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attack, at which these mountaineers are great adepts.
But they had lost, it was said, about 300 killed, and
600 or 800 wounded, and doubtless considered this
sufficient for one day's fighting.

A military writer, in a work entitled " Mountain
Warfare/' speaks in the following terms of the tactics
employed by General Pollock in the operations just
detailed :

" The attack and defence of defiles is similar in many important

V respects to that of posts, but in others there is a difference, and

we therefore consider a few words on the subject necessary. Of

course no defile that can be turned should ever be attacked in

* " It consists," says Kaye, " of oblong rock, commanded on the

two small forts, connected by a southern and western, sides by two

wall of little strength, and stands lofty hills."
upon the summit of an isolated

Life of Sir George Pollock. 265

front, and as all defiles consist of two heights and a gorge, the
best method of attack appears to be to crown the heights on
either flank, and to have another column to attack below when
the operations of the flanking parties appear to be developed.
This is the invariable method which appears to have been
adopted by all generals ; by it Napoleon, in 1799, carried the
terrible defile of Newmarckt ; by it Soult forced the pass of
Boncesvalles ; and by it Pollock succeeded in the passage of the
Khyber. The arrangements of the last- mentioned General in
the operation alluded to are so perfect in conception and so
complete in detail, that it would be superfluous, with such an
instance, to attempt to elaborate or improve on it. The following
is an abstract of the orders on the subject. (Here followed
the orders which have already been laid before the reader.)
These columns were all drawn up in their respective places,
which had been carefully selected, while one of the batteries of
artillery was drawn up opposite the mouth of the pass to distract
the enemy's attention as much as possible from the flanking
columns, and a regiment of cavalry was ready, on some open and
undulating ground to the left of the pass, to charge any party
of the enemy that attempted to make a flank attack from the low
hills in that direction on the baggage, &c. The main, or rather
centre column, was not meant to do any fighting, but was to
remain halted in front of the pass till the flanking columns had
won their way to the rear of the barricades, which the enemy
had thrown up in the mouth of the defile when it was to advance
through obstacles which the Sappers would have destroyed. A
bugler was told off to each commanding officer of detachment,
to sound whenever anything occurred to stay the advance of his
particular party, and this call was to be taken up by every other
bugler, and the whole of both flanking columns were to halt till
the obstruction had been cleared, when the same bugler as before
was to sound the advance. Thus the columns advanced simul-
taneously, and the advance of each being carefully regulated,
there was no fear of their being overwhelmed in detail. The
clearest orders were laid down as to the position of the baggage
of each regiment, and an English officer was told off from each
corps to see that the places assigned were kept. *

" So particular was General Pollock that every man should

266 Life of Sir George Pollock.

clearly understand what he had to do, that he went round to
each individual commandant to satisfy himself that all was
comprehended. Such arrangements as these deserved the success
they received. It may be thought by some that the minute
detail of the place of every camp follower by the General com-
manding was rather unnecessary ; not so, there is no operation
in war in which confusion is more likely to take place, none in
which confusion is more fatal, than in the forcing of a narrow
mountain pass ; and if the success of this instance, or the
disaster caused in Elphinstone's force by the neglect of these
rules, be not sufficient, none better can be offered than that of
the retreat of Korsakoff from Zurich.

" It is, of course, as necessary to crown the heights and take all
the other precautions detailed above in retreating as in advancing
through a pass : a curious proof of this is afforded by the fact
that General Pollock, who led the way in the return from Cabul,
and invariably adhered to his former plan, was never once
attacked, while Generals Nott and McCaskill, who brought up
the rear and neglected these precautions, were frequently
harassed by the matchlock fire of the enemy."

While General Pollock was forcing his way through
the Khyher, the Sikh troops,* at his suggestion for
he was dubious of their acting in good faith moved
up by another pass known as the Jubogee. To do
the Sikh auxiliaries justice, though they behaved
infamously during the months of February and March,
when they did advance they showed themselves good
soldiers, and besides forcing one of the two of the
Khyber, effected an important diversion by drawing off
a large body of the Afreedies to oppose their advance.

* The accompanying force con- neral Court's force, and Avitabile

sisted of Gholaub Singh's five and Mehtab Singh's brigades.

Mussulman battalions, and ten Total, 12,000 men.
Sikh regiments, being two of Ge-

Life of Sir George Pollock. 267

General Pollock, having a vast convoy and only 8,000
men, took the shorter pass to Ali Musjid, and the
Sikhs, who broke ground at daylight of the 5th of
April, proceeded by the Jubogee pass, which is double
the length of the former. Though they did not
encounter anything like the opposition the British
column endured, yet their loss was about 100 killed
and wounded. The next day they moved up to Lalla
Chund, 1-J miles east of Ali Musjid, and pitched their
camp in the bed of the river under that of the British.
Captain Henry Lawrence proceeded with General
Pollock until he had forced an entrance, returning to
Jumrood before noon to look after the Sikhs. Captain
Mackeson, as chief political officer, accompanied the
General throughout the operations, and proceeded with
the force, much to the disgust of Lawrence, who was
required at Peshawur. So eager was the latter to take
part in the dangers of the day, that though at 2 A.M.
of the 5th, the General left him in the tent he had occu-
pied retching violently with an attack of colic, which
might have been premonitory of cholera for all he
knew, yet, two hours later, when the troops began to
move, he found this truly great man at his elbow,
looking deathly pale, but with his indomitable will
triumphing over the physical infirmities that would
have prostrated men of ordinary mould.

The General had entered into a covenant with
Gholaub Singh, which was to hold good until the 5th
of June, for the occupation of the pass by the Sikh
troops, who were engaged to keep open- his com-

268 Life of Sir George Pollock.

munications with the rear ; but when he inarched to
Jellalabad they entered into arrangements with certain
Afreedies to keep open the pass for the stipulated
time, and early in May quitted Ali Musjid and re-
turned to Jumrood.

General Pollock was detained on the 6th April,
south of Ali Musjid, by finding that the Sikhs had
not completed the arrangements for guarding the
road to Peshawur ; during the morning he despatched
the Eegiment of Jezailchees to take possession of
Ali Musjid. On the 7th, the force marched to a place
called Ghuree Lala Beg, meeting with but trifling
opposition on the road, though, owing to its narrow-
ness, the baggage was delayed until 1 P.M. of the
following day. The men and cattle were much
fatigued, but the General pushed on to Lundikhana,
leaving a strong force of Native Infantry to garrison
Ali Musjid, close up to which the Sikh troops soon
moved, rendering the post secure. From thence he
marched next day to Dhaka, twenty-six miles distant
from the entrance to the pass, from out which the
force now at length emerged. Opposite Dhaka is
Lalpoora, and some slight opposition was encountered
here from Saadut Khan, the opponent of Toorabaz
Khan of Lalpoora, who had steadfastly adhered to
British interests, and rendered important service by
conveying money to Sir Eobert Sale at the time of
his greatest exigency.

General Pollock arrived on the 10th at the camp
near Lalpoora with a part of his force, the remainder,

Life of Sir Geort/e Pollock. 269

under General McCaskill, being one march behind,
owing to the impracticability of moving so much
baggage through so narrow a pass at one time. On
the General's arrival on the ground, he found the Lai-
poora people under Saadut Khan firing upon his men,
and in return opened a desultory fire with shell at bodies
of the enemy near the banks of the river. Intelli-
gence was received during the afternoon that Saadut
Khan intended quitting the fort and town during the
night, but as, later on, it was understood that he would
not move unless forced, the General ordered a strong
detachment, under the command of Colonel Taylor,
to move at early dawn. Three guns were also directed
to the front of the camp to divert the enemy's atten-
tion when the column should advance, and a rear
detachment was directed to remain at the ford of the
river about six miles from camp. About half-past
seven a party of the enemy, accompanied, as it was
supposed, by Saadut Khan, was observed proceeding
towards the ford, but on seeing the strength of the
force opposed to them, the chief returned with his
horsemen, and soon after rode off, and Toorabaz Khan
was re-established in his principality of Lalpoora.
The ford was extremely difficult, and two men of the
Dragoons were drowned ; owing to the deficiencj 7 of
transport, also, there being only one boat available, the
process of re-crossing was extremely tedious. While
encamped near Lalpoora, the General received two
letters from Captain Macgregor informing him of the
death of Shah Soojah, near Cabul.

270 Life of Sir George Pollock.

The troops resumed their march on the 13th, and
arrived on the 15th at Ali Boghan, about seven miles
distant from Jellalabad, without encountering any
further opposition. On the following day, Jellalabad
was reached, the band of the 13th Queen's, a gallant
regiment which had so long assisted to hold that
town, marching out to play in the travel-worn soldiers
of Pollock's army. Mr. Gleig, in his interest-
ing history of Sale's brigade, says that the relieving
force, thus escorted, marched the last two or three
miles to the tune, " Oh, but ye've been lang o' com-
ing/' It must have been a happy meeting, this,
between these brave bands of Englishmen, after all
the anxieties, the hope deferred, and the fighting in
which so many gallant fellows had perished in the
attempt to aid their beleaguered countrymen.

Major Smith, who was serving on General Mc-
Caskill's staff, gives a spirited account of the opera-
tions between the 5th and 16th of April :

" The enemy appeared to be very soon aware of our approach,
and the faces of the lofty hills on either side were studded
with signal-fires, as if hung with lamps all over. The effect
was very beautiful. General McCaskill, being in command
of the rearguard, my post, as acting deputy assistant adjutant-
general, was with him, and I had thus an opportunity of wit-
nessing the whole scene, as if beheld in a panorama. It was a
splendid sight, and of course intensely interesting. The day
began to dawn as the troops reached the foot of the hills. The
right column had the most difficult ascent to make. Colonel
Taylor had well reconnoitred the ground, and led his men a con-
siderable distance to the right, where there seemed to be most
facility for climbing the hill. The enemy were posted behind

Life of Sir George Pollock. 271

rocks, but firing their jezails, or matchlocks, retreated up the
mountain before our men, who pressed on, breathless with toil,
every now and then pausing at favourable spots to rest for a few
seconds, till they attained the summit of the ridge, and moved
along it to the left. Some very sharp skirmishing, in which the
Khyberees evinced considerable skill, now took place. Several
of our men, European and native, were knocked over, and the
flashing of musketry continued so long and uninterruptedly that
we began to feel anxious about renewing the supply of ammu-
nition. A party of the 9th, somewhat detached, were hotly
pressed by numbers greatly exceeding their own, and while
rushing eagerly (but in regular skirmishing order) to attain a
strong position, their officer, Lieutenant Gumming,, a highly
promising and much-esteemed young man, received a shot in the
head and fell dead instantly. The party having reached the
defensive ground, soon effectually checked the enemy, then
charged, and drove them down the hill towards the pass.

" Meantime the left column had been carrying on operations
of a similar nature, but with less opposition ; while General
Pollock placed the artillery of the advance guard in battery
opposite the gorge of the pass, and, with showers of shrapnel,
dispersed the enemy from behind their sungah, built across the
road, and from the heights immediately above it. A strong
body of Afreedies were posted on the summit of the right hill,
to which point Colonel Taylor's column was advancing ; but as
the difficulties and distance of his route necessarily caused some
delay, General Pollock ordered Brigadier Wild to ascend the
precipitous face of the hill, with the grenadiers of the 9th and
five companies of the 30th Native Infantry, and dislodge the
enemy. Most gallantly they went to work; Captain Ogle, of
the 9th, conspicuously leading his company ; but, unfortunately,
they took a path which was impracticable. After ascending
about two-thirds of the hill they found the rocks overhanging
them, and were brought to a check, the enemy firing incessantly
from the top, and rolling down large stones, by which Ogle was
severely bruised, his colour-sergeant and several men killed, and
many put liors de combat. The attempt, however, was not to be
thus frustrated. They scrambled about till they found a prac-
ticable path, and at length were established on the summit,

Life of Sir George Pollock.

whence the enemy soon fled, finding themselves assailed on the
other flank by Colonel Taylor's party, who had now acquired
complete mastery of the whole ridge. The Khyberees having
rushed on from all points to take up a new position farther north
in the pass, the Sappers soon cleared away the sungah, and the
advance was continued exactly according to the preconcerted
plan. The behaviour of the Bengal Sepoys in the fight, asso-
ciated with the men of the 9th, was everything that could be
wished, and General Pollock must have felt great satisfaction in
perceiving that he had no longer any cause of apprehension as
to their steadiness and gallantry. They thirsted to revenge the
death and wounds inflicted on so many of their comrades in the
previous attacks, and were, indeed, in a savage state of excite-
ment. A short distance within the pass a Khyberee was found
concealed in a cave. He rushed down upon the road, and ran
to General Pollock for protection. The General and Major
Barnwell placed him between them, and endeavoured to prevent
his being injured ; but his pursuers followed, fiercely exclaiming
that they must have his life, and the instant General Pollock
relinquished his hold of him he was cut down and hacked to
pieces. No authority could at that moment have induced them
to give quarter.

" The advance guard and flanking columns pressed on without
a check till they reached a bridge, commanded by hills, on
which the enemy had posted themselves in great force, keeping
up a constant fire upon the causeway, which they had cut
through transversely, making a gap of considerable width.
Some time elapsed before they could be dislodged, but at length
they were driven off'. The Sappers rapidly repaired the bridge,
under the direction of the Engineer officer, and 'Forward' was
again the word, till at about two o'clock in the afternoon the
advance attained the neighbourhood of Ali Musjid. This fort
had been occupied in the morning by an Afghan chief, with a
small force sent thither by Akbar Khan ; but finding General
Pollock was rapidly bearing down all opposition, they mounted
their horses, and, with their two guns, betook themselves to
flight. The camp was established, and thus concluded the
' doing of that day.'

" The baggage animals, which had been assembled near the

Life of Sir George Pollock. 273

mouth of the pass, entered it as soon as the way was clear. The
vast train wound along, and the rearguard followed. So slow
was our progress that when darkness came on we had not pene-
trated above a mile into the pass, and there appearing no chance
of a further forward movement in the mass of camels before us,
a halt was sounded. The cavalry picketed their horses, guards
were posted, haversacks emptied of their contents, and we lay
down to bivouac for the night, during the whole of which a per-
petual popping of musketry resounded from the hills about us,
where the troops of our flanking columns were posted, an
absurd waste of ammunition, which General Pollock has issued
strong orders to repress. Among our various accommodations
the most luxurious lit de repos I observed was tbat of the Artillery
officer, who ensconced himself snugly beneath one of his guns,
probably on the principle of the prisoner for debt in ' Pickwick,'
who slept under the table, because, as he said, he had been
always accustomed to a 'four-poster.'

"At daybreak next morning we resumed our march, and
about two o'clock arrived in camp, the whole operation having
perfectly succeeded. The loss of the day was 31 killed and 104
wounded. What loss the enemy suffered we could not with
accuracy ascertain. They are scrupulously careful to carry off
their dead, and we did not find many in the pass. On awaking
in the morning, I discovered that I had been reposing within a
few feet of one of these a ghastly object, his head shattered to
pieces by a shrapnel. One of the matters to which great atten-
tion had been paid in preparing for the attack, was the preven-
tion of suffering from thirst to which the nature of the service
rendered the men liable, who had to remain so long and to
endure so much labour on those arid heights under a burning
sun. Hindoo prejudices augmented the difficulty of this point
very considerably. These gentlemen will drink from no vessel
on hand, but those of 'persons of quality' like themselves.
Much was accomplished by arrangement, but there were still a
great many parched tongues and dry lips, notwithstanding the
provision of numerous camel-loads of lotas (brass pots) filled
with the pure element by the sacred hands of the Brahmins of
each corps.

" On the following morning we renewed our march much in


274 Life of Sir George Pollock.

the same order as before. I was again with General McCaskill,
on rearguard duty, which, however important, is certainly the
most abominable and tedious of any that falls to one's lot. The
road runs along the stony bed of a river and below the small
fort of Ali Musjid, a little beyond which the rugged mountains
contract to so narrow a passage that not more than two camels
could pass abreast. Here, then, we found ourselves in a con-
dition that may be well described by the Yankee phrase, ' an
uncomfortable fix.' All day long did we wait, and wait, and
wait, while the never-ending train of baggage by slow degrees
passed on ; and when evening came, there we were still waiting.
There was evidently no chance of getting in that night. It was
fast growing dark, and the General, his aide-de-camp, and
myself were making a dinner of such provender as we had,
when a frightful uproar arose in and beyond the narrow passage
I have mentioned. Crack ! crack ! went the shots of some
twenty jezails. Back rushed in pell-mell confusion all the
camels, bullocks, and drivers, who were nearest to the outlet,
exclaiming that five hundred Khyberees were among the
baggage, and murdering every man they came across. This
interrupted the progress of our repast. We rose from table in
the middle of the first course, and the General proceeded to
arrange for the reception of the distinguished guests with whose
visit we were threatened. Thinking it probable they might
arrive in the middle of the night, the guns were placed in readi-
ness to fire a salute on the occasion, and, as guard of honour,
waited to receive them behind a battlement constructed with
bags of flour. We then lay down to pass a most disagreeable
night till morning. The wind blew cold and bleak along the
pass, bringing with it a smothering cloud of dust and sand.
We neither heard nor saw more of our friends. They had
accomplished every purpose by carrying off several camel-loads
of baggage. The spot at which they performed this feat is
particularly well adapted for it, affording concealment behind
rocks and bushes till some unguarded string of animals passed by.
"We resumed our march at daybreak, and found General
Pollock with the advance, encamped some few miles on at Lall
Beg Ghurree. Here my chum, Captain Edmonds, of the 9th,
and I were saluted with the gratifying intelligence that our

Life of Sir George Pollock. 275

baggage was among the plundered tent, clothes, money, every-
thing gone ! I had, fortunately, a mule with me, carrying my
bedding and some few changes of linen. "We solicited charity
among our neighbours. One contributed a small tent, another
a shirt or two, a third some other essential article of equipment,
and finally we subsided into a sort of satisfaction in the total
emancipation from all anxiety about baggage. Now and then
the want of some little article of comfort or convenience excites
us to a benediction of the Khyber robbers, but, on the whole, we
bear our misfortunes with very tolerable equanimity.

" Our next march was made (still without any opposition
worth mentioning) to Lundikhana, and then out of the pass to
this place, where we are encamped on the right bank of the
Cabul river, the town and fort of Lalpoora exactly opposite to
us on the other side. The whole distance from the mouth of
the pass to Dhaka is about thirty miles. It was extremely
pleasant to emerge from the confinement of the contracted
defile into the open plain. The fort of Lalpoora was held, when
we came here, by an Afghan chief named Saadut Khan, brother
of Toorabaz Khan, whose assistance the other day enabled our
Pesh Bolak fugitives * to escape to Peshawur. Toorabaz then
possessed the place, but found it advisable to abandon it and take
refuge at Peshawur, when the insurrection against his friends
the English broke out, and Saadut, their bitter foe, then seized it.
Toorabaz accompanied us through the pass, and General Pollock
purposes before we move on to reinstate him in his power.

" A battery was erected, and we fired several rounds of shot
and shell at the fort. The river runs like a sluice in front of the
place, and is not fordable, nor could boats be procured, so a force
under Lieutenant- Colonel Taylor, of the 9th, composed of two
squadrons of the 3rd Light Dragoons, two companies of the 9th,
ten of Native Infantry, and two guns, proceeded yesterday along
this bank with the intention of crossing where practicable and
moving down on Lalpoora through a rocky defile on the other
side. The operation was found far more difficult and dangerous
than they anticipated. The depth and rapidity of the stream,

* Captains Ferris and Ponsonby and their party. See Appendix to
Sir W. Nott's Life.

18 *

276 Life of Sir George Pollock.

or rather streams (for they had to get over several), were most
formidable. Three or four men and horses of the dragoons were
drowned. The infantry crossed on elephants, and after many
hours of excessive toil the troops reached their destination in
the middle of the night, and found the fort and town aban-
doned by the enemy. This we knew long before their arrival,
having watched from our battery, with much amusement, the
decamping of Saadut and his friends, who mounted in hot haste
and set off over the hills as soon as they got news of the approach
of Colonel Taylor's party on their flank. Soon after their de-
parture, an Afghan, one of the inhabitants of the town of
Lalpoora, crossed the rapid stream to our side with great dex-
terity, supported by an inflated bag of goatskin, which, on
reaching the bank, he hoisted on his back, and then hastened
up to us to announce that the place was forsaken by the enemy.

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 20 of 40)