William Taylor.

Scenes and adventures in Affghanistan online

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Transcriber's note:

Variations in spelling and hyphenation have been retained as in
the original.

Some typographical and punctuation errors have been corrected. A
complete list follows the text.

Text italicized in the original are surrounded by underscores

The 'oe' ligature is represented as oe.

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Late Troop Serjeant-Major of the Fourth Light Dragoons.

T. C. Newby, 65, Mortimer St., Cavendish Sq.
T. & W. Boone, 29, New Bond Street.

T. C. Newby, Printer, 65, Mortimer Street, Cavendish Square.













Proclamation of Lord Auckland. The Ghauts. Fatal
Practical Joke. Embarkation at Bombay. Mishap at
Sea. Landing at Bominacote. Review of the troops
by Sir John Keane. Suicide of Lieutenant Fyers.
Advance upon Scinde. Tattah. The Moslems and
Hindoos. Tombs of Tattah. Hindoo Superstition.
Adventure of a Dak, or Native Postman. Death of
a Smuggler. Jurruk. Belochee Thefts. Feat of a
Native Trooper.


Singular fate of Three Officers of the Queen's
Royals. Evacuation of Jurruk by the Inhabitants.
Desertion of Camel Drivers. Preparations for the
attack and defence of Hyderabad. Submission of
the Ameers. Consternation of the Natives at the
arrival of a Steamer in the Indus. Baida.
Accident to a Dragoon. The Lukkee Pass. Kotiah.
Loss of Two Soldiers of the 17th Foot. Sehwan.
Arrival of Sir Henry Fane. Asiatic Jugglers.
Conversion of a European Soldier to the
Mahommedan Faith.


Larkhana. Departure of the Commander-in-Chief
for Candahar. Capture of Belochee Thieves.
Ludicrous scene in the Bazaar. Tremendous
Hurricane. An Irish Colonel's appeal to his men.
Murder of Cooks belonging to the Army. A Native
Funeral. The Bholun Pass. Massacre of Camp
Followers. Ill-timed Merriment. Animal Instinct.


Skirmish with the Enemy. Belochee Waggery.
Cleverly planned Capture of a Bruhee. Sufferings
from want of water. Valley of Shawle. Quettah.
Belochee Cruelties. Adventures in a Stone
Quarry. Treachery of the Khan of Khelat. Murder
of another Cook. Poisoning of the Wells.
Fortunate Discovery.


The Khojuck Pass. Descent of the Troops.
Shocking Death of a Camel Driver. Detection and
Escape of an Affghan Thief. Loss of Cavalry
Horses. Candahar. Arrival of Shah Soojah.
Condition of the Troops. Attempt of the Natives
to cut off a Convoy of Provisions. Asiatic
Mendicants. The Mosque at Candahar. Arrival of
Affghan Auxiliaries.


Installation of Shah Soojah. Attack on the Camel
Guards. Heroism of an Affghan Youth. Murder of
Cornet Inverarity of the 16th Lancers. Departure
from Candahar. The Ghiljie Hills. Locusts.
Arrival of new Auxiliaries. Camel Batteries.
Hyder Khail. Arrival at Ghuznee. Tomb of
Mahommed. Remains of the Old Town of Ghuznee.


Reconnaisance of the Fortress. Skirmish with the
Enemy. Rejoicing of the Garrison at our Supposed
Defeat. Preparation for a Coup de Main. Engineer
Operations. Storming and Taking of the Fortress.


An Affghan Heroine. Capture of Hyder Khan the
Commandant of Ghuznee. Escape of Ghool Mahommed
Khan. Singular Discovery of a Map on the person
of an Affghan Chief. Description of the Affghan
Women. The Ruling Passion. Treasuretrove. The
Golden Shield. Chase of the Enemy. Just


Attempt to Assassinate the Shah. Court Martial
on an Affghan Chief. Visit to the Hospital at
Ghuznee. Hatred of the Affghans towards the
Native Troops. Departure from Ghuznee. Capture
of a Battery. Fatal Accident. Summary
Punishment. Arrival at Cabul. Pursuit of Dost
Mahommed and Treachery of a Native Chief.
Description of Cabul. The Balar Hissar. Mosque
of the Emperor Baber. The Bazaar.


Triumphant Entry of Shah Soojah into Cabul. The
Cabul Races. Death of Brigadier General Arnold.
Sale of the General's effects. Arrival of Prince
Timour. The Sikhs. Murder of Colonel Herring.
Arrival of money and supplies from the Upper


Institution of the Order of the Doorannee
Empire. Murder of a Private of the 13th Light
Infantry. Departure from Cabul. Return to
Ghuznee. Accident to the Revd. Mr. Pigot.
Discovery of the Skeletons of British Soldiers.
Horse-steaks. Treachery of some Ghiljie Chiefs
and destruction of their Fort. Adventure of a
Dragoon. Loss of a Cook.


Arrival at Quettah. Storming of the Fortress
of Khelat. Suicide of a Trooper belonging to the
Horse Artillery. Departure from Quettah. The
Bholun Pass. Dadur. Bagh. Breaking out of the
Cholera. Death of Doctor Forbes. Shikarpoor.
Death of Captain Ogle. Sukkur-Bukkur. Death of
Lieutenant Janvrin. Wedding Ceremonies of the
Natives. Breaking up of the Bombay Column.
Departure of Brigadier Scott. Boar Hunt.
Larkhana. Sehwan. Kurrachee. Feast of the
Mohurrum. Embarkation and Arrival at Bombay.


The following narrative is put forth with all the diffidence and
apprehension that a mind unaccustomed to literary pursuits, and limited
in its opportunities of improvement, naturally feels on presenting
itself for the first time to the notice of the public. The doubts I
entertain, regarding the prudence of the step I have taken, are in no
small degree increased by the circumstances under which the work has
been executed, the details having been entirely furnished from memory,
and without the aid of any sort of data or memoranda. I should never
have dreamt of undertaking such a task, had not the partiality of good
natured, though perhaps misjudging friends, overcame the scruples which
a consciousness of my own deficiencies excited, and induced me to commit
to paper the scenes with which they professed themselves to have been

Having candidly admitted the demerits of the work, I may now be allowed
to say a few words in its favour. Should it be taken up in the
expectation of supplying materials for the defence of an erroneous
policy, or the gratification of party spleen, it will fall short of the
hopes of the reader, for I have endeavoured to steer clear of every
thing like political allusion in the fear of adding to difficulties,
which already appeared sufficiently formidable, and of wrecking my
little bark on a stormy and troubled sea. Mine is the simple,
straightforward narrative of a soldier, more accustomed to wield the
sword than the pen, and caring little for the conflicting interests or
animosities of party. With such a small amount of profession, it is not
unreasonable to hope that the public will extend towards it some portion
of that generous indulgence with which it is ever wont to regard the
literary efforts of the humbler classes.

_London, December 10th, 1842._



Proclamation of Lord Auckland. - The Ghauts. - Fatal Practical
Joke. - Embarkation at Bombay. - Mishap at Sea. - Landing at
Bominacote. - Review of the troops by Sir John Keane. - Suicide of
Lieutenant Fyers. - Advance upon Scinde. - Tattah. - The Moslems and
Hindoos. - Tombs of Tattah. - Hindoo Superstition. - Adventure of a Dak, or
native Postman. - Death of a Smuggler. - Jurruk - Belochee Thefts. - Feat of
a Native Trooper.

Towards the latter end of August 1838, rumours reached Bombay and the
various military stations in the Deccan, that the troops were about to
be called into active service, and that the scene of operations was to
be at a distance from our Indian territories. The extensive
preparations soon after set on foot, and the unusual activity observable
in the various arsenals of the Presidency, left no doubt as to the truth
of these reports, and the only subject of speculation that remained was,
the precise destination of the forces. Public curiosity was at length
set at rest, by the arrival of a proclamation from the Governor General,
directing the assemblage of an army for service across the Indus, and
explaining at length the intentions of Government. It will not be
necessary for the purposes of this narrative that I should canvass the
merits of this remarkable document, or enter upon a discussion of the
policy on which it was founded. Sufficient is it for me to say that the
objects which it professed, were the protection of our commerce, and the
safety of our Indian frontiers, both of which were menaced by the
intrigues and aggressions of Persia. Having detailed the steps taken by
Dost Mahommed in furtherance of the views of that power, and expressed
its conviction, that as long as Cabul remained under his government
there was no hope that the interests of our Indian empire would be
preserved inviolate, the proclamation proceeded to state, that pressing
necessity, as well as every consideration of policy and justice,
justified us in replacing on the throne of Afghanistan, Shah
Sooja-ool-Moolk, a monarch who, when in power, had cordially acceded to
the measures of joint resistance to external aggression which were at
that time judged necessary by the British government; and who on his
empire being usurped by its present rulers had found an honorable asylum
in the British dominions. Such in a few words were the objects set forth
in Lord Auckland's proclamation and never has unfortunate state paper
been assailed with such hostility and bitterness. Whether the censures
with which it has been visited are deserved or not I will leave to
others to decide, contenting myself with the observation, that failure
and success are but too apt to sway men's judgments and to give a
character to the circumstances that have led to them.

The Bombay troops ordered to form part of the army of the Indus
consisted of her Majesty's 2nd, or Queen's Royals, the 17th regiment of
Foot, 307 of her Majesty's 4th Light Dragoons, the 1st regiment of
Bombay Light Cavalry, two troops of the Honorable Company's Horse
Artillery, one company of Foot Artillery, the 19th regiment of Native
Infantry, the Poona Irregular Horse, with the Sappers and Miners, the
whole constituting an effective force of about 6,000 men, under the
command of Lieutenant-General Sir John Keane.

The 4th Light Dragoons were stationed at Kirkee, about 70 miles from
Bombay, when orders arrived that the detachment should proceed to the
Presidency, for the purpose of embarking for its destination. We left
our cantonments early in November, and overtook the Artillery, which had
preceded us from Poona, at the Ghauts. We halted here two days, and
were joined by her Majesty's 17th regiment of Foot, shortly after our
arrival. Short as was our stay, it was signalised by one of those
practical jokes which so often terminate in fatal results, but which,
unfortunately, seem to have no effect in rendering people cautious. Some
artillerymen having been out shooting game, one of them brought home a
loaded gun and carelessly left it in his tent. Several of his comrades
came in, in the afternoon, and in the course of a carousal one of them
took the loaded piece, and presenting it at the nearest soldier,
jestingly threatened to shoot him. He had scarcely uttered the word when
the gun went off and stretched his unfortunate comrade dead at his feet.
Nothing could equal the distress and remorse of the homicide at the
thoughtless act by which he had deprived a fellow creature of life, and
it had a marked effect on his future character and conduct.

The passage through the Ghauts is romantic and picturesque in the
extreme, the road lying over stupendous mountains and through deep
ravines for the length of about seven or eight miles. Some beautiful
country houses have been lately erected here by a wealthy Parsee of
Bombay, on sites which command the finest and most extensive views in
the neighbourhood. These delightful summer retreats are surrounded by
every luxurious accessory that wealth and taste can supply, and the
Governor is occasionally glad to fly to them for a short respite from
the cares of office.

We arrived at Bombay on the 15th of November, and found it a scene of
busy excitement. The streets were filled with troops and artillery
proceeding to the place of embarkation, and the inhabitants flocked in
thousands to the Bunder Head, to witness their departure. The harbour
was literally alive with the numerous small craft employed in conveying
the troops to the different transports, while the blue Peter flying at
the mast head of the latter announced that we had very little time for
delay. We accordingly hurried down to the beach, and were immediately
put on board the Cambridge. We found it so crowded that Major Daly, our
commanding officer, was compelled to remonstrate with the authorities on
the subject, and after some trouble, he succeeded in getting from
seventy to eighty men removed to the other vessels. This did not
sufficiently lessen the inconvenience to prevent sickness breaking out
amongst us, and we lost one of the Horse Artillery before we were many
days at sea.

The passage was short, but not unattended with danger. The Cambridge
struck on a sand bank, off the Gulf of Cutch, and it was with
considerable difficulty that she was relieved from her perilous
position. We were kept on the bank about four hours, and it may easily
be conceived that no small degree of alarm and uneasiness prevailed
amongst the landsmen, who were unaccustomed to dangers of this
description. The night was pitch dark, and the breakers sounded
unpleasantly near us. Captain Douglass the commander of the vessel,
appeared however all confidence, and after trying a variety of
experiments to get her off, he hit upon one which luckily proved
successful. The whole of the troops on board having been ordered upon
deck, the Captain directed them to jump three times simultaneously. This
was done by our fellows with a hearty good will, and had the instant
effect of loosening the vessel from the bank, and enabling her to float
again into deep water.

We arrived off the mouth of the Indus in about fourteen days after our
departure from Bombay. The troops were immediately disembarked in
_pattemars_, small and clumsy coasting vessels peculiar to the country.
We reached Bominacote the next evening without any other accident than
the sinking of three boats, two containing artillery horses, and the
other officers' supplies, to the value it was said of £10,000 which had
been sent on speculation with the army by an eminent Parsee firm at

Bominacote forms a sort of harbour of refuge for the vessels which carry
on a trade along this line of coast. The village itself consists of a
few filthy huts, and its inhabitants spend their lives in hunting and
fishing. Both males and females are in a state of almost savage nature
little covering being used by them beyond the loin _goity_ or covering
for the loins common to the natives of these parts. The proverbial
vanity of the weaker sex was, however, displayed in the eagerness with
which they bartered their most precious articles for a few handkerchiefs
of Manchester make that we happened to have with us.

As soon as the horses belonging to the cavalry, and the military stores
had been landed, it was decided that we should advance upon Scinde in
two divisions; the infantry under the command of Brigadier Sir Thomas
Wiltshire, and the Cavalry under Brigadier Scott. Previous to our
departure the troops were reviewed by Lieutenant-General Sir John Keane,
who had followed us from Bombay in the Victoria steamer. Sir John
expressed himself in terms of warm satisfaction at the high state of
discipline and ardour of the men, who were eager to be led against the
enemy. The usual precautions on entering hostile territories were now
taken, the Cavalry being ordered to sharpen their sabres, and the
Infantry served with sixty rounds of ball cartridge.

Before we took our departure from Bominacote, a melancholy circumstance
occurred, which threw a temporary gloom over us. As the men were sitting
down to dinner the report of a pistol was heard in the officers' lines.
Suspecting some accident I ran to the spot, accompanied by two of my
comrades, and discovered Lieutenant Fyers, one of the officers of my own
regiment, lying dead in his tent, with a freshly discharged pistol in
his right hand. The unfortunate gentleman had placed the muzzle of it to
his mouth, and the ball, taking a slanting direction, had passed out
over the left ear. For several days previous he had been observed to
labour under great depression of spirits, but no immediate cause could
be assigned for the fatal act. His loss was generally lamented, for he
was both a good officer and an estimable member of society.

Our route lay through a country barren in the extreme, scarcely a
vestige of vegetation being any where to be met with. Of the natives we
saw or heard nothing, for as we advanced they fell back, deserting the
villages and betaking themselves to their mountain fastnesses. It being
now near Christmas the men suffered some inconvenience from the sudden
transitions of temperature, the days being sultry and the nights
extremely cold. The consequence was that the dysentery broke out
amongst us, and several fatal cases occurred.

At the close of the third days' march reports became current through the
camp that we should soon see the enemy. It was said that a force of ten
thousand horse and foot was about to take the field against us, and
Captain Outram was despatched towards Hyderabad, to ascertain the truth
of the story. He brought back information that the enemy were ensconced
within the walls of that town, and appeared to have little disposition
to leave them. We now began to find the difference between quarters and
camp, for the General thought it necessary to send out frequent
reconnoitering parties and pickets, in order to guard against surprise.

Early on the morning of the fifth day, we arrived at Tattah, a place of
considerable antiquity, and, I believe, mentioned in Holy Writ. The
Indus formerly washed the walls of this town, but owing to some natural
or artificial ingredient the course of the river has been completely
changed, and it now runs at about four miles distance.

Emerging from one of the most barren and desolate tracts of country that
it is possible to imagine, even the tombs of Tattah, or City of the
Dead, as it is called in the language of the natives, proved an
agreeable distraction to us. Tattah itself is a small, wretchedly built
town, containing little more than a thousand inhabitants, who are for
the most part of the Moslem religion. The few Hindoos who reside here
constitute the wealthier part of the trading community, but influential
as this fact would pre-suppose them, they are a persecuted and oppressed
race, the privilege of erecting places of worship within the precincts
of the town being not only denied them, but even the free exercise of
their religious rites. Aggressions of the most wanton and tyrannical
nature, and murders committed under circumstances of the most shocking
barbarity, and having their origin solely in religious jealousy, are
matters of no unfrequent occurrence here.

The Hindoos are consequently obliged to resort to the caves of the
neighbouring mountains, to practise their religious ceremonies, but the
relentless intolerance of their persecutors pursues them even there.
During our short stay we saw the bodies of two of the proscribed race,
who had been found murdered in one of their concealed temples.

The tombs of Tattah stand on a gentle eminence, at a short distance from
the town: they are of circular construction, and are, as nearly as I
could judge, from seventy to eighty feet in circumference, and from
thirty to forty feet in height. They are capped with domes, but their
external appearance presents nothing graceful or ornamental to the eye.
The interior is gained by a staircase, which ascends to an aperture
forming the entrance, about midway in the building, and a rudely
constructed ladder conducts the visitor downward to the basement, where
the bodies lie. The interior of the dome is lined with blue tiles richly
ornamented with arabesques and inscriptions from the Koran. There are
about a dozen of these remarkable monuments and they are clustered
together, without arrangement or regard for effect. Of the many sketches
taken at the time I have not seen one which conveys a correct idea of
their details. Although visited by nearly the whole of the troops, it is
a fact highly creditable to their good taste and feeling that no
mischief or desecration of any sort was committed. Sir John Keane, in a
general order issued before our departure, took occasion expressly to
allude to this circumstance, in terms alike honourable to himself and to

A curious, and I must say revolting, instance of the gross superstition
of the Hindoos fell under my observation whilst at Tattah. At the
northern extremity of the bazaar I was shown some of the most miserable
specimens of humanity that can well be imagined. In a filthy mud hut,
the very aspect of which threatened contagion, sat two living skeletons
rocking themselves to and fro. They were without covering of any sort,
except the old blanket on which they sat, and their deep sunk eyes and
contracted features told a tale of long but patiently endured privation.
I was informed that these poor wretches were undergoing a self-inflicted
penance, for the non-performance of some religious rite. They had
condemned themselves for a period of seven years to a daily allowance of
rice and water, barely sufficient to prevent the extinction of the vital
powers. We offered them food, but they sternly rejected it. This
lamentable fanaticism on the part of a simple and inoffensive people is,
after all, but another and more harmless phase of the fierce bigotry,
which still continues to exist amongst European nations.

A _dâk_, or native postman, who had crossed the river from Bhooj with
letters for the camp, was waylaid by two Belochees as he was descending
towards it, by the left bank, and the letter bag taken from him. His
captors, having brought him to their retreat in the hills, secured his
hands behind his back, and lay down to sleep, one of them using the
letter bag as a pillow. The _dâk_ remained quiet, until their snoring
satisfied him they were sound asleep, and then slipping his hands out of
the ligatures, he stole over to the fellow who had the post-bag under
him, and placing his knee on his breast, cut his throat from ear to ear
with a knife, which he took from the mountaineer's person, and made off
with the bag. In about ten minutes after, he heard the Belochee close
upon his heels, and, redoubling his speed, a chase of nearly ten miles
ensued, in the course of which, the poor fellow had two or three times
nearly yielded from fatigue. The dreadful fate which awaited him, should
he fall into his pursuer's hands, flashed however across his mind, and
plucking up fresh strength and courage, he at length succeeded in
reaching the camp, but in so weak and exhausted a state that nature was
near sinking under the effort.

On the eve of our departure, a circumstance occurred which created a
very angry feeling between the inhabitants and the troops, and
occasioned much regret to the Commander-in-Chief, who was desirous that
our advance should not be marked by any thing which savoured of cruelty.
In consequence of the great increase of drunkenness amongst the European
troops, owing to the cheapness and abundance of liquor, strict orders
were issued against its being allowed into camp. One of the inhabitants
of Tattah, who was engaged in smuggling the prohibited article, was

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Online LibraryWilliam TaylorScenes and adventures in Affghanistan → online text (page 1 of 9)