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ment, with Jacob, never degenerated into revenge, and he scorned the
cowardly method of striking at the guilty through the innocent.
Even when pursuing a marauding band across the frontier, he suffered
no looting of villages, no destruction of houses, or trees, or crops ;
every unarmed or unresisting man was certain of his protection, and
he, too, reaped his reward in the rapid pacification of a Province, and
the devoted attachment of its inhabitants.

Trained under Wellington in the Peninsula, Charles Napier, as
Commander-in-Chief in India, held no less staunchly than Nott to
the wise and humane principles of his great Chief. The burning of
some villages, during a punitive Expedition in the winter of 1849-50,

^ Memoirs of Sir William Nott, G.C.B., by J. H. Stocqueler, vol. i. p. 63.

2 Ibid. p. 2G7.

3 " I put do%vn rebellion, and quelled ail resistance to the British power ;
in spite of the fears and weakness of my superiors. By mild persuasive meeisures
I induced the whole population to return to the cultivation of their lands, and
to live in peace. I left them as friends and on friendly terms. On my leaving
Kandahar . . . my soldiers and the citizens were seen embracing." (Letter of
Sir W. Nott to the Adjutant-General, dated April 4th, 1843.)



2i6 THE SECOND AFGHAN WAR

drew from him the following official Memorandum, addressed to Sir
Colin Campbell : —

" It is with surprise and regret I have seen in Lieutenant-Colonel
Bradshaw's report of his march into the Eusofzie country that villages
have been destroyed by the troops.

" I desire to know why a proceeding at variance with humanity
and contrary to the usages of civilized warfare, came to be adopted.
I disapprove of such cruelties, so unmilitary and so injurious to the
discipline and honour of the Army. Should the troops be again called
upon to act, you will be pleased to issue orders that war is to be made
on men ; not upon defenceless women and children, by destroying
their habitations and leaving them to perish without shelter from
the inclemency of the winter. I have heard of no outrages committed
by the wild mountaineers that could call for conduct so unmilitary
and so impolitic." ^

The officer to whom Napier forwarded this Memorandum, was
to remain faithful to its teachings under the strongest possible
temptation to repudiate them. The outrages committed by the
mutineers of 1857, on British women and children, might easily
have been made the excuse for terrible acts of retaliation; but
Lord Clyde never allowed indignation to betray him into injustice,
or to blind him to the truth that only by giving the people no
cause for siding with the revolted soldiery, could he hope for a
peace which should leave British authority still supreme in India.
Knowing human nature too well to believe that fear is the strongest
lever by which it can be moved, making generous allowance for the
instinct of race, the promptings of family affection and the pressure
of circumstance, he avoided the mistake of trying to shorten the life-
and-death struggle in wliicli he was engaged, by striking terror into

^ Defects Civil and Military of the Indian Government, by General Sir William
Napier, K.C.B., pp. 114-5. Initials in the Memorandum. It transpired
that these villages were destroyed by the Political Officer. — H.B.H.



THE INVASION OF KHOST 217

the souls of the villagers who, willingly or unwiUingly, were daily
harbouring and befriending the mutineers. No defenceless towns or
villages were burned or plundered by his orders, no fields laid waste,
no cattle slaughtered, no bullock-carts confiscated, no women and
children driven from their homes ; and, as a consequence of this
resolute limiting of the evils of the war to its original authors and their
active abettors, when hostilities ceased, the whole country resumed
its normal aspect ; and bitterness against their alien rulers, on the score
of the severity with which they had put down a military revolt, soon
died out of the hearts of the Indian peasantry. The foregoing
examples might be multiphed indefinitely, but enough have been
adduced to prove that in the rules and practice of the Anglo-Indian
Army, prior to 1879, Christian ethics, as applied to war, had touched
their high-water mark, and in lowering the standard of humanity
upheld by a long line of illustrious soldiers. General Roberts put back
the clock of progress for the whole world.



CHAPTER XX
The Retirement from Khost

RESCUE OF MATUN GAREISON

Reconnoitring parties that were out very early the day after the
attack on the British camp, scouring the valley for seven or eight
miles around Matun, discovered no traces of the enemy ; yet, rumours
of so disquieting a nature were afloat, that General Roberts felt it
necessary to order the construction of shelter trenches in advance of
his position, to give time for the troops to fall in in the event of a
night-attack. None was made, but there were several scares, one of
which ended in a strange tragedy.^

Soon after dark a false alarm turned out the troops, who began
firing on all sides. In an instant the captive Waziris were on their
feet, struggling to free themselves from the ropes that bound them
together, and to wrest their rifles from the sentries. The Native Officer
in command of the guard, fearing that his men would be overpowered,
shouted to the prisoners, in Pushtu, to keep quiet, or he would shoot
them down. The warning was unheeded, and the order to fire or to
use the bayonet had to be given. Nine men were killed and thirteen
wounded, four of them mortally, and in the darkness it was difficult

^ " We had no end of scares about night- attacks, which is a favourite mode
of fighting with these people. For myself I have a horror of night- attacks,
all confusion and bother, and often firing into friends as well as foes. They are
very trying even to the best and most disciplined troops. On one occasion, in
the middle of dinner, a sudden alarm took place. The troops turned out in
a moment, and there were volleys as if 30,000 Mangals were on us. There was
really no attack and the firing soon ceased." (" Old Memories," by Sir Hugh
Gough, Pall Mall Magazine, June 1898, pages 208, 209.)

218



THE RETIREMENT FROM KHOST 219

to separate the uninjured from the injured, the living from the dead.
As soon as possible, however, the wounded were placed in a roughly-
improvised shelter, where Surgeon W. E. Griffiths, of the 21st Punjab
Infantry, and Surgeon H.Cotton, of the 72nd Highlanders, did all in their
power to save life and mitigate suffering. In the confusion attendant
on this unfortunate occurrence, a friendly Chief, returning home with
his followers after paying a visit to the General, was fired upon and
wounded. It is probable that the shots which had alarmed the camp
and led to both these regrettable incidents, had been fired for the
purpose of creating a state of panic favourable to the escape of the
prisoners, but the good discipline of the troops frustrated the plan,
and the only men to suffer by it were those whom it was intended
to help, for a Court of Inquiry held to investigate the unfortunate
affair, exonerated the Native Officer from blame : he had warned the
Waziris before firing on them, and he only did liis duty in using force
to prevent their escape.^

On the 9th, foraging parties brought in large quantities of grain
and firewood from the ruined and deserted villages round Matun. On
the same day, a Non-commissioned Officer and eight men of the
5th Punjab Cavalry rejoined the main body, after a very chequered
experience. They had been left, with a view to protecting the road
to Hazir Pir, at a village named Yakubi, whose headmen _,had under-
taken to protect them. So long as there was no temptation to break it,
this promise was kept ; but during the attack on the British position,
the Httle party was overpowered and disarmed, plundered and stripped.
A few hours later, when the light of the blazing villages proclaimed the
victory of the British, the villagers repented of their hasty act, released
the captives, and restored to them their arms and personal possessions.
The Non-commissioned Officer in command immediately seized two
Mahks, who had been forward in inciting their people to violence, and,
on withdrawing from llic village, carried lliem off to camp, where

^ Roberts's despatch, 10th January, 1879.



220 THE SECOND AFGHAN WAR

they were tried by a Military Court, and sentenced to seven years'
transportation, whilst a third Malik, who had done his best to protect
the outpost, was rewarded.

During the evening of the 7th, Roberts had caused the Maliks,
who the previous night had placed themselves in his hands, to be
brought before him, and, in full view of their burning villages, had
reproached them with having brought their misfortunes on themselves,
and expressed the hope that they would now see the futility of attempt-
ing to withstand disciplined troops, however small their numbers. His
account of the transaction, put forward in an Official Despatch written
three days later, followed the same lines. The villages had been
destroyed " as a punishment to the inhabitants for having given
shelter to his assailants." It had been " severe, but the lesson was
certainly needed," and he expected that " its results " would be
" satisfactory." " There was evidence that the combination against
him (me) was widespread, and if a severe example had not been made
of those who fought against him (me) on the 7th of January, the ill-
feeling would have extended. Now, the headmen of the neighbouring
villages had come in, and the remainder were reported to be anxious
to submit." So satisfied was the British General that the punishment
inflicted was a certain guarantee of future good order and peace in
the valley, that he could end his Despatch with the assurance that it
would now be safe to leave " an adequate Force " — defined as half a
Mountain Battery, two troops of Native Cavalry, and a regiment of
Native Infantry — in Khost, provided that the troops in the Kuram
were maintained in sufficient strength to keep open its long line of
communications.^

In accordance with the views expressed in this Despatch, the Native
levies were now disbanded, the Ex-Governor and his attendants placed
in tents, and, when the fort had been thoroughly cleansed and stocked
with food and ammunition, all the sick and such of the Waziri prison-

1 Ibid.



THE RETIREMENT FROM KHOST 221

ers as had not been ransomed, were moved thither, Major Collis
appointed Commandant, with Mr. Archibald Christie, C.S., as Political
Officer, and the 21st Punjab Infantry and a troop of the 5th Punjab
Cavahy, for a garrison. These arrangements completed, Roberts
struck his camp, at 8 a.m., on the 13th of January, and entered on the
subsidiary work of the Expedition — the exploring and surveying of the
Khost Valley. In three days' time, he visited the whole of the western
side of the valley, without encountering any opposition, though, in
consequence of rumours that the Mangals intended making a night-
attack, measures of precaution had to be taken on the evening of the
14th. On the return of the Force to Matun, the camp was established
on a fresh site, nearer the fort, and on the southern, instead of on the
northern, side of the watercourse on which its water supply depended.
As soon as it had become evident that the whole of the Expedition-
ary Force would be detained in Khost for a longer period than had
been planned for, orders for a second fifteen days' supply had been
sent to Hazir Pir ; and, on the 18th of January, the expected convoy,
escorted by the 23rd Pioneers, a party of the 5th Gurkhas, and a draft
of recruits from the 72nd Highlanders, arrived in camp. The Gurkhas
returned the following morning, taking with them all the camels still
with the Force ; but the greater number of those whose loads had been
consumed, had already left on the 16th, in charge of a party of armed
Turis, sent from the Kuram to bring them back. The same day.
Captain Woodthorpe, accompanied by Captain Wynne, the Super-
intendent of Army Signalling, and escorted by the 28tli Punjab
Infantry, began a survey of the southern side of the valley. In order
to connect his operations with the great Trigonometrical Survey of
India, Woodthorpe obtained leave from a Waziri Chief, Kiput by name,
to ascend the Lazam Peak, six thousand four hundred feet high — from
the summit of which Wj^nne, having succeeded in opening heliographic
communication with Bunnu, received from Colonel Godby, connnanding
the Punjab Frontier Force, who chanced to be there, the news of the



222 THE SECOND AFGHAN WAR

Mahsud Waziris' raid into British territory and the burning of Tank.
The bearing of this raid upon his own position was not lost upon
General Roberts. With one subdivision of the Waziris he had already
come into colHsion, and he knew that in Dawar, the valley lying south
of Khost, where the bulk of the population was of Waziri stock, a
certain Mulla Adkar was busy preaching a Jehad. Other news of
an alarming nature had been in his possession for some time. The
Mangals and Jajis had taken advantage of the weakening of the Forces
in the Kuram to threaten the Peiwar Kotal, an extensive position
inadequately held by three guns and about a thousand men; and
though the courage and coolness of Captain Rennick,^ the officer in
command of the isolated, advanced post of Ali Khel, had averted the
danger by giving Brigadier-General Thelwall time to bring up re-
inforcements, there could be no certainty that it might not recur, and
with more serious results, for, with the hundred and fifty men of the
72nd Highlanders and the two hundred Gurldias already called up,
Thelwall had exhausted the troops on whom he could draw in an
emergency ; and the strength of every post, from Thai to the Peiwar
Kotal, was steadily diminishing under the wasting inroads of disease.
The same process of attrition was going on in the Kliost Force,
where, to the fever and dysentery bred by the water-logged ground,
the setting in of severe weather had now added pneumonia of a very
acute type,2 while the causes that were predisposing the men to sick-

^ Renniek, threatened by a very large force, first persuaded the villagers of
Ali Khel to side with him, and then sent out their headmen to warn the enemy
that he should certainly oppose their advance. This resolute attitude on the
part of a single Englishman, backed by only a handful of Native troops, so
amazed and disconcerted the Mangals that they allowed two days to slip by
unused, and when, avoiding Ali Khel, they swarmed into the Harriab Valley and
advanced in dense masses towards the Kotal, they found the garrison so fully
prepared to receive them, that they dared not venture an attack, and dispersed
as rapidly as they had assembled. — H.B.H.

2 (a) Extracts from Surgeon R. Gillam-Thomsett's Journals, 15th January
(p. 20G) : " The men now began to suffer a good deal from fever, neuralgia,



THE RETIREMENT FROM KHOST 223

ness of all sorts were telling in still greater degree on the transport-
animals in both valleys. All these untoward circumstances were
weighing on General Roberts's mind whilst engaged in carrying out
the subsidiary objects of the Expedition ; j^et, he continued to cling
to his scheme for the permanent occupation of Khost till the
23rd of January, when reports reached him of a second great
gathering of Tribesmen in the mountains bordering on that valley.
The immediate danger was promptly met. A messenger was
despatched to recall the 23rd Pioneers, who had been sent on in
advance of the troops to improve the eastern road into the Kuram,
by which they were to return to Hazir Pir ; ^ the camp was entrenched,
so far as defective tools would permit, and further protected by a
rampart of camel-saddles, piled one upon another and picketted down
to the ground by ropes, whilst, during the night, star-shells were fired
off at intervals ; but the safety thus secured was so evidently of a
temporary nature, that there could be no further question of leaving
a fourth part of the troops to continue a work which was taxing to
the utmost the strength of the whole Force. A reconnaissance, made
by Hugh Gough, revealed no large body of the enemy within six miles
of the British position ; but the attitude of the people on the lower hill-
slopes was unfriendly, and nowhere was there any sign of that willing-

and chest complaints." 21st January (p. 210) : — " A great many of the men
were knocked down with lung complaints, which proved fatal in many cases,
especially among Natives." January 27th (p. 212) : — " In common with many
others, the malarious influence of the Khost Valley had now begun to tell on me.
... I really thought I was quite breaking up." January 30th (p. 215) : — " One
soldier of the 10th Hussars died during the journey from lung complaint. Indeed,
pneumonia was dreadfullj^ prevalent just at that time, and I believe the 21st
Punjab Infantry and the 5th Punjab Cavalry suffered very much from it, the
former regiment losing ten, the latter six men during the last three or four days
we were in lihost."

(6) " I believe more men died in Khost during our .short period of occupation
than General Roberts had lost since we crossed the Kuram." (Special Corre-
spondent of Standard, January 31.)

^ The Pioneers had reached Hazir Pir before the messenger could overtake
them.



224 THE SECOND AFGHAN WAR

ness to submit to British authority whicli the General and tlie PoUtical
Officer had expected to follow upon the punishment meted out to the
villages lying around Matun.

Unwilling, how^ever, to admit the failure of his costly enterprise,
Roberts fell back upon a plan by which he hoped to be able to retain
Khost for the British Empire, whilst putting an end to its occupation
by British troops. A certain Sultan Jan, an Indian Civil Servant
and, at the same time, a scion of the Saduzai Royal House, a man
of distinguished manners and appearance, had arrived in camp on the
22nd, summoned thither with a view to the eventuality which had now
arisen. If any man could hold Khost without the aid of British troops,
resting his authority simply on his personal influence, supported by a
small body of Native levies— all Turis, for the people of the valley
declined to enlist in it— which Captain Conolly had been organizing,
that man was Sultan Jan, and him, therefore, Roberts now appointed
Governor of the valley, to hold it until it could be brought more
directly under British rule. The appointment once made, no time
was lost in giving effect to the change of mihtary policy which it
denoted, and, on the 25th, all the headmen of Khost appeared, by
order, at Matun to be instructed in the new arrangements which recent
occurrences had rendered necessary. Roberts's speech on this occasion
was an echo of that which, two months earlier, he had addressed to
the people of Kuram. It contained the same explanation of the
causes of the war ; the same assurance that the British Government's
quarrel was with the Amir, and not with his subjects;^ the same
promises of religious toleration and non-interference in local customs

1 " Maliks of Khost, you all know the reason of our coming here. It had
nothing to do with the people of Afghanistan ; with them the British Government
has been, and still is, at peace. Our quarrel is with the Amir, Shere AU alone
and, with him, only because he was ill-advised enough to break off friendly
relations which, for many years, had subsisted between him and the British
and to throw himself into the hands of the Russians." (Letter of Special
Correspondent of Standard, dated January 31st, 1879.)



THE RETIREMENT FROM KHOST 225

and affairs ; ^ the same picture of the blessings of peace and good
government ; the same praise of British honesty and humanity ; ^ and if
it differed from the earHer oration in that it announced the approaching
evacuation of the valley, instead of its continued occupation by British
troops, the difference was concealed under the threat of returning, at
short notice, should the authority of the new ruler of Khost, Shazada
Sultan Jan, be disputed, or attacked.

The encomium passed by the General on British honesty and
humanity must have sounded strange in the ears of men who had seen
their own or their neighbours' houses looted and destroyed, and had
suffered the loss of all their cattle and winter stores of grain ; ^ but the
time and place were not favourable to the expression of dissent, and
the submissive attitude of the audience confirmed Roberts's confidence
in the stability of the Government he had so hastily set up. On
leaving the durbar tent, to which only natives of Khost had been
admitted, he addressed a few words to a group of hillmen gathered
outside, who had come in, by invitation, to pay a visit to their late
antagonists. The interview closed with the gift of a few rupees and
of twenty sheep, on which the guests were feasted to the accompani-
ment of the band of the 21st Punjab Infantry.

The next morning, the order for the return of the Expeditionary
Force to Kuram was issued, and the necessary preparations were
pushed forward with cheerful alacrity, for, the excitement of novelty
having worn off, the troops were eager to get back to somewhat

^ " You have been assured that the British Government have no wish to
molest you or interfere in any way with your Uberties, either social or religious.
Ibid.)

2 " Discipline has been well maintained among my troops, not a complaint
having been made, and all supplies have been regularly paid for. In short,
you have been treated with the greatest forbearance and kindness." (Ibid.)

3 "I think the whole Valley of Khost and the surroimding tribes will remember
our visit for some time to come, and the rough handling they have received will
go far to ensure our safe return to Hazir Pir." {The Times Correspondent*
14th February, 1879.)

Q



226 THE SECOND AFGHAN WAR

healthier and less trying conditions.^ A very different spirit, however,
animated the Turi levies. With ever increasing anxiety and depression,
they watched the activity prevaihng in camp, and when the Fort,
with its stores of ammunition and grain, had been formally handed
over to Sultan Jan, and there could no longer be any doubt that all
the British troops were about to withdraw from the valley, they flatly
refused to be left behind, and only by much persuasion, and the promise
of increased pay were they at last induced to remain.

On the morning of the 28th of January, the Force began its return
march to Hazir Pir by the new route prepared for them by the Pioneers,
and after crossing a rugged range of mountains, on the further side of
whi^h the country proved to be much cut up by ravines and water-
com-ses, encamped at Sabbri, a village twelve miles from Matun.
Here, the next day was spent for the double object of reconnoitring
the district and resting the camels, some of which, whilst grazing, were
driven off by hillmen and only recovered after a sharp chase. That
halt saved the hves of Sultan Jan and his Turi levies. The Mangals
had lost no time in showing the kind of attention that the British
nominee might expect to receive from them. They had gathered at
once round Fort Matun in such numbers as left its little garrison
no hope of defending it successfully,^ and had the retiring
troops been two marches off, instead of only one, the messenger
despatched to ask for assistance, would have arrived too late
for a reheving force to regain the Fort before the threatened
attack on it had been delivered. As it was, starting very early next

1 " Nobody in the Khost Expedition regretted in the least that he was leaving
the Khost Valley, and would never, in all probabiUty, see it again." (Special
Correspondent of Standard, January 31st, 1879.)

2 " The Shahzada's message spoke of 10,000 Mangals, or Jadrans, as
assembled round Matun, and a few horu-s later. Captain Wynne, who had estab-
lished a signalling-post on a peak from which he could see the whole valley,
signalled to Barry Drew that it was black with Mangals." (Special Correspondent
of Standard, January 3l8t, and Times Correspondent, March 7th, 1879.)



THE RETIREMENT FROM KHOST 227

day, Roberts, with No. 2 Mountain Battery, one Squadron lOtli
Hussars, one Squadron 5th Punjab Cavalry, a small detachment
72nd Highlanders, and the 28th Punjab Infantry, penetrated once
again into the Khost Valley, which by this time was swarming with
tribesmen, and reached Matun by 9.30 a.m. to the intense joy of the



Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bathurst) HannaThe second Afghan war, 1878-79-80 : its causes, its conduct and its consequences (Volume 2) → online text (page 19 of 32)