H. B. (Henry Bathurst) Hanna.

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

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inforced. Wood pushed on to his destination, where he arrived too
late to capture AzmutuUa, who, warned of his approach, had quitted
the valley, and was by that time well on his way to Kabul.

Saddened by the knowledge of the misfortune which had overtaken
Wood's force, Gough's Column left camp at 1 a.m. of the 1st of April.
The night was intensely dark, and difficulty was experienced in forming
up the men, so hard was it to distinguish the stony track from the stony
plain through which it ran; but, once started, its progress was fairly
rapid, and daybreak found it within a mile of Futtehabad. It was
soon discovered that the inhabitants, who were reputed friendly, had
deserted the village, and there was reason to fear that many of them
had gone to swell the ranks of the Khugianis. A site for a camp

^ " Several instances of gallantry, worth recording, took place during this
terrible calamity, and none more so than the conduct of Lieutenant Charles
Greenwood, who, although much exhausted by his efforts, had extricated hhn-
self from the quicksands and found himself on an island. Hearing cries for help
he again entered the water and found a man thirty yards out, unable to move
m the deep gravel and almost drovvning. Lieutenant Greenwood failed in
getting the man out alone, when Lieutenant Grenfell, hearing the shouts came
to his assistance, and together they brought the man in safety to the shore
Lieutenant Greenwood received the Humane Society's medal for his conduct
on the occasion.

"Private Crowley, who had swum with his horse a considerable distance and
remained with it vmtil it succumbed, had great difficulty himself in reaching
the shore, and on doing so went to the assistance of Lieutenant the Hon J
Napjer. whom he helped to rescue. "-Memoir, of the Tenth Royal Hussars


was selected, and the Cavalry found shelter under some trees whilst
waiting for the rest of the Column to come up. The Infantry and
guns came in at 10 a.m. ; the baggage animals not till nightfall. Gough
made use of the day's halt to acquire all the information he could as
to the strength and whereabouts of the enemy, sendmg out numerous
patrols and interviewing a good many local chiefs, amongst whom the
Khans of Gandamak and Khuja were conspicuous by their absence.
Early next day, he despatched Major H.F. Blair, R.E., and Major the
Hon. A. Stewart, commanding the Horse Artillery, with an escort
of thkty men of the 10th Hussars, to reconnoitre the road as far as
Nunla Bagh, at the foot of the ascent to Gandamak, and report on its
condition ; whilst Captam J. Davidson, Quartermaster- General's Staff,
and Lieutenant R. Purdy, R.H.A., with thirty men of the Guide Cavalry,
were sent south towards Khuja, the principal village of the Khugianis,
to try to ascertain the temper of that tribe. Its unfriendliness was
shown by their firmg on the reconnoitring party ; and Davidson
reported on his return that they were in large numbers, with outposts
thrown forward to withm five miles of the British Camp, evidently
prepared to give battle. Fmding that he was in presence of an enemy,
Gough at once seized a hill from which the Khugianis' movements could
be observed, the picket on which reported, about 1 p.m., that masses
of men were advancmg from the direction of Khuja, and forming up
on the edge of a plateau, four miles south of the Gandamak road.
As Blah and his escort had not returned, Gough ordered Major
Wigram Battye, with three troops Guide Cavalry, to go in search of
them, as far as the point where that road crossed the slopes leading
up to the plateau on its northern side, and here he was quickly joined
by the missing party.

Leavmg Lieutenant-Colonel C. M'Pherson, with three hundred
Infantry and a squadron of Cavalry to guard the camp, Gough, with

4 guns I.e. R.H.A. : Major the Hon. A. Stewart,

3 troops 10th Hussars : Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Ralph Kerr,


240 men 17tli Foot": Major F. S. S. Brind,

220 „ 27th Punjab Infantry : Lieutenant-Colonel C. J. Hughes,

240 „ 45th Sikhs : Major C. L. Woodruffe—

followed Battye, and on reaching him found that the Khugianis,
numbering about five thousand men, held a very strong position
that stretched for a mile along the edge of the plateau, its flanks
protected by steep bluffs, its front, by strong stone breastworks and by
the lie of the ground, which fell, at first abruptly and then more gently,
to the Gandamak road. A frontal attack on such a position was out
of the question, and Gougli was too good an officer to dream of
weakening his little force by detaching troops to turn it ; the only
course open to him, therefore, was to draw the Khugianis from their
stronghold, and this he did with singular skill and success. Having
carefully explained his plan to his principal officers, he ordered the
Cavalry and Artillery to advance together to within a mile of the
enemy. Here the former were to halt, while the latter, with a strong
escort, were to gallop forward several hundred yards, fire a few rounds,
limber up and retire. Gough felt confident that, when they saw the
guns begin to fall back, the brave but undisciplined Tribesmen would
rush out from their defences to seize them, and that, by repeating
the manoeuvre, he would, in time, draw them so far down the hill
that it would be impossible for them, when attacked, to return
to the position they had left. For the attack he made ample pro-
vision by sending the Infantry up a nullah, through which, if his
calculations proved correct, they would get unsuspected on the
enemy's right flank.

Everything worked out exactly as the General had hoped. Wlien
the guns fell back for the first time, the Khugianis began streaming
from their breastworks ; and when, after again firing a few rounds,
they fell back the second time, accompanied by the Cavalry, the
whole of the enemy's force abandoned their defences and rushed
do^m into the plain, collecting on their own left to attack what they



supposed to be the only troops opposed to them. At that moment
the Infantry emerged from the nullah on their right ; the 17th Foot
and the 27th Punjab Infantry deploying into line, whilst the 45th
Sikhs were held in reserve.

Making over the command of the Cavalry and Artillery to Lord
Ralph Kerr, with strict injimctions to guard against the Khugianis
cutting in on his right, and orders to charge them when a favourable
opportunity should present itself —Gough now hurried away to a point
from which he could direct the movements of the Infantry. The
latter were already at close quarters with the enemy, whose courage
had not been shaken by their unlooked-for appearance on the scene
of action. One group of Khugianis, led by a man carrying a large
flag which had been very conspicuous throughout the fight, rushed
boldly forward, and was met with like boldness by a handful of the
17th, led by Lieutenant Wiseman. A fierce hand-to-hand fight ensued,
in which the gallant young officer and the equally gallant standard-
bearer fell. The courage of the tribesmen, however, could not prevail
over the admirable tactics of the British Commander, and, completely
out-flanked on that side of the field, they had to give way. Seeing
that the decisive moment had arrived, Gough despatched his A.D.C.,
Lieutenant the Hon. G. L. Bellew, to bid the Cavalry charge. But
the order had been anticipated. Lord Ralph Kerr had recognized
the opportunity for which he had been directed to watch, and forming
up his men — barely two hundred, all told — the 10th Hussars on the
right, the Guides on the left— had dashed straight into the crowd of
Khugianis hovering on his right flank, and shattered it into fragments.

Many groups of men still clung obstinately to their rocky slopes,
and, for a time, fought on bravely ; but they could not reunite suffi-
ciently to offer any effectual resistance to cavalry, and when they
fled back to their original position, the mounted men were at their
heels, and they were driven headlong over and beyond the breast-
works, behind which, an hour before, they had enjoyed perfect security.


On the ridge, Lord Ralph Kerr halted to rally his scattered men, and
here Gough — riding ahead of the Infantry, who were pushing up the
slope towards the other end of the plateau — joined him, and together
they looked down over a plain, seamed with ravines and sowed
with rock, over which the Khugianis were flying for their lives, towards
the forts that could be seen dotting the fertile country on either side
of this region of stone. The order to pursue was quickly given, and
whilst the galloping Cavalry cut down scores of fugitives, the guns
which had been placed in position on the ridge, opened fire, and mowed
down every little body of men that still retained its formation, and
was within their range. It was a terrible slaughter, but the Khugianis
were brave men and they did not die tamely. Flymg, they fought on,
till, under the walls of Khuja, they reached safety, and the victorious
British Cavalry drew rein, and, turning, rode back over the blood-
stained waste to the ridge where the Infantry awaited them.

In this, the most successful engagement of the war, the Afghans
cannot have lost less than three hundred killed, and three times that
number wounded. The British loss, as the table on the following
page shows, was also heavy in comparison with the number of troops

In Major Wigram Batty e, the Indian Army lost one of the best and
bravest of its officers.^ Wlien he fell, the command of the Guides
Cavalry was taken by Lieutenant W. R. P. Hamilton, whose gallant
conduct on this occasion won for him the Victoria Cross.

The action was over by 5 p.m., and the same evening Gough's
Column returned to camp by a valley lying to the east of the plateau
on which it had been fought. Only a low range of hills separated
the two, yet how great the contrast ! On one side the blood-stained
battlefield, where dead and dying lay strewn among the rocks ; on
the other, the homes of these very men — pretty villages, surrounded

1 " In Major Wigram Battye the Government have lost an officer of whom
any army would have been proud — a noble, chivalrous character and beloved
by all who knew him." — Covering despatch by Sir S. Browne.



by gardens, lialf hidden in fruit trees just bursting into bloom ;
beyond the gardens, long fields of corn waving green in the evening


Killed. 1




















































I.C.R.H. Artillery . .








10th Hussars




Cavalry of Corps of












1st Battalion 17th Foot






27th Bengal Native


45th Sikhs . . . .

i 29


Total . . . .

2 1







Grand Total





a. Mortally wounded.

6. One Sowar since died of his wounds.

c. Horses missing, 31.

Names of Officers Killed and Wounded.

Major Wigram Battye, Bengal Staff Corps, Officiating Commandant Cavalry of Corps of Guides.
Lieutenant Nicholas C. Wiseman, 1st Battalion 17th Foot.
Kesaldar Mahmond Khan, Cavalry of Corps of Guides.

Resaldar Dhuni Chand, Rcsaldar Kula Sing, Jemadar Jewand Sing, Jemadar Bishen Das, Cavalry
of the Corps of Guides— all slightly.


sunshine, and, on every hand, the ripple and glitter of the streams from
which this favoured valley borrows its beauty and its wealth.

Unwilling to inflict any further suffering on a brave people, Sir
S. Browne waited for a day before resuming operations against the
Khugianis, and sent two chiefs who had previously come in, to tell
their head-man, Hyder Khan, of Gandamak, that their forts would be
spared if they would undertake to give no further trouble. This
message remaining unanswered, Gougli, reinforced by the remainder
of Tytler's Brigade ^ and by the troops detached by Macpherson,
started out again on the 4th of April to destroy the fortifications of
Khuja. The Cavalry and Horse Artillery ascended the slopes ; the
Infantry and Mountain Guns moved by the lateral valley, and the two
bodies, meeting on the plateau, continued their united march to
Sarna, the site of a post held by the British troops in 1840-2. Hearing

^ The supersession of Tytler by Gough was much criticized at the time, and
has never been explained or justified. The Bombay Review of the 5th of April
1879, has the following passage : " From what we know of General Tytler as an
experienced and eminently judicious Commandant of his own (Gurkha) Regiment,
to say nothing of the Tinmistakably superior service he has rendered during the
present campaign, we would emphatically endorse the following remarks by the
Indian Daily News, which, indeed, only repeats what is being said on all sides :
' A strong sense of injustice pervades the Peshawar Field Force, and great sym-
pathy is felt for General Tytler, V.C. The records of the time testify that General
Tytler has not been wanting in anything that has been required of him, and this
supersession by a junior officer is felt to be one of those acts which is not only a
personal wrong, but a course that tends to discovu^age men who have capacity
and will to serve their country.' "

There is no evidence to show whether Browne or the Military Authorities at
Headquarters must bear the responsibility for what must be stigmatized as an
act of injustice, for the fact that Gough acquitted himself admirably of the duty
confided to him, did not make it less unjust that a man should have been passed
over, who had so recently given proof of his ability to discharge it with equal
success. Tytler's retreat from Mausam was masterly, and if he made a mistake
in taking too small a force to attack that village, it must be remembered that he
had the safety of an important part of the communications of the 1st Division
to provide for, and that when he had gone out with a larger column, he had
returned to find that a convoy had been plundered in his absence. — H.B.H.


at this point, that the Khugiani chiefs were holding a Council of War,
Gough despatched another messenger charged to assure them that,
if they would surrender, aU hostile action on his part should cease.
Again there was no answer ; so at 2 p.m. the march was resumed and
the towers of Khuja, which village was found deserted, were blown up.
Then, at last, Hyder Khan sent in to say that if the British General
would promise to destroy no more forts, he and his chiefs would come
m. The promise was given without demur, and the troops returned
to Futtehabad, where, on the 6th, the Khugiani leaders made their
submission to Gough, by whom they were courteously received and
kindly treated; and, from that day to the close of the campaign, the
tribe not only kept the peace but, by furnishmg working parties,
rendered valuable assistance to the army of occupation.

The action at Futtehabad and the agreement with the Khugianis
having cleared the way for the long intended advance. Sir S. Browne,
accompanied by a smaU column, left Jellalabad for Gandamak, on
the 12th of April. The two valleys are thirty-five miles apart, and
the distance is divided into three marches. The first day the General
established his Headquarters at Rosabad ; the second, at Nimla,^
on the eastern side of the Gandamak heights, where he was joined
by Gough and Tytler. On the 14th, the British troops entered the
high-lying, well-watered valley of Gandamak, shady with mulberry
trees, and cool with the breezes that blow down from the snow-capped
peaks of the Safed Koh. It afforded ample accommodation for a
large force ; but, as a military position. Sir S. Browne preferred the
Safaid Sang, a ridge three miles nearer to Jellalabad, where there
was an abundant supply of good water, and where his camp could
not be overlooked. These advantages had, however, counterbalancing

1 At Nimla is the beautiful garden laid out by the Emperor Barbar. The

garden, which is a square, with sides over 1,000 feet in length, contains avenues

of gigantic plane trees and many smnmer houses, and is famed for its narcissi.

Here, in the year 1809, Shah Shuja was defeated and expelled from his kingdom

by Futteh Khan, the elder brother of Dost Mahomed.— H.B.H.


defects ; the ridge was stony and treeless, very hot by day, very cold

at night, and it suffered from clouds of dust, which sudden winds

swept up from below ; in the end, therefore, though the original

camp was maintained, a large part of the First Division was removed

to Gandamak, and the whole position was known by that name.^

It will be remembered that, by Sir F. Haines's arrangements,

Jellalabad was to be transferred to the Second Division ; but when

the time came for carrying this out, Maude's hands were too full to

allow of his extending his responsibilities beyond Barikab, eight miles

short of that town, and, accordingly, when Appleyard's Brigade

moved on to Gandamak, a small force consisting of —

2 guns E-3 Royal Artillery,

One wing II th Bengal Lancers,

1st Sikhs,

One wing Gviide Infantry,

One Company Sappers and Miners —

was left behind as a garrison for Fort Sale,^ and its connexion with
Safaid Sang was assured by the establishment of two strongly fortified
posts — Fort Rosabad and Fort Battye — the one, twelve ; the other,
twenty-one miles from Jellalabad.

Though Gough's victory at Futtehabad had killed all resistance
to the west of Jellalabad, to the east of that town, a fresh movement
among the Tribesmen coincided with the British advance to Ganda-
mak. First, came rumours that the Mohmands, under a certain

1 Foi.ir miles from Gandamak is the hill where the last sm-vivors of the British
army, retreating from Kabul in 1842, were massacred. Pollock's men, ad-
vancing to avenge their fate, covered their bodies with stones. These, in course
of time, became displaced, and when Browne moved to Gandamak, the bones
of those brave men still whitened the hill-side, and received tardy biurial at the
hands of the 17th Foot, a regiment which had formed part of " the illustrious
garrison" of Jellalabad. — H.B.H.

2 This important post was afterwards strengthened with two troops of Cavalry,
a company of 51st Foot and two of Sappers and Miners ; and when the wing of
the Guide Infantry was called up to Safaid Sang, it was replaced by fom- Com-
panies furnished by the 45th Sikhs and the 27th Pimjab Infantry. — H.B.H.


MuUa Khalil, were gathering in the hills beyond Lalpura, on the left
bank of the Kabul River ; then, the officer commanding at Dakka,
Major 0. Barnes, received a message from the Khan of that district
asking for help against the insurgents, who were within three miles
of his village, and had already exchanged shots with his outposts.
The request put Barnes in an awkward position. He felt the hardship
of leaving a chief who had entered into engagements with the British
invaders, to the vengeance of his countrymen ; but more strongly still
did he feel his responsibility for the safety of his own post, with its
large hospital and Commissariat depot, and he knew that to detach
any portion of its small garrison of eight hundred men and six guns
to the further side of the river, would dangerously weaken its defences.
Fortunately, the insurgents themselves relieved him from his dilemma
by abandoning the threatened attack on Lalpura, and crossing over,
in the night, to the northern bank of the river. Hearing, the next
morning, that the enemy was at no great distance from Dakka, Barnes
sallied out with two guns, C-3 Royal Artillery, a squadron 10th
Bengal Lancers and three Companies of the Mhairwarra Battalion,
to ascertain their character and number, and pushed forward, un-
opposed save for a few shots fired from the opposite bank of the stream,
as far as the Kam Dakka Pass, Here he halted his guns and Cavalry,
and himself advanced cautiously with his Infantry, and a few mounted
scouts to the village of the same name, whose inhabitants he found
much alarmed by the news of the Mohmand gathering, and urgent
in their entreaties that he and his troops would remain and defend
them. Their prayer was refused at the time ; but on his return to
Dakka, Barnes, after consulting the Political Officer, sent back a
detachment of the Mhairwarra Battalion, consisthig of a hundred and
thirty men of all ranks, under Captain O'Moore Creagh, well provided
with entrenching tools, ammunition and rations, to give the protection
asked for. It was no easy matter getting the laden mules over the
hills in the dark, and it was eleven at night before Creagh, who had


left Dakka Fort at five in the afternoon, arrived at the village, and
prepared to occupy and entrench it. To his surprise, the inhabitants
refused to admit him ; they were, so they declared, quite able to
defend themselves, and the presence of a British detachment, without
guns, could add nothmg to their safety, and would certainly compromise
them with the Mohmands. To force an entry was out of the question ;
so the troops bivouacked outside the walls, with strong pickets thrown
out to guard against surprise.

At 4 o'clock next morning, Creagh again summoned the elders of
the village and ordered them to open their gates. But the men stood
firm ; neither a Mohmand nor a Sepoy would they suffer withm their
walls. At this time, very few of the enemy were in sight, and Creagh
felt so little fear of an attack that the messenger whom he sent to
Dakka to inform Barnes of the strange position in which he found him-
self, was instructed to add that all was well. An hour later, he de-
spatched a second messenger with very dififerent tidings : the Moh-
mands had crossed the river in large numbers ; the inhabitants of
Kam Dakka were showing themselves less and less friendly, and, his
right flank being endangered, he had withdrawn to a fresh position
covering the Pass, where he was momentarily expecting to be attacked.
At half-past five, his right was again in danger, and once more he
began slowly fallmg back. At 8 o'clock, he was joined by thirty-six
men and a Native officer, who, leaving Dakka late the previous evening,
had been benighted among the hills. Small as was this detachment,
it was very welcome to Creagh, especially as it brought with it a fresh
supply of ammunition ; but it was discouraging to hear that the
Native officer doubted whether the second messenger would get
through to Dakka, and was of opinion that no reinforcements could
be counted on that day. Retreat, in the face of so numerous and
determined an enemy, was impossible ; so Creagh looked about for a
position m which his small force might defend itself until help should
arrive, and found it in a graveyard lying in the plain between Kam


Dakka and the Pass, midway between the river and the Dakka road.
No wall surrounded it, but there were plenty of stones, and out of
these, whilst some of the troops held the enemy in check and others
watered the baggage animals and laid in a store of water for the use
of the men, the remainder buUt up a good, solid breastwork. Just
as they finished their task, the Mohmands, descending from the hills,
drove in the skirmishers, and taking advantage of the high corn and
other cover, closed round the graveyard to within a distance of from
sixty to a hundred yards, cutting off the garrison alike from road and
river. Again and again, did the enemy assault the entrenchments,

Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bathurst) HannaThe second Afghan war, 1878-79-80 : its causes, its conduct and its consequences (Volume 2) → online text (page 25 of 32)