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the direction given to him of holding them, to the utmost prac-
ticable degree, assembled together, and in the most favourable
positions ; not, of course, refraining from such detached or
advanced operations near or beyond Jellalabad as the state
of the country may render obviously expedient and advan-

But as time advanced, the withdrawal policy of Lord
Auckland began to make itself apparent ; and he now
intimated to the Commander-in- Chief, in a letter
dated the 10th of February, his determination that
General Pollock should confine himself to the safe
withdrawal of the Jellalabad garrison. He says :

" The intelligence received since the transmission to you of
our despatch of the 31st ultimo, has convinced us that, excepting
under some very unforeseen change, no sufficient advantage
would be derived from an attempt to retain possession of
Jellalabad for any prolonged period during the present season.

222 Life of Sir George Pollock.

The fate of the gallant garrison at that place will probably have
been determined before the intimation of our opinion to the
above effect can reach Major-General Pollock. But we would
request your Excellency without delay to inform the Major-
General that the main inducement for the maintenance of a post
at Jellalabad, namely, that of being a point of support to any of
our troops escaping from Cabul, having now, it must be feared,
unhappily passed away, it is the object of the Government that
he should, unless any unforeseen contingency should give a
decidedly favourable turn to affairs, confine himself to measures
for withdrawing the Jellalabad garrison in safety to Peshawur ;
and then, for the present, holding together all the troops under
his orders in a secure position, removed from collision with the
Sikh forces or subjects."

At this time General Pollock's artillery was limited
to three guns, and the Governor-General, in this
letter, stated that the remaining half of the battery,
in addition to Captain Alexander's 3rd troop, 2nd
brigade, horse artillery, should be attached to the
brigade on the march from Ferozepore to join him.

In the Governor-General's letter of the 28th
January, to Sir Jasper Nicolls, General Pollock's
powers are defined as commanding the force " at and
beyond Peshawur," in the room of General Elphin-
stone, who had hitherto commanded in chief the
troops west of the Indus ; also, while the local com-
mand at Jellalabad was still vested in General Sale,
" it was subject to the direction of General Pollock."

George Pollock, having reached Peshawur on the
5th of February, now once more appears on the
scene of military strife ; and for his deeds during
the next eight months, deeds at which " all the world

Life of Sir George Pollock. 223

wondered," he has earned an imperishable renown
and a niche in the temple of fame. During these
months his name was in every one's month, not only
throughout the East, but in every portion of the
civilized world, as they watched the denouement of
the eventful drama throughout its several acts. But
as it was in India that George Pollock gained his
laurels, none but those who were in that country during
those stirring times can imagine the state of expec-
tation and suspense to which the Eastern world was
wound up, while all eyes were bent upon the figure of
the General commanding at Peshawur, and millions
of tongues discussed the results of the momentous
events on the eve of accomplishment.

The heart of every European, from the Sut-
lej to Cape Comorin, beat faster as they weighed
the terrible odds against his success, with the
materials placed at his disposal; while the blood
that pulsated under the black skin of every
lounger in countless bazaars from the snowy range
of the Himalayas, and the inaccessible peaks of
the "Eoof of the World" to the Indian Ocean
throbbed in unison with wild aspirations, having
for their object the throwing off for ever the yoke
of the detested Feringhee. Millions thus speculated,
and prayed, and waited for the hour that was at
length, they hoped, about to strike, while they nerved
their hearts to avenge the humiliation they, as con-
quered races, had so long suffered. Nor were wanting
astute observers European and Native who pre-

224 Life of Sir George Pollock.

dieted the certainty of failure ; and amongst these was
General Avitabile, one of the most experienced of the
Generals of Shere Singh, the ruler of the Punjaub.

Though doomed to inaction for a period of two
months, while waiting for what he considered rein-
forcements essential to success, General Pollock
evinced, as much as at any period of his life, that
quiet decision of character which would not yield to
clamour, when his better judgment convinced him
of the folly of advancing into the Khyber until he
considered he was justified by the possession of men
and material sufficient, in concert with careful gene-
ralship, to prevent the possibility of a failure. Never-
theless, no one more than he regretted the necessity
he was under of biding his time.

While General Pollock was making his way
through the Punjaub, the most alarming rumours
concerning the demoralized condition, not only of the
Sepoys, but of some of the officers, of Wild's brigade,
continued to reach him, and the Commander-in-Chief,
to whose ears these rumours had come, addressed to
him a private letter on the 29th January, in which
he says :

" In some letters, Captain Lawrence has expressed himself in
a very decided manner touching the disheartened and unguarded
language held by officers belonging to the corps which were
beaten back in the Khyber Pass on the 19th instant. God
forbid that they should feel any panic or alarm, but if you ob-
serve it, I rely on your addressing yourself to them in a very
forcible manner, and shaming them out of such very unbe-
coming, unmilitary, and dangerous conduct. Their duty is

Life of Sir George Pollock. 225

obedience prompt and energetic obedience such as executes
without expression of doubt. If more has been said than the
case seemed to require, take no notice of this further than to
warn Captain Lawrence, if you think proper to do so."

But more had not been said than the facts war-
ranted, and this General Pollock soon found out.
The day after his arrival, he learned from Brigadier
Wild that in his brigade of four regiments there
were 1,000 men sick. He energetically set to work
to devise means, if possible, to check this epidemic,
which he shrewdly guessed would be found, on a careful
diagnosis, to be more moral than physical. He pro-
ceeded the next morning to camp, visited all the
hospitals, with the double object of endeavouring to
ascertain from the surgeons the probable cause, and
of inspiriting the men by conversing with them, and
endeavouring to instil confidence by animating words
and assuring promises. The General, in his official re-
port of the 12th of February, attributed the sickness
to the inclemency of the weather, and the exposure
to which the Sepoys had been subjected during
Wild's disastrous advance, and ordered them to be
supplied with worsted gloves and stockings. He
added, " J shall visit their hospitals frequently, and
by adding in any way to their comforts, show that
I feel an interest in them."

But until this kindly consideration came to be
appreciated by these faint-hearted Asiatics, the sick-
roll continued to increase, until before the 12th of
February, the date of the General's despatch, it


226 Life of Sir George Pollock.

amounted to more than 1,800 men in hospital. He
proceeds to say,

" The Sikh troops tinder Rajah Gholaub Singh have not yet
arrived, and I fear, from the very unnecessary delay which has
been made since I first met them at Attock, that I can expect
little, indeed, no aid from them ; it is unfortunate that it should
be so, but it is better that I should expect no aid than depend
upon receiving it, and afterwards be disappointed. The number
of troops which I have now fit for duty, exclusive of cavalry,
is scarcely equal to the strength of Brigadier Wild's brigade
before I arrived. I could not, therefore, hope to advance and
keep open my communications with Peshawur. This is quite
evident from the circumstance of the communication being
entirely cut off between Ali Musjid and Peshawur, while two
regiments held possession of the former place, and the other
two regiments were at the mouth of the pass. If, as I am led
to expect from his Excellency the Commander-in- Chief, another
brigade, including the 31st Queen's and the 3rd Dragoons, is
now on its march to join me, I shall have no difficulty in ad-
vancing, for I fully expect that the sickness which now exists
will cease as the weather becomes milder."

The General had other difficulties to contend with,
and was positively unable to advance for want of
ammunition, so ill-supplied was his small force with
the first requirements for undertaking offensive
operations. He writes, on the 16th of February,

" The unfortunate affair at Ali Musjid, where four regiments
were employed, shows the impracticability of keeping open the
pass with a small force, even for the short distance of eight or
ten miles. I require 271,542 rounds to complete the force here
to 200 rounds per man. As I advance, the communication
with my rear would be entirely closed. I should also be ad-
vancing with a very limited quantity of ammunition for small
arms, which Sir Robert Sale would be in want of. When the

Life of Sir George Pollock. 227

whole force is assembled, and I reach Jellalabad, I cannot doubt
that, should an opportunity offer, our military superiority would
enable me to meet any number of the enemy."

Five days later he was able to report that his " sick
are daily decreasing ; to-day the number is 1,289, and
this is a very important point."

The worst feature in the condition of his force at
this time, was undoubtedly the bad feeling that
prevailed among the Sepoys, and even some of the
officers of the Native Infantry regiments.

So serious was this disaffection, that General
Pollock felt himself constrained to address the Ad-
jutant-General officially in the following terms :

" It is to me most painful that, notwithstanding
all my hopes about the state of the men, I am sorry
to say there have been several desertions of late, and
there is a feeling among many of the Hindoos of
four regiments of Brigadier Wild's force which is
most lamentable.

" A number of the unfortunate creatures from
Cabool have come down here, and have exaggerated
their sufferings, stating, among other things, that
although they were Brahmins, food was thrust down
their throats by Mussulmans, and they were spit
upon. Some men have also shown mutilated hands
and feet, having been frost-bitten ; these things are
said to have operated to cause a backwardness.

"I sent for Lieutenant-Colonel Tulloch, who
admitted that there was a bad feeling which he had
just heard of. He seemed to say that the men would

15 *

228 Life of Sir George Pollock.

not hesitate to go to Jellalabad to the relief of Sir
E. Sale, but that they had a dread of proceeding to
Cabool. I went to each of the other commanding
officers, viz., of the 30th, 53rd, and 64th, and
instructed them to endeavour to find out what the
real state of the case was. Each of these latter
officers seemed to consider his own regiment free from
any taint, but I had reason to think otherwise, and I
further believe that the causes I have mentioned were
brought forward by the men to screen them from a
suspicion of fear, which, in my opinion, was the real

" The affairs which have already taken place in this
quarter, and in which these corps are concerned, were
so disastrous, that they have, in my opinion, pro-
duced the feeling which now unhappily exists. In
consequence of what I have stated, his Excellency
and government will suppose that I am doubly
anxious to open the Khyber Pass, which those
regiments evidently dread.

" The vicinity of the Sikh troops is perplexing, for
they would not only delight in the feeling I have
mentioned, but have, I am told, endeavoured to
encourage it ; I have, therefore, been obliged to pre-
vent them coming into our camp.

" I feel, at such a crisis, the want of more European
troops, for their presence would give confidence to
the native soldiers.

" Captain Napleton and other officers of the 60th,
have been doing their utmost to bring their men to a

Life of Sir George Pollock. 229

proper feeling, and expect a successful result; the
53rd are equally implicated, but I have just heard,
from both Lieutenant-Colonel Tulloch and Major
Hoggan, that considerable reaction has taken place,
and they hope to report all right before to-morrow

"I cannot help remarking here, that this is the
second instance of misconduct on the part of the
60th since they have arrived here, from which I feel
inclined to believe their internal economy is not such
as it should be. I inspected them a few days ago, in
marching order, and have never seen a finer-looking
regiment. At Cawnpore, I recollect them in excel-
lent order.

"Were I differently situated, I might attempt
coercive measures, but surrounded as I am by the
Sikhs, and within hearing of the Pass, I think such
a measure should, on all accounts, be avoided ; it might
risk the safety of the force, which I consider of
the utmost importance. The feeling to which I have
alluded, was reported to me the day before yesterday
by Lieutenant Verner, who very properly considered
it right that I should immediately be informed, and
I should have reported the circumstance yesterday
but that I had strong hopes, from the measures I
took, that I should be able to suppress it, and was
unwilling to give unnecessary alarm, although my
anxiety as to the result has been greater than I can

" I shall address you daily on this subject by express,

230 Life of Sir George Pollock.

until I feel confident that all are willing to go on ;
they all profess their willingness to die in action in
the plains, but they dread Cabool when approached
through these passes."

In referring to some letters that appeared in the
Delhi Gazette of the 2nd and 5th of August, 1843, in
which the writer, under the initial letters Gr. N.,
sought to detract from General Pollock's great merit
in subduing the mutinous feeling among officers and
men, Captain Ferris, a gallant officer, whose corps of
Jezailchees did right good service during the sub-
sequent advance, wrote to General Pollock :

" As far as I am concerned, I should have no hesitation in
saying before the whole world that at the time of your arrival
at Peshawur, or shortly after, the feeling which existed in the
53rd Regiment Native Infantry, and the 60th, amounted almost
to a state of mutiny. I perfectly remember at a mess-table
hearing opinions expressed publicly, th it it were far better to
sacrifice General Sale's brigade than to risk the lives of 12,000
men ; for that it was impossible to force the pass without a loss
of more than half your force.

" I immediately offered to bet a lottery ticket with every man
at table that we should force the Khyber with a loss of 200
killed and wounded, and was answered, 'The thing is im-
possible ; in the state the Sepoys now are in, we must lose half our
force.' On another occasion, at a public dinner given by the 64th
Regiment Native Infantry to the 53rd, the day after the two corps

returned from Ali Musjid, before your arrival, I heard Captain ,

of the 53rd Native Infantry, declare that, * in the event of an ad-
vance being again ordered, he would use his utmost endeavours
to prevent a Sepoy of his company from again entering the

pass.' I was sitting opposite to Captain , and immediately

replied, ' As a British officer, you ought to be ashamed to ex-
press such an opinion.' Colonel and Major were

Life of Sir George Pollock. 231

both at table, but I cannot say if they heard this speech. The
feeling that existed in the 53rd and 60th can be no secret to
the whole of your force, for it was publicly talked of all over
the camp, and it is perfectly astonishing to me how any man
could have had the barefaced impudence to sit down and pen
such libels. You have my permission to make any use you
please of what I have stated, and I am prepared to prove all
of what I have written, whenever called on to do so.."

Another officer, Major Grahan, of the 26th Native
Infantry, in a letter dated "Landour, 26th August,
1843," expresses, him self as equally indignant at the
statements that appeared in the Delhi Gazette, but in
terms which, though creditable to his good feeling as
an honourable and truth-loving gentleman, are. some-
what too unparliamentary to bear transcribing in full.
He refers to the open disaffection of the Sepoys, and
the fact that four out of five regiments refused to ad-
vance, while nightly meetings of delegates from the dif-
ferent regiments of Wild's brigade were held in camp,
the 26th Native Infantry, which formed part of
McCaskill's brigade, being invited to join the con-
federacy. Major Grahan, quoting from the libellous
letter the passage in which the writer states "for a
time the Sikhs did inveigle many of our recruits
and young Sepoys, with two or three old ones, to
desert from our ranks and take service in their army,
but the fault must be mainly laid to the door of the
General," says :

" Now the only inference to be deduced from this infamous
assertion was that the men of Wild's brigade were all right till
you joined, and then their contamination and desertion com-

232 Life of Sir George Pollock.

menced. We, that is, the 9th and 26th brigade, were some
days at Kowulsur before you joined our camp, and so far from
finding the native brigade in the state represented by G. N.,
I can positively state that in less than forty-eight hours after
our arrival active emissaries, particularly from the 53rd and
60th, were in our camp, using every effort to induce our men to
desert and to refuse to enter the Khyber, and had actually gone
the lengths of sending Brahmins with the Gunga Jul to swear
them in not to advance, and did not depart until orders were
given to seize the first man caught in the lines under suspicious
circumstances. This information has several times been com-
municated to me by old Sepoys and non-conjmissioned officers,
and the fact of the attempts made to sedude^he men from their
allegiance is too well known to the officers of the 26th to admit
of a moment's doubt. I contented myself by reminding my own
company (the grenadiers) of what occurred at Barrackpore in
1824 there being many men in the company who were present
with the corps then and exhorting them not to disgrace their
colours, or be led away by a set of scoundrels who used the plea
of religion as a cloak for their cowardice ; and in this business
the men of the 53rd were invariably named as the ringleaders.
What now becomes of the assertion that 'it was mainly the
General's fault'? almost all that I have mentioned having oc-
curred before you came into camp. With regard to the comfort
of the men, as far as the 26th were concerned, I never heard a
complaint of any lack of either such comforts or necessaries as
were procurable under existing circumstances from the time we
entered Afghanistan till we left it. With regard to the state-
ment of the Sikhs being allowed free access to camp, all I can
speak myself to the point is that, as captain of the day, agree-
ably to orders, I recollect perfectly well refusing- many admit-
tances, and turning others out who had made their way in through
the various apertures it was impossible to hermetically seal."

In another part of the letter he states :

" The unpleasant feeling G. N". speaks of was neither more
nor less than a dissatisfaction openly expressed by the 60th and
64th regarding posterns, &c. This was the alleged one, I know ;

Life of Sir George Pollock. 233

but I was credibly informed by intelligent men of my own corps
that it was grasped at merely as another plea to obviate the
possibility of their being ordered to advance. The disgraceful
state of the 53rd was at one time the byword of the camp from
the number of desertions that took place, and it was, I believe,
the only corps that lost a native officer in that way. With
regard to the 60th, having had ocular demonstration of the
spirit that pervaded them on our arrival in camp, and of their
conduct afterwards in crossing the river at Dakka, I need but
say, not being aware of any reasons they had for so doing, I never
saw worse. With regard to the letter dated the 3rd March to
General Lumley, which Gr. N". complains so much of, no one but
those reflected on in camp ever doubted its substantial correct-
ness ; nor that the feeling among the Hindoos of that brigade
was most truly lamentable I hardly thought any man present
in camp then could deny; and that 'that lamentable feel-
ing ' was nothing but downright fear I conceived to be fully
established as an indubitable fact by their conduct from first

to last. With regard to the statement of H and P ,

that their men were without taint, it is contradicted by
every act of the men themselves; but that they should be
tainted is hardly to be wondered at, when I myself have heard
language from both those officers which, if it ever reached the
ears of their men, must have encouraged every bad feeling.

P at our own mess-table I have heard use language against

their being ordered into the pass which surprised and disgusted

every one ; and H on various occasions, and at his own mess,

very little better."

After animadverting upon other points in these
libellous letters, Major Grahan winds up with,

"You can make any use you like of this letter, as I have advanced
nothing that I do not firmly believe to be fully capable of proof."

Even the non-professional reader, fully alive to the
absolute necessity of implicit obedience to the General
commanding an army, a virtue forming the elemen-

234 Life of Sir George Pollock.

tary principle of discipline, can form some idea of
the almost insuperable obstacles which, in the guise
of cowardly Sepoys and insubordinate officers, it was
absolutely essential General Pollock should overcome
before an advance into the Khyber could be thought
of. But he was eminently fitted to cope with such
hindrances by reason of his patient, equable tempera-
ment, and he exhibited great sagacity in his treatment
of the moral disease from which a portion of his
native troops was suffering. It had come to his ears
that an officer of one of the native regiments already
specified, had said, not only before others, but even in
the presence of his men, referring to the expected
advance, " Well, never mind, we shall none of us
ever return again." On another occasion an officer
came to his tent one night and informed him that he
considered it his duty to make known to him that the
high-caste Brahmins were carrying about the gunga
paunee, the sacred water of the Ganges, and swearing
in the men to refuse to enter the Khyber. To this
and other like representations the General invariably
enjoined silence, and redoubled his own exertions in
seeking to inspire confidence into the wavering by
personally addressing and reasoning with them.

Sir Jasper Nicolls, in a letter dated Simla, Sept. 2,
1842, to the address of Lord Fitzroy Somerset, K.C.B.,
Adjutant-General at the Horse Guards, for the in-
formation of Lord Hill, Commander-in-Chief, after
detailing the circumstances already mentioned regard-
ing the appointment of General Pollock, does justice

Life of Sir George Pollock. 235

to the rare military virtues he manifested during this
trying period :

" I need not inform Lord Hill that the management of the
Native army, or of small portions of it, is a matter, at times, of
delicacy and difficulty. It will not do to distrust or disparage
it, as Colonel Monson did. The Governor-General gave such
an unwilling and discouraging reply to my second communica-
tion, that I clearly saw the whole onus of the appointment and
of its consequences would be mine. This I would not under-
take, and Major-General Pollock being near at hand, and
honoured by Lord Auckland's confidence (as I know), I or-
dered him by dawk to join the 9th foot and other corps. This
done, Government was pleased to confer upon him the political
powers intended for Major-General Lumley; without which
Sir Edmund Williams would have had to act, not from himself,
but according to requisitions made by the local political au-

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 17 of 40)