Campaign of the Indus by T.W.E. Holdsworth

Produced by Asad Razzaki and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. Produced from images provided by the Million Book Project CAMPAIGN OF THE INDUS. CAMPAIGN OF THE INDUS: IN A SERIES OF LETTERS FROM AN OFFICER OF THE BOMBAY DIVISION. WITH AN INTRODUCTION, by A.H. HOLDSWORTH, ESQ. 1840. INTRODUCTION. * * * * * The circumstance
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Produced by Asad Razzaki and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. Produced from images provided by the Million Book Project







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The circumstance of an English army penetrating into Central Asia, through countries which had not been traversed by European troops since Alexander the Great led his victorious army from the Hellespont to the Jaxartes and Indus, is so strong a feature in our military history, that I have determined, at the suggestion of my friends, to print those letters received from my son which detail any of the events of the campaign. As he was actively engaged with the Bombay division, his narrative may be relied upon so far as he had an opportunity of witnessing its operations; and it being my intention to have only a few copies printed, to give to those friends who may take an interest in his letters, I need not apologize for the familiar manner in which they are written, as they were intended by him only for his own family, without an idea of their being printed. A history, however, may be collected from them most honourable to the British soldiers, both Europeans and natives of India. They shew the patience with which, for more than twelve months, the soldiers bore all their deprivations and fatiguing marches through countries until then unknown to them, whether moving through arid sands or rocky passes, under a burning sun; or over desolate mountains, amidst the most severe frosts, with scarcely an interval of repose. Neither was their gallantry less conspicuous than their patience, when they had the good fortune to find an enemy who ventured to face them. Although the circumstances which his letters detail might well deserve a better historian than my son, yet are they of that high and honourable character, that they cannot lose any part of their value by his familiar manner of narrating them.

When I decided upon printing these letters, it became a matter of interest to place before the reader a short account of the countries in which the operations of the army were conducted, as well as of the native rulers who took part in, or were the cause of them; in order that the letters might be more clearly understood by those friends who have not felt sufficiently interested in the history of those countries to make any inquiries about them. But, before I do so, I shall draw the attention of the reader to the army of Alexander, to which I have before alluded.

Without entering into the causes which led to his extraordinary conquests, predicted by Daniel as the means ordained of God to overthrow the Persian empire, then under the government of Darius, certain it is that he conquered the whole of those countries which extend from the Hellespont to the Indus, when his career was arrested by his own soldiers. Having overrun Syria, Egypt, Media, and Parthia, keeping his course to the north-east, he not only passed the Oxus, and forced his way to the Jaxartes, but, pressed by the Scythians from its opposite shore, he crossed that river, and beat them in a decisive battle. From the Jaxartes he returned in a southern direction towards the Indus, and having suffered the greatest privations, and struggled with the most alarming difficulties during the time that he was engaged in the conquest of those mountainous districts, he at length reached Cabool, making himself master of Afghanistan. Here he appears to have halted for a considerable time, to refresh and re-equip his army, which, with the addition of 30,000 recruits, amounted to 120,000 men.

At this place, Alexander first came upon the scene of the campaign referred to in the following letters. Here he meditated the invasion of India, intending to march to the mouth of the Ganges; but the conquest of that country was destined for a nation almost unknown in the days of Alexander, and lying far more remote from it than Greece; and, until the campaign of 1839 drew our armies to the western side of the Indus, the Sutlej was alike the boundary of Alexander’s conquests to the east, as of those of England towards the west.

Alexander having prepared his army for this expedition, moved towards the Indus, taking many strong places on his march. Having crossed that river, the king of the country offered no resistance, but became the ally of Alexander, who expected to have found Porus, whose kingdom was on the other side of the Hydaspes, equally ready to submit. But it required the utmost skill of Alexander to cross the river, which he effected, and conquered Porus, after a most severe struggle, with the loss of his renowned charger, Bucephalus, and he was so pleased at the magnanimity of Porus that he not only gave him back his kingdom, but added several small states to it, making him a sincere ally. Alexander then continued his march towards the east, conquering all who opposed him, until he reached the banks of the Hyphasis (Sutlej), which he was about to cross, when his progress was arrested by murmurs and tumults in his camp. His soldiers declared their determination not to extend his conquests, and entreated him to return. He then marched back to the Acesines, gave the whole country as far as the Hyphasis to Porus, and thus made him ruler of the Punjab. Alexander encamped near the Acesines until the month of October, when the fleet which he built, consisting of 800 galleys and boats, being ready, he embarked his army and proceeded towards the Indus; but before he reached that river he came to two countries possessed by warriors who united their armies to oppose his progress. After beating them in many engagements, Alexander attacked the city of the Oxydracae, into which the greater part of those armies had retired. Here his rash valour had nearly terminated his career: he was severely wounded in the side by an arrow, from the effects of which he was with difficulty restored to health. He then descended the river, a portion of his army marching on its banks, conquering every nation that opposed him. About the month of July he reached Patala (Tatta), where he built a citadel and formed a port for his shipping. He then proceeded, with part of his fleet, by the western branch of the river, to discover the ocean. This he accomplished at great hazard, when he sacrificed to the gods (particularly to Neptune), and besought them not to suffer any mortal after him to exceed the bounds of his expedition. He then returned to join the rest of his fleet and army at Patala, and to make arrangements for his march to Babylon. He appointed Nearchus admiral of his fleet, and having given him orders to ascend the Persian Gulf to the Euphrates, he commenced his march through Beloochistan, leaving Nearchus to follow him as soon as the season would permit. Alexander was more than sixty days in reaching the frontiers of Persia, during which time his army sufficed such dreadful privations from want of food, that the soldiers were obliged to eat their own war-horses, and from the sickness consequent upon such a state of distress, his army was reduced to less than one-half of the number which left Patala. It is not necessary to follow him to Babylon, or to describe the voyage of Nearchus, who, having sailed up the Persian Gulf, united his forces to those of his royal master in the river Pasi-Tigris, near Susa. Enough, however, may be learned from this history to convince us that if such an army could be conducted 2000 years ago from the Hellespont to the Jaxartes and Indus, the march from the southern shores of the Caspian Sea to Cabool would require comparatively but very slight exertion, if those who have the means should have the desire also to accomplish it.

I can say little of my own knowledge of the political causes which gave rise to the war, as I am unacquainted with the affairs of India and the motives which actuated its governors; but a brief outline may be collected from a book lately published by the Hon. Capt. Osborne, military secretary to the Governor-General, to which I shall refer, after making some observations upon the countries through which the operations of the army were conducted, and particularly on the situation of Afghanistan, in reference to those persons who had before been, is well as those who were, its rulers, when Shah Shooja was restored by the British Government to its throne. These observations I have chiefly collected from the valuable work of that enterprising officer Lieut. Burnes, which he published after visiting those countries in 1831, 1832, and 1833.

The chief portion of the Bombay division of the army engaged in the operations to which these letters refer, landed at the Hujamree mouth of the Indus, and marching through Lower Sinde, by Tatta, ascended the Indus by its western bank. On arriving in Upper Sinde, it was found that Shah Shooja with his contingent, as well as the Bengal division of the army, had crossed the Indus _en route_ from that Presidency, and had advanced towards Afghanistan, and that the Bombay division was to follow them. To effect this, the division marched through Cutch Gundava, and the Bolan Pass, which is situated in the mountains which divide the province of Sarawar, in Beloochistan, as well as Cutch Gundava, from Afghanistan. Having made their way through the Bolan Pass, the army entered the Shawl district of Afghanistan, and thence proceeded through the Ghwozhe Pass to Candahar, Ghuzni, and Cabool; at which last-mentioned place Shah Shooja’s eldest son joined his father with some troops of Runjet Sing’s, which had crossed the Indus from the Punjab, marching by Peshawur and the Kyber Pass. The division of the Bombay troops under General Willshire having remained at Cabool about a month, returned to Ghuzni, and thence in a straight direction to Quettah, leaving Candahar some distance on the right; Capt. Outram, who commanded a body of native horse, preceding the main body of the division for the purpose of capturing the forts, or castles, belonging to those chiefs who had not submitted to Shah Shooja. From Quettah, General Willshire moved with a part of his division upon Kelat, and thence through the Gundava Pass and Cutch Gundava to the Indus, where these troops were met by the rest of the division, which came from Quettah by the Bolan Pass. Hence they descended to Curachee to embark for their respective quarters in India. The fate of one of the regiments of the division, the 17th, as it is recorded in a Bombay paper, is most distressing. They embarked at Curachee for Bombay, and sailed in the morning with a fair wind and a fine breeze, but before the night closed in upon them the ship was fast aground upon a sandbank, off the Hujamree branch of the Indus, scarcely within sight of land. Everything was thrown overboard to lighten the ship, but in vain; she became a total wreck, and settled down to her main deck in the water. She fortunately, however, held together long enough to allow all the men to be taken on shore, which occupied three days, but with the loss of everything they had taken on board with them. The other regiments, we may hope, have been more fortunate, as they were not mentioned in the paper which gave this melancholy account of the 17th regiment.

Sinde, the country through which the army first passed, is divided into three districts, each governed by an Ameer, the chief of whom resides at Hydrabad, the second at Khyrpoor, and the other at Meerpoor; and when Lieut. Burnes ascended the Indus, in 1831, the reigning Ameers were branches of the Beloochistan tribe of Talpoor. With these the chief of Kelat and Gundava, Mehrab Khan (who was related by marriage to the Ameer of Hydrabad), was more closely allied than any other prince. Like them, he had been formerly tributary to Cabool, and had shaken off the yoke, and, possessing a very strong country between Afghanistan and Sinde, he became as useful as he had at all times proved himself a faithful ally to the Sindeans. Shikarpoor, with the fertile country around it, as well as Bukker, had formerly belonged to the Barukzye family of Afghanistan, and, although they still possessed Candahar, Cabool, and Peshawar, they had in vain endeavoured to withdraw Mehrab Khan from his alliance with the Sindeans, or to recover those lost possessions.

To understand the political state of Afghanistan, into which the army marched for the purpose of restoring Shah Shooja to its throne, it will be necessary to go back to the early part of the last century, when Nadir Shah had raised himself to the throne of Persia. His name having become formidable as a conqueror, he turned his thoughts to the conquest of India, and, assuming sufficient pretexts for breaking the relations of amity which he professed for the monarch of that country, he determined to invade it, and for that purpose began his march in 1738. Taking with him some of the chiefs of Afghanistan, he crossed the Punjab and entered Delhi. He there raised enormous contributions, and seized upon everything worth taking away; amongst other things the far-famed Peacock throne, in which was the renowned diamond called “The Mountain of Light.” The spoils with which he returned to Persia were valued at nearly seventy millions of pounds sterling. It is not necessary to follow the history of Nadir; it will be enough to say that, amidst the confusion which followed his death, Ahmed Khan obtained possession of part of his treasure, amongst which was the great diamond. He escaped with it into Khorassan, where he made himself master also of a large sum of money which was coming to Nadir from India. Ahmed was a brave and intelligent man, had been an officer of rank under the Shah, and, being in possession of the treasure necessary for his purpose, he proclaimed himself king, and was crowned at Candahar “King of the Afghans.” Ahmed was of the Suddoozye family, which were but a small tribe; but he was greatly assisted by the powerful Barukzye family, whose friendship he justly valued and made use of to his advantage: of this latter family Hajee Jamel was then the chief. Ahmed knew how to conciliate the independent spirit of his Afghan subjects, and by making frequent incursions on his neighbours, kept alive that spirit of enterprise which was congenial to their feelings; but from the time of his death the royal authority began to decline, as Timour, his son and successor, had neither the sense nor enterprise necessary to uphold it. Affairs became still worse under the sons of Timour. Shah Zumaun was of a cruel disposition, and wanted the education necessary to the situation he was called upon to fill; his brothers, Mahmood and Shah Shooja, were not better disposed; and towards the Barukzye family, who had been so instrumental in placing their grandfather, Ahmed, on the throne, they conducted themselves not only most imprudently, but with dreadful cruelty.

Shah Zumaun was succeeded by Shah Shooja, of whom, although the chief person in the present drama, little more need be said of this part of his history than that, ignorant of the mode of governing such independent tribes as the Afghans, his power was never great, and, after the fall of his vizier, and the murder of his comrade, Meer Waeez, it gradually declined, until he lost his throne at Neemla, in 1809. He had taken the field with a well-appointed army of 15,000 men; but was attacked by Futteh Khan, an experienced general, at the head of 2000 men, before the royal army was formed for battle; Akram Khan, his vizier, was slain, and he fled to the Kyber country, leaving the greater part of his treasure in the hands of his conquerors. Shah Shooja had failed to conciliate the Barukzye family; Futteh Khan, their chief, had therefore espoused the cause of the king’s brother, Mahmood, and having driven Shah Shooja from his throne, he placed Mahmood upon it, and accepted for himself the situation of vizier. Under his vigorous administration, the whole of the Afghan country, with the exception of Cashmere, submitted to the dominion of the new sovereign. The Shah of Persia, anxious to possess himself of Herat, sent an army against it, but was defeated in his object, and Herat was preserved to Mahmood by the successful exertions of Futteh Khan. No sooner, however, was Mahmood thus firmly established in his dominions, than his son Kamran became jealous of the man who had raised him to the situation, and had secured to him the kingdom; he therefore determined to effect the ruin of the vizier. The prince was not long in gaining over his father to his views; and Futteh Khan being at Herat, Kamran seized on his person and put out his eyes. In this state he kept him prisoner for about six months, during which time the brothers of the vizier, irritated at the conduct of Kamran, began to show signs of disaffection. Mahmood ordered Futteh Khan to be brought before him in the court of his palace, and accusing the brothers of the vizier of rebellion, directed him to bring them back to a state of allegiance. The vizier, in the dreadful condition in which he had been reduced, replied to the demand of Mahmood, “What can an old and blind man do?” when, by the order of the king, the courtiers cut the vizier to pieces, limb after limb: his nose and ears were hacked off; neither did he receive his death blow until not a member of his person was left upon which they could inflict torture. With the fall of his vizier the king’s power rapidly declined, and he fled to Herat, virtually yielding up the rest of his kingdom. He died in 1829, his son, Kamran, succeeding to the limited government of that portion only of his former dominions. Upon the flight of Mahmood to Herat, the horrid murder of their brother threw the whole of the Barukzye family into open revolt, the eldest of whom, Azeem Khan, recalled Shah Shooja from his exile. From the time Shah Shooja lost his throne, he had been first a captive in the hands of the son of his former vizier, and then a pensioner on the bounty of the Maharajah, at Lahore, who in return extorted from him the famous diamond, “The Mountain of Light,” and other jewels, which he had brought away with him when he fled at Neemla. He then made his escape from the Maharajah, and found protection and support from the British government of India. Upon the summons from Azeem Khan, Shah Shooja immediately hastened to Peshawur; where, before his benefactor had time to meet him, he practically displayed his ideas of royalty so unwisely, and so insulted some of the friends of the Barukzye family, that the whole party took offence, and they at once rejected him, and placed his brother Eyoob on the throne.

Eyoob was but a puppet king, the tool of the family who raised him to the government; Azeem Khan, who was appointed his vizier, being in truth the ruler. Several of the young princes who aspired to the throne were delivered over to Eyoob, who put them to death.

Shooja, driven from Peshawur, retired to Shikarpoor, which the Ameers of Sinde ceded to him; where, in place of conducting himself with prudence, he was so addicted to low intrigue with those about him, that his enemies availed themselves of this propensity to effect his ruin, and drove him from Shikarpoor, when, crossing the Indus, he fled through the desert by Juydalmeer, and returned to Loodiana. “The fitness,” says Lieut. Burnes, “of Shah Shooja-ool-Moolk for the station of a sovereign seems ever to have been doubtful. His manners and address are highly polished, but his judgment does not rise above mediocrity; had the case been otherwise, we should not now see him an exile from his country and his throne, without a hope of regaining them, after an absence of twenty years, and before he has attained the fiftieth year of his age.”

The civil wars which had thus so frequently occurred in Afghanistan weakened the resources of the country and its means of defence. Runjet Sing availed himself of the advantage which this state of affairs presented to him, and obtained possession of Cashmere; when, continuing his conquests, he crossed the Indus, and made himself master of Peshawur, burning its palace, and laying the country under tribute. Azeem Khan made a precipitate retreat before the army of the Sikhs towards Cabool, without attempting to arrest their progress, and was so stung with remorse at the weakness of his conduct that he died on reaching that city. With the death of Azeem the royal authority was extinguished. The king fled to Lahore, and lived under the protection of his conqueror. Herat alone remained in the possession of one of the Suddoozye family. The brothers of the late vizier seized his son, and deprived him of his treasure and his power. The kingdom was then divided between them. Cabool fell into the hands of Dost Mahomed; Peshawur and Candahar were held by two of his brothers; the Sindeans threw off their yoke, and refused to pay tribute; Balk was annexed to the dominions of the King of Bokhara; the richest portion of the provinces having fallen into the possession of the Sikhs. In seventy-six years from the time that Ahmed Shah was crowned at Candahar, the Dooranee monarchy again ceased to exist.

As I have given the character of Shah Shooja, it will be interesting to quote that of Dost Mahomed, from the same author. “He is unremitting in his attention to business, and attends daily at the courthouse, with the Cazee and Moollahs, to decide every cause according to law. Trade has received the greatest encouragement from him, and he has derived his own reward, since the receipts of the customhouse of the city have increased fifty thousand rupees, and furnished him with a net revenue of two lacs of rupees per annum. The merchant may travel without a guard or protection from one frontier to another, an unheard-of circumstance in the time of the kings. The justice of this chief affords a constant theme of praise to all classes. The peasant rejoices at the absence of tyranny, the citizen at the safety of his home, the merchant at the equity of his decisions and the protection of his property, and the soldier at the regular manner in which his arrears are discharged.” “One is struck with the intelligence, knowledge, and curiosity which he displays, as well as at his accomplished manners and address.”

To this short sketch of Afghanistan, and of the persons connected with its political history, I will add some extracts from the work of the Hon. Capt. Osborne, because they explain the circumstances which led to the campaign of the Indus, and to the restoration of Shah Shooja to the throne of Cabool. He says, “In May, 1838, a complimentary deputation was sent by Runjet Sing to the Governor-General at Simla, consisting of some of the most distinguished Sikh chiefs, who were received with all the honours prescribed by oriental etiquette. Shortly afterwards, Lord Auckland resolved to send a mission to the court of Lahore, not merely to reciprocate the compliments of the Maharajah, but to treat upon all the important interests which were involved in the existing state of political affairs in that quarter of the world. The recent attempts of the Persians on Herat, the ambiguous conduct of Dost Mahomed, and the suspicions which had been excited with respect to the proceedings and ulterior designs of Russia, rendered it of the greatest importance to cement the alliance with Runjet Sing, and engage him to a firm and effective co-operation with us in the establishment of general tranquillity, the resistance of foreign encroachment, and the extension of the benefits of commerce and the blessings of civilization. Accordingly, W.H. Macnaghten, Esq., was deputed on the mission to the Maharajah, accompanied by Dr. Drummond, Capt. Macgregor, and the Hon. W. Osborne, military secretary to the Governor-General.

“The object of the Governor-General’s mission to Lahore having been accomplished, and the concurrence, and, if necessary, the co-operation of Runjet Sing, in the restoration of Shah Shooja, secured, Mr. Macnaghten repaired to Loodiana, for the purpose of submitting to the Shah the treaties that had been concluded, and announcing to him the approaching change in his fortunes. The envoys seem to have been much struck with the majestic appearance of the old pretender, especially with the flowing honours of a black beard descending to his waist, always the most cherished appendage of oriental dignity. He had lived for twenty years in undisturbed seclusion, if not ‘the world forgetting,’ certainly ‘by the world forgot,’ consoling himself for the loss of his kingdom in a domestic circle of six hundred wives, but always ‘sighing his soul’ towards the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan, and patiently awaiting the _kismet_, or fate, which was to restore him to his throne. The preparations thenceforward went rapidly on. The contingent raised by the Shah was united (more for form than use) to the British force, and in three months the expedition began its operations.”

But before I conclude this introduction to the letters, which detail the results of these treaties with the Maharajah, and the march of Shah Shooja to Cabool, as I have spoken of the leading characters of Afghanistan, I may be permitted to say a few words about the persons through whose exertions the Shah has been restored to the throne of that country–the officers of the British army; and I do so the more anxiously, because the naval and military glory of our country, which in my early days was the theme of every song, is now seldom heard of in society, and those gallant services appear to be nearly forgotten, which during a long protracted state of warfare, within our own recollection, placed England in a position to dictate her own terms of peace to the world:–a state of society which encourages a certain class of persons the more effectually to abuse the military profession, and to mislead their deluded followers, by clamouring about the expense of the army, and the aristocratic bearing of its members, that they may the more readily carry out their own schemes of personal vanity and demoralizing political economy.

It is the peculiar feature of the British army, to which we are indebted for its high and honourable bearing, that the sons of the first families in the land are ever anxious to bear arms under its standards, looking not to pecuniary emolument, but to those honours which military rank and professional attainments can procure for them; whilst the first commands and the highest stations in the service are filled without distinction from every grade in society. It is this happy mixture which induces that high sense of honour, so peculiarly characteristic of our service; that acknowledged distinction between the officers and the privates; that true discipline which, tempered with justice and kindly feeling, wins the respect of the soldier, and induces him to place that reliance upon his commander everywhere so conspicuous, whether in the camp or field of battle. But this high feeling in the army causes no additional expense to the country; the charge is altogether a deception. Let the following sketch of a young soldier’s life of the present day, as applicable to others as to himself, answer the charge of these politicians.

He was educated for the highest walk of the legal profession, and had nearly prepared himself for the university, when he decided to change his course and go into the army. The Commander-in-chief placed his name amongst the candidates for commissions, and he went to Hanover, where, after he had made himself master of the German language, his Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge kindly gave him a commission in the Yagers of the Guard, better known in England, in the Peninsula, and at Waterloo, as the Rifles of the German Legion. Being only a volunteer in the regiment, he could not receive pay from the government; he was, therefore, at very considerable personal expense to keep his proper standing with his brother officers; and as soon as he had acquired all the military knowledge that he was likely to get in the regiment in time of peace, he obtained leave to return to England; and, as he had not any immediate expectation of a commission, he visited France, to make himself more perfect in the French language. After this, he was allowed to purchase a commission in the 2nd regiment, or Queen’s Royals; and he embarked to join that corps in India. His letters will shew what that regiment, in common with others, have endured during a campaign of fifteen months in Central Asia, their privations and expenses; and when his second commission was paid for, during that campaign, he found himself at its close, at the age of twenty-five, a lieutenant on full pay, the amount of which, if he was in England, would be far short of the interest of the money which has been expended in his commissions and education, and with fifteen lieutenants still above him on the roll of his regiment.

It will be seen by his letters, and it is confirmed by the official despatches of the Commander-in-chief, that the company to which he was attached (the light company of the Queen’s) led the storming party at Ghuzni. He was shot through the arm and through the body, and left for dead at the foot of the citadel at Kelat, whilst endeavouring to save the lives of some Beloochees who were crying for mercy. And for these services he is to be rewarded with a medal, by Shah Shooja; for Ghuzni, and for the capture of both places he has the full enjoyment of the highest gratification that a soldier can feel–the consciousness that he has done his duty to his country, and, let me hope, in the act of mercy in which he suffered, his duty to his God as a Christian. But he is not a solitary example of such good fortune. No one who was wounded and survived may have been nearer death than himself, yet are there others who have done more, and suffered more, as the history of the army of the Indus would bear ample testimony.

Let me then ask, in behalf of the British officer, when he is lightly spoken of as a man, or when the expenses of the army are cavilled at, on which side is the debt–on his, or on that of his country?


_Brookhill,–May, 1840._

[Illustration] It may be right to draw the attention of the reader to a circumstance which, at first sight, may appear singular–that the same letters frequently contain reports quite contradictory to each other. It should therefore be borne in mind that such letters were probably written at different times, as the writer found opportunity; who, being anxious that his family should know all that passed as well in the camp as in the field, preferred leaving each report in the way in which it was circulated at the time of his writing it, rather than correct it afterwards, as the truth, might turn out. Such letters shew the situation in which an army is placed on its landing in a new country, where no account of the movements of the inhabitants can be relied upon, and the heavy responsibility which attaches to the officers who are entrusted with its command.


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On board the ship Syden,
Off the mouth of the Indus, Nov. 27th, 1838.

MY DEAR FATHER,–We left Belgaum on the 22nd of last month, and arrived at Bombay on the first of this; and we started from Bombay on the 18th, for this place. I had intended to write from Bombay, but everything was in such a state of confusion and bustle whilst we were there, that I literally could find no time or place for doing so. We are now at anchor off one of the mouths of the Indus, and have had a delightful voyage. Our ship is a very nice one, of 750 tons, belonging to a Swede, who is an excessively good fellow, and has treated us very well.

Sir John Keane is already arrived in the steamer Semiramis and also one of the native regiments. Our Bombay force consists of 5500 men, of which 2000 are Europeans–viz., 500 of the Queen’s, and 500 of H.M. 17th regiment, one squadron of the 4th Light Dragoons, with foot and horse artillery. The rest of the force is composed of native regiments, horse and foot. We shall not land, I think, until to-morrow evening, as we are almost the only ship that has yet arrived. The infantry are divided into two brigades, and the cavalry form another by themselves. Our brigade (the first) consists of the Queen’s, and the 5th and 19th regiments of Native Infantry, commanded by our worthy Colonel, now General Willshire, C.B.; the other brigade is commanded by a Company’s officer. We have to go in boats about thirty miles, it is said, up the river, before we finally march. Where it is I am perfectly ignorant; however, some place between this and Hydrabad, whence we shall march as far north as Shikarpoor, where we are to form a junction with the Bengal troops, 13,000 in number, under Sir H. Fane. What our destination will be after that I know not; whether we shall advance with the Bengalees upon Herat, or form a corps of reserve on the Indus.

The country between this and Shikarpoor belongs to the Ameers of Sinde. They were very restive at first, when they heard of our intention to march through their country, and threatened to oppose our progress; but I believe they have since thought better of it; however, I do not think that they can do anything against us: time will soon shew. We have been excessively crowded on board: twenty-six officers. I have been obliged to sleep on the poop every night, which, when the dew was heavy, was by no means pleasant. I hope we shall go further than Shikarpoor, as I should like very much to see Cabool, Candahar, and all that part of the world, which so few Europeans have visited.

What is the cause of all this bustle and war I hardly know myself, and, at all events, it is too long to make the subject of a letter; I must therefore refer you to the papers for it; but I have heard from old officers that for the last twenty years the Company have been anxious to establish themselves west and north of the Indus. It is not likely, therefore, now that they have such an opportunity, that they will let it slip, so that perhaps we may be quartered there for the next two or three years. How it will turn out I know no more than the man in the moon: a soldier is a mere machine, and is moved by his superiors just as a chessman by a chess-player. Should there be any skrimmaging, our men are in high spirits, and will, I think, soon make the Ameers put their pipes in their pockets. Ours is the first European army that has been on the Indus since the time of Alexander.

I was obliged to sell my horses and other things on leaving Belgaum, at a dead loss. I intend buying another horse when we land in Sinde, as I am told we can get good ones very cheap there. This is a regular case of here to-day and there to-morrow: perhaps my next letter may be dated from Cashmere–who knows? I felt rather sorry at leaving Belgaum; we were all of us excessively rejoiced to get out of Bombay. The report at first was, that we were to garrison it for the next two or three years, and we were therefore very glad when we found that was not to be the case. Now, it is said, there is a chance of our going into Persia; but I do not think that we shall. The man waits to lay the cloth on the cuddy table, where I am writing, so I must conclude for the present.

_Nov. 28th_.–The regiment is beginning to disembark right in front. The Grenadiers are now going into the boats of the natives that are to take them up the river. Since I wrote yesterday, I have heard all the news relative to our disembarkation. We are to go fifteen miles up the river in native boats to a place called Vicur, where we form our first camp ground. We are to remain there for a week or ten days, in order to collect camels, bullocks, &c., for the transportation of our baggage. We have to pass a very dangerous bar in getting to this place, where several boats have been wrecked; but we have fine large ones. From all accounts, the Ameers are now peaceably disposed, except one fellow, who, we hear, is inclined to be rather obstreperous; but I think the sight of our force will soon bring him to his senses. There are, however, a set of men who live on the mountain borders of Sinde, called Beloochees, the eastern inhabitants of Beloochistan, who are a robber, free-and-easy kind of people, who may give us some trouble in endeavouring to walk off with part of our baggage, &c.

I intend to keep a journal of what occurs, and will write by every opportunity. I think I have now mentioned everything that I have heard relative to this grand expedition; except, by-the-bye, that Sir Henry Fane has denominated the force as “The army of the Indus,” and ours, the Bombay branch of it, as “The corps d’armee of Sinde.” There is a grand title for you! I have nothing more to say; and as I must be looking after my traps previous to disembarking, I must conclude with best love to you, and all at home.

Your most affectionate son,

P.S.–I must trust this to the captain of the vessel, giving him instructions to put it into the Bombay post when he returns, so that it is equally doubtful when you may receive it. He is an excessively good fellow, the captain; and we are going to make him a present of a silver goblet, worth 35l., for his attentions to us whilst on board his ship.


Perminacote, five miles from Vicur,
right bank of the Hujamree,
one of the branches of the Indus,
December 8th, 1838.

MY DEAR KITTY,–I wrote to my father, about ten days ago, from the ship in which we came here, stating what I then knew about this expedition; but having since received your letter, and my father’s, dated Sept. 4th, I cannot think of going on this bloody campaign without first answering yours. Things look now a little more warlike. The Ameers have endeavoured to cut off everything like a supply from this part of the country, and we have to depend in a great measure, at present, on the supplies brought by the shipping. We have nothing in the shape of conveyance for our baggage. We expected two thousand camels and five hundred horses here for sale; but they are not to be seen at present, and where they are, or when they will arrive, no one knows. News has been received, it is said, from Pottinger, the Company’s political agent at Hydrabad, the principal town of the Ameers, that they have called in their army, consisting of 20,000 Beloochees, as they tell Pottinger, “for the purpose of paying them off;” but he says it looks very suspicious, and that they are also fortifying the various towns on the Indus. He has been expected here for the last two or three days, but has not yet arrived. Report also says that he has been fired at in his way down.

We are kept in the most strict discipline, and have a great deal to do. Out-lying and in-lying pickets every night, the same as if we were in the presence of an enemy. This is a very pleasant climate at present, though excessively cold at night-time, as we feel to our cost when on picket, sleeping in the open air, with nothing but our cloaks to cover us; and some nights the dew is excessively heavy, which is very unhealthy, and has laid me up for the last few days with an attack of rheumatism. However, I hope to be out of the sick list to-day. There is such a sharp, cutting, easterly wind, that I can hardly hold my pen. It averages from 80 to 84 in the shade during the hottest part of the day, but that is only for about two hours. However, in the hot season it is worse than India; and we have proof here, even at this time, of the power of the sun occasionally; so I hope that we shall push on for Shikarpoor, and join the Bengal army, under Sir H. Fane, as quickly as possible, as we shall then have some chance of getting to Cabool, which is said to be a delightful climate.

We are still totally ignorant of our future proceedings, except what I have stated above. We are in great hopes that we have not been brought here for nothing, and that we may have a chance of seeing a few hard blows given and taken ere long. Hydrabad and _loote_ is what is most talked about at present. It will, however, be a most harassing kind of warfare, I expect, as the force of the Ameers consists of Arabs and Beloochees; a regular predatory sort of boys, capital horsemen, but not able, I should think, to engage in a regular stand-up fight. I think their warfare will consist in trying to cut off a picket at night, breaking through the chain of sentries, and endeavouring to put the camp in confusion, &c. &c.; so that the poor subalterns on picket will have anything but a sinecure there; however, it will be a capital way of learning one’s duty in the field. By-the-bye, I forgot to tell you, amongst other rumours of war, that an Ameer was down here a few days ago to obtain an interview with Sir J. Keane, who refused to see the Ameer, or to have anything to do with him, and told him that he would soon talk to him at Hydrabad.

Our force is now nearly all arrived, all except the Bombay grenadier regiment, which is to form part of ours, (i.e., the first brigade,) and not the 19th regiment, as I told my father. We have now here two squadrons of H.M. 4th Light Dragoons, the Queen’s, and the 17th regiment. The native regiments are, the Grenadiers, the 5th, the 19th, and the 24th; there is also a due proportion of horse and foot artillery, together with some native cavalry, making in all 5500 fighting men. We are now about fifteen miles from the sea, and we got up quite safe, although there is a very dangerous bar to cross, and all the boats were not so lucky as ours, as the horse artillery lost fifteen horses; and a boat belonging to a merchant of Bombay went down, in which goods to the amount of one thousand rupees (100l.) were lost.

Our camp presents a very gay appearance–so many regiments collected together; and altogether I like this sort of campaigning work very well, although I expect that we shall be very hard put to it when we march, if we do not get more means of conveyance. The wind is blowing such intolerable dust into the tent that I can hardly write. The captain of the vessel which brought us from Bombay came up here last night, and returns to-day about eleven o’clock, and sails this evening for Bombay; I shall give him this letter to take, so that you and my father will receive my letters at the same time. As long as I keep my health I do not care where we go or what we do. The doctor has just come in and put me off the sick list. It is getting very near eleven o’clock, and the captain will be off directly, so that I must conclude my letter, hoping you will, for this reason, excuse its shortness; and with best love, &c., to all at home, believe me ever your most affectionate brother,


P.S. I have not any horse at present, which I find a great inconvenience. I sold what I had at Belgaum, before I left it, at a dead loss, as I expected to get plenty here on my arrival, but have been wofully disappointed. There were some splendid creatures for sale at Bombay, which was very tempting, but they asked enormous sums for them. I wonder where I shall eat my Christmas dinner! This is the first European army that has been on the Indus since the time of Alexander the Great.


Camp near Tatta, four miles from the Indus, January 1st, 1839.

My DEAR FATHER,–I write to wish you a happy new year on this the first day of 1839, which, if it turns out as its opening prognosticates, is likely to be a very eventful one for me, if I do not get knocked on the head or otherwise disposed of. I wrote to you from the ship Syden, about the 28th of November, and to Kate from our last station at Bominacote, on the right bank of the Hujamree, about the 12th of last month, both which letters will, I expect, leave Bombay to-day by the overland mail for England; but as another mail will leave on the 19th, and I thought you would be anxious to learn as much of our movements &c. as possible, I dare say the present letter will not be amiss.

We remained at our old encampment, Bominacote, until the 26th of last month, and I picked up my health very fast there, and was able to enjoy myself shooting a great deal, particularly the black partridge, which is an uncommonly handsome bird, and much bigger than the English. The 2nd brigade of infantry, consisting of H.M. 17th regiment, the 19th and 23rd regiments Native Infantry, under the command of General Gordon, a Company’s officer, together with the 4th Light Dragoons, a regiment of Native Cavalry, and one troop of horse artillery, left the aforesaid place on the 24th, with Sir John Keane and his escort; and the first brigade, consisting of ourselves, the 1st Grenadiers, and 5th regiment Native Infantry, under the command of our chief, General Willshire, left on the 26th. I was on out-lying picket the night before, (Christmas night,) and a very curious way it was of passing it. The first part of the night, till twelve o’clock, was exceedingly fine and beautiful, and, as I lay on the cold ground, my thoughts travelled towards poor old Devonshire, and I could not help fancying in what a much more comfortable way you must be spending it at home, all snug, &c. at Brookhill. After twelve, the strong northerly wind, which blows with great force at intervals this time of the year in this country, sprung up, and it soon got intensely cold. Towards two I forgot myself for about half an hour, and nodded on my post, and on awakening I was taken with what I am sure must have been a slight attack of cholera. I was stone cold, particularly my arms, hands, legs, and feet, and suffered excruciating pains in my stomach, till nature relieved me, which she was kind enough to do uncommonly frequent. I had luckily some brandy with me, of which I drank, I should think, half a bottle down without tasting it; but it did me a great deal of good at the time, although I have not been well since, and am still very far from being so. Our camels, of which I had two, were furnished us by the commissariat, and we ought to have had them at four o’clock on the day before; but, like everything else, we did not get them till four o’clock the morning we marched, about an hour before we turned out. I had to trust entirely to Providence with regard to mine, as to whether I should get them or not, as I was on outlying picket, and could not attend to them, and I had just two minutes, after coming from picket in the morning, to get a mouthful of villanous coffee, when I was obliged to fall in with my company, which formed the advanced guard of the brigade, and march off in double quick time, leaving all to chance. My poor stomach wanted something most awfully to stop its proceedings, but it was totally out of the question, as General Willshire hurried us off at a slapping pace; luckily, the march was only eight miles, so it did not fatigue me much: I marched on foot the whole of it, as I could not get my pony in the hurry of starting. We got nothing to eat till two o’clock, when part of our mess things arrived, and we pitched into whatever we could get. This march; though, was by far the most pleasant, as we had a good firm tract of country to pass over, and no sand. The “rouse” sounded at five, and we marched again at half-past six. This night I was on in-lying picket, and was obliged to pass it in harness, and ready to turn out at a moment’s notice, although awfully tired. We had a very unpleasant march, as the north winds got up soon after we started, and blew the dust and sand right into our eyes; we had, however, being on the advance guard, comparatively easy work, as there were only two sections with each officer: the poor column suffered severely. This day, however, was paradise compared to the next, which was eighteen miles, through an uninhabited sandy desert, with a few tamarisk shrubs and no water, except a few stagnant pools, which was the cause of the march being so long, there being no place for encampment. General Willshire, however, made the best of a bad matter, and sent on the night before to a place about half way, and the least unchristian-like spot he could find, half the men’s rations for the next day, together with the bheesties (or water carriers) and the men’s grog, &c., with orders for the cooks to have these rations cooked and ready for the men as soon as they marched in; so that on arriving at the ground we piled arms and formed a curious sort of pic-nic in the middle of the desert. We halted here about an hour, and lucky it was that the men got the means of recruiting their strength in this manner, as the latter part of the march was a terrible teaser. We marched off from this place about twelve. Although we had found the morning pleasant enough, with a fine bracing breeze, yet in the afternoon, about half an hour after starting, the wind went down, and the sun shone out terribly; the sand in some parts was half knee deep, and although there was no breeze to blow it in our faces, yet it rose from the trampling of so many feet in successive dense columns, and completely enveloped the whole brigade, almost blinding the men, so that they could hardly see the man before them, and getting into their noses and mouths so as nearly to suffocate them; however, they bore it manfully, and marched straight through it like Britons. Our encampment that night was at a place called Golam Shah, on the Buggaur, one of the branch streams of the Indus. We found that the second brigade had only left it the same morning, having been obliged to halt there the preceding day; and General Willshire found a letter from Sir John Keane, advising a halt there for the following day, which we accordingly did, and a precious comfortable day we had. I got off my pony at the close of this day’s march with a dreadful headache, and had to wait for an hour till Halket’s tent and kit, with whom I am doubling up, arrived. His servants brought me the delightful intelligence that my camel man had bolted with his camels at our last encampment, and that my things were all left there on the ground, with my servant, and that it was quite uncertain when they would be up; in fact, it seemed exceedingly doubtful whether they would arrive at all. However, they did come in at last, but very late, on three ponies, two bullocks, and one donkey, which were the only things my boy could get, and for which I had to pay considerably. I turned in as soon as I could; and the next day, which was a most wretched one, I was very unwell. This place, Golam Shah, must, I think, be one of the most wretched places in the whole world, situated as it is in the heart of a desert, with only one recommendation,–viz., the river Buggaur, the water of which is excessively sweet and wholesome. The day we passed at it was the coldest I remember since leaving England. A strong northerly wind blew the whole day, and the clouds of dust and sand that rose in consequence were so thick as perfectly to obscure the sun, and all we could do we could not keep ourselves warm. Here we had the misfortune also to lose the only man that has as yet fallen on the march, an old soldier. He was taken with cholera at eight in the morning and died at twelve at night: he was buried about six hours afterwards, just as the regiment marched. The hospital men had no time to stretch him, and he was laid in the earth in the same posture in which he died, with his arms stuck a kimbo, pressing upon his stomach, which shews that he must have suffered intense agony. Poor fellow! they had not time to dig his grave very deep, and I am afraid the jackals will be the only benefiters by his death. We left this place the next morning, the 30th, and arrived here (Tatta) about eleven o’clock, a twelve-mile march. A great number of the 2nd brigade rode out to meet us, and the 4th Light Dragoons very kindly asked us to breakfast immediately on our arrival. You may be sure they had not to ask us twice!

Tatta is a very ancient town, said to have been built by either Alexander, on his march down the Indus, or by one of his generals; the ancient name was Patala. At that time the country was in possession of Hindoos, or, at least, of the followers of Brahma, who were most probably the original possessors of the greater portion of the east. Afterwards, on the rise of Mahomet, it was soon in possession of his followers, who seem to have held it for a long period, as they have left magnificent proofs of their grandeur, both in the city and all round the neighbourhood, which is studded with splendid cupolas, domes, temples, and tombs; there is one in particular in the town itself an old tomb, now used as a caravanserai, which is excessively handsome. When I talk of a tomb being turned into a caravanserai, you will of course understand that a tomb in this part of the world is very different from one in the western part of the globe. This tomb itself would cover as much ground as Exeter Cathedral. The inside of the domes are very beautifully enamelled in the chastest colours, and with most excellent taste, and would put to shame the most handsome drawing-room in London, I should think. I have never repented not being able to draw so much as I have since I have been in the East, but particularly since I have been at this place, where there is so much that would look well in a sketch; but I would not give twopence to be able to draw and not draw well, particularly when I see the daubs that some men, who fancy they are hands at it, produce, after fagging at the simplest thing possible, and I believe that if nature does not give you a turn for it, all the trying possible would never make a painter, and that what the old Roman proverb said of the poet, “Non fit sed nascitur poeta,” is equally applicable to the painter. I tried it for a short time, at Hanover, but my master told me I was the most awkward and stupid pupil he ever had, and advised me to cut the concern, and I followed his advice; nor am I sorry that I did so, as I should never have been able to draw well, and should have only been discontented, and given it up in disgust. We have, however, two officers in our regiment who both draw and sketch exceedingly well; and I will try to get duplicates from them if possible, so that, if God spares my life, and I ever return home, I shall be able to shew you some specimens of the country we have passed through.

_Jan. 2nd._–Well, we are to have no fighting, at least at present, it appears. This will be cheering news for Kitty, I expect. We were most egregiously disappointed in the town or city of Tatta itself. We saw it at a great distance on our march, and on arriving on our encamping ground, it looked excessively well, and gave us the idea of a very handsome place. We saw what we imagined to be high houses, built of stone, towers and pillars; but lo! when we rode in to examine it, these splendid buildings turned out to be a most miserable collection of white mud houses, which had the appearance of stone at a distance. Some of them were tolerably high, certainly; but the most wretched-looking things possible. This is the case with most towns in the east. Like Dartmouth, they all look best a la distance.

I am sorry to say that we have a great many men in the hospital now, and four officers on the sick list; two of them very unwell. All the cases are bowel complaints, and most of them dysentery. This is the case generally. While on the march, soldiers seldom feel it; but when the halt afterwards comes, then they get touched up awfully. However, it is not to be wondered at, when one considers the quantity of duty which they have to perform at present. Out-lying and in-lying pickets, and guards, &c.; add to which, the being suddenly transported from the climate of India, to which most of them have become inured by a residence, on the average, of twelve years, to this comparatively cold and changeful climate, is enough of itself to shake them a little. They have also done what no Indian troops have done before: in marching in India, almost everything is carried for the soldier; he merely carries what he does on parade–viz., his firelock and accoutrements. Our regiment though, by-the-bye, has always carried a blanket, with a clean shirt and stockings and flannel waistcoat wrapped up in it, that they may be enabled to change as soon as they have marched in. On this march, each man has carried his knapsack, with his kit in it, twenty rounds of ammunition, a havresack with his day’s rations, and a small round keg containing water, the weight of all which is no joke. While at Bominacote, we fully expected to have a little fighting after passing Tatta, and on our arrival here we heard a report which induced us to believe that we should have a brush with the Ameers very shortly; but it appears now that the Ameers have seen the folly of such proceedings, and have determined to receive us amicably, and to assist our passage through their country, and that it was only one of the Ameers that was inclined to be restive. He endeavoured to stop our camels, &c., and managed to do so for some time, and collected as much of what they call an army as he could–about 5000 of these Beloochees, but with no guns, or anything of that sort. However, on collecting them, they represented to him that the British troops were behaving so well, and the inhabitants of the country were getting so much more money for their articles of sale than they ever got before, that they considered it was more for their profit and advantage that the English should march through their country than that they should oppose them, and get licked into the bargain, as they were sure they would be. All eastern nations have an awful dread of European artillery. It also happened that the poor Ameer had unfortunately not the wherewithal to carry on the war, and his army made excessively high demands on him, you may be sure. The consequence of all which was, that the army dissolved itself as quietly as possible, and the poor Ameer found himself solus. The result is, that a deputation is now here, with a small force from the head Ameer, at Hydrabad, under the command of Nur Mahomed, another Ameer, and that he has made most ample apologies for the conduct of his brother Ameer, and offered not only to let us pass through his country, but to assist us in so doing to the utmost of his power. It was indeed well for the Ameers that they came to this decision, as had they acted contrary we should have taken possession of their country to a moral certainty. Now they have a chance of keeping half the loaf.

We have here certainly the flower of the Bombay army, and a very respectable force in every respect: two of the best European regiments, four of the best native, the 4th dragoons, two regiments of light cavalry, two troops of horse artillery in prime order, and a battalion of foot artillery, together with a splendid band of auxiliary horse from Cutch, the finest looking fellows I ever saw: they arrived here on the same day as ourselves. I was standing on one of the hills as they wound their way round it; I was never struck with anything so much, nor have I ever seen anything so orientally military before. They are dressed in green garments, edged with gold, and red turbans, tied under the chin, like the old Mahratta soldiers; their arms are match-lock, lance, scimitar, and pistols, and they appear to be excellent and practical riders. They are quite an independent corps, each man finding his own horse, arms, accoutrements, &c., and they take good care to be excellently mounted. They have a few European officers attached to them from the Bombay establishment. Their dress is also uncommonly handsome; a green hussar dress, with gold braiding. In addition to all this force, we have a subsidiary one nearly as large, coming on directly to follow our steps, and occupy Sinde, while we march on with the Bengalees for Cabool. This force, they say, is to consist of H.M. 40th regiment from Deesa, the 10th, 16th, 22nd, and 24th regiments, 23rd N.I., together with H.M. 90th and 61st regiments, and Ceylon Rifle Corps (Malays) from Ceylon, so that I expect the government at home will have to send more regiments to India as quickly as possible. Sir J. Keane is very likely to have the command of the whole force, both Bombay and Bengal, as they say Sir H. Fane is gone back to Bengal with half the Bengal force, in consequence of the Burmese declaring war; which, as might have been expected, they did directly when so many regiments were marched from their neighbourhood. This report is, however, contradicted, and they say now that Sir H. Fane is going home, and will meet us at Shikarpoor or Hydrabad, give up the command to Sir J. Keane, and go down the Indus, and thence to England overland. Which is the true version I know not; but I am afraid that I have little chance of meeting Colonel Fane, and giving him Arthur’s letter, which I expected to do when I wrote last. I am delighted at the prospect of our going to Cabool: there we may have some fighting, and have a chance of being permanently quartered till we return to Europe, whenever that may be.

What the original cause of all this was, as I told you before, I hardly know; and you are more likely to get at the true version from some of the Indian newspapers, or from any friends you may have connected with this part of the world, than from me. But, as far as I can learn, this appears to be it: Shah Shooja is the rightful heir to the throne of Cabool, and Dost Mahomed is what Mr. C. Dickens calls the “wrongful one,” alias the usurper. Dost Mahomed had possession of the country, and the Indian government, from what motives I know not, determined to unseat him and replace Shah Shooja. In this matter they are assisted by old Runjet Sing, King of Lahore, or, as his oriental title goes, “the blind lion of the Punjab.” The Persians, on the contrary, took part with Dost Mahomed, insulted our resident at their court, and besieged Shah Shooja’s party in Herat; from which, however, after a siege of long duration, they were finally obliged to retire. There was a report at first that Russia was concerned in this affair, and that Russian troops were present with the Persians at the siege, but these turned out to be a regiment or two of Russian renegadoes whom the King of Persia has in his pay. There was another report of a letter having been discovered from the government of Russia to the King of Persia, which induced the belief that the Emperor of Russia was playing a deep game, the object of which was to lessen our influence in the East; and many people, I believe, are very much of this opinion. How far all this may be true I know not; but I have been told by old Indians that for a long time the Indian government have been anxious to have a strong footing in Sinde, and to command the navigation of the Indus; and that now they have the opportunity they are not likely to let it slip. The Afghans are a very hardy race of men, and we may have some sharp work with them; but I think a gun or two of our horse artillery would have sent the Beloochees scampering. They are miserably equipped; but being nearly all robbers, they might have annoyed us by a night attack, which would have been anything but pleasant, particularly for the poor sub. on out-lying picket. Some Bombay native merchants are at present at Tatta; they have been here for ten years, and have been afraid to stir for fear of being robbed. I have no doubt but that the inhabitants of the country would prefer our government considerably to that of the Ameers, as they are exceedingly tyrannical, and grind their subjects to the last degree, demanding half of everything that is offered for sale. When Burnes travelled first in this country, some few years ago, and was received by the Ameer in divan, at Hydrabad, an old priest who was present is said to have reproved the Ameer for receiving Burnes so civilly, and to have told him “that since one Englishman had seen the Indus, it would not be long before they would be in possession of it;” and so it seems likely to turn out.

Well; as long as I keep my health I care little where we go or what we do; but marching in ill health is a great damper to the spirits. The stay-at-home soldiers in England little know what service in this climate really is. I should like to see —- of the —- on out-lying picket here; he would not find it quite so pleasant as Almack’s. I have very little time to add more, as the post goes to Bombay to-day, but to wish you all at home a very happy new year, and love to all relations and friends, as you may not hear from me again for some time. I will endeavour to pick up as many curiosities and things of that description as possible for you, if I do not get knocked on the head. I keep a journal, and will write by every opportunity. Your next letter to me may find me in Cabool. Once more, good bye.

Ever your affectionate son,


Camp, near Jarruk, on the banks of the Indus, Twenty miles from Hydrabad,
January, 31st, 1839.

MY DEAR FATHER,–I had fully intended this letter for Kitty, but such a dreadful event happened in our regiment yesterday, that I was afraid, if she was at all unwell when she received the letter, connecting it, as she would, with me, it might throw her into some dreadful fever, or something of that sort. I have very little time to write, as the post leaves this, by steamer, at three o’clock to-day; and I have a great deal to do during the day. I think it my duty, however, to write, as the report of the circumstance might get into the papers without mentioning names, or giving wrong ones, and you might be needlessly alarmed.

To strike at once _in medias res_, this event is no less than the horrible death of three of our officers in a burning shikargur, or large thicket, enclosed by the Ameers for the preservation of game. The names of the poor, unfortunate fellows are Sparky (whom, by-the-bye, you might have seen at Chatham,) Nixon, and Hibbert. The two first, Lieut. Sparke, in the Grenadiers, and Nixon, in the Light Company. Hibbert was assistant-surgeon. They were three of the finest hearted fellows: Nixon, a long time one of my fellow subs in the Light Company. (I can hardly write, my hand shakes so.) Poor Hibbert was an exceedingly clever fellow, and a great traveller, and one of the most beautiful draughtsmen you could meet with any where. They are all three a terrible loss to our corps. I will tell you the mournful tale as it happened. We arrived here on the 25th. I breakfasted on Tuesday with them at mess, which was the last time I ever saw them alive: they were in exceedingly high spirits. The success of an enterprise the day before appears to have determined them to go upon another expedition on this day, which at first sight did not appear half so hazardous as it unfortunately proved to be; this was no less than going into a shikargur (of which I have explained the meaning above) about four or five miles in the rear of our camp, and which was supposed to be well stocked with game. It happened that this jungle had been set on fire about two days previously, most likely by some of our camel drivers, or other native followers: some said it was done by the Beloochees; but this I think very unlikely, as it is dead to leeward of our camp. Well, they did not appear in the evening, and we began to be rather alarmed on their account: however, we thought they would turn up by some chance or other. Next morning (yesterday), when the regiment fell in, an hour before daylight, which the whole camp does here every morning, as we are supposed to have a hostile force not very far from us, they were reported absent. Breakfast came; no tidings of them: ten; eleven o’clock; and they began to be the talk of the whole camp. However, we speculated that the worst that could have happened to them was being taken prisoners by a party of Beloochees, and kept as hostages, or something of that sort. At twelve, General Willshire became so alarmed and anxious about them that he sent out a troop of the 1st Light Cavalry to scour the jungles, and discover what they could of them; another officer sent out a party of six natives, with the promise of a reward of two hundred rupees if they could find any tidings of them. Well; the day went on; and at mess, at six o’clock, nothing had been heard relative to their fate, except that a little dog belonging to poor Nixon returned to camp about four o’clock. About eight o’clock I was in Dickinson’s tent, smoking a cheroot, &c., previous to turning in, when one of our servants rushed in with the dreadful intelligence that the bodies had been found in the jungle by the Light Cavalry. It struck us at first so unexpectedly, and as being a thing so dreadful, that we would hardly believe it; however, all doubt was soon changed into horrible reality by the arrival of the bodies within our lines. I was determined not to see them; but there was a horrible fascination which drew one along with the rest to the hospital tent, where they were lying.

* * * * *

Twelve o’clock.–Well; I am just returned from seeing the last honours paid to their remains; it is a melancholy business a military funeral; every officer in camp attended; and, after all, they have had the satisfaction of a Christian burial, which may not be our luck in a short time. I do not know why, but this sad event has made me an old woman almost! They lie side by side on a hill just in the rear of our camp; “no useless coffin enclosed their corse;” but there they lie together, wrapped in their cloaks. Peace to their manes! We intend erecting a monument to them, if possible. I learned that some of the staff had been to the jungle to investigate it thoroughly to-day, and from various circumstances, have come to the conclusion that they had climbed up some high trees, which surrounded the place where they fell, in order to shoot the game as they came out, and that before they had time to make their escape, a breeze came, which brought the smoke, and which most likely stifled, or at least rendered them senseless. Let us hope that this was the case, as I should think that so their death would not have been very painful: the position in which their bodies were lying when found seems to warrant this supposition. A porcupine was found close to their trees, burnt to a cinder. It blew very hard last night, and I passed an almost sleepless night in thinking of these poor fellows. It gives a man an awful shake in going through life, seeing the very fellows you have lived with for the last two years, in whose proceedings you have borne a part, brought suddenly before you in such a state: a man in these situations thinks more in two hours than he does in the whole course of his natural life under ordinary circumstances. It proves what helpless beings we are; how little we can control our own actions: truly, “in the midst of life we are in death.”

I wrote to you on the new year’s day everything that had happened up to that time; the letter was to have gone by the overland mail of the 19th. I hope you will receive it safe, as I should be sorry you should lose anything from me now, as it may be the last you may ever have, so precarious are the chances of a soldier’s life on actual service. Shortly after writing to you, I got ill again, and it ended in a slight fever, which cleared me out altogether, since which I have been in perfectly good health, thank God. I came off the sick list on the 22nd January, the day before we marched from Tatta. I will give you my journal from that time to the sad event which has just happened.

_Wednesday, Jan._ 23, 1839.–On this day, at 6 A.M., the corps d’arme of Sinde marched out of the encampment near Tatta _en route_ for Hydrabad, the Cutch Auxiliary Horse in advance, detaching flankers, &c., then the main body in the following order:–The 4th Light Dragoons in front; next, one squadron of horse artillery, followed by two squadrons of the 1st regiment of Bombay Light Cavalry, one company of foot artillery, then the first brigade of infantry, under General Willshire, consisting of the Queen’s Royals, 5th and 1st, or Grenadier regiment, Native Infantry, a second squadron of horse artillery, a second company of foot artillery; the 2nd infantry brigade, consisting of H.M. 17th regiment, the 19th and 23rd regiments Native Infantry; the whole closed by two other squadrons of 1st Light Cavalry. We (i.e., the 1st brigade) left our ground a quarter before six, and halted on a rising ground close to the walls of Tatta, whence we had a very fair view of the cavalry, artillery, &c., that were in the advance of us, winding their way through a pretty avenue of trees: the whole presented a very animated and martial appearance, the different corps marching off with colours uncased, band playing, &c. Cunningham’s, or the Poonah Auxiliary Horse, having only arrived the night before, did not join the main body, but came up somewhat later in the day, I believe. The march of the main body this day was not more than ten miles; but our brigade was posted two miles in advance of the rest of the force, and the Queen’s were nearly a mile in advance of the other two regiments of the brigade; so that we marched about thirteen miles. We encamped in a rather pretty valley surrounded by barren rocks, with our right resting on a shikargur (or hunting thicket); we had a fine pebbly bottom, which was a great relief to our feet after the hot dust of Tatta. My baggage did not make its appearance till about five o’clock, my unfortunate young camel having proved restive, and flung its load two or three times, thereby considerably damaging my cot and table: mess at six,–nothing particular.

_Thursday, Jan_. 24.–In consequence of our being so much in advance, our “rouse” did not sound till six o’clock this morning, and we did not march off our ground till seven. After we had marched about two miles; we halted and piled arms, to enable the cavalry, &c., in our rear to pass on, and thus we had a very good review of them: they marched in the same order as yesterday, except that in addition, and near to the light cavalry, came Cunningham’s horse from Poonah: this was the first time we had seen them; they made a very splendid appearance, about 600 strong, and well equipped in every respect; their dress and accoutrements the same as the Cutch Horse, (of which I gave you a description in my last,) with the difference of wearing yellow and red instead of green and red. We had a very pleasant march this day, except the latter part, which was exceedingly dusty; some very pretty and romantic scenery, consisting of ruined forts, abrupt hills, large rocks, interspersed with some beautiful lakes here and there. We reached our encamping ground rather late–half-past eleven o’clock–lost my breakfast, owing to my native groom, who carried some stock for me, and to whom I had given directions to wait by the regiment till they had piled arms and were dismissed, having disobeyed my orders, and cut off with my tatter to the river, about three miles off: gave chase directly the parade was dismissed, and walked through a shikargur to the river, but could not find the rascal. I had, however, a good view of the Indus, which does not here appear to be very broad: a cruel hot day; and, in addition to my other misfortunes, was nearly stifled by the clouds of dust raised by cavalry of every description leading their horses to water. On my return to camp I luckily found my baggage arrived, and had a good snoose till six o’clock, mess time; heard at mess that the Ameers had agreed to all our terms, and would do everything to assist our passage through their country; that we were to march straight to Shikarpoor, without halting at Hydrabad; after remaining at which place for some time, we should advance upon Candahar,–all fudge. Our position this halt was about the centre of the army,–bad encamping ground,–very dusty.

_Friday, 25th_.–Left our encampment at six, in the same order as before; our out-lying picket, under Stisted, joined us near our first halt, about three miles. Warlike news,–the Ameers had rejected our treaty, and that a force of 10,000 Beloochees had crossed the river; and would probably give us some trouble. Stisted had received orders to keep a very sharp look-out with his picket, as there was a chance of its being attacked: Jephson joined, with news from Sir J. Keane, that there was every chance of our being attacked on the line of march; however, we were not, although we passed over some very pretty ground for a battle. Marched into our encamping ground about half-past ten, near a half-ruined village called Jarruk, on the banks of the river; the army here took up a rather strong position, on a chain of heights; our brigade being, however, pushed on again in advance, on some low and jungly ground near the river; the Queen’s again on the extreme front. News still warlike; the Beloochees, under Meer Mahomet, one of the Ameers, and the most restive of them, being supposed to be near us in great force, though nobody seemed to know where. All the oot-wallas, or camel-drivers, put under charge of sentries, as there was reason to suspect they meditated deserting in the night with our camels. Bad encamping ground again,–a dusty, half-cultivated field.

_Saturday, 26th_.–Turned out of bed between two and three, A.M., with orders to fall in, at a moment’s notice, in “light marching order,” as an attack was strongly expected. Spies had reported that 10,000 Beloochees were in a shikargur not seven miles from us, and that they intended a night attack; everybody in the highest state of excitement, pistols loading, &c. Fell in an hour before daylight; cavalry sent out in all directions; staff and field-officers galloping about like mad fellows; remained under arms till day had fully broke, when we were dismissed, but commanded not to stray far from camp: great excitement all day; Cunningham’s horse sent out to reconnoitre; returned late at night, reporting that they had patrolled sixteen miles in advance, had closely examined the shikargur in question, and could find no traces of the Beloochees,–a strong suspicion, however, remained that there were Beloochees in our neighbourhood.

_Sunday, 27th_.–Under arms an hour before daylight; no further news; camp quiet. As I was to be on out-lying picket this evening, rode out after breakfast to look at my ground, which appeared rather strong, intersected with ravines, brushwood; &c., and a good place to hold against cavalry. Mounted picket at five o’clock, P.M., fifty-seven rank and file, two serjeants, four corporals, and one bugler, a chain of nine double sentries, the right resting on the river and the Hydrabad road, and the chain running along a dry nullah, till it communicated with the sentries of the 5th regiment’s picket; a corporal’s party of three men detached in advance to an old ruin on the left front; a picket of cavalry about two miles in advance, with videttes on some high ground. A beautiful moonlight night, and not very cold till about one o’clock in the morning; lay on the ground and thought of what was going on at Brookhill and fancy ball at Torquay; visited my sentries continually; the men in high spirits, and very much on the alert; nothing extraordinary occurred.


Camp Kotree, four miles from Hydrabad, February 6th, 1839.

MY DEAR FATHER,–I wrote to you a few days ago from Jarruk, informing you of the melancholy fate of three of my brother officers; but having received your letter since, dated Nov. 20th, containing the bill for 670 rupees (or 70l.), and informing me of the news of Kate’s intended marriage, I could not let slip an opportunity which has just occurred, by our having got possession of Curachee, of writing to Kitty, and also, at the same time, of informing you of what has occurred since. You will receive this at the same time as you do the other, since it will arrive at Bombay in time to go by the same overland mail.

I wrote to you on the 31st; and on Sunday, the 3rd of February, we marched out of Jarruk for this place; we made a two days’ march of it, both very disgusting; horrible, or rather no roads at all; nothing but dust and sand under our feet, which the wind blew into our eyes every minute; add to which, small halts every five minutes, on account of the artillery in our front, who could not get on through the badness of the way: this perpetual halting is the most wearisome thing possible to a soldier when once fairly under weigh. Well; we arrived here on the day before yes-day; our front is now completely changed, being towards the river, and not turned from it, or with our right resting on it, as it has been before; our brigade is on the extreme right. Of course, you know that we are on the western bank, and that Hydrabad is on the eastern, and therefore the opposite one. Since we have been here, we have a little relaxed in our discipline, being no longer under arms before daylight; but reports are still very various as to whether we are to have peace or war with the Ameers, and whether we shall eventually have to sack Hydrabad or not. A deputation from thence came over yesterday to Sir J. Keane. It appears that the Ameers will agree to our treaty, but demur about the money which that treaty obliges them to pay. As far as I can learn, though I do not advise you to put much reliance on it, as I may very likely be wrong, this seems to be the case. It appears that the Ameers have long owed our ally, whom we are going to place on the throne of Cabool, Shah Shooja, twenty lacs of rupees; that on our declaring war they agreed to pay this sum, with Shah Shooja’s consent, to our government to meet the expenses of the war, and to give us a passage through their country to Shikarpoor. However, from our first landing in their country they have played a most underhand game, and endeavoured to throw every indirect obstacle in our way, behaving friendly to our faces, but behind our backs giving very different directions to their satellites: this was found out by means of intercepted letters, particularly at our last halt at Jarruk. The conduct of our party may not be considered of quite the fairest nature, as we are establishing posts in their country by way of communication, and reserves at three or four different places. This was, no doubt, part of the original plan that sent us here, as these posts are to be strongly fortified, consisting, it is supposed, of Shikarpoor, Schwun, Tatta, and Curachee, and are to be the posts of defence on our north-west frontiers against any incursions from our northern neighbours, particularly Russia. The Ameers are particularly indignant at this, as I am told it did not form part of the original treaty, and they see in it, no doubt with justice, a prelude to our final possession of their country. Pottinger, the political agent, had collected, before he left Hydrabad, grain for the army to the value of three lacs of rupees; this, it is now found out, has either been taken away or destroyed, and Sir J. Keane immediately added it to the other twenty lacs contained in the treaty. The Ameers say they will pay half the whole sum demanded here, and the remaining half on our arrival at Shikarpoor. This Sir J. Keane has refused, and told them he will not leave this or Hydrabad till he gets every fraction.

We yesterday received news which must, I should think, have an effect on the Ameers one way or the other. The admiral on this station, Sir F. Maitland, brought up in his 74 (I think the Wellesley) H.M. 40th regiment, from Mandivie, in Cutch, to Curachee, a fort on the westernmost branch of the Indus. On approaching the fort, the Beloochees who garrisoned it, taking it for a common free-trader, had the foolish presumption to fire into her; the admiral wore his vessel round, just gave one broadside, down came their fort in one second about their ears,–you may guess how it astonished them: they sent word to say that the English fire a lac of shot in one second. They say the Ameers were one year in taking this place, which cost the English one second. I think myself that we shall not have any fighting here, and that Hydrabad will still remain in the hands of the Ameers.

The report to-day is, that we cross the river to-morrow; if so, I suppose with hostile intentions, or at least for intimidation; but this I hardly believe. Sir J. Keane, they say, refused to receive the deputation from the Ameers yesterday. Should the thing be settled peaceably, we shall immediately march for Shikarpoor, and thence most likely on Candahar, a new climate. It has been getting gradually hotter here; and in the hot season Sinde is dreadful. At Shikarpoor we meet a part, if not the whole, of the Bengal force, and Shah Shooja, with his and Runjet Sing’s contingent, is also there. Runjet himself is very ill: part of the agreement between him and us was, that we should preserve the throne to his son on his demise. He was excessively civil to Lord Auckland, and all the English who have been at Lahore. Sir H. Fane, they say, still proceeds with the Bengal army. The drummer is here waiting for my letter, as it is very late for the post, so, in haste, good bye. Love, &c., and believe me ever,

Your most affectionate son,

P.S. Jephson is post-master to the force.


Camp, near Larkhanu,
Wednesday, 6th March, 1839.

MY DEAR FATHER,–I last wrote to you from Kotree, opposite Hydrabad. We are now, as you will see by the date, at Larkhanu, a pretty considerable distance from the former place. I see, by my journal, that it was the 6th of February when I last wrote, exactly one month ago. We were then, I believe, rather ignorant of what the Ameers intended; but the fate of Curachee, of which I gave you an account; brought them to their senses, and the day after I wrote things were settled, and officers had permission to visit Hydrabad, merely reporting their names to their respective majors of brigade before they did so. In consequence of which I went over to that place on the 9th, with Dickenson and Piercy; but there was not much to repay us for our ride, under a cruelly hot sun, as the fort, the only place worth seeing, was shut up, and no one could get a view of the inside except a few of the staff. It did not appear to be very strong, although it had a pretty appearance. I think the Ameers acted very wisely, as it could easily be taken by escalade. The rest of the town consisted of a great straggling bazaar, just the same as is to be seen everywhere in India; and it did not appear a bit better than that at Belgaum. There were some fine elephants belonging to the Ameers, and some pretty ruins on the outskirts of the town. The Beloochees had all left, and were nowhere to be seen.

Sunday, the 10th, we marched off our ground at Kotree, and reached Lukkee on Saturday, the 16th, after a six days’ march, most of them fifteen miles. Here we halted four days to allow the pioneers, &c., to make a road over the Lukkee Pass for the artillery. We found here some excellent sulphur springs and baths, about a mile from our encampment, among the Lukkee hills, which, if they could be transported to Dartmouth, would make a second Bath of it. The whole of our force were bidetizing here all day long. Being so directly under the hills, we found it rather warmer than we liked. There were some large lakes here, full of wild duck, and capital partridge-shooting, and we were cracking away all the time. On the march to this place I had the misfortune to lose a very nice little bull-terrier bitch, about a year old, which I had from a pup, at Belgaum, and which had followed my fortunes so far. It was all her own fault, as she broke from my tent one night, and though I used every endeavour I could hear nothing more of her.

The 21st we marched over the Pass to Schwun, the largest place in Sinde next to Tatta. The Pass was not half so bad as we expected, so we filed over it very easily. On our arrival at Schwun we heard that Sir H. Fane had just passed down the river, with his staff, _en route_ for Bombay, and was laying at anchor about five miles down the river, where Sir J. Keane went to meet him; so that here ended my last chance of meeting Col. Fane, and giving him Arthur’s letter. Sir H. Fane will remain at Bombay, which is to be the head quarters of the Indian army while this business lasts. We only halted one day at Schwun; I rode in to look at the town, which was nearly desolate, as the inhabitants of every place invariably remove with their families on our arrival. There was, however, a fine old castle in ruins, which was well worth seeing, and must have been a place of some importance in former days; and a very superb mosque in the centre of the town, in which was a tame tiger. We left Schwun on Saturday, the 23rd, crossing the Arrul river, which flows round the town into the Indus, on pontoons, and commenced our first march in Upper Sinde. This day’s march was delightful, and the only tolerable one we have had, all the rest being through a dismal, dusty desert, with sometimes no path at all, and the dust generally so thick in marching that you cannot see an inch before you. This was, however, a grand exception. We marched by the side of a magnificent lake, full of wild fowl, the banks of which were carpeted with rich wild clover, and over-shadowed with fine trees, the only ones of any size that we have yet seen in Sinde; so that you might almost fancy you were going through a nobleman’s park in England (Kitly, par example.) In fact, this place put me more in mind of Old England than, any I have seen in the East. From Schwun we marched direct to this place, which we reached on the 4th, the day before yesterday, without halting once: most of the marches fifteen miles, and all terrible teasers, on account of the badness of the roads, and the stupidity or wilful ignorance of our guides. One of our marches was to have been a short one of ten miles; but for some unaccountable reasons our route and encamping ground were changed three times. We lost our way in the jungle, and marched fifteen, instead of ten, miles before we found ourselves in our proper places; on arrival at which we found that half the officers’ and men’s baggage was gone on to our next encamping ground, fifteen miles further, which, owing to the variety of places named in orders, our servants supposed to be the right one. My baggage was one of the unlucky; but my servant came back with my things about five o’clock in the evening; so that my poor camels must have gone nearly forty miles that day, with a prospect of another fifteen the next morning at five. General Willshire, and, I hear, Sir J. Keane also, were among the sufferers. Our poor sick were all lost in the jungles for this day, and we saw nothing of half of them till we arrived on our next encamping ground. Some of them were upwards of twenty-four hours without getting anything to eat, or attendance of any sort. Well, we marched to this place on the day before yesterday, after ten days’ regular hard work. A great number in hospital; though they are coming out again now pretty fast.

It is believed we shall halt here about a week; but what we shall do then nobody seems to know. The greater part of the force will, it is believed, follow the Bengalees to Candahar, who marched from Shikarpoor for that purpose, under Sir Willoughby Cotton, on the 22nd, but have since been detained, owing to the impracticability of the country. One regiment of our brigade (the Grenadier regiment, Native Infantry) is under orders for Bukkur, an island fort on the Indus, about twenty-five miles from Shikarpoor, which (i.e., Bukkur) is to be our depot for stores, &c., and where all the present unfits, in the shape of sick men, are to be sent. No doubt some other troops will be left in Upper Sinde, at different places, and I have some fears that the “Queen’s” may be among the number. Heaven defend us from being quartered in any part of this wretched country, particularly from Shikarpoor, which is said to be one of the hottest places in existence. In fact, the Persians say, “While there is a Shikarpoor, there ought to be no Johannum,” or hell. What a pity it would be to lose such a capital chance of seeing Candahar, and perhaps Cabool, which is said to be a splendid place and a delightful climate. The Bolan Pass, a most magnificent and difficult one, the key to Afghanistan from Sinde, is said to be now totally impassable, from the number of dead cattle, horses, and camels, which Shah Shooja’s force lost there. This I believe, however, to be mere report. We heard, the other day, that Dost Mahomed had occupied it, and that we should have to take it at the point of the bayonet. So much do reports vary, one knows not what to believe. This pass, said to be thirty miles long, and at some places almost impassable, runs through and over the large chain of mountains that separates the mountainous country of Candahar and Cabool, or, as it is generally called, Afghanistan, from the lowland of Sinde; it is not easy to cross it, at least before April, as till then the snows are not melted.

I hope and trust my next letter will be dated from Candahar, which is, however, a good six weeks’ march from this place. We have found the weather dreadfully hot for the last few days, averaging generally 106 in our tents in the day time, though the nights are cool, and the mornings generally very cold. I have not yet been in Larkhanu, though we marched through a part of it on our arrival. Our men have been now for three days without any dram at all, and their rations are getting worse and worse every day; in fact, things are so bad that they have been obliged to send to Shikarpoor for part of what was left there by the Bengal commissariat, which is said to be excellent, and which has fed their army very well, although they have come a much greater distance than we have.

I spoke to our paymaster about my bill, and he has shewn it to the paymaster-general, who says he will cash it whenever I like, but that I must take it in a lump; he will not give it me by instalments. This is a great nuisance, as it is very hazardous taking so much money about with one; the money, too, takes up a great deal of room and is very heavy; it was, however, quite a god-send, as I had no idea how very expensive this march would turn out; grain for cattle being exceedingly dear, the natives raising the price to about 500 per cent. everywhere, thanks to bad management somewhere. At Tatta each officer received a month’s pay in advance, that he might purchase cattle for his baggage. This is to be deducted by three instalments, one from each of the next three issues of pay. An ensign’s pay for one month will hardly purchase sufficient conveyances. The only mode in this country is by camels, and a camel is of all animals the most treacherous, or rather precarious lived; they get ill suddenly and go off in three hours: a great number have died with us. Now an officer losing his camels loses one month’s pay, and must leave his kit on the ground, as he has nothing wherewith to replace his loss. You can, therefore, imagine what a great relief your bill proved to me, as I shall always have it to fall back upon. I bought a very nice little Cabool horse at Kotree, from one of the Ameers’ disbanded Beloochees. He is very hardy, and accustomed to this country, and not particular as to his food, which is a capital thing, as most of the Arab horses that have been brought from India have fallen off terribly. He is a very pretty figure, goes well, and leaps capitally, which few of the Arabs can. I gave 170 rupees for him, or 17l. In India, I am confident he would fetch 500 or 600 rupees (50l. or 60l.)

I am very doubtful as to the time when this letter may reach you; I hope it may catch the overland mail on the 25th; but Jephson says it is very doubtful, and will depend entirely on the chance of there being a ship at Curachee, or off the Hujamree. The heat now, while I am writing, is dreadful, and there is a beastly hot wind blowing which I never felt before. Heaven send us soon out of Sinde! We are expecting the overland mail from England every day; it generally manages to come two days after I write home. You will by this time have received the letter I wrote from the Syden, and the one I wrote to Kate about the 13th of December from Bominacote. Reports vary much as to whether we shall have any fighting if we advance into Candahar. I should think Dost Mahomed would like to try a brush with us, at least with Shah Shooja.

With love to all at home,

Believe me your affectionate son,


Camp, Candahar, June 8th, 1839.

MY DEAR FATHER,–I begin this letter to you on the 8th of June, 1839, though when it will reach you, or whether it ever will, is very doubtful. I have not written, I see, since the beginning of March, from Larkhanu; there was, however, very little use in so doing, as there was very little chance of your ever getting it, our friends the Beloochees, Kaukers, &c., having made free with nearly every mail, and destroyed them. I am very much afraid that I also have been a sufferer by them, and that you must have written to me long ere this, but that our friends of the Bolan Pass have made use of the letter to wrap their cabobs in. I have not heard from you or from home at all since the 2nd of February, when I got your letter, dated November 20th, enclosing the bill on government, and informing me of Kate’s intended marriage. I have, however, long since this heard of my lieutenancy, and seen my name in the “Gazette,” but have not yet received the confirmation of it from Sir H. Fane in this country, so that I have been fighting my way, and am likely to continue so, on the rank and pay of a full ensign; however, there will be so much the more back pay to receive when it does come; it is a great nuisance, however, not having it, as I require it so much in this country. You can form no conception of the hopeless expense which we have inevitably been obliged to incur. We have had a tolerable share of hardships, &c., and the poor marching soldiers have suffered terribly. What do you think of our having made a forced march of thirty to forty miles, for six hours of it under the hottest sun I can recollect, and I have felt a few of them in India? Since we left Larkhanu we have met with little but a series of robberies, murders, alarms, and skirmishes; in short, everything but an actual stand-up fight, which we were all anxious for, as it would settle matters at once, and free us from the predatory attacks and cold-blooded murders of these barbarous tribes.

To begin from where I left off: we marched from Larkhanu on the 11th March, and reached Dadur, about four miles from the entrance to the Bolan Pass, the nest of the robber hordes of Kaukers, Tuckers, and Beloochees, on the 6th of April, having halted several times at intermediate places, and made some terrible marches, fifteen miles being the average distance. We often lost our way, and marched thereby a great deal further than was necessary, through bad guidance. I must tell you, however, that before leaving Larkhanu, Sir J. Keane assumed the command of the whole army, both Bengal and Bombay, by which General Willshire got command of the Bombay division. The two Bombay brigades were broken up, the Grenadiers and 5th regiment of Native Infantry were sent to garrison Bukkur, a tolerably strong fort on the Indus, and the 23rd Native Infantry was sent to Lukkur, a town on the opposite side. There also the different regiments that were to go on sent their sick, and Bukkur was made a depot for supplies, medical stores, &c. The greater part of the foot and some of the horse artillery were sent there also. Our regiment and the 17th were then made into one brigade, and marched from Larkhanu, as I said before, on the 11th. The cavalry and horse artillery, &c., did not march for two days after, with the Commander-in-chief, who took with him his pet corps; the 19th Native Infantry. They marched by a different route from ourselves on account of the scarcity of supplies in that desert country; we halted for them at Kochee, which place we reached on the 15th about 3 P.M., after the thirty to forty miles’ march I before told you of, across the marshy desert which seems to divide Sinde from Cutch Gundava. This march ought only to have been twenty-six miles; but owing to the stupidity of our guide we went a longer and more circuitous route, and also had the pleasure of losing our way during the night; in addition to which, on arriving at the village where it was intended to halt, our staff found out, all of a sudden, that there was not a sufficiency of water for the whole force, in consequence of which we were moved to another village (Kichee) five miles further on.

It was during this march that I first witnessed the effects of extreme thirst on men, however well disciplined. It was, as I have said before, the hottest day I ever felt; not a breath of air, and the sun enough to knock you down. The men were suffering dreadfully, and falling out by sections, when about eleven or twelve o’clock they caught sight of some water carriers with their mussacks full, so that they knew water could not be far off. All discipline was pitched to the devil in an instant, and the men rushed from the ranks for the water more like mad devils than anything else–nothing could stop them; the mounted officers galloped in amongst them, and threatened, but to no purpose; nothing short of cutting them down would have stopped any of them. In the midst of this, General Willshire, at the head of the brigade, hearing a row and looking round, saw the greater part of the 17th (they being in front on this day) scampering across the country like a pack of hounds; not knowing what was the matter, he galloped up to the colonel and demanded an explanation, when, seeing what was the cause, he made the best of it, called a halt, and every one immediately rushed to the wells, the scenes at which were most ridiculous, fighting, pushing, knocking down &c. I saw one man actually lie down and wallow in a filthy ditch full of every description of dirt imaginable. We halted here about two hours, and then marched to our ground, about six or seven miles further on, the men performing this latter part of the march with great cheerfulness. We halted here two days to rest the men, and were joined by the rest of the Bombay force, with the Commander-in-chief.

We marched again on the 18th, another night march about twenty miles. Here we made another halt for three days, while some of the staff went on to get information of the country a-head, about which they were ignorant. All the villages we had passed through were deserted, and in some places the water was stinking. We looked back upon Sinde as a paradise compared to the country we were now in. All the little grain that was supplied to the bazaars by the commissariat was sold at the most exorbitant price, yet we were obliged to buy it, and as much as we could get of it too, and lucky we thought ourselves to get any of it, even at this rate, at times, in order to feed our horses and camels, which were beginning to knock up terribly. We could not now, as we used to do in Sinde, send the latter into the jungle to feed on the small brushwood, of which they were so fond, except at the risk of being robbed of them, and having the servants who looked after them murdered by the bands of Beloochees who hovered about us in every direction. Still, notwithstanding these annoyances, the humbugging system of conciliation was kept up, and although there was not an inhabitant to be seen, we were robbed to our faces very nearly; yet if a poor sub.’s horse or camel happened to break his ropes and strayed into a field he was immediately pounced upon by a provost-marshal and put into a sort of pound, from which he was not released except on the payment of a certain sum to be given to the owners of the field! Where were they to be found? The loss of camels now was irreparable; even if there were any to be sold, the prices asked were so exorbitant that few of us youngsters, hampered as we were, could afford to purchase; loss of camels produced loss of kit, loss of kit produced loss of health, &c. Yet during the whole of this march we were losing camels through robberies and fatigue, and no measures taken that we ever heard of to put a stop to it. We marched from this place on the 22nd, and came to a halt again at a place called Kotrie, close under the Hala mountains, about five miles from the Gundava Pass. Here we (i.e., our brigade and the 4th Light Dragoons) halted for a week. Sir J. Keane pushed on a-head with two troops of Light Cavalry and the left wing of the 19th Native Infantry, in order to catch up Sir Willoughby Cotton, who was marching in command of the main body of the Bengal division. General Willshire, with the staff, artillery, and cavalry, was at Gundava, about eight miles from us. At this place, Kotrie, which the inhabitants luckily had not deserted, we were better off in point of supplies than we had been since we left Larkhanu, and there was plenty of shooting and fishing; but it was without exception the hottest place I ever was in. Being close under a high range of mountains, we were perfectly screened from any cool breezes that might take it into their heads to blow from that quarter; add to this, the hills themselves, being composed of granite, or some stone of that description, attracted the sun, and reflected the heat back again on us, so that we were attacked from two sides at once. By this time we had no stronger liquor with us than tea, so that we were perfectly eligible to become members of the Tea-total Temperance Society; our supplies in the liquor line, which we had sent on from Hydrabad to Larkhanu by water, not having reached the latter place in time for us to get them. In this respect the men were better off than ourselves, they having their dram or two every day. Here the robbers began to be more bold, and we did not lose sight of them until we reached Candahar. Five mails (one of them an “overland,” bringing, perhaps, letters from you or some one at home) out of six were robbed between this and Shikarpoor; and news was received from Sir J. Keane in advance that at the entrance of the Bolan Pass several bodies of sepoys of Shah Shooja’s army were lying, there having been a grand skrimmage there between the sepoys and Beloochees, in which the former, being caught napping, were worsted. We stayed at this place, as I said before, a week, and started again on the 31st.

On the morning of the 2nd of April, during a severe march of twenty-two miles, one of our men, a straggler, who had fallen to the rear with dysentery, was murdered by these robbers, and another man of the 17th cruelly wounded, but he has since recovered. They were sitting together by the side of the road, when of a sudden a party of Beloochees rushed out from some low bushes, and, before either had time to rise, fired into them. Adams, of the Queen’s, received a ball on the outside of his right thigh, passing down, and coming out at his knee on the other side, and cutting some particular vein or artery, which occasioned his death through loss of blood. The 17th man was hit on the right side, the ball coasting round his body, and coming out at the other side, without touching his tripes or any vital part. Adams had not his firelock with him, but the 17th man had his, but unloaded, and, in his struggles to keep possession of it, received some desperate sabre cuts; but he has since recovered. Of course he was soon overpowered, as Adams could give no assistance. The Beloochees then stripped them of everything, except their shirt and trowsers, and left them to their fate, till another man of the 17th came up, in charge of some of his company’s camels, who brought in the news to camp; but the apothecary who went out was too late to save poor Adams. It was gratifying to know that Cunningham, with a party of his horse, having received intelligence that a party of these blackguards were encamped in a jungle, beat through it, and followed their tracks for fourteen miles, when he came upon them, and killed six and took four prisoners; Cunningham having outstripped his party, killed two men himself and took another prisoner. These rascals were brought into camp, and strictly guarded, or I believe they would have been torn to pieces by the European soldiers. One of them was sworn to by the wounded 17th man as being one of the murderers, and we were all in great hopes of seeing the blackguards dancing the tight rope; but, instead of that, they were all brought on (except one, who being badly wounded, died on the road) to Dadur, where they were given up to one of the political diplomatic gentlemen, who, it is said, actually let them go with five rupees to carry them home. Fancy a Beloochee’s _home!_ This was carrying the conciliation principle far with a vengeance!

We started again at half-past twelve, on the night of the 3rd–another night-march of nineteen miles. Both the nights we were at this place we were alarmed by a supposed attack of Beloochees; but they turned out to be nothing more than a loose horse or two of the dragoons, for which one of their camp-followers suffered, being taken for a Beloochee, while running after one of the horses, and therefore cut down by a dragoon on sentry. The night we left this place was one of the most fearful I ever remember; it had been threatening all the afternoon, and about eight the simoom came on with dreadful violence, blowing for five minutes at a time, at intervals of twenty minutes or so, until we got under weigh, at half-past twelve. The wind, hot and scorching, like a blast from a furnace, rushed over the country with the violence of a hurricane, bringing with it perfect clouds of dust and sand, so that it was totally impossible to face it, except at the risk of being actually blinded or stifled. The baggage was to have gone on before us at nine o’clock, as the moon was expected to be up, but the clouds of dust, &c., completely hid her from us, and she did not shew her nose the whole night. During the blasts it was the most perfect “darkness visible” that you can imagine, and at the intervals when it ceased, the sensation of the atmosphere was more like standing before a hot fire than anything else. I had read of these things before in novels, travels, &c; I now, for the first time, experienced the reality. Add to all these little annoyances, we were every moment expecting a rush of Beloochees; and if they had had the pluck of a hare, they might have considerably crippled our proceedings, by rushing in and ham-stringing our camels. The darkness, the unavoidable confusion, the awkwardness of the camels themselves, all favoured them, and I expected nothing less; if they had been Cossacks instead, they would have played the very devil with us altogether. At length, at half-past eleven, the baggage got off, and now for the first time with a baggage guard, consisting of a troop, or company, from each of the three regiments, together with all the irregular horse we possessed, with strict orders that any Beloochees shewing themselves at all near the baggage were instantly to be cut down or bayoneted. The main body followed in another hour, with a strong rear-guard, to pick up stragglers, &c. These precautions ought to have been taken before, and poor Adams would have been saved. I know very little of this march, as I remember I slept through the whole of it, until morning, on horseback, being terribly fatigued and worn out. The morning was delightfully cool, with a fresh bracing breeze from the north. You may well imagine how we enjoyed it, after the terrible relaxation of the night before. We reached our ground about seven, at a place called Nonsherah. Here we heard some bloody-minded reports of the Beloochees, who had been plundering the artillery and left wing of the 19th, which were here the day before. They seemed, however, to have made a pretty good retaliation, and four Beloochees’ heads were stuck upon the walls of the town, in proof of the soldiers’ vengeance. In consequence of there being a good baggage-guard, the Beloochees made themselves tolerably scarce during this march, although the ground was very favourable for them. However, they now and then took long shots from the nullahs, &c., that were near the road, but without doing any damage. At last, a soldier, from the baggage-guard company of the 17th, having occasion to fall out, and going into a nullah for his purpose, unexpectedly found himself cheek by jowl with thirty of these rascals. He was knocked down, but bellowing out most lustily, his section came up, and being joined by another section of the Queen’s, they shot about six of them dead, and put the rest to flight, having rescued the 17th man. The robbers at this place were _rather_ forward, and actually walked off with some camels that were out feeding close to the rear of our encampment, in the middle of the day. They were, however, all recovered very soon by the Irregulars, and those of the robbers who could not manage to escape, managed to get their heads broken by these surwars; and intelligence having been received that a whole gang, with their families, were encamped near us, a party of fourteen, and one jemadar, of the 1st Light Cavalry, were sent out, who coming unexpectedly upon them, the robbers advanced to shew fight, when the jemadar gave the word to fire, and each trooper brought down his bird. The rest immediately took to their heels, and owing to the nature of the ground (it was among the hills) effected their escape. The troopers returned to camp with the swords and shields, &c., of the fallen. From this place we marched again the next morning, and a short and easy march brought us to Dadur.

_June 27th_.–I have not been able to write much lately, as it was literally too hot to do so. We have had it from 115 to 120 in our tents during the day; for the last week, however, it has been getting cooler, and to-day is pleasant enough. I wished also to keep the letter open as long as I could; but now, since we march on Sunday next, the 30th, I have not much time left, though I have a great deal more to say. I received by the mail the confirmation of my lieutenancy, by Sir H. Fane, from Bombay. An “overland” arrived again here last night, but no letters or anything for me. I see, by the English papers, that there was a report at home that we had lost 3000 men already–the greatest lie possible. If we had lost that, we should have lost more than half the Bombay army. We have not lost more than we generally do in quarters, though the men have been, terribly knocked up, and well they may be, with the horrible marches they have made. I was very much amused by the debates in Parliament, with regard to our “military promenade,” as some of the papers call it. I wish I could see some of their writers on an out-lying picket, with a prospect of a twenty miles’ march, I rather think they would not talk so much of “promenading.” The Bengal army, with our cavalry, and most of the artillery, marched this morning for Cabool. Shah Shooja goes to-morrow or next day, and we bring up the rear, as I said before, on Sunday. However, we will talk of that anon, or I shall forget where I left off. On looking back, I find that I have brought the force up as far as Dadur. Well; we halted there till the 12th. The 17th, artillery and Irregular Horse, however, marched before us, on the 9th. While there, the rascally Beloochees and Kaukers kept hovering about us, and walked off with some camels and a horse or two. They generally, however, paid very dearly for them, as the cavalry that were sent after them on these occasions made a terrible example of them.

While here we heard of a shocking murder at Curachee. A Captain Hand, of the 1st Bombay Grenadier Regiment, was taking his morning’s ride, when, on turning a corner on the top of a hill, he unexpectedly found himself in the midst of about thirty Beloochees. They talked to him very civilly, and he allowed them to get round his horse, not suspecting anything, when one rascal behind him gave him a terrible wipe on the back of his head with his sword, which knocked him off his horse, and the others rushed in, and cut him to pieces. A Lieut. Clarke, of the same corps, happened to be riding this way, and seeing these Beloochees, asked them if they had seen a Latich pass that way, meaning Hand; to which they replied by a volley from their matchlocks, a ball from one of which struck Clarke on the leg, and he galloped for camp as fast as he could, and fell off his horse exhausted before the quarter-guard of H.M. 40th regiment. A party was immediately sent out, and they found the body of poor Hand horribly mutilated. A good number of these rascals have been since taken, and, I suppose, hanged; unless the conciliation principle lets these rascals off also. They belong to different bands, under different robber-chiefs, among the hills. These robber Khans have strongholds on the almost inaccessible mountains that run up the whole west frontier of Sinde, and divide it from Beloochistan. All merchandize and travellers passing through Sinde to the west of the Indus are obliged to pay a sort of black mail to these Khans to be allowed to pass through; but so bad is their name for treachery, ferocity, &c., that few, if any, of the traders between India and Central Asia go this route. They do not care a farthing for the Ameers, who also secretly connive at their proceedings, in order to draw recruits from them on any emergency.

Well; we got the steam up again on the 12th, and, together with the 4th Light Dragoons, and about sixty Irregulars, started for the celebrated Bolan Pass, with a great quantity of commissariat stores from Bukkur, for the army in advance, under our charge. This celebrated Pass would be the best line of communication between the countries of Central Asia and Sinde; and as far as the Pass is concerned itself, it is quite guiltless of the bad character it holds. It is merely the bed of a winter torrent, and is an easy ascent the whole way through; and during the greater part of the year quite passable for any description, of conveyance; but in consequence of the great number of robbers, from all parts of Beloochistan and Sinde, who infest it, no one thinks of travelling this route, unless with a very strong escort. A great number, therefore, of native merchants, &c., took advantage of the opportunities offered by the passage of it by the different divisions of our army. We had with us a native horse-dealer, who had travelled the same way down the year before, with horses for the Bombay market, and, as he considered, with a sufficient escort; but they were suddenly attacked, his brother killed, and he only saved himself by the swiftness of his horse. These robbers are several degrees more savage than even their brother Beloochees in the south of Sinde. There are two clans of them. The Kaukers and Tuckers; of these, the Kaukers are by far the worst. They are represented as being regular barbarians, and are even said to be cannibals, though perhaps that is a little too melodramatic. They possess few fire-arms, but roll down large pieces of rock in the narrow passes, and rush out from the small recesses of the rocks, leading God knows where, which abound in every part. They never spare any one, and cut and hack about the bodies of their victims in the most frightful manner. With all this they are the greatest cowards possible; a few determined men would be a match for the greatest odds; but the very name of Kauker seems to convey terror in it to a traveller. I saw the head of one of these rascals lying about at Dadur, and it was the most frightful face I ever beheld, more like a wild beast’s than a human being’s. On entering the Pass, which we did as if expecting an enemy, with skirmishers, flanking parties, &c., we were nearly stifled by the horrible smell arising from the number of dead camels which were lying on the ground, in every degree of putrefaction. We soon, however, came to bodies of a different sort; for on the banks of a small rivulet, and in the water, most in the long reeds, some in the middle of the road, were about twenty or thirty dead Sepoys and followers. They were in every kind of shape and contortion that could indicate a violent death. Some were in a tolerable state of preservation, but others, again, had been sadly mauled; tripes torn out by jackals, and one or two were perfect skeletons. We kept on coming also upon an arm or a leg, or an ugly-looking skull; but the most disgusting sight was an arm and leg, protruding out of the centre of the stream, washed to the consistency of a washer-woman’s hand after a hard day’s washing. If you can fancy all this on a dark, sluggish-looking stream, surrounded by high and barren rocks, you may, perhaps, guess what feelings of disgust it excited in us. However, before reaching Candahar we were pretty well accustomed to these sights, and got rather callous on the subject, as there was a fair sprinkling of them to be met with all the way to that town. Well; we made five marches through this delightful Pass, and debouched on a fine wide plain on the 17th. Not a stick, not a particle of forage, except some high rank grass, was to be got in all this time, and we had been obliged to take on supplies for our camels and horses from Dadur; so there was a new expense, and new carriage to be provided. The robbers did not attempt any attack upon us at all (though, if they had had the slightest pluck, they might have crippled us pretty considerably) except in the last march, but then we fired on them first. My company was on baggage-guard this day, which was sent on in advance of the column; and Halket, seeing some of the rascals on the hills, had a crack at them with his double-barrel, which produced a reply of three shots from them; but a soldier of the company taking a beautiful aim at one of them, at a distance I am afraid to mention, and nearly knocking a fellow’s head off, the rest took to their heels, and we saw no more of them. Our Grenadiers, however, who were bringing up the rear, had a slight skrimmage with them, and killed five or six, without any of their shots taking effect, although one man’s firelock and another man’s belt were cut in half by a bullet. They fired on the column which came on afterwards, and wounded one trooper of the Light Dragoons, and a few native followers, and killed three horses. Most of us lost a deal of kit in this Pass, owing to the camels’ feet knocking up, from the sharpness of the stones; and the very moment the column was off the ground the rascals would be down and fighting for what was left behind. I was on rear-guard the second day’s march, and the very moment we cleared the ground it was most amusing to see the rascals popping out of the holes in the rocks in every direction.

On the 18th, we reached Siriab, where we halted for one day. This was a rather pretty valley, with some fruit gardens, but the fruit not ripe. Here I was taken unwell, and obliged to go on the sick-list; I had been ailing some time; the doctor, however, put me off the list again on the 24th; but owing to the fatigue &c. I underwent on 25th, in going through the Ghwozhe Pass, I caught a violent fever, and the next day was laid on my beam ends, and did not get round again till the middle of last month. In the Ghwozhe Pass our company was on baggage guard. We left our last encamping ground at 3 A.M. on the 25th; we had only four miles to the Pass, and the Pass was five more, when we reached our new ground, so it was not more than nine miles altogether, yet it was 10 o’clock at night before the rear-guard, bringing up the fag end of the baggage, came in. For nearly the whole of this day I was exposed to an infernally hot sun, and the stench arising from the dead cattle was really frightful. I was also literally twenty-six hours without getting a morsel to eat or a drop to drink, and but the day before on the sick-list. No wonder I was laid up! This Ghwozhe Pass was a great deal worse than any part of the Bolan. It was nothing but a succession of the most difficult ascents and precipitous descents; the most trying kind of ground for the poor camels, who fell down in great numbers, and in some parts the path lay between two high rocks, and was only four feet wide; how the artillery got over it I cannot imagine. A handful of determined men could, I should think, defend it against an army. We were on the _qui vive_ the