Forty-One Years in India
From Subaltern to Commander-In-Chief
FIELD MARSHAL LORD ROBERTS
It appears probable that at this period the general expectation amongst the Afghans was that the British Government would exact a heavy retribution from the nation and city, and that, after vengeance had been satisfied, the army would be withdrawn.
Thirty-seven years before, a British massacre had been followed by a temporary occupation of the city of Kabul, and just as the troops of Pollock and Nott, on that occasion, had sacked and destroyed the great bazaar and then retired, so in 1879 the people believed that some signal punishment would again be succeeded by the withdrawal of our troops. Thus a period of doubt and expectation ensued after the battle of Charasia; the Afghans were waiting on events, and the time had not arrived for a general movement.
This pause, however, was marked by certain occurrences which doubtless touched the national pride to the quick, and which were also susceptible of being used by the enemies of the British Government to excite into vivid fanaticism the religious sentiment, which has ever formed a prominent trait in the Afghan character.
The prolonged occupation by foreign troops of the fortified cantonment which had been prepared by the late Amir Sher Ali for his own army; the capture of the large park of Artillery, and of the vast munitions of war, which had raised the military strength of the Afghans to a standard unequalled among Asiatic nations; the destruction of their historic fortress, the residence of their Kings; and, lastly, the deportation to India of their Amir and his principal Ministers, were all circumstances which united to increase to a high pitch the antipathy naturally felt towards a foreign invader.
The temper of the people being in this inflammable condition, it was clear that only disunion and jealousy amongst their Chiefs prevented their combining against us, and that if any impetus could be given to their religious sentiment strong enough to unite the discordant elements in a common cause, a powerful movement would be initiated, having for its object our annihilation or expulsion from their country.
Such an impetus was supplied by the fervent preaching of the aged[Page 429] mulla Mushk-i-Alam,1 who denounced the English in every mosque throughout the country. The people were further incited to rise by the appeals of the ladies of Yakub Khan's family to popular sympathy, and bribed to do so by the distribution of the concealed treasure at their command.
The mullas, in short, became masters of the situation, and, having once succeeded in subordinating private quarrels to hatred of the common foe, the movement rapidly assumed the aspect of a religious war. The Afghan successes of 1841-42 were cited as examples of what might happen again, and the people were assured that, if they would only act simultaneously, the small British army in Sherpur would be overwhelmed, and the plunder of our camp would be part of their reward.
From time to time reports reached me of what was going on, and, from the information supplied to me, I gathered that the Afghans intended to gain possession of the city, and, after occupying the numerous forts and villages in the neighbourhood of Sherpur, to surround the cantonment.
It was under the stimulating influences of religious enthusiasm, patriotic and military ardour, the prestige of former success, and the hope of remuneration and plunder, that the Afghans took the field against us early in December.
Serious Trouble Ahead It was arranged that the forces from the south2 should seize the range of hills extending from Charasia to the Shahr-i-Darwaza heights, including the fortifications of the upper Bala Hissar and the high conical peak called the Takht-i-Shah; that those from the north3 should occupy the Asmai heights and hills to the north of Kabul; and those from the west4 should make direct for the city.
As it was evident to me that these several bodies, when once concentrated at Kabul, would be joined by the thousands in the city, and the inhabitants of the adjoining villages, I determined to try and deal with the advancing forces in detail, and disperse them, if possible, before the concentration could be effected. I had, however, but a very imperfect idea of the extent of the combination, or of the enormous numbers arrayed against us. My intelligence was most defective; neither the nature of the country nor the attitude of the people admitted of extended reconnaissances, and I was almost entirely dependent for information on Afghan sources. Some of the Afghan soldiers in our ranks aided me to the best of their ability, but by the Sirdars, notably Wali Mahomed Khan, I was, either wilfully or from ignorance, grossly misinformed as to the formidable character of the[Page 430] rising. But that there was serious trouble ahead was plain enough when the conflicting reports had been carefully sifted, and I therefore thought it only prudent to telegraph to General Bright at Jalalabad to push on the Guide Corps, although I was very much averse to augmenting the Sherpur garrison, and thereby increasing the drain on our supplies.
In the meantime immediate action was necessary to carry out my idea of preventing the different sections of the enemy concentrating at Kabul. I accordingly prepared two columns: one under Macpherson, whose orders were to attack the tribesmen coming from the north before they could join those advancing from the west; the other under Baker, who was instructed to place himself across the line by which the enemy would have to retreat when beaten, as I hoped they would be, by Macpherson.
Macpherson5 started on the 8th towards Kila Aushar, about three miles from Sherpur, en route to Arghandeh. And on the following morning Baker, with a small force,6 proceeded to Chihal Dukhteran, giving out that his destination was the Logar valley, and that he would march by Charasia, as I had directed him to make a feint in that direction, and then to turn to the west, and place himself between Arghandeh and Maidan, on the Ghazni road.
To give Baker time to carry out this movement, I halted Macpherson at Kila Aushar on the 9th, whence he sent out two reconnoitring parties —one in the direction of Kohistan, the other, in charge of Lieutenant-Colonel Lockhart,7 A.Q.M.G., towards Arghandeh.
The intelligence brought in induced me to change my orders to Macpherson. The first party reported that a very considerable force of Kohistanis had collected at Karez-i-Mir, about ten miles north of Kila Aushar, while Lockhart had discovered large numbers of the enemy moving from Arghandeh and Paghman towards Kohistan. Accordingly, I directed Macpherson to attack the Kohistanis, in the hope of being able to disperse them before the people from Ghazni could join them; and, as the part of the country through which he had to move was unsuited to Horse Artillery and Cavalry, I ordered him to leave the mounted portion of his column, except one squadron of Cavalry, at Kila Aushar.
Macpherson made a rapid advance on the morning of the 10th December, skirting the fringe of low hills which intervenes between[Page 431] Kohistan and the Chardeh valley. He reached the Surkh Kotal—which divides western Kohistan from the Arghandeh valley—without opposition. From this point, however, the Kohistanis were sighted, occupying a position about two miles to his right front, their centre on a steep, conical, isolated hill, at the base of which lay the village of Karez-i-Mir.
Macpherson was now able to obtain a good view of the Paghman and Chardeh valleys on his left and left rear, and the numerous standards planted on the different knolls near the villages of Paghman gave ample evidence of the presence of the enemy discovered by Lockhart the previous day, and showed him that, unless he could quickly succeed in scattering the Kohistanis, he would find himself attacked by an enemy in his rear, in fact, between two fires.
Macpherson attacks the Kohistanis Macpherson made his disposition for an attack with skill and rapidity. Leaving Lieutenant-Colonel Money with one company of the 67th, five companies of the 3rd Sikhs, and two guns, to hold the ridge, he sent the remainder of the Sikhs to harass the enemy's left flank and support the Cavalry, who were ordered to hover about and threaten the line of retreat, while Macpherson himself went forward with the rest of the force.
The Kohistanis retreated rapidly before our skirmishers, and the attacking party, protected by a well-directed fire from Morgan's guns, advanced with such promptitude that the enemy made no attempt to rally until they reached the conical hill, where they made a stubborn resistance. The hill was carried by assault, its defenders were driven off, leaving seven standards on the field, and Morgan, bringing up his Artillery, inflicted severe loss on the flying Kohistanis. On this occasion Major Cook, V.C., of the 5th Gurkhas, was again noticed for his conspicuous gallantry, and Major Griffiths, of the 3rd Sikhs, greatly distinguished himself. Our casualties were one officer (Lieutenant-Colonel Fitz-Hugh) and six men wounded.
It was evident that the tribesmen from the directions of Arghandeh and Paghman intended to ascend the Surkh Kotal, but suddenly they appeared to change their minds, on discovering, probably, that our troops held all the commanding positions and that their allies were in full flight.
Soon after noon on the 10th I received the report of Macpherson's success and the enemy's retirement towards Arghandeh. I at once sent off Lieutenant-Colonel B. Gordon, R.H.A., with orders to intercept them with the Horse Artillery and Cavalry at Aushar; but when I rode over myself later in the day to that place, I was much disappointed to find that Gordon had not been able to give effect to my instructions, as the enemy, on perceiving his troops, dispersed and took shelter in the surrounding villages and on the slopes of the hills.
Macpherson encamped for the night between the Surkh Kotal and[Page 432] Karez-i-Mir, and Baker, who had steadily pursued his march along a very difficult road, halted a short distance west of Maidan and eight miles only from Arghandeh.
Combined Movements To Macpherson I sent orders to march very early the next morning—the 11th—through Paghman towards Arghandeh and in Baker's direction; at the same time I informed him that Massy, whom I had placed in command of the troops at Aushar, would, according to directions from me, leave that place at nine o'clock to co-operate with him, viâ the Arghandeh and Ghazni road. That evening Massy came to my room, and I carefully explained to him his part in the next day's proceedings; I told him that he was to advance cautiously and quietly by the road leading directly from the city of Kabul towards Arghandeh, feeling for the enemy; that he was to communicate with Macpherson and act in conformity with that officer's movements; and I impressed upon him that he was on no account to commit himself to an action until Macpherson had engaged the enemy.
Up to this time the combination of tribesmen, which later proved so formidable, had not been effected; Macpherson for the time being had dispersed the Kohistanis and checked the force advancing from Ghazni under the leadership of Mahomed Jan; the Logaris and Ghilzais were merely watching events, and waiting to see how it fared with the Kohistani and Ghazni factions, before committing themselves to hostilities; they had but recently witnessed our successful advance through their country; they knew that their homes and property would be at our mercy should we be victorious, and they were uncertain as to Baker's movements.
On the morning of the 11th December,8 therefore, only one section was actually in opposition to us, that led by Mahomed Jan, who during the night of the 10th had taken up a position near the group of villages known as Kila Kazi.
Further, I felt that Mahomed Jan must be disheartened at our recent success, and at his failure to induce the Logaris to join him, and doubtless[Page 433] felt that a movement towards Kabul would expose his left flank to Macpherson, while his rear would be threatened by Baker.
The uncertainty of war The strength of Baker's and Macpherson's columns had been carefully considered, as well as the routes they were to take. I was thoroughly well acquainted with the ground comprised in the theatre of the proposed operations, having frequently ridden over it during the preceding two months; I was thus able to calculate to a nicety the difficulties each column would have to encounter and the distances they would have to cover, and arrange with the utmost precision the hour at which each Commander should move off to insure a timely junction. So that when I left Sherpur at ten o'clock on the 11th December to take command of Macpherson's and Massy's columns as soon as they should unite, I had no misgivings, and was sanguine that my carefully arranged programme would result in the discomfiture of Mahomed Jan; but the events which followed on that day afforded a striking exemplification of the uncertainty of war, and of how even a very slight divergence from a General's orders may upset plans made with the greatest care and thought, and lead to disastrous results.
Massy could not have clearly understood the part he was meant to take in co-operation with Macpherson, for instead of following the route I had directed him to take, he marched straight across country to the Ghazni road, which brought him face to face with the enemy before he could be joined by Macpherson. In his explanatory report Massy stated that he had been misled by a memorandum9 which he received from the Assistant Adjutant-General after his interview with me (although this memorandum contained nothing contradictory of the orders I had given him); that he understood from it that his business was to reach the Ghazni road at its nearest point in the direction of Arghandeh, and that he thought it better, with a thirty miles' march in prospect, to take the most direct line in order to save his horses, to economize time in a short December day, and to keep as near as he could to the column with which he was to co-operate; further, he stated that he was under the impression there was little likelihood of his meeting with any of the enemy nearer than Arghandeh.
On starting from Aushar Massy detached a troop of the 9th Lancers to communicate with Macpherson. This reduced his column to 247 British and 44 Native Cavalry, with 4 Horse Artillery guns.
The Fight in the Chardeh Valley As the party moved along the Chardeh valley, a loud beating of drums was heard, and Captain Bloomfield Gough, 9th Lancers, commanding[Page 434] the advance guard, perceived when he had moved to about a mile north of Kila Kazi, that the enemy were occupying hills on both sides of the Ghazni road, about two miles to his left front, and sent back word to that effect. Massy, not believing that the Afghans had collected in any considerable numbers, continued to advance; but he was soon undeceived by the crowds of men and waving standards which shortly came into view moving towards Kila Kazi. He then ordered Major Smith-Wyndham to open fire, but the range, 2,900 yards, being considered by Colonel Gordon, the senior Artillery officer, too far for his six-pounders, after a few rounds the guns were moved across the Ghazni road, and again brought into action at 2,500 yards; as this distance was still found to be too great, they were moved to 2,000 yards. The enemy now pressed forward on Massy's left flank, which was also his line of retreat, and the guns had to be retired about a mile, covered on the right and left by the 9th Lancers and the 14th Bengal Lancers respectively, and followed so closely by the Afghans that when fire was next opened they were only 1,700 yards distant. Four Horse Artillery guns could do nothing against such numbers attacking without any regular formation, and when the leading men came within carbine range, Massy tried to stop them by dismounting thirty of the 9th Lancers; but their fire 'had no appreciable effect.'
It was at this critical moment that I appeared on the scene. Warned by the firing that an engagement was taking place, I galloped across the Chardeh valley as fast as my horse could carry me, and on gaining the open ground beyond Bhagwana, an extraordinary spectacle was presented to my view. An unbroken line, extending for about two miles, and formed of not less than between 9,000 and 10,000 men, was moving rapidly towards me, all on foot save a small body of Cavalry on their left flank—in fact, the greater part of Mahomed Jan's army. To meet this formidable array, instead of Macpherson's and Massy's forces, which I hoped I should have found combined, there were but 4 guns, 198 of the 9th Lancers under Lieutenant-Colonel Cleland, 40 of the 14th Bengal Lancers under Captain Philip Neville, and at some little distance Gough's troop of the 9th Lancers, who were engaged in watching the enemy's Cavalry.
The inequality of the opposing forces was but too painfully apparent. The first glance at the situation showed me the hopelessness of continuing the struggle without Infantry. Up to that moment our casualties had not been many, as Afghans seldom play at long bowls, it being necessary for them to husband their ammunition, and when, as in the present instance, they outnumber their adversaries by forty to one, they universally try to come to close quarters and use their knives.
Forced to Retire My first thought was how to secure the best and shortest line of retreat; it lay by Deh-i-Mazang, but in order to use it, the gorge close [Page 435] by that village had to be held; for if the enemy reached it first they would have no difficulty in gaining the heights above Kabul, which would practically place the city at their mercy.
I was very anxious also to prevent any panic or disturbance taking place in Kabul. I therefore told General Hills, who just then opportunely joined me, to gallop to Sherpur, explain to Brigadier-General Hugh Gough, who had been placed in temporary command of that place, how matters stood, and order 200 of the 72nd Highlanders to come to Deh-i-Mazang with the least possible delay. I directed Hills, after having delivered this message, to make for the city, shut the gates, and do all in his power to keep the people quiet, while warning the Kizilbashes10 to be prepared to defend their quarter. I then despatched my nephew and A.D.C., Lieutenant John Sherston, to Macpherson to inform him of what had happened, and desire him to push on with the utmost speed.
Having taken these precautionary measures, I sent another A.D.C., Captain Pole Carew, to Brigadier-General Massy to direct him to try and find a way by which the guns could retire in case of a necessity, which appeared to me to be only too probable.
The engagement had now become a question of time. If Mahomed Jan could close with and overwhelm our small force, Kabul would be his; but if, by any possibility, his advance could be retarded until Macpherson should come up, we might hope to retain possession of the city. It was, therefore, to the Afghan leader's interest to press on, while it was to ours to delay him as long as we possibly could.
Pole Carew presently returned with a message from Massy that the enemy were close upon him, and that he could not keep them in check. I desired Pole Carew to go back, order Massy to retire the guns, and cover the movement by a charge of Cavalry.
The charge was led by Lieutenant-Colonel Cleland and Captain Neville, the former of whom fell dangerously wounded; but the ground, terraced for irrigation purposes and intersected by nullas, so impeded our Cavalry that the charge, heroic as it was, made little or no impression upon the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, now flushed with the triumph of having forced our guns to retire. The effort, however, was worthy of the best traditions of our British and Indian Cavalry, and that it failed in its object was no fault of our gallant soldiers. To assist them in their extremity, I ordered two of Smyth-Windham's four guns to halt and come into action while the other two continued to retire, but these had not gone far before they got into such difficult ground that one had to be spiked and abandoned in a water-cut, where[Page 436] Smyth-Windham found it when he came up after having fired a few rounds at the fast advancing foe. I now ordered Smyth-Windham to make for the village of Bhagwana with his three remaining guns, as the only chance left of saving them. This he did, and having reached the village, he again opened fire from behind a low wall which enclosed the houses; but the ammunition being nearly expended, and the enemy close at hand, there was nothing for it but to limber up again and continue the retirement through the village. At the further side, however, and forming part of its defences, was a formidable obstacle in the shape of a ditch fully twelve feet deep, narrowing towards the bottom; across this Smyth-Windham tried to take his guns, and the leading horses had just begun to scramble up the further bank, when one of the wheelers stumbled and fell, with the result that the shafts broke and the gun stuck fast, blocking the only point at which there was any possibility of getting the others across.
With a faint hope of saving the guns, I directed Captain Stewart-Mackenzie, who had assumed command of the 9th Lancers on Cleland being disabled, to make a second charge, which he executed with the utmost gallantry,11 but to no purpose; and in the meanwhile Smyth-Windham had given the order to unhook and spike the guns.
Padre Adams earns the V.C. By this time the enemy were within a few hundred yards of Bhagwana, and the inhabitants had begun to fire at us from the roofs of their houses. I was endeavouring to help some men out of the ditch, when the headman of the village rushed at me with his knife, seeing which, a Mahomedan12 of the 1st Bengal Cavalry, who was following me on foot, having just had his horse shot under him, sprang at my assailant, and, seizing him round the waist, threw him to the bottom of the ditch, thereby saving my life.13
Suddenly the Afghans stayed their advance for a few minutes,[Page 437] thinking, as I afterwards learnt, that our Infantry were in the village—a pause which allowed many of our Cavalry who had lost their horses to escape.14
Directly we had got clear of the village the Cavalry reformed, and retired slowly by alternate squadrons, in a manner which excited my highest admiration, and reflected the greatest credit on the soldierly qualities of Stewart-Mackenzie and Neville. From Bhagwana, Deh-i-Mazang was three miles distant, and it was of vital importance to keep the enemy back in order to give the Highlanders from Sherpur time to reach the gorge.
MacPherson's Column Arrives For a time the Afghans continued to press on as before, but after a while their advance gradually became slower and their numbers somewhat decreased. This change in Mahomed Jan's tactics, it afterwards turned out, was caused by Macpherson's advance guard coming into collision with the rear portion of his army; it was of the greatest advantage to us, as it enabled the 72nd to arrive in time to bar the enemy's passage through the gorge. My relief was great when I beheld them, headed by their eager Commander, Brownlow, doubling through the gap and occupying the village of Deh-i-Mazang and the heights on either side. The Cavalry greeted them with hearty cheers, and the volleys delivered by the Highlanders from the roofs of the houses in the village soon checked the Afghans, some of whom turned back, while others made for Indiki and the slopes of the Takht-i-Shah. For a time, at any rate, their hopes of getting possession of Kabul had been frustrated.
It will be remembered that the orders I sent to Macpherson on the 10th were that he was to march very early the next morning, as Massy with the Horse Artillery and Cavalry would leave Aushar at 9 a.m., and that he must join him on the Arghandeh road. Macpherson did [Page 438] not make so early a start as I had intended; from one cause or another, he said, he was not able to leave Karez-i-Mir before eight o'clock. On reaching the Surkh Kotal he observed dense bodies of the enemy hurrying from the Paghman and Arghandeh directions towards Kila Kazi, and he pushed on, hoping to be able to deal with them individually before they had time to concentrate. For the first three miles from the foot of the pass the view was obstructed by a range of hills, and nothing could be seen of the Horse Artillery and Cavalry; but soon after 10 a.m. the booming of guns warned Macpherson that fighting was going on, but he could not tell whether it was Baker's or Massy's troops which were engaged. He was, however, not left long in doubt, for Lieutenant Neville Chamberlain, attached to Macpherson as political officer, and who had gone on with his advance guard, sent back word that he could distinguish British Cavalry charging the Afghans, and as Baker had only Native Cavalry with him, Macpherson knew at once that the action was being fought by Massy. Suddenly the firing ceased, and he was informed that the enemy were advancing on Kabul, and that their vanguard had already reached the belt of orchards and enclosures, on the further fringe of which the smoke from our guns and the charge of our Cavalry had been seen.
Macpherson, feeling that something serious had occurred, called on his men to make a further effort. At 12.30 p.m., less than an hour after we had begun to retire, he reached the ground where the fight had taken place. The dead bodies of our officers and men, stripped and horribly mutilated, proved how fierce had been the struggle, and the dropping shots which came from the fortified villages in the neighbourhood and from the ravines, warned the Brigadier-General that some of the enemy were still in the neighbourhood. But these men, so bold in the confidence of overwhelming numbers when attacking Massy's Cavalry, were not prepared to withstand Macpherson's Infantry; after a brief resistance they broke and fled in confusion, some to Indiki, but the greater number to the shelter of the hills south of Kila Kazi, to which place Macpherson followed them, intending to halt there for the night. This I did not allow him to do, for, seeing the heavy odds we had opposed to us, and that the enemy were already in possession of the Takht-i-Shah, thus being in a position to threaten the Bala Hissar, I sent orders to him to fall back upon Deh-i-Mazang, where he arrived about 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, Macpherson's baggage, with a guard of the 5th Gurkhas, commanded by Major Cook, V.C., was attacked by some Afghans, who had remained concealed in the Paghman villages, and it would probably have fallen into their hands, as the Gurkhas were enormously outnumbered, but for the timely arrival of four companies of the 3rd Sikhs, under Major Griffiths, who had been left by Macpherson to see everything safely down the pass. Cook himself was knocked over and [Page 439] stunned by a blow, while his brother in the 3rd Sikhs received a severe bullet-wound close to his heart.
The Captured Guns Recovered During the retirement from Bhagwana, Macgregor, my Chief of the Staff, Durand, Badcock, and one or two other staff officers, got separated from me and were presently overtaken by an officer (Captain Gerald Martin), sent by Macpherson to tell Massy he was coming to his assistance as fast as his Infantry could travel; Martin informed Macgregor that as he rode by Bhagwana he had come across our abandoned guns, and that there was no enemy anywhere near them. On hearing this, Macgregor retraced his steps, and, assisted by the staff officers with him and a few Horse Artillerymen and Lancers, and some Gurkhas of Macpherson's baggage guard picked up on the way, he managed to rescue the guns and bring them into Sherpur that night. They had been stripped of all their movable parts, and the ammunition-boxes had been emptied; otherwise they were intact, and were fit for use the next day.
I found assembled at Deh-i-Mazang Wali Mahomed and other Sirdars, who had been watching with considerable anxiety the issue of the fight, for they knew if the Afghans succeeded in their endeavours to enter Kabul, all property belonging to people supposed to be friendly to us would be plundered and their houses destroyed. I severely upbraided these men for having misled me as to the strength and movements of Mahomed Jan's army, and with having failed to fulfil their engagement to keep me in communication with Baker. They declared they had been misinformed themselves, and were powerless in the matter. It was difficult to believe that this was the case, and I was unwillingly forced to the conclusion that not a single Afghan could be trusted, however profuse he might be in his assurances of fidelity, and that we must depend entirely on our own resources for intelligence.
I waited at Deh-i-Mazang until Macpherson arrived, and thus did not get back to Sherpur till after dark. I was gratified on my arrival there to find that Hugh Gough had made every arrangement that could be desired for the defence of the cantonment, and that by his own cool and confident bearing he had kept the troops calm and steady, notwithstanding the untoward appearance of some fugitives from the field of battle, whose only too evident state of alarm might otherwise have caused a panic.
For the safety of Sherpur I never for one moment had the smallest apprehension during that eventful day. It was, I believe, thought by some that if Mahomed Jan, instead of trying for the city, had made for the cantonment, it would have fallen into his hands; but they were altogether wrong, for there were a sufficient number of men within the walls to have prevented such a catastrophe had Mahomed Jan been in a position to make an attack; but this, with Macpherson's brigade [Page 440] immediately in his rear, he could never have dreamt of attempting.
The city of Kabul remained perfectly quiet while all the excitement I have described was going on outside. Hills, with a few Sikhs, patrolled the principal streets, and even when the Afghan standard appeared on the Takht-i-Shah there was no sign of disturbance. Nevertheless, I thought it would be wise to withdraw from the city; I could not tell how long the people would remain well disposed, or whether they would assist us to keep the enemy out. I therefore directed Hills to come away and make over his charge to an influential Kizilbash named Futteh Khan. I also telegraphed to General Bright at Jalalabad to reinforce Gandamak by a sufficient number of troops to hold that post in case it should be necessary to order Brigadier-General Charles Gough, who was then occupying it, to move his brigade nearer to Kabul; for I felt sure that, unless I could succeed in driving Mahomed Jan out of the neighbourhood of Kabul, excitement would certainly spread along my line of communication. I concluded my message to Bright thus: 'If the wire should be cut, consider it a bad sign, and push on to Gandamak, sending Gough's Brigade towards Kabul.'
Melancholy Reflections I could not help feeling somewhat depressed at the turn things had taken. I had no news from Baker, and we had undoubtedly suffered a reverse, which I knew only too well would give confidence to the Afghans, who, from the footing they had now gained on the heights above Kabul, threatened the Bala Hissar, which place, stored as it was with powder and other material of war, I had found it necessary to continue to occupy. Nevertheless, reviewing the incidents of the 11th December, as I have frequently done since, with all the concomitant circumstances deeply impressed on my memory, I have failed to discover that any disposition of my force different from that I made could have had better results, or that what did occur could have been averted by greater forethought or more careful calculation on my part. Two deviations from my programme (which probably at the time appeared unimportant to the Commanders in question) were the principal factors in bringing about the unfortunate occurrences of that day. Had Macpherson marched at 7 a.m. instead of 8, and had Massy followed the route I had arranged for him to take, Mahomed Jan must have fallen into the trap I had prepared for him.
Our casualties on the 11th were—killed, 4 British officers, 16 British and 9 Native rank and file; wounded, 4 British officers, 1 Native officer, 20 British and 10 Native rank and file.
FOOTNOTES, CHAPTER LV
[Footnote 1: Fragrance of the universe.]
[Footnote 2: Viz., Logar, Zurmat, the Mangal and Jadran districts, and the intervening Ghilzai country.]
[Footnote 3: Kohistan.]
[Footnote 4: Maidan and Ghazni.]
[Footnote 5: Macpherson had with him the following troops: 4 guns R.H.A.; 4 guns Mountain battery; 1 squadron 9th Lancers; 2 squadrons 14th Bengal Lancers; 401 rifles 67th Foot; 509 rifles 3rd Sikhs; 393 rifles 5th Ghurkas.]
[Footnote 6: Baker's column consisted of: 4 guns Mountain battery; 3 troops 5th Punjab Cavalry; 25 Sappers and Miners; 450 rifles 92nd Highlanders; 450 rifles 5th Punjab Infantry.]
[Footnote 7: Now Lieutenant-General Sir William Lockhart, K.C.B., K.C.S.I.]
[Footnote 8: On the 11th December, the troops at and around Kabul amounted to 6,352 men and 20 guns, which were thus disposed:
'Brigadier-General Massy will start at eight a.m. to-morrow with a squadron of Cavalry, join the Cavalry and Horse Artillery now out under Colonel Gordon, taking command thereof, and operating towards Arghandeh in conjunction with Brigadier-General Macpherson. The troops to return in the evening.' ]
[Footnote 10: Kizilbashes are Persians by nationality and Shiah Mahomedans by religion. They formed the vanguard of Nadir Shah's invading army, and after his death a number of them settled in Kabul where they exercise considerable influence.]
[Footnote 11: Stewart-Mackenzie's horse was shot, and fell on him, and he was extricated with the greatest difficulty.]
[Footnote 12: Mazr Ali was given the order of merit for his brave action, and is now a Native officer in the regiment.]
[Footnote 13: Our Chaplain (Adams), who had accompanied me throughout the day, behaved in this particular place with conspicuous gallantry. Seeing a wounded man of the 9th Lancers staggering towards him, Adams dismounted, and tried to lift the man on to his own charger. Unfortunately, the mare, a very valuable animal, broke loose, and was never seen again. Adams, however, managed to support the Lancer until he was able to make him over to some of his own comrades.
Adams rejoined me in time to assist two more of the 9th who were struggling under their horses at the bottom of the ditch. Without a moment's hesitation, Adams jumped into the ditch. He was an unusually powerful man, and by sheer strength dragged the Lancers clear of their horses. The Afghans meanwhile had reached Bhagwana, and were so close to the ditch that I thought my friend the padre could not possibly escape. I called out to him to look after himself, but he paid no attention to my warnings until he had pulled the almost exhausted Lancers to the top of the slippery bank. Adams received the Victoria Cross for his conduct on this occasion.]
[Footnote 14: These men were much impeded by their long boots and their swords dangling between their legs; the sight, indeed, of Cavalry soldiers trying to defend themselves on foot without a firearm confirmed the opinion I had formed during the Mutiny, as to the desirability for the carbine being slung on the man's back when going into action. Lieutenant-Colonel Bushman (Colonel Cleland's successor) curiously enough had brought with him from England a sling which admitted of this being done, and also of the carbine being carried in the bucket on all ordinary occasions. This pattern was adopted, and during the remainder of the campaign the men of the 9th Lancers placed their carbines on their backs whenever the enemy were reported to be in sight. At the same time I authorized the adoption of an arrangement—also brought to my notice by Colonel Bushman—by which the sword was fastened to the saddle instead of round the man's body. This mode of wearing the sword was for some time strenuously opposed in this country, but its utility could not fail to be recognized, and in 1891 an order was issued sanctioning its adoption by all mounted troops.]