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thorities viz., Brevet- Cap tains Mackeson and Macgregor.

" I had soon occasion to rejoice that Sir Edmund was not
appointed to the command on my sole responsibility, for the
four Sepoy corps first sent, under Brigadier Wild, having been
most sadly mismanaged (at the instance of the political au-
thorities, against my instructions and earnest caution), when
Major-General Pollock arrived at Peshawur, he found 1,800 men
of the four regiments in hospital ; the Sepoys declaring that
they would not advance again through the Khyber Pass ; the
Sikh troops spreading alarm, and in all ways encouraging and
screening their desertion, which was considerable. It was well
that a cautious, cool officer of the Company's army should have
to deal with them in such a temper, 363 miles from the frontier.
General Pollock managed them exceedingly well, but he did not
venture to enter the Pass till April (two months and a half after
Brigadier Wild's failure), when reinforced by the 3rd Dragoons,
a regiment of cavalry, a troop of horse artillery, and other
details. Lord Hill will at once perceive that the morale must
have been low when horse artillery and cavalry were required
to induce the General to advance, with confidence, through this
formidable pass. Any precipitancy on the part of a general
officer panting for lame, might have had the worst effect."



236 Life of Sir George Pollock.

That distinguished public servant, Mr. Thomas
Campbell Eobertson, late member of the Supreme
Council of India and Lieut.-Grovernor of the North-
West Provinces, in a work published in 1858, entitled
" Political Prospects of British India," referring to
the causes assigned for the Indian mutiny, says :

"Ever since that lamentable expedition to Cabul, which
destroyed our reputation for good faith, and the prestige of our
invincibility, the Native army has been led to think too much of
its own strength and importance, and an insubordinate spirit
has too often been passed over, from the necessity of gently
handling a cord which might snap if pulled too tightly. The
spirit alluded to showed itself in a very formidable shape before
Sir George Pollock's advance to retrieve our disasters in
Afghanistan ; and few know how much his country is indebted
to that distinguished officer for the patience and skill with
which he allayed the discontents and raised the morale of the
native portion of his army, before he advanced into the Khyber
Pass."

All through the months of February and March,
the force was obliged to remain inactive at the camp
of Kowulsur, in the neighbourhood of Peshawur.
Throughout this anxious period, General Pollock felt
the chilling influence of the knowledge that his
advocacy of a spirited policy met with but a luke-
warm response from the Commander-in-Chief, who
exhibited little of the ardour usually characteristic of
British officers. Indeed, Sir Jasper Nicolls, though
he had done good service as a soldier in his day, now
appeared only fitted to play the part of an over-
cautious statesman. Writing to head-quarters on the
27th of February, General Pollock says :



Life of Sir George Pollock. 237

" I have carefully perused and deeply considered the two
paragraphs forwarded by the Governor- General in Council to
his Excellency, and which you were directed to transcribe. One
part adverts to a * decided turn,' admitting of a deviation
from the avowed purpose for which this force was mainly
formed, viz., 'the withdrawal of the Jellalabad garrison in
safety to Peshawur ; ' and his Excellency's orders are, that I
should carefully and implicitly obey these instructions.

" While holding the responsible and confidential situation
which it has pleased the Government to confer on me, I consider
that I should ill fulfil my trust if I did not respectfully offer my
opinion on any points when I may have objections to propose
to the course pointed out for me to pursue."

He then proceeds to submit certain observations,
and diplomatically points out, as a great objection to
the troops remaining at Peshawur, that they

"Would suffer severely in the unhealthy months, whereas
at Gundamuck, the climate is favourable to European consti-
tutions, and would admit of Jellalabad being frequently re-
lieved. Such a position would, I conceive, be justifiable only
if the Khyber Pass be open, in which case the resources of the
Punjaub and of Peshawur would also be open to me. I should
be too strong to apprehend risk from any attack of the enemy ;
on the contrary, it would be desirable if I could meet them on a
plain, and give them another instance of our superiority. My
advanced position would further enable me, I hope, to effect
the liberation of the prisoners now with the enemy. If I were
to advance with the intention of merely withdrawing the garri-
son of Jellalabad, my success in advancing must depend chiefly
on concealing my intentions ; for although (if I succeed in
any negotiation to open the Pass) every precaution will be
taken by me to secure a safe retreat, I must expect that every
man will rise to molest our return, as they would be left to the
mercy of the Afghan rulers, and I must confess, I sincerely
believe that our return here, unless I first have an opportunity
of inflicting some signal punishment on the enemy, would have
a very bad effect both far and near.



2j 8 Life of Sir George Pollock.

" Our connection with the Sikh Government is professedly
friendly, and the chiefs are, as far as I have observed, courteous,
and perhaps well-disposed towards us ; but the bearing of the
soldiery, one and all, is insolent, and they scruple not to express
their wish that we may meet with reverses. They are a dis-
organized rabble, but dangerous as neighbours. Our officers
require escorts between camp and Peshawur, and our Sepoys or
camp followers dare not move beyond the pickets after dark."

The camping ground at Kowulsur was a vast stony
plain, with the gloomy mouth of the Khyber Pass
right in front, and wide ranges of mountains, with
their higher and more distant peaks covered with
snow, extending to the right and left, one spur being
only three miles distant from the camp. The weather
also was changeable, and did not tend to make matters
more cheerful. At times there was incessant rain ai d
hail, and then the sky would clear ; the temperature
was also cold, though not unpleasantly so, being 48
in a tent.

General Pollock, on his arrival at Peshawur, resided
at the house of Captain Mackeson in the Wuzeer-i-
bagh (Vizier's gardens). On the day after he assumed
command, a party of officers assembled to meet him
at Captain Mackeson's, most of whom had recently
narrowly escaped death in the affair at Pesh
Bolak. Several . wore Afghan dresses, having lost
their own, and being unable to procure any. Among
the number was Captain Ponsonby, who was remark-
able, even in those days, for the hairbreadth escapes
he had experienced. He it was who so greatly dis-
tinguished himself on the field of Purwandurra, on



Life of Sir George Pollock. 239

the 2nd of November, 1 840, when his troopers of the
2nd Native Cavalry fled from before the face of Dost
Mahomed and his horsemen, while their European
officers fought on with the courage of heroes until
three were killed and two wounded. Strange to say,
this gallant soldier signally failed when Brigadier at
Benares, during the eventful days of 1857.

Mortifying as it was to General Pollock to be com-
pelled to remain inactive at Peshawur for so long a
time, no other course was open to him without run-
ning a great chance of disaster ; for not only did the
ammunition not arrive until the second week in
March, but the reinforcements did not make their
appearance until considerably later. The presence of
more European troops was also absolutely essential
to strengthen that confidence in the breasts of the
Sepoys which was gradually returning to them.
Horse artillery and British dragoons were being
pushed up to Peshawur, and Pollock wrote frequent
letters to Brigadier White * in command of the
brigade, urging their speedy arrival. Had the
advance been ordered before the arrival of these re-
inforcements, a disaster must have ensued, having
regard to the probable contingency that some of
the native regiments would have mutinied. Still it
required all General Pollock's firmness to resist the
continued and pressing appeals he received from the
commandant and political agent with the beleaguered

* The late Lieutenant- General Sir Michael White, K.C.B.



240 Life of Sir George Pollock.

garrison at Jellalabad on the other side of the
Khyber. Soon after his arrival at Peshawur a
letter arrived, dated 14th February, from General
Sale, written partly in French and partly in English,
as was much of the correspondence at the time, to
avoid the possibility of treachery, in which he set
forth the straits to which he was reduced, and con-
cluded by an appeal to General Pollock to advance to
his aid. Again, on the 19th of the same month, both
Macgregor and Sale wrote, describing the dire effects
of a terrible earthquake that had that day prostrated
three of the bastions, and nearly the whole of the
parapet of the ramparts of Jellalabad, to raise which
had cost the troops more than two months' hard
labour ; the destruction of these works rendered the
place so insecure, that had Akbar Khan, the fiery
leader of the Afghans, made the attempt, he might
almost have succeeded in overpowering the sorely-
tried garrison. But owing chiefly to the wonderful
energy and science of Captain George Broadfoot, who,
though an infantry officer in the Company's service,
was a consummate engineer, and indeed a military
genius of a rare order, the parapet rose again as if by
magic, and when Akbar Khan once more appeared
before the walls of Jellalabad, his soldiers thought
the earthquake had by some supernatural agency
spared the British fort.

The shock was also severely felt at Peshawur.
The undulating movement continued for about two
minutes, and was such as to render standing or walk-



Life of Sir George Pollock. 241

ing as difficult as on the deck of a ship in a seaway.
At the moment of the shock, a dense cloud of dust
was seen to arise from Peshawur and from every
village in the neighbourhood. General Pollock, who
was still residing at Mackeson's house in the Wuzeer-
i-bagh, which suffered greatly, narrowly escaped a
violent death. A beam in falling crushed a table
from which he and a party of friends had just risen.
Several houses fell in the city, some people were
killed and many bruised, but the damage was by no
means as great as might have been expected.

On the following day, the 20th February, Greneral
Pollock proceeded to the camp, to receive the Sikh
Sirdars, accompanied by Captain Ponsonby, whom
he had appointed his Assistant Adjutant-Greneral,
and Sir Eichmond Shakspear, of the Bengal Artil-
lery, his Military Secretary, a man who had worthily
earned his spurs by effecting the release of the Eus-
sian prisoners confined by the ruler of Khiva. A
native brought letters the same day from Jellalabad,
concealed in a cake of bread, which he carried with
some others as food on his journey. Major Smith
says :

" The plan of writing with rice water, to be rendered visible
by the application of iodine, has been practised with great
success in the correspondence with Jellalabad. The first letter
of this kind received from thence was concealed in a quill. On
opening it a small roll of paper was unfolded, in which appeared
only a single word, ' iodine.' The magic liquid was applied,
and an interesting despatch from Sir Robert Sale stood forth."

General Pollock also experienced difficulty in

16



242 Life of Sir George Pollock.

getting money conveyed to Jellalabad, but the emis-
saries who undertook it were handsomely rewarded,
and an Afghan will do anything for money.

Again, on the 8th March, General Pollock received
most pressing letters from both Sale and Macgregor,
urging him to advance, as they greatly feared they
would be overwhelmed by the enemy, and casting
upon him the responsibility of so dire an event. To
these communications the General, on the 12th March,
returned an answer to Macgregor as follows :

" I will write yon a very short note in reference to yours
and Sale's of the 8th. It must no doubt appear to you and
Sale most extraordinary that, with the force I have here,
I do not at once move on. God knows it has been my
anxious wish to do so, but I have been helpless. I came
on ahead to Peshawur to arrange for an advance, but was
saluted with a report of 1,800 sick, and a bad feeling among
the Sepoys. I visited the hospital and endeavoured to encourage
by talking to them, but they had no heart. I hoped that when
the time came they would go. This, however, I could not write
to you or Sale in ink^ either in English or French. On the 1st
instant, the feeling on the part of the Sepoys broke out, and
I had the mortification of knowing that the Hindoos of four
out of five native corps refused to advance. I immediately
took measures to sift the evil, and gradually a reaction has taken
place, in the belief that I will wait for reinforcements. This
has caused me the utmost anxiety on your account. Your situa-
tion is never out of my thoughts ; but having told you what I
have, you and Sale will at once see that necessity alone has kept
me here.

" I have sent five expresses to hurry on the first division of
the next brigade. It consists of the 3rd Dragoons, a troop of
Horse Artillery, 1st Light Cavalry, the 33rd Native Infantry,
and two companies of the 6th Native Infantry, all fresh and
without taint. I really believe that if I were to attempt to
move on now without the reinforcements, the four regiments



Life of Sir George Pollock. 243

implicated would, as far as the Hindoos are concerned, stand
fast. Pray therefore tell me, without the least reserve, the
latest day you can hold out. If I could I would tell you the
day when I expect reinforcements, but I cannot. I may, how-
ever, I believe with safety, say that they will arrive by the end
of this month.

" The case therefore now stands thus : Whether I am to
attempt with my present materials to advance, and to risk the
appearance of disaffection or cowardice, which in such a case
could not again be got over, or wait the arrival of a reinforce-
ment which will make all sure. This is the real state of the
case. If I attempted now, it might risk you altogether ; but if
you can hold out, the reinforcements would make your relief as
certain as any earthly thing can be.

" Our only object in going to Jellalabad is to relieve you, and
bring you back with us to this ; but it is necessary that this
should be kept a profound secret."

To this Sale replied on the 23rd March :

" Yesterday arrived yours of the 12th instant addressed
jointly to Captain Macgregor and myself. I have only, in
reply thereto, to say that in my last I informed you defini-
tively that I would, by God's blessing, hold this place to
the 31st instant, by which time you acquainted me that you
could arrive at Jellalabad with the dragoons. You now state
to me your expectation that they will only reach your present
encampment by that date. Our European soldiers are now on
two-thirds of their rations of salt meat, and this the commis-
sariat supply ; on the 4th proximo, that part of the force will
then be without meat, notwithstanding every arrangement to
lessen the consumption. I have this day directed all the camels
to be destroyed, with the view of preserving the boosa for the
horses of the cavalry and artillery, and these valuable animals
cannot receive any rations of grain whatever after the 1st
proximo, but must be subsisted entirely on boosa and grass, if
the latter can be procured."

General Pollock had expected that the 3rd Dragoons
would reach Peshawur by the 20th of March, but

16 *



244 Life of Sir George Pollock.

on the 27th they had not arrived, and the General
wrote to Jellalabad explaining the causes of the
delay, but still hoping that he would be able to com-
mence his march on the last day of the month.

" There appears," he wrote to General Sale on the 27th March,
"to be nothing but accidents to impede the advance of the
dragoons. They were five days crossing the Ravee. I have
sent out 300 camels to help them in, and I hope nothing will
prevent my moving on the 31st. God knows I am most anxious
to move on, for I know that delay will subject us to be exposed
to very hot weather. But my situation has been most embar-
rassing. Any attempt at a forward movement in the early part
of this month I do not think would have succeeded, for at one
time the Hindoos did not hesitate to say that they would not
go forward. I hope the horror they had has somewhat subsided ;
but without more white faces I question even now if they would
go. Since the 1st we have been doing all to recover a proper
tone ; but you may suppose what my feelings have been, wish-
ing to relieve you, and knowing that my men would not go.
However desirable it is that I should be joined by the 31st
Regiment, your late letters compel me to move, and I hope
therefore to be with you by about the 7th. I cannot say the day
exactly, because I want to take Ali Musjid. When that is taken,
your situation may perhaps become better."

Even the new native corps which were moving up
from the provinces, and which the General believed to
be " without a taint/' were openly expressing their
disinclination to advance. Shere Singh mentioned
this to Mr. Clerk. " Yesterday, early," wrote the
latter, in a letter to Government, dated 19th March,
"the Maharajah, Eajah Dyan Singh, and myself,
being together for a short time, quite unattended,
they told me that Commandant Cheyt Singh, who
had come into Lahore for a day from Colonel Bolton's



Life of Sir t George Pollock. 245

camp, to escort which from Ferozepore to Peshawur
the Durbar had appointed him, had mentioned that
our Sepoys in that brigade did not like going to the
westward, and were sometimes grouped, eight or ten
together, expressing their dissatisfaction ; but that,
on the other hand, the Europeans (Her Majesty's 31st
and Artillery) were much delighted at the prospect of
fighting with the Afghans. The Maharajah added,
' If you could send two or three European corps, they
would penetrate the Khyber, or anywhere else, so
successfully against the Afghans, that the Hindoos,
who are now alarmed, would, after one action, all
take heart again/ '

At length, on the morning of the 29th March, the
troop of Horse Artillery, the 3rd Dragoons, and the
1st Light Cavalry, the whole under the command of
Colonel White, reached Peshawur, and preparations
were at once made for the long- desired forward move-
ment.

During the past two months, General Pollock's
difficulties had not been confined to infusing a proper
spirit into his Sepoys, and hastening on the march of
European reinforcements. He had other sources of
anxiety and delay to contend against. Captain
Mackeson, his chief political officer, had been en-
gaged for some time in negotiations with the maliks
or chiefs of the Afreedies, who held the Khyber Pass,
having for their object the permitting the British
force to march unimpeded through that formidable
defile. But their rapacity defeated its own object.



246 Life of Sir George Pollock.

The chiefs had given hostages, and were to have re-
ceived 50,000 rupees for the safe conduct of the
force from Jumrood to Dhaka, one moiety to be paid
in advance, and the other on the army reaching the
latter place. For this sum they engaged to clear the
pass to Dhaka, and make arrangements for guarding
it afterwards ; also they were to remove all hostile
Afreedies from the pass as far as Ali Musjid. But
Akbar Khan detached a strong party of men, with
two guns, to Ali Musjid, which they occupied on the
2nd April, and before nightfall the Afreedie chiefs
announced to Mackeson that they could no longer
guarantee a free passage. So the General decided to
cease further negotiation, and resolved to adopt the
alternative of forcing the pass.

His other great difficulty lay in the bearing of our
Sikh allies, upon whom no dependence could be
placed. We have related the conduct of the Nujeeb
battalions of Wild's force during the unsuccessful ad-
vance of the latter. All Captain Henry Lawrence's
efforts to obtain the co-operation of the Sikh troops
at Peshawur had failed ; but the prospect brightened
when Gholaub Singh, the Eajah of Jummoo, was
despatched with reinforcements to Peshawur by
Shere Singh, the successor of Eunjeet Singh, who,
moreover, had issued positive and unequivocal orders
that every possible assistance was to be given to the
British Commander.

Surrounded by his staff, General Pollock, on the
20th February, received Eajah Gholaub Singh and the



Life of Sir George Pollock. 247

leading Sikh Sirdars; and Captain Mackeson, the
political agent, who acted as spokesman, drew from
the Jummoo chief that he had been ordered by the
Lahore Durbar " to act in support of the British
troops agreeably to the terms of the treaty." Not-
withstanding this admission, General Pollock was
obliged to report that he had "no expectation of
any assistance from the Sikh troops." But the
careful management of Captain Lawrence, and the
good tact of General Pollock, met with their reward,
and the Sikh troops, reassured by the arrival of
European reinforcements, made up their minds to
face the dreaded Khyber. According to a return
dated 2nd March, the following were the Sikh troops
" at or near Peshawur " on that day :

4 Battalions of General Mehtab Singh, 2,700.

4 Battalions of Mahomedans and Nujeebs, 3,000.

Sonars, or cavalry (various), 3,100.

Two Brigades of Ramgoles (militia) and escort, under General

Avitabile, 1,800.

Rajah Gholaub Singh's troops, 3,000.
General Court's * troops, 5,000.
Other miscellaneous troops, 5,900.

Being a total of 24,500 men, besides 20 guns and
125 camel- pieces, a formidable array, when it is
considered that from questionable allies they might
quickly be transformed into active enemies.

The following order of march was now laid down
by General Pollock, for the instruction of command-
ing officers :

* A French officer of distinction in the Sikh army.



248 Life of Sir George Pollock.

CENTRE COLUMN.

Major-General Pollock.

Brigadier Wild, commanding advance guard.
Brigadier White (3rd Dragoons), second in command.
Grenadier Company, H.M.'s 9th Regiment.

1 Company 26th Native Infantry.

3 Companies 30th Native Infantry.

2 Companies 33rd Native Infantry, under command of Major
Barnwell, H.M.'s 9th.

Sappers and Miners.
Pioneers

4 guns Horse Artillery.

2 guns Mountain Train.

3 guns Foot Artillery.

2 Squadrons 3rd Light Dragoons.
Camels laden with treasure and ammunition.
1 Company 53rd Native Infantry.

Camels laden with Commissariat stores.

1 Company 53rd Native Infantry.

1 Squadron 1st Light Cavalry.

Baggage and Camp followers.

1 Risallah (100 men) of Irregular Cavalry.

Baggage and Camp followers.

1 Squadron 1st Cavalry.
Litters for sick or wounded.
Camels laden with ammunition.
Major-General McCaskill, commanding rear- guard.
Lieutenant- Colonel Tulloch, second in command.

3 guns Foot Artillery.

The 10th Regiment Light Cavalry.

2 Risallahs Irregular Cavalry.

2 Squadrons 3rd Light Dragoons.

2 Horse Artillery guns.

Camels laden with treasure and ammunition.

Litters for sick or wounded.

1 Squadron 1st Cavalry.

Camels laden with Commissariat stores.

3 Companies 60th Native Infantry.



Life of Sir George Pollock. 249

1 Company 6th Native Infantry.

1 Company H.M.'s 9th Regiment, under command of Major
Davies, H.M.'s 9th Regiment.

Eight column, to crown the heights, and advance
in successive detachments of 2 companies, at intervals
of 500 yards.

2 Companies H.M.'s 9th Foot.

4 Companies 26th Native Infantry.

400 Jezailchees, armed like the Khyberees, with jezails, or long

guns, under command of Lieutenant- Colonel Taylor, of

HJVI.'s 9th.
7 Companies 30th Native Infantry, under Major Payne.

3 Companies 60th Native Infantry, under Captain Riddell.*

4 Companies 64th Native Infantry, under Major Anderson.
Captain Broadfoot's Sappers.

l Companies H.M.'s 9th Foot, under command of Major
Anderson, 64th Native Infantry.

The parties under Lieutenant-Colonel Taylor and
Major Anderson to storm the right hill together, the
former then to move on, the latter to remain till the
rear- guard of the centre column enters the pass.

Left column, to advance as above.



Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 18 of 40)