Charles Rathbone Low.

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

. (page 28 of 40)
Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 28 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and strong positions." The Huft Kotul itself was
at length surmounted, the troops giving three cheers
as they reached the summit. Here Lieutenant Cun-
ningham, with a party bf Sappers, pressed the enemy
so hard, that they left behind in their precipitate
flight a 24-pounder howitzer, and limber ; but they
succeeded in taking away the draft bullocks. The
General then heard that they had carried off another
gun, and concluding that it could not be very far
ahead, he detached a squadron of the 3rd Dragoons
under Captain Tritton, and two horse artillery guns
under Major Delafosse in pursuit. After a gallop of
two miles, they came up with this gun^and the
bullocks for the captured howitzer. The Dragoons
got among the enemy, and cut up a good many of

37 6 Life of Sir George Pollock.

them. Captain Broadfoot with his Sappers advanced,
and with the Dragoons, who continued the pursuit,
happened to fall in with another party, whom they
again cut up handsomely.

While the main column was thus engaged, Major
Skinner of the 31st was doing good service on the
right flank. The Major, who had been sent on the
afternoon of the previous day with detachments con-
sisting of one company each of the 9th, ISth, and
31st Queen's, and of the 26th, 33rd, and 35th K I.,
together with fifty of Broadfoot's Sappers, and fifty
Jezailchees, had ascended the heights above the Tezeen
valley in front of the camp, and occupied them till
daylight of the 13th. He was instructed to co-ope-
rate with the main force by capturing the high peaks
to the right of his position, and having driven the
enemy from them, to continue to operate among the
lower hills to the head of the Huft Kotul on the
right flank of the advance of the army. These peaks
were occupied in some force by the enemy, who were
however easily driven from them to the higher hills
on his right. Dividing his troops into two columns,
Major Skinner crowned the first peak, the ascent of
which was very steep. He then detached two com-
panies to the higher peak on the right hand, and sup-
ported them by the Sappers, who ascended by a steep
ridge connecting it with that previously gained. The
summit of the hill was reached, and, the enemy being
driven away, was held until the main column of the
advance came in sight, when the detachment marched

Life of Sir George Pollock. 377

on the Major's right, over the hills at the base of the
higher mountains. The height he had gained de-
scended to the main road by a succession of small
peaks, each connected by a narrow ridge, and occupied
by small parties of the enemy. They were driven
from these peaks in succession, and Captain Borton,
at the head of a party of the 9th, made a gallant
charge on a strongly posted body of Afghans, whom
he routed. The latter made repeated efforts to re-
cover their lost ground, but, notwithstanding the
necessarily slow advance of the supporting parties
from the steep and difficult nature of the hills, every
attempt was defeated. Major Skinner, having gained
all the peaks, and driven the enemy back, continued
his advance parallel to the main column over the hills
to some distance beyond the crest of the Huft Kotul.
The rearguard, under their very able leader Colonel
Eichmond, were also hotly engaged during the day.
That officer, having made the necessary disposition of
his force to protect the baggage in the valley of Te-
zeen, and to secure the gorge of the pass, gradually
withdrew the different pickets to strengthen the latter.
Soon after, he observed a large body of the enemy
collecting near the fort of Tezeen, south-east of his
position, and directed Lieutenant Douglas to open
on them, but the distance proving too great for shells,
the fire was discontinued. The cavalry of the enemy,
encouraged by this, formed up in the valley to the
number of 600 men, with the evident intention of
making an offensive movement; Colonel Eichmond

378 Life of Sir George Pollock.

at once decided upon anticipating them, and as the
three horse artillery guns of Captain Alexander's
troop were still on the ground, he sent them forward
within range of the enemy, supported by a squadron
of the 3rd Dragoons under Captain Unett, one squad-
ron of the 1st Light Cavalry under Major Scott, and
one squadron of the 3rd Irregulars under Captain
Tait, with orders to charge the enemy if the ground
proved favourable and an opportunity offered. This
was not long wanting to men who made it for them-
selves. The guns having made an impression, it was
followed up and made more indelible by a rattling
charge of the cavalry, in which the native troops
sought to win the pride of place from their European
comrades. Major Lockwood, commanding the 3rd
Dragoons, went to the support of the brigade with
another squadron of his regiment ; but it was not
needed, for the gallant fellows in front got among the
Afghan horsemen, and many of the proudest of their
cavaliers bit the dust that day.

They were put to flight, and Captain Goad, of the
1st Cavalry, captured a standard, cutting down the
bearer. The recall was now sounded, and the troopers
returned to their original position, covered by the
effective fire of the guns directed by Captain Alex-
ander, and by a company of the 35th N. I. As the
enemy showed no disposition to offer further molesta-
tion, and the whole of the baggage having now entered
the pass, the Horse Artillery and Dragoons were
permitted to commence their march ; but before the

Life of Sir George Pollock. 379

latter had filed off, the Afghans opened fire with two
guns, which necessitated the cavalry being placed
under cover of the high ground of the vicinity.
These guns were soon after withdrawn or silenced by
a fire of round shot, directed by Lieutenant Douglas,
and Captain Henry Lawrence, commanding the Sikh
contingent, who volunteered his services on the

After allowing the main column and baggage to
get well forward into the pass, Colonel Richmond
directed the remainder of the cavalry to enter, and
followed with the infantry, the different parties of
which gradually retired on the posts he had previously
occupied, the enemy's Jezailchees closing in and main-
taining a heavy fire, which continued till the head of
the pass was reached, a distance of three miles. This
ground Colonel Richmond was compelled to hold for
a long time to admit of the guns and baggage passing
over, but the enemy, though he pressed very closely
on the British posts, was unable to gain the slightest
advantage, or make any impression on the troops, who
behaved with the greatest steadiness under somewhat
trying circumstances. At length they desisted from
their attempts, which enabled Colonel Richmond to
reform his column and continue the march to the
camp, which was reached about 8 P.M., with all the
stores of baggage. With the exception of a few loads
of grain, and some camels and bullocks, which, being
unable to proceed, were destroyed, the entire train of
impedimenta reached the cam ping ground intact; and

380 Life of Sir George Pollock.

this really creditable feat was due in part to the fore-
thought of the General, who neglected no point of the
minutise of his duties, no matter how small, and chiefly
to the judicious and admirable arrangements of his sub-
ordinate, Colonel Eichmond, whose masterly conduct
he did not fail to recognize in his official despatch.

The enemy being now completely dispersed at every
point, the General pursued his march and encamped
at Khoord Cabul without further opposition. Thus
were concluded the operations of the 12th and 13th of
September, which, considering their arduous nature,
conducted as they were among crags and precipitous
ascents, and under the rays of an intensely hot sun,
it is scarcely too much to say, were never exceeded by
any recorded achievement of the British army. In his
despatch to the Commander-in-Chief, the Greneral,
speaking of the conduct of his troops, says : " On
this, as on all former occasions where they have been
engaged with the enemy, they have shown the most
determined valour, and I feel that I cannot too highly
praise their conduct ; each regiment seemed to vie with
the others in their endeavours to dislodge the enemy,
which they most effectually accomplished." Writing
to a friend on the 23rd of September, he says: "I
think no officer could possibly have had finer regiments
under his command than I have had, and to them do
I owe all my success, which, as far as I am able
to judge, has been so far complete. I hope the
Governor-General may think so, and I shall be

Life of Sir George Pollock. 381

Major Smith describes in a graphic style the fight-
ing at Tezeen on the 12th and 13th, and his narrative
possesses interest as the contribution of a participant
in the action :

" General Pollock was still anxious to push on, but a halt on the
12th to refresh the cattle became absolutely necessary. We were
then joined by the rear division of the army, under General
McCaskill, and thus assembled in force to encounter Akbar
Khan, who awaited us with all the troops he had been able to
collect, estimated at fifteen thousand, in the Tezeen Pass, and on
the Huft Kotul, by which our road to Cabul lay. The General
had not anticipated meeting Akbar until he should reach the
Khoord Cabul Pass, but found, after arriving at Tezeen, that the
grand effort to arrest our progress would then be made. The
long narrow valley of Tezeen, in which we were encamped during
the llth and 12th, is flanked by lofty hills, on which our numerous
pickets were posted, and on those hills, within a short distance,
the enemy surrounded us, which led to the occurrence of a very
smart engagement about dusk on the evening of the 12th. A
company or two of the 26th N. I. had occupied during the day a
fort at some distance from our left flank. At sunset they were
withdrawn, and in retiring the enemy followed them up closely,
increasing in numbers every instant. The Sepoys retired with
perfect steadiness in skirmishing order, by alternate ranks,
and drew the Afghans after them to within a short distance of
the camp. At this moment Lieutenant- Colonel Taylor was return-
ing with about two hundred and fifty men of the 9th, whom he had
taken out to a neighbouring hill (equipped in their lightest man-
ner, without coats, their accoutrements slung on over their shirts)
to recover the body of a sergeant killed that day on picket.

" General Pollock saw them passing, and sent orders to Colonel
Taylor to give a dressing to the Afghans who were following the
Sepoy detachment. Nothing loth, he went to work immediately,
and a very brilliant affair ensued. The flashing of the musketry,
as the darkness gradually increased, displayed the progress of the
fight. Our men pursued the Afghans over the hills, and at last
got among them with the bayonet, driving them on pell-mell till

382 Life of Sir George Pollock.

a return to camp became advisable ; and so completely thrashed
were the enemy, that they did not dare to adopt their favourite
plan of following them up in their retirement. Four men killed
and twelve wounded were the loss in this affair, which no doubt
produced a salutary impression, and prevented our being much
more annoyed during the night than we were ; though, as it was,
a desperate attack was made on one of our pickets, composed of
men of the 60th N. I., who held their ground most gallantly
under tbeir officer, Lieutenant Montgomery. He was wounded,
and had four men killed, and sixteen or seventeen put Jiors de
combat. The Afghans practise a savage sort of war dance, not
unlike that of North American Indians, which they accompany
with the cry of ' Huk ! huk ! huk ! ' This noise resounded all
night long in our ears.

" It was evident that on moving next morning there would be
some work for the rearguard, and Lieutenant- Colonel Richmond,
of the 33rd N.I., a very good officer, was selected to command it.
He employed himself during great part of the night in arranging
matters so as to afford the best chance of keeping off the enemy,
which eventually he accomplished most successfully, having had
an opportunity of employing his detachment of the 3rd Dragoons
with great effect in a charge upon a large body of their cavalry.

" The Afghans came down in great force as soon as our pickets
were withdrawn from the heights, but found all their efforts
ineffectual. A few of our people were wounded, but no baggage
was lost. We marched soon after daylight. Sir Robert Sale
commanded the advance guard with which General Pollock
proceeded ; and General McCaskill the main column. We very
soon came in contact with the enemy, who occupied posts on every
commanding point of the hills, and some furious contests took
place ; our troops, European and Native, climbing the steep faces
of the mountains, and charging the Afghans with great gallantry.
Captain Lushington, of the 9th, in leading the light company up
a hill, which was stoutly defended, received a shot in the forehead,
through his forage cap, which laid bare, but fortunately did not
fracture, the skull. It was a most singular escape ; he is now
doing well, and no serious consequences are likely to ensue. The
nature of the country the road winding up before us among the
mountains enabled us to perceive many parties of the enemy

Life of Sir George Pollock. 383

posted in advance, on eminences commanding our route. For a
considerable time we were occupied in dislodging them by means
of well-directed snots from Abbott's guns. At one of their posts a
huge Afghan standard bearer stood, conspicuous among his party,
displaying his banner. Several shrapnels were burst over the
sungah. When he perceived that the gun was about to be fired,
he squatted down ; rising immediately after the shot, waving his
flag high above his head in defiance. This operation was many
times repeated, till at length, I fancy, he must have got his
quietus. He rose no more, and the position was vacated

" Thus we struggled on, our flankers crowning the heights, the
enemy gradually disappearing from all their positions, till we
reached the level ground at the top of the Huft Kotul, where a
body of horse being discovered, a loud call was made for the 3rd
Dragoons, who dashed on at speed up the pass in splendid style,
but the Afghans were too far ahead to be overtaken, and escaped
among the mountains to the left, leaving two six-pounder guns
in our possession, which we recognized as a part of those captured
from our Cabul army. While all this was going on in the pass,
Major Skinner, of the 31st, was moving, with a force composed
of six companies from various regiments, along the lofty range of
hills on the right of the road, where he had some severe fighting.
Captain Borton, of the 9th, lost six men of his company, killed in
this operation. Skinner made his way successfully, and formed
a junction with us, as intended, at a point beyond the summit of
the Huft Kotul. Akbar Khan, who had commanded in person
on this occasion, deemed the game now lost. His troops dispersed,
and on the morning after the battle he was fifty miles distant
from the scene. We reached our encampment at Khoord Cabul
without further opposition, and soon after dark the whole army
and its baggage were established there for the night. This
important success caused us a loss, in killed and wounded, of

Our loss, as in the previous action, was small,
when the nature of the difficulties overcome, and the
obstinate resistance of the enemy, are taken into

384 Life of Sir George Pollock.

consideration; it consisted of 32 killed and 130
wounded, among the former being Hjder Ali, Native
Commandant of the Jezailchee regiment, a most
gallant and enterprising soldier, who was cut down
while attempting to seize one of the Afghan
standards, while four officers were included in the
latter category. The enemy, who, as an army, were
completely broken up, lost several hundred killed,
and were altogether so demoralized that they did
not attempt to offer any further resistance in the
passes that yet intervened between the camp at
Khoord Cabul and the capital.

On the 14th the army marched to Boodhak, the
General taking the precaution of sending parties to
crown the heights of the Khoord Cabul Pass. The
scene witnessed on the route was one full of painful
interest. At Boodhak, in that fatal January, not
less than 3,000 soldiers and camp followers of General
Elphinstone's army were massacred by the Afghans,
who lined the rugged hills on either side, and shot
them down in heaps as they struggled along the
narrow gorge at their feet, much as " noble sports-
men " do in the covers of Norfolk, when they indulge
in a battue of game or " drive " for pheasants. Nine
English ladies, accompanied by eighteen or twenty
young children, in some instances infants in arms,
witnessed the frightful spectacle, and shared its
dangers, through which they nevertheless passed un-
scathed. The savage grandeur of the scenery of the
pass rendered it a fitting site for the deed of blood

Life of Sir George Pollock. 385

that had been enacted under its horrid shade, never
yet pierced in some places by sunlight, while it ac-
corded well with the aspect of the road along which
the army travelled, strewed as it was for two miles
with mouldering skeletons, like a charnel-house.

The General, describing the scene to his brother,
Sir Frederick, wrote :

" In going through the Khoord Cabul Pass, the day after the
battle of Tezeen, the skeletons were so thick on the ground, that
our men were obliged to drag them to one side to allow the gun-
carriages to pass."

It may readily be conceived what were the feelings
excited in the hearts of the British soldiers as they
stepped over the remains of their countrymen and
companions in arms, stretched in their last sleep in
this foul Golgotha. The muttered threat of deadly
vengeance was heard throughout the ranks, and gave
warning, not unheeded by their leader, of the neces-
sity of tightening the bands of discipline. Boodhak
was reached without opposition, unless we include in
that term the efforts of a solitary mountaineer, who,
jezail in hand, sought to stay the progress of an
army, by keeping up an " independent fire " from a
hole in a rock, in which he had ensconced himself.
On arriving at the halting-place, the General issued
an order, pointing out in forcible terms that the very
existence of the army would be immediately endan-
gered, should acts of violence at Cabul, by putting
the inhabitants to flight, prevent the procuring of


3 86 Life of Sir George Pollock.

Cabul is only eight miles distant from Boodhak
and the Bala Hissar, and the walls which run up the
sides of the hills encompassing the city, could be
clearly distinguished in the distance. Here the army
reaped the first-fruits of their victories in the arrival
in camp of two of the prisoners, Captain Troup and
Dr. Campbell, who, however, returned on the same
day to protect some ladies and children, who had
been confined in a neighbouring fort under the
protection of a friendly chief.

On the following day (the 15th of September), the
army marched without any opposition along the road
leading from Boodhak to the capital, and that after-
noon the camp was pitched on a fine level plain
between low hills, a spot which had formed the race-
course of ' the officers of the Cabul force. Akbar
Khan had fled to the Ghorebund valley, ready if
need be to fly across the Hindoo Koosh, and had
taken as his companion Captain Bygrave, whom he
subsequently surrendered in a fit of generosity. The
hostile chiefs were supposed to be in the Kohistan.
As to Cabul, it was nearly deserted. A panic had
seized the conscience-stricken inhabitants, who, with
the exception of the Kuzzilbash chiefs and their
followers, and some few others who now tendered
their allegiance, had fled from before the face of the
victorious army. Thus was brought to a glorious
conclusion the onward march of General Pollock's

In announcing, in a general order dated Simla,

Life of Sir George Pollock. 387

30th September, George Pollock's victory at Tezeen,
and his occupation of Cabul, and Nott's success at
Ghuznee, Lord Ellenborough said :

" The British flag now waves in triumph from the highest point
of the Bala Hissar. Thus have all past disasters been retrieved
and avenged in every scene in which they were sustained, and
repeated victories in the field, and the capture of the cities and
citadels of Ghuznee and Cabul, have advanced the glory and
established the accustomed superiority of the British arms.
The Governor- General, in the name of the Government and of
all the people of India, offers to Major-General Pollock and
Major- General Nott, and all the officers and troops under their
respective commands, his grateful and heartfelt acknowledg-
ments for the important services they have performed. The
Govern or- General directs that the recent successes obtained by
the armies in Afghanistan be fully made known to all the
troops at all stations of the army, and that at all those stations
a salute of twenty-one guns be fired for the capture of Ghuznee
and a similar salute for the capture of Cabul."

388 Life of Sir George Pollock.


The release of the prisoners. General Nott. The halt at Cabul.

ON the day of the arrival of the British army before
Cabul, there came into camp the following prisoners,
who owing to illness had been unable to accompany
those sent on to Barmeean by Akbar Khan's orders.
Mrs. Trevor (whose husband had been murdered when
Sir W. Macnaghten met his death), together with
her eight children, Captain and Mrs. Anderson, with
their three children, Dr. Campbell, and Captain Colin
Troup, who nobly stood by these helpless ladies and
children in their fort, when he might have ensured
his own safety by joining the British army. Happily,
such instances of devotion were not rare in that small
but gallant band of British officers, prisoners in the
hands of the ruthless Afghans.

During the course of the following day (the 16th
September), the General received intelligence of the
approach of Notts army. That distinguished officer,
after defeating a large Afghan force under Shum-
shoodeen Khan at Grhoaine, captured Grhuznee, which
the garrison evacuated just as Nott was about to
open his batteries. Another successful engagement

Life of Sir George Pollock. 389

was fought at My dan on the 14th September, and then
Nott's division neared Cabul, passing Urghundeh
on the 16th, the place where, in the autumn of
1839, Dost Mahomed had planted his guns and deter-
mined to make a last stand against Sir John Keane's
advancing army. But Nott had been anticipated,
and learned the fact with disappointment. The
gallant General had brought with him, agreeably to
the Governor-General's instructions, the sandal- wood
gates which were said to have been removed from
Somnauth, in Guzerat, by the great conquerer
Mahmoud, who 800 years before had issued out of
Ghuznee, and carried fire and sword into Hindostan.
Notwithstanding that the Moollahs, or holy men who
ministered at the tomb of Mahmoud, asserted that
the famous gates which gave access to the shrine
were really those brought from Somnauth, so high an
authority as Major Rawlinson, who took the oppor-
tunity of questioning the priests, and of copying the
Cufic inscription on the shrine, states he " feels posi-
tively certain that the gates are certainly not those
of Somnauth," and that the tomb itself is spurious,
and boasts no higher antiquity than that of the
Sultan Abdool Eizak, who built the present walls
of Ghuznee. However that may be, the gates
were, under the superintendence of Nott's distin-
guished chief Engineer, Major Sanders (who sub-
sequently fell at Maharajpore), removed by a party
of British soldiers, the Moollahs weeping bitterly at
the desecration, though it is possible their lamenta-

390 Life of Sir George Pollock.

tions were partly called forth by the anticipation of
the falling off in the contributions of the faithful that
would certainly ensue.*

On the morning of the 16th, General Pollock pro-
ceeded to carry out a ceremony that must have been
eminently gratifying to himself and every man of his
army. It was to restore to its proud position the
flag that had been tarnished in the eyes of the world
by recent unhappy events. To Oriental minds no
act would carry more complete conviction of the
thoroughness of the triumph of British arms, than
that the symbol of its might should float once more

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 28 of 40)