Charles Rathbone Low.

The life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) online

. (page 19 of 40)
Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 19 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

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

* Now Major-General Riddell, C.B. His substantive appointment
was Paymaster, but he also served as A.D.C. on the General's staff,
and proved himself an active and efficient officer.

As an instance of the freshness with which Sir George Pollock re-
tained to the last his memory of the events of 1842, and of the officers
of his force, it may be mentioned that, on perusing this portion of his
Biography, on coming to this officer's name, he wrote to me on the
12th May, 1870 : " I have read through this chapter, which is admira-
ble. I have made a pencil-mark where the name of Captain Riddell
is mentioned in the draft; his name is spelt Riddle, which is not correct.
He was, if I recollect right, Paymaster to the force."

250 Life of Sir George Pollock.

4 Companies 26th Native Infantry.

400 Jezailchees, under command of Major Huish, 26th Native

7 Companies 53rd Native Infantry, under Major Hoggan.

3 Companies 60th Native Infantry, under Captain Napleton.

4f Companies 64th Native Infantry.

Toorabaz Khan's men (Afghans).

1 Companies H.M.'s 9th Regiment, under command of Lieu-
tenant-Colonel Moseley, 64th Native Infantry.

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

General Pollock also issued the following rules :

2. A bugler or trumpeter to be attached to each command-
ing officer of a party or detachment of the several columns.

3. Whenever an obstacle presents itself, or accidents occur
of a nature to impede the march of any part of either of the
columns, and occasion a break in its continuity, the officer in
command nearest to the spot, will order the halt to be sounded,
which will be immediately repeated by the other buglers, and
the whole will halt till the removal of the difficulty enables the
columns to proceed in their established order; when the signal
to advance will be given.

4. The baggage-master will superintend the placing of the
baggage, &c., in the order prescribed, and the Major-General
commanding requests that commanding officers will use
their best exertions to facilitate this important object. The
Quarter-Master of each corps will see that the baggage of his
regiment is placed in its proper position in the column, and an
officer from each is to be appointed to the duty.

5. No private guards are to be allowed. The parties of
Cavalry and Infantry, allotted at intervals in the line of march,
are to be the only troops attending it.

* 6. The officers entrusted with the command of the parties
which are to flank the rear-guard on the heights, must give
their most vigilant attention to the important duty of preventing

Life of Sir George Pollock. 251

their men from hurrying in advance of it : its rear must never
be left exposed to fire from the heights.

7. The troops to be told off on their regimental parades, as
above detailed, and marched at the appointed hour to their
respective posts.

8. The force will march to Jumrood to-morrow morning, in
the order above prescribed. The general to beat at four, and
the assembly at five o'clock.

9. The baggage and camp followers of each corps are to
be kept with their respective regiments till notice is given by
the baggage-master that they are required to take their places
in the columns. M.S. Records quoted by Kaye.

In marching from Kowulsur to Jumrood, at the
entrance to the Khyber Pass, the force moved in three
parallel columns, the centre one chiefly composed of
baggage with troops, and advance and rear-guards,
the others consisting of the troops which were to
flank it on the right and left. The train of camels
was enormous, and this, notwithstanding that every
exertion had been used to reduce the quantity of
baggage, all ranks showing the greatest self-denial,
and sacrificing personal comfort most cheerfully for
the furtherance of the grand object every individual
had in view. Pollock's appeal to his army on this
point drew forth the noblest qualities of the British
soldier, and was responded to with enthusiasm :

" Success in relieving the Jellalabad garrison will raise
for this force the admiration and gratitude of all India ; and
the Major-General commanding feels assured that officers and
men will cheerfully make any sacrifice to attain so noble an
object. He therefore now calls upon the brigadiers to assemble
the commanding officers under their orders, and determine on
the least quantity of baggage and the smallest number of camp

252 Life of Sir George Pollock.

followers with which their regiments can advance. The success
of this enterprise will greatly depend upon the quantity of
baggage taken, as from the nature of the country between
Peshawur and Jellalabad, the line most consistent with safety
must be as little encumbered as possible. The Major- General
commanding trusts that the confidence he feels in the troops
will be repaid by their confidence in him. The soldiers may
rest assured that his thoughts are constantly engaged in insuring
their provisions and securing their comforts ; and they may be
convinced they will never be called upon by him to make useless
sacrifices or to undergo unnecessary hardships. Arrangements
will be made for placing such baggage as may be left behind in
perfect security at Peshawur."

The army felt that this appeal came from an officer

j who, though the General commanding, had set the

example of sacrificing his comforts by reducing his

own personal baggage-cattle to one camel and two

mules. Major Smith says in one of his letters :

" The tents and baggage we leave behind are deposited in the
fort of Peshawur by authority of the Sikh Government ; and
certainly the luxurious magnificence which has sometimes been
urged as a reproach to Indian soldiering, has no existence
in General Pollock's camp. 'Doubling up,' and in many
instances ' quadrupling up,' in the smallest description of tent,
is the plan adopted by the officers. A subaltern's ' Regulation '
we regard as a sort of imperial pavilion; and, indeed, the
General himself does not aspire to so splendid an abode, but is
content to share a little hill-tent with his aide-de-camp and the
Assistant Adjutant-General. I suspect the latter are not entirely
well pleased with his habit of forestalling the ' early village
cock.' The men of the 9th have given up their usual tents for
Sepoy ' pauls,' and the native troops have willingly dispensed
with half their proper allowance of shelter."

On the 31st March the British army reached Jum-

Life of Sir George Pollock. 253

rood. The camp was pitched in the bed of the
Chorab river, near the Shadi Bhagiaree entrance of
the pass, where it was perceived the enemy were
busily employed in making preparations for resistance.
Across the mouth of the pass they had thrown up a
barrier which assumed a very formidable character by
the time the troops advanced to force an entrance. It
was made of mud, huge stones, and heavy branches of
trees. The Khyberees had not been hardly pressed
for time to mature this " sungah," or work, which in-
deed was of a character to defy the field-pieces of the
force, had they been brought to play upon it. On
the morning of the arrival of the British force at Jum-
rood, further difficulties arose to delay an advance on
the following morning, as the General had intended.

Writing to Government on the 2nd of April, he
says that he had hoped to move into the pass on the
previous day,

" But, lie adds, the desertion of the camel- drivers and very
heavy rain have alone been sufficient to prevent my moving. I
have also been much disappointed by the delay of the Rajah
Golab Sing in not sooner having moved up his troops. The
force which is to act in concert with me has not yet all arrived
at the ground, from whence it will enter the Jubhagi entrance of
the pass to meet us at AH Musjid. Although I have never ex-
pected any very active operations from them, I feel that the cir-
cumstances of our moving at the same time and for the same ob-
ject will have a good moral effect upon all parties.

" I consider it my duty to place on record that the present
system of supplying hired camels is most ruinous as regards
efficiency, and that no force beyond the Indus ought to be
dependent for carriage on the owners of camels. As an example,
I would draw your attention to the following particulars con-

254 Life of Sir George Pollock.

nected with the carriage of the force now here. The cattle are
hired for the journey from Ferozepore to Jellalabad, and the
owners receive an advance of twenty rupees for each camel.
Desertions even before we reached Peshawur were numerous ;
and on several occasions I have been obliged to send spare
camels to bring on stores, &c. The three companies of Native
Infantry which last arrived here have no camels ; the drivers
brought their loads to Peshawur and deserted. Two of these
companies, under Captain Tebbs, brought 600,000 rounds of
musket ammunition, but the whole of the surwans, with these
camels, have deserted. I have the greatest difficulty in moving
the men, and can only take a portion of the ammunition. The
evil is a very serious one. I am unable to point out any remedy
but that of employing only purchased camels, and surwans
whose houses are in our provinces. The greater number of sur-
wans who have been sent with this force are natives of the
Punjab, and have, therefore, greater facilities in deserting ;
indeed, it is hardly possible to prevent their doing so.

" I trust that I may consider the feeling of the native troops
averse to an advance, has, to a considerable degree, subsided ;
and I earnestly hope, that by carrying the first position with
promptness and spirit, I shall be able to give them confidence in

On the following day (3rd April), General Pollock
writes to Captain Macgregor that

" The pluck of the Sepoys is doubtful ; but I hope, when we
carry the mouth of the pass, they will feel confidence. The 9th
are most anxious to be let loose ; and, please God, by to-morrow
we shall be well in the pass ... I still much regret that I
have not the 31st ; but after Sir Robert Sale's letter, received
some time back, I consider that he has put it out of my power to
wait longer, although I am quite sure that the addition of 900
Europeans would have operated very favourably for the pri-

During the halt at Jumrood, General Pollock
issued the accompanying further and more specific

Life of Sir George Pollock. 255

orders to regulate the movements of the 5th of April,
the eventful day on which he had decided to attempt
the forcing of that tremendous pass that had so long
frowned defiance on him :

" The force to be under arms to-morrow morning at half-past
three o'clock, ready to move forward, at which time all the trea-
sure, ammunition, baggage, &c., will be moved to the low
ground to the right front of the hills now occupied by pickets.
No fires are to be lighted on any account ; no drums to beat, or
bugles to be sounded. The six companies of the 60th Regiment,
and six companies of the 33rd Regiment, will remain with the
baggage in the vicinity of the treasure and ammunition. The
parties for crowning the heights, under the command of
Lieutenant- Colonel Taylor and Major Anderson, wiil move for-
ward to the hill on the right of the pass. The parties for the
same duty under the command of Major Huish and Lieutenant-
Colonel Moseley, will in like manner move forward to the hill on
the left. Lieutenant- Colonel Taylor's party will be accompanied
by the irregulars who lately garrisoned Ali Musjid. Captain
Ferris's Jezailchees will accompany the left advancing party.

"When the heights have been crowned on both hills, four
companies of the 9th Foot, the eight companies of the 26th,
under Lieutenant- Colonel Taylor and Major Huish, also the
Jezailchees under Captain Ferris, will descend the hills to be in
readiness to enter the pass. Six horse artillery guns, four from
the Foot Artillery, with the mountain guns, will be drawn up in
battery opposite the pass. The advance guard, seven companies
of the 30th, and seven companies of the 53rd, will accompany the
guns. The whole of the cavalry will be so placed by Brigadier
White, that any attempt at an attack from the low hills on the
right may be frustrated. When the baggage, &c., is directed to
advance, the same order of march will be preserved as was
formerly prescribed, with the following alterations : six com-
panies of the 60th Native Infantry will be together on the right,
and six companies of the 33rd, now arrived, will follow the 53rd
Native Infantry. When the rear of the column is entering the

256 Life of Sir George Pollock.

pass, the two rear companies of Lieutenant-Colonel Moseley's
and Major Anderson's parties should descend the hills." MS.

In the evening of the 4th April, the General went
round to all his commanding officers to ascertain that
they thoroughly understood the orders that had been
issued for their guidance, and to learn from them
the temper of their men. Nothing could be better,
was the unanimous report, than the morale of the
Sepoys, who were eager for the impending conflict,
So passed the night ; and at length the morning
dawned, big with the fate of British India a day
that was to make or mar the reputation of George

Life of Sir George Pollock. 257


The Khyber Pass : 5th to 16th April, 1842.

AT half-past three on the morning of the 5th April,
the troops were under arms, the camp struck, and,
according to arrangements previously made, the trea-
sure, ammunition, and baggage placed on the road
leading from Jumrood towards the entrance of the
Khyber Pass. Quickly, and without beat of drum or
sound of bugle, the British force moved off in the
dim twilight, towards the Shadi Bhagiaree mouth of
the pass, and the crowning columns prepared to ascend
the heights on either side. The hearts of the bravest
and there were gallant soldiers there who had
fought in many climes, under the Iron Duke in the
Peninsula, and at Washington and New Orleans
even the hearts of these, who had many a time
looked death in the face, must have beat quicker with
proud hope and high expectation, as they glanced
upwards at the terrific crags towering above them, or
cast a look at the no less tremendous gorge yawning
at their feet, like the mouth of an open sepulchre.
It was now their immediate duty to surmount these
precipices, and boldly assail the defile that " oped its


258 Life of Sir George Pollock.

ponderous jaws " before them; and yet so marvellously
had the morale of the Sepoys improved, that under
the guidance of their glorious chief, in whom they
now reposed the most implicit and childlike confidence,
they prepared with enthusiasm for the task.

Nothing could have proved better than the arrange-
ments of General Pollock, who, moreover, is entitled
to the entire credit of conceiving and elaborating the
plan of attack; it is also not less certain that no
general could have been more fortunate in the success
that crowned his labour, thanks to the indomitable
energy and fighting excellence of all his troops,
though in carrying out these interesting and almost
unique operations of war, the chief meed of praise is
only justly due to that noble corps, the 9th Foot, and
their gallant and chivalrous leader, Colonel Taylor.

The crowning columns quickly advanced on the
right ; though the precipitous nature of the ground was
such that it seemed to defy the eager activity of Taylor
and his men. But he stole unseen round the base of
the mountain, and found a more practicable ascent than
that which he had first tried. Then on both sides,
the British infantry were hotly engaged with the
hardy mountaineers, who contested every foot of
ground with desperation. Having driven a consider-
able body of the enemy up the hills, which were
scaled and crowned in spite of a determined opposi-
tion, the right column moved to their left, to clear
the redoubts commanding the entrance to the pass,
which were abandoned on their approach, the enemy

Life of Sir George Pollock. 259

suffering severely in their retreat. Major Anderson
remained on the heights with his column reinforced
by one company of the 9th and two companies of
the 26th N. I. under Captain Gahan, whilst Colonel
Taylor descended with the remainder to carry into
effect the General's plan of operations, in driving off
the enemy from their positions on the right of the
road to Ali Musjid, which was finally accomplished
in spite of obstinate resistance at several points,
especially over a bridge where the enemy had concen-
trated in force.

The column under Major George Huish, employed
to capture the hills on the left of the pass, were
equally successful. Led by Captain Ferris's regiment
of Jezailchees, 400 strong, the heights were speedily
carried, and the summit having been gained, a smaller
hill at the entrance of the pass was cleared by the
fire of the column. This being effected, the post was
made over to Lieut.-Col. Moseley, commanding the
rear crowning column, and the troops, with the excep-
tion of two companies of the 26th N. I., descended
for the purpose of continuing to scale and clear the
heights on the left of the road to Ali Musjid.

While these flanking columns were at their task on
the heights, the General ordered Captain Alexander,
in command of the artillery, to place the guns in
position, and throw shrapnel among the enemy, when
opportunity offered, which was accordingly done, and
assisted much in their discomfiture.

The General, perceiving that Colonel Taylor was

17 *

160 Life of Sir George Pollock.

some time in reaching the summit of the hill to
the right, owing to the sturdy opposition he met
with and the extremely difficult nature of the
ground, detached a party consisting of four com-
panies of the 9th, four companies of the 26th N. I.,
four companies of the 64th N. L, and some Jezail-
chees, under the command of Brigadier Wild, to
assault the position in front. The hill was, however,
so extremely steep near the summit, that, notwith-
standing the undaunted gallantry of the officers and
men, they were for some time unable to gain a
footing on the crest, and the enemy were enabled to
throw stones with fatal effect upon some of the
leading grenadiers of the 9th Foot ; eventually the
Brigadier, though wounded, gained the summit.

On the occupation of the heights by the crowning
columns, the General advanced the main column to
the mouth of the pass, and commenced destroying
the barrier which the enemy had evacuated on finding
their position turned. This task was ably performed
under the direction of Lieut. John Becher (now
Col. Becher, C.B.), Acting Field Engineer, and the
General was not slow in expressing to Government
his high sense of the " very essential services rendered
by that officer in clearing the pass of the impedi-
ments constructed by the enemy, which he did with
a degree of celerity, notwithstanding their strength
and difficulty of removal, that elicited my warmest

In the meantime, Col. Taylor, on the right,

Life of Sir George Pollock. 261

having been reinforced by one company of the
33rd N. I. under Lieut. Watson, directed Captain
Lushington of the 9th, to move with that company
and the light company of his own regiment to the
right, to take the enemy's position in reverse, whilst
he himself, leaving Major Anderson in command of
the heights already gained, attacked in front. The
enemy, drawn up in dense masses, offered a stout
resistance, but the British soldiers, with the flush of
victory on their brow, would not be denied, and
carried everything before them. The Afreedies re-
treated, after having made a vigorous defence, in
which many of them were slain. No further opposi-
tion was offered on this side by the enemy, who
retreated on Ali Musjid ; Col. Taylor, pushing on,
occupied the tower and hill to the left within about a
mile of that place.* Major Huish, on his side, was
equally successful. On descending from the heights
to clear the hills on the left of the road leading to
Ali Musjid, the enemy offered a determined resistance,
especially at the heights commanding the bridge,
from whence, though in great force, they were driven
in the most spirited style, and with considerable loss
while retreating.

Though the fighting had been of the most trying
and fatiguing character, scaling heights during the
whole day under the hot sun and in the face of a
fierce enemy, the duty was cheerfully performed by

Col. Taylor to Captain Ponsonby, Ali Musjid, April 6th, 1842.

262 Life of Sir George Pollock.

all the troops, the Sepoys vying with their European
comrades, while Ferris's Jezailchees, under that officer
and SirEichmond Shakespear, nobly earned the meed of
praise bestowed on them by the General, who declared
that their " conduct excited the delight and admira-
tion of all who beheld them. I consider much of the
success of the day to be attributed to their gallantry,
skill, and perseverance in this most difficult descrip-
tion of warfare." General Pollock, in his despatch,
warmly eulogized the officers and men of the force
under his command, "for the zeal, devotion, and un-
flinching valour in performance of the very arduous
duty which they have so nobly executed." " The
Sepoys behaved nobly," he wrote to a friend,
on the day after the action. " They merely re-
quired a trial in which they should find that they
were not sacrificed. There were, however, many
desertions before we advanced. Now they are in the
highest spirits, and have a thorough contempt for
the enemy. This is a great point gained. You are
aware that Mahomed Akbar sent a party, about 800,
with one or two guns, to oppose us ; but they thought
better of it, and abandoned the fort of Ali Musjid
this morning. I have accordingly taken possession.
The Sikhs are encamped near us, and are much more
respectful and civil since our operations of yester-

To Col. Taylor, especially, the General expressed
his warmest acknowledgments for the spirit, cool-
ness, and judgment with which he discharged the

Life of Sir George Pollock. 263

duties entrusted to him. Other officers, as Majors
Huish and Anderson, and Captain Alexander, were
most favourably mentioned; and his staff officers, Cap-
tain Ponsonby, Captain Codrington, and Lieut. Pol-
lock, A.D.C., were likewise commended for the assist-
ance they afforded. The casualty roll, considering the
results achieved in defeating an enemy 10,000 strong,
in an almost impregnable position, was singularly
small, and belied the predictions of Avitabile that the
whole force was going to destruction. It consisted
of Lieut. Gumming of the 9th Foot, and thirteen
non-commissioned officers, privates, and Sepoys
killed ; seventeen privates and Sepoys missing ; and
three officers, fifteen non-commissioned officers, and
eighty-six privates and Sepoys wounded ; grand total,
135. Of these casualties forty-one were from the
9th Foot, and thirty-seven from the Jezailchees,
evincing the prominent part these corps took in the

The difficulties of the further march of the main
column to Ali Musjid, were mainly occasioned by the
enormous length of the string of baggage animals,
which were not only employed in conveying ammu-
nition and provisions for Pollock's own force, but also
for the garrison at Jellalabad. Encumbered as he
was, the General was compelled to move slowly, but
so skilful were the arrangements he had made for the
protection of the baggage that he was enabled to re-
port that " not a single baggage animal has fallen into
the hands of the enemy." The march to Ali Musjid

264 Life of Sir George Pollock.

from the entrance to the pass, though only five miles
in length, occupied the greater portion of the day.
The heat was intense, and the troops suffered greatly
from thirst, but they never murmured. The enemy
had evacuated Ali Musjid* in the morning, and
Ferris's Jezailchees were sent in to garrison the

A part of the British force, with the head-quarters,
bivouacked at Lalla Chund, near the fortress, but the
night was so bitterly cold that the troops, though
they had been on their legs since three o'clock that
morning, could have had but little sleep. The
enemy, who still hovered about, kept up a desultory
fire 'during the night, and the utmost vigilance was
exercised to guard against a "chupao," or night

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 19 of 40)