John William Kaye.

Lives of Indian officers : illustrative of the history of the civil and military service of India (Volume 2) online

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braie ; but the men appointed for the defence of the Fausse-
braies were so panic-struck, that they took advantage of the
watch being temporarily removed from the gates to abscond,
and it was with great difficulty that a sufficient number of
the garrison could be procured to defend the point."

It is not to be doubted that the Heratees owed it to the
young Englishman that Herat did not at this time fall into

* By " those about him," here and in that he seized Yar Mahomed by the wrist,
the preceding page, the reader is to un- dragged him forward, and implored him
derstand Eldred Pottinger. It is known to make one more eflbrt to save Herat.



the hands of the Persians. But this can be gathered only
incidentally from Pottinger's journal. Two days afterwards
I find him thus expressing his astonishment at the result.
" A man arrived from Kurookh ; he said he had left a de-
tachment of six thousand Orgunjees, who only waited for
orders to foray, or even attack the Persian outposts ; I was
surprised to find my share of the business of the 25th had
reached Kurookh. The moment the man arrived, he seized
and kissed my hands, saying he was rejoiced he made so great
a pilgrimage." But it was not all fame. The great things
which had been done by the individual gallantry of this one
English gentleman increased the difficulties of his position.
If/was soon plain that the Heratees really wished to get rid
of him. The entries in his diary show the perplexities in
which he was placed : " July 8th. Had a visit from the head
Jews, to thank me for my interference, and found that they

were still in fear The Persians wrote to Yar Mahomed

Khan, that they would give up Herat to the Wuzeer, if he
would but send Kamran and me to them as prisoners ; I told
him he had nothing to do but to tell me to go, and I would
go to them of myself, if they said that was all they wanted.
He appeared to perfectly understand the deceitful nature of the
offering. 25th. The Wuzeer received a letter from Hadjee
Abdool Mahomed in the Persian camp, upbraiding him for
joining with infidels against Islam, and for holding on by the
skirt of the English, from whom he could never receive any
advantage; that they would flatter him and give money as
long as suited their interest, as they do in India, and when
they had made a party in the country and knew all its secrets
they would take it for themselves ; that the Government
found such was what they wanted to do in Persia, but had
on the discovery prevented it by turning them away ; and
that until the Envoy of these blasphemers myself was also
turned out of the city, they would not allow the Mooshtuhid
to venture into the city. A note to the same effect was re-
ceived from the Wuzeer's brother, with the addition that the

Eussian Envoy would not send his agent till I left. July

6th. In the morning, the Afghans had a consultation of what
they would answer. At last it was resolved the Wuzeer should
write in answer, that the Englishman is a stranger and


guest, that ho had come to the city, and in the present state 1838.
of affairs the Afghans could not think of turning him out of
the city ; for in the distracted state of the country he could
not arrive in safety in his own country, and if anything hap-
pened to him it would be a lasting disgrace to the Afghan
name, and as a guest he must go or stay according to his own
pleasure ; moreover, the Wuzeer wrote that he did not hold
out in expectation of aid from the English, that he had no
wish to join that state against Persia (Iran), from his con-
nexion with which he had no wish to tear himself, but that
the Persians would give him no choice, but surrendering or
fighting, which he did from necessity and not from being so

absurd as to wait for aid from London. August 6th. In the

evening, when the Persians had gone, went to the assembly.
The Wuzeer told me that, the whole business being upon me,
the Persians made a point of obtaining my dismissal, without
which they would not treat. They were so pressing that he
said he never before guessed my importance, and that the
Afghan envoys, who had gone to camp, had told him they had
always thought me one man, but the importance the Persians
attached to my departure showed I was equal to an army. The
Afghans were very complimentary, and expressed loudly their
gratitude to the British Government, to the exertions of which
they attributed the change in the tone of the Persians ; they,
however, did not give the decided answer they should have,

but put the question off by saying I was a guest. August

30th. The movement of the Persians is spoken of with in-
creased positiveness, but no certain intelligence could be pro-
cured, notwithstanding the Afghans were grumbling at the
delay of the English, and Yar Mahomed himself was one of
the agitators of this feeling, he giving out in public that, in
his opinion, the English Government intended to drop the
connexion, that it wanted merely to destroy the Persian
power, and did not care if the Herat power was at the same
time rooted up. All sorts of absurd rumours were rife ; but a
very general opinion, originating from the Persian zealots,
was that the British and Russian Governments were in alli-
ance to destroy Mahomedanism and partition off the country,
dividing India from Russia, between them."

Soon after this, the siege was raised. The Persians, moved


1838. by their repeated failures, and by the demonstration made
by the British in the Persian Gulf, struck their camp, and
Herat was saved saved, as we may believe, under Provi-
dence, by the wonderful energy of the young artilleryman,
who had done so much to direct the defence and to animate
the defenders. We shall never very accurately know the full
extent of the service which Eldred Pottinger rendered to the
beleaguered Heratees; and for this reason (as I- have before
said), that the extreme modesty of the journal, which lies
before me, has greatly obscured the truth. He was at all
times slow to speak of himself and his doings ; and it can be
gathered only inferentially from his narrative of the siege,
that he virtually conducted the operations of the garrison.
That the Persians believed this is certain ; and it is equally
clear that, although Yar Mahomed and other HeratSe chiefs,
being naturally of a boastful, vain -glorious character, endea-
voured to claim to themselves the chief credit of the victory,
the people in the surrounding country knew well that it was
to the personal gallantry of the young Englishman that they
owed their salvation from the Persian yoke. But he was
himself greatly surprised at the result, and when the siege
was over declared it to be the strangest thing in the world
that such a place and such a garrison could have held out for
so many months against the whole Persian army, aided, if
not directed, by European officers, and under the inspiring
influence of the personal presence of the Shah. In an elabo-
rate report upon Herat, which he drew up nearly two years
afterwards, he said : "It is my firm belief that Mahomed
Shah might have carried the city by assault the very first day
that he reached Herat, and that even when the garrison
gained confidence, and were flushed with the success of their
sorties, he might have, by a proper use of the means at his
disposal, taken the place in twenty-four hours. His troops
were infinitely better soldiers than ours, and twice as good
troops as the Afghans. The non -success of their efforts was

the fault of their generals The men worked very well

at the trenches, considering they were not trained sappers,
and the practice of their artillery was really superb. They
simply wanted engineers and a general to have proved a most
formidable force."


There was now a season of repose for Herat, but it was the 183839.
repose of utter prostration. The long protracted siege, and
the exactions which had attended it, had reduced the people
to a condition of unexampled misery. The resources of the
tstate were exhausted; the people were starving; and Yar
Mahomed was endeavouring to recruit his finances by the old
and cherished means of slave-dealing. In this crisis Pottiuger
put forth all his energies a second time for the defence of
Herat. By obtaining from his Government advances of money
lie was enabled to restore both trade and cultivation, which
had been well-nigh suspended, and thus large numbers of
people, who had emigrated in despair, were induced to return
to their homes. The ascendancy which he thus obtained
enabled him to exert his influence for the suppression of tlje
horrible traffic in human flesh good work, in which he was
aided by Colonel Stoddart, who remained for some time at
Herat with liim. But these and other humane efforts for the
protection of the people were distasteful in the extreme to Yar
Mahomed, and a few months after the raising of the siege the
English officers were openly insulted and outraged. Colonel
Stoddart quitted Herat for Bokhara in the month of January ;
and Pottinger, after the insults he had received, would have
gone also, but he was earnestly implored by Shah Kamran to
remain, and he knew that it was the wish of his Government
that he should not quit his post.

In the mean while, the Government of India were equip-
ping the Army of the Indus, and maturing their measures for
the restoration of Shah Soojah to " the throne of his ancestors."
Their first manifesto was put forth on the 1st of October, at
which time intelligence of the retreat of the Persians from
before Herat had not reached Lord Auckland. At the end of
this manifesto there was a notification distributing the agency
by which our diplomatic operations in Afghanistan were to
be conducted, and Lieutenant Eldred Pottinger was then ap-
pointed senior Political Assistant to the Envoy and Minister.
But, after a little while, news came that the siege had been
raised, and another public announcement was put forth, de- NOV s, 1838.
claring that although the British Government regarded the
retreat of the Persians as a just cause of congratulation, it
was still intended to prosecute with vigour the measures


183940. which had been announced, " with a view to the substitution
of a friendly for a hostile power " in Afghanistan, and to the
establishment of a permanent barrier against schemes of
aggression on our North-Western Frontier. And then the
Governor-General proceeded to render honour to Eldred Pot-
tinger in these becoming terms : " The Eight Honourable the
Governor-General is pleased to appoint Lieutenant Eldred
Pottinger, of the Bombay Artillery, to be Political Agent at
Herat, subject to the orders of the Envoy and Minister at the
Court of Shah Soojah-ool-Moolk. This appointment is to
have effect from the 9th of September last, the date on which
the siege of Herat was raised by the Shah of Persia. In
conferring the above appointment on Lieutenant Pottinger,
the Governor- General is glad of the opportunity afforded him
of bestowing the high applause which is due to the signal
merits of that officer, who was present in Herat during the
whole of the protracted siege, and who, under circumstances
of peculiar danger and difficulty, has by his fortitude, ability,
and judgment, honourably sustained the reputation and in-
terests of his country."

Departure So Eldred Pottinger continued to dwell at Herat until

rom Herat. September, 1839, by which time Major D'Arcy Todd had
arrived on a special mission, of which mention is made in a
subsequent Memoir. Pottinger then made his way by the
route of Bameean to Caubul, where he found the British
Army encamped, and the British Embassy, under Mac-
naghten, established. After a brief residence there, he quitted
the Afghan territory, and went down to meet the Governor-
General in the Upper Provinces of India. He was warmly
welcomed by Lord Auckland, who received with the liveliest
interest the information with which he was laden, and would
have heard with warmer admiration his narrative of the stir-
ring scenes in which he had been engaged, if he had spoken
more of himself and his actions. He was of course invited to
join the Government circle at dinner ; but nothing was known
of his arrival until the guests were assembling in the great
dinner-tent. Then it was observed that a "native," in
Afghan costume, was leaning against one of the poles of the
tent; obviously a shy, reserved man, with somewhat of a
downcast look; and the Government-House Staff looked


askanco at him, whispered to each other, wondered what in- 184041.
trader ho was, and suggested to each other that it would be
well for some one to bid him to depart. But the " some one"
was not found ; and presently the Go vernor- General entered,
and leading his sister, Miss Eden, up to the stranger, said,
" Let me present you to the hero of Herat." And then, of
course, there was a great commotion in the tent, and, in spite
of etiquette, the assembly burst into something like a cheer.*

Then Eldred Pottinger went down to Calcutta and re-
mained there for some time, during which he drew up certain
valuable reports on Herat and the adjacent country. In the
mean while, Major Todd was doing the work of the Political
Agency, to which Pottinger in the first instance had been
appointed, and it was not thought expedient to disturb the
arrangement. So another post was found for the young
Bombay Artilleryman, and the year 1841 found him again
serving in Afghanistan. He had been appointed Political
Agent on the Turkistan frontier, and his head-quarters were
in Kohistan, or the country above Caubul, where he dwelt,
with a small staff of officers and a native escort, in what was
known as the Lughmanee Castle.

As the autumn advanced, Pottinger saw most clearly that The Kohistan
there was mischief in the air ; that the measures of retrench- msurrectlon -
ment, so injurious to the interests of the Kohistanee as of
other chiefs, were fast relaxing the only hold which we
had upon their forbearance. The tie which bound them to
us was the tie of gratified avarice. But now our great
system of bribery was beginning to collapse. When Pottinger
knew what had been done, he scented the danger at once,
and he wrote several letters of earnest remonstrance to Sir
William Macnaghten. " In September," wrote Pottinger,
a the Envoy sent several back ; not understanding the reason
why, I remonstrated with him, and he then informed me
that he was ordered by Government to make retrenchments,
and that it had been resolved to diminish the gross amount
of pay to the militia throughout the country by one-third.
Immediately on the receipt of this I wrote as strongly as,
it appeared to me, became my situation, to the Envoy, and
pointed out the danger likely to accrue from irritating the

* See note in Appendix.


1841. minds of people in a province so surrounded by rebellious
districts, and particularly the gross breach of public faith
which would be committed if this measure were carried into
effect throughout the Kohistan, and begged he would, at
least, spare the chiefs installed last year (1840). The Envoy
replied that he could not help the reduction, as his orders
were peremptory, but he informed me that the chiefs who
were advanced under our knowledge during the past year
should be considered as excused." Day after day appear-
ances became more threatening. It was plainly necessary
to do something. If we could not any longer purchase
the submission of the chiefs, we might overawe them by a
display of force. So Pottinger went to Caubul, and urged
npon the Envoy the expediency of sending an expedition
into the Nijrow country, and " getting rid of some of
the most dangerous of our enemies." To this Sir William
Macnaghten was averse. " He, however," wrote Pottinger,
"referred me to General Elphinstone, and told me that if the
General would consent, he would. On visiting the General,
I found that he had received such reports of the country, that
he would not permit an expedition without further informa-
tion ; whereupon I offered to take any officers the General
might select and show them the country, as my presence in
the Kohistan was necessary. I returned there before any-
thing was determined."

During the early part of October, the Kohistanees remained
outwardly quiet ; but day after day brought new rumours of
coming insurrection, which Pottinger duly reported to head-
quarters. But both Macnaghten and Burnes said that they
could see no grounds of alarm no cause for suspicion.
" Notwithstanding," said Pottinger, " by the end of the
month my suspicions were so aroused, that I felt it my duty
to recommend that hostages should be demanded from the
Kohistanee chiefs. To this measure the Envoy reluctantly
consented, and I only succeeded in procuring them by the
end of the month, when everything betokened a speedy
rupture." The enemy were then gathering around him ;
and though many of the chiefs came to him with professions
of friendship and offerings of service on their lips, he clearly
saw the necessity of strengthening his position and taking


precautions against a sudden attack. But it was necessary, 1841.
at the same time, to veil his suspicions, and therefore, as he
said, his defensive operations were restricted to half-measures.

It has already been told how on the second day of Novem-
ber the storm burst furiously over Caubul. It soon swept
into the Kohistan. On the morning of the third, it was
plain, from the number of armed men that were gathering
round the Lughmanee Castle, that the crisis was close at
hand. The chiefs, however, still professed friendship, and
clamoured for rewards. Pottiuger then told the principal
men that if they would render the service required from them
they should have not only rewards, but dresses of honour
from the King. They appeared to be satisfied, but said it
was necessary that this should be explained to the petty chiefs
who were in the adjacent garden. On this, Pottinger sent
out his Assistant, Lieutenant Rattray, to commune with them.
Soon conscious that foul play was designed, Rattray was about
to leave the assembly, when he was shot down. A friendly
Afghan had run to the castle to apprise Pottinger that
treachery was around him. " He had scarcely made me
comprehend his meaning," wrote Eldred, "as he spoke by
hints, when the sound of shots alarmed us. The chiefs with
me rose and fled, and I escaped into the castle through the
postern-gate, which being secured, I ran on the terre-plaiu
of the ramparts, and thence saw Mr. Rattray lying badly
wounded about three hundred yards distant, and the late ten-
derers of service making off in all directions with the plunder
of the camp. Before I was master of these facts, a party of
the enemy crossing the field observed Mr. Rattray, and
running up to him, one put his gun to his head and de-
spatched him, whilst several others fired their pieces into
different parts of his body."

And now what was to be done ? The enemy were swarm-
ing around him ; and those of his own people, who remained
faithful among the faithless, were few. Captain Codrington
was then with Pottinger in Lughman, but his regiment was
three miles off, at Charekur. The alarm, however, had been
given ; and in the course of the afternoon, young Haughton,
the Adjutant of the Ghoorkhas, a gallant soldier, who has
well fulfilled the promise of his youth, appeared with two


1841. companies of tho regiment, and then Codrington, mustering
what men ho could, made a sortie and joined him. There
was then some sharp fighting, and the gardens were cleared.
By this time night was falling. It was the duty both of
Codrington and Haughton to return to Charekur ; but they
left Pottinger some sixty men, which made up his entire
garrison to a hundred, all the ammunition at his disposal
amounting to only fifteen rounds a man. But his friends of
the Ghoorkha regiment promised to bring him fresh supplies
and new reinforcements of men on the morrow ; so he deter-
mined, with God's will, to maintain his post.

But it was not so ordained. The attempted relief failed.
Codrington sent out four companies of the Ghoorkhas and a
six-pounder gun ; and if the gallantry of the young officers,
Haughton and Salisbury, could have ensured success, the
desired succour would have been conveyed to the Lughmanee
Castle. But the enemy were numerous, and some of our
troops were young and impetuous. The detachment was,
therefore, compelled to fall back with heavy loss. Salisbury
was killed, and Haughton was obliged to take back the remains
of his disheartened party to Charekur. " On perceiving the
retreat," wrote Pottinger, " I concluded Captain Codrington
would not again attempt to relieve me, and as I had no
ammunition beyond the supply in the men's pouches, I deter-
mined to retreat on Charekur after dark; but the better
to hide my intention, order grain to be brought into the

By wise arrangements, which eluded the vigilance of the
enemy, Pottinger with a few followers contrived to make
good his retreat to Charekur, under the shadow of the night.
He had scarcely thrown himself into that place, when the
enemy began to rage furiously against the people of the King
and his supporters. The time for negotiation had passed ; so
Pottinger, divesting himself of his political character, took
command of the guns, and prepared to resist the insurgents.

The little garrison had stout hearts, and they fought man-
fully, making frequent sorties against the enemy, but prevail-
ing not against the crowds that were gathering around them.
In one of these sorties Pottinger was wounded by a musket-
shot in the leg; and soon afterwards, Captain Codrington,
who commanded, was killed. Then young Haughton took


the command, and against fearful odds performed feats of 1841.
heroic gallantry, which won the admiration and perhaps ex-
cited the not ungenerous envy of his disabled comrade.*

There was, however, an enemy which it was impossible to
resist. The little garrison held out manfully against vastly
superior numbers, but they were perishing from thirst. The
insurgents had cut off their supplies of water, and there was
no hope for them. Reduced to this strait, they were sum-
moned to surrender. The condition to secure their safety was
that Christians and Hindoos alike should accept the Maho-
modan faith. " We came to a Mahomedan country," an-
swered Pottinger, " to aid a Mahomedan sovereign in the
recovery of his rights. We are, therefore, within the pale of
Islam, and exempt from coercion on the score of religion."
They told him that the King had ordered the attack, and he
replied, " Bring me his written orders. I can do nothing
without them."

But the thirst was destroying them. The last drop of
water had been served out ; and when they endeavoured to
steal out in the night to obtain a little of the precious moisture
from a neighbouring spring, the enemy discovered them and
shot them down like sheep. There was failure after failure,
and then the disciplined fighting men became a disorganised
rabble. The few that remained staunch were very weak, and
they had but a few rounds of ammunition in their pouches.
With this little body of Ghoorkha troops, Pottinger and
Haughton, having taken counsel together, determined to fight
their way to Caubul. The story of their escape shall be told
in Pottinger's own words : " On the 12th," he wrote, " after
dark, Mr. Haughton ordered out a party to cover the water-
carriers in an attempt to get water. The Sepoys, however,
left the ranks to supply themselves, and dispersed on being
fired at; in consequence, the water-carriers failed in their
object. A sortie, consisting of two companies, under Ensign

* After the death of Captain Cod- enemy, who did not desist till dark."

rington, wrote Pottinger in his Budeea- And again : " On the 9th, the enemy

bad report, the enemy were " repulsed blew tip a part of the south-west tower,

with loss from the barracks, when Mr. owing to the carelessness of the guard.

Haughton, on whom had devolved the Before, however, the enemy could proflt

command, followed up the success and by the breach and the panic of our men,

drove the enemy back by a sortie far Mr. Haughton rallied the fugitives, and

beyond the gardens occupied in the leading them back, secured the top of the

Online LibraryJohn William KayeLives of Indian officers : illustrative of the history of the civil and military service of India (Volume 2) → online text (page 19 of 50)