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safety of his left flank, which they had begun to overlap, he threw
forward a party of Infantry in skirmishing order, under Major
Vallings, covered by the guns. After a few rounds of the latter, the
enemy began working round to some hills commanding the British
right, a movement which Keen met by sending Major Higginson,
with another detachment of the 1st Punjab Infantry, to seize the
position. The near side of the hills was very difficult, the further
side almost perpendicular; so, when once Higginson and his men had
reached the summit, the tribesmen, unable to escape, were shot down
or captured in large numbers. Vallings, meantime, had driven the
tribesmen with whom he had been engaged towards the same hills,
and but for an intervening precipice would have come into touch with
Higginson's party. The rout of the enemy was, however, complete,
and Keen ordered the pursuit to stop, judging it unwise to adventure


his men further in an intricate country, leaving the troops in camp

In this action, the British had two men killed and one non-
commissioned officer and four privates wounded, whilst the tribesmen's
loss in killed and wounded was very heavy. Higginson, reconnoitring
the scene of the engagement the next day to ascertain if any armed
men were still lurking in the neighbourhood, counted a hundred and
three bodies, and learned that parties of the enemy had returned
during the night, and carried off some of the dead and all the wounded
left on the ground. The gathering, according to the statements of
some of its leaders, who came in to tender their submission, had
numbered three thousand men; but fourfold numbers and equal
courage could avail nothing against superior weapons.^

The following officers were mentioned in Major Keen's despatch : —

Major H. Chapman.
„ T. Higginson.
„ A. Vallings.
„ G. U. Prior.
Captain L. R. H. D. Campbell.
„ C. A. de N. Lucas.

„ H. F. Showera
R: Wace.
Lieutenant R. W. P. Robinson.
R. A. C. King.
H. L. Wells.
T. C. Ross.
T. C. Pears.

No further opposition was met with, and towards the middle of
April, the first column of the retiring force emerged from Afghanistan
at Fort Monro, and crossing the desert at its narrowest point, reached

^ " The people who have never before seen Europeans object to our marching
through their country and try to stop us. . . . Poor wretches ! They fancy we
are no better armed than we were forty years ago, and it is not till they feel
the power of our rifles that they see the hopelessness of interfering with us." —
Life of Sir D. Stewart, pp. 265-6.


Dera Ghazi Khan, where its units were dismissed to their respective


On the day;^of his arrival at Khushdil Khan-ka-Killa, Biddulph
organized the troops awaiting him there, and those that had already
gone on to Balozai, 15| miles ahead— the 15th Hussars and the
1st Gurkhas — into two columns.

2nd column.
Major-General M. A. Biddulph, Commanding Division.

Headquarters Staff.
Lieutenant S. F. Biddulph, Aide-de-Camp.
Major G. B. Wolseley.
Captain R. M. Stewart.
„ W. G. Nicholson.
„ W. Luckhardt.
Dr. Surgeon-General J. Hendley.
Colonel J. Browne, Political Officer.

Colonel R. S. Hill, Commanding Column.

Major H. H. F. Gifford.
Lieutenant W. G. Smith.

„ J. J. Money-Simons.
2 guns Peshawar Mountain Battery.
2 „ Jacobabad „ »

15th Hussars.

32nd Pioneers.
1st Gurkhas.
Approximate strength, 1,350 men and 4 guns.

Major-General T. Nuttall, Commanding.

Major H. B. Hanna.
Captain W. W. Haywood.

2 guns Jacobabad Mountain Battery.

2 Squadrons 8th Bengal Cavalry.


6 Companies 70th Foot.
9th Company Sappers and Miners.
Approximate strength, 870 men and 2 guns.

Both columns having filled up with supplies— thirty days for
European, seven days for Native troops — the Second moved to
Balozai on the 21st of March, where it halted two nights in order
that the watershed separating the drainage lines which flow into
Pishin, on the one hand, and into the Gumal River, on the other, might
be surveyed, in performing which task a glimpse was caught of the
open Zhob Valley.^ In consequence of this delay, the Thhd Column
entered Balozai the evening before the Second left it ; but, from that
point onwards, the former was a day's march behind the latter, till,
on the 27th, at Chinjan, a village 57 miles from Khushdil Khan-ka-
Killa, their respective positions were reversed. The depot of supplies
established by Sandeman at this point, was found to have been
plundered by the tribesmen dispersed by Keen, and as the people
of the village, though friendly, could not meet the requirements of
two columns, Biddulph ordered NuttaU to make a double march to
Dargai, whilst he himself halted at Chinjan for the purpose of visiting
the singular, detached, oval-shaped, table mountain of Siazghai,
which, rising abruptly from the floor of a wide valley, dominates
the Damar country for many miles round.

This interesting piece of survey work accomplished, the Second
Column pursued its way, nearly due eastward, down the Bori Valley
to Chimalang. Here it turned south, to reach Nahar-ki-Kot in

^ " Amongst the Generals who, throughout the course of that much
chequered war of two years' duration, showed the keenest and most determined
interest in clearing away geographical mists, in leaving no stone imturned that
might add something to our knowledge of that strange combination of high-
land, plain and rugged mountain . . . General Biddulph ranked first. ... It
was consequently a happy omen for the success of the Chotiali Field Force,
which was to find its way to India through an untraversed wilderness, that
General Biddulph was placed in command of it." — Indian Borderland, p. II,
by Sir T. H. Holdich.


the Leghari Barkhan Valley, where it was to unite with the force
under Prendergast, whilst the Third Column, following in the steps
of the First, marched to the same rendezvous through Smalan and
Baghao, Thai and Chotiali.

During the thirteen days, from the 30th of March to the 11th of
April, that the two columns were moving independently of each
other, neither encountered any resistance, except that a small body
of Ghazis rushed one of Nuttall's camping groimds, and wounded a
man of the 70th Foot ; but two incidents betrayed the existence, in
both forces, of that under-current of nervous tension which has always
to be guarded against among troops on active service. One morning,
as the Second Column, half its day's march accomplished, was halting
for breakfast, some one spread the report that there was no water
at the next camping ground. Instantly a scare set in, and though no
one, so far, had been suffermg from thirst, the soldiers now drank
up all the water left in their tins, and the camp-followers scattered
in every direction, seeking vainly for some spring. " Had we," writes
Holdich, " been caught at that juncture by anything like an organized
attacking force, we should have fared very badly indeed." ^

On the other occasion referred to, the troops of the Third Column
had turned in after an imusually long march, and both soldiers and
followers were wrapped in profound sleep, when a dreamer uttered
a piercing shriek. Some camel drivers instantly took alarm, and
with loud cries, crowded with their camels into the spaces between
the tents, stumblmg over the ropes in their haste. Instantly, the
whole camp was afoot ; the men seized their arms and fell in, the
outlying pickets opened fire, and it was not till the General and hia
StafE were in their saddles that the^cause of the disturbance was
discovered, and order restored.

At Nahar-Ki-Kot, Biddulph, assembled a committee of civil and
military officers to select a site for a permanent cantonment, which

1 The Indian Borderland, p. 23.


should command all the passes leading through the Kakar country
into Peshin, and be within easy reach of the Indian frontier. The
choice of the committee fell upon a place named Vitakri, at the southern
end of the Barkhan Valley, and there Prendergast's men established
themselves for the hot weather. Their experience soon showed that
the site was very unhealthy, and the cantonment was subsequently

In the Leghari Barkhan Valley the retiring Force again divided,
the bulk of both columns retracing their steps northward to Hun Kua,
whence they marched, via Fort Monro, to Dera Ghazi Khan, and crossed
the Chenab and the Indus in steamers without hitch or accident,
whilst the 15th Hussars, 1st Gurkhas and 32nd Pioneers, under their
respective commanders, made for Mithankot by the Chachar Pass and
entrained at Khanpur, on the eastern side of the Indus.

With the arrival of General Buddulph and his Staff at Multan,
on the 1st of May, 1879, the Thai Chotiali Force ceased to exist. All
its units, except the 15th Hussars and the 1st Gurkhas, had belonged
originally to the 2nd Division of the Kandahar Field Force, and their
General, in parting from them, could assert with pride that they had
marched twelve hundred miles, in intense heat and bitter cold, through
a rude and inhospitable country, without slackening in the perform-
ance of their duties, without losing any of their cheerfulness in the
face of privations and hardships, and without being guilty of any act
of cruelty or oppression — a record of discipline never excelled, and
seldom equalled.

Of fighting, Biddulph's troops had had little, and their roll of killed
and wounded was very small ; but on the march to Kandahar, in the
expedition to the Helmand, and on the way to Khushdil Khan-ka-
Killa, fever, pneumonia, and dysentery had ravaged their ranks. At
Kushdid Khan-ka-Killa all sick had been weeded out,^ and it was

^ 66 men of the 70th Foot were reported unfit to proceed by the Thai Chotiali


a thoroughly efificient Force which started from thence to find its
way back to India ; and though the road was always rough, though
provisions were not too plentiful, and water sometimes scarce and
often bad, the pleasant weather and the knowledge that every step
was bringing them nearer home, kept the men in good spirits and good
health. Yet in this last stage of its long journey, the Force lost one of its
best ofl&cers — Colonel H. Fellowes, the Commander of the 32nd Pioneers.
On the march, always in front, smoothing the road for those behind ;
at the camping grounds, struggling with the terrible water supply
difficulty — his work, arduous and incessant, had worn him out, and he
died before reaching Chin j an, just after crossing a most difficult and
exhausting pass.

Difficult passes, alternating with terrible defiles, were frequent all
along the route, and, so far as exertion and the need for constant
vigilance were concerned, there was little to choose between the road
through the Bori and that through the Thai Chotiali Valley, though, as
regards supplies, the first named had the advantage. Except between
Spira Ragha and Obushkai, where the hills were clothed with forests
of juniper,^ that most weird and fantastic of trees, there was little
shade ; but the pure, high air tempered the sun's rays, though only
to intensify the suffering of the troops when, at the end of their long
march, they dropped suddenly from an elevation of several thousand

" A juniper forest is picturesque with a weird form of attractiveness. No
ordinary forest tree could imitate the attitudes, or follow the fantasies, of the
juniper. White skeleton arms, twisted and gnarled, riven and bent, with but a
ragged covering of black foliage, lift themselves to the glowing sky and cast
intense shadows over the stunted yellow grass-growth below them. Each tree
separates itself from tlie crowd, so that it is a dispersed and scattered forest,
owning no friendly connection with trees of other sorts, but preserving a grim
sort of isolation. Nevertheless, with a backing of snow peaks and the light of
spring sunshine upon it, the strange beauty of that juniper forest became crystal-
lized in the memory, ranking as a Baluch speciality with the olive groves of the
more eastern uplands, and the solitary group of magnificent myrtles which stand
near Sinjas." — The. Indian Borderland, p. 18, by Sir T. H. Holdich.


feet, into the desert below.^ The 15th Hussars, on their way to Meerut,
lost many men from cholera, as the result of traveUing in carriages
recently used by pilgrims returning from Hurdwar, and the 32nd
Pioneers were detained at Multan, owing to the prevalence of the
same disease at Jhelam ; but once across the Indus, aU other corps
and regiments proceeded without let or hindrance, to their appointed


Wliilst General Biddulph's columns were makuig their way slowly
back to India, General Stewart was engaged in providing for the health
and comfort of the troops that, under any circumstances, would now
have to spend the summer in Kandahar. In consultation with his
Principal Medical Officer, his Quarter-Master-General, and his Engineer
Staff, he resolved to house his English regiments in the old canton-
ment buildings erected by the Army of Occupation, in 1839, and the
necessary repairs and improvements were entrusted to Lieutenant
C. F. Call, R.E. The first step was to put the whole place in a sanitary
condition by thoroughly cleansing and draming the ground; and when
this had been accomplished, the defects m the existmg buildings were
madegood,andanewbarrack>rectedforthe accommodation of A.B.
Battery, Royal Artillery. The old buildmgs, consisting of a series of
blocks forming a great, hollow square, had been constructed of sun-
dried bricks, with domed roofs and massive walls, and were very
lofty in proportion to their other dimensions. To avoid over-crowding,
platforms were now erected in the barrack squares, on which tents
were pitched for a number of the men. Within the cantonment, a
detached block was aUotted to the 25th Punjab Infantry, and, outside
it, three villages were made over to the 19th Bengal Lancers, the 1st
Punjab Cavalry, and the 3rd Gurkhas, the dispossessed inhabitants
receivmg compensation for the temporary loss of their homes. The
European sick were placed in a special square of considerable size.

1 At Zorodan, at the foot of the pass in which Fort Monro stands, 6,158 feet
above sea-level, the thermometer registered lOS'^ Fahrenheit in the shade.-H.B.H.


and the 5-11 Royal Artillery, two Companies of the 59th Foot and
the 15th Sikhs garrisoned the Citadel, where a large number of Depart-
mental Officers also resided, and General Stewart found comfortable
quarters for himself and his Staff in a country house, surrounded by a
walled garden, prettily laid out with fruit trees and beds of flowers.
His European guard occupied an enclosure on one side of this garden,
and his Native guard, some old buildings on the opposite side. Another
walled garden accommodated the Engineer officers, the Field Park
and the Company of Sappers and Miners. The city, which was in a
filthy condition, received its share of attention. Under the super-
intendence of Major M. Protheroe, assisted by the Subadar Major of
the 26th Punjab Infantry, himself a Pathan, drains were renovated,
streets opened out, and the whole place cleaned and disinfected ;
changes little to the taste of the inhabitants, but greatly to the
advantage of their health, which was further benefited by the estab-
lishment of a dispensary, under Dr. Brereton, whose knowledge of
Persian put him in touch with the people.

All these arrangements and improvements took time to effect, and
building operations and repairs were delayed by heavy rains, which,
on more than one occasion, destroyed the sun-burned bricks when
just ready for use ; in consequence, the hot season was well advanced
before the troops were properly housed ; but, though under canvas
they suffered severely from heat and flies, except for a few cases of
typhus,! the health of the Kandahar Field Force was, for a time,
satisfactory, a result to which the amusements provided contributed
their share. A racecourse was laid out, a polo groimd selected, and
both officers and men were permitted to go out shooting small game —
duck, black partridge and sand-grouse ; but always armed, and in
parties large enough for defence, since, even within a mile of the can-
tonment, the only security against attack was the ability to meet it.

Between the departure of Biddulph's Division and the end of the

1 Lieutenant Lendrum died of typhus on the 30th of March.


war, nothing of importance occurred in and around Kandahar, though
late in March there were rumours that a considerable Afghan force,
composed both of regular and irregular troops, was about to leave
Ghazni to re-occupy Khelat-i-Ghilzai, and it was persistently reported
that the Amir's younger brother, Ayub Khan, was busy at Herat
preparing for a resumption of hostilities.

There was, however, always a certain amount of trouble on the
line of communications, and on one occasion a large body of Afghans
attacked a detachment of thirty sabres, 1st Punjab Cavalry and a
hundred and seventy-six men of Jacob's rifles, commanded by Major
F. J. Humphrey and accompanied by the Political Officer, Dr. 0. T.
Duke, who were collecting supplies and camels in an outlying district
of the Pishin Valley.^ A spirited action ensued, resulting in the defeat
and dispersion of the tribesmen, who left sixty dead, including two
leaders, and twenty-five wounded on the field, whilst, on the British
side, only four men of the 1st Punjab Cavalry were wounded.

The vicious system of breaking up a small force into insignificant
detachments denounced by Kaye " as one of the great errors which
marked our military occupation of Afghanistan," in the first war,
has no more striking exemplification, in the second, than the march
of General Biddulph's Division from Khushdil Khan-ka-Killa to Dera
Ghazi Khan. From the outset, one of its three columns was so com-
pletely separated from the other two, that it could not, under any
circumstances, however critical, have fallen back upon them for
support, or have entrenched itself to await their coming, with any
reasonable hope of their arriving in time to rescue it from its difficulties.
What those difficulties might prove to be, there was no means of know-
ing, but it was safe to assume that the inhabitants of this terra incog-
nita would not look favourably on its invaders, that the route to be

1 March 29th, 1879.


followed would present endless points at which an enemy, lying in
wait, might attack with advantage, and that it would be impossible
to protect the column's long baggage train by flanking the heights
along the road in the daytime, or to protect its camp at night, by
adequately picketing the hills surrounding it. This error, the re-
sponsibility for which must be borne by General Stewart, was without
excuse, there being no valid reason, military or political, for starting
off the first column seven days before the other two ; but the
separation of the second and third columns at Chignan was forced
upon Biddulph by the same scarcity of food and fodder which had
obliged him to divide his troops on the Helmand ; and he and his
subordinate officers showed their appreciation of the risks they were
running by the unusual precaution, enforced throughout the whole
period during which the two columns were moving independently
of each other, of making all the officers and half the men, in each, sleep
fully accoutred and with their arms beside them. An expedition,
however, in which such risks had| to be accepted,ought not to have been
undertaken so long as a safer line of retirement — that by the Bolan —
was open to the troops, and the only military object in view was the
transference of a certain proportion of Stewart's army from Afghanis-
tan to India. That no harm befell any one of the three columns is
beside the question. A military movement is not justified by its
success ; and the point of view of the military critic should always
be that of the responsible Commander before, not that of the man in
the street after, the event. Judged by his inability to constitute and
equip a strong and self-sufficing force. General Stewart's action in
sanctioning the return of Biddulph's Division through the Kakar
country, must be condemned as an unjustifiable yielding to the counsels
of Major Sandeman ; for the Government of India would hardly
have maintained the order to adopt that route, had the General on the
spot opposed the plan, even if he had based his opposition on purely
military grounds, and had abstained from pointing out the contra-


diction between the aims of the proposed movement and the Procla-
mation of the 20th of November, 1878 ^ — a point which Generals like
the Duke of Wellington and Sir John Malcolm, men who believed that
a reputation for good faith was England's most valuable political
asset, would not have failed to raise. ~ ^

* ' With the sirdars and people of Afghanistan this Government has still
no quarrel, and desires none. They are absolved from all responsibility for the
recent acts of the Amir, and as they have given no offence, so the British Govern-
ment, wishing to respect their independence, will not wilHngly injure or interfere
with them." — See Lord LyttorCs Proclamation, vol. i. Appendix ii.

^ " I would sacrifice GwaUor, or every portion of India, ten times over, in
order to preserve our credit for scrupulous good faith. . . . What brought me
through many difficulties in the (Mahratta) war, and the negotiations for peace ?
— The British good faith, and nothing else." — The Duke of Wellington' a Despatches
Despatch, dated March 17th, 1804.

^ " An invariable rule ought to be observed by all Europeans who have
connection with the Natives of India . . . from the greatest occasion to the most
trifling, to keep sacred their word. This is not only their best but their wisest
policy." — Kaye's L^7e of General Sir John Malcolm, G.C.B., vol. i. p. 23.




Though Yakub Khan had received Cavagnari's original overtures with
coldness, he could not be indifferent to the anarchy into which his
country was falling in consequence of the British invasion ; and, when
it became clear that he would soon be called upon to rule in his own
name and in his own right, he determined to ascertain the temper
and intentions of the British Government by offering himself as a
mediator between it and his father.^ The letter containing the pro-
posal was written on the 20th of February, 1879 ; on the 21st, Shere
Ali died ; on the 26th, his death was known in Kabul ; and on the
28th, the Political Officer at Jellalabad received the tidings direct
from the new Amir, and telegraphed to the Viceroy, suggesting a
friendly letter of condolence, as a first step towards the opening of
negotiations with the dead man's heir.^ Lord Lytton fell in with
the suggestion, and followed up the telegram sanctioning it, by a
second, in which he laid down the four conditions on which he was
prepared to treat for peace,^ viz. : —

1. The renunciation by the Amir of all authority over the Khyber
and Michni Passes, and over the independent tribes inhabiting the
territory directly connected with them.

1 Afghanistan, No. 7 (1879), p. 11.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid. pp. 12, 13.


2. The continuance of British protection and control in the district
of Kuram, from Thai to the crest of the Shutargardan, and in the
districts of Pishin and Sibi.

3. The conducting of the foreign relations of the Kabul Govern-
ment in accordance with the advice and wishes of the British Govern-

4. The permission to European British officers, accredited to the
Kabul Government, to reside, with suitable personal guards, at such
places in Afghanistan as might be determined on later.

There was nothing new in the third of these conditions. Shere Ali
had agreed to a similar restriction on his liberty of action in the foreign
relations of his kingdom, and Yakub Khan had no hesitation in accept-
ing it as " a good and proper proposal." It may seem strange that

Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bathurst) HannaThe second Afghan war, 1878-79-80 : its causes, its conduct and its consequences (Volume 2) → online text (page 28 of 32)