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honours. The vote of thanks by the Houses of Parliament. Refu-
tation of alleged excesses in Afghanistan.

ON the morning of the 12th October, General Pollock
broke up his camp before Cabul. Sir Eobert Sale,
with the 1st and 2nd brigades, Backhouse's Mountain
Train, 1st Light Cavalry, 3rd Irregulars, and Christie's
Horse, was detached by the Gospund Durrah, or Sheep
Pass, which was parallel to and on the right of that
of Khoord Cabul, with the object of turning that pass,
and taking possession of the heights, the difficulty of
crowning them from the Cabul side being very great.
In consequence of this movement, the main column
was enabled to march through the principal defile
without a shot being fired by the Ghilzyes, who did
not even put in an appearance. General Pollock
marched with the rest of the army, including Nott's
troops, for he was fearful that the old Candahar
division might commit excesses if left in occupation of
its old ground, whilst the head-quarters of the army
were proceeding in advance. There was some in-



Life of Sir George Pollock. 419

convenience in this, as Nott came up before Pollock
had crossed the Loghur river.

Besides the enormous amount of baggage and
supplies, the army was greatly encumbered by a large
number of miserable Hindoos, who having been
rendered destitute by the destruction of Ghuznee and
the spoliation of Cabul, now crowded into the British
camp, hoping to obtain safe conduct to India.

" General Pollock's camp," wrote Kawlinson, in his journal,
" is crowded with hangers-on, imperfectly provided with carriage
or supplies, and he necessarily experiences much inconvenience
in consequence. General Nott has positively refused to permit
his force to be encumbered in the same way, and yesterday
evening a general clearance of our camp took place preparatory
to the march. About 500 men were expelled from the bazaar of
the 16th regiment alone, where they had taken refuge : most of
these people were the destitute Hindoos of Cabul and Ghuznee.
They had hoped to have been allowed to return to India, but
were now obliged to bide their fate among the Afghans."

General Pollock took forty-four pieces of ordnance
as trophies, and a large quantity of warlike stores,
but for want of carriage, was compelled to begin
the destruction of the guns on the first day's march-
To his infinite honour it should be noted, that he also
removed with him about 2,000 natives, Sepoys and
camp followers of General Elphinstone's army, who
had been found in Cabul, where they had earned a
subsistence by begging. These unfortunate wretches,
who were all cripples, having lost their hands or feet
from frost-bite, were mercifully provided with car-
riage, by General Pollock's orders ; two officers were

27 *



420 Life of Sir George Pollock.

also appointed to take charge of them, and see to their
wants, and convey them back to their own homes,
from which they had been reft by the exigencies of
our policy. What a contrast this conduct afforded to
the inhumanity displayed by the Candahar General !

It was late in the evening of the 13th, before the
rearguard reached the encamping ground in the valley
of Khoord Cabul, greatly fatigued by the arduous duty
of escorting the enormous train of baggage of the two
divisions. On the 14th, the army inarched through
the Tezeen Pass, retracing their steps over the ground
for which Akbar Khan had fought so stoutly.
Though the force arrived rather late at their camping-
ground, the General despatched the 9th Eegiment,
26th Native Infantry, and some other troops, to at-
tack the fort of Khoda Bux Khan, who, though he
had been conspicuous during the disastrous retreat of
Elphinstone's army for the ineffectual attempts he
had made to stay the slaughter of the British troops,
and the protection he had afforded to some officers,
had made himself obnoxious by interfering with
General Pollock's communications during his advance
on Cabul. After a march of three miles, the column,
finding the Ghilzye chief's fort evacuated, committed
it to the flames, the illumination lighting their way
back to the camp at Tezeen.

The advance guard, under Sir Eobert Sale, and the
main column, commanded by General Pollock, had
scarce any occasion to fire a shot, but McCaskill en-
countered some opposition, and the rear column, under



Life of Sir George Pollock. 421

the command of Nott, was, during the night of the
15th, engaged in a smart skirmish on the Huft
Kotul, in which sixty-one men were killed and
wounded ; it was described by Brigadier Stacy as a
" severe affair," and was deemed worthy of a separate
despatch by Nott, who was not given to write lengthy
despatches, or to exaggerate the importance of actions
in which his troops were engaged. Here also the old
warrior was compelled to blow up two of his eighteen-
pounder breaching guns, which he had brought with
him from Candahar, intending to carry them to India,
but he did not know what the passes between Cabul
and Jellalabad were like, or else he would have fol-
lowed the example of his brother General, who, before
starting, burst the two Nott had handed over to him.
In a letter to his daughters, written from Candahar
on the 5th June, 1842, Nott, overlooking the diffi-
cult nature of the terrific defiles between Jellalabad
and Cabul, the necessity Pollock was under to obtain
supplies and carriage for his army, and, above all, the
permission to advance, for which the latter had so
repeatedly asked, but which was not accorded to him
until some time later, writes in the following
strain :

" Pollock ought to have marched sharply upon Cabul ; had he
done so, not a shot would have been fired. Mark me, my children,
had I been in his place with that beautiful army, I would have
struck such a blow that the whole world would have resounded
with it."

And yet General Nott, whose brave soldierly



422 Life of Sir George Pollock.

character is too well known to admit for a moment
the charge of vain boasting, goes on to say :

" I am ordered to do nothing. Well, our nation is disgraced.
How strange that Englishmen should be so paralyzed ! I am
ordered away, though with my beautiful regiments I could plant
the British banner on the banks of the Caspian."

It appears strange that it did not occur to Nott,
when penning these lines, that perhaps his brother
General might be, equally with himself, condemned to
an irksome and uncongenial inactivity. It would
almost seem a pity that in his published. "Memoirs
and Correspondence," a letter, clearly written in one
of those moments of irritation so common to the
General, and, furthermore, of so confidential a cha-
racter, should have been submitted to public perusal
and criticism. One is reminded of the fatal indis-
cretion which proverbially characterizes the action of
one's most enthusiastic and best friends.

An officer has well described the passes through
which General Nott was to lead his gallant division,
and of the almost impassable nature of which he
now gained an experience which, according to the
tactics he adopted, was not reassuring, and would
have been dearly bought indeed had he been advanc-
ing against a victorious enemy :

" Hugged ascents and descents, watercourses, ravines, and
narrow valleys, form the constant features of the country from
Jugdulluck to the end of the Khoord Cabul Pass, a distance of
forty miles. The denies through which the road leads are so
narrow and difficult, no words can convey an idea of them. The
Duree Pass, which is three miles long, is extremely narrow, and



Life of Sir George Pollock. 423

turns as repeatedly as the torrent which roars in its bottom meets
impenetrable masses of rock at right angles. Its average width
is about forty yards, but there are three places in which it is less
than ten feet, and one only six ; so that if an animal fall, the road
would be stopped till it could be removed. The almost perpen-
dicular cliffs on either side appear as if threatening destruction,
and they rise to the height of several thousand feet."

General Pollock reached Ghmdanmck on the 18th
October, and General McCaskill, on the following day,
having encountered much opposition at Jugdulluck,
as did also Nott. A post having been established at
Gundamuck previous to the march on Cabul, for the
purpose of keeping open his communications with
Jellalabad and India, the main column halted here for
a day, it being considered necessary to rest and feed
the tired and hungry cattle, while officers and men
were scarcely less in need of a short respite from the
fatigues of such a march.

On the 22nd, the main column arrived at Jellala-
bad ; the General, having withdrawn the detachment
he had left at Gundamuck, marched to an encamp-
ment on the other side of the town, about two miles
from the site of the old standing camp. McCaskill's
division came in the next morning, and Nott arrived
on the succeeding day. Before starting from Cabul,
much and serious opposition had been anticipated
in the passes between it and Jellalabad by many
experienced officers, but so complete were General
Pollock's arrangements that his column arrived at Jel-
lalabad without a single casualty, though Nott and
McCaskill, who did not take the precaution of crown-



424 Life of Sir George Pollock.

ing the heights the whole way during their progress,
were not equally fortunate. Indeed, so contradictory
were the reports of the Generals, which had been for-
warded for the information of the supreme Grovern-
ment, regarding the amount of opposition encountered
in the march from Cabul to Jellalabad, that the
General-in-Chief was under the necessity of explaining
the seeming discrepancy, though he refrained from
casting any slur on the want of caution of his brother
Grenerals. In a despatch to the Governor-General,
dated,

" Camp, Jellalabad, October 23rd," he says : " There may appear
to be some contradiction to my assertion that the enemy
were prevented following us, when your Lordship peruses the
reports of Generals Nott and McCaskill ; but I am still of
opinion (and my opinion is formed from information I have
received from good sources) that the only enemy we have had to
contend with have been the brigands of the country, who, even in
times of peace, are always to be found where there is a prospect of
plunder. I have crowned the heights the whole distance, and
have had a strong rearguard. I have not only met with no op-
position, but we have scarcely seen an inhabitant ; most certainly
there has not been any organized resistance."

In this same letter the General was under the
necessity of defending his conduct in delaying his
departure so long from Cabul, and in having under-
taken the expedition to Istaliff, which was carried
out so successfully under the command of General
McCaskill. One would have thought that a man with
the military instincts of the Governor-General, would
have divined the great advantages that must accrue
to the British army in breaking up a confederacy of



Life of Sir George Pollock. 425

chiefs who would have harassed the return inarch ;
also, one would have credited his political sagacity
with appreciating the great moral effect produced by
the infliction of such a heavy blow upon the Afghans
in one of their most inaccessible fortresses, thereby
making known that the arm of British power cloud
strike with effect at any point of the country, and
that not a fighting man should appear in arms unvan-
quished. General Pollock's letter on these points is
convincing of the propriety of his conduct. He
says :

"With reference to the first paragraph," (alluding to Lord Ellen-
borough's letter to him,) " I can safely assure your Lordship that I
never, from my first arrival at Cabul, expected to leave the place
so early as the 8th instant; and I believe I may, with very great
truth, assert, that I never gave any one reason to believe that
I could march at so early a period. My first expectation was that
I should not be able to move till the 15th. I afterwards hoped
to move on the 10th instant, and as soon as I saw a fair prospect
of my being able to do so I expressed such an expectation in my
letter to your Lordship, but would not even then speak confidently.
Even on the 10th instant, in writing to His Excellency the Com-
mander-in- Chief, I would not say more than that I hoped I might
be able to report my departure on the 12th instant. Camels and
bullocks came in on the afternoon of the llth, but not so many as
were required : I was, however, determined to make no further
delay. I beg to say that until I wrote to your Lordship it was
impossible for me to fix a probable day for my departure, though
I knew many officers in camp had fixed their own day on which
I was to move, without any reference to my real intentions or
expectations. A report of the movement of the two brigades
was forwarded. The report was delayed a day, but their moving
forward after their junction depended on information I might
receive of Ameenoollah, who had collected a body of men at Ista-
liff. There were several objects contemplated in sending the



426 Life of Sir George Pollock.

brigades, but the principal one was to disperse the force collected
under Ameenoollah ; secondly, by appearing in force in Kohistan,
it was hoped the native prisoners would be released ; and thirdly,
it was not at all improbable that the advance of such a force might
have induced the Ghorebund chiefs to secure the person of
Mahomed Akbar. A number of native prisoners were released,
and the dispersion of Ameenoollah's retainers prevented their
following us on our return towards the provinces."

It must have been galling in the extreme to General
Pollock, on the very morrow of his victories, to have
to write exculpatory letters, as if he had been sub-
jected to reverses. One is at a loss to discover what
could have induced Lord Ellenborough to pursue so
ungenerous a line of conduct, a course differing so
greatly from that ordinarily followed by his Lordship.

There is a page in George Pollock's correspondence
during his stay at Cabul and Jellalabad, which ought
to be recorded here. It relates to one of the saddest
episodes in the Afghan enibroglio, fertile as it was in
lamentable events; we refer to the Stoddart and
Conolly* tragedy. It is not our province to enter here
into details of the sufferings these brave and accom-
plished gentlemen endured with all the fortitude of
English officers and Christian gentlemen, and which
culminated in that tragic scene enacted in the square
of Bokhara, on the morning of the 17th June, 184.2,
when, protesting their resolution to die in the faith

* The life of this latter one of John Conolly both perished in
three brothers, men of the highest Afghanistan, the former in action,
moral and intellectual type has and the latter as noble a gentle-
found a congenial biographer in man as ever drew breath in his
Sir John Kaye. Edward and prison-house at Cabul, of fever.



Life of Sir George Pollock. 427

of their fathers, they laid their heads on the block,
and suffered martyrdom in the presence of a multi-
tude who placed their hopes of heaven in the name
of the false prophet Mahomet. General Pollock
officially reported Captain Arthur Conolly's death from
Cabul, in a letter dated September 30 ; but he added :

" The only authority for the death of this very intelligent officer
is conveyed in a Persian letter from a native of Cabul, who writes
from Bokhara to Moollah Ahmed Khan, of this city, saying :
4 Tell Moostafah (Captain A. Conolly's servant) that his uncle,
whom he left here sick, saying he was a great traveller, and had
visited Kokand, was taken very ill, and though we gave him medi-
cine, and did all in our power, it was of no avail. It was the will
of God that he should die.' Moostafah and Moollah Ahmed Khan
are both of opinion that Captain A. Conolly is the person alluded
to ; and as the letter proceeds to say that the effects of the deceased
are at Bokhara, and can be sent when required, and as Moostafah
had no uncle, to whom could the description apply ? I fear there
can be no reason to doubt the death of the above-named officer."

The General was at the time under the impression
that poor Colonel Stoddart was alive, but Saleh
Mahomed, a youth despatched by Major D'Arcy
Todd, from Herat, to join Captain Conolly's suit,
reported the execution of both these noble English-
men by order of the Ameer .of Bokhara, on the 17th
June ; and poor Stoddart's name was struck out of
the Army List by the home authorities as from that
date. The result of Dr. Wolff's mission placed the
fact beyond the reasonable possibility of a doubt.

Nothing is more remarkable in the beautiful letters
and journals of Arthur Conolly. published by Kaye
in his deeply interesting mempir of that talented



428 Life of Sir George Pollock.

young officer, than his utter forge tfulness of self, as
shown in his efforts to obtain first his companion's
release by putting him forward as the real representa-
tive of the British Government, and as exhibited in
his solicitude for the welfare and interests of his ser-
vants ; even on the bed of sickness, and in the near
prospect of death, his correspondence from that ter-
rible Bokhara prison-house, offers most striking exam-
ples of this unselfishness.

While at Jellalabad, on his return to India, General
Pollock, with his characteristic kindness and sense of
justice, in a letter dated 23rd October, to the address
of the Governor- General, exerted himself to obtain
an adjustment of the claims of Captain Con oily 's
servants ; and he succeeded. The following letter,
which was written in reply to Pollock's application,
shows in what light Lord Ellenborough regarded
Conolly 's mission :

" With reference," wrote the Chief Secretary, "to your letter of
the 23rd ultimo, on the subject of the remuneration applied for
on behalf of the servants attached to the mission of Lieutenant A.
Conolly to Kokund, I am directed to inform you that the Governor-
General has no knowledge of Lieutenant A. Conolly 's mission to
Kokund having been authorized. On the contrary, his Lordship
was informed by the late President of the Board of Control, that
Lieutenant A. Conolly was expressly instructed by him not to
go to Kokund ; and in all probability he owes all his misfor-
tunes to his direct transgression of that instruction. The ser-
vants entertained by him, however, are not responsible for the
indiscretion of their master. They were in the service of an
officer apparently employed on a public mission by his Govern-
ment, and the Governor-General is prepared to. consider their



Life of Sir George Pollock. 429

position favourably. His Lordship, therefore, authorizes the dis-
bursement of the sums stated in the papers attached to your
letter under reply to be due to those several persons after they
left Khiva (after deducting therefrom the amount of wages which
would have become due during a direct march to Cabul), will be
made a charge against Lieutenant A. Conolly, who will be re-
quired to refund the amount, as well as all sums which may have
been drawn on account of such an unauthorized extension of his
mission."



However, poor Arthur Conolly was at this time
beyond the power of being subjected to the petty
annoyance of having deductions made from his pay,
or the greater injustice of having his mission to
Kokund and Bokhara repudiated, though Kaye
has proved, by bringing to light a letter from the
Secretary to the Supreme Government to Sir W.
Macnaghten, dated 28th December, 1840, that he
was neither an unauthorized agent nor an " innocent
traveller," as Lord Ellenborough indiscreetly, though
doubtless with the best of motives, described him, in
his communication to the Ameer of Bokhara, request-
ing his release.

The entire force, being assembled at Jellalabad,
halted there a few days, and General Pollock, in
accordance with instructions, set his Engineers to work
to destroy the fortifications. Negotiations had been
in progress with the Sikhs since the spring, having for
their object the transfer of the town to Shere Singh,
or the Jummoo Eajah, but in the then uncertain
position of affairs the Sikh Government declined the
offer. When victory crowned our standards, and the



43 Life of Sir George Pollock.

British army commenced its return march from Cabul,
the Lahore Durbar changed their minds, and ex-
pressed their willingness to accept the gift ; but they
were too late, the defences raised with so much care
had been levelled, and so Jellalabad remained a depen-
dency of whatever prince was to become ruler of the
turbulent Afghan race. The bastions of the town
were also blown up, and the ruins of one of them
formed a tomb over the unfortunate Elphin stone, the
gallant Dennife^who fell in Sale's memorable action
of the 7th April, and many comrades whose remains
had been consigned to the grave during that now
historic defence. This mode of concealing a spot
sacred to the memory of so many of our devoted
countrymen was necessary, for had the site been
marked by any other monument it would assuredly
have been desecrated, and the ashes of the dead scat-
tered to the four winds of heaven, after the departure
of the British force.

The army commenced to move from Jellalabad on
the 27th October, McCaskill's division accompanying
that of General Pollock's, while Nott was directed to
bring up the rear on the following day with his divi-
sion. Greenwood describes the destruction of Jella-
labad as follows :

" After four days' halt at Jellalabad, the fort and town were,
according to orders, set fire to and totally destroyed. Large
quantities of gunpowder had been placed under the bastions and
other places of strength, and the sight of the immense confla-
gration was awfully grand. Ever and anon, as the fire reached
one of the mines, a vast pillar of flame would be thrown up in



Life of Sir George Pollock. 431

the air, shaking the earth under our feet with the concussion,
and lighting up the landscape for miles round, showing the
gloomy hills which surrounded us, seemingly looking at the work
of destruction with threatening aspect. Suddenly all would again
be dark, and showers of falling beams, large stones, and other
rubbish, which had been driven up high into the air by the ex-
plosion, would be heard rattling in every direction on the ground.
Jellalabad was totally destroyed. Doubtless the Afghans will
spare no pains to repair the damages done by us to this important
stronghold, but years must elapse before a city can again spring
up from the heap of ruins which we left."

The General turned the halt at Jellalabad to account
in making arrangements for carrying back to Pesha-
wur all the stores and baggage which had been brought
from thence, or had been accumulated for the use of
the returning armies. The transport required for
removing all this was enormous, and would have
taxed the energies of a general commanding an army
in the plains of India. It may be imagined, then,
how great was the labour that devolved on General
Pollock in making arrangements for the safe transport
of this vast mass of warlike stores and baggage
through the gorges of the passes between Dakha and
Jumrood. Lord Ellenborough had infused much of
his restless energy into the officials of the upper pro-
vinces, who had used the greatest exertions in for-
warding the means for evacuating the country, and a
considerable supply of carriage cattle was awaiting
General Pollock's arrival at Jellalabad ; but still, with
all the efforts in this direction of the Governor- Gene-
ral, who for his praiseworthy exertions was somewhat
contemptuously spoken of in the House of Lords as



43 2 Life of Sir George Pollock.

a " very good commissary-general," there was not
nearly enough transport, and in quitting the place
vast stores of grain were unavoidably left behind.

Pollock himself might lay claim to be considered a
" very good commissary-general," for it was on his
proposal that cattle for transport had been engaged
on such terms, and from places where they were
procurable in sufficient quantities, to allow of a for-
ward movement on his part. Soon after his first
arrival at Jellalabad (on the 29th April), we find him
writing to the Governor-General :

" With reference to the want of cattle with this force, I think
it might in a great measure be remedied, and with advantage, if
Mr. Clerk were authorized to purchase mules and Yahoos in the
Punjaub. These animals abound in the Punjaub, and are of a
superior description ; they are very hardy, and eat almost any-



Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 31 of 40)