kohistanis, Cabulis, Logaris, and Safis are all turned northwards,
Abdur Rahman’s movements beyond the Hindu Kush being far more discussed
than any tribal warfare towards Ghazni. To-day heliograms from Argandeh
are to the effect that Mahomed Jan has fled to Narkh, the valley wherein
are Bahadur Khan’s villages visited by us in November last. Two thousand
men under Abdul Gaffur, a local _moollah_ of some importance, are said
to have assembled there; but unless this force is increased tenfold, no
opposition worthy of the name can be shown to General Ross. Mahomed
Jan’s parting shot was a summons to all the Kohistani _maliks_ to raise
their followers and march to Ghazni to resist the Candahar force—a
summons, it is needless to say, which will not be obeyed, as the
Kohistanis are not foolish enough to place themselves in a position
where they would be cut off from their homes. Mahomed Hasan Khan and
General Karim Khan have gone to Logar to get men together. The Ghazni
faction is on the horns of a dilemma, and the next few weeks will
probably see our troops promenading through Wardak and Logar, collecting
revenue and supplies, without any show of resistance to our orders. Of
course, if Abdur Rahman makes a demonstration at Charikar, there may be
another outburst of fanaticism; but, so far as we can judge, that
adventurer is not too anxious to cross the Hindu Kush until matters are
a little more advanced. If he can see his way to secure the Amirship
easily without fighting, he will certainly make overtures to Sir F.
Roberts. The rumour that he is running short of funds is very
significant in itself; he cannot keep an army together unless he has the
means wherewith to pay his sepoys, and he is too shrewd to risk a
failure by pushing his force too far south when our army is within five
marches of Charikar. We are more on the alert now than we have been
since the events of December, and the Kohistanis know this perfectly
well, though, perhaps, they do not know that General Macpherson’s
Brigade is to be held in readiness to move out at an hour’s notice
should local disaffection require such a step.

                                                       _22nd April._

General Ross has reached Kila Durani, one march from Sheikhabad, without
serious opposition. For the benefit of all humanitarian critics, I may
state that strict orders have been given under which hostile villages
are only to be punished by the destruction of their towers and fortified
places: the houses of the tribesmen will in all cases be spared. Such
grain and stores as we require will be taken—a very mild way, indeed, of
“living upon the country.” We pay such exorbitant prices for everything
we buy, that the few maunds of corn taken in this way cannot prove any
serious loss to the tribesmen.

In addition to the column co-operating with Sir Donald Stewart, it has
been found advisable to send a small force to Charasia. This is made up
of two guns F-A, Royal Horse Artillery, a wing of the 92nd Highlanders,
and the whole of the Guides, cavalry and infantry. The reason for this
step was that Mahomed Hasan Khan was threatening all villagers who were
sending in supplies to Sherpur from Logar, and the roads had become very
unsafe for all _kafilas_. The case of the Khan of Kushi will show very
clearly the state of Logar at the present moment, and the awkward
position in which _maliks_ friendly to the British are placed. This old
man did all he could to aid our advance when we crossed the Shutargardan
in September, and he has since remained faithful to his promises made to
us. A few days ago he came in to Sherpur, and asked for advice, his case
being that Hasan Khan had ordered him to send all his fighting men to
Baraki Rajan and to furnish supplies for the levies being raised in
Logar. The Khan would not obey the order, and Hasan Khan then threatened
to destroy his villages and seize all his goods. The threat may have
been an idle one, but still it was enough to intimidate the _malik_. He
was told to return to his home and to keep Hasan Khan in play for a few
days, when the advance of General Ross upon Sheikhabad, and General
Stewart’s arrival at Ghazni, would probably cause the dispersion of any
bands under Hasan Khan. In the meantime, to hasten this dispersion, and
to keep the roads from Logar to Cabul open, Colonel Jenkins was ordered
to Charasia, and there he is now encamped waiting for orders. The effect
upon the disorderly spirits in Logar has been most healthy. They dread
an incursion into their valley on both sides, and they are now anxious
to renounce Hasan Khan and all his works. There are always men to be
found in every tribe ripe for adventure and guerilla warfare, and it
seems probable that Hasan Khan still has several hundred of these about,
and intends harassing picquets and rear-guards whenever opportunity
offers. He has always a road of escape open towards Zurmut or the
Shutargardan; and unless the _maliks_ turn him out of their villages, he
will continue to foment discontent in Logar until the Ghazni and
Sheikhabad Forces have united and swept through the valley to Kushi. The
people are willing and, indeed, anxious to send supplies to Cabul, as
the prices paid by us are abnormally high; but until the presence of our
troops frees the headmen from all fear of reprisals by Hasan Khan, the
flow of grain and cattle to Cabul will be sluggish and uncertain.

From the north the news of Abdur Rahman’s movements is still meagre in
the extreme; but the explanation most probably of this is, that he is
waiting for events to be a little more distinctly shaped in Cabul before
he plays his trump card and formally demands the Amirship. He has sent
circulars to all the leading chiefs in Kohistan and the Cabul province,
upon whose goodwill he thinks he can count; and having thus put his
claims forward, he is content to rest upon his arms and make his
position in Turkistan and about Kunduz secure before venturing over the
Hindu Kush. His intentions towards the British may be looked upon as
unformed so far: they will depend upon the spirit in which his claims
are received. If we decline to have anything to say to him—which is
extremely unlikely, as it is rumoured that a Mission is to be sent to
Kunduz from Sherpur—he will either raise a new _jehad_, or will wait
until we have left Cabul, and then quietly swoop down upon any nominee
we have placed on the throne, and try his fortune once more for the
Amirship. If, on the contrary, we make our usual philanthropic offers of
friendship, and invite him to come forward and state his case, leaving
it to the decision of the chiefs and people, he will unquestionably meet
us half-way, and trust to his old popularity gaining him an easy
triumph. His mainstay is Kohistan, whence he looks to receive arms,
money, and men; and, so far as can be judged, the Kohistanis favour his
claims unreservedly. Knowing this, it has been all the more imperative
that we should induce the Kohistani chiefs to come in and make their
wishes known: as, once Abdur Rahman is secured in the interests of the
British, and his claims allowed by the majority of the tribesmen, our
political difficulties would begin to clear away. An agent, Ressalder
Mahomed Afzul of the 11th Bengal Lancers, was sent by us into Kohistan
to confer with the _maliks_, and he has been successful in bringing
between seventy and eighty of these men to Cabul. The chief among these
are Jabbar Khan, Gholam Hyder Khan, and Khwaja Abdul Kadir, and it is no
secret that they are friends of Abdur Rahman. Mr. Lepel Griffin received
them in Durbar yesterday, and took from Gholam Hyder a paper signed not
only by the _maliks_ present, but by Surwar Khan Parwani, Mir Butcha,
and the remainder of the Kohistani chiefs. Under the seals of all these
men Gholam Hyder was appointed their mouthpiece to confer with the
British, against whom all idea of enmity was disavowed. Surwar Khan and
the other absentees promised also that if the _maliks_ reported
favourably upon their reception at Sherpur, they also would come in. The
Durbar was not of the formal kind at which the Wardak and Logar chiefs
were received, it being understood that the Kohistanis should hereafter
formulate their requests, and make them known at a later period. The
behaviour of the _maliks_ was all that could be wished; and Gholam Hyder
in a temperate and respectful speech, thanked Mr. Griffin for the
consideration with which he and his friends had been treated, and
earnestly hoped that a satisfactory arrangement would be come to, and
that perfect friendliness would be established. The chief certainly
seemed sincere enough, and his words were received with marked approval
by his brother _maliks_, who nodded an affirmative as he quietly stated
their desire to aid the British in creating a stable Government in
Cabul. The _maliks_ will remain in Cabul for several days, and it is
probable that in a few days the other chiefs will come in, and then an
answer can be given to their representations, which are shaped in the
form of a request, that Abdur Rahman’s claims to the Amirship be
favourably entertained by the British.

                                                       _26th April._

The foraging parties sent out by General Ross were fired at in the Narkh
Valley and on the Bamian Road leading from Maidan, and in consequence of
this the Umur Khel Ghilzais were punished by a force being sent into the
Darra Narkh. They met with no opposition, and having destroyed one of
Bahadur Khan’s towers, they rejoined the main body.

After the punishment of the Umur Khel, General Ross marched from Maidan
and encamped, on 21st April, at Kila Sher Mahomed, more commonly called
Kila Durani, about two miles to the south of the Cabul river, which was
found to be easily fordable. There were the remains of what must once
have been a handsome bridge, but time and neglect had made it a complete
ruin. News were brought in of a combination of all the neighbouring
tribes, and of an intended attack to be made upon three sides. Mahomed
Jan, with a large force of Wardaks, was to appear from the south;
Mahomed Hasan Khan, with the Logaris, was to try a flank attack from the
east; while Bahadur Khan and Abdul Gaffur were to direct the movements
of the Maidanis and the Umur Khel from the hills to the west. The
combination seemed to be one so likely to take place, that every
precaution was taken by General Ross: the camp was made as compact as
possible, entrenchments were thrown up, and the troops were ready to
turn out at the first alarm. A night attack on the 21st was fully
expected, but no alarm was given, and on the following morning the force
marched onwards to Sar-i-Tope, ten miles. This left the Maidan villages
seventeen miles in rear; and it became daily more apparent that the
tribesmen meditated some kind of attack along the road. Parties of men
crowned the hills on the west, and fired at long ranges upon the column;
but such bullets as fell near our men were all spent, and but little
notice was taken of so harmless a demonstration. The road ran through a
valley two or three miles broad, with a gradual ascent the whole way.
Once only a party of men ventured down the hill sides, probably to get
within range of the column, but a shell from the Hazara Mountain Battery
dispersed them, and their comrades were not bold enough to repeat the
manœuvre. At 9 A.M. Sar-i-Tope was reached, the camping ground being
at an elevation of about 8,000 feet, and the Sher-i-Dahan Pass, north of
Ghazni, could be seen. Before noon a heliograph flash was noticed on the
Sher-i-Dahan Kotal, and Lieutenant Whistler Smith’s signallers were soon
in communication with the advanced party of the Candahar column. The
first message which linked the two forces together was sent in the name
of Sir Donald Stewart, and was as follows:—

  “On the 19th the division under my command, while marching from
  Mushaki, encountered an armed gathering of Andaris, Tarakis, Suleiman
  Kheyls and other tribesmen, who numbered some 15,000 men, horse and
  foot. Preparation was made to attack the strong position held by the
  enemy at Ahmed Khel, twenty-three miles south of Ghazni, when a body
  of some 3,000 fanatic swordsmen poured down on our troops, spreading
  out beyond either flanks of our line. The fighting lasted one hour,
  after which the entire body of the enemy spread broadcast over the
  country. The protection of the baggage prevented pursuit by the
  cavalry. The division, however, marched forward nine miles to Naui
  after the engagement, and the day before yesterday, the 20th, the
  advanced cavalry entered Ghazni. Over 1,000 of the enemy’s dead were
  counted on the ground, and their loss in killed and wounded is stated
  to be 2,000. Casualties on our side: 17 killed and 115 wounded. The
  following are the wounded:—Lieutenant Young, 19th Bengal Lancers,
  dangerously; Captain Corbet, R.H.A., severely; Lieutenant-Colonel
  Lawson, 59th Foot, Colonel Yorke, 19th Bengal Lancers, Lieutenant
  Watson, 59th Foot, Lieutenant Stewart, 2nd Punjab Cavalry, all
  slightly. No officers killed. All wounded are doing well.”

This good news had scarcely reached Sherpur when the cantonment was
thrown into a state of excitement by a sharp fight at Charasia. The
discontented tribesmen in Logar, foreseeing that in a very short time
they would have in their midst a force which they could not hope to
contend against, made a desperate effort to cut up Colonel Jenkins’s
party at Charasia. Since the anxious days of December, no such
excitement has been felt at Sherpur as that of yesterday morning, when
it became known that the Highlanders and Guides were hotly engaged
beyond the Sang-i-Nawishta defile, and that General Macpherson was
ordered to march to their assistance. The cantonment was all astir, and
the secret orders which had been issued when General Ross moved out were
at once put into execution. The 2nd Brigade, under General Baker, knew
that in the event of General Macpherson’s brigade leaving Sherpur, they
had to take charge of all the posts held by the 92nd Highlanders, 45th
Sikhs, and 28th Punjabees; and between eight and nine o’clock the 72nd
Highlanders, 3rd Sikhs, 5th Ghoorkas, and 5th Punjab Infantry, were all
falling in and being told off to their respective stations. Of the
Europeans 100 went to Fort Siah Sung, 120 to Fort Onslow (the fort on
the eastern end of Bemaru Heights), 100 to the fort on Asmai Heights,
and 250 to the Bemaru Gorge as the reserve, where also two guns of G-3
were placed, commanding the _maidan_ between the gorge and the Wazirabad
Lake. The native regiments also furnished parties for Asmai, Siah Sung,
and the detached forts about it, and manned the block-houses and
defences at the eastern and western ends of the cantonment. The gate
guards were strengthened by small parties held in reserve, and one might
have imagined that Sherpur was on the eve of a second siege. These
precautions were necessary, as our spies had brought in news of 6,000 or
8,000 Kohistanis being in the neighbourhood of Baba Kuch Kar, and
Shahbaz Khan, our Governor of Koh-Daman, had sent in alarming reports of
Mir Butcha’s and Surwar Khan’s intentions. They were said to intend a
sudden attack upon Sherpur; and although Mir Butcha had written in to
say that his intentions were not hostile, and that he would shortly
visit General Roberts to pay his respects, it was deemed wise to take
every precaution, and to be ready to check the Kohistanis if they
crossed the Paen Minar or other _kotals_ to the north of the cantonment.
The picquet of 100 men of the 28th Punjab Infantry were withdrawn from
Paen Minar, and a troop of cavalry sent out to watch the road from
Koh-Dahman. Parties of signallers were stationed on all the commanding
points in our chain of defences, and a sharp look-out was kept in every
direction. From Butkhak and Luttabund all was reported quiet; while
towards Pughman and Argandeh not a sign of any tribesmen being on the
move could be detected. The interest, therefore, was concentrated upon
Charasia, with which we were in heliographic communication, Colonel
Jenkins signalling up to the fort on the Sherderwaza, and the message
being flashed down to the signallers on the General’s gateway. The news
first sent in was that 2,000 to 8,000 tribesmen had opened fire upon the
camp at daybreak, and that their attack had since been developed in
force. At 9.50 Colonel Jenkins heliographed that his loss up to that
time had been three killed and seven wounded, that he was holding his
own well, but that the enemy were being reinforced from the Zahidabad
direction. By this time General Macpherson was on the move, and General
Hugh Gough was also getting together a force to act in support.

General Macpherson took with him the wing of the 92nd Highlanders (278
rifles), still remaining in Sherpur, the whole of the 45th Sikhs (555
rifles), and four guns of Swinley’s mountain battery. A troop of the 3rd
Punjab Cavalry escorting two guns of the screw battery were also ordered
out to join him. The road to Beni Hissar was the route followed by the
Brigadier, and in passing the Bala Hissar he was joined by 104 men of
his old regiment, the 2nd Ghoorkas. Highlanders, Sikhs, and Ghoorkas,
marched along in splendid style, and, making only one halt, they
debouched upon the open ground beyond the Sang-i-Nawishta defile just
after the midday gun had been fired. Two companies of Sikhs were left to
hold the defile. General Hugh Gough followed with four guns of F-A,
Royal Horse Artillery, escorted by a troop of the 9th Lancers, two
squadrons of the 17th Bengal Cavalry, and a wing of the 28th Punjabees.
These were halted at Beni Hissar, ready to move on in support if the
resistance made by the Logaris necessitated such a step. Of the other
troops of the garrison it will be enough to say that the 67th Foot and
the remainder of the 2nd Ghoorkas were holding the Bala Hissar and
Sherderwaza Fort. The heavy battery of 40-pounders was in position in
the Siah Sung Fort.

The force under Colonel Jenkins comprised two guns F-A, a wing of the
92nd Highlanders (266 bayonets), and the Corps of Guides (260 sowars and
614 sepoys). As I mentioned in a previous letter, this party had been
detached from Sherpur to watch the Logar Valley and keep open the road,
as Mahomed Hasan Khan had stopped supplies coming in to Cabul. The
object had been fully gained, and it was intended to move back the
troops to cantonments yesterday. In fact, on Saturday Colonel Jenkins
received instructions from Sir F. Roberts to hold himself in readiness
to move at a minute’s notice, the rumours circulating about the
Kohistanis having given rise to these orders. It was well known that
bands of men had gathered in Logar from the villages about Hisarak, and
on Saturday horsemen were seen some miles away in the direction of our
old camping-ground near Zahidabad. It was not expected, however, that
any attack in force would be made, but Colonel Jenkins was on the alert,
and before daybreak yesterday morning he had his troops under arms, a
few shots fired about five o’clock warning him that the Logaris were
lurking about. His camp was pitched to the east of the Charasia
villages, and was from 1,000 to 1,300 yards distant from the hills which
shut off the Logar river from the Kushi-Cabul Road. In his rear was a
low hill overlooking a _jheel_ on the east, while still further to the
north was “White’s Hill,” which Major White and a company of the 92nd
Highlanders stormed on October 6th. These hills command the road leading
to the Sang-i-Nawishta defile, and might serve as rallying points for a
force hard pressed by an enemy advancing by the south. On Colonel
Jenkins’s right flank were two walled enclosures and the Charasia
orchards; while on his left was a precipitous range of hills, with three
high peaks, distant 1,300 yards from his camp. To the south was open
country, through which the Kushi Road runs, the said road being flanked
by two deep ditches or _nullahs_, affording excellent cover for an

The first shots fired into the camp were from the range of hills on
Colonel Jenkins’s left flank, and as the enemy had breech-loading
rifles, the bullets reached their mark without difficulty. Upon the
first alarm the tents were struck, and the baggage-animals loaded up
ready for a move. With daylight it was seen that the three-peaked-range
was lined with men, who had their standards planted, and were plainly
determined to make an attack. Their fire increased from dropping shots
to a brisk fusillade, and the baggage-animals were ordered to retire,
with tents, &c., to the foot of the hill I have mentioned as lying in
advance of White’s Hill. As escort, half a company of the 92nd
Highlanders under Captain Napier, and a company of the Guides, were told
off. Captain Napier occupied the hill, building a _sungar_ for the
protection of his men, and the baggage remained in safety below with a
guard. In front of the camping-ground was a _karez_ (a line of walls
connected by an underground tunnel), and the earth excavated from this
furnished the only cover possible for the infantry, who were extended by
Colonel Jenkins in the shape of a semicircle, so as to hold the enemy on
the hills in check, and also block an advance along the road. Major
White was in command of the Highlanders, and the disposition of the men,
it is almost needless to say, was admirably made. They held the front of
the position. To guard his left flank, Colonel Jenkins extended three
companies of the Guides’ Infantry, and on his right he placed a troop of
cavalry outside the walls of a fort (held by twenty sepoys), ready to
repel any rush that might be made from Charasia direction. When these
dispositions had been completed, his strength of infantry was
practically exhausted; the main body of Highlanders and Guides were
lying along the line of the _karez_, and he had only half a company of
Guides as his reserve. The two guns of F-A took up a position about 400
yards in the rear of the infantry, and the cavalry, again, formed up in
rear of the guns. The troops were debarred from anything but acting on
the defensive, as their baggage would have had to be sacrificed if an
attempt had been made to storm the hills. Besides, as news of the
impending action had been heliographed to the Sherderwaza Fort and
reinforcements been asked for, the main object was to hold the tribesmen
in check until sufficient troops should arrive to sweep them from their

The enemy were bold enough at first, and gradually worked down the
slopes of the range to within 800 or 900 yards’ range, while at the same
time the more determined of their number, led by ghazis, worked along
the ditches flanking the Kushi Road, and planted their standards within
200 yards of our line of skirmishers. Their numbers were estimated at
first at about 2,000, but some reinforcements began to arrive, and they
pushed their skirmishers into the Charasia orchards, whence a sharp fire
was directed upon the camping ground. The infantry were well protected
by the _karez_ mounds, but the cavalry and guns were exposed to a heavy
cross-fire from the orchards, the hillside, and the ditches in front.
One of the artillery horses having been shot, and several sowars hit, it
was thought well to remove the guns 400 yards nearer the hill occupied
by Captain Napier. This was accordingly done, and the gunners under
Lieutenant Wodehouse found shelter in a ditch, whence they could train
their guns upon the enemy, while quite out of range themselves. The
cavalry could not seek the same protection, as Colonel Jenkins relied
upon them to check any rush by the ghazis attacking him in front. The
sowars and their officers had therefore to remain under a heavy fire for
several hours, 200 or 300 yards in rear of the line of skirmishers, and
their losses were proportionally heavy, both in men and horses. No more
trying position for cavalry can be imagined than waiting helplessly in
the open until their time shall come, and it speaks well for the sowars
that they never flinched, but kept quietly on the move backwards and
forwards until their numbers were sadly thinned. The severity of the
fire can be understood from the fact that three mounted officers, Major
White, Lieutenant Dick Cunyngham (of the 92nd Highlanders), and
Lieutenant Robertson (of the Commissariat Department), who were between
the infantry and cavalry, had all little casualties to report. Major
White’s horse was shot through the cheek, a bullet struck Lieutenant
Dick Cunyngham’s saddle, and Lieutenant Robertson had his coat-sleeve
torn and his field-glasses smashed by a bullet. Colonel Jenkins’s horse
was also shot, and the Guides’ cavalry lost eight horses killed and
twenty-four wounded—one-tenth of their sowars were really put out of
action. I have dwelt thus particularly upon this class of casualties
simply to prove the resolute way in which the tribesmen attacked, and
the mischief they can do with good rifles in their hands. Our
skirmishers they could scarcely touch, and the men were well under
shelter, and exposed themselves as little as possible. The steady
courage of the 92nd Highlanders made light of 2,000 or 3,000 men being
in front, and their picked shots accounted for many of the ghazis, who
tried to advance beyond the shelter of the friendly ditches on their
side of the road. Once or twice it seemed as if a rush were meditated;
the _tom-toms_ were beaten, bugles sounded the advance, and standards
were waved; but this only brought upon the enemy a more rapid fire from
our men, and a few additional shells from our horse-artillery guns. The
movements of the attacking force were directed with some skill, 200 or
300 horsemen keeping up communication with the party on the hill and the
skirmishers in the orchards; and it was believed that, when larger
reinforcements arrived from Logar, an attempt would be made to close
round in the rear of Colonel Jenkins, and cut off his retreat. By noon
this movement was beginning to be very apparent, as the orchards about
Charasia were swarming with men; but the opportunity never really
arrived, for General Macpherson with his reinforcements soon put an end
to the whole affair.

General Macpherson, and with him about 1,000 men (of whom 555 were of
the 45th Sikhs), and four guns now came up; and his first movement was
to clear the orchards. The two companies of the 2nd Ghoorkas under
Captain Hill turned off the road to the right, over the irrigated land,
and made for the Charasia orchards, wherein they were soon hotly
engaged. The wing of the 92nd under Colonel Parker marched on a few
hundred yards further along the road and then also turned off to the
right, so as to prolong the Ghoorka line of skirmishers and enfilade the
enemy’s first line. The Sikhs kept straight on, and, as they advanced,
the 92nd under Major White and the Guides’ infantry rose from the
shelter of the _karez_, and all three regiments went up at the hills
from which the enemy had annoyed Colonel Jenkins for nearly seven hours.
The whole movement was carried out to perfection; our force swept onward
in the shape of a fan, and cleared orchards, hills, and open country of
every armed man. A plucky charge was made by the Ghoorkas: General
Macpherson sent word that he wished a hill cleared of the enemy without
further firing, and Captain Hill telling his men what was expected of
them, the brave little fellows fixed bayonets, gave a cheer and carried
the hill.

The Guides’ Cavalry were sent out into the open over the low
Childukhteran Kotal on the Kushi Road, and succeeded in killing some
thirty stragglers. The main body kept to the near ranges of hills, or
sought refuge in _nullahs_ and ravines intersecting them. The mountain
guns got into action, and made good practice wherever any small groups
of fugitives collected, and by two o’clock the tribesmen were scattered
and were making their way as best they could along the hills out of
reach of our cavalry and artillery. Their loss must have been very
heavy, as over 100 bodies were counted on the ground, and they had
carried off many others during the morning. In the ditches where the
ghazis had planted their standards, within 200 yards of our men, more
than twenty bodies were found, lying just as they had fallen. These were
nearly all men shot through the head, showing the good practice made by
our advanced skirmishers. Our expenditure of Martini and Snider
ammunition was over 70,000 rounds, while the two guns of F-A battery
each fired forty-eight rounds. Our loss in men was severe for such a
skirmish; 92nd Highlanders, one killed, seven wounded (one mortally);
F-A, Royal Horse Artillery, one wounded; Corps of Guides, four killed,
twenty-one wounded; 45th Sikhs, two wounded; total, five killed,
thirty-one wounded. Of the Guides nearly all the casualties were among
the cavalry. When the enemy had been thoroughly cleared off the
ground—the cavalry pursued them four miles—orders were given for the
whole force to return to Sherpur, and the march back was accomplished
without incident, except that the Ghoorkas made prisoners of twelve or
fifteen villagers who had fired upon our troops. General Roberts met
General Macpherson at Beni Hissar and rode back with him to cantonments.
The Kohistanis had remained quiet and undemonstrative during the day;
but it was not thought fit to allow the force to remain out at Charasia
for the night, though our retirement _after_ a successful action is sure
to be misconstrued by the Afghans.

To-day it has been ascertained that the enemy’s losses were 400 or 500,
of whom at least half were killed. The Chardeh villages alone are said
to contain 200 dead. The leaders were Sirdar Mahomed Hasan Khan,
ex-Governor of Jellalabad; General Mahomed Karim Khan; Padshah Khan,
Ghilzai; Mahomed Shah Khan, of Kalunga; and minor _maliks_ of Baraki
Rajan and Charkh. The body of men they commanded was 5,000 strong, and
included Logaris, men of Chardeh, Safis from Tagao, Kohistanis, and
Ghilzais from Padshah Khan’s villages. It seems a pity that a faithless
scoundrel like Padshah Khan cannot meet with his deserts. He was
forgiven for fighting against us in December, and now he coolly breaks
his word with us again, and collects his men and attacks our troops as
if he had never received any subsidy from us. Hasan Khan’s followers
were well armed, many with Sniders and Enfields, and a few with Martini
rifles, bullets from the latter being picked up by some of our officers.

To-day (Monday) all is quiet again, but our picquets are still stationed
on Asmai and the Bemaru Heights.


                             CHAPTER XXVII.

General Ross at Sydabad—Skirmishes with the Enemy—Junction of the Cabul
    and Candahar Forces—Sir Donald Stewart assumes Command in Northern
    Afghanistan—Mr. Lepel Griffin and the Kohistani Chiefs—A British
    Mission sent to Abdur Rahman Khan at Kunduz—Sir Donald Stewart’s
    March from Candahar to Ghazni—Attitude of the Tribes _en route_—The
    Hazara Contingent—Scarcity of Supplies—The Battle of Ahmed
    Khel—General Stewart’s Formation of Attack—Strength of the Afghan
    Force—Attack by Ghazis—Defeat and Dispersion of the Enemy—The Afghan
    Loss—The March to Nani—Capture of Ghazni—Action of Urzoo—A Second
    Victory—Mushk-i-Alam’s Plans.

                                                    _May 2nd, 1880._

General Ross had to clear the hills about his camp at Sydabad on two
occasions prior to General Sir Donald Stewart’s force arriving from
Ghazni, but there were scarcely any casualties on our side. It would
seem that 1,500 or 2,000 men gathered on the hills to the west of the
camp at Sydabad on the 25th, and built _sungars_ on several ridges, as
if with the intention of holding their position to the last. To clear
these hills a strong body of our troops, made up from the 9th Foot, 2nd
Ghoorkas, and 24th Punjabees, with some of the mountain guns, were sent
out, and they soon drove the enemy from the ridges. The _sungars_ were
first shelled, and then a rush made up the hills. The Afghans had a few
ghazis among their number, as is usually the case, and these stood to
their post and were shot down; but the main body fled in confusion. The
Ghoorkas killed sixteen men in a _nullah_, and altogether forty bodies
were counted on the ridges. Our loss was one Ghoorka killed and two
wounded. On the following day, Monday the 26th, the enemy again showed
on the hills, and again our men had to chase them away, two companies of
the 23rd Pioneers sharing this time in the climbing. Again the enemy
fled in confusion from ridge to ridge, losing ten or twelve killed. Much
to the disgust of our men, the Afghans would not wait to come under the
fire of our Martinis and Sniders at 200 or 300 yards; the shells from
the mountain guns being effective in scattering any groups which for a
few moments held together. After this the overt resistance on the part
of the _moollah_, Abdul Gaffur, was at an end, and Mahomed Jan and Hasan
Khan were no longer heard of. A force visited Lungar, and destroyed the
_moollah’s_ forts, obtaining some small amount of loot in the shape of
books and china. Sir Donald Stewart’s force left Ghazni on April 25th,
having had a second action with the enemy at Urzoo, seven miles from
Ghazni. On the 29th of April General Ross started for Maidan with his
force, which had been joined by the heavy battery of 40-pounders
belonging to the Candahar column. Sir Donald Stewart, with Colonel
Chapman, Chief of his Staff, accompanied General Ross. Yesterday (May
1st) the force marched to Kila Gholam Hyder, on the Cabul side of
Argandeh. The Candahar column turned off from Sheikhabad into Logar,
where it will probably stay, collecting revenue and supplies for the
next few weeks. As it is over 6,000 strong, it is not likely to meet
with much opposition; and, indeed, it is stated that the chief Logari
_maliks_ have already made their submission. To-day General Ross marched
to Sherpur; the elephant battery is located in Sherpur, while General
Gough’s Brigade is again encamped on Siah Sung. General Sir Donald
Stewart arrived at about ten o’clock. Sir F. Roberts and Staff and Mr.
Lepel Griffin rode out a few miles to meet him, and he was received at
the head-quarters gate by a guard of honour of the 92nd Highlanders. A
salute of fifteen guns is to be fired in his honour to-morrow morning.
To-day he has taken over the command from Sir F. Roberts, a divisional
order announcing that he commands the whole of the troops in Northern

In regard to political matters here, we seem to have come to the end of
our negotiations with tribesmen pure and simple, for the hundred
Kohistani _maliks_ who have been staying in Cabul were dismissed to
their homes on Saturday by Mr. Lepel Griffin. The text of his speech in
Durbar was as follows:—

  “Your paper of requests has been carefully considered, and until some
  decision is given by the Government it is your duty, and it will be to
  your advantage, to remain quiet in your villages. Do not vainly
  imagine you will obtain anything by clamour and opposition. You have
  seen that the people of Ghazni, Logar, Maidan and Wardak have not been
  able to withstand for a moment the British arms, and have been
  punished for their hostility. The only fruit of their opposition is
  that they have to pay every penny; their revenue would otherwise have
  been remitted. You will tell those of your leaders who are not now
  present that the British Government will not tolerate disturbances,
  and collections of armed men in the neighbourhood of Cabul. All now
  assembled must disperse at once home. If they do not attend to this
  advice any misfortune they suffer will be their own fault. Two Sirdars
  of position are now being sent by the Government through Kohistan, and
  you will ensure their safety. The hostages sent by Mir Butcha as a
  guarantee of their security I do not require; the British army is
  itself to be sufficient guarantee for the observance of promises made
  by you. Your professions of friendship are accredited, and you may
  rest assured that while the Government will at once punish any hostile
  action, its chief desire is to be and remain friends with you.”

Two _maliks_, Mir Agha Sahibzada and Mir Gholam Hyder, were especially
mentioned as having done good service during their stay, and three other
minor chiefs were singled out as deserving credit for aiding the British
Government in the current negotiations. The most important feature in
the Durbar was the announcement that the chiefs had guaranteed the
safe-conduct of two Sirdars on Mr. Griffin’s staff through Kohistan.
These are Ibrahim Khan, Khan Bahadur, of the Punjab Police, and
Wazirzada Afzul Khan, Ressaldar of the Bengal Cavalry: and their mission
is to visit Abdur Rahman at Kunduz. What their instructions are I cannot
say; but if the Kohistani chiefs, Surwar Khan and Mir Butcha, have
promised to ensure their personal safety, it seems probable that we are
at last on the eve of direct negotiation with Abdur Rahman, who has
unquestionably won the goodwill of the Kohistanis. We can punish any
breach of faith easily with the force now in Cabul; and this being known
to the chiefs at Baba Kuch Kar, the dispersion of bands of men such as
are now scattered about Koh-Daman is probably only a question of a few

                                                          _5th May._

There is, of course, great difficulty in describing an action from
hearsay, and in making at all vivid an account of severe fighting one
has not seen; but it is the privilege of even the humblest historians to
deal with important events almost as confidently as the coolest
eye-witness, and I meekly claim that privilege in regard to the late
action south of Ghazni. There will, almost of necessity, be errors in
the story of the fight, but they are only such as will arise from causes
beyond my own control. I can only write upon the lines laid down for me
by my informants, and defects of omission are more likely to occur than
would have been the case if I had been a spectator of the engagement.
This half-apology, if accepted in the spirit in which it is offered,
should absolve me in the eyes of those critics who are most able to
estimate the fairness and accuracy of the story, namely, the men who
fought in the action. They did their work right nobly and well, and if
appreciation of their efforts is lacking, it will be rather because they
are too modest to do justice to themselves than to any unwillingness on
the part of others to concede to them the honour they so well deserve.

Sir Donald Stewart’s march upon Ghazni was uneventful as far as Shahjui,
the limit of the Candahar province, but from that point a change took
place; it began to be understood that opposition was likely to occur
before Ghazni was reached. At Shahjui the Taraki country begins, and the
_moollahs_ had been so active in preaching & _jehad_ that several
thousand men had collected on the hills to the east. These were at first
Tarakis, ghazis from Candahar, and contingents from Zamindawar and other
neighbouring districts. They kept well away from the British force, but
marched day by day, parallel to it, along the foot of the high hills on
the right of the valley along which our troops were making their way.
They gathered strength daily, but it was deemed unwise to attack them,
as they would probably have retired up the hillsides out of reach, and
our men would have been unable to scatter them. Besides, the baggage
train of the column was over six miles in length (the elephant battery
with its bullock-teams yoked to the ammunition waggons stretched away
for a mile or more), and to have detached a brigade to make an attack
upon the enemy would have left the baggage open to molestation from the
right flank. The tribesmen, therefore, were allowed to march quietly
along, our spies keeping Sir Donald Stewart well informed of all that
was happening in their camp. Their numbers, the names of their chiefs,
and their probable intentions were made known to Major Euan Smith,
Political Officer, and from the first it was certain that they would try
issues with the British before Ghazni was reached. The aspect of the
country, too, showed that war was meant; the valley was fertile and well
cultivated, but every village had been deserted, all supplies buried,
and the women and children carried away to the hills for safety. It was
as if the people had fled from pestilence; the _moollahs_ had done their
work well, and had so wrought upon the fears and fanaticism of the
ignorant peasants that they had left their homes to the tender mercies
of our soldiery. Perhaps, also, it was believed that by cutting off
supplies the march northwards might be retarded or checked altogether;
but this belief can never exist again, as our foraging parties unearthed
the hidden stores, and the troops were never really short of food. The
leaders of the tribesmen were Shir Jan (Taraki), and Mahomed Aslam Khan
(Tokhi), and so overawed were the villagers by their threats that even
those who would willingly have traded with our purchasing agents had to
throw in their lot with the more fanatical spirits.

With the British force were several thousand Hazaras, who, as is usually
the case with native allies, were rather a source of anxiety than any
real aid. They marched in wild irregularity on the flanks of the column,
and every deserted village was plundered by them without compunction.
They thus appropriated large quantities of supplies which would have
been welcome to our army, and it was at times annoying to find they had
cleared a village of grain before our own men could arrive. Their
inveterate hatred of the Afghans had full swing, and they hailed our
march upon Ghazni with savage satisfaction as giving them an opportunity
of wiping off old scores. Now that they find we do not intend staying in
the country their spirits are somewhat damped, as their future presents
nothing more pleasing than a war of revenge by the southern tribesmen as
soon as our armies have returned to India. The excesses likely to be
committed when that return takes place can only be thought of with pain
and humiliation by us. We may exact what promises we choose from the new
Amir, but he will be helpless to check his unruly subjects, and we
cannot march again to Cabul to save the Hazaras from their fate. There
will be nothing for them but to retire into the fastnesses of their high
table-land between Bamian and Herat, there to hold their own until the
bitterness of the vendetta shall have died away.

With such allies and with his force well on the alert, Sir Donald
Stewart encamped at Mushaki, two long marches south of Ghazni, on the
18th of April, the enemy’s camp being a few miles away. Our spies
visited the camp, and returned with the news that on the morrow the
tribesmen would attempt to drive back the column, and would probably
take up their position on a low spur running eastwards from the Gul Koh
Mountains and dominating the road. With this warning to guide him, Sir
Donald Stewart formed his order of march, so as to place his infantry on
his left flank, upon which the brunt of the attack would be likely to
fall. It should be remembered that the column was marching in a valley
running almost due north and south, and that the road from Mushaki was
much nearer the hills on the west (or left flank) than the Shilghur
ranges on the east. The order of march from Mushaki was as follows:—

 19th Bengal Lancers, 300 sabres.                  ⎞
 A-B, Royal Horse Artillery, six 9-pr. guns.       ⎟
 19th Punjab Native Infantry, 470 Rifles.          ⎟ Leading brigade
              ⎛ 1 company 2-60th Rifles,           ⎟ under the command
 Field Force  ⎜   63 Rifles.                       ⎟ of Brigadier-General
 Headquarters ⎜ 1 company 25th Punjab Native       ⎟ C. H. Palliser,
              ⎜   Infantry, 85 rifles              ⎟ C.B.
              ⎜ 1 troop 19th Bengal Lancers,       ⎟
              ⎝   50 sabres.                       ⎟
 Nos. 4 and 10 Companies Bengal Sappers and        ⎟
   Miners, 80 rifles.                              ⎠

 59th Foot, 436 rifles.                            ⎞
 3rd Ghoorka Regiment, 289 Rifles.                 ⎟ Under the command
 G-4th, Royal Artillery, six 9-pr. guns.           ⎟ of Brigadier-General
 6-11th, Royal Artillery, ⎛ Two 40-prs.            ⎟ R. J. Hughes.
                          ⎝ Two 6-3-in. howitzers. ⎟
 2nd Punjab Cavalry, 349 sabres.                   ⎠

 Field Hospitals.
 Ordnance and Engineer Field Parks.

 2-60th Rifles, 443 Rifles.                        ⎞
 15th Sikhs, 570 rifles.                           ⎟ Under the command
 25th Punjab Native Infantry, 380 rifles.          ⎟ of Brigadier-General
 11-11th, Royal Artillery (Mountain Battery)       ⎟ R. Barter.
   six 7-pr. guns.                                 ⎟
 1st Punjab Cavalry, 316 sabres.                   ⎠

The length of the column was about six miles, so that the 19th Bengal
Lancers were close upon Ahmed Khel when the rear-guard was leaving
Mushaki. Upon nearing the spur of the Gul Koh hills the enemy were seen
drawn up in the shape of a huge parallelogram at right angles to the
road and completely barring the way. The road passes over a low _kotal_
just where the spur loses itself in the valley, and it was clear that
Shir Jan and Mahomed Aslam Khan meant to contest the advance at this
point. The village of Ahmed Khel was marked in the maps as lying in a
hollow below the spur, but really no village exists, though the
halting-place at a _karez_ is called Ahmed Khel. The enemy were three
miles away when first sighted, and Sir Donald Stewart made his
disposition to attack by deflecting General Hughes’s brigade to the left
so as to face the Gul-Koh spur. A squadron of the 19th Bengal Lancers
was sent out on the extreme left to reconnoitre the enemy’s position in
that direction, while A-B and G-4 batteries were placed on the right,
under escort of the 2nd Punjab Cavalry and the second squadron of the
19th Bengal Lancers. The heavy battery was halted about a mile in rear
on a low hill. The Lieutenant-General and Staff with the reserve
(composed of the 19th Punjabees, the Sappers, and the General’s escort)
were on a hill in rear commanding a good view of the country. Soon after
seven o’clock orders were sent to General Barter to double forward half
his infantry, and to send on two squadrons of the 1st Punjab cavalry
without delay. At eight o’clock the troops moved forward in order of
battle. The two batteries of artillery with their cavalry escort were on
the extreme right; the 59th Foot were in the centre of the line, with
the 2nd Sikhs on their left flank, while the 3rd Ghoorkas were in the
extreme left with their ranks deflected a little to the rear. There was
a gap of 400 or 500 yards between the artillery and the 59th, and to
fill this up Sir Donald Stewart’s escort of a troop of the 19th Bengal
Lancers, a company of the 60th Rifles, and one company of the 25th
Punjab Native Infantry were told off; but even then the gap could not
altogether be filled. A company of the 19th Punjabees were moved to the
left of A-B battery, thus protecting both batteries at the same time.
Such was the first formation, but it was afterwards modified, the guns
of G-4 being moved to various points between the infantry regiments, and
directing their fire wherever the numbers of the enemy seemed to
threaten persistent attack. The two squadrons of the 19th Bengal Lancers
were also extended upon the left flank to check any turning movement
from that quarter, and also a guard to two of the guns of G-4, which
came into action in that quarter. The infantry were thus flanked on
either hand by a battery of artillery, while the cavalry formed the
wings, as it were, of the column ready to strike to right or left, or to
charge on converging lines upon a common enemy in front. The baggage
stretched away in the rear for several miles, and it was all-important
to prevent the head of the column being out-flanked, as in such a case
the line would have been broken, and a stampede of men and animals have
taken place upon General Barter’s brigade. The enemy, seeing the
preparations for attack, moved down bodily from the crest of the ridge
to the lower slopes with standards waving and _tom-toms_ beating; and a
fair amount of order was preserved among the horsemen and foot soldiers,
who numbered 12,000 or 15,000—the Tarakis, Andaris, Suleiman Kheyls, and
Tokhis having mustered their fighting men in obedience to the summons of
the _moollahs_ sent by Mushk-i-Alam. Our artillery (A-B and G-4) got
into action and began shelling the slopes preparatory to the infantry
attack; but suddenly a commotion was observed in the most advanced lines
of the opposing army, the _moollahs_ could be seen haranguing the
irregular host with frantic energy, the beating of the _tom-toms_ was
redoubled, and then, as if by magic, a wave of men—ghazis of the most
desperate type—poured down upon the plain and rushed upon General
Stewart’s force. The main body of the Afghan army remained upon the hill
to watch the ghazis in their reckless onslaught, and to take advantage
of any success they might gain. The fanaticism of the 3,000 or 4,000 men
who made this desperate charge has perhaps never been equalled; they had
500 or 600 yards to cover before they could come to close quarters with
our infantry, and yet they made nothing of the distance. They advanced,
or rather rushed forward, in three lines; many of the men were on
horseback, and nearly all well armed with _tulwars_, knives, and
pistols. Some carried rifles and matchlocks, while a few—and these must,
indeed, have been resolute fanatics—had simply pikes made of bayonets,
or pieces of sharpened iron fastened upon long sticks. The ground right
and left of our troops was more open and level than that immediately in
front, and consequently the ghazis’ attack broke with greatest violence
upon our flanks. On our left flank the two squadrons of the 19th Bengal
Lancers were still at the trot moving into position when the ghazis
rushed among them. Lancers are always at a disadvantage when infantry
have broken their ranks, and the 19th were no exception to the rule. In
an instant they were lost to sight in the cloud of dust and smoke caused
by the fight; and in the confusion, owing, perhaps, to some
misunderstood order, or to the men losing their heads, a troop charged
to the right in rear of the infantry line and came smashing into the
19th Punjab Native Infantry, in rear of the Lieutenant-General and his
Staff. All was confusion for a moment; the ammunition mules were
stampeded, and with the riderless horses of the Lancers killed or
wounded in the _mêlée_, dashed into the head-quarters’ Staff. The ghazis
had continued their onward rush and were engaged in hand-to-hand
fighting with our infantry. Some penetrated to within twenty yards of
the spot upon which the Staff were watching the action, and so critical
was the moment, that Sir Donald Stewart and every man of his Staff drew
their swords and prepared for self-defence. The impetuosity of the
ghazis on the left carried them right in rear of our infantry, and but
for the cool promptitude of Colonel Lyster, V.C., commanding the 3rd
Ghoorkas, this rush might have had terrible results. Colonel Lyster
formed his men into company squares, and poured volley after volley into
the fanatics as they surged onwards. In the meantime the attack had also
burst all along the line, and in the hurry and confusion some of our men
did not fix bayonets.


  _19th April 1880._[42]]


Footnote 42:

  _1 Co. 2-60th and 1 Co. 25th P.N.I. were on left of G-4, I Co. 19th
  P.N.I. between G-4 and A. H., R.H.A._


The General’s escort, filling the gap between the Horse Artillery
Battery and the 59th, were driven back, and the 59th were ordered to
throw back their right to check the rush. The order was so delivered
that it was understood to imply the retirement of the whole regiment,
and the movement was carried out. The ghazis were so close that there
was a tendency to collect in groups for mutual protection—a fatal course
when a general rush has to be checked; but General Hughes, by his
example and energy, checked this in time, and after a few minutes’
excitement,—an excitement quite pardonable under the circumstances,—our
men settled down and began a steady and continuous fire from their
breech-loaders, which swept away the ghazis and covered the plain with
dead. But there had been persistent hand-to-hand fighting before this
fire began to take effect, for the ghazis fought with a bravery never
excelled, and sold their lives as dearly as fanatics can sell them. Yet
the three regiments—British, Sikh, and Ghoorka—to whom they were
exposed, held their own, the 2nd Sikhs, in particular, attracting the
General’s notice for their splendid steadiness in rolling back the
attack, and the main body of Afghans holding aloof, the ghazis could not
hope to break our line. But with what grand disregard for their lives
they must have fought is shown by their charging to within thirty yards
of the muzzles of Major Warter’s guns, and facing case and reversed
shrapnel, which at close quarters mowed them down in scores. The gunners
never flinched, but stood to their pieces manfully, trusting to the 2nd
Punjab Cavalry to clear the enemy away until the infantry fire should
begin to tell. The charges made by the 2nd Punjab Cavalry were repeated
again and again, and were as brilliant as any made by cavalry during the
whole war. This is the deliberate opinion of the men who witnessed them,
and who owed much to the sowars who kept the right flank safe. The Horse
Artillery guns were retired 150 yards when the first shock had passed,
and at a range of a few hundred yards they continued to fire shell into
the enemy with admirable precision. The guns of G-4 were in a
comparatively safer position among the infantry, and their fire also was
well directed and very effective. In the gap I have mentioned between
A-B battery and the 59th Foot the General’s escort had a tough
hand-to-hand fight with a body of ghazis who closed with them.
Breech-loader and bayonet told against pistol and _tulwar_, while the
few sowars of the 19th Bengal Lancers also gave their aid in the
_mêlée_. How desperate the fighting must have been is shown by the
casualties among the escort alone, which was merely used to give
cohesion to the line. The company of the 60th lost its Colour-Sergeant
(Chesham) and two privates killed and a bugler wounded; the company of
the 25th had two sepoys killed, and the detachment of the 19th Bengal
Lancers had seven sowars wounded. The heavy battery contributed its
quota to the engagement as it got into action on a convenient piece of
rising ground in rear of the infantry, and shelled a hill south of Ahmed
Khel spur, on which large masses of the enemy had congregated, as if
meditating a flank attack upon the baggage line. In the early part of
the day Sir Donald Stewart, as I have said, had sent back word to
General Barter to hurry up with reinforcements. General Barter started
the 1st Punjab Cavalry at a trot, and followed with the 60th Rifles. The
1st Cavalry arrived in time to share in the pursuit of the fugitives,
who had been unsuccessful in their attack upon our right flank, and many
were killed before they could reach the protecting slopes of the
Shilghur Hills on the east. The 60th formed up on the right of the 59th
Foot, and the “cease fire” sounded just as they arrived, the enemy by
that time being in full retreat. The cavalry pursuit had to be checked,
as the six miles of baggage had to be looked after; and with so many
regiments in advance, it was feared that detached bodies of ghazis might
run amuck in the rear. The action had begun at nine o’clock, and “cease
fire” sounded at ten, just an hour’s fighting; but the casualties were
unusually heavy for Afghan warfare. Of the enemy 1,000 dead were counted
on the field, and many bodies had been carried off: while their wounded
must, at the smallest estimate, have numbered 1,000 or 1,500. The ghazis
killed were all fine, handsome men, well nourished and of splendid
physique, and their fanaticism had given them courage which veteran
soldiers might envy. Among the dead was one woman, while twelve others
were taken prisoners with arms in their hands. The casualties among our
troops were seventeen killed, and 126 wounded; among the latter being
six officers whose names have already been published. Lieutenant Young,
of the 19th Bengal Lancers, had the misfortune to lose control over his
horse, and the animal carried him into the thick of the ghazis, by whom
he was cut down and fearfully wounded. From head to heel he was slashed
until almost past recognition, and when picked up he was believed to be
in a dying state. The surgeons have since given better reports of him,
and his recovery seems assured. Of the wounded men, four have since died
of their wounds, which in nearly every case were _tulwar_ or knife-cuts
received in hand-to-hand encounters. The 19th Bengal Lancers had
fifty-three casualties, and twenty-four amongst the horses; the total
loss of the whole cavalry brigade was more than 100, and from seventy to
eighty horses.

The Hazaras, seeing the Afghans in full flight, pursued them with
ardour, and their knowledge of the country gave them an advantage
European troops could not hope to possess. How they harassed the
fugitives only their own kinsmen will ever know, as pursuers and pursued
disappeared into the hills very shortly after the action came to an end.
The prisoners taken after the fight were dealt with by Major Euan Smith,
Political Officer, all the wounded being treated by our surgeons and
taken onwards towards Ghazni. Two ghazis only had to be shot; they were
fanatics of too exalted minds to accept mercy, and when promised liberty
in return for an undertaking to go quietly to their homes, they simply
cursed all Kafirs, and swore to kill a Feringhi the instant they should
be released. In justice to our men, their lives had to be taken, as
Candahar experience has shown that such fanatics always keep their word.
Our dead were buried on the field by Mr. Warnford, the Chaplain, as Sir
Donald Stewart had resolved to march on to Nani without delay; and early
in the afternoon the column was again moving northward. As our men
passed along, ghazis who had feigned death rose and fired at them, and
men severely wounded slashed at the legs of the soldiers; these dying
spasms of fanaticism proving that the ghazis were consistent to the end.

On the evening of the 19th the force encamped at Nani, within fifteen
miles of Ghazni, and on the following day the cavalry reached the
fortress itself without further opposition. The tribesmen had made their
grand effort to save the place, and had failed; there was nothing for it
but to allow the Kafirs to do as they willed with the city and citadel,
since it had fallen into their hands. The infantry and artillery
encamped for the night at Chel Butcha Gaum (the Village of the Forty
Children), a few miles south of Ghazni. It was noticed at the time that
a low hill, some miles away on the right, was occupied by a large force
of Afghans, who had their standards flying, but did not seem otherwise
bent on hostilities. They were not interfered with then, as it was
deemed advisable to push on to Ghazni, under the walls of which the
Candahar column encamped on the 21st without further incident. Sir
Donald Stewart had orders to make no long stay in Ghazni, and he
intended moving out on the 23rd; but it was reported that the gathering
of men seen on the 20th and 21st had largely increased, and that they
were the advance-guard of an army of 15,000 or 20,000 which Mushk-i-Alam
had raised in Shilghur and Zurmut. The effect upon the native mind, if
such a force had been left unmolested when our troops evacuated Ghazni,
would have been very damaging to our prestige, and Sir Donald Stewart
resolved to disperse the tribesmen before moving northward. The peaceful
state of Ghazni itself was an encouragement to this course of action, as
he could freely use the regiments at his disposal without fear of an
_émeute_ in the city.

As a preparatory measure a wing of the 19th Punjab Infantry occupied the
citadel, and early on the morning of the 23rd a force under command of
Brigadier-General Palliser marched towards Shalez, six miles south-east
of Ghazni, said to be occupied by the enemy. The troops detailed for the
work were:—

 A-B, Royal Horse Artillery.    ⎞                   ⎞
 11-11th, Royal Artillery.      ⎟                   ⎟
 2-60th Rifles, 525 rifles.     ⎟ Brigadier-General ⎟ Under the command
 15th Sikhs, 578 rifles         ⎟   R. Barter       ⎟  of Brigadier-
 25th Punjab Native             ⎟   commanding.     ⎟  General C. H.
   Infantry, 458 rifles.        ⎟                   ⎟  Palliser, C.B.
 2nd Sikhs, 424 rifles.         ⎠                   ⎟
 1st Punjab Cavalry, 322 sabres.                    ⎟
 2nd Punjab Cavalry, 325 sabres.                    ⎠

On the previous day a cavalry reconnaissance had been made, and 2,000 or
3,000 men had been seen about the Urzoo villages near Shalez. General
Palliser, on arriving near the villages, found them occupied in force by
3,000 or 4,000 men. He immediately got his guns into action, and shelled
the villages, but without any apparent effect. The enemy remained
quietly within the walls, except their videttes, which were pushed
forward more into the open, while some of their sharp-shooters lined a
narrow ditch in the fields, and began firing at long ranges upon our
infantry. The villages consisted of three walled enclosures, two in
close proximity to each other facing our right, and a third somewhat in
rear of, and removed from, the others. This third village would have
borne the brunt of any attack from our left flank, and it had as a sort
of screen a small garden outside the walls. General Palliser believed
the ground between his troops and the villages to be irrigated, and
thought that much loss of life would occur if he sent his infantry to
make a direct attack. He silenced such of the enemy’s sharp-shooters as
grew troublesome by telling off marksmen to keep their fire under, and
continued shelling the villages very vigorously. Still the enemy made no
sign either of attacking or retiring, and a message was at last
heliographed to Sir Donald Stewart, saying the place was too strong to
be taken by the troops then in front of it without sacrificing many
lives. Upon news being received, General Hughes’s Brigade was ordered
under arms, and a half battalion of the 59th foot (253 rifles), and six
companies of the 3rd Ghoorkas (191 rifles), were sent out as a
reinforcement. Still General Palliser did not consider it advisable to
attack, and he withdrew to a ridge 2,500 yards from the villages, whence
he continued to shell the enemy. Upon this Sir Donald Stewart moved
forward with G-4, R.A., 254 rifles of the 59th, a half battalion of the
19th Punjabees, and the 19th Bengal Lancers. The heavy battery was left
in camp with two companies of the 59th, two companies of Sappers, and a
complement of guards furnished from each regiment. Sir Donald Stewart
reached Shalez at nine o’clock, and found that General Palliser had
withdrawn his artillery and infantry to a low hill some distance from
the villages, with a view to entice the enemy into the open. The
tribesmen were too cautious to be deceived by this manœuvre, and
preferred bearing bombardment to coming under infantry fire in the
plain. The two batteries had fired the unusual number of thirty rounds
of shell per gun, a total of 360 rounds, but 7-pr. and 9-pr. shells can
do but little damage against walled enclosures and stout mud walls. When
our reinforcements arrived, a sudden burst of fanatical enthusiasm
seized the defenders of the villages, and it seemed as if the ghazis’
rush at Ahmed Khel was about to be repeated. At first only their
videttes were seen watching our troops, while an occasional puff of
smoke from the ditch showed the presence of a sharp-shooter; but soon a
number of mounted men were seen galloping about, and then out poured a
mob from the shelter of the walls. They formed themselves rudely into
line, and to the din of their _tom-toms_ began to advance. This
unexpected boldness on their part was met by our batteries of artillery
opening fire at 800 or 900 yards’ range, and the first few shells caused
many of the more timid to break and retire. Sir Donald Stewart ordered
the infantry to clear the villages without delay, and General Barter’s
Brigade advanced in line upon the right; while General Hughes, whose
brigade had been joined by the 2nd Sikhs, made a direct attack in front,
his left swinging round so as to take the detached village of Urzoo in
rear. Our troops steadily advanced until within 200 yards of the enemy,
when file-firing commenced. The fusillade was terrible, and so stunned
were the wretched and ill-armed tribesmen, that they fled in confusion.
Some preferred staying crouched in the ditch to running the gauntlet of
the bullets. One can imagine the incessant “ping” when six regiments
armed with breech-loaders are advancing in one long line, firing as
rapidly as men can load. It was natural that an undisciplined mob should
melt away before such an attack. The men who lay hidden fought hand to
hand with our soldiers as the latter reached them; but there was really
no stubborn resistance, and the cavalry and horse artillery were let
loose to pursue the fugitives as soon as the villages were surrounded.
The total loss on the part of the enemy was 300 or 400; while our
casualties were almost _nil_—one private of the 60th and one sowar of
the 1st Punjab Cavalry shot dead. Such of the enemy as came to close
quarters with our men fought bravely enough, one ghazi making a
desperate rush at Lieutenant Legh, of the 60th, who killed him with his

The Tajik villagers of Urzoo stated that there were originally 4,000
footmen and 200 cavalry in the villages when General Palliser first
arrived; but that, when our troops did not attack, word was sent to all
neighbouring villages to turn out their fighting men, and many Pathans
joined their friends just before Sir Donald Stewart’s arrival. There can
be no doubt that Mushk-i-Alam had worked upon the fanaticism of the
local tribesmen, in the hope of retrieving the defeat of Ahmed Khel. His
hopes have been completely shattered, but as he has young Musa Khan
still with him he may yet give us trouble. General Stewart left Sirdar
Alum Khan in charge of Ghazni when the Candahar force moved towards
Cabul. The defences of Ghazni were not touched, as they were considered
too contemptible to give trouble if a force should ever find itself
beneath the walls of the city.


  _Showing the attack upon the villages of Urzoo
  and Shalez by the Ghazni Field Force,
  on the 23rd April 1880._]


                            CHAPTER XXVIII.

“The Divine Figure from the North”—Sherpur during May—Turkish Fugitives
    from Russian Territory—Cabul in Prosperity—The People enriched at
    the Expense of the British Government—The Coining of Cabuli
    Rupees—The Effect upon the People—Street Sketches—Life in the
    Bazaars—The Hindu and Kizilbash Quarters—Rapacity of the
    Traders—The Abundance of Fruit—Ice-cream Stalls—An Instance
    of Fanaticism—History of the Kizilbashes—Their Turki
    Descent—Elphinstone’s Estimate of their Character—Their Strength in
    Cabul estimated at 6,000 Fighting Men—Their Treatment by the Amirs.

                                                   _16th May, 1880._

There is such a holy calm in Sherpur that we begin to question whether
all the excitement of the last six months has not been a nightmare. No
bustle or excitement, no sudden alarms, no gathering of armed men to
pour out upon Asmai, Siah Sung, or Charasia; our cavalry rest quietly in
their lines without any expectation of “boot-and-saddle” sounding; and
every sentry in the cantonment whiles away his time, not in wondering
whether the enemy are near, but in sweet speculation as to when orders
will be issued for the march to India. The majority of us believe that,
as regards severe fighting, we have satisfied the Afghans, although a
last flash in the pan may occur before the final settlement; and there
being no amusement in calculating the chances of the next action, we
fall back upon discussion of possible arrangements with the various
claimants to the Amirship. Abdur Rahman’s name is in every man’s mouth,
and the news of his departure from Kunduz for Cabul is awaited with
almost as much anxiety as the result of the Derby. The Sirdar is our
“divine figure from the north,” at least just now. But we have to live
as comfortably as we can in the meantime; and though our life in
cantonments is necessarily a colourless one, it has more points than a
hot-house existence in India. First, in the order of comparison, we have
an almost perfect climate; next, we have some little amusements; and
lastly, by reason of our separation from civilization, we have a less
artificial and less blameful life than is possible in the irritating and
bilious furnace “down below.” It does not say much for civilization that
this should be so; but we have fewer temptations, and, consequently,
fewer faults to atone for. The “grass-widowers” of Cabul, I undertake to
say with most serious earnestness, are on a far higher level of moral
purity than that easy-living, freely-flirting, and most charming section
of Indian society which migrates yearly to the hills when _punkahs_ are
in full swing. We talk less scandal; we are less covetous of other
persons’ property, animate or inanimate; we do not turn night into day
to the music of the _trois temps_ or “Pinafore;” and we do our duty
quietly, albeit with a little wholesome grumbling. But as news drifts up
from the Khyber line, and we learn how the poor fellows between Gundamak
and Lundi Kotal are grilling in their single-fly tents with manifold
troubles on every hand, we grow placidly thankful that we are in Cabul,
with good thick walls about us, and a foot of mud between us and the
sun. Not everyone could be in hill stations if all the troops were back
in India; and we are less discontented now at our lot—a wifeless,
loverless one though it be—than we were three months ago. Cabul
“grass-widowers” will no doubt be in great demand when once more they
are transplanted into Simla, Mussoorie, or Naini Tal society, for a war
beaten-warrior is far more esteemed than a carpet knight. Fair ears will
tingle with pleasure when whispered explanations are given of the days
spent in unwonted innocence in Afghanistan—

        “Days when we laughed for joy of summer heat,
        Nor laughed less loud when snow made white the ground.”

We have pined for “loot, love, and liberty:” the first we may never get;
but every day brings us nearer to the others, and we well know what our
reward will be. Will it not be counted in our favour that no band will
play “The girl I left behind me” when once more our faces are turned
eastwards? It surely should be, or our grass-widowhood will have been
precious time uselessly squandered. But, frivolity apart, we take our
change at Time’s counter with composure, and are not too anxious
concerning our immediate fate. There are the current duties of a large
camp to be gone through daily: they can never be shirked, but must
always be done systematically and thoroughly. Regiments have their
guards to mount day and night, spring drill and parades to attend,
recruits to be shaped into good soldiers, embryo signallers to be
trained, transport to be kept in good order. Colonel Low has worked a
wonderful change in our transport, and we shall soon be able to “march
anywhere and do anything.” General Roberts is away with a division of
5,000 men visiting Logar, Wardak and Maidan; his troops are in excellent
health and are enjoying the trip amazingly.

We have visitors occasionally, other than officers who have taken a
short leave from a station down the line to pay a visit to Cabul. A few
days ago three Turkish soldiers applied at the Bala Hissar for food and
assistance on their journey to India. They were sent to Major Hastings,
Political Officer, and told a story full of adventure. They were an old
man, his son, and a wild-looking Turk of the Bashi-Bazouk order. The
youngest of the party was very intelligent, and a handsome specimen of
the Turkish peasantry, while his father was still unbroken in strength
in spite of his misfortunes. The “Bashi-Bazouk,” as we imagined him to
be, though he denied the impeachment, was the embodiment of rude
strength: he still wore the long blue coat he had donned when called
upon to fight the Russians, and across the breast were a dozen little
pockets, each large enough to hold a cartridge, and showing signs of
great wear. A Turcoman fur cap, with the tanned skin outside and a
fringe of fur showing all round, covered his long, matted hair, and
added to the wildness of his appearance. All the men were
travel-stained, and looked forlorn enough; but their satisfaction at
being among the “Inglis” was without bounds, and they were as cheerful
and contented as if the 10,000 miles between Cabul and Istamboul were
only a league. Their story was that they were natives of the village of
Soghral, ten days’ march from Kars, and that when the Russian war broke
out they joined Haji Ali’s regiment, their captain being Haji Shuman.
The latter was killed in action, and the Russians took the whole of the
Soghral villagers prisoners. Men, women, and children were marched for
eleven days until the railway was reached in the district of the
Caucasus, when the whole party were transferred to the rail. After four
days’ travelling they gained Moscow, whence their families were sent to
St. Petersburg, while the men were sent eastwards to Dobiska. Here they
were kept prisoners for two years, being lightly ironed, but having no
work to do. They received about two and a half annas in Russian money
daily, with which they bought food, and upon which they managed to live.
At the end of two years their irons were removed, and they were told to
settle down about Dobiska and cultivate the land. At the earliest
opportunity a number of them absconded, of whom these three men kept
together. For fifteen days they travelled secretly, doing long distances
at night, until they reached Kazakia, on the outer border of Bokhara.
Here they were safe, as their fellow-Mussulmans willingly gave them
food; but they did not dare to go before the Amir of Bokhara, as they
believed he was on friendly terms with the Russians. They stayed during
the winter at Guzar, as they were told the Passes towards Cabul were
closed; but in the spring they left Bokhara and made for Mazar-i-Sharif.
Here they found Ishak Khan as Governor: the place was quiet enough, and
but few troops were holding it. Thence they marched to Bamian, their
poverty no doubt saving them from molestation, and at last they reached
Cabul. Their desire was to be sent to Bombay, whence their Consul could
forward them to Constantinople. Major Hastings gave them Rs. 50 to get a
new outfit in the city, and make themselves clean and comfortable. On
Monday they were presented to Sir Donald Stewart, and were afterwards
_fêted_ and photographed: the native officers of the Guides giving them
a great dinner, while Mr. Burke immortalized them with his camera. The
poor wretches were immensely pleased, and will no doubt carry back to
Turkey good impressions of our kindness to them in distant Cabul.

It has chanced that since December last I have visited the city of Cabul
but twice: once when the snow was still lying on the ground, and our
engineers were busy raising new fortifications on the Sherderwaza
Heights. On this occasion I merely passed from the Bala Hissar along the
skirts of the lowest quarters of the city, as the Heights had to be
scaled; so that, in wandering through the bazaars a few days ago, the
impression uppermost in my mind was the state of Cabul immediately after
Mahomed Jan’s flight. Then the city was gloomy and terror-stricken: it
had gone hand and heart with the ghazi-_log_ during the triumphant days
of the siege of Sherpur, and it dreaded the retribution which hung over
it. The alien Kizilbashes and Hindus were joyful enough at the
re-establishment of order: but their wrecked shops and pillaged houses
were sad relics of the fanatical storm which had passed over Cabul. No
man of the Mussulman population could foretell what the punishment of
the city would be, and the half-deserted bazaars and the still
by-streets were eloquent of the fear which cowed the unruly populace.
But instead of bloody reprisals and harsh repression, it seemed good in
the eyes of our leaders that gentleness and free forgiveness should be
the means used to win over the city; and now Cabul is more prosperous
and peaceful than it has been for many generations. The rumours of new
wars and insidious intrigues of Abdur Rahman’s approach from the north,
and the gathering of the tribes at Ghazni, pass over the heads of the
people like a fitful wind over a lake, stirring the placid surface, but
leaving no lasting impression. There have been, since the beginning of
the year, long, long days in which the traders and holders of contracts
from the British saw their coffers filling with the rupees which are now
looked upon in India as having “mysteriously disappeared” from the
Punjab treasuries; longer weeks wherein everyone, from Sirdar Wali
Mahomed to the commonest Hazara coolie, found how good a paymaster the
Sircar is when his necessity is urgent; and still longer months during
which lakhs of Indian rupees were melted down in the city mint to be
reissued in the form of Cabul rupees and spread broadcast over the land.
Cabul has prospered, and waxed proud: its merchants have never been so
rich; the common people have never seen such a steady flow of money
through the bazaars. Even the Hindus, who know something of our wealth,
are astonished; they cannot appreciate the self-denial and honesty of
purpose which guide us in our transactions with a conquered race. “Your
money is without limit,” a Hindu banker said to me; “but why do you give
it all to this faithless people (_be-iman log_)? They are your enemies,
they hate and revile you; why not _take_ what you want?” Any other
nation making war would probably requisition the country and forcibly
seize supplies; but with the philanthropy which guides our actions, we
pay ten times the normal value of the things needed for our army, and
plume ourselves proudly as men walking upright before the Lord. To
enrich dishonest men; to give to our enemies that which they most
need—sterling money; to encourage chicanery and wanton deceit—this is a
poor _rôle_ to play when we come to Cabul as an avenging army; but,
perhaps there are “exigencies” which plead for all this weakness, and
will in the future give a rose-coloured tinge to our balance-sheets. Can
Cabul fail to be prosperous under such conditions? can its citizens not
afford to wear an insolent air of triumph, and treat such customers as
appear among them with an easy assumption of independence, sorely
aggravating to officer and soldier alike?

I have called this article “Cabul in Prosperity,” and I think the title
is justifiable. We have worked our will in the Bala Hissar, and have
made it a citadel worthy of the name: but in the city proper we have
neither made nor meddled, and the narrow streets, if cleaner, still
retain their distinctive features. Buying and selling, money-changing
and broking, flourish with an energy that makes no count of changing
fortunes or shifting careers. Sirdar Wali Mahomed’s governorship can
only last so long as British bayonets are at his back; but in the
sunshine of our favour he sets the example of amassing wealth, and all
his followers tread in his footsteps. Sirdar Hashim Khan is on the eve
of departure for Candahar, where Shere Ali Khan has offered him asylum.
His departure troubles the minds of the citizens but little, as the
stream of Indian silver will not be diverted by his absence. While not
understanding our simplicity in dealing, and while looking upon us as
madmen in the matter of finance—for are we not taunted with “changing
our Rani’s head” by ordering Indian rupees to be melted down and turned
into Cabuli coin?—the Cabulis, with their keen rapacity, seize every
opportunity of enriching themselves. Take the conversion of Indian
rupees into local coin; through our benevolent mode of action we have
never been able to say that our coin shall have a fixed value, and a
“ring” of scoundrels in Cabul have so rigged the market that in the
bazaars at the present time the two rupees are constantly of equal
value. So some clever financier at once jumps to the conclusion that we
may as well pay in Cabuli rupees as in Indian. Now the quantity of
silver in 100 Indian rupees permits of 127 Cabulis being made therewith,
and so we pour our brand new coins into the mint (_wherein there is no
European supervision of any kind_), and for every 100 sent in Sirdar
Wali Mahomed returns us 120! Only a few days ago three lakhs of the
treasure with General Hills’ force was sent to Cabul to be converted
into local rupees. Is the reason for this that the Logar villagers
refuse our rupees? If so, it would surely be the mildest form of
coercion to force them to take payment in whatever silver coin we chose.
The profits on the coining (say five per cent.) go presumably into Wali
Mahomed’s pocket, as Government is too strait-laced to make profit
itself; and yet that Sirdar had the cool effrontery to refuse to coin
Cabuli rupees, when a lakh was wanted for the Logar force, until he
first received Indian rupees from Sherpur. He was not punished for his
insolence; but as we have still to levy the fine inflicted upon the city
for the murder of our Envoy, he may yet be mulcted, say, in a lakh. Some
of us are curious to know when and how the said fine will be levied;
but, perhaps, we may be looked upon as inquisitive.[43] One thing is
clear: we shall never get our money back in the shape of Indian rupees,
and our only consolation is that if Afghanistan continues to absorb a
few hundred thousand pounds worth of silver monthly, the rate of
exchange between India and England must improve.


Footnote 43:

  The fine was never levied.


Having explained the irritating causes of the present prosperity of
Cabul, I may now with a clear conscience describe a little more in
detail the appearance of the city itself. In the First Book of Kings we
are told many valuable anecdotes of King Solomon, not the least
interesting of which is the account of the payment made to Hiram, King
of Tyre, who furnished “cedar trees, and fir trees, and gold” to assist
the King of Israel in the adornment and fortification of Jerusalem. This
payment consisted of the gift of twenty cities in the land of Galilee,
cities so worthless that, when Hiram saw them, he said:—“What cities are
these which thou hast given me, my brother?” And the narrative further
states that “he called them the land of Cabul unto this day.” The word
“Cabul” our annotators explain as signifying “displeasing or dirty;”
and, strangely enough, the latter epithet is extremely applicable to the
modern capital of Afghanistan. The side-streets and purlieus, even the
walls of many of the houses, are filthy in the extreme, though our
strict sanitary system has made the bazaars almost as clean as those of
an Indian city. Cabul is not so “displeasing” to the eye when viewed
from the neighbouring heights, for the orchards of Deh-i-Afghan and
scattered clumps of trees in Chandaul make the place look quite
picturesque. But once in the heart of the city, beyond the busy stream
of life which pours along the bazaars and renews itself every hour in
some mysterious way, there is nothing but dulness and gloom in the dead
mud walls of the houses, with their frowning doorways or dark noisome
passages leading to unknown dens behind. In the bazaars all is life and
hustle. Entering the city by a side-road from Sherpur, one sees the bed
of the Cabul river lying waterless on the left, save for a few stagnant
pools, where the _dhobies_ are at work, or a vendor of _atchcha_ salad
is washing a donkey-load of lettuce preparatory to the day’s business.
Over a bridge, on one side of which are a score of shoemakers’
stalls—there seems to be one shoemaker to every twenty inhabitants in
Cabul—and then into the narrow Shore Bazaar, I find more shoemakers and
leather-sellers, whose stalls are oddly mixed up with those of
fruiterers, bakers, retailers of ices, and workers in iron and copper.
Men on horseback, swaggering sowars of Wali Mahomed or other sirdars;
Hazara coolies with heavy loads on their broad backs; idle Cabulis;
peasants from the district with blue turbans; stalwart mountaineers who
look upon the street as their own; a sprinkling of red-coated British
soldiers, and sepoys and sowars in all stages of negligent undress (but
with rifles or swords always ready)—all these elements are mingled in
noisy but good-tempered confusion; while at every ten yards one’s horse
has to be pulled on his haunches, because some young Cabul chief is
playing at hide-and-seek under his legs. Suddenly a string of camels,
with loads of firewood or heavy merchandise, has to be passed—rather a
ticklish business occasionally, as the dead weight of the beasts and
their loads cleave a way for itself, regardless of obstacles. A few
white-clad women glide unobtrusively along, their _yashmaks_ hiding
whatever charms they may possess; blind beggars and shrill voiced
_fakirs_ obtrude their wants upon the stranger; _bhistees_ clank their
metal drinking vessels, or pour out a cool draught from the ever-ready
_mussuk_; salad vendors pilot their sedate donkeys, laden with crisp
green food, through the crowd; boys, with their trays of _chupaties_,
cry out the goodness of their _rotee_; a marriage procession, with
_tom-toms_ beating and lusty lungs pouring forth jubilant songs, comes
gaily along, a closely covered structure, somewhat in the shape of a
beehive, containing the bride, whose weight is not felt by the shoulders
of her bearers,—this is the living mosaic which paves the bazaars. There
is a vividness in all the types of life, which is very striking, from
the matted-haired _fakir_, who does not hesitate to seize a passer-by in
his repulsive grip, so resolute is his demand for alms, to the careless
youngster who leans over his donkey, idly chewing a young onion, which
answers to the straw of Western street-life. An unveiled woman,
wretchedly clad, dirty, and with the features of a Seven Dials’ hag,
takes a handful of the youngster’s salad from his donkey’s back; he
strikes her on the back with his stick, whereupon she turns round,
flings the pilferred stalks in his face, and abuses him in choicest
Cabuli. This unexpected “knocking of his leek about his pate” so cows
the boy that he moves off hastily, leaving the harridan in possession of
the field.

I have by this time wandered into the Char Chowk, or principal bazaar of
the city, and here the crowd is denser, the stalls more pretentious, the
trade brisker. The bazaar is in four lengths, each roofed over and
solidly built of masonry, and the stalls are nearly all rented by
jewellers and dealers in silks and cottons. On either hand, above the
stalls, richly coloured silks, gaudy chintzes, carpets, and caps of
brilliant hues are hung out, making a brave show; while the traders,
seated cross-legged below, are surrounded by their stock, upon which
they seem to keep a careless eye. I have before spoken of their keenness
in trade, and I can only add that, since the early days of our
occupation they have grown keener and more rapacious, until to buy goods
direct from them is to court being cheated in every way. Still, this
does not prevent officers and men from purchasing Bokhara silks and
various knick-knacks, for all of which absurdly high prices are given. A
good Pathan Sepoy is the best companion to have when buying any articles
at the stalls, and he will bully the shopkeeper and finally induce him
to take about one-fourth of the price first asked. As the day wears on
trade slackens a little, and here and there a shopkeeper pores over a
Persian book, while his son keeps watch upon the stock-in-trade. In that
silk merchant’s stall, though it be in the heart of the bazaar, are
three grey-bearded men listening with supreme pleasure to the excited
reader, whom, in my own mind, I believe to be reading the songs of
Hafiz; in the next stall a burly Mussulman lies sleeping on a pile of
Manchester cottons; while near at hand is a pious old villain taking
advantage of a lull to submit his hoary head to the hands of a barber. A
shrill cry as of a child in pain draws one further on; it is nothing
serious: another pious old gentleman is watching his son’s scalp being
treated in the same way by another barber. The boy, some three or four
years old, has never felt the razor’s edge before, and shrieks at every
stroke, while his father threatens him with a huge stick: the operation
is at last over, and the child, still quietly sobbing, passes his hands
carefully over his head as if doubtful of it still remaining upon his
shoulders. Once convinced that his hair only has gone by the board, he
plucks up courage and smiles apologetically upon his father, who gravely
strokes his beard in approval. The little incident is only one of many
which draw attention, and one might easily elaborate such scenes; but
then the charm of simplicity would be destroyed. From the Char Chowk
Bazaar to Chandaul is but a few yards, and one passes on the way more
fruit-stalls, in which tiers upon tiers of lettuce flank the luscious
heaps of apricots, cherries, peaches, and apples which are now pouring
into Cabul from Koh-Daman and Chardeh. So much has been written about
the Cabul fruit-stalls that it is necessary to say the abundance of
fruit has not at all been exaggerated; the stone fruits seem just as
abundant as the delicious grapes which we indulged in so freely in the
autumn. The vendors of ices are nearly always side by side with the
fruit-sellers; the huge blocks of snow which adorn their stalls tempting
all sun-dried souls to cool their palates with a little saucer of
icy-cold cream flavoured with a sprinkling of mashed fruit. The trade is
brisk in these ices, although the dust coats the open trays of cream
until it turns a delicate brown. It is not pleasant for any of us to
pause at the stall, as the fanaticism of these dealers is proverbial.
There is a story afloat, that after an officer had eaten an “ice,” the
dealer took the saucer and dashed it to the ground as having been
defiled by a Kafir. These people do not love us, however well we treat
them. Chandaul Bazaar is only a repetition of the Char-Chowk on a
smaller scale, with more fruit shops and a few foul-smelling butcher’s
stalls, but the traders are nearly all Hindus and Kizilbashes, who, I
must in justice say, are just as rapacious as the Mahomedans. And so one
wanders back into the main bazaar, where _bhistees_ are sprinkling the
roadway liberally with water, and the afternoon trade is reviving; past
the _kotwali_, where a few sepoys of the 5th Punjabees are on duty; and
thence out by the Peshawur Gate, near the Bala Hissar. We have seen
Cabul in prosperity, its people insolent enough to check all desire to
enter the walls again, and on the ride back to cantonments we are lost
in a dream of what the future will be of the city which we have twice
occupied, and which has always cost us so dear.

The question of retirement is a serious one to many people in Cabul and
the district. The Hindu traders of the city will, it is believed,
migrate almost to a man, but the Kizilbashes will trust to their
traditional influence in Cabul to pull them through any difficulty in
the future. These two trading classes have amassed large sums of money
during our occupation; and the Hindu, weak and defenceless, knows too
well that a needy Amir would “borrow” most of his gains in a very
high-handed way. The Kizilbash is more independent; and as, at a pinch,
the Shiahs can turn out 6,000 fighting men, all well-equipped, any Amir
would hesitate to make the “red-heads” his enemies. Major Hastings has
prepared a short account of these aliens, which is of some interest at
the present time, but little having been previously known of this
important section of the Cabul populace. Elphinstone, it is true, states
that they are members of that colony of Turks which predominates in
Persia, and traces its descent from Kijan. To them was given the place
of honour in Nadir Shah’s conquering army, and when a military colony
was formed in Cabul, their quarter was called “Chandaul,” which, by
interpretation, is “vanguard.” Elphinstone’s opinion of them was thus
expressed:—“The Kizilbashes in Afghanistan partake of the character of
their countrymen in Persia. They are lively, ingenious, and even elegant
and refined; but false, designing, and cruel; rapacious, but profuse,
voluptuous, and fond of show; at once insolent and servile, destitute of
all moderation in prosperity and of all pride in adversity; brave at one
time and cowardly at another, but always fond of glory; full of
prejudice, but affecting to be liberal and enlightened; admirable for a
mere acquaintance (if one can bear with their vanity), but dangerous for
a close connection.” They are, according to Major Hastings, still
distinct in many respects from those around them; and being of the Shiah
section of Mahomedans, there is great religious animosity between them
and the Afghans, who are Sunis. They all speak Persian, but the
Kizilbashes of Aoshahr, in the Chardeh Valley and some of the older men
among the Jawansher of Chandaul, still talk Turki in the privacy of
their own families. The portions of Cabul city occupied by the
“red-heads”—so called because of their distinctive turbans of crimson
cloth—are Chandaul, immediately at the foot of the Sherderwaza Hill and
Moradkhani, looking towards Sherpur. In Chardeh their chief villages are
Nanuchi and Taiba. The total number of families in and about Cabul is
3,220, but these can furnish only 6,000 fighting men—a small proportion
compared with Afghan families, every male in which is a fighting unit.
In Candahar and Herat there are a large number of families descended
from Nadir Shah’s vanguard, and a few Kizilbashes are also located in
Turkistan. The Jawansher section, occupying the greater part of
Chandaul, is the most important clan in Cabul, and has at the present
moment several of its members holding commands in the Turkistan army.
Appointments under Government, such as those of secretaries,
accountants, and similar grades, are always largely held by Kizilbashes;
while in years gone by there were several Kizilbash regiments in the
regular army. Hussein Ali Khan, of the Jawansher section, was once
Commander-in-Chief of the Afghan army, and many others of the clan rose
to important commands. The red-capped regiments were so powerful in
Ahmed Shah’s reign that to prevent civil war in Cabul that monarch sent
them to Turkistan, with orders to conquer Balkh. This they did with very
little trouble, and Ahmed Shah was then possessed with a fear that they
would become independent, and finally prove dangerous enemies. At the
suggestion of Morad Khan, Populzai, he recalled them, and assigned to
them permanently the portion of Cabul and Chardeh which they now occupy.
Moradkhani was called after Ahmed Shah’s adviser. In Shah Suja’s and
Shah Zuman’s reigns they were harshly treated, and with their usual
independence they joined Haji Jumal and Paenda Khan, the father of the
Dost Mahomed. When the Dost was in power, he singled his allies out for
many distinctions, the fact of his mother being a Kizilbash lady having,
no doubt, great weight with him. The clan refer to their treatment by
the Amir Shere Ali Khan and his son, Yakub, in anything but grateful
terms. Both Amirs, it would seem, were rather inclined to tyrannize over
the Shiahs. Major Hastings gives some carefully-prepared genealogical
tables, showing the status and place of residence of the chief families,
and concludes his report by stating that, though the Kizilbashes still
represent a certain amount of strength in Afghanistan, their power is by
no means so great as in former years.


                             CHAPTER XXIX.

Deportation of the Mustaufi to India—His Sympathy with the Family of
    Shere Ali—Progress of Negotiations with Abdur Rahman—Arrival of the
    British Mission at Khanabad—Probable Popularity of the Sirdar’s
    Cause—Reception of the Mission—The Amirship formally offered to
    Abdur Rahman—Return of Ibrahim Khan to Sherpur—His Report—A Russian
    Agent in the Khanabad Camp—Treatment of our Envoys as
    Prisoners—Photograph of the Sirdar sent to Cabul—His Vacillation and
    Intrigues with the Tribes—Flight of Sirdars Hashim Khan and Abdulla
    Khan—Arrival of Afzul Khan—His favourable Estimate of Abdur
    Rahman—Hasan Khan’s Movements in Logar—Cavalry Action at Padkhao
    Shana on July 1st—General Palliser’s Success—Two Hundred Tribesmen
    Killed—Dispersion of Hasan Khan’s Force.

The following letters, written in May, June, and July, will explain the
progress of our negotiations with Sirdar Abdur Rahman which eventually
led to his assumption of the Amirship:—

                                                   _26th May, 1880._

Yet another minister of Yakub Khan’s has been deported to India. The
Mustaufi, Habibulla Khan, has broken down in his professions of
faithfulness to the British, and on the morning of May 20th he left
Cabul in a _dhoolie_, under an escort furnished by the 9th Lancers,
which accompanied him as far as Butkhak. Here two companies of the 67th
Foot were in readiness to escort him to Luttabund. They had been sent
out on the previous afternoon, their sudden march giving rise to rumours
of an impending attack upon our communications, a rumour strengthened by
the 9th Lancers standing to their horses the whole afternoon, as if
ready for a gallop out. What may have been the Mustaufi’s crime I can
only conjecture: officially we are told that “he was summoned to
Sherpur, and after a long investigation was found guilty of conspiring
against the British, and was at once put under arrest.” Camp gossip runs
that letters were intercepted, bearing his sign manual, inciting the
chiefs to rise again, and that these were produced before Wali Mahomed
and other sirdars, who swore to the genuineness of the signature. The
old man when found out took the matter quite calmly, and when told that
he would be sent at once to India rather welcomed the idea, saying he
would go on a pilgrimage to Mecca and afterwards visit England. The
Mustaufi seems to have recognized the simple fact that we are bent upon
making Abdur Rahman Amir, and this he regards as a breach of faith, as
nothing was said of our intention when he was striving so hard to bring
the Ghazni malcontents to Sherpur. He knew that he could not hope for
power under Abdur Rahman—his partisanship for Shere Ali’s family was too
notorious—and hence in his extremity he resorted to fresh intrigues to
delay or put altogether out of the question Abdur Rahman’s visit to the
British camp. He has been detected, and as Abdur Rahman’s path must be
cleared of every obstacle, Habibulla Khan has been summarily sent to

Contrary opinions as to the final result of our mission to Abdur Rahman
are still afloat both in our camp and in the Cabul bazaars; but so far
everything that the most sanguine could have hoped for in the direction
of an _entente cordiale_ being established between the Pretender and the
British Government has happily come to pass. Our Mission has reached its
destination in safety, has been honourably and even effusively received,
and we are on the eve of receiving an answer from the Sirdar himself
regarding the proposals we have made to him. And yet there is a large
party in the city who still persist in prophesying that Abdur Rahman
will never visit Cabul so long as the British force occupies the city.
Their reasons are disjointed and somewhat irrational, but they are
repeated with such persistent head-shaking and beard-wagging that, in
spite of one’s own better belief, it is difficult at times to avoid
thinking as these birds of ill-omen think. Not that they deny either the
Sirdar’s anxiety or determination to be Amir (this they admit most
unequivocally), but they argue that he is too wise to ruin himself in
the eye of the nation by accepting the Amirship from the hands of a
British General. When they are reminded that the British are just as
determined that the new Amir shall be simply and solely their nominee,
as their work would be incomplete if they left the throne to be filled
by any candidate who might get a party together, they cry back on their
lines of argument, and insist that Abdur Rahman _will_ be Amir, but by
virtue of his own popularity and prowess, and not as a man accepting a
boon from a conquering army. When it comes to the finer details of ways
and means, the prophets can only take refuge in vague hints and inane
mumblings which would have shamed even the vilest impostor in the old
days, when prophecy had some points to recommend it to the credulous.
Perhaps the explanation is that Abdur Rahman has not in Cabul itself a
faction worthy of the name. His prestige lies not so much in the
sympathy of the citizens as in the support the hardier tribesmen are
willing to give him as a soldier and a ruler. There is something in his
success in Eastern Turkistan which has drawn the independent and
reckless spirits of Kohistan, Koh-Daman, and Logar to him: it may be the
boldness with which he has declared himself claimant to the throne, or
that his old fame as a successful general still lives in the hearts of
the people. Every man born in Afghanistan is born to a soldier’s life,
not the life of camps and campaigns so much as the constant struggle of
intertribal warfare, or time-honoured family feuds. Every man’s hand is
familiar with the use of _jhezail_ or rifle, _tulwar_ or knife, and a
successful leader is far more honoured and more faithfully followed than
a chief who lives by intrigue and begs his way to power by lavish
bribery. Abdur Rahman ruled in Cabul, after Dost Mahomed’s death and
Shere Ali’s usurpation, by mere force of success in arms. He placed his
father upon the throne in defiance of Shere Ali, who was never a match
for him in the field, even though backed by the support of the Indian
Government. Shere Ali won Cabul finally in the absence of his young
rival in Turkistan. In an instant his success was magnified, he became
the successful warrior, and his power was assured. Abdur Rahman sank out
of sight. Later, Yakub Khan blazed into power, a bold leader of armies,
full of vigorous life. How success bred success in his case until Herat
and Turkistan were practically lost to his father, contemporary history
shows; and only when he sank the soldier in the son, and trusted in his
father’s rotten honour, did his career come to an end. Yakub, free and
holding his own proudly in Herat, was a figure to draw men’s admiration
and support: Yakub, a prisoner in the Bala Hissar, was a fallen star
which could no longer dazzle men’s eyes. So it has been with Abdur
Rahman Khan. In January 1869 he crossed the Oxus a fugitive, and since
that eventful year he has been nothing but a lay figure in Afghan
politics. Now he is once more clearly outlined before the people, who
have been bitterly humiliated by our armies since the murder of our
Envoy in the Bala Hissar.

They may at first have looked to the grandson of the Dost to avenge
their humiliations by force of arms; but the fall of Ghazni and the
appearance of another 7,000 men to swell our numbers in Cabul and the
Logar Valley have dashed their hopes once and for all. Now they turn
their eyes northward, mayhap their feet also, and await the sign that
will free them from the presence of the Kafir armies. So it is that
Abdur Rahman seems to them a hero, a deliverer; they are lifted beyond
the petty intrigues of the Barakzai sirdars in Cabul, the deep plotting
of the Mustaufi, or the empty bombast of Mahomed Jan. Even Mushk-i-Alam,
the arch-priest of discontent, is silent for a while: there are no new
appeals to their fanaticism, and not 1,000 men are under arms in
districts which have been seething with revolt for months. Logar,
Kohistan, Wardak, are no longer names to conjure with. Mahomed Jan even
has drifted into Kharwar and Zurmut, whose widely-armed tribes are held
in contempt by the better trained forces of the provinces about Cabul,
the male population of which has been leavened with sepoys carrying
firearms equal in part to our own. The Northern Ghilzais are for a
moment sobered by the reflection that Afghanistan is likely to be rid of
a foreign army sooner by the advent of the Sirdar now in Khanabad than
by listening to suggestions of renewed outbreaks and ceaseless harrying
of our posts in the Passes. True, factious _moolahs_, like Khalil and
Fakir, are stirring up disaffection about Jellalabad; but that district
is somewhat removed from the direct effect of the influences at work
about Cabul, and we can afford to disregard such petty outbreaks, which
only give us a better chance of showing our power to strike in all
directions. The little actions which have lately been fought in Beshud
and the Shinwari country will bear their own fruit; every additional
tower destroyed is another mark of our current supremacy, another
warning that our forbearance has limits—wide though they be. Even the
towers of Padshah Khan—ally, enemy, friend, traitor, alternately—are at
last in ruins, and his crops may yet be reaped by our soldiers. On the
one hand, we proffer honest negotiation leading to a stable settlement;
on the other, we are firm to punish the restless animosity which seeks
to force us out of the country by incessant annoyance and harassing

Perhaps the reasoning which I have mentioned as being in vogue in Cabul
as to the probable failure of any negotiations with Sirdar Abdur Rahman
may be due to the efforts of the Cabul sirdars, who dread the coming of
our nominee more than they loathe our own domination over the city.
Ambition is not a passion easily foregone, and both Wali Mahomed and
Hashim Khan know that the dreams once indulged in of power and
pre-eminence in Afghanistan are now at an end. The offer of the Amirship
has been formally made to their rival: his claims have thus been
declared pre-eminent, and minor pretenders are cast out into the utter
darkness of neglect and contempt. The sirdars know they have nothing to
expect at the hands of Mahomed Afzul’s son except contumely or even
worse; his years of exile have hung heavily upon him; and Shere Ali’s
family and partisans are in his black list. Petrovsky, the Russian
writer, who saw so much of the Sirdar and professed to know him very
intimately, wrote, “To get square some day with the English and Shere
Ali was Abdur Rahman’s most cherished thought, his dominant,
never-failing passion.” No doubt Petrovsky believed the hatred towards
the English was equal to that against Shere Ali; but time and events
have modified the former, particularly as the English are masters of the
situation, while it is probable the feeling of revenge against Shere
Ali’s family is still as lively as eve