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The Characters of Theophrastus


The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A. Conan Doyle


by Archibald Forbes


There is a weird resemblance between the two acts of our Afghan drama, the period from 1838 to 1842, and the period from 1878 to 1880. As in the second so in the first, the pretext for our aggression was our jealousy of Russian approaches toward our Indian frontiers; as in the first so in the second, our expenditure of blood,treasure, and toil was utterly wasted. In 1838 the Ameer of Afghanistan was Dost Mahomed, a prince of Ciiap. n THE GENESIS OF THE AFGHAN WAR 19

strong character, who for twelve years had made good his throne against all comers. An English emissary, the gallant and enthusiastic Burnes, had been on a mission to the Dost at his capital, and found him willing to eschew all overtures from other powers and to throw in his lot with the English. But Lord Auckland had given himself to another policy. Under unhappy influence he threw over Burnes, chose to mistrust the Dost, picked Shah Soojah out of the dust of Loodhianah to use him as a tool and a puppet, and determined to replace in the Bala Hissar the weak-minded and untrustworthy exile whom years before the Afghan nation had cast out as a hissing and a reproach. In vain did Burnes attest the good faith of the Dost; his representations went for nothing against the prejudices which had been instilled into Lord Auckland, and in the face of the appearance at Cabul of a Russian envoy. There was some reason in the project of sending succour to Herat, besieged by the Persians acting under Russian influence; but when the siege of that place was raised in September 1838, there ceased to be any valid objective for the expedition. But Lord Auckland had concluded the Tripartite Treaty with old Runjeet Singh the famous ruler of the Sikhs, and with the wretched Shah Soojah. He had committed himself yet further by publishing a manifesto in which Durand has said "the words 'justice and necessity' were applied in a manner for which there is fortunately no precedent in the English language," and of which Sir Henry Edwardes remarked that "the views and conduct of Dost Mahomed were misrepresented with a hardihood which a Russian statesman might have envied." The army intended for the invasion of Afghanistan, as originally constituted, was to consist of about sixteen thousand soldiers; the Bengal quota ten thousand strong, the Bombay quota six thousand; the whole to be commanded by Sir Harry Fane, the Commander-in-Chief. In addition there was Shah Soojah's levy of native troops recruited in India, officered by Europeans and maintained at the charge of the Indian Government; all told, this force amounted to some four thousand, so that the entire strength of the troops destined for the invasion of Afghanistan did not fall short of twenty thousand men. The nearest way to Cabul lay across the Punjab, but it was judged politic to avoid theSikh territory, and the prescribed route was down the left bank of the Sutlej to its junction with the Indus, down the left bank of the Indus to the crossingplace at Roree, and from Sukkur across the Scinde and northern Belooch provinces over Quettah and the Pisheen valley to Candahar; thence by Khelat-i-Ghilzi and Ghuznee to Cabul. This was a line of advance excessively circuitous, immensely long, full of difficulties, and equally precarious as to supplies and communications. Before the concentration at Ferozepore was consummated, tidings reached the Governor-General of the raising of the siege of Herat, whereupon it was decided to reduce the strength of the Bengal contingent by one-half, the other half to stand fast at Ferozepore as a reserve. The command of the marching contingent Fane deputed to Sir Willoughby Cotton.

That officer Havelock describes as the patron to whom he had been indebted for previous good offices, and he was again to be of service. Havelock had been disappointed of the expected post of brigade-major in


Sale's brigade, and had resigned himself to making the campaign as a regimental officer. But Cotton gave him a temporary billet as postmaster to his division, and when at Ferozepore he got the command of the whole marching column, and became entitled to a second aidede-camp, he appointed Havelock to the post. There was an interlude at Ferozepore of reviews and high jinks with the astute, debauched old Runjeet Singh; of which proceedings, in his narrative of the expedition, Havelock gives a detailed and graphic account, dwelling with extreme disapprobation on Runjeet's addiction to a "pet tipple," strong enough to lay out the hardest drinker in the British camp, but which the old reprobate quaffed freely without turning a hair. On December 10th 1838, Sir Willoughby Cotton began the long march which was not to terminate at Cabul until August 6th 1839. The advance to the passage of the Indus was uneventful. It was chiefly through the territories of the Nawab of Bawalpore, an independent Sikh State. The Nawab proved a most obliging and gentlemanly person; he entertained the leaders of the expedition in his capital, amusing them with marvellous shikar stories; and he kept the commissariat liberally supplied. But when at Subzulkote the column entered the territory of the Scindian Ameer of Kyrpore, empty promises took the place of cordial assistance. The Bengal contingent crossed the Indus by a bridge of boats linking Roree with Sukkur, and moved on to Shirkarpore. Sir John Keane, commanding the Bombay troops, having landed near the mouth of the Indus, marched up the right bank of the great river, assumed the supreme command of the whole force, and relegated Cotton to the command of the Bengal Infantry Division. Meanwhile the Bengal troops had been suffering greatly in crossing the desert region of Cutch Gundava, losing a great part of their already inadequate transport. Havelock does not dilate on difficulties encountered in the Bolan pass, regarding which Kaye is copious and emphatic; and he found flowers decking the wide expanse of the ill-reputed Dushte-be-daulat — the "desert of misery." But at Quettah no supplies were found, none were procurable from the vicinity, those brought up with the column were all but exhausted, and during the delay enforced by Keane's orders, Cotton had to put his people on famine rations. Keane arrived at Quettah on April 6th, on the following day the advance on Candahar began, and the force reached that capital on the 27th. It had been a slow but not a bloody march. Havelock writes: "Hitherto our task has been escorting, not campaigning, but this pacific duty has been performed under arduous circumstances, exposure to the vicissitudes of climate, fatigue, and deficiency of food and water."

Shah Soojah did not secure much popularity in the southern capital of Afghanistan; the Douranee Sirdars who took his side had to be bribed to do so. The army, suffering severely from sickness, was compelled to halt at Candahar till the ripened crops furnished supplies for the advance to Cabul, which began on June 27th, the day on which died old Runjeet Singh, "the Lion of the Punjab." The historic fortress of Ghuznee, two hundred and seventy miles distant from Candahar, was approached on July 20th; on the following day Cotton and Havelock, riding to the front, saw the gray walls and lofty II


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