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Trench, were directed to cross a deep ravine and
assault the hills on the opposite side, where the
enemy held a ruined fort, and were assembled in
great force. The third column, whose duty it was
to attack the hill in the centre, which formed the
key of the enemy's position, consisted of the 13th
Light Infantry, commanded by Major Wilkinson,
and 110 men of the 26th N. I., led by Captain Gahan,
in the absence of Major Huish, who, although present
in the field, was prevented by the wound he had re-
ceived at Mamoo Khail from assuming the command.



360 Life of Sir George Pollock.

All being now ready, these three columns of
stormers, at the word of command, rushed simul-
taneously up the heights, sending up cheer after
cheer with a noble enthusiasm which, though highly
encouraging to the soldiers of the two noble British
regiments heading two of the columns, must have
struck a terror into the hearts of these murdering
Grhilzyes, who doubtless contrasted the conduct of
their present foes with that of the 44th, when, dispi-
rited, half-starved, and wholly benumbed with cold,
they were massacred like sheep on these same hills.
And yet these men were not a whit more gallant
than their countrymen of that ill-fated regiment.
The secret of the marvellous contrast lay in the
manner in which they were led. In the disastrous
retreat from Cabul, the commanders were either im-
becile or obstinate, or incapable to a degree bordering
on fatuity ; in the present instance, the nominal and
actual commander, one and the same person, was a
man of capacity, energy, and experience, who would
brook no interference either from staff officers or
subordinate generals. The result was, that the
soldiers, knowing their lives were not recklessly sacri-
ficed, but that every movement was the result of a
settled plan which would surely lead to victory, re-
sponded with alacrity to orders such as those now
conveyed.

The three columns vied with each other in the
arduous task of scaling almost inaccessible crags,
from which a brave and resolute enemy, confident in



Life of Sir George Pollock. 361

their ability to renew their sanguinary triumphs,
poured a fire from their longjezails, or hurled rocks
on the heads of their assailants. But the Grhilzyes
soon saw enough of the temper of their foes to cause
them to waver. Nothing could stay the gallant
soldiers of the 9th and 13th, the latter led by Sir Eobert
Sale in person, who displayed all the ardour of the
days in Burmah, when, constantly heading storming
parties, he was remarkable for his headlong valour
and for the wounds which almost invariably left an
honourable scar on his body. On this occasion, Sir
Eobert's old luck stood by him, and he received a
wound while leading up the heights.

The animated and enthusiastic cheer of the British
soldiers caused a panic among the Grhilzyes. Fero-
cious and merciless to a vanquished foe as was the
Afghan, he dared not wait a hand-to-hand struggle
with the Anglo-Saxon, even on his own native hills.
They wavered a moment, and then, discharging their
jezails, fled from their posts in incontinent haste.
At this moment, Major Lock wood galloped up with
his regiment, the 3rd Dragoons, but was unhappily
unable to act with effect, owing to the nature of the
ground ; and though he nearly succeeded in inter-
cepting the fugitives, they escaped their well-earned
punishment.

Nor were Broadfoot and his indomitable Sappers
less fortunate than the other two columns in the
results that crowned their arduous efforts. The
enemy were now dispersed in every direction, but a



362 Life of Sir George Pollock.

large body of them, rallied by their chiefs, retired to
the summit of a high mountain. On this apparently
inaccessible height they planted their standards, and
showed every appearance of a determination to stand
their ground.

It was true the way through the pass was open,
and the advance could have been continued at once ;
but Greneral Pollock did not deem it desirable to
allow them to concentrate in any position within
reach of his troops. " As the achievements of the
day," he writes in his despatch detailing the victory,
" would have been incomplete were they suffered to
remain, I decided upon dislodging them." Accord-
ingly, he ordered forward two columns, under Major
Wilkinson and Captain Broadfoot, consisting of the
13th, one Company of the 26th, and one of the 35th
N. I., the 5th Company of Sappers, under Lieutenant
Becher, and Broadfoot's Sappers. They advanced
under cover of the fire of Captain Abbott's and
Captain Backhouse's guns, and, climbing the pre-
cipitous heights, showed the astonished Grhilzyes that
there was no portion of their mountain ranges that
was inaccessible to the valour of British troops.
The Greneral, writing of this final achievement in his
despatches, says :

" Seldom have soldiers had a more arduous task to perform,
and never was an undertaking of the kind surpassed in execution.
These lofty heights were assaulted in two columns, led by
Captains Wilkinson and Broadfoot ; the discomfited Ghilzyes,
not relishing an encounter, betook themselves to flight, carrying



Life of Sir George Pollock. 363

away their standards, and leaving our troops in quiet possession
of their last and least assailable stronghold."

Thus, with one division of his army McCaskill's
not being present during the day's operations he
signally defeated the most powerful and inveterate
of the tribes who were the original instigators and
principal actors in the disturbances which resulted
in the blocking up of the passes between Cabul
and Jellalabad, thereby entailing the destruction
of General Elphinstone's army. The chiefs who
took part with their followers in this action, were
those of the Jubber Kheil and Babukhur Kheil
Ghilzyes, two Lughmanee chiefs, and the petty chiefs
of Hissaruck ; indeed, the whole strength of the
Ghilzye force, numbering from 4,000 to 5,000 men,
was mustered for battle. Our loss was but small,
and consisted of 6 killed and 58 wounded.

No sooner was the action over, than General
Pollock pushed on his troops, sensible of the great
danger of delay, as giving time to the enemy to rally
their broken forces. The men were fatigued by their
exertions ; the artillery horses were low in condition,
from long want of sufficient forage during the halt
at Jellalabad ; the baggage animals also were in a
state of weakness, which seemed to render necessary
a day's rest at Jugdulluck ; representations were
accordingly made to the General, by Sir Eobert Sale,
regarding the advisability of such a measure, but he
steadily resisted the proposal, upon the principle that
to follow up that day's success and give the enemy



364 Life of Sir George Pollock.

no time to rally, was of greater consequence than even
the loss of some of the cattle.

This determination strikingly exemplifies the
character of the man ; exhibiting a patience almost
without parallel during months of inaction, when the
suspension of active hostilities was necessary to
restore the morale of his native troops, and make
every preparation to guard against even the possi-
bility of failure, now that he was bent on taking
advantage of the tide of victory that had set in, he
was as ardent for the advance as could have been the
rawest subaltern burning to earn distinction in his
first campaign. The Division proceeded on, therefore,
through the pass, and Captain Colin Troup, who was
at this time at Cabul with Akbar Khan, subsequently
told General Pollock that had he not pushed on the
same day, directly after the action was over, the
Sirdar would have issued out of the capital with
20,000 men.

After great labour in dragging the guns over many
and rugged ascents, the camp was pitched at Kutta
Sung, where the General penned his despatches,
detailing the operations of the previous day. Not
far from Jugdulluck was situated the ruined fort in
which a large party of the 44th, with many officers,
took refuge during the retreat from Cabul, and from
whence General Elphinstone and Brigadier Shelton
proceeded to parley with Akbar Khan, who retained
them as prisoners. When Pollock's army passed the
spot, the remains of men and horses were lying about



Life of Sir George Pollock. 365

in all parts of the enclosure; many of the former
having been murdered on being left there wounded
and helpless, when our troops made their attempt to
move on through the Jugdulluck Pass.

The 2nd, or General McCaskill's Division, marched
on to the encamping ground evacuated by the 1st
Division the previous day, removing on their way
from Soorkab the barriers which the enemy had raised,
composed of stones and bushes, interspersed with
skulls and skeletons taken from, the heaps of the
remains of our miserable countrymen that strewed
the pass. Near here the Ghilzyes had in January
erected a similar obstacle, in attempting to force
which during the retreat no less than twenty-eight
officers had been slain. The bones of these well-
born and cultivated English gentlemen, being ready
to hand, had been used by the ignorant and brutal
Afghans for the purpose of blocking up a mountain-
path, recalling to mind those lines of our greatest
poet :

" Imperial Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away."

Parties were left by General McCaskill on the height
to await the baggage and rearguard, which latter, so
toilsome was the march, did not reach the mouth of
the pass till darkness was coming on. Bodies of the
enemy hovered about all day, firing on the detach-
ment posted on the hills, and some of our men were
killed and wounded. On entering the pass with the
rearguard, the pickets descended to join them, when



366 Life of Sir George Pollock.

their places were instantly occupied by the Afghans,
who followed at a respectful distance, firing inces-
santly, though without doing much damage. (For a
detailed account of the operations of the 2nd Division,
the reader is referred to Lieutenant Greenwood's
"Narrative.")

On the intelligence of this victory, together with
those gained by Greneral Nott over 12,000 Afghan
troops, under Shumshoodeen Khan, at Grhoaine, near
Grhuznee, on the 30th August, the Governor- Greneral
issued a notification from Simla, dated the 21st
September, in which he thus speaks of the achieve-
ments of the subject of this memoir :

" Major-General Pollock has, through, the prudence of his
arrangements and the correctness of the movements directed by
him, had the gratification of affording to his troops the oppor-
tunity of proving their superiority to the Afghan, on the very
scene of the last disaster on the retreat from Cabul."

Greneral Pollock reached Sei Baba on the 10th
September, and the encampment was pitched among
large boulders, in the most completely barren-looking
spot that could be imagined. The troops had been
fortunate in finding every day some little forage for
the cattle, a total absence of which had been antici-
pated, and even at Sei Baba, within a short distance
of the camp, some fields were discovered, affording
a small supply of fodder for the baggage animals.
During the march from Jugdulluck, a frightful spec-
tacle was encountered ; at the door of a ruined build-
ing were seen huddled together, as they fell, a mass



Life of Sir George Pollock. 367

of human skeletons, not less than 100 in number;
they had doubtless sought refuge from the ruthless
Afghans, and had perished of hunger and cold or the
sword. Fragments of uniform were scattered about
the accursed spot. This scene was scarcely necessary,
after the horrors encountered at every step during the
last few days, to infuriate our soldiers, who had sworn
solemnly to avenge their slaughtered comrades, when
the hour of retribution, even now on the eve of
striking, should have sounded. The General arrived
at Tezeen on the llth September, and was joined the
same day by the 2nd Division, which had pushed on,
crowning the heights as they went along with parties,
who again joined the rearguard as it passed, according
to the mode of mountain warfare adopted by General
Pollock. The latter was extremely anxious to push
on, but in consequence of the cattle of General Me Gas-
kill's Division having suffered from the effects of
fatigue, caused by the severe forced march of the pre-
vious day, he was constrained to halt during the 12th.
Before night closed in, on that 12th of September,
it became evident that Akbar Khan had selected the
valley of Tezeen as the scene of the great struggle
upon which he had staked the crown of Cabul. True
to his word, he had despatched his prisoners with the
exception of Captains Troup and Bygrave, Captain
and Mrs. Anderson, and Mrs. Trevor, with their
children to the Hindoo Koosh, and, on the 6th of
September, moved his camp to Begramee, about six
miles from the Bala Hissar, where Captain Troup was



368 Life of Sir George Pollock.

confined. This officer lie now summoned to his pre-
sence, and, after a conference of chiefs had been held,
required him to proceed to the camp of the British
Greneral at Ghmdamuck, with instructions to express
their willingness to agree to any terms Greneral Pol-
lock might dictate, if he would only stay the march
of his army on the capital. But though Troup ex-
pressed his readiness to go, he pointed out to the
sirdar the utter futility of attempting to negotiate
now, when nothing could stay the onward movement
of the victorious British commander but the destruc-
tion of his force, and ultimately prevailed upon him
to give up the idea. Akbar accordingly moved
down upon Boodhak with his troops, and again sum-
moned Troup and Bygrave to his camp, intending to
make use of them to negotiate terms with his enemy,
in the event, which he himself anticipated, of the
arbitrament of battle going against him.

On the morning of the llth of September, the
British officers entered the sirdar's camp at Bookhak,
and during the course of an interview, in which they
assured him that his defeat was certain, he expressed
his determination to stake all on a pitched battle. " I
know," said the sirdar, " that I have everything to
lose ; but it is too late to recede." He declared that
he was indifferent to the result ; the issue of the con-
test was in the hands of Grod, and it little mattered
to him who was the victor.* On the following morn-

* Kaye's History of the War in Afghanistan.



Life of Sir George Pollock. 369

ing he sent for Troup, and announced that he and
Bygrave must accompany him to Khoord Cabul,
where the Afghan chiefs intended to make their last
stand. Arrived at that place, the intelligence reached
Akbar of the halt of the British army at Tezeen*
This delay, Captain Troup says in a letter to General
Pollock, he and the other sirdars attributed to indeci-
sion, and it was rumoured that difficulties had arisen
to obstruct the progress of the force. On this, Ak-
bar Khan at once determined to move on to Tezeen,
and sent to Troup to announce his intention, where-
upon the latter sought and obtained permission to
return to Ali Mahomed's fort, where he had been
confined.

The Afghans, filled with exultation at the presumed
indecision of their dreaded enemy, attacked the pic-
kets on the British left flank during the afternoon
of the 12th, and when one of the Sepoy outposts, in
charge of the cattle feeding on the left of the camp
in the Tezeen valley, was returning, after having been
relieved, they followed them up in so daring a fashion,
that the General considered it necessary 'to send
Colonel Taylor with 240 men of his regiment, which
happened to be just then returning to camp, to drive
them back and punish their audacity* It was half*
past fhse in the evening when the Colonel and his
gallant regiment went to work in the style for which
they were renowned in the force. On clearing the
left picquet he was joined by Major Huish with a
small party of the 26th N. L, and at once threw for-

24



370 Life of Sir George Pollock.

ward a strong body of skirmishers, who quickly drove
back those of the enemy on the plain, pursuing them
to a range of hills, where they made a stand, till
dislodged by the British advance. Further on, the
enemy, in force about 500 or 600, had taken post
along the crest and on the summit of a range of steep
hills running from the northward into the Tezeen
valley. Those towards the north were assailed by
Captain Lushington of the 9th, with the left support
and skirmishers, while Colonel Taylor directed the
attack against the front and left flank. This was
soon turned, when he crept up the heights between
two ridges which concealed his approach till he was
close to the summit, and within twenty yards of
their main body, consisting of over 300 men. Now
was the time for a dash. Collecting some thirty or
forty men, with Lieutenants Elmhirst, Lister, and
Vigors, he fixed bayonets and charged the enemy.
This his brave fellows did with such resolution and
effect, that the whole mass, taken by surprise, was
driven headlong down the hills, nor did the enemy
rally until out of musket-range. As they ran, the
party of the 9th fired upon them and killed a good
number, who rolled to the bottom. Some hand-to-
hand fights took place during the struggle, and Lieu-
tenant Elmhirst distinguished himself in a personal
encounter. As it was now getting dark, Colonel
Taylor, deeming it prudent not to pursue the enemy
further, ordered the halt to be sounded, and, after
remaining in possession of the position for half an



Life of Sir George Pollock. 37 1

hour, retired without molestation. The loss of the
enemy was severe, and a large party was observed to
be engaged in carrying off the killed and wounded.
Among the former was found a chief, supposed to be
the brother of Khoda Buksh Khan, Ghilzye.

The enemy remained quiet on the left flank, in
consequence of the success that had attended Colonel
Taylor's judiciously planned and gallantly executed
affair, and turned their attention to the right, where
they commenced a furious attack upon a picket con-
sisting of eighty men of the 60th N. I., commanded
by Lieutenant Montgomery. This officer sustained
the overwhelming onslaught with the greatest resolu-
tion, and kept at bay the enemy, who fought at such
close quarters that the bayonet had to be freely used.
At length he beat them off, with the loss of four men
killed, and himself and seventeen others wounded.
The Afghans, nothing daunted by these repulses,
commenced desultory attacks on the picket about
8 P.M., and continued them all night, but with the
same want of success. These attacks were annoying,
as it kept the troops on the gui vive, and, as it seemed
to indicate that the morrow would bring with it some
hot work, it was desirable that they should have rest.
But not much repose was enjoyed that night in the
British camp, and the General himself " hardly slept
a wink," as he says in a letter.

At length daylight broke, and preparations were
made for forcing the Tezeien Pass, a most formidable
defile about four miles in length, the paths in many

24 *



372 Life of Sir George Pollock.

places being mere foot- tracks with yawning precipices
on either side. The valley of the same name, in which
they were encamped, is completely encircled with
lofty hills, and it became apparent on the morning of
the 13th, that the Afghans had occupied every height
and crag not already crowned by the British. They
were in great force, numbering between 16,000
and 20,000 men, among whom were Akbar Khan's
picked body of Jezailchees. That sirdar was also
present in person, and with him were Mahomed Shah
Khan, Ameenoollah, and their followers, together
with many other chiefs of lesser note. The positions
they had taken up were of great strength, and had
not General Pollock's dispositions, like those he had
made at the forcing of the Khyber, been most masterly
and complete in the smallest details, he must have
sustained a heavy loss. " The pass of Tezeen," he
says in his despatch, " affords great advantages to an
enemy occupying the heights; and on the present
occasion Mahomed Akbar neglected nothing to ren-
der its natural difficulties as formidable as numbers
could make it."

Having taken every precaution, the General com-
menced his march towards the mouth of the Tezeen
Pass, where he left Lieut. -Col. Eichmond of the 33rd
N. I. with the following troops to act as a rearguard :
Two 9-pounders of Capt. Abbott's Light Field Bat-
tery. Two squadrons of H.M.'s 3rd Dragoons, 160
men; 1st regiment Light Cavalry, 295 troopers; de-
tachment 3rd Irregular Cavalry, 60 ; Sikh Cavalry,



Life of Sir George Pollock. 373

200 ; being a total of 750 sabres. The infantry
under his charge consisted of 143 men of the pickets
9th and 13th Eegiments; four companies of the 26th
N. L, 310; right wing 33rd N. L, 129 ; 35th N. I.
294; pickets 60th N. L, 124; and the infantry of
the Sikh Contingent under Captain Lawrence ; being
a total of 1,300 bayonets.

General McCa skill commanded the main column ;
Sir Eobert Sale, with whom was General Pollock, the
advance guard, composed of three companies of the
three European regiments, a troop of Horse Artillery,
Backhouse's mountain guns, and some of the 3rd
Dragoons. The British troops at once commenced
to mount the heights, the 13th on the right, the 9th
and 31st on the left. The Afghans, inspired by the
presence of Akbar Khan, contrary to their custom,
advanced to meet them. A desperate struggle now
ensued. " Indeed," writes the General, in his de-
spatch, "their defence was so obstinate that the British
bayonet, in many instances, alone decided the con-
test." In a private letter he says, " I was with the
advance. Every place appeared covered with the
enemy, and they fought really well, actually coming
up to the European bayonets. I then suspected Ak-
bar must be present, and so it turned out." But the
British troops were burning to have their revenge,
and the cold steel did its work silently and well.
Many stalwart Afghans earned the death which they
believed was to be but the portal to the halls of bliss,
in which the faithful who die thus, are destined to



374 Life of Sir George Pollock.

pass an eternity of sensual delights ; and all those
who yearned for this passport to the arms of the
houris, received it without stint or in an ungrudging
spirit from their infuriated foemen. Horse and foot,
they sought in fierce emulation who should be the
first in the honourable but sanguinary task, and gave,
as they sought, no quarter. It was the measure
meted out to their comrades on these same hills a few
short months before, and with the mute appeal of
ghastly skeletons and grinning skulls, it is not to be
wondered at if the measure of revenge was returned
filled up and brimming over.

The light company of the 9th, led by Captain
Lushington, particularly distinguished itself, and that
officer was severely wounded in the head. Ascending
the hills on the left of the pass, under a heavy cross
fire, the 9th charged and overthrew their opponents,
leaving dead on the heights several horses and their
riders, supposed to be chiefs. The enemy were driven
from post to post, from crag to crag, contesting every
step, but overcome by the resistless bayonet. At
length, the General gained complete possession of the
pass ; but the fight was not yet over. The Afghans
retired to the Huft Kotul, literally, " seven hills," the
series forming an almost impregnable position, 7,800
feet above the sea, and the last they could hope to
defend. The enemy appeared, by the obstinate de-
fence they maintained, as though resolved that its
pinnacles should not be crowned by either European
or Sepoy; but it was in vain, for on that day the dark-






Life of Sir George Pollock. 375

skinned native vied with his pale-faced comrade who
should win in the race for glory. The little Ghoork-
has from distant Nepaul, under the noble Broadfoot,
the Queen's soldiers from the far isles in the West,
and the Sepoy from the plains of burning India, all
who ate the Company's salt, were equally maddened
with a burning desire to wipe out the stain from the
glorious banner they had sworn to defend, and whose
sanctity they regarded with that devotion which
every soldier or sailor feels for his country's flag, even
though it be but " a bit of bunting." " One spirit,"
wrote the General, in his despatch to the Adjutant-
General, " seemed to pervade all, and a determination
to conquer overcame the obstinate resistance of the
enemy, who were at length forced from their numerous



Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 27 of 40)