Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Afghan Wars 1839-42 and 1878-80 by Archibald Forbes

Part 3 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

the Mediterranean a division of sepoys drawn from the three presidencies
of her Indian Empire, Russia for her part was concerting an important
diversion in the direction of the north-western frontier of that great
possession. But for the opportune conclusion of the treaty of Berlin, the
question as to the ability of sepoy troops stiffened by British regiments
to cope with the mixed levies of the Tzar might have been tried out on
stricken fields between the Oxus and the Indus. When Gortschakoff
returned from Berlin to St Petersburg with his version of 'Peace with
Honour'--Bessarabia and Batoum thrown in--Kaufmann had to countermand the
concentration of troops that had been in progress on the northern
frontier of Afghanistan. But the Indian division was still much in
evidence in the Mediterranean, its tents now gleaming on the brown slopes
of Malta, now crowning the upland of Larnaca and nestling among the
foliage of Kyrenea. Kaufmann astutely retorted on this demonstration by
despatching, not indeed an expedition, but an embassy to Cabul; and when
Stolietoff, the gallant defender of the Schipka Pass, rode into the Balla
Hissar on August 11th, 1878, Shere Ali received him with every token of
cordiality and regard.

No other course was now open to Her Majesty's Government than to insist
on the reception at Cabul of a British mission. The gallant veteran
officer Sir Neville Chamberlain, known to be held in regard by the Ameer,
was named as Envoy, and an emissary was sent to Cabul in advance with
information of the date fixed for the setting out of the mission. Shere
Ali was greatly perplexed, and begged for more time. 'It is not proper,'
he protested, 'to use pressure in this way; it will tend to a complete
rupture.' But Sir Neville Chamberlain was satisfied that the Ameer was
trifling with the Indian Government; and he had certain information that
the Ameer, his Ministers, and the Afghan outpost officers, had stated
plainly that, if necessary, the advance of the mission would be arrested
by force. This was what in effect happened when on September 21st Major
Cavagnari rode forward to the Afghan post in the Khyber Pass. The officer
who courteously stopped him assured him that he had orders to oppose by
force the progress of Sir Neville and his mission, so Cavagnari shook
hands with the Afghan major and rode back to Peshawur.

The Viceroy sought permission to declare war immediately, notwithstanding
his condition of unpreparedness; but the Home Government directed him
instead to require in temperate language an apology and the acceptance of
a permanent mission, presenting at the same time the ultimatum that if a
satisfactory reply should not be received on or before the 20th November
hostilities would immediately commence. Meanwhile military preparations
were actively pushed forward. The scheme of operations was as follows:
three columns of invasion were to move simultaneously, one through the
Khyber Pass to Dakka, another through the Kuram valley, south of the
Khyber, with the Peiwar Pass as its objective, and a third from Quetta
into the Pisheen valley, to march forward to Candahar after reinforcement
by a division from Mooltan. To General Sir Sam Browne was assigned the
command of the Khyber column, consisting of about 10,000 men, with thirty
guns; to General Roberts the command of the Kuram valley column, of about
5,500 men, with twenty-four guns; and to General Biddulph the command of
the Quetta force, numbering some 6000 men, with eighteen guns. When
General Donald Stewart should bring up from Mooltan the division which
was being concentrated there, he was to command the whole southern force
moving on Candahar. The reserve division gathering at Hassan Abdul and
commanded by General Maude, would support the Khyber force; another
reserve division massing at Sukkur under General Primrose, would act in
support of the Candahar force; and a contingent contributed by the Sikh
Feudatory States and commanded by Colonel Watson, was to do duty on the
Kurum line of communication. The Generals commanding columns were to act
independently of each other, taking instructions direct from Army and
Government headquarters.

No answer to the ultimatum was received from the Ameer, and on the
morning of November 21st Sir Sam Browne crossed the Afghan frontier and
moved up the Khyber on Ali Musjid with his third and fourth brigades and
the guns. Overnight he had detached Macpherson's and Tytler's brigades
with the commission to turn the Ali Musjid position by a circuitous
march, the former charged to descend into the Khyber Pass in rear of the
fortress, and block the escape of its garrison; the latter instructed to
find, if possible, a position on the Rhotas heights on the proper left of
the fortress from which a flank attack might be delivered. About noon Sir
Sam reached the Shagai ridge and came under a brisk fire from the guns of
Ali Musjid, to which his heavy cannon and Manderson's horse-battery
replied with good results. The Afghan position, which was very strong,
stretched right athwart the valley from an entrenched line on the right
to the Rhotas summit on the extreme left. The artillery duel lasted about
two hours, and then Sir Sam determined to advance, on the expectation
that the turning brigades had reached their respective objectives. He
himself moved forward on the right upland; on the opposite side of the
Khyber stream Appleyard led the advance of his brigade against the Afghan
right. No co-operation on the part of the turning brigades had made
itself manifest up till dusk; the right brigade had been brought to a
halt in face of a precipitous cliff crowned by the enemy, and it was
wisely judged that to press the frontal attack further in the meantime
would involve a useless loss of life. Sir Sam therefore halted, and sent
word to Appleyard to stay for the night his further advance, merely
holding the ridge which he had already carried. But before this order
reached him Appleyard was sharply engaged with the enemy in their
entrenched position, and in the fighting which occurred before the
retirement was effected two officers were killed, a third wounded, and a
good many casualties occurred among the rank and file of the native
detachments gallantly assailing the Afghan entrenchments.

Early next morning offensive operations were about to be resumed, when a
young officer of the 9th Lancers brought intelligence that the Afghan
garrison had fled under cover of night, whereupon the fort was promptly
occupied. The turning brigades had been delayed by the difficult country
encountered, but detachments from both had reached Kata Kustia in time to
capture several hundred fugitives of the Ali Musjid garrison. The mass of
it, however--its total strength was about 4000 men--effected a retreat by
the Peshbolak track from the right of the entrenched position. Sir Sam
Browne's advance to Dakka was made without molestation, and on 20th
December he encamped on the plain of Jellalabad, where he remained
throughout the winter, Maude's reserve division keeping open his
communications through the Khyber Pass. The hill tribes, true to their
nature, gave great annoyance by their continual raids, and several
punitive expeditions were sent against them from time to time, but seldom
with decisive results. The tribesmen for the most part carried off into
the hills their moveable effects, and the destruction of their petty
forts apparently gave them little concern. For the most part they
maintained their irreconcilable attitude, hanging on the flanks of our
detachments on their return march through the lateral passes to their
camps, and inflicting irritating if not very severe losses. Occasionally
they thought proper to make nominal submission with tongue in cheek,
breaking out again when opportunity or temptation presented itself.
Detailed description of those raids and counter-raids would be very
tedious reading. It was when starting to co-operate in one of those
necessary but tantalising expeditions that a number of troopers of the
10th Hussars were drowned in a treacherous ford of the Cabul river near

General Roberts, to whom the conduct of operations in the Kuram district
had been entrusted, crossed the frontier on November 21st, and marched up
the valley with great expedition. The inhabitants evinced friendliness,
bringing in live stock and provisions for sale. Reaching Habib Killa on
the morning of the 28th, he received a report that the Afghan force which
he knew to be opposed to him had abandoned its guns on the hither side of
the Peiwar Kotul, and was retreating in confusion over that summit.
Roberts promptly pushed forward in two columns. Building on the erroneous
information that the enemy were in a hollow trying to withdraw their
guns--in reality they were already in their entrenched position on the
summit of the Kotul--he ordered Cobbe's (the left) column to turn the
right of the supposed Afghan position, and debar the enemy from the
Kotul, while the other column (Thelwall's) was ordered to attack in
front, the object being to have the enemy between two fires. Cobbe's
leading regiment near the village of Turrai found its advance blocked by
precipices, and a withdrawal was ordered, the advantage having been
attained of forcing the enemy to disclose the position which he was
holding. Further reconnaissances proved that the Afghan line of defence
extended along the crest of a lofty and broken mountainous range from the
Spingawai summit on the left to the Peiwar Kotul on the right centre, the
right itself resting on commanding elevations a mile further south. The
position had a front in all of about four miles. It was afterwards
ascertained to have been held by about 3500 regulars and a large number
of tribal irregulars. General Roberts' force numbered about 3100 men.

His scheme of operations he explained to his commanding officers on the
evening of December 1st. With the bulk of the force he himself was to
make a circuitous night march by his right on the Spingawai Kotul, with
the object of turning that position and taking the main Afghan position
on the Peiwar Kotul in reverse; while Brigadier Cobbe, with whom were to
remain the 8th (Queen's) and 5th Punjaub Infantry regiments, a cavalry
regiment and six guns, was instructed to assail the enemy's centre when
the result of the flank attack on his left should have made itself

The turning column, whose advance the General led in person, consisted of
the 29th N. I. (leading), 5th Goorkhas, and a mountain battery, all under
Colonel Gordon's command; followed by a wing of the 72d Highlanders, 2d
Punjaub Infantry, and 23d Pioneers, with four guns on elephants, under
Brigadier Thelwall. The arduous march began at ten P.M. Trending at first
rearward to the Peiwar village, the course followed was then to the
proper right, up the rugged and steep Spingawai ravine. In the darkness
part of Thelwall's force lost its way, and disappeared from ken. Further
on a couple of shots were fired by disaffected Pathans in the ranks of
the 29th N. I. That regiment was promptly deprived of the lead, which was
taken by the Goorkha regiment, and the column toiled on by a track
described by General Roberts as 'nothing but a mass of stones, heaped
into ridges and furrowed into deep hollows by the action of the water.'
Day had not broken when the head of the column reached the foot of the
steep ascent to the Spingawai Kotul. The Goorkhas and the 72d rushed
forward on the first stockade. It was carried without a pause save to
bayonet the defenders, and stockade after stockade was swept over in
rapid and brilliant succession. In half-an-hour General Roberts was in
full possession of the Spingawai defences, and the Afghan left flank was
not only turned but driven in. Cobbe was ordered by signal to co-operate
by pressing on his frontal attack; and Roberts himself hurried forward on
his enterprise of rolling up the Afghan left and shaking its centre. But
this proved no easy task. The Afghans made a good defence, and gave
ground reluctantly. They made a resolute stand on the further side of a
narrow deep-cut ravine, to dislodge them from which effort after effort
was ineffectually made. The General then determined to desist from
pressing this line of attack, and to make a second turning movement by
which he hoped to reach the rear of the Afghan centre. He led the 72d
wing, three native regiments, and ten guns, in a direction which should
enable him to threaten the line of the Afghan retreat. Brigadier Cobbe
since morning had been steadily although slowly climbing toward the front
of the Peiwar Kotul position. After an artillery duel which lasted for
three hours the Afghan fire was partially quelled; Cobbe's infantry
pushed on and up from ridge to ridge, and at length they reached a crest
within 800 yards of the guns on the Kotul, whence their rifle fire
compelled the Afghan gunners to abandon their batteries. Meanwhile
Roberts' second turning movement was developing, and the defenders of the
Kotul placed between two fires and their line of retreat compromised,
began to waver. Brigadier Cobbe had been wounded, but Colonel Drew led
forward his gallant youngsters of the 8th, and after toilsome climbing
they entered the Afghan position, which its defenders had just abandoned,
leaving many dead, eighteen guns, and a vast accumulation of stores and
ammunition. Colonel H. Gough pursued with his cavalry, and possessed
himself of several more guns which the Afghans had relinquished in their
precipitate flight. The decisive success of the Peiwar Kotul combat had
not cost heavily; the British losses were twenty-one killed and
seventy-two wounded.

His sick and wounded sent back to Fort Kuram, General Roberts advanced to
Ali Khel, and thence made a reconnaissance forward to the Shutargurdan
Pass, whose summit is distant from Cabul little more than fifty miles.
Its height is great--upwards of 11,200 feet--but it was regarded as not
presenting serious obstacles to the advance by this route of a force from
the Kuram valley moving on Cabul. A misfortune befell the baggage guard
on one of the marches in the trans-Peiwar region when Captains Goad and
Powell lost their lives in a tribal onslaught. The somewhat chequered
experiences of General Roberts in the Khost valley need not be told in
detail. After some fighting and more marching he withdrew from that
turbulent region altogether, abjuring its pestilent tribesmen and all
their works. The Kuram force wintered in excellent health spite of the
rigorous climate, and toward the end of March 1879 its forward
concentration about Ali Kheyl was ordered, which was virtually
accomplished before the snow had melted from the passes in the later
weeks of April. Adequate transport had been got together and supplies
accumulated; Colonel Watson's contingent was occupying the posts along
the valley; and General Roberts was in full readiness promptly to obey
the orders to advance which he had been led to expect, and on which his
brother-general Sir Sam Browne had already acted to some extent.

The march on Candahar of the two divisions under the command of General
Stewart had the character, for the most part, of a military promenade.
The tramp across the deserts of Northern Beloochistan was arduous; the
Bolan, the Gwaga, and the Kojuk passes had to be surmounted, and the
distances which both Biddulph and Stewart had to traverse were immensely
in excess of those covered by either of the forces operating from the
north-western frontier line. But uneventful marches, however long and
toilsome, do not call for detailed description. Stewart rode into
Candahar on January 8th, 1879, and the troops as they arrived encamped on
the adjacent plain. The Governor and most of his officials, together with
the Afghan cavalry, had fled toward Herat; the Deputy-Governor remained
to hand over the city to General Stewart. For commissariat reasons one
division under Stewart presently moved by the Cabul road on
Khelat-i-Ghilzai, which was found empty, the Afghan garrison having
evacuated it. Simultaneously with Stewart's departure from Candahar
Biddulph marched out a column westward toward the Helmund, remaining in
that region until the third week in February. On its return march to
Candahar the rear-guard had a sharp skirmish at Khushk-i-Nakhud with
Alizai tribesmen, of whom 163 were left dead on the field. Soon after the
return of Stewart and Biddulph to Candahar, orders arrived that the
former should retain in Candahar, Quetta, and Pishin a strong division of
all arms, sending back to India the remainder of his command under
Biddulph--the march to be made by the previously unexplored Thal-Chotiali
route to the eastward of the Pisheen valley.

Before Sir Sam Browne moved forward from Jellalabad to Gundamuk he had
been able to report to the Viceroy the death of Shere Ali. That
unfortunate man had seen with despair the departure on December 10th of
the last Russian from Cabul--sure token that he need hope for nothing
from Kaufmann or the Tzar. His chiefs unanimous that further resistance
by him was hopeless, he released his son Yakoub Khan from his long harsh
imprisonment, constituted him Regent, and then followed the Russian
mission in the direction of Tashkend. Kaufmann would not so much as allow
him to cross the frontier, and after a painful illness Shere Ali died on
February 21st, 1879, near Balkh in northern Afghanistan. He was a man who
deserved a better fate than that which befell him. His aspiration was to
maintain the independence of the kingdom which he ruled with justice if
also with masterfulness, and he could not brook the degradation of
subjection. But, unfortunately for him, he was the 'earthen pipkin' which
the 'iron pot' found inconvenient. There had been plenty of manhood
originally in his son and successor Yakoub Khan, but much of that
attribute had withered in him during the long cruel imprisonment to which
he had been subjected by his father. Shere Ali's death made him nominal
master of Afghanistan, but the vigour of his youth-time no longer
characterised him. He reigned but did not rule, and how precarious was
his position was evidenced by the defection of many leading chiefs who
came into the English camps and were ready to make terms.

After the flight of Shere Ali some correspondence had passed between
Yakoub Khan and Major Cavagnari, but the former had not expressed any
willingness for the re-establishment of friendly relations. In February
of his own accord he made overtures for a reconciliation, and soon after
intimated the death of his father and his own accession to the Afghan
throne. Major Cavagnari, acting on the Viceroy's authorisation, wrote to
the new sovereign stating the terms on which the Anglo-Indian Government
was prepared to engage in negotiations for peace. Yakoub temporised for
some time, but influenced by the growing defection of the Sirdars from
his cause, as well as by the forward movements of the forces commanded by
Browne and Roberts, he intimated his intention of visiting Gundamuk in
order to discuss matters in personal conference with Major Cavagnari. A
fortnight later he was on his way down the passes.

Instructions had been given by the Viceroy that Yakoub Khan should be
received in the British camp with all honour and distinction. When his
approach was announced on May 8th, Cavagnari and a number of British
officers rode out to meet him; when he reached the camp, a royal salute
greeted him, a guard of honour presented arms, and Sir Sam Browne and his
staff gave him a ceremonious welcome. Cavagnari had full powers to
represent his Government in the pending negotiations, as to the terms of
which he had received from the Viceroy detailed instructions. The Ameer
and his General-in-Chief, Daoud Shah, came to the conference attired in
Russian uniforms. The negotiations were tedious, for the Ameer, his
Minister, and his General made difficulties with a somewhat elaborate
stupidity, but Cavagnari as a diplomatist possessed the gift of being at
once patient and firm; and at length on May 26th the treaty of peace was
signed, and formally ratified by the Viceroy four days later. By the
treaty of Gundamuk Afghanistan was deprived for the time of its
traditional character of a 'buffer state,' and its Ameer became virtually
a feudatory of the British Crown. He was no longer an independent prince;
although his titular rank and a nominal sovereignty remained to him, his
position under its articles was to be analogous to that of the mediatised
princes of the German Empire. The treaty vested in the British Government
the control of the external relations of Afghanistan. The Ameer consented
to the residence of British Agents within his dominions, guaranteeing
their safety and honourable treatment, while the British Government
undertook that its representatives should not interfere with the internal
administration of the country. The districts of Pisheen, Kuram, and Sibi
were ceded to the British Government along with the permanent control of
the Khyber and Michnai passes, and of the mountain tribes inhabiting the
vicinity of those passes; all other Afghan territory in British
occupation was to be restored. The obligations to which the treaty
committed the British Government were that it should support the Ameer
against foreign aggression with arms, money, or troops at its discretion,
and that it should pay to him and his successor an annual subsidy of
L60,000. Commercial relations between India and Afghanistan were to be
protected and encouraged; a telegraph line between Cabul and the Kuram
was forthwith to be constructed; and the Ameer was to proclaim an amnesty
relieving all and sundry of his subjects from punishment for services
rendered to the British during the war.

That the treaty of Gundamuk involved our Indian Empire in serious
responsibilities is obvious, and those responsibilities were the more
serious that they were vague and indefinite, yet none the less binding on
this account. It is probable that its provisions, if they had remained in
force, would have been found in the long run injurious to the interests
of British India. For that realm Afghanistan has the value that its
ruggedness presents exceptional obstacles to the march through it of
hostile armies having the Indian frontier for their objective, and this
further and yet more important value that the Afghans by nature are frank
and impartial Ishmaelites, their hands against all foreigners alike, no
matter of what nationality. If this character be impaired, what virtue
the Afghan has in our eyes is lost. In his implacable passion for
independence, in his fierce intolerance of the Feringhee intruder, he
fulfils in relation to our Indian frontier a kindred office to that
served by abattis, _cheveux de frise,_ and wire entanglements in front of
a military position. The short-lived treaty, for which the sanguine Mr
Stanhope claimed that it had gained for England 'a friendly, an
independent, and a strong Afghanistan,' may now be chiefly remembered
because of the circumstance that it gave effect for the moment to Lord
Beaconsfield's 'scientific frontier.'

The withdrawal of the two northern forces to positions within the new
frontier began immediately on the ratification of the treaty of Gundamuk,
the evacuation of Candahar being postponed for sanitary reasons until
autumn. The march of Sir Sam Browne's force from the breezy upland of
Gundamuk down the passes to Peshawur, made as it was in the fierce heat
of midsummer through a region of bad name for insalubrity, and pervaded
also by virulent cholera, was a ghastly journey. That melancholy
pilgrimage, every halting-place in whose course was marked by graves, and
from which the living emerged 'gaunt and haggard, marching with a
listless air, their clothing stiff with dried perspiration, their faces
thick with a mud of dust and sweat through which their red bloodshot eyes
looked forth, many suffering from heat prostration,' dwells in the memory
of British India as the 'death march,' and its horrors have been
recounted in vivid and pathetic words by Surgeon-Major Evatt, one of the
few medical officers whom, participating in it, it did not kill.


There were many who mistrusted the stability of the treaty of Gundamuk.
Perhaps in his heart Sir Louis Cavagnari may have had his misgivings, for
he was gifted with shrewd insight, and no man knew the Afghan nature
better; but outwardly, in his quiet, resolute manner, he professed the
fullest confidence. Cavagnari was a remarkable man. Italian and Irish
blood commingled in his veins. Both strains carry the attributes of
vivacity and restlessness, but Cavagnari to the superficial observer
appeared as phlegmatic as he was habitually taciturn. This sententious
imperturbability was only on the surface; whether it was a natural
characteristic or an acquired manner is not easy to decide. Below the
surface of measured reticent composure there lay a temperament of ardent
enthusiasm, and not less ardent ambition. In subtlety he was a match for
the wiliest Oriental, whom face to face he dominated with a placid
dauntless masterfulness that was all his own. The wild hill tribes among
whom he went about escortless, carrying his life continually in his hand,
recognised the complex strength of his personal sway, and feared at once
and loved the quiet, firm man, the flash of whose eye was sometimes
ominous, but who could cow the fiercest hillman without losing a tittle
of his cool composure.

[Illustration: _From a Photograph by Bourne & Shepherd: Sir Louis
Cavagnari and Sirdars_]

Cavagnari had negotiated the treaty of Gundamuk, the real importance of
which consisted in the Afghan acceptance of a British Resident at Cabul.
The honour, the duty, and the danger naturally fell to him of being the
first occupant of a post created mainly by his own mingled tact and
strength. Many of his friends regarded him in the light of the leader of
a forlorn hope, and probably Cavagnari recognised with perfect clearness
the risks which encompassed his embassy; but apart from mayhap a little
added gravity in his leave-takings when he quitted Simla, he gave no
sign. It was not a very imposing mission at whose head he rode into the
Balla Hissar of Cabul on July 24th, 1879. His companions were his
secretary, Mr William Jenkins, a young Scotsman of the Punjaub Civil
Service, Dr Ambrose Kelly, the medical officer of the embassy, and the
gallant, stalwart young Lieutenant W. R. P. Hamilton, V.C., commanding
the modest escort of seventy-five soldiers of the Guides. It was held
that an escort so scanty was sufficient, since the Ameer had pledged
himself personally for the safety and protection of the mission. The
Envoy was received with high honour, and conducted to the roomy quarters
in the Balla Hissar which had been prepared as the Residency, within easy
distance of the Ameer's palace. Unquestionably the mission was welcome
neither to the Afghan ruler nor to the people, but Cavagnari, writing to
the Viceroy, made the best of things. The arrival at the adjacent Sherpur
cantonments of the Herat regiments in the beginning of August was
extremely unfortunate for the mission. Those troops had been inspired by
their commander Ayoub Khan with intense hatred to the English, and they
marched through the Cabul streets shouting objurgations against the
British Envoy, and picking quarrels with the soldiers of his escort. A
pensioned sepoy who had learned that the Afghan troops had been ordered
to abuse the Eltchi, warned Cavagnari of the danger signals. Cavagnari's
calm remark was, 'Dogs that bark don't bite.' The old soldier earnestly
urged, 'But these dogs do bite, and there is danger.' 'Well,' said
Cavagnari, 'they can only kill the handful of us here, and our death will
be avenged.' The days passed, and it seemed that Cavagnari's diagnosis of
the situation was the accurate one. The last words of his last message to
the Viceroy, despatched on September 2d, were 'All well.' The writer of
those words was a dead man, and his mission had perished with him, almost
as soon as the cheerful message borne along the telegraph wires reached
its destination.

In the morning of September 3d some Afghan regiments paraded without arms
in the Balla Hissar to receive their pay. An instalment was paid, but the
soldiers clamoured for arrears due. The demand was refused, a riot began,
and the shout rose that the British Eltchi might prove a free-handed
paymaster. There was a rush toward the Residency, and while some of the
Afghan soldiers resorted to stone-throwing, others ran for arms to their
quarters, and looted the Arsenal in the upper Balla Hissar. The Residency
gates had been closed on the first alarm, and fire was promptly opened on
the rabble. The place was never intended for defence, commanded as it was
at close range from the higher level of the Arsenal, whence a heavy
continuous fire was from the first poured down. The mob of the city in
their thousands hurried to co-operate with the mutinied soldiers and
share in the spoils of the sack, so that the Residency was soon besieged.
As soon as the outbreak manifested itself Cavagnari had sent a message to
the Ameer, and the communication admittedly reached the latter's hands.
He had more than 2000 troops in the Balla Hissar, still at least
nominally loyal; he had guaranteed the protection of the mission, and it
behoved him to do what in him lay to fulfil his pledge. But the Ameer sat
supine in his palace, doing no more than send his General-in-Chief Daoud
Shah to remonstrate with the insurgents. Daoud Shah went on the errand,
but it is questionable whether he showed any energy, or indeed desired
that the besiegers should desist. It was claimed by and for him that he
was maltreated and indeed wounded by the mob, and it appears that he did
ride into the throng and was forcibly dismounted. He might perhaps have
exerted himself with greater determination if he had received more
specific orders from his master the Ameer. That feeble or treacherous
prince never stirred. To the frequent urgent messages sent him by
Lieutenant Hamilton, he replied vaguely: 'As God wills; I am making
preparations.' Meanwhile the little garrison maintained with gallant
staunchness hour after hour the all but hopeless defence.' While the
fighting was going on,' reported the pensioner who had previously warned
Cavagnari, 'I myself saw the four European officers charge out at the
head of some twenty-five of the garrison; they drove away a party holding
some broken ground. When chased, the Afghan soldiers ran like sheep
before a wolf. Later, another sally was made by a detachment, with but
three officers at their head. Cavagnari was not with them this time. A
third sally was made with only two officers leading, Hamilton and
Jenkins; and the last of the sallies was made by a Sikh Jemadar bravely
leading. No more sallies were made after this.' About noon the gates were
forced, and the Residency building was fired; but the defenders long
maintained their position on the roof and in a detached building. At
length the fire did its work, the walls and roof fell in, and soon the
fell deed was consummated by the slaughter of the last survivors of the
ill-fated garrison. Hamilton was said to have died sword in hand in a
final desperate charge. Tidings of the massacre were carried with great
speed to Massy's outposts in the Kuram valley. The news reached Simla by
telegraph early on the morning of the 5th. The authorities there rallied
from the shock with fine purposeful promptitude, and within a few hours a
telegram was on its way to General Massy's headquarters at Ali Khel
instructing him to occupy the crest of the Shutargurdan Pass with two
infantry regiments and a mountain battery, which force was to entrench
itself there and await orders.

The policy of which Lord Lytton was the figurehead had come down with a
bloody crash, and the 'masterly inactivity' of wise John Lawrence stood
vindicated in the eyes of Europe and of Asia. But if his policy had gone
to water, the Viceroy, although he was soon to default from the constancy
of his purpose, saw for the present clear before him the duty that now in
its stead lay upon him of inflicting summary punishment on a people who
had ruthlessly violated the sacred immunity from harm that shields alike
among civilised and barbarous communities the person and suite of an
ambassador accepted under the provisions of a deliberate treaty. Burnes
and Macnaghten had met their fate because they had gone to Cabul the
supporters of a detested intruder and the unwelcome representatives of a
hated power. But Cavagnari had been slaughtered notwithstanding that he
dwelt in the Balla Hissar Residency in virtue of a solemn treaty between
the Empress of India and the Ameer of Afghanistan, notwithstanding that
the latter had guaranteed him safety and protection, notwithstanding that
Britain and Afghanistan had ratified a pledge of mutual friendship and
reciprocal good offices. Lord Lytton recognised, at least for the moment,
that no consideration of present expediency or of ulterior policy could
intervene to deter him from the urgent imperative duty which now suddenly
confronted him. The task, it was true, was beset with difficulties and
dangers. The forces on the north-western frontier had been reduced to a
peace footing, and the transport for economical reasons had been severely
cut down. The bitter Afghan winter season was approaching, during which
military operations could be conducted only under extremely arduous
conditions, and when the line of communications would be liable to
serious interruptions, The available troops for a prompt offensive did
not amount to more than 6500 men all told, and it was apparent that many
circumstances might postpone their reinforcement.

When men are in earnest, difficulties and dangers are recognised only to
be coped with and overcome. When the Simla council of war broke up on the
afternoon of September 5th the plan of campaign had been settled, and the
leader of the enterprise had been chosen. Sir Frederick Roberts was
already deservedly esteemed one of the most brilliant soldiers of the
British army. He had fought with distinction all through the Great
Mutiny, earning the Victoria Cross and rapid promotion; he had served in
the Abyssinian campaign of 1868, and been chosen by Napier to carry home
his final despatches; and he had worthily shared in the toil, fighting,
and honours of the Umbeyla and Looshai expeditions. In his command of the
Kuram field force during the winter of 1878-9 he had proved himself a
skilful, resolute, and vigorous leader. The officers and men who served
under him believed in him enthusiastically, and, what with soldiers is
the convincing assurance of whole-souled confidence, they had bestowed on
him an affectionate nickname--they knew him among themselves as 'little
Bobs.' His administrative capacity he had proved in the post of
Quartermaster-General in India. Ripe in experience of war, Roberts at the
age of forty-seven was in the full vigour of manhood, alert in mind, and
of tough and enduring physique. He was a very junior Major-General, but
even among his seniors the conviction was general that Lord Lytton the
Viceroy, and Sir F. Haines the Commander-in-Chief, acted wisely in
entrusting to him the most active command in the impending campaign.

Our retention of the Kuram valley was to prove very useful in the
emergency which had suddenly occurred. Its occupation enabled Massy to
seize and hold the Shutargurdan, and the force in the valley was to
constitute the nucleus of the little army of invasion and retribution to
the command of which Sir Frederick Roberts was appointed. The apex at the
Shutargurdan of the salient angle into Afghanistan which our possession
of the Kuram valley furnished was within little more than fifty miles of
Cabul, whereas the distance of that city from Lundi Kotul, our advanced
position at the head of the Khyber Pass, was about 140 miles, and the
route exceptionally difficult. Roberts' column of invasion was to consist
of a cavalry brigade commanded by Brigadier-General Dunham-Massy, and of
two infantry brigades, the first commanded by Brigadier-General
Macpherson, the second by Brigadier-General Baker, three batteries of
artillery, a company of sappers and miners, and two Gatling guns. The
Kuram valley between the Shutargurdan and the base was to be garrisoned
adequately by a force about 4000 strong, in protection of Roberts'
communications by that line until snow should close it, by which time it
was anticipated that communication by the Khyber-Jellalabad-Gundamuk line
would be opened up, for gaining and maintaining which a force of about
6600 men was to be detailed under the command of Major-General Bright,
which was to furnish a movable column to establish communications onward
to Cabul. A strong reserve force was to be gathered between Peshawur and
Rawal Pindi under the command of Major-General Ross, to move forward as
occasion might require, in the south-west Sir Donald Stewart was to
recall to Candahar his troops, which, having begun their march toward
India, were now mainly echeloned along the route to Quetta, when that
General would have about 9000 men at his disposition to dominate the
Candahar province, reoccupy Khelat-i-Ghilzai, and threaten Ghuznee, his
communications with the Indus being kept open by a brigade of Bombay
troops commanded by Brigadier-General Phayre.

Sir Frederick Roberts left Simla on ET September along with Colonel
Charles Macgregor, C.B., the brilliant and daring soldier whom he had
chosen as chief of staff, and travelling night and day they reached Ali
Khel on the 12th. The transport and supply difficulty had to be promptly
met, and this was effected only by making a clean sweep of all the
resources of the Peshawur district, greatly but unavoidably to the
hindrance of the advance of the Khyber column, and by procuring carriage
and supplies from the friendly tribes of the Kuram. Notwithstanding the
most strenuous exertions it was not until the 1st October that Roberts'
little army, having crossed the Shutargurdan by detachments, was
rendezvoused at and about the village of Kushi in the Logur plain, within
forty-eight miles of Cabul. Some sharp skirmishes had been fought as the
troops traversed the rugged ground between Ali Khel and the Shutargurdan,
but the losses were trivial, although the General himself had a narrow
escape. A couple of regiments and four guns under the command of Colonel
Money were left in an entrenched camp to hold the Shutargurdan.

The massacre of the British mission had no sooner been perpetrated than
Yakoub Khan found himself in a very bad way. The Cabul Sirdars sided with
the disaffected soldiery, and urged the Ameer to raise his banner for a
_jehad_ or religious war, a measure for which he had no nerve. Nor had he
the nerve to remain in Cabul until Roberts should camp under the Balla
Hissar and demand of him an account of the stewardship he had undertaken
on behalf of the ill-fated Cavagnari. What reasons actuated the anxious
and bewildered man cannot precisely be known; whether he was simply
solicitous for his own wretched skin, whether he acted from a wish to
save Cabul from destruction, or whether he hoped that his entreaties for
delay might stay the British advance until the tribesmen should gather to
bar the road to the capital. He resolved to fly from Cabul, and commit
himself to the protection of General Roberts and his army. The day before
General Roberts arrived at Kushi the Ameer presented himself in Baker's
camp, accompanied by his eldest son and some of his Sirdars, among whom
was Daoud Shah the Commander-in-Chief of his army. Sir Frederick on his
arrival at Kushi paid a formal visit to the Ameer, which the latter
returned the same afternoon and took occasion to plead that the General
should delay his advance. The reply was that not even for a single day
would Sir Frederick defer his march on Cabul. The Ameer remained in camp,
his personal safety carefully protected, but under a species of
honourable surveillance, until it should be ascertained judicially
whether or not he was implicated in the massacre of the mission.

Yakoub had intimated his intention of presenting himself in the British
camp some days in advance of his arrival, and as telegraphic
communication with headquarters was open, his acceptance in the character
of an honoured guest was presumably in accordance with instructions from
Simla. The man who had made himself personally responsible for the safety
of Cavagnari's mission was a strange guest with an army whose avowed
errand was to exact retribution for the crime of its destruction. It
might seem not unreasonable to expect that, as an indispensable
preliminary to his entertainment, he should have at least afforded some
_prima facie_ evidence that he had been zealous to avert the fate which
had befallen the mission, and stern in the punishment of an atrocity
which touched him so nearly. But instead, he was taken on trust so fully
that Afghans resisting the British advance were not so much regarded as
enemies resisting an invasion and as constructive vindicators of the
massacre, as they were held traitors to their sovereign harbouring in the
British camp.

On the morning of October 2d the whole force marched from Kushi toward
Cabul, temporarily cutting loose from communication with the
Shutargurdan, to avoid diminishing the strength of the column by leaving
detachments to keep the road open. All told, Roberts' army was the
reverse of a mighty host. Its strength was little greater than that of a
Prussian brigade on a war footing. Its fate was in its own hands, for
befall it what might it could hope for no timely reinforcement. It was a
mere detachment marching against a nation of fighting men plentifully
supplied with artillery, no longer shooting laboriously with jezails, but
carrying arms of precision equal or little inferior to those in the hands
of our own soldiery. But the men, Europeans and Easterns, hillmen of
Scotland and hillmen of Nepaul, plainmen of Hampshire and plainmen of the
Punjaub, strode along buoyant with confidence and with health, believing
in their leader, in their discipline, in themselves. Of varied race, no
soldier who followed Roberts but came of fighting stock; ever blithely
rejoicing in the combat, one and all burned for the strife now before
them with more than wonted ardour, because of the opportunity it promised
to exact vengeance for a deed of foul treachery.

The soldiers had not long to wait for the first fight of the campaign. On
the afternoon of the 5th Baker's brigade, with most of the cavalry and
artillery, and with the 92d Highlanders belonging to Macpherson's
brigade, camped on the plain to the south of the village of Charasiah,
Macpherson remaining one march in rear to escort the convoy of ammunition
and stores. North of Charasiah rises a semicircular curtain of hills
ascending in three successive tiers, the most distant and loftiest range
closing in the horizon and shutting out the view of Cabul, distant only
about eleven miles. The leftward projection of the curtain, as one looks
northward, comes down into the plain almost as far as and somewhat to the
left of Charasiah, dividing the valley of Charasiah from the outer plain
of Chardeh. To the right front of Charasiah, distant from it about three
miles, the range is cleft by the rugged and narrow Sung-i-Nawishta Pass,
through which run the Logur river and the direct road to Cabul by Beni
Hissar. Information had been received that the Afghans were determined on
a resolute attempt to prevent the British force from reaching Cabul, and
the position beyond Charasiah seemed so tempting that it was regarded as
surprising that cavalry reconnaissances sent forward on three distinct
roads detected no evidences of any large hostile gathering.

But next morning 'showed another sight.' At dawn on the 6th General
Roberts, anxious to secure the Sung-i-Nawishta Pass and to render the
track through it passable for guns, sent forward his pioneer battalion
with a wing of the 92d and two mountain guns. That detachment had gone
out no great distance when the spectacle before it gave it pause. From
the Sung-i-Nawishta defile, both sides of which were held, the
semicircular sweep of the hill-crests was crowned by an Afghan host in
great strength and regular formation. According to subsequent information
no fewer than thirteen regiments of the Afghan regular army took part in
the combat, as well as large contingents of irregular fighting men from
Cabul and the adjoining villages, while the British camp was threatened
from the heights on either side by formidable bodies of tribesmen, to
thwart whose obviously intended attack on it a considerable force had to
be retained. The dispositions of the Afghan commander Nek Mahomed Khan
were made with some tactical skill. The Sung-i-Nawishta Pass itself, the
heights on either side, and a low detached eminence further forward, were
strongly held by Afghan infantry; in the mouth of the pass were four
Armstrong guns, and on the flanking height twelve mountain guns were in
position. The projecting spur toward Charasiah which was the extreme
right of the Afghan position, was held in force, whence an effective fire
would bear on the left flank of a force advancing to a direct attack on
the pass. But Roberts was not the man to play into the hands of the
Afghan tactician. He humoured his conception so far as to send forward on
his right toward the pass, a small detachment of all arms under Major
White of the 92d, with instructions to maintain a threatening attitude in
that direction, and to seize the opportunity to co-operate with the
flanking movement entrusted to General Baker as soon as its development
should have shaken the constancy of the enemy. To Baker with about 2000
infantry and four guns, was assigned the task of attacking the Afghan
right on the projecting spur and ridge, forcing back and dispersing that
flank; and then, having reached the right of the Afghan main position on
the farthest and loftiest range, he was to wheel to his right and sweep
its defenders from the chain of summits.

Baker moved out toward his left front against the eminences held by the
Afghan right wing, which Nek Mahomed, having discerned the character of
Roberts' tactics, was now reinforcing with great activity. The 72d
Highlanders led the attack, supported vigorously by the 5th Goorkhas and
the 5th Punjaub Infantry. The resistance of the Afghans was stubborn,
especially opposite our extreme left, whence from behind their sungahs on
a steep hill they poured a heavy fire on the assailants. A yet heavier
fire came from a detached knoll on Baker's right, which the artillery
fire gradually beat down. The Afghans continued to hold the advanced
ridge constituting their first position until two o'clock, when a direct
attack, accompanied by a double flanking fire, compelled their
withdrawal. They, however, fell back only to an intermediate loftier
position about 700 yards in rear of the ridge from which they had been
driven. Approached by successive rushes under cover-of artillery fire,
they were then attacked vigorously and fell back in confusion. No rally
was permitted them, and by three o'clock the whole Afghan right was
shattered and in full flight along the edge of the Chardeh valley. Baker
unfortunately had no cavalry, else the fugitives would have suffered
severely. But the rout of the Afghan right had decided the fortune of the
day. Its defenders were already dribbling away from the main position
when Baker, wheeling to his right, marched along the lofty crest, rolling
up and sweeping away the Afghan defence as he moved toward the
Sung-i-Nawishta gorge. That defile had already been entered by the
cavalry of White's detachment, supported by some infantry. While Baker
had been turning the Afghan right, White and his little force had been
distinguishing themselves not a little. After an artillery preparation
the detached hill had been won as the result of a hand-to-hand struggle.
Later had fallen into the hands of White's people all the Afghan guns,
and the heights to the immediate right and left of the gorge had been
carried, the defenders driven away, and the pass opened up. But the
progress through it of the cavalry was arrested by a strongly garrisoned
fort completely commanding the road. On this fort Baker directed his
artillery fire, at the same time sending down two infantry regiments to
clear away the remnants of the Afghan army still lingering in the pass.
This accomplished, the fighting ceased. It had been a satisfactory day.
Less than half of Roberts' force had been engaged, and this mere brigade
had routed the army of Cabul and captured the whole of the artillery it
had brought into the field. The Afghan loss was estimated at about 300
killed. The British loss was twenty killed and sixty-seven wounded. On
the night of the combat part of Baker's troops bivouacked beyond the
Sung-i-Nawishta, and on the following day the whole division passed the
defile and camped at Beni Hissar, within sight of the Balla Hissar and
the lofty ridge overhanging Cabul.

On the afternoon of the 7th a violent explosion was heard in the Beni
Hissar camp from the direction of the Sherpur cantonment north of Cabul,
near the site of the British cantonments of 1839-41. Next morning
information came in that the Sherpur magazine had been blown up, and that
the cantonment had been abandoned by the Afghan regiments which had
garrisoned that vast unfinished structure. General Massy led out part of
his brigade on a reconnaissance, and took possession of the deserted
Sherpur cantonment, and of the seventy-five pieces of ordnance parked
within the walls. Massy had observed from the Siah Sung heights that the
Asmai heights, overhanging the Cabul suburb of Deh Afghan, were held by a
large body of Afghan soldiery, a force, it was afterwards learned,
composed of the remnants of the regiments defeated at Charasiah, three
fresh regiments from the Kohistan, and the rabble of the city and
adjacent villages, having a total strength of nearly 3000 men, with
twelve guns, under the leadership of Mahomed Jan, who later was to figure
prominently as the ablest of our Afghan enemies. Massy heliographed his
information to General Roberts, who sent Baker with a force to drive the
enemy from the heights; and Massy was instructed to pass through a gap in
the ridge and gain the Chardeh valley, where he might find opportunity to
intercept the Afghan retreat toward the west. Massy pierced the ridge at
the village of Aushar, and disposed his troops on the roads crossing the
Chardeh valley. Meanwhile Baker found the ascent of the Sher Derwaza
heights so steep that the afternoon was far spent before his guns came
into action, and it was still later before part of his infantry effected
their descent into the Chardeh valley. Reinforcements necessary to enable
him to act did not reach him until dusk, when it would have been folly to
commit himself to an attack. A night patrol ascertained that the Afghans
had evacuated the position under cover of darkness, leaving behind their
guns and camp equipage. On the 9th the divisional camp moved forward to
the Siah Sung heights, a mile eastward from the Balla Hissar, and there
it was joined by Baker, and by Massy, who on his way to camp led his
wearied troopers through the city of Cabul without mishap or insult. The
Goorkha regiment was detached to hold the ridge commanding the Balla
Hissar, and a cavalry regiment was quartered in the Sherpur cantonment to
protect it from the ravages of the villagers.

A melancholy interest attaches to the visit paid by Sir Frederick Roberts
to the Balla Hissar on the 11th. Through the dirt and squalor of the
lower portion he ascended the narrow lane leading to the ruin which a few
weeks earlier had been the British Residency. The commander of the
avenging army looked with sorrowful eyes on the scene of heroism and
slaughter, on the smoke-blackened walls, the blood splashes on the
whitewashed walls, the still smouldering debris, the half-burned skulls
and bones in the blood-dabbled chamber where apparently the final
struggle had been fought out. He stood in the great breach in the
quarters of the Guides where the gate had been blown in after the last of
the sorties made by the gallant Hamilton, and lingered in the tattered
wreck of poor Cavagnari's drawing-room, its walls dinted with
bullet-pits, its floor and walls brutally defiled. Next day he made a
formal entry into the Balla Hissar, his road lined with his staunch
troops, a royal salute greeting the banner of Britain as it rose on the
tall flagstaff above the gateway. He held a Durbar in the 'Audience
Chamber' in the garden of the Ameer's palace; in front and in flank of
him the pushing throng of obsequious Sirdars of Cabul arrayed in all the
colours of the rainbow; behind them, standing immobile at attention, the
guard of British infantry with fixed bayonets which the soldiers longed
to use. The General read the mild proclamation announcing the disarmament
of the Cabulese and the punishment of fine which was laid upon the city,
but which never was exacted. And then he summarily dismissed the Sirdars,
three only, the Mustaphi, Yahuja Khan the Ameer's father-in-law, and
Zakariah Khan his brother, being desired to remain. Their smug
complacency was suddenly changed into dismay when they were abruptly told
that they were prisoners.

Another ceremonial progress the General had to perform. On the 13th he
marched through the streets of Cabul at the head of his little army, the
bazaars and dead walls echoing to the music of the bands and the wild
scream of the bagpipes. In the Afghan quarter no salaams greeted the
conquering Feringhees, and scowling faces frowned on the spectacle from
windows and side-streets. Three days later occurred an event which might
have been a great catastrophe. Captain Shafto of the ordnance was
conducting an examination into the contents of the arsenal in the upper
Balla Hissar, and had already discovered millions of cartridges, and
about 150,000 lbs. of gunpowder. Daoud Shah, however, expressed his
belief that at least a million pounds were in store. Captain Shafto, a
very cautious man, was pursuing his researches; the Goorkhas were
quartered in the upper Balla Hissar near the magazine shed, and the 67th
occupied the Ameer's garden lower down. On the 16th a dull report was
heard in the Siah Sung camp, followed immediately by the rising above the
Balla Hissar of a huge column of grey smoke, which as it drifted away
disclosed flashes of flame and sudden jets of smoke telling of repeated
gunpowder explosions. The 67th, powdered with dust, escaped all but
scathless; but the Goorkha regiment had been heavily smitten. Twelve poor
fellows were killed, and seven wounded; among the former were five
principal Goorkha officers.

The Balla Hissar was promptly evacuated. Occasional explosions occurred
for several days, the heaviest of those on the afternoon of the 16th,
which threw on the city a great shower of stones, beams, and bullets. By
a jet of stones blown out through the Balla Hissar gate four Afghans were
killed, and two sowars and an Afghan badly hurt. Captain Shafto's body
and the remains of the Goorkhas were found later, and buried; and the
determination was formed to have no more to do with the Balla Hissar, but
to occupy the Sherpur cantonment. Meanwhile General Hugh Gough was
despatched with a small force of all arms to escort to Cabul Money's
gallant garrison of the Shutargurdan, and to close for the winter the
line of communication _via_ the Kuram valley. Colonel Money had undergone
with fine soldierly spirit and action not a few turbulent experiences
since Roberts had left him and his Sikhs on the lofty crest of the
Shutargurdan. The truculent Ghilzais gave him no peace; his method of
dealing with them was for the most part with the bayonet point. The last
attempt on him was made by a horde of Ghilzais some 17,000 strong, who
completely invested his camp, and after the civility of requesting him to
surrender, a compliment which he answered by bullets, made a close and
determined attack on his position. This was on the 18th October; on the
following day Gough heliographed his arrival at Kushi, whereupon Money
took the offensive with vigour and scattered to the winds his Ghilzai
assailants. On 30th October the Shutargurdan position was evacuated, and
on the 3d November the Cabul force received the welcome accession of
headquarters and two squadrons 9th Lancers, Money's 3d Sikhs, and four
mountain guns.


Sir Frederick Roberts had been hurried forward on Cabul charged with the
duty of avenging the perpetration of a foul and treacherous crime, 'which
had brought indelible disgrace upon the Afghan nation.' The scriptural
injunction to turn the other cheek to the smiter has not yet become a
canon of international law or practice; and the anti-climax to an
expedition engaged in with so stern a purpose, of a nominal disarmament
and a petty fine never exacted, is self-evident. Our nation is given to
walk in the path of precedent; and in this juncture the authorities had
to their hand the most apposite of precedents. Pollock, by destroying the
Char bazaar in which had been exposed the mangled remains of Burnes and
Macnaghten, set a 'mark' on Cabul the memory of which had lasted for
decades. Cavagnari and his people had been slaughtered in the Balla
Hissar, and their bones were still mingled with the smouldering ruins of
the Residency. Wise men discerned that the destruction of the fortress
followed by a homeward march as swift yet as measured as had been the
march of invasion, could not but have made a deep and lasting impression
on the Afghans; while the complications, humiliations, and expense of the
long futile occupation would have been obviated. Other counsels
prevailed. To discover, in a nation virtually accessory as a whole after
the fact to the slaughter of the mission, the men on whom lay the
suspicion of having been the instigators and the perpetrators of the
cruel deed, to accord them a fair trial, and to send to the gallows those
on whose hands was found the blood of the massacred mission, was held a
more befitting and not less telling course of retributive action than to
raze the Balla Hissar and sow its site with salt. Skilfully and patiently
evidence was gathered, and submitted to the Military Commission which
General Roberts had appointed. This tribunal took cognisance of crimes
nominally of two classes. It tried men who were accused of having been
concerned in the destruction of the British mission, and those charged
with treason in having offered armed resistance to the British troops
acting in support of the Ameer, who had put himself under their
protection. Of the five prisoners first tried, condemned, and duly
hanged, two were signal criminals. One of them, the Kotwal or Mayor of
Cabul, was proved to have superintended the contumelious throwing of the
bodies of the slaughtered Guides of the mission escort into the ditch of
the Balla Hissar. Another was proved to have carried away from the
wrecked Residency a head believed to have been Cavagnari's, and to have
exhibited it on the ridge above the city. The other three and many of
those who were subsequently executed, suffered for the crime of 'treason'
against Yakoub Khan. Probably there was no Afghan who did not approve of
the slaughter of the Envoy, and who would not in his heart have rejoiced
at the annihilation of the British force; but it seems strange law and
stranger justice to hang men for 'treason' against a Sovereign who had
gone over to the enemy. On the curious expedient of temporarily governing
in the name of an Ameer who had deserted his post to save his skin,
comment would be superfluous. Executions continued; few, however, of the
mutinous sepoys who actually took part in the wanton attack on the
British Residency had been secured, and it was judged expedient that
efforts should be made to capture and punish those against whom there was
evidence of that crime, in the shape of the muster-rolls of the regiments
now in the possession of the military authorities. It was known that many
of the disbanded and fugitive soldiers had returned to their homes in the
villages around Cabul, and early in November General Baker took out a
force and suddenly encircled the village of Indikee, on the edge of the
Chardeh valley--a village reported full of Afghan sepoys. A number of men
were brought out by the scared headmen and handed over, answering to
their names called over from a list carried by Baker; and other villages
in the vicinity yielded a considerable harvest of disbanded soldiers.
Before the Commission the prisoners made no attempt to conceal their
names, or deny the regiments to which they had belonged; and forty-nine
of them were found guilty and hanged, nearly all of whom belonged to the
regiments that had assailed the Residency.

On 12th November Sir Frederick Roberts proclaimed an amnesty in favour of
all who had fought against the British troops, on condition that they
should surrender their arms and return to their homes; but exempted from
the benefit were all concerned in the attack on the Residency. The
amnesty was well timed, although most people would have preferred that
fewer sepoys and more Sirdars should have been hanged.

Our relations with the Ameer during the earlier part of his residence in
the British camp were not a little peculiar. Nominally he was our guest,
and a certain freedom was accorded to him and his retinue. There was no
doubt that the Sirdars of the Ameer's suite grossly abused their
privileges. Whether with Yakoub Khan's cognisance or not, they authorised
the use of his name by the insurgent leaders. Nek Mahomed, the insurgent
commander at Charasiah, was actually in the tents of the Ameer on the
evening before the fight. To all appearance our operations continued to
have for their ultimate object the restoration of Yakoub Khan to his
throne. Our administrative measures were carried on in his name. The
hostile Afghans we designated as rebels against his rule; and his
authority was proclaimed as the justification of much of our conduct. But
the situation gradually became intolerable to Yakoub Khan. He was a guest
in the British camp, but he was also in a species of custody. Should our
arms reinstate him, he could not hope to hold his throne. His harassed
perplexity came to a crisis on the morning of the 12th October, the day
of General Roberts' durbar in the Balla Hissar, which he had been desired
to attend. What he specifically apprehended is unknown; what he did was
to tell General Roberts, with great excitement, that he would not go to
the durbar, that his life was too miserable for long endurance, that he
would rather be a grass-cutter in the British camp than remain Ameer of
Afghanistan. He was firmly resolved to resign the throne, and begged that
he might be allowed to do so at once. General Roberts explained that the
acceptance of his resignation rested not with him but with the Viceroy,
pending whose decision matters, the General desired, should remain as
they were, affairs continuing to be conducted in the Ameer's name as
before. To this the Ameer consented; his tents were moved to the vicinity
of General Roberts' headquarters, and a somewhat closer surveillance over
him was maintained.

Secrecy meanwhile was preserved until the Viceroy's reply should arrive.
The nature of that reply was intimated by the proclamation which General
Roberts issued on the 28th October. It announced that the Ameer had of
his own free will abdicated his throne and left Afghanistan without a
government. 'The British Government,' the proclamation continued, 'now
commands that all Afghan authorities, chiefs, and sirdars, do continue
their functions in maintaining order ... The British Government, after
consultation with the principal sirdars, tribal chiefs, and others
representing the interests and wishes of the various provinces and
cities, will declare its will as to the future permanent arrangements to
be made for the good government of the people.'

This _ad interim_ assumption of the rulership of Afghanistan may have
been adopted as the only policy which afforded even a remote possibility
of tranquillity. But it was essentially a policy of speculative
makeshift. The retributive and punitive object of the swift march on
Cabul can scarcely be regarded as having been fulfilled by the execution
of a number of subordinate participants and accessories in the
destruction of the mission and by the voluntary abdication of Yakoub
Khan. That the Afghan 'authorities, chiefs, and sirdars,' would obey the
command to 'maintain order' issued by the leader of a few thousand
hostile troops, masters of little more than the ground on which they were
encamped, experience and common sense seemed alike to render improbable.
The Afghans subordinated their internal quarrels to their common hatred
of the masterful foreigners, and the desperate fighting of December
proved how fiercely they were in earnest.

Yakoub Khan had been regarded as merely a weak and unfortunate man, but
the shadows gradually darkened around him until at length he came to be a
man under grave suspicion. General Roberts became satisfied from the
results of the proceedings of the court of inquiry, that the attack on
the Residency, if not actually instigated by him, might at least have
been checked by active exertion on his part. Information was obtained
which convinced the General that the ex-Ameer was contemplating a flight
toward Turkestan, and it was considered necessary to place him in close
confinement. He remained a close prisoner until December 1st. On the
early morning of that day he was brought out from his tent, and after
taking farewell of the General and his staff, started on his journey to
Peshawur, surrounded by a strong escort. If the hill tribes along his
route had cared enough about him to attempt his rescue, the speed with
which he travelled afforded them no time to gather for that purpose.

During those uneventful October and November days, when the little army
commanded by General Roberts lay in its breezy camp on the Siah Sung
heights, there was no little temptation for the unprofessional reader of
the telegraphic information in the newspapers to hold cheap those
reputedly formidable Afghans, whose resistance a single sharp skirmish
had seemingly scattered to the winds, and who were now apparently
accepting without active remonstrance the dominance of the few thousand
British bayonets glittering there serenely over against the once
turbulent but now tamed hill capital. One may be certain that the shrewd
and careful soldier who commanded that scant array did not permit himself
to share in the facile optimism whether on the part of a government or of
the casual reader of complacent telegrams. It was true that the
Government of India had put or was putting some 30,000 soldiers into the
field on the apparent errand of prosecuting an Afghan war. But what
availed Roberts this host of fighting men when he had to realise that,
befall him what might in the immediate or near future, not a man of it
was available to strengthen or to succour him? The quietude of those cool
October days was very pleasant, but the chief knew well how precarious
and deceitful was the calm. For the present the Afghan unanimity of
hostility was affected in a measure by the fact that the Ameer, who had
still a party, was voluntarily in the British camp. But when Yakoub's
abdication should be announced, he knew the Afghan nature too well to
doubt that the tribal blood-feuds would be soldered for the time, that
Dooranee and Barakzai would strike hands, that Afghan regulars and Afghan
irregulars would rally under the same standards, and that the fierce
shouts of 'Deen! deen!' would resound on hill-top and in plain. Cut loose
from any base, with slowly dwindling strength, with waning stock of
ammunition, it was his part to hold his ground here for the winter, he
and his staunch soldiers, a firm rock in the midst of those surging
Afghan billows that were certain to rise around him. Not only would he
withstand them, but he would meet them, for this bold man knew the value
in dealing with Afghans of a resolute and vigorous offensive. But it
behoved him above all things to make timely choice of his winter quarters
where he should collect his supplies and house his troops and the
followers. After careful deliberation the Sherpur cantonment was
selected. It was overlarge for easy defence, but hard work, careful
engineering, and steadfast courage would redeem that evil. And Sherpur
had the great advantage that besides being in a measure a ready-made
defensive position, it had shelter for all the European troops and most
of the native soldiery, and that it would accommodate also the horses of
the cavalry, the transport animals, and all the needful supplies and

An Afghan of the Afghans, Shere Ali nevertheless had curiously failed to
discern that the warlike strength of the nation which he ruled lay in its
intuitive aptitude for irregular fighting; and he had industriously set
himself to the effort of warping the combative genius of his people and
of constituting Afghanistan a military power of the regular and
disciplined type. He had created a large standing army the soldiery of
which wore uniforms, underwent regular drill, obeyed words of command,
and carried arms of precision. He had devoted great pains to the
manufacture of a formidable artillery, and what with presents from the
British Government and the imitative skill of native artificers he was
possessed at the outbreak of hostilities of several hundred cannon. His
artisans were skillful enough to turn out in large numbers very fair
rifled small-arms, which they copied from British models; and in the
Balla Hissar magazine were found by our people vast quantities of
gunpowder and of admirable cartridges of local manufacture. There were
many reasons why the Cabul division of Shere Ali's army should be
quartered apart from his turbulent and refractory capital, and why its
cantonment should take the form of a permanent fortified camp, in which
his soldiers might be isolated from Cabul intrigues, while its proximity
to the capital should constitute a standing menace to the conspirators of
the city. His original design apparently was to enclose the Behmaroo
heights within the walls of his cantonment, and thus form a great
fortified square upon the heights in the centre of which should rise a
strong citadel dominating the plain in every direction. The Sherpur
cantonment as found by Roberts consisted of a fortified enciente,
enclosing on two sides a great open space in the shape of a parallelogram
lying along the southern base of the Behmaroo heights. When the British
troops took possession, only the west and south faces of the enciente
were completed; although not long built those were already in bad repair,
and the explosion of the great magazine when the Afghan troops abandoned
the cantonment had wrecked a section of the western face. The eastern
face had been little more than traced, and the northern side had no
artificial protection, but was closed in by the Behmaroo heights, whose
centre was cleft by a broad and deep gorge. The design of the enciente
was peculiar. There was a thick and high exterior wall of mud, with a
banquette for infantry protected by a parapet. Inside this wall was a dry
ditch forty feet wide, on the inner brink of which was the long range of
barrack-rooms. Along the interior front of the barrack-rooms was a
verandah faced with arches supported by pillars, its continuity broken
occasionally by broad staircases conducting to the roof of the barracks,
which afforded a second line of defence. The closing in of the verandah
would of course give additional barrack accommodation, but there were
quarters in the barrack-rooms for at least all the European troops. In
the southern face of the enciente were three gateways, and in the centre
of the western face there was a fourth, each gate covered adequately by a
curtain. Between each gate were semicircular bastions for guns. In the
interior there was space to manoeuvre a division of all arms. There was a
copious supply of water, and if the aspect of the great cantonment was
grim because of the absence of trees and the utter barrenness of the
enclosed space, this aesthetic consideration went for little against its
manifest advantages as snug and defensible winter quarters. Shere Ali had
indeed been all unconsciously a friend in need to the British force
wintering in the heart of that unfortunate potentate's dominions. Human
nature is perverse and exacting, and there were those who objurgated his
memory because he had constructed his cantonment a few sizes too large to
be comfortably defended by Sir Frederick Roberts' little force. But this
was manifestly unreasonable; and in serious truth the Sherpur cantonment
was a real godsend to our people. Supplies of all kinds were steadily
being accumulated there, and the woodwork of the houses in the Balla
Hissar was being carried to Sherpur for use as firewood. On the last day
of October the force quitted the Siah Sung position and took possession
of Sherpur, which had undergone a rigorous process of fumigation and
cleansing. The change was distinctly for the better. The force was
compacted, and the routine military duties were appreciably lightened
since there were needed merely piquets on the Behmaroo heights and
sentries on the gates; the little army was healthy, temperate, and in
excellent case in all respects.

The dispositions for field service made at the outset of the campaign by
the military authorities have already been detailed. Regarded simply as
dispositions they left nothing to be desired, and certainly Sir Frederick
Roberts' force had been organised and equipped with a fair amount of
expedition. But it was apparent that the equipment of that body of 6500
men--and that equipment by no means of an adequate character, had
exhausted for the time the resources of the Government as regarded
transport and supplies. Promptitude of advance on the part of the force
to which had been assigned the line of invasion by the Khyber-Jellalabad
route, was of scarcely less moment than the rapidity of the stroke which
Roberts was commissioned to deliver. The former's was a treble duty. One
of its tasks was to open up and maintain Roberts' communications with
India, so that the closing of the Shutargurdan should not leave him
isolated. Another duty resting on the Khyber force was to constitute for
Roberts a ready and convenient reserve, on which he might draw when his
occasions demanded. No man could tell how soon after the commencement of
his invasion that necessity might arise; it was a prime _raison d'etre_
of the Khyber force to be in a position to give him the hand when he
should intimate a need for support. Yet again, its presence in the passes
dominantly thrusting forward, would have the effect of retaining the
eastern tribes within their own borders, and hindering them from joining
an offensive combination against the little force with which Roberts was
to strike at Cabul. But delay on delay marked the mobilisation and
advance of the troops operating in the Khyber line. There was no lack of
earnestness anywhere; the eagerness to push on was universal from the
commander to the corporal. But the barren hills and rugged passes could
furnish no supplies; the base had to furnish everything, and there was
nothing at the base, neither any accumulation of supplies nor means to
transport supplies if they had been accumulated. Weeks elapsed before the
organisation of the force approached completion, and it was only by a
desperate struggle that General Charles Gough's little brigade received
by the end of September equipment sufficient to enable that officer to
advance by short marches. Roberts was holding his durbar in the Balla
Hissar of Cabul on the day that the head of Gough's advance reached
Jellalabad. No man can associate the idea of dawdling with Jenkins and
his Guides, yet the Guides reaching Jellalabad on October 12th were not
at Gundamuk until the 23d, and Gundamuk is but thirty miles beyond
Jellalabad. The anti-climax for the time of General Bright's exertions
occurred on November 6th. On that day he with Gough's brigade reached so
far Cabulward as Kutti Sung, two marches beyond Gundamuk. There he met
General Macpherson of Roberts' force, who had marched down from Cabul
with his brigade on the errand of opening communications with the head of
the Khyber column. The two brigades had touch of each other for the
period of an interview between the Generals, and then they fell apart and
the momentary union of communication was disrupted. General Bright had to
fall back toward Gundamuk for lack of supplies. The breach continued open
only for a few days, and then it was closed, not from down country but
from up country. Roberts, surveying the rugged country to the east of
Cabul, had discerned that the hill road toward Jugdulluk by Luttabund,
was at once opener and shorter than the customary tortuous and overhung
route through the Khoord Cabul Pass and by Tezeen. The pioneers were set
to work to improve the former. The Luttabund road became the habitual
route along which, from Cabul downwards, were posted detachments
maintaining the communications of the Cabul force with the Khyber column
and India. Nearly simultaneous with this accomplishment was the
accordance to Sir Frederick Roberts of the local rank of
Lieutenant-General, a promotion which placed him in command of all the
troops in Eastern Afghanistan down to Jumrood, and enabled him to order
up reinforcements from the Khyber column at his discretion, a power he
refrained from exercising until the moment of urgent need was impending.

After his interview at Kutti Sung with General Bright, Macpherson, before
returning to Cabul, made a short reconnaissance north of the Cabul river
toward the Lughman valley and into the Tagao country inhabited by the
fanatic tribe of the Safis. From his camp at Naghloo a foraging party,
consisting of a company of the 67th escorting a number of camels and
mules, moved westward toward a village near the junction of the Panjshir
and Cabul rivers, there to obtain supplies of grain and forage. The
little detachment on its march was suddenly met by the fire of about 1000
Sari tribesmen. Captain Poole, observing that the tribesmen were moving
to cut him off, withdrew his party through a defile in his rear, and
taking cover under the river bank maintained a steady fire while the
camels were being retired. The Safis were extremely bold and they too
shot very straight. Captain Poole was severely wounded and of his handful
of fifty-six men eight were either killed or wounded, but their comrades
resolutely held their position until reinforcements came out from the
camp. The Safis, who retired with dogged reluctance, were not finally
routed until attacked by British infantry in front and flank. After they
broke the cavalry pursued them for six miles, doing severe execution; the
dead of the 67th were recovered, but the poor fellows had been mutilated
almost past recognition. General Macpherson returned to Sherpur on the
20th November, having left a strong garrison temporarily at Luttabund to
strengthen communications and open out effectually the new route

General Roberts, with all his exertions, had been unable to accumulate
sufficient winter of grain for his native troops and forage for his
cavalry and baggage animals. Agents had been purchasing supplies in the
fertile district of Maidan, distant from Cabul about twenty-five miles in
the Ghuznee direction, but the local people lacked carriage to convey
their stocks into camp, and it was necessary that the supplies should be
brought in by the transport of the force. The country toward Ghuznee was
reported to be in a state of disquiet, and a strong body of troops was
detailed under the command of General Baker for the protection of the
transport. This force marched out from Sherpur on November 21st, and next
day camped on the edge of the pleasant Maidan plain. Baker encountered
great difficulties in collecting supplies. The villages readily gave in
their tribute of grain and forage, but evinced extreme reluctance to
furnish the additional quantities which our necessities forced us to
requisition. With the villagers it was not a question of money; the
supplies for which Baker's commissaries demanded money in hand
constituted their provision for the winter season. But the stern maxim of
war is that soldiers must live although villagers starve, and this much
may be said in our favour that we are the only nation in the world which,
when compelled to resort to forced requisitions, invariably pays in hard
cash and not in promissory notes. Baker's ready-money tariff was far
higher than the current rates, but nevertheless he had to resort to
strong measures. In one instance he was defied outright. A certain
Bahadur Khan inhabiting a remote valley in the Bamian direction, refused
to sell any portion of his great store of grain and forage, and declined
to comply with a summons to present himself in Baker's camp. It was known
that he was under the influence of the aged fanatic Moulla the
Mushk-i-Alum, who was engaged in fomenting a tribal rising, and it was
reported that he was affording protection to a number of the fugitive
sepoys of the ex-Ameer's army. A political officer with two squadrons of
cavalry was sent to bring into camp the recalcitrant Bahadur Khan. His
fort and village were found prepared for a stubborn defence. Received
with a heavy fire from a large body of men while swarms of hostile
tribesmen showed themselves on the adjacent hills, the horsemen had to
withdraw. It was judged necessary to punish the contumacious chief and to
disperse the tribal gathering before it should make more head, and Baker
led out a strong detachment in light marching order. There was no
fighting, and the only enemies seen were a few tribesmen, who drew off
into the hills as the head of Baker's column approached. Fort, villages,
and valley were found utterly deserted. There were no means to carry away
the forage and grain found in the houses, so the villages belonging to
Bahadur Khan were destroyed by fire. Their inhabitants found refuge in
the surrounding villages, and there was absolutely no foundation for the
statements which appeared in English papers to the effect that old men,
women, and children were turned out to die in the snow. In the words of
Mr Hensman, a correspondent who accompanied the column: 'There were no
old men, women, and children, and there was no snow.' British officers
cannot be supposed to have found pleasure, on the verge of the bitter
Afghan winter, in the destruction of the hovels and the winter stores of
food belonging to a number of miserable villagers; but experience has
proved that only by such stern measures is there any possibility of
cowing the rancour of Afghan tribesmen. No elation can accompany an
operation so pitiless, and the plea of stern necessity must be advanced
alike and accepted with a shudder. Of the necessity of some such form of
reprisals an example is afforded in an experience which befell General
Baker a few days later in this same Maidan region. He visited the village
of Beni-Badam with a small cavalry escort. The villagers with every
demonstration of friendliness entertained the officers and men with milk
and fruit, and provided corn and forage for their horses. There were only
old men in the village with the women and children, but no treachery was
suspected until suddenly two large bodies of armed men were seen hurrying
to cut off the retreat, and it was only by hard fighting that the General
with his escort succeeded in escaping from the snare. Next day he
destroyed the village. Baker probably acted on general principles, but
had he cared for precedents he would have found them in the conduct of
the Germans in the Franco-Prussian war. He remained in the Maidan
district until the transport of the army had brought into Sherpur all the
supplies which he had succeeded in obtaining in that region, and then
returned to the cantonment.

By the terms of the proclamation which he issued on the 28th October Sir
Frederick Roberts was announced as the dominant authority for the time
being in Eastern and Northern Afghanistan. He occupied this position just
as far as and no further than he could make it good. And he could make it
good only over a very circumscribed area. Even more than had been true of
Shah Soojah's government forty years previously was it true of Roberts'
government now that it was a government of sentry-boxes. He was firm
master of the Sherpur cantonment. General Hills, his nominee, held a
somewhat precarious sway in Cabul in the capacity of its Governor,
maintaining his position there in virtue of the bayonets of his military
guard, the support of the adjacent Sherpur, and the waiting attitude of
the populace of the capital. East of Cabul the domination of Britain was
represented by a series of fortified posts studding the road to Gundamuk,
whence to Jumrood the occupation was closer, although not wholly
undisturbed. When a column marched out from Sherpur the British power was
dominant only within the area of its fire zone. The stretch of road it
vacated as it moved on ceased to be territory over which the British held
dominion. This narrowly restricted nature of his actual sway Sir
Frederick Roberts could not but recognise, but how with a force of 7000
men all told was it possible for him to enlarge its borders? One
expedient suggested itself which could not indeed extend the area of his
real power, but which might have the effect, to use a now familiar
expression, of widening the sphere of his influence. From among the
Sirdars who had regarded it as their interest to cast in their lot with
the British, he selected four to represent him in the capacity of
governors of provinces which his bayonets were not long enough to reach.
The experiment made it disagreeably plain that the people of the
provinces to which he had deputed governors were utterly indisposed to
have anything to do either with them or with him. The governors went in
no state, they had no great sums to disburse, they were protected by no
armed escorts, and they were regarded by the natives much as the Southern
states of the American Union after the Civil War regarded the 'carpet
bag' governors whom the North imposed upon them. The Logur Governor was
treated with utter contempt. The Kohistanees despitefully used Shahbaz
Khan, and when a brother of Yakoub Khan was sent to use his influence in
favour of the worried and threatened governor, he was reviled as a
'Kafir' and a 'Feringhee,' and ordered peremptorily back to Sherpur if he
had any regard for his life. Sirdar Wali Mahomed, the governor-nominate
to the remote Turkestan, found pretext after pretext for delaying to
proceed to take up his functions, and had never quitted the British camp.
When Baker returned from Maidan he reported that he had left the district
peaceful in charge of the governor whom he had installed, the venerable
and amiable Hassan Khan. Baker's rear-guard was scarcely clear of the
valley when a mob of tribesmen and sepoys attacked the fort in which the
old Sirdar was residing, shot him through the head, and then hacked his
body to pieces. It was too clear that governors unsupported by bayonets,
and whose only weapons were tact and persuasiveness, were at an extreme
discount in the condition which Afghanistan presented in the end of
November and the beginning of December.


The invader of Afghanistan may count as inevitable a national rising
against him, but the Afghans are a people so immersed in tribal quarrels
and domestic blood feuds that the period of the outbreak is curiously
uncertain. The British force which placed Shah Soojah on the throne and
supported him there, was in Afghanistan for more than two years before
the waves of the national tempest rose around it. The national
combination against Roberts' occupation was breaking its strength against
the Sherpur defences while as yet the Cabul field force had not been
within sight of the capital for more than two months. There seems no
relation between opportunity and the period of the inevitable outburst.
If in November 1841 the Cabul Sirdars had restrained themselves for a few
days longer two more regiments would have been following on Sale's track,
and the British force in the cantonments would have been proportionately
attenuated. Roberts might have been assailed with better chance of
success when his force was dispersed between the Siah Sung camp, the
Balla Hissar, and Sherpur, than when concentrated in the strong defensive
position against which the Afghans beat in vain. Perhaps the rising
ripened faster in 1879 than in 1841 because in the former period no
Macnaghten fomented intrigues and scattered gold. Perhaps Shere Ali's
military innovations may have instilled into the masses of his time some
rough lessons in the art and practice of speedy mobilisation. The
crowning disgrace of 1842 was that a trained army of regular soldiers
should have been annihilated by a few thousand hillmen, among whom there
was no symptom either of real valour or of good leadership. To Roberts
and his force attaches the credit of having defeated the persistent and
desperate efforts of levies at least ten times superior in numbers, well
armed, far from undisciplined, courageous beyond all experience of Afghan
nature, and under the guidance of a leader who had some conception of
strategy, and who certainly was no mean tactician.

In the Afghan idiosyncrasy there is a considerable strain of practical
philosophy. The blood of the massacred mission was not dry when it was
recognised in Cabul that stern retribution would inevitably follow. Well,
said the Afghans among themselves, what must be must be, for they are all
fatalists. The seniors recalled the memory of the retribution Pollock
exacted--how he came, destroyed Istalif, set a 'mark' on Cabul by sending
the great bazaar in fragments into the air, and then departed. This time
Istalif was not compromised; if Roberts Sahib should be determined to
blow up the Char Chowk again, why, that infliction must be endured. It
had been rebuilt after Pollock Sahib's engineers had worked their will on
it; it could be rebuilt a second time when Roberts Sahib should have
turned his back on the city, as pray God and the Prophet he might do with
no more delay than Pollock Sahib had made out yonder on the Logur plain.
So after a trial of Roberts' mettle at Charasiah, and finding the testing
sample not quite to their taste, the Afghans fell into an attitude of
expectancy, and were mightily relieved by his proclamation read at the
Balla Hissar durbar of October 12th. After a reasonable amount of hanging
and the exaction of the fine laid on the city, it was assumed that he
would no doubt depart so as to get home to India before the winter snows
should block the passes. But the expected did not happen. The British
General established a British Governor in Cabul who had a heavy hand, and
policed the place in a fashion that stirred a lurid fury in the bosoms of
haughty Sirdars who had been wont to do what seemed good in their own
eyes. He engaged in the sacrilegious work of dismantling the Balla
Hissar, the historic fortress of the nation, within whose walls were the
royal palace and the residences of the principal nobles. Those were
bitter things, but they could be borne if they were mere temporary
inflictions, and if the hated Feringhees would but take themselves away
soon. But that hope was shattered by the proclamation of October 28th,
when the abdication of the Ameer was intimated and the British _raj_ in
Afghanistan was announced. Yes, that pestilent _zabardasti_ little
General, who would not follow the example of good old Pollock Sahib, and
who held Yakoub Khan and sundry of his Sirdars in close imprisonment in
his camp, had now the insolence to proclaim himself virtually the Ameer
of Afghanistan! Far from showing symptom of budging, he was sending out
his governors into the provinces, he was gathering tribute in kind, and
he had taken possession of Shere Ali's monumental cantonment, under the
shadow of the Behmaroo heights on which Afghan warriors of a past
generation had slaughtered the Feringhee soldiers as if they had been
sheep; and it was the Feringhee General's cantonment now, which he was
cunningly strengthening as if he meant to make it his permanent fortress.

Yakoub Khan had gained little personal popularity during his brief and
troubled reign, but he was an Afghan and a Mahomedan; and his deportation
to India, followed shortly afterwards by that of his three Ministers,
intensified the rancour of his countrymen and co-religionists against the
handful of presumptuous foreigners who arrogantly claimed to sway the
destinies of Afghanistan. _Cherchez la femme_ is the keynote among
Western peoples of an investigation into the origin of most troubles and
strifes; the watchword of the student of the springs of great popular
outbursts among Eastern nations must be _Cherchez les pretres_. The Peter
the Hermit of Afghanistan was the old Mushk-i-Alum, the fanatic Chief
Moulla of Ghuznee. This aged enthusiast went to and fro among the tribes
proclaiming the sacred duty of a _Jehad_ or religious war against the
unbelieving invaders, stimulating the pious passions of the followers of
the Prophet by fervent appeals, enjoining the chiefs to merge their
intestine strifes in the common universal effort to crush the foreign
invaders of the Afghan soil. The female relatives of the abdicated Ameer
fomented the rising by appeals to popular sympathy, and by the more
practical argument of lavish distribution of treasure. The flame spread,
tribesmen and disbanded soldiers sprang to arms, the banner of the
Prophet was unfurled, and the nation heaved with the impulse of
fanaticism. Musa Khan, the boy heir of Yakoub, was in the hands of the
Mushk-i-Alum, and the combination of fighting tribes found a competent
leader in Mahomed Jan, a Warduk general of proved courage and capacity.
The plan of campaign was comprehensive and well devised. The contingent
from the country to the south of the capital, from Logur, Zurmat, and the
Mangal and Jadran districts, was to seize that section of the Cabul ridge
extending from Charasiah northward to the cleft through which flows the
Cabul river. The northern contingent from the Kohistan and Kohdaman was
to occupy the Asmai heights and the hills further to the north-west;
while the troops from the Maidan and Warduk territories, led by Mahomed
Jan in person, were to come in from the westward across the Chardeh
valley, take possession of Cabul, and rally to their banners the
disaffected population of the capital and the surrounding villages. The
concentration of the three bodies effected, the capital and the ridge
against which it leans occupied, the next step would be the investment of
the Sherpur cantonment, preparatory to an assault upon it in force.

The British general through his spies had information of those projects.
To allow the projected concentration to be effected would involve serious
disadvantages, and both experience and temperament enjoined on Roberts
the offensive. The Logur contingent was regarded as not of much account,
and might be headed back by a threat. Mahomed Jan's force, which was
reckoned some 5000 strong, needed to be handled with greater vigour. Meer
Butcha and his Kohistanees were less formidable, and might be dealt with
incidentally. Roberts took a measure of wise precaution in telegraphing
to Colonel Jenkins on the 7th December to march his Guides (cavalry and
infantry) from Jugdulluk to Sherpur.

On the 8th General Macpherson was sent out toward the west with a column
consisting of 1300 bayonets, three squadrons, and eight guns. Following
the Ghuznee road across the Chardeh valley, he was to march to Urgundeh,
in the vicinity of which place it was expected that he would find Mahomed
Jan's levies, which he was to attack and drive backward on Maidan, taking
care to prevent their retreat to the westward in the direction of Bamian.
On the following day General Baker marched out with a force made up of
900 infantrymen, two and a half squadrons, and four guns, with
instructions to march southward toward the Logur valley, deal with the
tribal gathering there, then bend sharply in a south-westerly direction
and take up a position across the Ghuznee road in the Maidan valley on
the line of retreat which it was hoped that Macpherson would succeed in
enforcing on Mahomed Jan. In that case the Afghan leader would find
himself between two fires, and would be punished so severely as to render
it unlikely that he would give further trouble. To afford time for Baker
to reach the position assigned to him Macpherson remained halted during
the 9th at Aushar, a village just beyond the debouche of the Nanuchee
Pass, at the north-western extremity of the Asmai heights. On that day a
cavalry reconnaissance discovered that the Kohistanee levies in
considerable strength had already gathered about Karez Meer, some ten
miles north-west of Cabul, and that masses of Afghans presumably
belonging to the force of Mahomed Jan were moving northward in the
Kohistan direction, apparently with the object of joining Meer Butcha's
gathering at Karez. It was imperative that the latter should be dispersed
before the junction could be effected, and Sir Frederick Roberts had no
option but to order Macpherson to alter his line of advance and move
against the Kohistanees. Necessary as was this divergence from the
original plan of operation, it had the effect of sending to wreck the
combined movement from which so much was hoped, and of bringing about a
very critical situation. If Lockhart's reconnaissance had been made a day
earlier, Macpherson might probably have utilised to good purpose by
dispersing the Kohistanees, the day which as it was he spent halted at
Aushar. He might have accomplished that object equally well if, instead
of the cavalry reconnaissance made by Lockhart, Macpherson himself had
been instructed to devote the 9th to a reconnaissance in force in the
direction of Karez Meer.

[Illustration: Map of Cabul and surroundings.]

The country being held unsuited for the action of wheeled artillery and
cavalry, Macpherson left his details of those arms at Aushar, and marched
on the morning of the 10th on Karez with his infantry and mountain guns.
As his troops crowned the Surkh Kotul they saw before them an imposing
spectacle. The whole terrain around Karez swarmed with masses of armed
tribesmen, whose banners were flying on every hillock. Down in the
Pughman valley to the left rear, were discerned bodies of the hostile
contingent from the west, between which and the Kohistanees no junction
had fortunately as yet been made. Macpherson's dispositions were simple.
His mountain guns shelled with effect the Kohistanee tribesmen, and then
he moved forward from the Surkh Kotul in three columns. His skirmishers
drove back the forward stragglers, and then the main columns advancing at
the double swept the disordered masses before them, and forced them
rearward into their intrenched position in front of the Karez village.
There the resistance was half-hearted. After a brief artillery
preparation the columns carried the position with a rush, and the
Kohistanees were routed with heavy loss. Meer Butcha and his Kohistanees
well beaten, Macpherson camped for the night near Karez. Baker had
reached his assigned position in the Maidan valley, and there seemed a
fair prospect that the operation against Mahomed Jan as originally
designed might be carried out notwithstanding the interruption to its
prosecution which had been found necessary. For there was good reason to
believe that the Afghan commander and his force, whose strength was
estimated at about 5000 men, were in the vicinity of Urgundeh, about
midway between Macpherson at Karez and Baker in the Maidan valley. If
Mahomed Jan would be so complaisant as to remain where he was until
Macpherson could reach him, then Roberts' strategy would have a
triumphant issue, and the Warduk general and his followers might be
relegated to the category of negligable quantities.

Orders were sent to Macpherson to march as early as possible on the
morning of the 11th, follow up the enemy who had been observed retiring
toward the west and south, and endeavour to drive them down toward
General Baker. He was further informed that the cavalry and
horse-artillery which he had left at Aushar would leave that village at
nine A.M. under the command of Brigadier-General Massy, and would cross
the Chardeh valley by the Urgundeh road, on which he was directed to join
them on his march. The specific instructions given to General Massy were
as follows: 'To advance from Aushar by the road leading directly from the
city of Cabul toward Urgundeh and Ghuznee' (the main Ghuznee road), 'to
proceed cautiously and quietly feeling for the enemy, to communicate with
General Macpherson, and to act in conformity with that officer's
movements, but on no account to commit himself to an action until General
Macpherson had engaged the enemy.'

Macpherson marched at eight A.M., moving in a south-westerly direction
toward Urgundeh by a direct track in rear of the range of hills bounding
the western edge of the Chardeh valley. To the point at which it was
probable that he and Massy should meet he had considerably further to
travel than had the latter from the Aushar camp, and Macpherson's force
consisted of infantry while that of Massy was cavalry and
horse-artillery. Massy left Aushar at nine A.M. in consideration of the
shorter distance he had to traverse, and he headed for Killa Kazee, a
village near the foothills of the western ridge about four miles from
Aushar as the crow flies. He did not comply with the letter of his
instructions to follow the Ghuznee road because of the wide detour
marching by it would have involved, but instead made his way straight
across country. That he should have done this was unfortunate, since the
time he thus gained threw him forward into a position involving danger in
advance of any possible co-operation on the part of Macpherson, who was
still far away from the point of intended junction while Massy was
comparatively near it. Massy's force consisted of two squadrons 9th
Lancers and a troop of 14th Bengal Lancers, escorting four
horse-artillery guns. He had detached a troop of 9th Lancers to endeavour
to open communication with Macpherson, in compliance with his
instructions. As he approached Killa Kazee, Captain Gough commanding the
troop of 9th Lancers forming the advance guard, sent back word that the
hills on either side of the Ghuznee road some distance beyond the village
were occupied by the enemy in considerable force. Massy, in his
unsupported condition and destitute of any information as to Macpherson's
whereabouts, would have shown discretion by halting on receipt of this
intelligence pending further developments. But he probably believed that
the Afghans flanking the road were casual tribesmen from the adjacent
villages who were unlikely to make any stand, and he determined to move

What he presently saw gave him pause. A great mass of Afghans some 2000
strong were forming across the Ghuznee road. From the hills to right and
left broad streams of armed men were pouring down the hillslopes and
forming on the plain. The surprise was complete, the situation full of
perplexity. That gathering host in Massy's front could be none other than
Mahomed Jan's entire force. So far from being in retreat southward and
westward, so far from waiting supinely about Urgundeh until Macpherson as
per programme should drive it on to the muzzles of Baker's Martinis, here
it was inside our guard, in possession of the interior line, its front
facing toward turbulent Cabul and depleted Sherpur, with no obstruction
in its path save this handful of lancers and these four guns! Massy's
orders, it was true, were to act in conformity with Macpherson's
movements, and on no account to commit himself to an action until that
officer had engaged the enemy. Yes, but could the framer of those orders
have anticipated the possibility of such a position as that in which
Massy now found himself? There was no Macpherson within ken of the
perplexed cavalryman, nor the vaguest indication of his movements. The
enemy had doubled on that stout and shrewd soldier; it was clear that for
the moment he was not within striking distance of his foe, whether on
flank or on rear. No course of action presented itself to Massy that was
not fraught with grave contingencies. If he should keep to the letter of
his orders, the Afghan host might be in Cabul in a couple of hours.
Should he retire slowly, striving to retard the Afghan advance by his
cannon fire and by the threatening demonstrations of his cavalry, the
enemy might follow him up so vigorously as to be beyond Macpherson's
reach when that officer should make good his point in the direction of
Urgundeh. If on the other hand he should show a bold front, and departing
from his orders in the urgent crisis face to face with which he found
himself should strain every nerve to 'hold' the Afghan masses in their
present position, there was the possibility that, at whatever sacrifice
to himself and his little force, he might save the situation and gain
time for Macpherson to come up and strike Mahomed Jan on flank and in

For better or for worse Massy committed himself to the rasher enterprise,
and opened fire on the swiftly growing Afghan masses. The first range was
held not sufficiently effective, and in the hope by closer fire of
deterring the enemy from effecting the formation they were attempting,
the guns were advanced to the shorter ranges of 2500 and 2000 yards. The
shells did execution, but contrary to precedent did not daunt the
Afghans. They made good their formation under the shell fire. Mahomed
Jan's force had been estimated of about 5000 strong; according to Massy's
estimate it proved to be double that number. The array was well led; it
never wavered, but came steadily on with waving banners and loud shouts.
The guns had to be retired; they came into action again, but owing to the
rapidity of the Afghan advance at shorter range than before. The carbine
fire of thirty dismounted lancers 'had no appreciable effect.' The
outlook was already ominous when at this moment Sir Frederick Roberts
came on the scene. As was his wont, he acted with decision. The action,
it was clear to him, could not be maintained against odds so overwhelming
and in ground so unfavourable. He immediately ordered Massy to retire
slowly, to search for a road by which the guns could be withdrawn, and to
watch for an opportunity to execute a charge under cover of which the
guns might be extricated. He despatched an aide-de-camp in quest of
Macpherson, with an order directing that officer to wheel to his left
into the Chardeh valley and hurry to Massy's assistance; and he ordered
General Hills to gallop to Sherpur and warn General Hugh Gough, who had
charge in the cantonment, to be on the alert, and also to send out at
speed a wing of the 72d to the village of Deh Mazung, in the throat of
the gorge of the Cabul river, which the Highlanders were to hold to

The enemy were coming on, the guns were in imminent danger, and the
moment had come for the action of the cavalry. The gallant Cleland gave
the word to his lancers and led them straight for the centre of the
Afghan line, the troop of Bengal Lancers following in support. Gough,
away on the Afghan left, saw his chief charging and he eagerly
'conformed,' crushing in on the enemy's flank at the head of his troop.
'Self-sacrifice' the Germans hold the duty of cavalry; and there have
been few forlorner hopes than the errand on which on this ill-starred day
our 200 troopers rode into the heart of 10,000 Afghans flushed with
unwonted good fortune. Through the dust-cloud of the charge were visible
the flashes of the Afghan volleys and the sheen of the British lance
heads as they came down to the 'engage.' There was a short interval of
suspense, the stour and bicker of the _melee_ faintly heard, but
invisible behind the bank of smoke and dust. Then from out the cloud of
battle riderless horses came galloping back, followed by broken groups of
troopers. Gallantly led home, the charge had failed--what other result
could have been expected? Its career had been blocked by sheer weight of
opposing numbers. Sixteen troopers had been killed, seven were wounded,
two officers had been slain in the hand-to-hand strife. Cleland came out
with a sword cut and a bullet wound. Captain Stewart Mackenzie had been
crushed under his fallen horse, but distinguished himself greatly, and
brought the regiment out of action. As the dust settled it was apparent
that the charge had merely encouraged the enemy, who as they steadily
pressed on in good order, were waving their banners in triumph and
brandishing their tulwars and knives. The fire from the Sniders and
Enfields of their marksmen was well directed and deliberate. While
Cleland's broken troopers were being rallied two guns were brought into
action, protected in a measure by Gough's troop and the detachment of
Bengal Lancers, which had not suffered much in the charge. But the
Afghans came on so ardently that there was no alternative but prompt
retreat. One gun had to be spiked and abandoned, Lieutenant Hardy of the
Horse Artillery remaining by it until surrounded and killed. Some 500
yards further back, near the village of Baghwana, the three remaining
guns stuck fast in a deep watercourse. At General Roberts' instance a
second charge was attempted, to give time for their extrication; but it
made no head, so that the guns had to be abandoned, and the gunners and
drivers with their teams accompanied the retirement of the cavalry. Some
fugitives both of cavalry and artillery hurried to the shelter of the
cantonment somewhat precipitately; but the great majority of Massy's
people behaved well, rallying without hesitation and constituting the
steady and soldierly little body with which Roberts, retiring on Deh
Mazung as slowly as possible to give time for the Highlanders from
Sherpur to reach that all-important point, strove to delay the Afghan
advance. This in a measure was accomplished by the dismounted fire of the
troopers, and the retirement was distinguished by the steady coolness
displayed by Cough's men and Neville's Bengal Lancers. Deh Mazung was
reached, but no Highlanders had as yet reached that place. The carbines
of the cavalrymen were promptly utilised from the cover the village
afforded; but they could not have availed to stay the Afghan rush. There
was a short interval of extreme anxiety until the 200 men of the 72d,
Brownlow leading them, became visible advancing at the double through the
gorge. 'It was literally touch and go who should reach the village first,
the Highlanders or the Afghans,' who were streaming toward it 'like ants
on a hill,' but the men of the 72d swept in, and swarming to the house
tops soon checked with their breechloaders the advancing tide. After
half-an-hour of futile effort the Afghans saw fit to abandon the attempt
to force the gorge, and inclining to their right they occupied the
Takht-i-Shah summit, the slopes of the Sher Derwaza heights, and the
villages in the south-eastern section of the Chardeh valley.

Macpherson, marching from the Surkh Kotul toward Urgundeh, had observed
parties of Afghans crossing his front in the direction of the Chardeh
valley, and when the sound reached him of Massy's artillery fire he
wheeled to his left through a break in the hills opening into the Chardeh
valley, and approached the scene of the discomfiture of Massy's force.
This he did at 12.30 P.M., four and a half hours after leaving the Surkh
Kotul. As the length of his march was about ten miles, it may be assumed
that he encountered difficulties in the rugged track by which he moved,
for Macpherson was not the man to linger by the way when there was the
prospect of a fight. Had it been possible for him to have marched two
hours earlier than he did--and his orders were to march as early as
possible--his doing so would have made all the difference in the world to
Massy, and could scarcely have failed to change the face of the day. He
did not discover the lost guns, but he struck the Afghan rear, which was
speedily broken and dispersed by the 67th and 3d Sikhs. Macpherson's
intention to spend the night at Killa Kazee was changed by the receipt of
an order from General Roberts calling him in to Deh Mazung, where he
arrived about nightfall. Sir Frederick Roberts then returned to Sherpur,
for the defence of which General Hugh Gough had made the best
dispositions in his power, and the slender garrison of which was to
receive in the course of the night an invaluable accession in the shape
of the Guides, 900 strong, whom Jenkins had brought up by forced marches
from Jugdulluk.

The misfortunes of the day were in a measure retrieved by a well-timed,
ready-witted, and gallant action on the part of that brilliant and
lamented soldier Colonel Macgregor. A wing of the 72d had been called out
to hold the gorge of the Cabul river, but the Nanuchee Pass, through
which led the direct road from the scene of the combat to Sherpur,
remained open; and there was a time when the Afghan army was heading in
its direction. Macgregor had hurried to the open pass in time to rally
about him a number of Massy's people, who had lost their officers and
were making their way confusedly toward the refuge of Sherpur. Remaining
in possession of this important point until all danger was over, he
noticed that the ground about Bagwana, where the guns had been abandoned,
was not held by the enemy, and there seemed to him that the opportunity
to recover them presented itself. Taking with him a detachment of lancers
and artillerymen, he rode out and met with no molestation beyond a few
shots from villagers. From Macpherson's baggage guard, met as it crossed
the valley toward Sherpur, he requisitioned sixty infantrymen who entered
and held Bagwana, and covered him and the gunners during the long and
arduous struggle to extricate the guns from their lair in the deep and
rugged watercourse. This was at length accomplished, scratch teams were
improvised, and the guns, which were uninjured although the ammunition
boxes had been emptied, were brought into the cantonment to the general

The result of the day's operations left General Baker momentarily
belated. But on the morning of the 11th that officer, finding that no
Afghans were being driven down upon him in accordance with the programme,
quitted the Maidan country and marched northward toward Urgundeh. An
attack on his baggage and rearguard was foiled; but as he reached his
camping ground for the night at Urgundeh the Afghans were found in
possession of the gorge opening into the Chardeh valley, through which
ran his road to Cabul. They were dislodged by a dashing attack of part of
the g2d Highlanders led by Lieutenant Scott Napier. It was not until the
morning of the 12th that Baker was informed by heliograph from Sherpur of
the occurrences of the previous day, and received directions to return to
the cantonment without delay. In the course of a few hours he was inside
Sherpur, notwithstanding that his march had been constantly molested by
attacks on his rear-guard.

The casualties of the 11th had been after all not very serious. All told
they amounted to thirty men killed and forty-four wounded; fifty-one
horses killed and sixteen wounded. But the Afghans were naturally elated
by the success they had unquestionably achieved; the national rising had
been inaugurated by a distinct triumph, the news of which would bring
into the field incalculable swarms of fierce and fanatical partisans. It
was clear that Mahomed Jan had a quick eye for opportunities, and some
skill in handling men. That he could recognise the keypoint of a position
and act boldly and promptly on that recognition, his tactics of the 11th
made abundantly obvious, and his commanding position on the morning of
the 12th still further demonstrated his tactical ability. _L'audace,
encore l'audace, et toujours l'audace_ is the game to be played by the
commander of disciplined troops against Asiatic levies, and no man was
more sensible of this than the gallant soldier who now from the bastion
of Sherpur could see the Afghan standards waving on the summit of the
Takht-i-Shah. Indeed he was impressed so thoroughly by the force of the
maxim as to allow himself to hope that some 560 soldiers, of whom about
one-third were Europeans, backed by a couple of mountain guns, would be
able to carry by assault the lofty peak, strongly held by resolute
Afghans in protected positions, supported by several thousands of their
fellows lying out of sight until an attack should develop itself, to meet
which they were at hand to reinforce the garrison of the Takht-i-Shah.
From the gorge of the Cabul river there runs due south to near Charasiah
a lofty and rugged range, the highest point of which, the Takht-i-Shah,
is about midway from either extremity. From this main ridge there project
eastward at right angles two lateral spurs. The shorter and more
northerly of those runs down to the Balla Hissar, the longer and more
southerly obtruding itself into the plain as far as the village of Beni
Hissar. This latter spur quits the main ridge no great distance south of
the Takht-i-Shah peak, and on the 12th the Afghan reserves were massed in
rear of the peak, both on the main ridge and on this spur. The steep
faces of the mountain were strewn with great smooth boulders and jagged
masses of rock; the ascent, everywhere laborious, was complicated in
places by sheer scarps, and those formidable impediments were made still
more difficult by frequent sungahs, strong stone curtains behind which
the defenders lay safe or fired with a minimum of exposure. On the summit
was a great natural cavity which had been made bomb proof by art, and
further cover was afforded by caves and lines of rock. The most northerly
portion of the ridge described is known as the Sher Derwaza heights,
which Macpherson had occupied on the morning of the 12th, and his brigade
it was which furnished the little force already mentioned as charged to
attempt the task of storming the Takht-i-Shah.

For several hours Morgan's two mountain guns industriously shelled that
peak, and then the infantry made their effort. The Afghans fought
stubbornly in defence of a lower hill they held in advance of the
Takht-i-Shah, but after a hard struggle they had to abandon it to
Macpherson's resolute men. But the exertions of the latter to ascend the
peak were baulked by its rugged steepness and the fire of the Afghans
holding the sungahs on its face. Sir Frederick Roberts had to recognise
that the direct attack by so weak a force unaided by a diversion, could
not succeed, and he ordered further efforts to be deferred. The
casualties of the abortive attempt included three officers, one of whom,
Major Cook, V.C. of the Goorkhas, than whom the British army contained no
better soldier, died of his wound. Macpherson was directed to hold the
ground he had won, including the lower advanced hill, and was informed
that on the following morning he was to expect the co-operation of
General Baker from the direction of Beni Hissar.

The lesson of the result of attempting impossibilities had been taken to
heart, and the force which Baker led out on the morning of the 13th was
exceptionally strong, consisting as it did of the 92d Highlanders and
Guides infantry, a wing of the 3d Sikhs, a cavalry regiment, and eight
guns. Marching in the direction of the lateral spur extending from the
main ridge eastward to Beni Hissar, Baker observed that large masses of
the enemy were quitting the plain villages about Beni Hissar in which
they had taken shelter for the night, and were hurrying to gain the
summit of the spur which constituted the defensive position of the Afghan
reserve. Baker's _coup d'oeil_ was quick and true. By gaining the centre
of the spur he would cut in two the Afghan line along its summit, and so
isolate and neutralise the section of it from the centre to the Beni
Hissar extremity, toward which section the reinforcements from the plain
villages were climbing. But to accomplish this shrewd stroke it was
necessary that he should act with promptitude and energy. His guns opened
fire on the summit. The Sikhs, extended athwart the plain, protected his
right flank. His cavalry on the left cut into the bodies of Afghans
hurrying to ascend the eastern extremity of the spur. With noble
emulation the Highlanders and the Guides sprang up the rugged slope,
their faces set towards the centre of the summit line. Major White, who
already had earned many laurels in the campaign, led on his Highlanders;
the Guides, burning to make the most of their first opportunity to
distinguish themselves, followed eagerly the gallant chief who had so
often led them to victory on other fields. Lieutenant Forbes, a young
officer of the 92d heading the advance of his regiment, reached the
summit accompanied only by his colour-sergeant. A band of ghazees rushed
on the pair and the sergeant fell. As Forbes stood covering his body he
was overpowered and slain. The sudden catastrophe staggered for a moment
the soldiers following their officer, but Lieutenant Dick Cunyngham
rallied them immediately and led them forward at speed. For his conduct
on this occasion Cunyngham received the Victoria Cross.

With rolling volleys Highlanders and Guides reached and won the summit.
The Afghans momentarily clung to the position, but the British fire swept
them away and the bayonets disposed of the ghazees, who fought and died
in defence of their standards. The severance of the Afghan line was
complete. A detachment was left to maintain the isolation of some 2000 of
the enemy who had been cut off; and then swinging to their right Baker's
regiments swept along the summit of the spur toward the main ridge and
the Takht-i-Shah, the Highlanders leading. As they advanced they rolled
up the Afghan line and a panic set in among the enemy, who sought safety
in flight. Assailed from both sides, for Macpherson's men from the
conical hill were passing up the north side of the peak, and shaken by
the steady fire of the mountain guns, the garrison of the Takht-i-Shah
evacuated the position. Baker's soldiers toiled vigorously upward toward
the peak, keen for the honour of winning it; but the credit of that
achievement justly fell to their comrades of Macpherson's command, who
had striven so valiantly to earn it the day before, and who had gained
possession of the peak and the Afghan standards flying on its summit, a
few minutes before the arrival of White's Highlanders and Jenkins'
Guides. As the midday gun was fired in the cantonment the flash of the
heliograph from the peak told that the Takht-i-Shah was won.

While Baker was sweeping the spur and climbing the lofty peak of the main
ridge, his reserve, which remained in the plain, was in sharp action
against masses of assailants from the city and other bodies from the
villages about Beni Hissar. Those were beaten off by the 3d Sikhs and
Baker's flanks were thus cleared, but the resolute Afghans, bent on
interfering with his return march, surged away in the direction of the
Siah Sung ridge and gathered thereon in considerable strength. The guns
of Sherpur shelled them smartly, but they held their ground; and Massy
went out to disperse them with the cavalry. The Afghans showed unwonted
resolution, confronting the cavalry with extraordinary steadiness in
regular formation and withholding their fire until the troopers were
close upon them. But the horsemen were not to be denied. Captains Butson
and Chisholme led their squadrons against the Afghan flanks, and the
troopers of the 9th avenged the mishap which had befallen that gallant
regiment two days before, riding through and through the hostile masses
and scattering them over the plain. But in the charge Butson was killed,
Chisholme and Trower were wounded; the sergeant-major and three men were
killed and seven were wounded. Brilliant charges were delivered by the
other cavalry detachments, and the Siah Sung heights were ultimately
cleared. The Guides' cavalry attacked, defeated, and pursued for a long
distance a body of Kohistanees marching from the north-east apparently
with intent to join Mahomed Jan. The casualties of the day were sixteen
killed and forty-five wounded; not a heavy loss considering the amount of
hard fighting. The Afghans were estimated to have lost in killed alone
from 200 to 300 men.

The operations of the day were unquestionably successful so far as they
went, but the actual results attained scarcely warranted the anticipation
that the Afghans would acknowledge themselves defeated by breaking up
their combination and dispersing to their homes. It was true that they
had been defeated, but they had fought with unprecedented stubbornness
and gave little evidence of being cowed. Throughout the day the villages
around Cabul had evinced a rancorous hostility which had a marked
significance. Not less significant was the participation in the fighting
of the day on the part of the population of Cabul. As Baker was returning
to Sherpur in the evening he had been fired upon from the Balla Hissar,
and his flanking parties had found ambushes of armed Afghans among the
willows between the city and the cantonment. But for the skill and
courage of the non-commissioned officer in charge a convoy of wounded on
its way to Sherpur would certainly have been destroyed. But there was a
stronger argument than any of those indications, significant as they were
of the unbroken spirit of the Afghans, telling against the probability
that the operations of the day would have the effect of putting down the
national rising. The hordes which had gathered to the banners of the
Mushk-i-Alum and Mahomed Jan combined with the fanaticism of the _jehad_
a fine secular greed for plunder. Was it likely that they would scatter
resignedly, leaving untouched the rich booty of the city that had been
almost within arm's-length as they looked down on it from the peak of the
Takht-i-Shah, and whose minarets they were within sight of on the spur
and in the villages of Beni-Hissar? Was that ever likely? And was it not
made more and yet more unlikely when on the afternoon of the 13th
Macpherson, acting on orders, moved his camp to the Balla Hissar heights,
evacuating Deh Mazung and leaving open to the enemy the road into the
city through the Cabul gorge? The following morning was to show how
promptly and how freely the Afghans had taken advantage of the access to
the capital thus afforded them. It must never be forgotten that at this
time our people in Afghanistan held no more territory than the actual
ground they stood upon and the terrain swept by their fire. No
trustworthy intelligence from outside that region was procurable; and of
this there can be no clearer evidence than that the General was under the
belief that the enemy had been 'foiled in their western and southern

The morning of the 14th effectually dispelled the optimistic
anticipations indulged in overnight. At daybreak a large body of Afghans,
with many standards, were discerned on a hill about a mile northward of
the Asmai ridge, from which and from the Kohistan road they were moving
on to the crest of that ridge. They were joined there by several
thousands coming up the slopes from out the village of Deh Afghan, the
northern suburb of Cabul. It was estimated that there were about 8000 men
in position along the summit of the ridge, and occupying also a low
conical hill beyond its north-western termination. The array of Afghans
displayed itself within a mile of the west face of the Sherpur
cantonment, and formed a menace which could not be brooked. To General
Baker was entrusted the task of dislodging the enemy from the threatening
position, and there was assigned to him for this purpose a force
consisting of about 1200 bayonets, eight guns, and a regiment of native
cavalry. His first object was to gain possession of the conical hill
already mentioned, and thus debar the Afghan force on the Asmai heights
from receiving accessions either from the masses on the hill further
north or by the Kohistan road. Under cover of the artillery fire the
Highlanders and Guides occupied this conical hill after a short conflict.
A detachment was left to hold it and then Colonel Jenkins, who commanded
the attack, set about the arduous task of storming from the northward the
formidable position of the Asmai heights. The assault was led by
Brownlow's staunch Highlanders, supported on the right by the Guides
operating on the enemy's flank; and the Afghan position was heavily
shelled by four of Baker's guns, and by four more in action near the
south-western corner of the Sherpur cantonment. Macpherson from his
position on the Balla Hissar hill aided the attack by the fire of his
guns, and also by despatching two companies of the 67th to cross the
Cabul gorge and operate against the enemy's left rear.

In the face of a heavy fire the Highlanders and Guides climbed with great
speed and steadiness the rugged hillside leading upward to the Afghan
breastwork on the northern edge of the summit. Their approach and the
crushing shrapnel fire from the guns near Sherpur had caused numerous
Afghans to move downward from the position toward Deh Afghan, heavily
smitten as they went; but the ghazees in the breastworks made a strenuous
resistance and died under their banners as the Highlanders carried the
defences with a rush. The crest, about a quarter of a mile long, was
traversed under heavy fire and the southern breastwork on the peak was
approached. It was strong and strongly held, but a cross fire was brought
to bear on its garrison, and then the frontal attack led by a
lance-corporal of the 72d was delivered. After a hand-to-hand grapple in
which Highlanders and Guides were freely cut and slashed by the knives of
the ghazees, the position, which was found full of dead, was carried, but
with considerable loss. The whole summit of the Asmai heights was now in
British possession, and everything seemed auspicious. The Afghans
streaming down from the heights toward the city were being lacerated by
shell fire and musketry fire as they descended. When they took refuge in
Deh Afghan that suburb was heavily shelled, and it was gradually

Scarcely had Jenkins won the summit of the Asmai ridge when the fortune
of the day was suddenly overcast; indeed while he was still engaged in
the attainment of that object premonitory indications of serious mischief
were unexpectedly presenting themselves. A vast host of Afghans described
as numbering from 15,000 to 20,000, debouched into the Chardeh valley
from the direction of Indikee, and were moving northwards, apparently
with the object of forming a junction with the masses occupying the hills
to the north-west of the Asmai heights. About the same time cavalry
scouting in the Chardeh valley brought in the information that large
parties of hostile infantry and cavalry were hurrying across the valley
in the direction of the conical hill the defence of which had been
entrusted to Lieutenant-Colonel Clark with 120 Highlanders and Guides.
Recognising Clark's weakness, General Baker had judiciously reinforced
that officer with four mountain guns and 100 bayonets. The guns opened
fire on the Afghan bodies marching from the Killa Kazee direction, and
drove them out of range. But they coalesced with the host advancing from
Indikee, and the vast mass of Afghans, facing to the right, struck the
whole range of the British position from near the Cabul gorge on the
south to and beyond the conical hill on the north. The most vulnerable
point was the section at and about that eminence, and the necessity for
supplying Clark with further reinforcements became urgently manifest.
Baker sent up a second detachment, and 200 Sikhs came out from Sherpur at
the double. But the Afghans, creeping stealthily in great numbers up the
slope from out the Chardeh valley, had the shorter distance to travel,
and were beforehand with the reinforcements. Their tactics were on a par
with their resolution. The left of their attack grasped and held a knoll
north of the conical hill, and from this position of vantage brought a
cross fire to bear on Clark's detachment. As their direct attack
developed itself it encountered from the conical hill a heavy rifle fire,
and shells at short range tore through the loose rush of ghazees, but the
fanatics sped on and up without wavering. As they gathered behind a mound
for the final onslaught, Captain Spens of the 72d with a handful of his
Highlanders went out on the forlorn hope of dislodging them. A rush was
made on him; he was overpowered and slaughtered after a desperate

Book of the day: