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Grenerals Pollock and Nott to withdraw,

" Those generals actually advanced their forces, and by their
gallant conduct and brilliant successes, vindicated the character
of the British arms in the scene of their former disasters."

Of course this amendment was negatived ; but
though it was brought forward by the eccentric but
able member for Montrose, it received the support of
Lord Ebrington, who pronounced the famous permis-
sive letter, so warmly eulogized by the Duke of
Wellington, as a " shabby despatch ;" and this
amendment further represented, even at that early
date, a pretty general feeling that those officers who
had borne the burden and heat of the day, as well as
all the responsibility in the event of failure, ought to
have received also all the merit of the surprising
successes they achieved.

Perhaps not less gratifying to Sir Greorge Pollock
than Peel's handsome recognition of his great merit,

* Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, Vol. LXVI. p. 994.

47 6 Life of Sir George Pollock.

was a private note, now before us, addressed by the
late Lord Hardinge, after his return from India, to
the late Sir Frederick Pollock. The noble lord was,
at the time of the passing of the vote of thanks for
the Afghan successes, a Member of the House of
Commons, and, as Sir Henry Hardinge, had filled the
post of Secretary of War. "Whenever we meet,"
says Lord Hardinge, " I should like to express what I
did not know when I was in England, that the ivhole*
merit of the advance from Jellalabad to Cabul is due
to him. His letter, which did not come home with
the correspondence of the period, is for his fame an
important document." This deliberate expression of
opinion, all those who know the character borne by the
" hero of Albuera " and Governor- General of India,
a man eminent alike as a soldier and statesman, and
beloved by all who came in contact with him for the
nobility of his character, will allow is, to borrow an
expression of the writer's, "an important document
for the fame " of Sir George Pollock.

Soon after his arrival at Dinapore to take command
of his division, Sir George was summoned by Lord
Ellenborough to be invested, in company with
General Nott, with the insignia of the Bath. The
investiture is described as one " of great splendour
and interest." It took place at sunrise, in the palace
of the Fort of Agra. A considerable number of
persons, specially invited, were present while the

* The italics are the writer's.

Life of Sir George Pollock. 477

Governor-General, as representing the sovereign,
performed the ceremony with becoming dignity and
empressement. There was a grand public breakfast in
the morning, a public dinner, and finally a ball and
supper, with, of course, a certain amount of what the
Yankees call " tall talking," which must have been
embarrassing to men of the modesty of the two
gallant soldiers.

But something less agreeable than even hearing
their praises sung, was in store for these veterans.
Soon after his return to Dinapore, Sir George Pollock
was called upon, as were also Generals Nott and
McCaskill, to vindicate their conduct and that of their
troops from the charge of having committed excesses
during the victorious march through Afghanistan.
The reader, who has followed the narrative to this
point, will doubtless feel as astonished as were the
individuals at whom these formidable and baseless
charges were levelled, though when he has learnt that
they were founded on emanations from the pens of
anonymous correspondents, who, having been advo-
cates of a policy of retirement, vented their discontent
in the columns of the Agra Akhlar, perhaps his won-
der may be merged into a feeling of indignation that
such libellous aspersions should have been deemed
worthy of notice. Men of such known kindness of
heart and humanity as Generals Pollock and McCaskill,
should have been exempted from suspicion, unless the
charges were openly stated and proofs furnished suffi-
cient for an inquiry. However, so it was. The state-

47 8 Life of Sir George Pollock.

ment as to excesses related, chiefly, to the period after
the arrival of General Nott's division at Cabul, and to
those committed by the troops of the latter, to which
we have already referred in a previous chapter. The
conduct of the troops under McCaskill at Istalif was
likewise impugned on the score of humanity ; but the
imputations were indignantly repelled by Havelock,
who was present as Divisional Deputy- Assistant Ad-
jutant-General (and who in fact planned the operations
which ended so successfully), and by other officers.

When it is recollected that between Gundamuck
and Cabul, 15,000 British soldiers and subjects had
been basely murdered by a treacherous foe, and that in
certain places not only were barriers erected composed
of the bones of these slaughtered victims, but that in
the Khoord Cabul Pass, as related by Sir George
Pollock, the skeletons were lying so thickly on the
ground that they had to be moved to suffer the guns
to pass when these points are taken into considera-
tion, it is rather a subject of wonder that the comrades
of these murdered men did not give vent to their in-
furiated feelings and massacre the inhabitants of Cabul.
The destruction of the grand bazaar at Cabul was
stigmatized by the gentlemen who infinitely prefer
the worship of s. d. to the exaltation of the national
honour, as " an act of unparalleled vandalism," though
in this far-famed commercial mart the remains of a
British envoy had been impaled and subjected to every
species of indignity.

Sir Henry Hardinge repelled with indignation in

Life of Sir George Pollock. 47 9

his place in the House of Commons the imputation of
these " libellers of the Indian press," as he called
them, and expressed a wish that " honourable members,
when making such statements, had distinguished the
information derived from the papers before the House
from that which had been obtained from the Bombay
Times* or Agra AMbar, or other sources peculiar to
themselves." The author of the " Life of Sir William
Nott " imputes the blame of these unfounded asper-
sions to the press of England, but the indignant
observations of Sir Henry Hardinge and other speakers,
point solely to Indian papers as being the propagators
of these calumnious statements regarding the actions
of their countrymen. The author referred to says:

" The political party in England opposed to the Whigs had,
through their organs of the press, indulged in every species of
hostility to Lord Auckland's operations in reference to Afghan-
istan ; but latterly the same press had altered its tone, and
rendered all due credit to the measures of Lord Ellenborough, the
Tory who had replaced or succeeded the Whig. Now the Whig
press in its turn became unscrupulous, and, influenced or sustained
by the exaggerated representations of highly imaginative corre-
spondents, put forth innumerable libels regarding the conduct of
the troops under Nott and Pollock when retiring from Afghanis-
tan. As soon as these vile slanders reached India, the Governor-
General called upon Sir William Nott and Sir George Pollock to
reply to them."

The following three letters from Sir George Pollock

* It should be stated, in justice service in that Presidency, for the

to the Bombay Times, now known ability and moderation with which

as the Times of India, that it was it was conducted,
distinguished, at least during our

480 Life of Sir George Pollock.

give explanations on these points, and were subse-
quently officially declared by the Court of Directors
(as were also those of Generals Nott and McCaskill)
to be " satisfactory," while that body made the amende
by recording in the same letter that " when these
rumours were first brought to our knowledge, we
deemed them to be great exaggerations, if not alto-
gether unfounded; and we did not doubt that we
should receive in due course full and exculpatory ex-
planations as to what had actually taken place."


" Allahabad, April 2nd, 1843.

" My Lord, I have had the honour to receive your Lordship's
letter dated 23rd ultimo, intimating that disapprobation had been
expressed at the destruction of the bazaar and mosque at Cabul,
and of trees ; also that excesses have been imputed to the troops.

" It is difficult to grapple with vague and anonymous accusations
against the conduct of the troops. Many detailed statements in
the newspapers were entirely unfounded, and were got up with
the sole object of creating a sensation ; but I confess that if indi-
vidual and isolated instances of excess had occurred, I should
not have been much surprised, composed as all Indian armies are
of such a heterogeneous mass, comprising all classes and castes ;
more than two-thirds of whom are either public or private servants
and adventurers, who though nominally following some occupation
useful to an army, proceed with it for the sole purpose of plunder-
ing when a favourable opportunity offers. Some excesses may,
unknown to me, have been committed, but I will venture to assert
that no troops ever conducted themselves with more forbearance
under such unprecedented aggravations, perhaps no army was
ever placed in a more trying situation.

" During the whole course of their progress towards the capital
they had ocular proofs of the treachery and brutality of a merci-

Life of Sir George Pollock. 481

less enemy ; but still I am unable to call to mind any wanton
deliberate act of inhumanity on the part of the troops, and can-
not but regret that the culpable instances alluded to have not
been specified, as I may possibly be suspected of suppressing
facts. This, however, I beg to assure your Lordship I have no
wish to do.

" The feeling of the Hindoos against the Afghans was very
naturally strong, in consequence of the latter having deprived
the Hindoos of their caste whenever they came into their power;
but no troops could feel otherwise than excited at the sight of
the skeletons of their late brethren in arms, which still lie
covering the road from Gundamuck to Cabul ; and, as if the
more to rouse a spirit of revenge, the barricade at Jugdulluck
was literally covered with skeletons. What I have stated, above
will not be considered as justifying excesses on the part of a
British army, but it may be admitted in extenuation of individual

" A few days previous to the march of the brigade under Briga-
dier Monteith, a European was murdered by the Afghans at
Jellalabad. The destruction of Ali Boghan by some men under
Brigadier Monteith's command was caused by one of those
sudden bursts of feeling, which, being wholly unexpected, no
precautions were deemed necessary ; but it was a solitary in-
stance, and occurred nearly as follows : Some camp followers
entered the village, and having found parts of the dress of some
of our soldiers who had been massacred on the march from
Cabul, a number of men proceeded to the village, which was
eventually burnt, whether accidentally or intentionally is doubt-
ful. So very soon was the mischief perpetrated that the Briga-
dier was hardly aware of it till the place was in flames. He
immediately took measures to prevent a recurrence of such
scenes, and I wrote in strong terms on the subject. Subsequent
to that event, during the whole time the Brigadier was detached,
I heard of no more excesses. In the instance of Ali Boghan,
after a most minute inquiry, I have reason to believe that not a
man, woman, or child was injured, and I know the greater part
of the property was returned to the head man of the village. In
subsequent engagements with the enemy at Mamookail, Jugdul-
luck, and Tezeen, I neither saw nor heard of any excesses. A


' Life of Sir George Pollock.

report was circulated that a European was burnt alive at Jugdul-
luck, and that two Afghans were burnt in like manner by our
troops in revenge, the whole of which was an infamous fabri-

' I know of no instances of cruelty or excess at Istaliff, and the
feeling of the army could not have been very prone thereto when
about 400 or 500 women and children were protected from insult
and injury, and made over to their families after the engagement.
If any excess has been committed which I have not noticed, I
can only affirm that I recollect none ; and I beg to add, that the
praise bestowed on the troops on a late occasion by your Lordship
for their ' forbearance in victory,' is, as far as I am able to judge,
well merited ; and I trust your Lordship will never have cause to
alter your good opinion of their conduct. On the subject of
trees being destroyed, I am unable to call to recollection what
occurred in Brigadier Monteith's detachment, and the only in-
stance of their destruction which came under my personal ob-
servation was at Mamookail, where the ground was such that I
was obliged to encamp the different regiments in the gardens
surrounding the fort. Without this precaution, I should have
been subjecting the troops to constant annoyance, as the enemy
would certainly have occupied them. The destruction of the
vines and other small plants was almost a necessary consequence
of our occupying Mamookail.

" With regard to the destruction of the Cabul bazaar and mosque,
it may possibly be supposed that with them was destroyed other
property, but this was not the case.

" The insult offered to the remains of the late envoy was
notorious to the whole of the chiefs and inhabitants of the city.
They admitted that the mutilated body was dragged through the
bazaar and treated by the populace with every indignity, and
eventually hung there, that every Afghan in the city might
witness the treatment of the remains of the representative of the
British Government. The intended measure was communicated
to the chiefs, who not only admitted the propriety of destroying
a place where such scenes had transpired, but offered to, and did,
accompany the party sent for its destruction. Those who resided
at and near the bazaar had two days' previous notice to remove
their property (which they did), and I am not aware of any

Life of Sir George Pollock. 483

instance of violence having occurred. It was not possible en-
tirely to prevent plundering, but during the time the Engineer
officer was employed in the destruction of the bazaar and mosque
attached, both cavalry and infantry were on duty in the city to

prevent any outrage.

" I have the honour, &c.,




" Ghazeepore, April Wth, 1843.

" My Lord, Since I had the honour to address your Lordship
on the 2nd instant, in reply to your Lordship's letter dated the
23rd ultimo, it has occurred to me that I could not produce better
proof of the forbearance of the troops under my command than
by a reference to their conduct on the morning of the 16th of
September last. I have already officially detailed the number of
the troops which accompanied me on the occasion of planting the
colours on the Bala'Hissar. It was deemed advisable on that
occasion to go through a part of the city, and although the troops
had arrived only the day before from a march which was abun-
dantly calculated to irritate and exasperate them, they so fully and
literally obeyed the orders I had previously given, that not a
house or an individual was injured either in going or returning
from the Bala Hissar. The destruction of the residence of Koda
Bux, the chief of Tezeen, may perhaps have been considered an
excess. I will therefore explain that during the time the army
remained in advance of Tezeen, the chief of that place was the
cause of our communications being cut off. He was repeatedly
warned what the consequences would be, when an opportunity
offered, if he persisted in such a course ; but I beg to add that
the injury sustained by the chief in the destruction of his resi-
dence entailed no loss on others that I am aware of, as the injury
done was confined almost entirely to the fortified dwelling. For-
age was found there and brought to camp, but not an individual
was injured.

" I have the honour to be, &e.,

31 *

484 Life of Sir George Pollock.


" Dinapore, April ISth', 1843.

" Sir, I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your
letter dated the 29th inst, which awaited my arrival here. I
regret that I was not sooner in possession of your letter, as I fear
this will be too late for the purpose required. Nearly all the in-
formation it is in my power to give is contained in the accom-
panying copies of letters which I have addressed to the Eight
Honourable the Governor-General, in reply to a reference His
Lordship was pleased to make to me. With respect to the extent
of the injury done by the brigade under Brigadier Monteith, lam
unable to give any detailed account. The provisions, grain, etc.,
and materials for building, were taken from those of the inhabi-
tants who were openly opposed to our troops ; but in both cases
the cost of things taken was carried to the account of Govern-
ment. I have already, in my letters to His Lordship, stated that I
am not aware of any Afghans having been killed when unresisting,
or from any feeling of revenge on the part of the troops. Tora-
baz Khan, the chief of Lallpoora, and the Governor of Jellalabad,
accompanied the brigade to point out what property should be
respected. With regard to the violation of women, I heard of no
instance of the kind ; and I am quite sure that Brigadier Mon-
teith would have done his utmost to prevent such excesses. 1
have stated to His Lordship what occurred at Mamookail, and 1
know most positively that no Afghan was killed on that occasion
except in fair fighting. The families had, I believe, gone the
day before the place was taken. I cannot say when or by whom
the fort or adjoining houses were set on fire. I passed through
with the right column in pursuit of the enemy, and did not
return till the afternoon, when I had determined to encamp there.
On my return I found Brigadier Tulloch with his column (the
left) occupying the gardens. The fort and adjacent houses were
still burning. On the return of the whole of the troops it was
necessary for their security to take advantage of the gardens sur-
rounded by walls, and the men were accordingly encamped there.
The destruction of the vines was a necessary consequence, as

Life of Sir George Pollock. 485

every one must know who has seen how grapes are cultivated in
Afghanistan. There were very few trees cut down, but the bark
from a number of them was taken from about two or three

" With reference to the third paragraph of your letter, I beg to
state, that from the date of my arrival at Cabul on the 15th
September, the inhabitants commenced returning to their houses.
They had assurances from me of protection, and, with the excep-
tion of the covered bazaar, I did my utmost to protect both the
inhabitants and their dwellings from injury. I have already
stated to His Lordship why I considered that particular spot (the
bazaar) should suffer, and on the 9th of October, the Engineers
commenced their operations. I believe I am quite justified in
stating that no lives were lost; the private property had been
removed, and I had both cavalry and infantry on duty in the city
to prevent plundering. Some injury was no doubt sustained by
the city, but the damage done, even when we left it, was partial
and comparatively trivial. I consider it mere justice to the
troops who proceeded under my command to Cabul, and who
passed over scenes which were particularly calculated to cause
great excitement among them, to state that their conduct on
proceeding to the Bala Hissar (passing through a part of the
city) was quite unexceptionable, and the good effect resulting
therefrom was immediately felt, confidence was restored ; in
proof of which I may state that supplies, both of grain arid
forage, were brought in abundantly, everything being paid for.
I have no memorandum from which to quote the exact quantities
of grain which came into camp, but my recollection of the quan-
tities in round numbers is as follows: The first day, 500
maunds; second day, 1,000 maunds ; third day, 1,600 maunds;
fourth day, 2,000 maunds ; fifth day, 1,000 maunds. The falling
off of the supplies on the fifth day was the consequence, I was
told, of some of the men of General Nott's force having plun-
dered those who were bringing in supplies. I wrote to General
Nott on the subject; but from that period the supplies never
came in so freely as before, and I am sorry to add that many
complaints were made. I have hitherto been silent on this
subject, and should have continued so, for reasons which it is
perhaps unnecessary to explain ; but as the third paragraph of

486 Life of Sir George Pollock.

your letter calls for a more particular report than I have hitherto
made, I reluctantly forward the accompanying documents, upon
which it is unnecessary for me to n;ake any comments.

" I beg. however, to state distinctly that until plundering
commenced, supplies of every description were abundant, and
the people were fast returning to the city. In reply to that part
of the third paragraph in which I am directed to state what
injury I understood had been committed by the Candahar force
after my march, I have merely to observe that from all I had
heard I thought it advisable that the whole force should move
from Cabul the same day ; and this precaution, I have reason to
believe, prevented some excesses.

" Tn reply to the fourth paragraph, I believe I may with great
truth state that no Afghans were destroyed in cold blood, either
before or after reaching Cabul. No women were either dis-
honoured or murdered that I am aware of. With regard to the
destruction of that particular part of the Cabul bazaar where
the Envoy's remains were treated with indignity, and brutally
dragged through, to be there dishonoured and spit upon by every
Mussulman, I admit that I considered it the most suitable place
in which to leave decided proofs of the powers of the British
army without impeaching its humanity. I have, as directed
by you, forwarded a copy of this letter and the original docu-
ments to Colonel Stewart, for the information of the Governor-

" I have the honour to be, Sir, &c.,


Generals Nott and McCaskill were also called upon
for explanations, which were satisfactorily given,
though the former veteran adopted so indignant a
tone (which, considering the provocation given, is
not surprising), that he was rebuked by the Court of

Life of Sir George Pollock. 487


In Political and Civil employ in India. The Pollock Medal. Return
to England Sir George Pollock as Director of the East India

ABOUT twelve months after his return from Afghanis-
tan, Sir William Nott was compelled to leave his
post in Oude and proceed to sea, on account of
serious illness.

His health not being re-established, General Nott
returned to England, but it was only to die in his
native land. This fine old soldier, notwithstanding
grave faults of temper, which often led him into acts
of rudeness and retarded his early success in life, may
be regarded as one of the truest representatives of
the old Company's army, which may well honour
his memory. Of plebeian origin, and without any
"interest," he was most distasteful to the military
and political chiefs in Afghanistan, who resented his
abrupt manner and honest, plain-spoken criticism.
Thus he was first shelved at Quettah in 1839, instead
of advancing with the army to Candahar, and when,
in the ordinary course of seniority, he succeeded to
the command of the forces in Western Afghanistan,
he was, unhappily for his country's honour, passed
over in the succession to the supreme command, to
make way for General Elphinstone, a courtier-like

488 Life of Sir George Pollock.

soldier, as, eminently unsuited for the post as Nott
was fitted for it.

During a military career of forty years, lie never had
an opportunity of achieving distinction, but, directly
he was placed in a position of responsibility, mani-
fested military talents of a high order, and earned
the gratitude of his country by services of no ordinary

General Nott, when isolated and left to his own un-
aided efforts and resources, maintained the honour of
his country, and carried her flag triumphantly from one
end of Afghanistan to the other. Nevertheless, both
Lord Ellenborough, who hailed him as the " Saviour of

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 35 of 40)