H. B. (Henry Bathurst) Hanna.

The second Afghan war, 1878-79-80 : its causes, its conduct and its consequences (Volume 2) online

. (page 15 of 32)
Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bathurst) HannaThe second Afghan war, 1878-79-80 : its causes, its conduct and its consequences (Volume 2) → online text (page 15 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

" The war arose from a conviction that, so long as our frontier was fixed
on the eastern side of great passes into Afghanistan, oiu" military security was
dependent upon the degree in which we could rely upon the friendUness of the
Amir of Kabul. This alliance, ... at a critical moment, broke down, and it
consequently became necessary that we should rectify our frontier in such a


taxation. 1 The pleasant stories sent home by special correspondents
at Jellalabad of regimental sports, of hunting parties, of scientific
and historic explorations, stories which seemed to readers in India
and England conclusive testimony to the completeness of British
success, had a different meaning for the man who read them in the
light of Browne's Despatches and Cavagnari's Reports. The obstacles
in the way of making a fresh advance was the ever recurring theme
of the former ; the difficulties attendant upon keeping a hold on the
short and narrow stretch of country already occupied, of the latter.
How to accumulate stores and transport whilst working under con-
ditions which perpetually exhausted both, was the problem that
pressed, day and night, on the Mhtary Officer; how to induce the
tribes to faciUtate tliis accumulation, the task at which the Political
Officer incessantly toiled.

The negotiations with certain Afridi tribes, begun to smooth Sir
Neville Chamberlain's passage through the Kliyber, had widened
out into a scheme which embraced all the subdivisions of that power-
ful clan, as well as other tribes occupying territory within striking
distance of the Pass. Its arrangements, similar in their general
character to those devised for a like purpose forty years before, had
a twofold aim — to attract the individual tribesmen of warlike pro-
clivities to the British side by the offer of well paid 2 military service,

manner as to make its secm-ity independent of anything so capricious as the
will of an Asiatic Prince. This has now been done." (Times article, February
21st, 1897.)

^ " Those passes have now been seized by us and we shall not relinquish them.
We have thus secured what was described beforehand as a ' scientific frontier, '
and military men are agreed that a moderate force in the strongholds thus
occupied w^ill suffice to insure us against all external danger from Central Asia.
. . . More money cannot be raised, and the expenditure therefore must by
some means be reduced. The means for that reduction are opportunely afforded
by the security which our recent acquisition of a satisfactory frontier has given
to our military position." (Ibid.)

2 The monthly cost of this force was 2,740 rupees.

JANUARY, 1879 169

under their own Officers, and to disarm the hostihty of the tribes,
as a whole, by the payment of a monthly subsidy of seven thousand
six hundred and sixteen rupees, in return for which each tribe pos-
sessed of land bordering on the Kliyber, was to furnish a certain
number of chowkidars (watchmen) to protect its section of the Pass ;
the largest number demanded from any one tribe being sixty, the
smallest, tw^elve. No difficulty was experienced in raising and main-
taining the three hundred and twenty Jezailchis — matchlock men — and
their fifteen Officers ; and Cavagnari was able to report, when handing
over political charge of the Khyber to Mr. Donald Macnabb, that
they had given satisfaction to the Military Commanders, and con-
siderably relieved the troops in the matter of convoy duty ; but
the subsidy negotiations proved exceedingly troublesome. It was
no easy matter to decide the proportion in which the whole sum
allowed should be divided among the different tribes ; it was harder
to discover to which party in each tribe that proportion should be
paid, for, in every case, the party inclined to look favourably on British
overtures of friendship, proved to be the weaker, therefore of less
value as an ally, than the party which held aloof. In the end, how-
ever, a division based upon some rough appraisement of the claims
and merits of each recipient, was arrived at, but the plan, so far as the
return to be made for the money was concerned, proved worse than
a failure. The chowkidars were utterly untrustworthy, a danger
instead of an assistance to the British Forces, as their licensed pre-
sence in the passes enabled them to keep a watch upon the move-
ments of convoys and troops, and to signal the approach of the one,
and the withdrawal of the other to their friends lurking in the hills
above ; and the chiefs and headmen soon learned that they could
make double profits by sending one half of a tribe to make submis-
sion and finger the Government rupees, while the other haK harried

^ Cavagnari's Report on Matters relating to Arrangements with the Khyber
Tribes, dated Safed Sang, April 28, 1879.


the road and, by night, even ventured to attack the British out-
lying pickets.^ The wiser policy would have been to give the sub-
sidy freely, as an acknowledgment of the Afridi and Shinwari claim
to levy tolls on a road the use of which was being monopolized by the
British Forces, withholding or redistributing it as a punishment for
breaches of faith, and to forbid armed Natives, under the severest
penalties, within the British outposts. These measures would have
done as much as those adopted to influence the tribes through the
hope of gain, and more to check their power to harm and harass ;
thus diminishing the temptation to indulge in punitive expeditions
to which Cavagnari, by reason of his exceptional position, was pecu-
liarly exposed. One such expedition — the first invasion of the Bazaar
Valley — has already been chronicled ; the story of three others has
now to be told.

1 Report of Captain Tticker to Major Cavagnari, dated Lundi Kotal, April
9th, 1879.

Punitive Expeditions


On the first day of the year 1879, Sir S. Browne held a Durbar at
Jellalabad, at which Cavagnari explained to a few, by no means very
representative Afghan Chiefs, the reasons which had led the British
Government to go to war with Shere Ali, and its intentions towards
the tribes with whom, in the course of certain military operations, it
must come into temporary contact. Those reasons embraced all the
impugnments of the Amir's character and conduct which figure in
Lord Lytton's Despatches, with the addition of the entirely new
charge of having put to death, mutilated, imprisoned, or fined all
persons whom he suspected of supplying the British authorities with
information as to the state of Afghan affairs. There exists no official
or private confirmation of this charge which has, therefore, no more
claim to credence than hundreds of other rumours, most of them
palpably false, which were put into circulation by the enemies of
Shere Ali after the withdrawal of the Native Envoy from Kabul ;
but to appreciate its value, if true, it must be understood that, in the
East, so-called news-agents are simply spies, who earn large rewards
by a trade whicli men in all countries carry on with the fear of death
before their eyes. To Cavagnari's auditors, however, it mattered


little whether this or any other accusation brought against the Amir
was true or false, since none of them would strike them as reflecting
on his character ; even the distinction drawn by the Viceroy's pro-
clamation between the Sovereign and the people of Afghanistan had
little interest for them, for they knew that, whatever the action of
the tribes, as tribes, the conduct of the British Forces towards them
would be determined, in part, by the latter's need of their neutrality,
in part, by the acts of individual tribesmen whose predatory instincts,
stimulated by opportunity, might at any moment embroil them with
these would-be well-wishers and friends. Nevertheless, by the mouth
of Abdul Khalik, Khan of Besud, the assembled Chiefs accepted
Cavagnari's enumeration of their Sovereign's misdeeds, denounced
the oppression which they themselves had suffered at his hands, and
expressed their thankfulness for the prospect of the even-handed
justice and kindness which the arrival of the British in their districts
was to ensure to them.

The relations between the Mohmands, the tribe to which Abdul
Khalik belonged, and the British troops, had been peaceful ever since
Mahomed Shah, the Khan of Lalpura, had paid his respects to Sir S.
Browne at Dakka ; for though Moghal Khan of Goshta, the Chief second
to him in authority, had held aloof from the British authorities, he
had not shown himself openly hostile. That those relations should
remain peaceful was of vital importance to a Force whose communica-
tions, separated from Mohmand territory only by the Kabul River,
lay for forty-two miles open to attack ; yet, eleven days after the
Durbar, they were disturbed by a punitive Expedition, the first of many
which were to prove a source of anxiety to the Commander, and of
worry and fatigue to the troops. The occasion for the expedition
was an attack made by some hillmen on a lowland village ; the [raiders
and the raided alike were Mohmands. The incident was an entirely
domestic one, calling for no foreign interference ; but Cavagnari saw
in it an opportunity for putting pressure on Moghal Khan, who was


suspected of having instigated the outrage/ and at his request a
small force, under the command of Brigadier- General Jenkins, con-
sisting of two guns, Hazara Mountain Battery, fifty men of the Guide
Cavalry and three hundred of the Guide Infantry, crossed the river,
surprised the village of Shergarh, where the raiders were supposed to
be hidden, and failing to capture the offenders, carried off as prisoners
the headmen who had given them shelter, and had possibly con-
nived at their offence, and sent them prisoners to Peshawar.

On the 24th of January, a punitive Expedition, consisting of three
hundred and fifty men, drawn from the 17th Foot, the Rifles, 4th
Gurkhas, Guide Cavalry and Sappers, and commanded by Lieutenant
Colonel A. H. Utterson, entered Shinwari territory to avenge the death
of .the regimental Bheestie of the 17th. The column surrounded
and burned the villages of Nikoti and Raja Miani, killed five men
who tried to escape, and returned to camp with seventy prisoners and
two hundred head of cattle, and some sheep and mules. The latter
seem to have been retained ; the former, except two who were be-
lieved to be implicated in the murder, were soon released.

Between these two incursions into tribal territory, an expedition of
a far more serious character had been planned and begun. The inva-
sion of the Bazar Valley, in the month of December, had exasperated
instead of cowing the Afridis, who had seized the opportunity
afforded them by the absence of some of the best troops of the
2nd Division, to cut telegraph wires, attack small detachments and ill-
guarded convoys, fire into standing camps, and temporarily close the
pass. Their dej)redations were checked by the return of the punitive
Force, and after a while they were coaxed or threatened into tran-
quillity, with the exception of the Zakka Khel who continued to give
trouble whenever they saw the chance.

1 Moghal Khan was also suspected of being concerned in the death of two
camel-men belonging to the Jellalabad Force, who were murdered about this
time, but there was no proof of his complicity — none, even, that tlio nuirderer.s
were Mohmands : they may just as well have been Shinwaris.


Early in January, an important step had been taken in the direction
of efficiency and economy by the appointment of Lieutenant-Colonel
Charles M. Macgregor, an Officer of great energy and experience, to the
charge of the communications between Jumrud and Jellalabad. So
far, Browne's and Maude's independence of each other had extended
to their supply and transport ; now, in all that regarded these depart-
ments, Macgregor became a connecting link between them, and in
that character was able to smooth away difficulties, diminish friction,
and arrange for a more equitable distribution of work between the
1st and 2nd Divisions.i The new Officer in command of com-
munications quickly discovered the insecure state of the Khyber, and
at once wrote direct to Cavagnari recommending a second invasion
of the Bazar Valley, and the occupation both of it and the adjoining
Bara Valley till the complete submission of the Zakka Khel had been
obtained. The suggestion fell in so entirely with Cavagnari's own
aims, that he hastened to draw up a memorandum setting forth the
reasons for the proposed expedition, and calling upon General Maude
to arrange for its despatch. That Commander's task had not growm
lighter since his return from Bazar. Every day, men were breaking
down from exposure and over-work, and the duties which had to be
performed by those who kept off the sick-list, became, proportionally,
heavier. Reinforcements were urgently needed to bring the 2nd
Division up to full working strength, and when, instead of additional
troops, he received an invitation to divert a large part of his already
over-taxed Force from work which could not for a moment be
lessened or put aside, to an undertaking of unknown magnitude and
duration, his astonishment and displeasure were very great. What-
ever his feelings, however, he kept them to himself, and, in obedience
to the instructions he had received to act in conformity with the wishes

^ Macgregor had seen a great deal of active service, and in the famine of 1874
he had filled the important post of Director of Transport. He had an efficient
assistant in Major J. D. Dyson-Laurie.


of the political authorities, he lost no time in considering how he
could best fulfil the Political Officer's clearly implied desire. On the
15th of January he telegraphed to Colonel C. C. Johnson, Quarter-
master-General in India, recapitulating the substance of Cavagnari's
memorandum, and stating that, with the Commander-in-Chief's
sanction, he intended to carry out the suggestions it contained with
two columns from his own Division, the one starting from Jumrud,
the other from Ali Masjid, in conjunction with a Force from Basawal,
under Brigadier- General Tytler ; each column to visit the villages that
lay within reach of its line of march, so that the concentration of the
troops would not take place till the fifth day. Once concentrated,
he thought that three days would suffice to complete the work which
had to be done in the Bazar Valley, but that as regarded the operations
in Bara, he was not yet in a position to form any plan, and could only
say that he thought the Force he intended to employ would be equal
to any demands that might be made upon it.

Though General Maude had wisely refrained from hazarding an
opinion as to the length of time that would be required to execute the
second part of his programme, it was clear to him, and ought to have
been equally clear to the authorities at Headquarters, that it would
take longer to penetrate into and subdue Bara, an utterly unknown
country, further removed from the invading Army's base, than to over-
run Bazar for the second time ; yet the Government's sanction to the
scheme was clogged by the extraordinary proviso that the time devoted
to the whole expedition was not to exceed ten days, accompanied by
the contradictory comment that the Commander-in-Chief thought
three days too short a time to do the work needed in Bazar. General
Maude felt strongly that the imposition of a time-limit on a Military
Commander was absolutely unprecedented, and that, in this particular
case, it must result in placing him in a position of great perplexity,
since it virtually vetoed a part of the plan which had professedly
been sanctioned in its entirety ; but being unwilling to " foreshadow


difficulties," he accepted the decision of the Government, and did
his best to make the short campaign as successful and complete as

The Jumrud column, consisting of twelve hundred and thirty-five
men of all ranks, commanded by the Lieutenant-General in person,
started on the 24th of January, and followed the road by the Khyber
stream which runs, at first, through Kuka Khel territory. Here no
opposition was met with, the tribe being classed as " friendly," and
having been warned by Captain Tucker that armed men were not to
show themselves. This column spent the first night in the bed of the
river — below the Shudanna tower, and the second, at Barakas, where
it was joined by the baggage-camels of the Ali Masjid Force. The
baggage-party had been fired on, about a mile from camp, and, after
dusk, shots were fired into the camp itself.

The Ali Musjid column, under Brigadier- General Appleyard, ad-
vanced by the Alachai road to Karamna, where it effected a junction
with the 6th Native Infantry, under Colonel G. H. Thompson, which
had marched the same morning from Lundi Kotal. The Force, now
numbering twelve himdred and five officers and men, blew up the
towers of Karamna, and on the following day those of Burj, at which
village it was met by a detachment from the Jumrud column, and then
entered the Bazar Valley and joined General Maude. Tytler's
column, twelve hundred and eighty-three strong, which had to cross
the Sisobi Pass, did not arrive till the afternoon of the 27th. Wliilst
waiting for it to appear. General Maude sent out three hundred men,
under Colonel Ruddell, to scour China, and a detachment of Cavalry,
under Lieutenant-Colonel R. G. Low, 13th Bengal Lancers, to the
west of that hill to cut off fugitives ; also three hundred men, under
Major E. B. Burnaby, to clear the hills to the south-east of the valley,
from which the rear-guard had been harassed the previous day. On
China, a few Zakka Khel were found and killed ; but Burnaby's party
did not come into contact with the enemy. Wlien the concentration


of his troops had been accomplished, Maude moved the united Force to
a strong position in the centre of the valley, out of range of the hills —
a necessary precaution, as the Zakka Khel had already shown unmis-
takably that thej^ had no intention of submitting tamely to this
second invasion of their territory ; baggage had been attacked, rear-
guards harassed and camps kept on the alert at night by constant
firing. Perhaps the clearest proof of their determination to offer a
stubborn resistance to the advance of the expedition, was to be read in
the fact that, in the Bazar Valley, all the villages were found in flames,
fired by the hands of their own inhabitants. Foreseeing such a catas-
trophe, and anxious to avert it, Captain Tucker had instructed Malik
Khwas, the Zakka Khel Cliief of evil repute whom the tribe had been
ordered to accept as its head, to assure his clansmen that their dwel-
lings would be spared. Possibly Malik Khwas never gave the
message ; possibly he gave it and was not believed ; whatever the
truth of the matter, the Political Assistant's humane intentions were

On the 28th of January, General Maude recormoitred in person the
Bukhar Pass, through which runs the road to Bara. Tytler was in
command of the covering party, fortunately a strong one — a thousand
men of all arms — as the enemy held every hill-top on the line of advance,
from which they had successively to be driven, and they followed up
the troops as they retired, to within two miles of the camp. The next
morning, when Colonel G. H. Thompson led a detachment to Hulwai,
to blow up the towers of that village, the tribesmen showed in much
greater numbers, and Lieutenant-Colonel Low, who was sent out with
a squadron of his regiment to look for a site with water suitable for a
camp near the Bara Pass, found the hills beyond the point to which
General Maude had penetrated the previous day, occupied by strong
parties. All this showed that the numbers of the enemy were daily
increasing, and pointed to the probability that neighbouring tribes
were coming to the help of the Zakka Khel, though Major Cavagnari


had positively asserted that nothing of the kind would occur. Bear-
ing in mind that five days of his allotted time had already expired,
and fearing that the invasion of Bara would be the signal for a
general rising of the Afridis, the extreme inopportuneness of which,
at this particular juncture, he could well appreciate — General
Maude, though doing full justice to the energy of Captain Tucker,
judged that, before proceeding further, he ought to have the opinion
of an older and more experienced Political Officer ; and he therefore
sent a telegram to Major Cavagnari asking him to come at once to
the Bazar Valley. But Cavagnari was busy at Jellalabad with work
which he deemed more important, and declined to comply with the
summons ; ridiculing in his telegraphic answer the idea of an Afridi
war, and referring the General back to Captain Tucker for advice on
all political matters. Maude, however, whose views on the gravity
of the situation were shared by Brigadier- General Tytler and Colonel
Macgregor, both men well versed in frontier affairs, was no longer
inclined to allow the movements of his Force to be decided for him by
an officer of Captain Tucker's standing, and he therefore resolved to
lay the question of the invasion of Bara before the Indian Government.
If he had felt any doubts about taking this step, they must have been
dispelled by the receipt of a circular letter from the Quartermaster-
General in India, dated the 26th of January, and addressed to him —
General Maude — by name, in which he was reminded of the terms of
the Viceroy's proclamation of the 21st of November, 1878, re-
quested to bear in mind that " the British Government had declared
war, not against the people of Afghanistan and the adjoining tribes,
but against the Amir and his troops," and desired to use his
best endeavours to avoid unnecessary collisions with the tribes and
other inhabitants of the country, and to render its occupation as
little burdensome to them as possible, " for the British Govern-
ment was anxious to remain on friendly terms with the people of


Such a letter, reacliing a Commander in the midst of a punitive
Expedition against one of these very adjoining tribes — an Expedition
sanctioned only seven days earlier by the Government which now, by
implication, condemned it — must necessarily compel him to ask for
definite instructions ; and this General Maude accordingly did in the
following outspoken telegram : —

" 1. 30th January, 1879, from General Maude to Quartermaster-
General and Viceroy.

" Your letter 327H, 26tli inst., was received last evening, directing
me to use my utmost endeavours to avoid provoking unnecessary
collisions with the Tribes.

" 2. In my telegram to you, dated 15th inst., I proposed, at
Major Cavagnari's suggestion, to visit Bazar, Bara and other vil-

" 3. I proposed on the 8th day, should my information be sufficient
to proceed to Bara, an unknown place. The number of days required
to embrace the execution of my plans could not be named on account
of want of information, which could only be obtained after my arrival
here, but it evidently embraced from sixteen to twenty days. In
reply I was informed that the Government sanctioned my beino- out
for ten days only.

" 4. I conclude Government fixed ten days to cut short the extent
of my programme, and as your 327H throws all the responsibility of
collisions with the Tribes on me, and as every time my troops proceed
from camp one mile in any direction, they come into collision with
the Tribes, and at night my pickets round the camp are attacked
by them, I require specific instructions as to my future proceedings,
whether I am to force my way to Bara against such opposition as I
may meet.

" 5. The report of my reconnaissance on the 28th, will have in-
formed you of the opposition I am likely to meet. Yesterday, further


reconnaissances showed the enemy to be on the alert in every direction.
"6. I am ready and willing to carry out any orders I may be
entrusted with, but I decline, at the suggestion of a Political Officer,
making a raid into a country which I am instructed to avoid provoking
unnecessary collision with, unless I receive distinct orders to that effect
from competent authority. I wait here for orders."

The answer to this telegram was not received till the 2nd of

Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bathurst) HannaThe second Afghan war, 1878-79-80 : its causes, its conduct and its consequences (Volume 2) → online text (page 15 of 32)