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thing, whereas the camel of the Punjaub or of Hindostan (of
which we must have some), does not thrive in this country.
Camels of this country are sometimes procurable here, but there
are none at present, for the alarm at the approach of this force
seems to have driven every living creature to the hills ; they are,
however, now returning. In consequence of the absurd arrange-
ment of hiring camels to Jellalabad and no further, I, in common
with many others, am now distressed for carriage, and it is diffi-
cult to say how we can procure any. Lieut.-Colonel Bolton lost
nearly 300 camels by desertion before he reached Peshawur."

The cattle procured according to these suggestions
enabled him not only to advance, but to retire, carry-
ing with him the greater portion of his stores, and all
the materiel of war.

As a trophy of the gallant defence made by Sale's
garrison, General Pollock requested Nott to bring

Life of Sir George Pollock. 453

away with him the great " cazee " of Jellalabad, as a
large gun employed in the defence had been called ;
but though Nott, to please the Governor- General, was
able to transport the huge gates of Somnauth on the
carriages -of his heavy battering guns, he stated his
inability to remove this most interesting relic of an
historic event ; accordingly, the General did the best
he could with the limited means at his disposal.
When going up the acclivity of the Lundikhanah
Pass, under charge of Captain Lane, Commissary of
Ordnance to General McCaskill's division, this
unwieldy piece of ordnance, which was mounted
on the only carriage procurable, a most rickety
one, gave way, and, notwithstanding the efforts
of about forty bullocks which were yoked to the gun,
and had drawn it along up to this point at the rate
of about half a mile an hour, M cCaskill was forced to
cause it to be burst.

General Pollock reached Dakha on the 30th, and
made a new arrangement of the troops for moving
through the Khyber. The first and fourth brigades,
under his personal command, formed the leading co-
lumn, the second and third, under General McCaskill,
the rear one; cavalry, artillery, and heavy ordnance
stores being distributed between each. The formidable
Khyber had now once more to be traversed, and it was
anticipated that the Afreedies would make a stout
resistance. Their maliks, or chiefs, remembering the
severe lesson they had received on the advance of the
army owing to their cupidity, were more moderate in


434 Life f 8i r George Pollock.

their demands, and offered to sell a passage " cheap ;"
but there was not a man in the British army, and least
of all their gallant leader, who was in the mood for
such barter, so Captain Mackeson was directed to
reply that the General declined to treat, and would
oppose force by force.

General Pollock, as cautious in the hour of victory,
when retiring at the head of an imposing force, as when
he forced these famous defiles nearly seven months
before with less than half the number of men, took
the same masterly precautions as in the advance, and
crowned the heights on either hand, so that he actually
traversed the entire extent of the Khyber, from Dakha
to Jumrood, with the loss of only two or three
men, and no baggage ; for the General, determining
to give the robber tribes as little opportunity of plun-
dering his baggage as was possible, ordered that every
camel that could not come on should be shot, and
that the load, if it could not be brought on, should

be burnt.

Not so fortunate, because not equally careful, were
his brother Generals, McCaskill and Nott. An officer
with George Pollock's division describes the forward
movement and the fine feeling that animated the
force, though with a naivete that is amusing, he ex-
presses his astonishment at the impunity with which
they were allowed to advance, while the other divi-
sions suffered somewhat heavily.

" We entered the pass, expecting every moment a volley from
the frowning hills on either side, but, to our astonishment, not a

Life of Sir George Pollock. 435

shot was heard, nor a Khyberee to be seen. For some time we
proceeded, supposing the enemy had thought it prudent to get
us well into the pass before they commenced the attack. Still
we went on, until we nearly arrived at the encamping-ground at
Lundikhanah without a sign of opposition. At last the convic-
tion forced itself on our minds that the Khyberees did not intend
to fight. Our men seemed much disappointed, having made up
their minds for a fray, but the enemy would not give them a
chance. Why they allowed our division to pass unmolested I
never could imagine, as those behind were most furiously attacked,
and experienced losses. We got into camp this day rather early,
it being a short distance, and the passage undisputed. The next
day's march was to Ali Musjid, a very long and tedious journey,
highly dangerous from the difficulty and length of the way. We
did not anticipate a free passage through the Lundikhanah Pass
when we started that morning, but, to our surprise, no enemy
appeared. We marched up the ascent with the band playing in
front ' Away, away to the mountain's brow,' and a variety of other
tunes, which had a most beautiful effect in this wild scene, and
showed the Khyberees that we were willing to give them due
notice of our whereabouts, if they had any wish to try their luck
against us. After a most fatiguing march, we got in at night to
our encamping-ground at Ali Musjid. The rearguard was very
late in arriving, having been detained in the pass, the cattle
being completely knocked up by the length and difficulty of the
way, and unable to proceed but at the slowest pace. They had
some little skirmishing with the Khyberees, who came down when
it got dark, but nothing serious took place."

On the following morning the General continued
his march, and, at length emerging from the gloomy
portals of the Khyber, encamped at Jumrood.

General McCaskilTs division met with much oppo-
sition, and suffered severely. He broke up his camp
at Dakha on the morning of the 2nd November, ar-
riving with two brigades at Ali Musjid, but his third
brigade, forming the rearguard under the unlucky


436 Life of Sir George Pollock.

Brigadier Wild, being delayed by the futile attempts
to extricate the Jellalabad gun, as already described,
and not taking sufficient precaution to guard against
a surprise, was overtaken at night in the defiles lead-
ing to Ali Musjid, and met with a serious disaster.
Under cover of the darkness and the brushwood in
the pass, a rush was made by a large body of Afreedies
upon the two mountain guns. Great confusion en-
sued, and the guns were abandoned. Lieutenant
Christie, of the Artillery, and Ensign -Nicholson, of
the 30th N. I., with several men, were killed, and
Lieutenant Boss, of the same corps, and many pri-
vates, were wounded. The guns, which had even
been carried off by the enemy, were recovered the
next day, and the bodies of the officers who fell were
also brought in.

General Pollock writes on the 1st November, from
his camp at Ali Musjid :

" It was a night attack of some plunderers to obtain baggage.
There appears to have been sad confusion. The two officers were
about this time killed, but the guns were not, I believe, even
attempted to be carried off, otherwise we certainly never should
have seen anything of them again, whereas the next day the
mountain howitzer and carriage were found in statu quo, and the
carriage of the three-pounder was not far off. It, in all proba-
bility, was upset, and parted from the carriage ; but if an enemy
(as usually termed) had made the attack, it is very improbable
that either guns or carriage would have been left, for a very few
men could have carried gun, carriage, and all."

General Nott arrived at Jumrood with the rear
division on the 6th November, his chief Engineer,

L/ife of Sir George -ouoctc. 437

Major Sanders, having on the way completely
destroyed the fort of All Musjid, and the works
recently erected by the British to assist in its defence.
The rearguard of Nott's force was also furiously
attacked on marching to and from Ali Musjid
by the Afreedies, though the enemy were speedily
driven off. In this affair Nott lost twenty -three officers
and men killed and wounded, among the latter being
that brilliant soldier, Lieutenant (now General Sir
Neville) Chamberlain. Though a mere youth, he had
already earned a reputation in the service as a bold and
dashing cavalry leader, and, ever foremost in a head-
long charge, had been twice wounded since the troops
moved from Cabul.

General Pollock, with his division, encamped about
four miles from Peshawur, arriving on the ground by
a circuitous route in order to avoid passing near the
city, and here he was joined by Nott and McCaskill.
Avitabile, who, early in the year, had warned George
Pollock of the impossibility of the task he had thus
brought to a glorious conclusion, feasted the vic-
torious generals right royally.

One of the most remarkable features of the cam-
paign thus terminated by the arrival of the army at
Peshawur, and putting out of question its success,
was the marvellously small loss General Pollock in-
curred. This was due simply and solely to the
thoroughness of his arrangements, which were as
masterly and complete in their minutest details in
every action, great and small, and throughout the

43 8 Life of Sir George Pollock.

tedious marches, as might have been expected from
a commander of his experience and ability. Not a
point was forgotten or overlooked as too trivial for a
general commanding-in-chief, and the result was that,
where the sacrifice of a thousand lives would have
been thought no extravagant outlay, as, for in-
stance, in forcing the Khyber, the casualties were
only 135 ! Indeed, this achievement, and the
pitched battle at Tezeen, are worthy to be ranked
among the greatest triumphs of Indian warfare.
Though the actual fighting was not so desperate or
sanguinary as in European battle-fields, the work
was arduous, and the difficulties to be overcome of
a novel and well-nigh insurmountable nature. The
victories achieved by Nott and by Sale cannot be
compared to these successes ; they were gained on
open ground, where both cavalry and guns could act
with effect, whereas in the Khyber and at Tezeen
the British gunner could scarcely be employed at all,
while the infantry had to assail heights, every crag,
and precipice, and by-path of which was known to
the defenders, who were, moreover, armed with je-
zails, which carried death into the ranks of their
assailants at a range at which the " Brown Bess "
was practically valueless. In short, General Pollock's
campaign, from its success and brilliancy, disarms
criticism, and we are not aware that it has ever been
referred to by military writers except in terms of the
warmest commendation, as affording a practical illus-
tration of the value of certain rules of mountain war-

Life of Sir George Pollock. 439

fare, which, indeed, Pollock may be said to have been
the first to define.

At the time he undertook the conduct of these
operations, and while halting at Peshawnr, Sir Charles
Napier drew up a memorandum, at the request of
Lord Ellenborough, who had the highest opinion of
that General's genius for war, and in this document
he, Sir Charles, stated his opinion that it would re-
quire 30,000 men to force the Khyber Pass and
relieve Sale alone ; and yet Pollock performed this
feat with one-fourth that number. Of these, ex-
clusive of European cavalry and artillerymen, only
one foot regiment was British, and infantry had, from
the nature of the warfare, to bear the brunt of the

The recent Abyssinian campaign, which worthily
gained a peerage for the commanding General, was
pithily described by Punch as a " neat " thing. It
well deserved the compliment. But how much more
so does the campaign we have attempted, however
inadequately, to describe. Lord Napier of Magdala
had unlimited resources placed at his disposal ; the
arsenals of England and India were thrown open to
him, and carte blancJie to draw absolutely anything he
required was conferred upon him. He had, as his
base of supplies at Zoulla, a vast fleet, which poured
down at his feet, with a boundless prodigality, stores
of every description, commissariat and warlike. He
had ample reserves at Aden and Zoulla. Finally,
not only was the wealth of two empires placed at his

44 Itfe of Sir George Pollock.

disposal, but the resources of modern science were
pressed into the service, and all sorts of appliances,
as railways, steel mountain guns, ingenious pack-
saddles, patent American well-borers, photography,
and the telegraph, were made to minister to his
necessities, and keep him supplied with intelligence
and accurate topographical information.

Contrast this with Sir George Pollock's position,
and the resources with which he was furnished.
While Napier encountered no military opposition,
except the affair at Arogee, Pollock contested every
step with the fiercest and most warlike races of
Central Asia. His foes were flushed with suc-
cess, while the morale of his native troops was
worse than questionable. Instead of a Governor-
General, and Presidency Governors, and a Home
Ministry, and Commanders-in-Chief at the Horse
Guards and Calcutta, who were almost obsequious
in their offers of service and assistance, moral as well
as material, he had to contend against a Commander-
in-Chief and Governor-General whose orders were at
variance with his own views of what was expedient.
That he had a miserable deficiency of baggage cattle
the reader who has perused the foregoing need not be
reminded. There is a saying that " an army moves
upon its belly/' and General Nott, no timid soldier,
indignantly exclaimed against Pollock advancing
on Cabul with only a week's supplies. Again, it
was one of the Duke of Wellington's dicta that " an
army that could not move was no army at all," and

Life of Sir George Pollock. 441

yet with what the great captain of the age considered
the negation of a fighting force, General Pollock
achieved grand and striking results.

In spite of the comparison not being in favour of
the younger General, it is certain that few men have
better earned a peerage than Lord Napier of Magdala,
for, as in Sir George Pollock's case, we have to take
into consideration how disastrous would have been the
results of a failure. That the rewards were so un-
equal the ribbon of the Bath and 1,000 a year as
against a peerage and 2,000 for two lives was pro-
bably due to the circumstance that the Abyssinian
expedition was undertaken under the orders of the
Home Government, and paid for out of the Imperial
Exchequer, while the Afghan campaign was carried
out under other auspices, and the bill was liquidated
out of the revenues of India. The English taxpayer
was not mulcted in pounds, shillings, and pence ; it
was therefore no concern of the English Parliament
and people, who felt no impulse of gratitude at the
pecuniary saving effected by the successful tactics of
the General, or that other saving, the restoration of
British honour and prestige, which, one would have
thought, though incapable of being measured by
sordid gold, might have been rewarded by the be-
stowal of some hereditary distinction.

On emerging from the Khyber the British army
received intelligence of the general order issued by
the Governor-General on their successes, dated
"Simla, 4th October, 1842." The orders detail the
services of the divisions of Generals Pollock and

44 2 Life of Sir George Pollock.

Nott, with the decorations to be respectively awarded
to them, but we will confine ourselves to the para-
graphs relating to the troops of the former :

" The Governor- General, earnestly desirous of evincing the
gratitude of the Government of India towards the general
officers, officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates en-
gaged in the operations of the present campaign in Afghanistan,
is pleased, after communicating with His Excellency the Com-
mander-in- Chief, to declare the following resolutions : All the
general officers, officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates
serving under the command of Major-General Pollock, of Major-
General Nott, and of Major-General England, between Attock
and Ali Musjid, and in and above the Khyber Pass, and in and
above the Bolan Pass, on the 8th September, shall receive a
donation of six months' batta, payable on the 1st January, 1843.
The several corps of the Indian army which, on the 16th Sep-
tember and the following days, occupied Cabul will hereafter
bear upon their standards and colours the word * Cabool,' with
the figures ' 1842 ' underwritten. Major-General Pollock will
communicate to the Governor-General the designations of the
corps under his command which were engaged in the operations
preceding the occupation of Cabul, but did not advance to that
city, and will name such of those corps as he may deem entitled
to bear the word ' Cabool' with the figures ' 1842' underwritten
upon their standards or colours and appointments, as having
contributed to the capture of that city by their previous service
in this campaign ; and to such corps, being of the Indian army,
as the Major-General may so name, the honour of so bearing the
word Cabool ' will be immediately awarded by the Governor-
General. Major-General Pollock will transmit to the Governor-
General nominal lists of the several general officers, officers,
non-commissioned officers, and privates present in action with
the enemy in the several operations of his army leading to the
occupation of Cabul, and to every person named in such list a
silver medal will be presented, inscribed


Life of Sir George Pollock. 443

On the reverse of these several medals will be inscribed the


The Governor-General will, after communication with and in
conjunction with His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief, repre-
sent to the authorities in England the high services rendered by
the officers of Her Majesty's and the Indian army in the opera-
tions of the present campaign in Afghanistan, in order that they
may be duly submitted to the gracious consideration of Her
Majesty. Medals similar to those presented to the general
officers, officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates of the
Indian army will be prepared for the general officers, officers,
non-commissioned officers, and privates of Her Majesty's army,
having, respectively, similar claims to the honour of wearing
such medals ; but the authority to wear such medals depends
upon Her Majesty's most gracious pleasure."

All would have been happiness and gratulation at
Peshawur had it not been for the scourge of sickness
that now broke out and decimated the force. It was
melancholy indeed that, after passing through so
many and imminent dangers, Death should stalk
through the ranks and gather into his garner some
of the bravest of the warriors returning to receive at
the hands of their countrymen the hardly won meed
of praise, or that yet more earnestly desired pressure
of the hand and wo.rd of proud welcome from the one
dearer than friend or brother. Yet so it was ; and
many, very many gallant soldiers, officers and men,
breathed their last in that dreary camp at Peshawur,
uncheered by aught save the consciousness that they
had nobly done their duty, and died for their country

444 Life of Sir George Pollock,

like countless thousands of our race, whose bones
whiten well-nigh every land and the bed of every sea.
Small-pox, dysentery, and fever, the result of the hard-
ships they had undergone, dogged the footsteps of the
army during their march through the Punjaub, and the
mortality was very great. The want of ambulances,
carriages, and cattle for the conveyance of the sick was
severely felt, and the mode of conveyance mostly
adopted that of " Kajawahs," a rude kind of chair,
hung like panniers over the backs of camels gave the
death-blow to men suffering from the mortal effects of
disease, in some cases aggravated by wounds.

All General Pollock's necessary arrangements
having been completed, he marched, on the 12th
November, from the camp near Peshawur, and, cross-
ing the Punjaub, arrived, after an uneventful march,
on the banks of the Sutlej, opposite Ferozepore. The
intelligence of the victorious return of the combined
forces of Generals Pollock and !Nott was received
with rapturous joy throughout India. It was as if a
great load had been lifted from the hearts of all loyal
subjects, while the demon of treason and disloyalty
slunk away, or put on an appearance of rejoicing.
There had been a long season of sorrow at recent
disasters, and anxiety as to the result of the move-
ments in progress for the vindication of British
honour. The nation mourned its uncoffined dead,
and yet more the national honour buried in the
snows of Afghanistan. Many there were also who
had anticipated the direst consequences in the event

Life of Sir George Pollock. 445

of a failure of the advance on Jellalabad, and Pollock
himself was of opinion, which was shared by others
well qualified to judge, that even had he returned,
after forcing the Khyber, without marching on
Cabul, and showing the Eastern world our power to
punish traitors as well as to relieve friends, all
Afghanistan would have followed us, the Sikhs would
have turned upon us, and B/ohilcund, always ripe for
revolt, would have set the example of rebellion to all
Upper India.

But now the long-continued anxiety was changed
for mutual congratulations, and many hearts beat
with joy at the anticipation of once more grasping
the hands of friends and of relatives. Wives and
parents hastened to greet the returning warriors and
the prisoners whom they had long numbered with
the dead, so hopeless at one time appeared any chance
of release.

The moral effect resulting from the recent victories
among the native population, and throughout the
teeming bazaars of British India and the subsidiary
and independent States, was not less a matter for gra-
tulation to the statesmen who directed the affairs of
the empire, and to the small British garrison whose
hold on India was not less owing to the subtle
influence of prestige than to their valour and martial

In the words of Colonel Sutherland the British
resident at Ajrnere, one of the ablest soldier-states-
men in India, the friend of Elphinstone, Malcolm,

446 Life of Sir George Pollock.

and Metcalfe "it was a comfort again to be able to
look a native in the face."

"To Lord Ellenborough," says Kaye, " the brilliant achieve-
ments of the two Generals were a source of unbounded gratification.
Everything that he could have desired had been accomplished.
Pollock and Nott, under his orders, had * retired ' so adroitly
from Afghanistan, that everybody believed they had advanced
upon the capital of the country. The Governor-General had
threatened to save India in spite of every man in it who ought
to give him support, but it now seemed as though, in reality,
Pollock and Nott had achieved the work of salvation in spite of
the Governor- General himself."

Lord Ellenborough was at Simla when the tidings
of the reoccupation of Cabul reached him, and he
issued a manifesto, couched in grandiloquent terms,
contrasting, not very magnanimously, the "unparal-
leled errors " of his predecessor, Lord Auckland, with
the successes achieved under his viceroyalty.

In this document we look in vain for any mention
of the prisoners, whose fate appeared to be as much a
subject of indifference to his Lordship as to General
Nott. It was a matter of doubt whether they had
been released, or were pining in slavery in the
dungeons of Kholoom ; and his Lordship, equal to
either fortune, surveyed their fate with serene
indifference as he penned his flowing periods.

It was considered by him that all had been attained
that heart could desire; "errors, disasters, and
treachery, had been avenged," and the " invincibility
of British arms established." His Lordship was
satisfied, but so were not the generous public and

Life of Sir George Pollock. 447

the press of India, and many and bitter were the com-
ments on the heartlessness displayed by the occupant
of the viceregal throne.

The following is the text of Lord Ellenborough's
proclamation :

" Secret Department, Simla,
11 1st October, 1842.

" The Government of India directed its army to pass the Indus
in order to expel from Afghanistan a chief believed to be hostile

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 32 of 40)