Military Service and Adventures in the Far East_ Vol. 2 (of 2) Including Sketches of the Campaigns Against the Afghans in 1839, and the Sikhs in 1845-6.
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Title: Military Service and Adventures in the Far East, Vol. II (of 2)
Including Sketches of the Campaigns Against the Afghans in 1839, and the Sikhs in 1845-6
Author: Daniel Henry MacKinnon
Release Date: June 18, 2018 [eBook #57350]
Character set encoding: UTF-8
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK MILITARY SERVICE AND ADVENTURES IN THE FAR EAST, VOL. II (OF 2)***
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Volume I: see http://www.gutenberg.org/files/55844/55844-h/55844-h.htm
ADVENTURES IN THE FAR EAST:
SKETCHES OF THE CAMPAIGNS
AGAINST THE AFGHANS IN 1839,
AND THE SIKHS IN 1845-6.
BY A CAVALRY OFFICER.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND.
CONTENTS OF VOL. II.
The commander-in-chief returns to England—Disastrousinsurrection throughout Afghanistan—Jellalabad holdsout, and General Pollock advances upon Caubul
Visit to Agra—Journey through Central India via Gwaliorand Indore to Bombay
Arrival in Calcutta—Departure for the south-western frontier—Arrivalat Merut—State of affairs on the north-westernfrontier—The Sikh military establishment—The Britishposition
The British forces—The Sikh army cross the Sutlej—Thebattle of Moodkee—Position and operations considered
The army advance to attack the Sikhs in their entrenchedcamp at Ferozeshuhur—The actions of the 21st and 22ndof December—Sikhs retreat behind the Sutlej—Observations
Assemblage of the British forces on the Sutlej—Sikhsthreaten to recross—Sir Harry Smith detached towardsLoodiana—Skirmish near Buddewal
Sir Harry Smith advances to attack the Sikhs in their camp—Thebattle of Aliwal—The enemy defeated and drivenacross the river—Observations
Sir Harry Smith's division march to rejoin the head-quartersof the army—Preparations to eject the enemy from theirposition on the British side of the river
The battle of Sobraon—The enemy defeated and drivenacross the river with enormous loss
The British forces cross the Sutlej, and are concentrated atKussoor—Visit of Ghoolab Singh and Dhuleep Singh tothe Governor-general—The army advance to Lahore—TheSikh army disperse, and surrender their guns
Ratification of the treaty—Observations on the effects likelyto be produced thereby—Conclusion
IN THE FAR EAST.
THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF RETURNS TO ENGLAND—DISASTROUS INSURRECTIONTHROUGHOUT AFGHANISTAN—JELLALABAD HOLDS OUT, AND GENERAL POLLOCKADVANCES UPON CAUBUL.
After the breaking up of the army of the Indus, Sir John Keaneproceeded down the Indus, and shortly afterwards embarked for England,where those honours, titles, and pecuniary rewards awaited him, whichwould have entitled him to the appellation of one of the most fortunatesoldiers who ever acquired laurels in India—had he survived long toenjoy the distinction.
Fortunate, indeed, may Sir John Keane be termed, in having brought toan apparently suc[Pg 2]cessful conclusion a campaign which was founded inerror and injustice, and placed in the hands of the commander-in-chiefwith the fullest assurance of the directing arm of Providence leadingthe small band through a country of which the little that was knownshould have induced a supposition that an army provided with aninsufficient amount of supplies must meet with enormous difficulties.By some unaccountable fatality, the Afghans neglected the advantagesthus afforded them, and thereby induced a supposition that the warlikespirit of the tribes who had overrun and conquered Hindostan haddeparted for ever; and that a handful of British soldiers would besufficient to maintain possession of a country inhabited by a nationwhose hands were fitted at their birth to the cimeter, and whose eyes,when capable of distinguishing objects with accuracy, were directedalong the barrel of a rifle.
Trusting, doubtless, in the resources of their monarch to repel theBritish invasion, no coalition was formed amongst the mountain tribes;but when the abhorred Feringhee had seized their king and establishedhimself in the land of their[Pg 3] fathers, and when, moreover, they beheldhim, lulled into security, break up his forces and march the greaterportion of his army homewards through the jaws of the tremendousportals of Afghanistan, the lighted torch flew with resolute speedfrom the valley of Quetta to the mountains of Kohistan. The Ghilzie,whose heel had been bruised, but whose arm was not unnerved, rousedhis brethren to vengeance, and the eloquence of Akbar, pleading forthe diadem which had been snatched from his ambitious hopes, found aresponsive echo in the heart of every true Barukzye.
A tribe of insolent plunderers had established themselves in the KhoordCaubul, and had the audacity to interfere with the letter-carriers.The gallant Sale, with his brigade, hastened to brush these intrudersfrom the surface of the mountains, but the band of robbers had swollento an army; and though, by desperate valour and unwearied exertion, apassage was forced through every obstacle, yet the passes closed uponthe isolated brigade, and the communication with the ill-fated garrisonof Caubul was cut off for ever.
Red with the slaughter of their enemies, and[Pg 4] faint from their ownwounds, the wearied band of soldiers, under Sale, threw themselvesinto Jellalabad. Then burst the startling intelligence over the plainsof India that an insurrection had broken out amongst the far-distantmountains of Afghanistan, and that our fellow-soldiers were illprovided with sustenance, short of ammunition, and enveloped amongstcountless swarms of enemies. I will not enter minutely on the detailsof that insurrection, which shook the fabric of our Eastern powerto its centre, brought unmerited obloquy on the British name, andentailed the most harrowing series of disasters on the hapless army inAfghanistan that England's history can record in her military annals.
The task of recapitulating the succession of horrors which took placein Caubul has been undertaken by eye-witnesses and sufferers from thesmall remnant of the Caubul garrison who escaped.
Amongst that catalogue of miseries and massacre we have the consolatoryreflection that the Afghans found no grounds to assert that theBritish, though worn with toil, and pierced by[Pg 5] incessant cold,derogated in aught from their national fame. From the first struggle onleaving the entrenched camp at Caubul, unto the final catastrophe atGundamuk, the Afghans were cautious of meeting our fellow-countrymenat close quarters. When they tried the experiment, led by the alluringsatisfaction of revelling in Feringhee gore, they found that, althoughheart-broken and disorganized, the Briton was ever ready to die facinghis enemy. Peace to the manes of those maligned and hapless warriors,whose bones are bleaching on every height and valley of that ruggeddesolation (fit scene for such a catastrophe) which disfigures theface of the country, from the gates of the Bala Hissar to the wallsof Jellalabad! And, peace to the ashes of the worthy and amiableElphinstone! It rested not with him that, suffering under bodilyweakness and worn by mental anxieties in his arduous command, he shouldhave lived to end his honourable days in an enemy's camp. The soldierhas no choice but to obey the authority which places him in command,and those authorities are answerable to their countrymen for theselection.
But the British power fell not with her general and his army. Kandaharwas held with security in the iron grasp of Nott. The littlegarrison of Khelat-i-Ghilzie held resolutely their post against therepeated and determined attacks of their blood-thirsty foe; and thehaughty Akbar, with the bravest of his mountain tribes, was checked inhis murderous career under the walls of Jellalabad. The "illustriousgarrison" maintained their isolated post against cold, starvation, theoverwhelming mass of vaunting Afghans, and against the convulsionsof nature when an earthquake cast down their fortifications and leftno artificial barrier, beyond their weapons, between the hordes ofAfghanistan and Sale's devoted band.
Vain were the efforts made by the Native Infantry Brigade, fromPeshawur, to force the passage of the Khyber, for the spirit of thosesavage mountaineers was roused; every hill was watched with untiringvigilance, and the two[Pg 7] regiments which penetrated to Ali Musjid hadlittle cause to congratulate themselves on their undertaking. Atlength, the "avenging army," under the guidance of General Pollock,having traversed the Punjaub with rapid strides, arrived at the gorgeof the Khyber, and joyfully received the tidings of Jellalabad beingstill in the hands of Sale.
Resting awhile to give breath to his soldiers, and to see his armyproperly equipped, the gallant general (armed with full discretionarypower from the noble and sagacious Ellenborough, whose strong arm nowguided the helm of India) prepared to advance. From every villageand fastness of the gloomy Khyber the gathering call had goneforth, and the ready mountaineers hastened to the defence of theirhereditary defiles; but their haste was of no avail, for the Britonswere advancing to save their gallant countrymen, to retaliate on theauthors of the Caubul atrocities, and to rescue their countrywomen fromcaptivity. Advancing, with his main body in the jaws of the defile,whilst his two wings spread over the flanking mountains, GeneralPollock drove the reluctant Khyberees[Pg 8] from hill and sungahe oftheir mountain chain, and, with a trifling loss, stood inside thebarriers of Afghanistan, and within a few marches of Jellalabad; butSale's daring band of warriors had provided for their own safety.Their bastions had sunk into dust before the earthquake, which rolledfrom the mountains of the Indian Caucasus across the Punjaub andinto the heart of India; but, undaunted in heart and resolution, thegarrison of Jellalabad opposed their breasts to the enemy, whilst theworkmen repaired the damages: and let Akbar Khan (the treacherousand cold-blooded assassin) and the remnant of his twenty thousandcompanions in arms, bear witness to the unimpaired energy andcourage of the garrison of Jellalabad. Heedless of the approachingreinforcements from India, they sallied, scarce two thousand in number,from the gates of their fortress, piercing the centre of the Afghanhosts, where the flashing sabre and deadly bayonet inflicted a partialretribution on their enemies, still reeking with the blood of theCaubul Tragedy.
That victory was purchased with the life of the heroic Dennie. Butwhere, save on the battle-field, should the soldier hope to fall, andwhen can the dart of death be more welcome to the warrior's breast thanwhen, falling in the arms of victory, he feels the immortal laurelwreath rest lightly on his brow? Maligned by those who were jealous ofhis fame and acquirements, he fell in the vigour of manhood, and we maysadly concur with the panegyrist of Moore, in exclaiming—
"Lightly they'll talk of the spirit that's gone,
And o'er his cold ashes upbraid him;
But nothing he'll reck if they let him sleep on
In the grave where