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Chapter LVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 2

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Akbar Khan, at the head of 6,000 men, was aware of their approach and ready to receive them. On issuing from the gate, General Sale had ordered Colonel Dennie forward, to attack a small fort, from which the enemy had often molested the garrison. The colonel, at the head of the brave 13th, rushed to the fort; but having entered the outer wall, they found themselves exposed to a murderous fire from the defences of the inner keep. There Colonel Dennie received a mortal wound, a ball passing through his sword-belt. Ealling forward on his saddle, his horse was led back by two orderlies; " and he died," says Mr. Gleig, " with the sound of battle in his ears, but not living to be assured that it would end triumphantly." Sale now gave orders for a general attack on the enemy's camp, and in his dispatch he thus describes the result: - "The artillery advanced at a gallop, and directed a heavy fire upon the Afghan centre, whilst two of the columns of infantry penetrated the line near the same point, and the third forced back its left from its support on the river, into the stream of which some of his horse and foot were driven. The Afghans made repeated attempts to check our advance by a smart fire of musketry, by throwing forward heavy bodies of horse, which twice threatened the detachments of foot under Captain Havelock, and by opening upon us three guns from a battery screened by a garden wall, and said to have been served under the personal superintendence of the Sirdar. But in a short time they were dislodged from every point of their position, their cannon taken, and their camp involved in a general conflagration. The battle was over, and the enemy in full retreat, by about seven a.m. We have made ourselves masters of two cavalry standards, re-captured four guns lost by the Cabul and Gundamne forces - the restoration of which to our Government is matter of much honest exultation among the troops - seized and destroyed a great quantity of material and ordnance stores, and burnt the whole of the enemy's tents. In short, the defeat of Mahomed Akbar, in open field, by the troops whom he had boasted of blockading, has been complete and signal. The field of battle was strewed with the bodies of men and horses, and the richness of the trappings of some of the latter seemed to attest that persons of distinction were among the fallen. The loss on our side was remarkably small - seven privates killed, and three officers and fifty men wounded."

Great was the joy inspired by these successes. The new Governor-General, Lord Ellenborough, issued a proclamation, in which he stated that he felt assured every subject of the British Government would peruse with the deepest interest and satisfaction the report of the entire defeat of the Afghan troops, under the command of Mahomed Akbar Elan, by the garrison of Jelalabad. " That illustrious garrison, which, by its constancy in enduring privation and by its valour in action, had already obtained for itself the sympathy and respect of every true soldier, has now, sallying forth from its walls under the command of its gallant leader, Major-General Sir Robert Sale, thoroughly beaten,, in open field, an enemy of more than three times its numbers, taken the standards of their boasted cavalry, destroyed their camp, and re-captured four guns, which, under circumstances that can never occur again, had, during the last winter, fallen into their hands."

These feelings of joy and satisfaction were shared by the Home Government. On the 20th of February, 1843, the Duke of Wellington, in the House of Lords, moved a vote of thanks to Sir George Pollock, Sir William Nott, Sir John M'Caskill, Major-General England, and the other officers of the army, both European and native, for the intrepidity, skill, and perseverance displayed by them in the military operations in Afghanistan, and for their indefatigable zeal and exertions throughout the late campaign. Lord Auckland seconded the motion, which was carried without opposition. Sir Robert Peel brought forward a similar motion in the House of Commons on the same day, following the example of the Duke, in giving a succinct narrative of the events of the war, and warmly eulogising, amidst the cheers of the House, the officers who had most distinguished themselves. The resolution passed without opposition, Mr. Hume having withdrawn an amendment which he had proposed.

It would be useless to encumber these pages with a detailed narrative of the desultory conflicts that occurred at Candahar, where General Nott commanded; or at Khelat-i-Ghilzye, a post entrusted to Captain Lawrence; or in the country about Ghiznee, the garrison of which, commanded by Captain Palmer, was compelled to surrender for want of water. He was an officer in General Nott's division, and by his brother officers the fall of the place was regarded as more disgraceful than the loss of Cabul. It is stated that Brigadier Nicholson, who fell at Delhi in 1857, "then quite a stripling, when the enemy entered Ghiznee, drove them thrice back beyond the walls, at the point of the bayonet, before he Would listen to the orders given to him to make his company lay down their arms. He at length obeyed, gave up his sword with bitter tears, and accompanied his comrades to an almost hopeless imprisonment." At length Generals Pollock and Nott had effected a junction which enabled them to overawe the Afghans. They were now at the head of two forces in excellent health and spirits, eager to advance on Cabul and avenge the national honour of England, which had been so grievously insulted. Lord Ellenborough had come to the resolution that it was no longer necessary for the British Government to peril its armies, and with its armies the Indian Empire, by occupying that country. All that was now required to be done rested solely upon military considerations, and especially upon regard to the safety of the detached bodies of our troops at Jelalabad, at Ghiznee, at Khelat-i-Ghilzye, and Candahar, and finally to the establishment of our military reputation by the infliction of some signal and decisive blow upon the Afghans, which would make it appear to them, as well as to our subjects and allies, that we had the power of inflicting punishment upon those who commit atrocities and violate their faith, and that we withdrew ultimately from Afghanistan, not because of any deficiency of means to maintain our position, but because we were satisfied that the king we had set up had not, as we erroneously imagined, the support of the nation over which he was placed. These matters, therefore, became the main objects of concern to the new Governor-General, and effectual measures were taken to carry them out. Indeed, he had got the notion that the glorious task had devolved on him to save our Eastern empire single- handed. In May he wrote as follows: - "The danger is in the position of the army. Almost without communication with India, too far off to return quickly at any season, unable from the season to return now without adequate supplies of food or carriage, this is the danger which all the great statesmen of India would perpetuate if they could, and, while they maintain it, destroy the confidence of the sepoy, and ruin our finances. If," he continued, " I save this country, I shall save it in spite of every man in it who ought to give me support, but I will save it in spite of them all." The contempt with which he regarded all the great statesmen of India, he extended to the press, and his scorn of public opinion was such that he pretended that he would not condescend to read a newspaper. But it was believed that this was only a pretence, and that, like most men of vain minds and pompous manner, he was peculiarly sensitive with regard to the judgments of the press.

There was one object, however, to be gained which was deeply interesting to every Englishman in India as well as to the public at home, without which no victories, however glorious, and no infliction of punishment, however terrible, upon the enemy, would have been considered satisfactory - namely, the deliverance of the captives which were still held as hostages by Akbar Khan. On this subject the two generals, Pollock and Nott, held a consultation. Nott believed that the Government had thrown the prisoners overboard, and protested against taking any measures for their recovery. But Pollock was determined that the effort should be made. The duty was cheerfully undertaken by Sale, whose own heroic wife was among the prisoners. He started in pursuit, taking with him a brigade from the army at Jelalabad. They had been hurried on towards the inhospitable regions of the Indian Caucasus, not suffered to sleep at night, and were stared at as objects of curiosity by the inhabitants of the villages through which they passed. But, although every hamlet and fort they passed, after daybreak, poured forth its inhabitants to gaze and wonder at the Feringhee captives, not an uncivil word was uttered, not an unfriendly gesture was to be seen. On the contrary, they were comforted by many sympathising words and looks from the people. In some places the children were treated to cakes and sweetmeats, and other marks of kindness. They needed sympathy. The days were very hot, the nights intensely cold. "Whenever they were permitted to rest, it was in wretched old forts, in apartments destitute of every comfort, noisome and filthy. Painfully they dragged their weary limbs up steep ascents and over bare and desolate wastes. The officers gave up their horses to the ladies, the camel panniers being no longer secure. The number of the sick increased daily, especially among the soldiers and camp followers, for whom no carriages were provided.

They reached their destination, Bameean, on the 3rd of September, and there, in a short time, before Sale's brigade arrived, they had providentially effected their own ransom. The commander of their escort was Saleh Mahomed, a soldier of fortune, who had been at one time a soubahdar in Captain Hopkins's regiment of infantry, and had deserted with his men to Dost Mahomed. Between this man and Captain Johnson an intimacy sprang up, which the latter turned to account by throwing out hints that Saleh Mahomed would be amply rewarded, if, instead of carrying off his prisoners, he would conduct them in safety to the British camp. Days passed away without anything being done, till after their arrival at Bameean, when, on the 11th of September, Saleh Mahomed sent for Johnson, Pottinger, and Lawrence, and in a private room which had been appropriated to Lady Sale, he produced a letter which he had just received from Akbar Elian, directing him to convey the prisoners to Cooloom, and make them all over to the Woolee of that place. This seemed to be a sentence of hopeless captivity, but the minds of the officers were soon relieved by another piece of intelligence - namely, a message from General Pollock to the effect that if he released the prisoners he should receive a present of 20,000 rupees, and a life pension of 1,000 rupees a month. He then said, "I know nothing of General Pollock, but if you three gentlemen will swear by your Saviour to make good to me what Synd Moortega Shah states that he is authorised to offer, I will deliver you over to your own people." The offer was gladly accepted; an agreement was drawn up, commencing as follows: - " We, gentlemen, Pottinger, Johnson, Mackenzie, and Lawrence, in the presence of God and Jesus Christ, do enter into the following agreement with Saleh Mahomed Khan: Whenever Saleh Mahomed Khan will free us from the power of Mahomed Akbar Khan, we agree to make him a present of 20,000 rupees, and to pay him monthly the sum of 1,000 rupees, and likewise to obtain for him the command of a regiment in the Government service; and we attest that this agreement is not false; and should we have spoken falsely, we will acknowledge ourselves to be false men even in the presence of kings." The other prisoners signed an agreement that they would pay their share to the officers above-mentioned, the married men to pay the same amount for their wives and families as for themselves. The ladies whose husbands were absent pledged themselves to pay in proportion to their husbands' allowances. The widows also agreed on their own account to pay such sums as might be demanded of them; and to this bond, which was written by Johnson on half a sheet of foolscap, all the prisoners attached their signatures. In pursuance of this agreement, Saleh Mahomed and his European allies proclaimed their revolt to the people of Bameean and the surrounding country. They deposed the governor of the place, and appointed a more friendly chief in his stead. They supplied themselves with funds by seizing upon the property of a party of merchants who were passing that way. Major Pottinger assumed the functions of government, and issued proclamations, and called upon the chiefs to come in and make their salaam. But they might come for a different purpose, and hence they began to fortify themselves, and prepare for a very vigorous defence. While thus employed, a horseman was seen rapidly approaching from the Cabul side of the valley, who proved to be the bearer of glad tidings. Akbar Khan had been defeated by General Pollock at Teyeen, and had fled, no one knew whither. This was delightful news indeed. The power of the oppressor was now broken, and the captives were free. Early next morning they started for Cabul, sleeping the first night upon stony beds under the clear moonlight; they were awakened by the arrival of a friendly chief, who brought a letter from Sir Richmond Shakespear, stating that he was on his way to Bameean with a party of Kuzzilbash horse.

In the delirium of joy which this news excited, the party started up and hastened on their way, unconscious of hunger and fatigue. On the 17th of September a cloud of dust was observed to rise from the summit of a mountain pass in their front. It soon became evident there was a body of cavalry winding down the pass. Were they friends or foes P They might be the latter. Saleh Mahomed's drums were beaten; all stragglers were called in; every man stood to his arms; the whole force forming one line with no rear. But the alarm was unfounded - it was Shakespear with his cavalry An English officer came galloping ahead of the party, and was soon in the midst of the liberated captives, shaking hands, offering congratulations, and endeavouring to answer the eager questions of his countrymen and countrywomen. Pushing on again, they were met by a large body of British cavalry and infantry, under the command of Sir Robert Sale. "In a little time the happy veteran had embraced his wife and daughter; and the men of the 13 th had offered their delighted congratulations to the loved ones of their old commander. A royal salute was fired. The prisoners were safe in Sale's camp. The good Providence that had so long watched over the prisoners and the captives now crowned its mercies by delivering them into the hands of their friends. Dressed as they were in Afghan costume, their faces bronzed by much exposure, and rugged with beards and moustachios of many months' growth, it was not easy to recognise the liberated officers, who now came forward to receive the congratulations of their friends."

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