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ow rampart and narrow ditch in the form of a parallelogram thrown up along the line of the Kohistan road, 1,000 yards long and 600 broad, with round flanking bastions at each corner, every one of which was commanded by some fort or hill. The "Mission Compound" where the Envoy (Sir William Macnaghten) and his suite resided, was attached to the cantonment on the north side, and surrounded by a single wall. On the eastern side, about a quarter of a mile off, the Cabul river flowed in a direction parallel with the Kohistan road. Between the river and cantonments, about 150 yards from the latter was a wide canal. There was before the outbreak of the insurrection a small camp, occupied by our troops, to the east of the cantonment, and separated from it by the river and the low range of hilly ground called Seeah Sung. Here Brigadier Shelton manded.
General Elphinstone threw a bridge over the river so as to render the communication between the Seeah Sung camp and the cantonment more easy. But the most extraordinary oversight was the allowing the commissariat stores to be placed in an old fort detached from cantonments, and in such a state as to be wholly indefensible. A number of small forts commanded the cantonment in various directions, and on the north-west was the village of Beymaroo (i. e. "husbandless," from a beautiful virgin who was buried there), which lay at the base of some hills completely overlooking the "Mission Compound." The Bala Hissar (or Royal Citadel) is situated at the eastern extremity of the city, and lay to the south-east of the British cantonments. Here
his majesty Shah Shooja-ool-Moolk resided.
On the 2nd of November, 1841, the rebellion burst forth.* The two chief leaders were Ameenoollah and Abdoollah Khan; Mahommed Akbar Khan+ had not yet arrived at Cabul. It commenced by an attack of 200 or 300 men on the dwellings of Sir Alexander Burnes and Captain Johnson (paymaster of the Shah's force), who resided in the city of Cabul. Sir Alexander Burnes thinking at first that it was a mere riot would not allow his guard to fire, but harangued the attacking party from the gallery of his house. The assassins, however, burst in, and murdered him, his brother Lieutenant Burnes, and Lieutenant W. Broadfoot, who were with him. A report of these proceedings having reached the cantonments, and flames being seen to issue from that quarter of the city where Sir Alexander Burnes dwelt, General Elphinstone sent an order to Brigadier Shelton to march forthwith with a body of troops from the Seeah Sung camp to the Bala
The following extract is taken from a memorandum written by the unfortunate Envoy, Sir William Macnaghten.
"The immediate cause of the outbreak in the capital was a seditious letter addressed by Abdoollah Khan to several chiefs of influence at Cabul, stating, that it was the design of the Envoy to seize and send them all to London! The principal rebels met on the previous night, and relying on the inflammable feelings of the people of Cabul, they pretended that the king had issued an order to put all infidels to death; having previously forged an order from him for our destruction, by the common process of washing out the contents of a genuine paper with the exception of the seal and substituting
their own wicked inventions."
+ Akbar Khan was a son of the exruler of Cabul, Doost Mahommed.
Hissar. The rest of the troops in that camp were withdrawn into the cantonment. The forces at this time in cantonments consisted of the following:-The 5th regiment No. I., under Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver; a wing of 54th N.I.; five 6-pounder field guns, with a detachment of the Shah's artillery; the Envoy's body guard; H. M. 44th foot; a troop of Skinner's horse, and another of local horse; three companies of the Shah's sappers, a body of the Company's sappers, with 2 horse artillery guns. This force was afterwards increased by the arrival of the 37th N.I. the next day from Khoord Cabul, where they had marched to support General Sale, but had been recalled by General Elphinstone. The number of camp followers, exclusive of women and children, amounted to 12,000.
Our space prevents us from giving details of the long and miserable siege which now took place. The Affghans surrounded the cantonments, and from every available quarter poured in a constant fire. The Commissariat fort was in a few days abandoned by the few troops left in the occupation of it, and all the stores upon the preservation of which the existence of the British forces depended, fell into the hands of the enemy. For some time supplies were obtained from the village of Beymaroo, the proprietor of which was largely bribed by the Envoy, but this was rendered very difficult by the active hostility of the Affghans, who occupied the heights during the day. Various sorties took place at different times, but no advantage was gained over the enemy; and, at last, famine stared the devoted garrison in the face.
On the 26th of November, an
offer was made on the part of the Affghan chiefs to negotiate, and General Elphinstone advised Sir William Macnaghten to accept it. Accordingly, next day, two deputies from the Affghans entered the cantonment, but the terms offered were such that the Envoy could not listen to them; and he stated in a letter to the chiefs, that if they persisted in them, he must again appeal to arms, leaving the result to the God of battles. At length, however, the provisions in camp being almost wholly exhausted, and there being no means of obtaining supplies, the Envoy resolved to try again the effect of a negotiation, and on the 11th of December he went out of cantonments, accompanied by three officers, to meet the insurgent chiefs in the plain towards Seeah Sung. A discussion then took place, and ultimately terms were agreed upon, written out and signed. They consisted of the following:-That the British should evacuate the whole of Affghanistan, including Candahar, Ghuznee, and Jellalabad; that they should be permitted to return unmolested to India, and that supplies should be granted to them on their road thither-certain men of consequence accompanying them as hostages; that means of transport should be furnished to the troops; that Dost Mahomed Khan, his family, and every Affghan then detained within our territories should be allowed to return to their own country; that Shah Soojah and his family should have the option of remaining at Cabul, or proceeding with the British troops to Loodianah, in either case receiving from the Affghan government one lac of rupees per annum ; that an amnesty should be granted to all who had taken the part of
Shah Soojah; that all prisoners should be released; that no British force should ever be sent into Affghanistan unless invited by the Affghan government. The chiefs, in retiring from the conference, took with them Captain Trevor as a hostage.
Notwithstanding these terms had been agreed upon, much delay took place in carrying any of them into effect; and no means of transport were sent to the cantonment to enable the garrison to set forth, On the 18th of December, a heavy fall of snow covered the ground, and proclaimed the setting in of a severe winter. It was quite evident that the object of the Affghans was to starve out the British forces, and by obstinate delays compel them to surrender unconditionally,
A trap was now laid for the unfortunate Envoy, into which he fell. On the 22nd of December, two Affghans came into cantonments and had a private confer ence with Sir W. Macnaghten, in which they made a proposal on the part of Akbar Khan that Amenoollah Khan should be seized the next day and delivered up to the British as a prisoner; that the Bala Hissar should be immediately occupied by one of our regiments; that Shah Soojah should continue king, and Mahomed Akhbar be come his Wuzeer (or prime minister), and that our troops should remain in their present position until the following spring. To these specious terms Sir William Macnaghten unwarily assented, and gave a written paper to that effect. He was to meet Akhbar Khan the next morning, in order to arrange every thing definitively. Accordingly, on the 23rd of December, the Envoy, attended by
Captains Lawrence, Trevor and Mackenzie, left the Mission-house to attend a conference with Mahomed Akhbar Khan in the plain towards Seeah Sung. Crowds of armed Affghans were observed hovering near, and excited strong suspicions of treachery. On arriving near the bridge, the English party was met by several chiefs, including Akbar Khan, and they all sat down near some rising ground, which partially concealed them from cantonments. Captain Lawrence having called attention to the number of armed men around them, and begged that they might be ordered off. Akbar Khan exclaimed, "No! they are all in the secret." At that instant, Sir William, and the three officers, were seized from behind, and instantly disarmed. The latter were dragged forcibly along, and compelled to mount each behind a Ghilzie chief, who galloped off with them to a fort in the neighbourhood, while the infuriated Affghans cut at them with their long knives as they rapidly passed. Captain Trevor happened to fall off his horse, and was instantly murdered; the lives of the other officers were saved with the utmost difficulty. But the unfortunate Envoy was last seen on the ground struggling violently with Akbar Khan, "consternation and horror depicted on his countenance,"
There is no doubt that having strenuously resisted the attempt to compel him to mount on horseback he was shot through the body by Akbar Khan, and afterwards his head was cut off and paraded in triumph through the city of Cabul, while the bleeding and mangled trunk was exposed to the insults of the populace in the Char Chouk, or principal bazaar.
After these barbarous murders, which evinced too plainly the savage resolution taken by the Affghans to avenge themselves upon the British, the situation of our troops in cantonments became desperate, and Major General Elphinstone thought that it was necessary to provide for their safety by attempting again to negotiate with the enemy rather than risk all in a decisive contest. We will not criticise harshly this resolution, for it is perhaps impossible to estimate exactly the difficulties of General Elphinstone's position and hs may have thought the contest hopeless against a furious population in arms on every side around him. But considering the result, we can hardly help regreting that he did not choose the bolder expedient, and instead of trusting to the good faith of the Afghan chiefs, resolve to emulate the example of former British offieers in India, who have gained, with inconsiderable forces, signal victories against overwhelming odds. He might have succeeded in making himself master of the city of Cabul by a bold and desperate sortie, and the worst that could have happened would not have exceeded in amount of disaster the lamentable events that followed, while the attempt would have redounded to British honour, even although it had failed. But General Elphinstone thought, even after the proof of Affghan treachery exhibited in the bloody scene before his eyes, that he might trust to the professions of Akhbar Khan, and secure the safety of the forces under his command by entering into a convention with the Affghan chiefs.
Accordingly, after the murder of Sir William Macnaghten, nego
tiations between General Elphinstone and Akbar Khan were carried on by Major Pottinger, and after some delay, it was proposed that the former treaty should remain in force with the following additional terms -1st. That we should leave behind all our guns excepting six; - 2nd. That we should immediately give up all our treasures; and 3rd. That the hostages should be exchanged for married men, with their wives and families. The British married of ficers, however, refused to accede to this last stipulation, and it was abandoned.
In pursuance of this convention, the British troops quitted their cantonments, and commenced their march on the 6th of January, They consisted of 4,500 fighting men, and about 12,000 camp followers besides women and children. What followed baffles description, The march became almost imme diately a continued massacre. The rear-guard had hardly quitted the camp before it was attacked by the perfidious enemy, The snow lay deep upon the ground, and the troops had to force their way sword in hand. On the 7th they reached Bareekhur, having lost their guns, captured by the Affghans. On the next morning the camp of the retreating British, was entirely surrounded by the infuriated enemy. The accounts which have been given of what had occurred on the line of march hitherto, if not exaggerated, prove how desperate had been the attacks upon our troops. The whole way is said to have been strewed with the dead and dying, who were immediately stripped and left naked by the Affghans, the corpses were hacked to pieces by the long knives of merciless Ghazees.
A communication was now opened with Akbar Khan, who appears to have acted throughout with the deepest treachery, for while he pretended friendship, he was in reality directing the movements of the enemy: at least, such is the conclusion we arrive at from what followed; for, we cannot doubt, that had he been sincere in his professions, he would have been able to protect our troops. He blamed the British officers for having commenced the march from the camp at Cabul, before he had provided a sufficient escort to defend them from attack, and offered to restrain the Affghans from further outrage, provided hostages were delivered to him as a security that the British would not march beyond Tezeen, until General Sale had evacuated Jellalabad.
This proposal was accepted, and Major Pottinger, with Captains Lawrence and Mackenzie became hostages, and the troops proceeded on their march to the Khoord Cabul Pass. But Akbar Khan's promise of protection was utterly futile. Throughout the whole of this day the attacks of the Affghans, especially the Ghilzie tribe, were incessant; and the British had to force the difficult Pass with considerable loss.
The next morning Akbar Khan sent to the encampment, and professed his concern at his inability to restrain the Ghilzies, who had been most active in the attacks of the preceding day. But he offered to protect the ladies who were with the retreating force, provided they would put themselves under his charge. It was thought right to take advantage of this offer; and eight ladies, including Lady Sale and Lady Macnaghten, went over to put themselves under the pro
tection of Akbar Khan. General Elphinstone, at the same time, ordered that those of them who had husbands, should be accompanied by the latter.
The British troops halted here for a day, encamped in the snow. The cold was so intense, that the Sepoys became benumbed, and wholly useless. In resuming the march, the contest commenced afresh; and at the Huft Kothul Pass (or Pass of Seven Ascents), which is between Khoord Cabul and Tezeen, the whole of the native troops, paralysed with cold, were cut to pieces.
The Europeans, however, held together in tolerable order, and reached Tezeen on the evening of the 10th, where they halted two hours in the snow, and then resuming their march, pushed on to Jugdulluck, where they arrived in a miserable plight. Of the whole force which had left Cabul, amounting to nearly 16,500 persons, not more than 300 are said to have reached Jugdulluck, which is thirtyfive miles distant.
Here a halt was ordered, and throughout the day the enemy galled them with their fire, until Akbar Khan effectually interfered, and the unfortunate British were allowed to occupy, without molestation, a ruined enclosure, where they lay down, worn out by fatigue, and helpless, in the snow.
General Elphinstone, however, was detained prisoner by Akbar Khan, who sent for him, under pretence of wishing to treat personally with him. From the small fort where he was imprisoned he despatched a note to Brigadier Anquetil, telling him to march that night, as there was treachery afoot. The wearied band acccordingly moved on in the darkness, but as