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BART., G.C.B., G.C.SX,





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LONDON, January 1873.


LITTLE preface, and no apology, is needed in writing
the life of a man who has rendered such surpassing
services to his country as has Sir Greorge Pollock ;
but a few words are necessary to account for this
work appearing so closely upon his lamented decease.

This memoir was commenced in 1869, and com-
pleted before June in the following year, when the
venerable subject of it received the baton of Field-
Marshal, an honour which was quickly succeeded by
his appointment to the post of Constable of the
Tower, and a baronetcy ; culminating on his death
with a public funeral in Westminster Abbey.

As the chapters of this work treating of Sir George
Pollock's career were completed, they were forwarded
to him for perusal, and revision. The subject-matter
was drawn from works treating of the different epi-


viii Preface.

sodes in military Indian history in which Sir George
Pollock took part ; also from his journals and corre-
spondence, which he kindly placed at our disposal.

As regards the military events of the victorious
campaign of 1842, we are indebted, among other
sources, to the " Letters " of Captain Smith, Brigade
Major to General McCaskill, and to the Parlia-
mentary Blue Book on the " Military Operations in
Afghanistan," on which we also drew largely for his
correspondence with the Governor- General and Com-
mander-in-Chief during that eventful year. But
more than to any other source as marshalling in
due order, and treating according to their relative
importance, and with a discriminating judgment, the
military and political incidents occurring between the
date of the arrival of Sir George Pollock at Pesha-
wur, and his return to India our grateful acknow-
ledgments are due to the admirable "History of
the War," by Sir John Kaye, a work that will ever
remain a monument of the literary power and con-
scientious accuracy of that historian.

That our facts are beyond dispute, so far as the
events of Sir George Pollock's career are concerned,
is certified by the following letters which he addressed
to us :

Preface. ix

" Clapliam Common,

" 6th December, 1870.
" MY DEAR Low,

" I can with great truth bear testimony that you have
faithfully related the truth, and nothing but the truth. I will
endeavour some day to express this more fully, at present I have
hardly time to write anything. This, however, for the present,
will, I hope, show that I subscribe to all you have written as
being the truth, and nothing but the truth.

" I remain,

" Yours very sincerely,


On the following day lie wrote again more fully:

" MY DEAR Low,

" You have concluded a laborious undertaking, the
subject being a memoir of my services from the year 1803. I
have, as you may suppose, carefully perused the whole, and as
far as I am able to judge (and I have a very vivid recollection of
all that passed) you have given a faithful detail of what took
place. I have read each chapter, and I feel that I may bear
testimony to the truth of all that you have asserted.

" Your memoir has shown clearly that General Nott did not
consider the release of the prisoners 'an object of any impor-
tance even when Shakespear had secured them. General Nott
expressed his belief that they and Shakespear had been carried
off by the enemy.

" There cannot be a doubt that General Nott was from the
beginning most anxious to convince the Afghans of the inferi-
ority of their troops when opposed to British soldiers, and he
did not shrink from the opportunity when he met the enemy
greatly superior in strength to himself, and beat them.
" I remain,

" Yours very sincerely,



Certainly one of the greatest soldiers of the Vic-
torian era, was the veteran Field-Marshal who passed
peacefully away on the morning of the 6th October,
1872, at the ripe age of 86.

And yet, np to within two years of his decease, the
hero of the Khyber and Tezeen remained plain Sir
George Pollock, G.C.B., like a score of Generals who
have acquitted themselves more or less satisfactorily.
If illustrious deeds and signal public services were
the only passports to the valltalla of hereditary
honours, then the British Government, if not the
British public for they say, you cannot frame an
indictment against a nation were, for thirty years,
guilty of something like ingratitude, that " basest of


Though not possessed of that highest and rarest
of qualities, known as military genius, such as we
recognize it in those lofty spirits who create or over-
throw kingdoms, it was his happier lot, at a critical
juncture, to save a State having a population of 120
millions, 'with a superficial area equal to half Europe.
If this be not a superlative 'claim to a peerage, then
one is constrained to admit the cogency of the argu-
ments advanced by some of the most thoughtful
among us, who decry all such distinctions as invidious,

Preface. xi

and propose that we should follow the practice of the
great American Eepublic, which confers neither titles,
nor crosses and stars, nor batons, nor any such
baubles upon their distinguished warriors and states-

The character of Sir George Pollock was as irre-
proachable as his services were eminent. Chaucer's
description of a Christian knight might be not
inaptly applied to him :

" Brave as a lion, gentle as a maid,
He never evil word to any said ;
Never for self, but always strong for right,
He was a very perfect gentle knight."




Introduction. Parentage and early years of George Pollock.
His departure for Calcutta. The military situation in India
in 1803. The Battle and Siege of Deig, 1804 ... 1

The Siege of Bhurtpore, 1805 ........ 42

Nepaul, 1814-16. Burinah, 1824-26 92

Peshawur : 5th February to 4th April, 1842 . . . .202

The Khjber Pass: 5tb to 16th April, 1842 257


Jellalabad. Lord Ellenborough and his Afghan policy. Nego-
tiations for the release of the prisoners.- The halt at Jellala-
bad, 16th of April to 20th of August, 1842 . . 280





Mamoo Khail. Jugdulluck. Tezeen. Occupation of Cabul.

20th of August to 15th of September, 1842 .... 336


The release of the prisoners. General Nott. The halt at Cabul 388


Cabul to Ferozepore : 12th October to 19th December, 1842. The
fetes at Ferozepore. " Palmam qui meruit ferat." The distri-
bution of honours. The vote of thanks by the Houses of
Parliament: Refutation of alleged excesses in Afghanistan . 418


In Political and Civil employ in India. The Pollock Medal.
Return to England. Sir George Pollock as Director of the
East India Company ... .... 487


Tardy honours. Appointment as Field-Marshal. Installation as
Constable of the Tower. Death and Funeral. Character of
Sir George Pollock. Conclusion 524

[Sir John Kaye has most kindly responded to my request for
any reminiscences of Sir George Pollock, during the many
years of their close friendship; and I have much pleasure in
laying before my readers his letter, which will be perused not
only with interest, but with increased feelings of esteem for the
deceased Field-Marshal. C. R. L.]


You ask me to send you my recollections of the
late Field- Marshal, Sir George Pollock, in aid of your
forthcoming Memoir. In complying with your re-
quest, I am afraid that I shall disappoint your expecta-
tions, for I did s not personally know him until after
the close of his military career. Having had the
honour to serve, for some years, in the distinguished
regiment to which he belonged, I was necessarily
familiar with his name and reputation ; but it was not
until he came down to Calcutta, to take his seat in
the Supreme Council, that I made the acquaintance
of the General an acquaintance which soon ripened
into a friendship, which is now one of the most
cherished memories of my life.

The impression which he first made upon me was
this : I thought that I had never known a man of such
extreme modesty and simplicity of character ; and my
more matured experiences of nearly thirty years have
not only confirmed, but strengthened, this impression.
Pollock and Nott were then the heroes of the day.
Every prisoner who had suffered, nay, indeed, almost

xvi Sir John Kayes Letter,

every officer who had served, in Afghanistan, was
for a time a "lion;" and although Sir George did
not arrive at Calcutta (for he had spent some time
at the Court of Lucknow) when the popular en-
thusiasm was at its height, there was a general dis-
position on the part of the inhabitants of the
Indian capital to mark their sense of his services
by some public demonstrations of applause. But
from all popular displays he shrunk with an
amount of sensitiveness such as I have never seen
equalled though I have known other great soldiers
to whom an after-dinner speech was more formidable
than an enemy in the field. As, when the General
reached Calcutta, whither his wife and unmarried
daughter had preceded him, I was editing one of the
principal daily papers of the Presidency, he begged
me not to encourage any intended manifestations in
his honour ; and he not unjustly urged the state of
his health as a reason for declining all public hospi-
talities. Indeed he was never in full bodily vigour
during the whole time of his latter residence in

When Sir George Pollock took his seat in Council,
Sir Henry Hardinge was Governor-General. He found
the old artilleryman a very zealous, a very con-
scientious, and a very useful coadjutor. When he
returned to England as Lord Hardinge, and became,
first, Master- General of the Ordnance, and then Com-
mander-in-Chief, he spoke to me more than once, in
terms of the most cordial respect and affection, of the

Sir John Kayes Letter. xvii

character of Sir George Pollock, and of the assistance
rendered by the councillor to him with respect to all
military details, and especially to everything connected
with the Artillery service. Lord Hardinge had no class
prejudices. He often said that the Bengal Artillery
was the finest in the world; and, as Master- General of
the Ordnance, he was always gratified by an opportunity
of giving the son of a deserving Bengal Artillery
officer a cadetship at the Woolwich Academy.

But these pleasant relations between the Governor-
General and Sir George Pollock were not destined to
be of long duration. The state of affairs on the North-
western frontier demanded the presence of the Go-
vernor-General in the Upper Country, and Pollock was
slowly succumbing to the ravages of a distressing dis-
ease. It was at one time, indeed, considered that
death was imminent; but a naturally strong constitu-
tion, and the temperate habits of his life enabled him
to bear up against these assaults sufficiently to give
him strength to embark for England. He arrived in a
very feeble state of health; but he soon rallied under
judicious treatment, and after a brief residence in Lon-
don, he took up his abode for a while at West Dray-
ton, in an old-fashioned house, where it was said
that Oliver Cromwell had dwelt. He subsided very
gracefully into a life of perfect repose. He was enjoy-
ing the pleasures of convalescence, and he did not ap-
pear to desire to return to any participation in public
affairs. When I suggested to him that he might do
good service as a member of the Court of Directors of

xviii Sir John Kayes Letter.

the East India Company, he replied that he never
could undergo the fatigue and worry of the canvass.

A heavy affliction soon fell upon him. His much-
loved wife, the mother of his children, died. I had
known her before I had known Sir George, and I re-
member with gratitude her kindness to me. She left
five children to mourn her loss : Mrs. Harcourt, widow
of Mr. J. Harcourt, of the Indian Medical Service,
* who was killed on the retreat from Caubul ; Frederick
Pollock, the present Baronet, who had been a cadet
with me at Addiscombe, who had achieved the great
academical feat of obtaining " the Engineers in three
terms," and who, but for a failure of health, must have
gained distinction in the service ; George David, then
a rising young surgeon, who had been selected by Sir
Benjamin Brodie and Sir Ranald Martin to represent
them in Canada, with a view to arrest the ravages of
the disease (or at least to mitigate its afflictions)
which was eating into the life of Lord Metcalfe;
Archibald Swiney, who was entering upon a career of
good service as an Indian civilian ; and Louisa, whom
I first knew, full of hope and heart, before the blood-
stained battle-fields of the Sutlej blighted the one
and broke the other. On these fields she lost her
betrothed husband and one of her brothers, and she
never recovered from the shock. Lieutenant Robert
Pollock, of the Bengal Horse Artillery, who was
killed at Moodkhee, had been his father's A.D.C. in
Afghanistan. He was the first member of the family
whom I ever knew. He was a charming, open-hearted,

Sir John Kayes Letter. xix

frank young fellow, and there was not a member of
the old regiment who, knowing him, did not lament
his death.

As a widower, Sir George Pollock resided, for some
time, in a large house surrounded by pleasant garden
grounds, at Battersea, where he was always glad to
receive his intimate friends. He had entirely re-
covered his health, but he had not bethought himself
of again entering public life. His daughter, Louisa,
kept house for him ; and it was the model of a Chris-
tian household. I spent many pleasant days under
that hospitable roof ; and I never left the house with-
out increased respect and affection for the master of it.

I well remember the day, in 1852, when he com-
municated to me his intention of entering a second
time into the " holy state of matrimony." I was then
going to the house of another very dear friend a distin-
guished old Indian public (civil) servant (Mr. Thomas
Campbell Eobertson), who had held rank next to the
Governor-General, and who had befriended rne when
little more than a boy. Sir George said that he would
go with me in his carriage and deliver me at the door.
My new host was an old friend of the General, one who
had assisted him greatly on the Afghan campaign ;
but Sir George said that he had engagements, and
could not stop to see him. As we rode on it was no
great distance from Battersea to Belgravia he told
me that he was about to be married to Miss Wollaston, a
lady residing on Clapham Common. I had too many
associations with that place not to be intimately ac-

xx Sir John Kayes Letter.

quainted with her name and character, and I heartily
congratulated him. It was a curious coincidence that,
less than half an hour afterwards, the friend at whose
house he had left me, communicated a similar inten-
tion to me in almost the same words.

Both unions were most happy in their results. I
was present at Sir George Pollock's second marriage,
and for the twenty years that followed it, I was a
constant visitor at his home, which had then been
removed to Clapham. He was perfectly happy and
contented. I do not think that when he married he
had any .ambition again to enter into public life. But
in 1853, when it was determined by the (Whig) Go-
vernment of the day, that there should be a revision of
the Company's Charter and a reconstitution of the
Court of Directors, Sir Charles Wood, then President
of the Board of Control, whilst propounding in the
House of Commons the revised scheme of Indian
Government, including the appointment of certain
Government Directors of the East India Company,
spoke in words not to be misunderstood of Sir George
Pollock, as a man eminently qualified for such a
post. It necessarily happened, therefore, that when
the project became law, Pollock was the first on the
list of the nominated Directors. I think that he was
greatly pleased. It was an honour to have been so
selected by the Crown. The work to be done in-
terested him greatly ; and, moreover (for the military
patronage of India still -remained with the Court of
Directors), the situation afforded him opportunities of

Sir John Kayes Letter. xxi

conferring benefits on his old comrades and friends ;
and this was very gratifying to his kindly heart.

He was very regular in his attendance at the India
House, and he read, with characteristic conscientious-
ness, all the papers placed before him, as a member
of the Military and Political Committee. His great
military experience was of the highest value to the
Home Government, and as he had considerable
knowledge of the native character, and some fami-
liarity with native Courts, he was competent to
take sound views of the political questions that were
brought before him. He was not given either to
much writing or to much speaking. Except on a few
important occasions, when he knew that he had in-
formation to impart not possessed by any of his col-
leagues, he expressed his opinions in a few terse sen-
tences, always much to the point. Although he was
younger at that time than some, who are now doing
good service as members of the Council of India, he
was afflicted with deafness, in a much more aggravated
form in one ear than in the other, and this to some
extent prevented him from following, as distinctly
as he could have wished, all that was said in the de-
bates of the Court of Directors. But his colleagues,
who, one and all, had the highest respect for the fine
old soldier, endeavoured to remedy this inconvenience
by placing him at the top of the Council table, with
his sounder ear next to the Chairman, who propounded
the business in hand, and was generally the principal
speaker. But as members commonly entered the

xxii Sir John Kayes Letter.

Court room, either with opinions previously formed,
or with a foregone intention to " support the Chairs,"
it is probable that an inability to follow the course of
debate did not much detract from the efficiency of a

But it happened that, after Sir George Pollock had
sat for two years as a Government Director of the
East India Company, during which he had done more
good work than the majority of his colleagues, the in-
firmities of age were cited against him, by the Presi-
dent of the Board of Control, as a reason for remov-
ing him from his post. It was stated afterwards that
he was not removed ; but this was a " distinction
without a difference." The Act of Parliament de-
clared that a vacancy was to be created in the list of
Crown Directors, on the expiration of every recurring
period of two years, but that the Crown Director at
the head of the list thus subjected to retirement was
to be qualified for reappointment. Sir George Pol-
lock being the first on the list of the Crown Directors
a position which was intended to confer the highest
honour upon him was necessarily, therefore, the first
to vacate his seat.

Virtually the Act contemplated the retirement of
each Crown Director after a service of six years
which was the longest period for which any one was
appointed and the principle, which was contended
for, of non-appointment for life, would have been
sufficiently confirmed by a reappointment at the end of
that term. It was a surprise, therefore, to every one

Sir John Kayes Letter. xxiii

to learn, that the President of the Board of Control
had intimated to Sir George Pollock his intention not
to reappoint him to the Board of Directors. Sir
Henry Eawlinson was to be nominated in his place.
I remember Sir George saying to me "Well, they
could not have appointed a better man. He will
make a better Director than I could ever be ; but I
was getting to understand my work, and might have
been useful." I had, a very short time before, joined
the establishment of the East India Company, and, he
honoured me by saying that nothing would grieve
him more in leaving the India House than the ces-
sation of daily intercourse with me.

Those were kindly regrets. But that which excited
Sir George Pollock's indignation was the manner in
which the decision of the Crown Minister was con-
veyed to him. Honourable and truthful to the core,
he abhorred subterfuges and disguises; and he was
incensed in the extreme when he was told that an
opportunity was afforded to him for acting out a sham
by pretending to resign. " The Government ap-
pointed me," he said, " declaredly for the public good ;
and if they now think it for the public good that an-
other man should be appointed in my place, they have
every right to do so. But why should they insult
me by suggesting that I may tell a lie ? " If it were,
as some said, "intended kindly," it was committed
under a grievous misconception of the old soldier's
character, among the most prominent features of which
were his extreme openness and frankness the trans-

c 2

xxiv Sir John Kayes Letter.

parency, I may say, of his nature. But there were
not wanting those who said that, in suggesting such
a course, the Minister thought rather of screening
himself from the condemnation with which the
ahrupt removal from his post of an officer so univer-
sally respected as Sir George Pollock was sure to be
received. He did not say this though his friends
did but he greatly resented the indignity that had
been put upon him, and replied, as you know, to the
Indian Minister's letter in becoming terms.

The remainder of his life was very tranquil. But
he was never inactive. He had always work of some
kind or other to do; if not for himself, for others. As
his years increased, the strong human interest which
he took in the worldly welfare of others seemed to
increase with them. His works of charity and love
were innumerable. He spared no amount of trouble
to right a wrong, or to succour adversity, when his
sympathies were moved and his convictions satisfied.
Nobody knew better than myself how much good he
did, and how much he tried to do ; for, with an exag-
gerated estimate of my powers to aid him, he fre-
quently came to me with some case of injustice done,
or suffering endured, the evils of which he thought
my official position might help him to remedy. Of
the claims of the widows and children of his old com-
rades, he was ever an unfailing advocate. Although,
on some points, in extreme old age, his memory was
defective, it seemed to me to be perfectly clear and
retentive, with respect to personal affairs of this kind

Sir John Kayes Letter. xxv

in which he was interested, and his natural sagacity
never deserted him. I do not know a case in which
he was imposed upon by an unworthy claimant.

He was very hospitable almost to the last day of his
life, and he was often to be seen at the table of some
old familiar friend. The infirmity of deafness pre-
vented him from taking much part in general conver-
sation, but when the subject discussed was explained
to him, his face would brighten up, and he would
have something to say about it perhaps some
anecdote to narrate. It always pleased him to see
happy faces around him. Many a time has he turned
to me at the dinner-table and said, with a pleasant,
half-humorous smile : " I don't understand a word you
are all saying, but you seem very happy." He was very
temperate almost abstemious in his way of living,
and was with difficulty to be persuaded to take even
the very moderate quantity of wine that was neces-
sary for the support of his strength. I remember tell-
ing him that Lord Combermere had said that the
Duke of Wellington would have lived longer if he
had taken more wine. He laughed and answered,
" I dare say." But I don't think the story was lost
upon him.

After he had attained his eightieth year, two events
occurred which deeply pained him. His brother
Frederick, to whom he had all his life been cordially

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 1 of 40)