Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Afghanistan' history 1793 – 1844 from the newspapers


These are the newspaper articles concerning Afghanistan and its neighbouring provinces – Sind, Kashmir, the Punjab and Persia.

Also included is the brief Rohilla War of 1794 in Uttar Pradesh province. I have included this because the articles show many of the reasons the Company commonly adopted for war with neighbouring states.

The remaining articles detail, amongst other things, the late 18th century attempt of Zaman Shah Durrani, the King of Afghanistan since 1793, to support the Grand Mughal against British influence. This was suspected to be a French- or Russian-backed initiative and provoked a British response in the appointment of Wellesley as Governor-General and the extension of British rule over most of the sub-continent.

It further led to the Company’s occupation of the province of Sind to preserve its opium revenue, and the first Afghan War, intended to place that country in the control of a ‘safe pair of hands’ and keep Russia away from British India.

There is a fascinating reference in this chapter to a great alliance of native states along the northern frontier of British India. Some similar but brief commentary on this subject may be found in the chapter on Nepal / Tibet.

Sat 30th Nov 1793

Extract from the recent publication Plans of India, the difficulty of engrafting a free Constitution on distant provinces:

Rome, the most free nation in antiquity, made her proconsuls absolute in the provinces but responsible to the Senate and people of Rome.

Britain has emulated Rome and made her Governor-General of India absolute to the natives but responsible to the Board of Directors and Board of Control, both of which are responsible to parliament.[1]

The Governor-General is like one of the ancient Subadars in the Persian system of government in India.

Our government in India and our trade to the East should accord with the usages of the Indian people but we must take care in exercising our power not to upset the British legislature by neglecting the spirit of the English Constitution.

Sat 15th March 1794

A report from Cawnpore (Kanpur) says Zaman Khan[2] has taken a large army into the Punjab where he has been joined by Sikh cavalry. The whole force under Zaman is now advancing on Delhi from the west. Zaman is accompanied by Shah Allum and it is supposed some political purpose underlies the move.

Sat 5th April 1794

Further to the report in the 15th March edition, above, an Afghan army is approaching Oudh. It is led by Timur Shah, a relation of Shah Allum, the Mughal Emperor at Delhi.

Timur intends to restore the Emperor to the rights and territories he held before we dispossessed him.
The Company’s CiC Major General Sir Robert Abercromby is going to the scene to check.

Sat 22nd Nov 1794

Fizula Khan’s second son has killed his older brother at Rumpore and assumed the government of Rohilcund.

General Abercromby is marching against him with an army of European and native troops.
The Nabob of Lucknow’s troops and cavalry are supporting the Company’s force.

Sat 29th Nov 1794

An English businessman of Bombay has received a letter from his Lucknow correspondent dated 1st November saying the Rohillas (Fizula Khan’s attempt to seize power) had cut off Abercromby’s advanced guard (two battalions decimated) when the General’s main force came up on them and annihilated them.

After putting the surviving Rohillas to the sword, he seized their 14 cannon and released their prisoners. He then marched on Rumpore. Our losses in the initial encounter were severe. We await confirmation from government.

Sat 6th Dec 1794
Calcutta Gazette Extraordinary 7th November:
Gulam Mohamed has brought the Rohilla army out of the Nabob’s jaghire at Rumpore. The Company Resident (Cherry) told him he must return before he (Cherry) would listen to his complaint. He disbelieved Cherry and continued to march. He came within musket shot of our pickets and fired on a cavalry detachment. This determined General Abercromby to attack.

He readied his army before dawn on 26th October. He observed Mohamed’s force a few miles away and resolved to approach in one line with the artillery inserted between the infantry regiments. The cavalry was on the right flank. The enemy numbered about 25,000 men of whom 4,000 were mounted.

Mohamed opened fire with his cannons first. When we fired our cannon the enemy infantry all lay down. When the two armies were about 1,200 yards apart, our men disposed ourselves and commenced our advance. The Rohilla infantry was formed fifty men deep. At 500 yards, they scattered and charged from all directions. This enabled them to outflank us.

They had a few matchlocks but mostly swords and spears so they needed to come in close. The battle was with swords and bayonets and lasted over an hour. The Rohillas then left leaving their guns and camp equipment behind. The Vizier’s troops from Berelly, that were to assist us, arrived only in the evening. 14 British officers died, 9 were injured. The loss of troops is unreported.
Editor – our loss is less than previously rumoured.

Sat 13th Dec 1794

Golam Mohamed surrendered to Abercromby because the Nabob of Rohilcand had offered a reward for his head, and he supposed the Company would protect him. The principal instigator of the uprising, Najeeb Cawn, was killed in the fighting. He promised his men a reward of 100 rupees for each European head – that was why the officers and European battalions were targeted. Some confirmation was obtained by the discovery of a dead Rohilla with the hair of three European scalps entwined around his hand.

64 Europeans exclusive of officers were killed. We lost about 500 sepoys. The surviving commanders of the Rohilla forces have quarrelled and left Rumpore. The town is deserted. Only Fizula Khan’s widow and some rich people remain there and are said to wish to have the protection of the Company.
The European officers have requested permission to plunder Rumpore but Abercromby is opposed and has asked the Governor-General to pay some compensation in lieu.

The Nabob of Lucknow’s troops were supposed to assist us but, although present, they stood off throughout the fighting and only the cavalry came in afterwards to secure the war-chest, grain and arms & ammunition at the Rohilla base.[3] We took 13 cannon.

We occupied Rumpore on 30th October and permitted no-one to enter or leave the town, otherwise we suspected the Nabob’s soldiers would plunder. The rich people and the merchants all remain in town. Golam Mohamed has occupied Fort Zaree with the residue (6,000) of his army. The infamous Golam Khodir has joined him with 4,000 men. He is said to want another battle but all his sirdars are dead. He stopped at Rumpore on his way to Zaree and removed all his treasure, reported to be worth £3 millions.

The Nabob is offering 100,000 rupees reward, and a jaghire of the same value annually, to anyone bringing-in Golam Mohamed, dead or alive.

The Rohilla cavalry have a disgusting custom of cutting off the feet of their wounded horses – we suppose it is to prevent our using them, should they recover.

Sat 20th Dec 1794
Letter from Rumpore – The Rohillas comprise about 10,000 people who are all with Golam Mohamed in his fort. He gambles these on success.

At Rumpore we found two or three million rupees of public property and have had our claim to it admitted.

Mohamed has at least 6 million rupees in gold with him. The arrangements for its distribution to us are still under discussion.

Sat 10th Jan 1795

Rohilla War – Golam Mohamed has not compromised with us on our terms of peace. He has been arrested and sent off to Cawnpore and we have been skirmishing with his men all day.
The new Rohilla chief is Hussar Bhalla. He signed a treaty with us on 8th January. Mahomed Ali will succeed his father as Prince.

Sat 24th Jan 1795
Golam Mohamed’s insurrection is over. A treaty has been signed through our intermediary between the Rohilla army chiefs and the Nabob of Lucknow (the Vizier and the nominal chief of Rohilcand). Golam will probably end his days as a guest in British India.

We have collected 7 tumbrels of gold mohars worth about 4.8 million Rupees but we do not know how much is our share. On the last occasion of war with the Rohillas we gave the loot back and received a gratuity from the Nabob in lieu.[4]

The treaty provides that Ahmed Khan, the 9 years old son of Mohamed Ali, is heir apparent. The Rumpore jaghire is worth 1 million Rupees annually. Nasser Ulla Khan will be Guardian and Naib until the boy is mature and Nesrullah Khan will be Regent during the same period. All the private property of the Rohilla army chiefs is secured to them under our guarantee.

The part of the country that belonged to Fizula Khan will henceforth belong to the Nabob and the young prince affirms he is tributary to the Nabob.

Sat 18th April 1795

The rich provinces of Persia have been desolated for a century by continual quarrelling amongst the Persian nobility. Many are greedy and expansionary rulers.

Mohamed Ali Khan is a noble of the Cajer clan, the son of Hassar Khan who was executed by Kerim Khan of the Zand clan.

Lustee Ali Khan is a noble of the Zand clan, a grandson of Sader and the brother of Kerim.
We hear that Lustee was betrayed and fled to the city of Kerman where he was instantly surrounded by the Cajer troops of Mohamed Ali Khan. After a blockade of 7 months the starving Kerman citizens submitted to the Cajers and the town was delivered over to rape and pillage. The soldiers continued this work for seven days. Meanwhile Mohamed blinded everyone he suspected and, as he is a suspicious man, two maunds of eyes were harvested.

Lustee however escaped south to Bham chased by Mohamed who caught him there and accused him of disloyalty. Lustee was contemptuous and Mohamed put out his eyes before executing him.

Sat 1st August 1795
Our detachments in Oudh are normally withdrawn in the rainy season but will remain this year. The reason is the Sikhs. Representatives of a large group of Sikhs have given the Nabob of Oudh peremptory notice they will enter his lands and visit Nanakmuti for devotions.
There is some slight doubt whether their intentions are completely pacific, hence our garrisons will remain.

Sat 19th March 1796

Asiatic Mirror 17th February – The Afghan army of Zaman Shah has defeated the combined armies of the Sikhs and the Marathas near the River Jumbu. This is Zaman’s second major victory.
He is continuing his march on Delhi and has published a proclamation of his intention to replace the (deposed) King of Delhi and assume control of the Mughal Raj.

The Marathas under Sindhia wrested administrative power from the former Grand Mughal Shah Allum a few years ago and assumed those powers themselves. Shah Allum is now about 72 years old. He became blind five years ago.

Zaman’s present expedition is to discipline the Hindu Marathas and restore the fallen Mughal monarchy to its former full Powers.

The chief imports of Delhi are horses, fruit and cashmere shawls, which arrive by caravan from Kabul. Red and black carnelians are abundant.

There is a 90 mile canal that has been cut through solid rock, 25 ft wide and deep. It comes through Paniput to Delhi and permits the irrigation of a huge area where the production of food for the city is done.

Sat 10th Dec 1796

Gulam Mahomed, who led the Rohilla uprising a year ago, is now at Surat and said to be en route to join Tippoo. He has just completed a Hajj and returned to Surat with the Mocha fleet. He is expected to visit Bombay where he has an uncle.

Sat 17th Dec 1796

Colonel Palmer, who is the Company’s Resident at Sindhia’s court, has arrived at Futtyghur on 17th December with the intelligence that Zaman Shah has left Kabul with an army of 15,000 infantry and cavalry and 200 pieces of artillery and is intent on entering India.

Palmer says Tippoo of Mysore has promised Zaman money and provisions as soon as he enters Maratha lands. He is said to intend the occupation of Furruckabad where he will fund his enterprise by taxing the surrounding country.

The present Nabob of Furruckabad was recently poisoned by his son.

The Pathans who occupy the lands around Furruckabad will unlikely tolerate Zaman Shah’s presence and, unless the Company interferes, another war may be foreseeably predicted.[5]

Sat 3rd Feb 1798

Asiatic Mirror, 10th January – the political state of Oudh remains troublesome. The Governor-General and CiC are at Lucknow with an army of 4,000 effectives.

The troops at Futtyghur have marched to Cawnpore and placed themselves under the command of Sir James Craig.

A pontoon bridge has been constructed at Cawnpore to permit the army across the river should the CiC require it.[6]

Sat 17th Feb 1798

The Lucknow government has been changed on 21st January. The Vizier Ali Khan is deposed and Saadat Ali Khan (a son of Shuja ud Doula) replaces him. The Begums, all the chiefs and Sir John Shore concur in the new appointment.

This new Nabob is expected to be more sympathetic to the Company’s interests than the old Vizier.

Sat 10th March 1798

Sir John Shore has seated Saadat Ali Khan on the throne at Lucknow as the Nabob of Oudh. He has two battalions of Company’s troops nearby to maintain him.

The Nabob’s two main ministers are Hussan Reza Khan and Pussazur Hassan Khan. They go with him everywhere.

Sat 14th April 1798

The Governor-General’s visit to Oudh has produced satisfactory arrangements between the new Vizier Saadat Ali Khan and the Company.

The annual subsidy payable to the Company for protection is increased to 7,600,000 rupees. The Vizier commits to provide 11,000 troops and up to 15,000 in emergencies. The payment includes 150,000 rupees as pension for the late Nabob and some smaller sums for his relatives. Allahabad is ceded to the Company and is incorporated in the Company’s administration of Benares and Bihar. The Company undertakes to account to the Nabob for the rents obtained in the Ghauts.

The Nabob is to pay 800,000 rupees in the next two years for repairs to the fort of Allahabad. The Vizier is to pay 300,000 rupees to repair the fort of Futtyghur. A further, unstated, amount relates to the Company’s expenses in settling the rights of the Vizier. The existing commercial treaty is affirmed and both parties engage to promote it.

Sat 19th May 1798

In early April, the Afghan leader Zaman Shah was at Lahore.

He is displeased with the recent agreements Governor-General Shore made with our puppet Grand Mughal Saadat Ali Khan at Lucknow which put that officer fully under our control.[7]

He is expected to enter India and the only places along the Ganges valley that produce sufficient revenue for him to meet the expenses of his huge army are at Lucknow or Benares.

Sat 15th Sept 1798

The entire Muslim hierarchy at Delhi and Poona is involved in an arduous dispute over money that has continued since the last Peshwa died and Nana Furnavese secreted the contents of the Maratha Treasury.

Throughout this summer the Bombay Courier has been publishing translations from Persian newspapers reporting developments.

Sat 1st Dec 1798

Zaman Shah is the Afghan leader who sits on our northwest frontier and asserts an intention to elevate the Grand Mughal to his former status. His presence requires a respectable Company force be maintained opposite him. He has some Muslim friends amongst the native Princes.

Gulam Mahomed, leader of the Rohillas, who submitted to us in 1794, has just returned from a Hajj and, on his way back, visited Tippoo at Seringapatam. He then lived briefly at Mysore before returning to Rohilcund.

It is Gulam’s Rohillas who have been insulting the Nabob Vizier and destabilising what is left of the Mughal Raj.

Sat 12th Jan 1799

Zaman Shah has arrived on the frontiers of India from Afghanistan with an army of 50,000 men. On 18th November 1798 he had arrived at Peshawar.

He sent Wasadar Khan with a strong force across the Jhelum and engaged the Sikhs before Gujerat. The Sikhs drew back, apparently surrendering Gujerat to the Afghans whose minimal discipline evaporated in an orgy of plundering. This allowed the Sikhs to return and deal a fatal blow to the Afghan forces. Wasadar Khan was injured and a good many of his men killed. The entire army broke and fled back the way it had come.

When Zaman Shah found out he beheaded both Wasadar and his son. The replacement Vizier recommended Zaman return to Kabul but he has since reportedly arrived at Lahore and is said to be intent on coming on to Delhi although how he will traverse the Punjab is a nice question.

Sat 16th Feb 1799

The Company deposed Vizier Ali Khan of Oudh, whom they had made Nabob, and retired him. He has since been living on a pension at Benares. A few weeks ago the Company unilaterally decided to move him to Calcutta to keep a closer eye on him.[8] George Frederick Cherry, the Resident (and a Judge of the Benares Court of Appeal) was delegated to break the news to Vizier Ali.

Just before the date of the proposed move, His Highness attended Cherry and protested his removal. He had hired a small force of several hundred men at 10 rupees a day for infantry and 50 rupees for cavalry. Cherry said he was only the messenger and could do nothing.

The Nabob then reviewed all the injuries his father and he had received from the English. He became increasingly angry as he detailed each new demand until he authorised his men to kill Cherry. Captain E S Conway of the Bengal army, who was visiting Cherry, and Evans, who was Cherry’s house guest (or Cherry’s writer depending on which version you prefer), were also killed, as were three of Cherry’s Indian servants.

The Vizier’s party then set off for Mr Davis’s house. Davis is the Benares city judge. On the way they met M/s Robert Graham (assistant to the Registrar of the Benares Court of Appeal) and a colleague named Hill and killed them. They passed the house and indigo plantations of another company servant (Scott) and set both on fire. At Davis’ house the sepoy sentry outside was shot. Davis heard this and took alarm. He sent his family up to the roof and himself defended the staircase with his pig-sticking spear with which he killed 3-4 assailants. He defended the stairs for 100 minutes until a troop of cavalry was heard approaching and the Vizier’s men left. They took Davis’ elephant, horses and cattle with them.

Concurrently there was an uprising against the Company in Benares and many of the administrative staff employed there were obliged to flee. The ex-Vizier has now retired to Azimghur with 600 followers.

Our cavalry is in pursuit.

Our replacement Nabob has agreed to offer a reward of 50,000 rupees for the capture of the ex-Vizier. It should be adequate.

Sat 16th Feb 1799

On 26th December or 3rd January Zaman Shah withdrew from Lahore and returned to his own country around Kabul to confront a rebellion of his brothers, Mahmud and Firose, who enjoy the protection of the Persian court. As soon as he left the Sikhs reoccupied Lahore.


Sat 2nd March 1799

Vienna, 17th September 1798 – the Ottoman squadron is expected to sail for Egypt carrying the Russian troops. This will excite the Company’s jealousy.
The Directors already suspect Russian complicity via Persia and Afghanistan in their northwest frontier problem with Zaman Shah.

Mon 11th March 1799 Extraordinary

Some Company Directors are speculating on a connection between Zaman Shah’s descent on India and Bonaparte’s descent on Egypt.

Sat 23rd March 1799

A regiment of Portuguese militia has been formed at Bombay. The commandant is Miguel de Lima e Souza; the sub-commandants are Antonio Barretto and Francisco Amado de Cruz Viegas.

Sat 23rd March 1799

Editorial – The Bombay army that will oppose the French should they invade is 25,000 strong. It has a European brigade at the centre and a native brigade on the left and right wings. Each brigade is composed of three regiments.

The Company’s territory in India now exceeds the size of the British Isles and Ireland by 50,000 sq. miles. We are in permanent alliance with the rulers of a further 110,000 sq miles.
Our weight in the British economy is immense.

Sat 6th April 1799
When we learned of the dissatisfaction of the ex-Vizier Ali Khan and sought to put him under house arrest in Calcutta, he rebelled and attempted to start an insurrection.

He has since retired to Bhitwal where he has collected 3,000 men. The Company has sent an army to attack him.

We will also attack the Rajah of Bhitwal for protecting him.

The Rajah of Nepal is supposed to have offered the ex-Vizier a refuge. If so that suggests we will need to mobilise an army of some three regiments to deal with all three of them.

However the latest reports from Futtyghur say the Nepal Rajah has had second thoughts and has written to the Rajah of Bhitwal commending he deliver the ex-Vizier to the Company. He has written similarly to several other neighbouring Rajahs who are sympathetic to the ex-Vizier. He probably knows we would discover his letters.
Two missing editions of newspapers, then –

Sat 11th May 1799

Ex-Vizier Ali Khan continues to evade us and is believed to have obtained the protection of the Nepal Rajah using the valuable jewels he escaped with.
At the time he left Benares his jewels were valued at 3 million rupees, most of which he took with him.

Sat 17th Jan 1801

The Persian King resides at Teheran and governs the north of Persia whilst his son governs the south. Capt Malcolm and some other Company officers are sent as Representatives to the King’s court.
Sir Wm Ouseley is going to Teheran to present a huge map of Persia to the King. It shows the mountains and rivers and hundreds of Persian towns and villages.

Sat 9th May 1801

Captain John Malcolm has returned from Persia on the ship Governor Duncan together with his colleagues Strachey and Hollingberry.

The rest of Malcolm’s suite are delayed at Baghdad and will arrive soon. The results of his diplomacy at Teheran are not published.

Sat 22nd Aug 1801

There has been an engagement between Zaman Shah and his nephew Mahmud Shah near Kabul. Several of Zaman’s supposed supporters plundered his camp before joining the enemy. His forces were routed. He fled south to Kabul but found he could not protect himself there and continued his flight to Jalalabad.

The nephew entered Kabul to the acclaim of the residents. Mahmud Shah then sent pursuers who caught Zaman on 6th June together with his Vizier Wasadar Khan (reportedly beheaded at Gujerat) and their families and baggage.

Mahmud Shah now has control of Kabul and Peshawar. The Vackeels of Kashmir and Rotasgurh have also offered him their submission.

Sat 29th May 1802

The Persian ambassador to the Bombay Presidency, Khaleel Khan, arrived on 27th May from Bushire on the Governor Duncan. Duncan is away. The ambassador will be entertained by the Deputy Governor, James Rivett-Carnac.

Sat 12th June 1802

The Nabob Vizier of Oudh Saadat Ali Khan, on the advice of the Governor-General, has appointed Gore Ousley as his Aide-de-Camp.

Sat 11th Sept 1802

On 20th July we accidentally shot the Persian Ambassador to Britain. He was Hajji Khaleel Khan. He was making a formal visit to India and had been given quarters at Massagong near Bombay where a corps of Bengal Volunteers was sent to guard him. A dispute arose between our soldiers and the Ambassador’s servants. It became violent and ultimately involved firearms.

The ambassador and his nephew Aga Mohamed Hussein came out with their attendants to quell the disturbance and they were both shot by our chaps. It was an accident. We thought they were servants as well. Four of the Ambassador’s entourage were killed and his nephew and five more servants were wounded.

A Court of Enquiry has been established at Bombay to investigate. Major John Malcolm, the Governor-General’s private Secretary, will chair the Enquiry. He is coming post-haste to Bombay. Lt Charles Paisley will be Secretary to Malcolm.

On 17th September Governor-General Wellesley issued a public apology for the death together with a response from the nephew Aga Hussein, merely saying he was recovering from his wounds and would reply later.

(NB – the late Ambassador’s nephew Aga Hussein eventually recovered and hosted an entertainment at Government House featuring Persian dancers, singers and fire-eaters.)

Sat 30th Oct 1802

The body of the Persian ambassador whom we killed on 20th July, has been embalmed and is being sent back to Bushire. The carrying ship Ravensbourne will be convoyed by the Company’s frigate Bombay. Some 70 Persians, part of his retinue, accompany the body. He will be interred at Najaf.

Sat 16th April 1803

A report from Basra says a Russian army is moving towards Persia. The Wahhabi Sheikh (?) is moving his men to meet the threat. The Porte has confirmed the new Pasha of Baghdad in his job and required him to assemble a large force.

Sat 28th April 1804

Manesty, the long-serving Company Resident in Basra, left Bushire for Teheran with an astonishingly rich escort suitable for King George himself. His retinue has 100 horses, 300 baggage mules, 60 camels and a multitude of servants and camp followers.

When on the move the procession travels in the following order. It is led by an elephant, several men on horseback who provide a constant supply of coffee and hookahs, some troopers, two of whom carry Union Jacks, nine led horses caparisoned in the Persian fashion, 12 running footmen, 2 gold and 2 silver sticks mounted, Manesty, the gentlemen of his suite (with a led horse before each), 40 Persian guards, the Sepoy guard, etc., etc.

He must be going to ask a favour. He arrived at Shiraz on 15th March and was met by the Minister attended by 1,500 horse and a huge crowd of townspeople. On 22nd March they paid their respects to the Persian King’s third son, about 13 years old, who gave a handsome reception.

Sat 29th Dec 1804

Le Moniteur 8th August (the French Government paper) – Russia should not be interfering in southern Europe (she has sent warships through the Bosphorus to Corfu). She should be attacking the Tartars and Persians and pushing towards India.

Sat 2nd March 1805
Bhurtpore 21st January – General Lake has not yet taken this place after a long and costly siege. Lt Colonel Maitland, two Captains, fourteen Lieutenants and a good many Other Ranks have been lost in repeated attempts to storm the breach in the walls.

The mud forts of India are almost impervious to our cannon. When we occasionally cause a breach, the deep sand slows our assault.

A supply convoy that was sent to Lake was ambushed by Sikh infantry and cavalry but managed to beat off the attack and kill or capture a number of Holkar’s men.

By late February Lake had dispatched four separate columns to enter the breach but they either could not get across the moat or the breach was too steep and well defended. The loss of officers and men has been great and morale is a question.

On 25th February Rajah Ranjit Singh offered terms which were negotiated and modified to an acceptable capitulation. He has surrendered all the lands we gave him on the defeat of Sindhia. He will pay the Company 2 million Rupees by instalments and his son is given to us as hostage for good performance.[9]

Sat 13th April 1805

The Russian Prince Zezianow won a victory over the Persians on 20th June 1804. He captured the city of Erivan. He then recrossed the River Sanga to attack the 27,000 Persian army and routed them. The Russians took a few hundred dromedaries, many guns and ammunition.

Sat 26th April 1806

Samuel Manesty has returned to Basra after his embassy to Persia. No word of his negotiations is published but it might relate to Russian incursions in the north of that country.

The favoured consort has disappeared like the ex-officials.

Sat 20th Dec 1806

Shah Allum, the Grand Mughal, died in Delhi on 16th November. His eldest son Akbar is expected to succeed him.

Sat 12th Sept 1807

Colonel MacQuarrie is invited to the court of Persia by the King.

Sat 31st Oct 1807

The Persians are fighting in Afghanistan. They have won a battle at Kandahar and captured an Afghan leader whom they immolated on the field of battle.

Sat 28th Nov 1807

An immense number of Persians are passing down Mesopotamia purportedly on a Hajj to Mecca. They are led by one of the sons of Baba Khan and are approaching Baghdad. Unusually, for a pilgrimage, they have an artillery train of 50 cannon. We fear for our overland communications.

Sat 12th Dec 1807

Notice – Lt Eldred Curwen Pottinger of the European Regiment has died on 6th December.[10]

Sat 21st Jan 1809

The King of Kabul has sent an expedition against Kashmir, which province has formerly been a part of his own territories.

Sat 12th Aug 1809

Shah Shuja al Mukh,[11] whom Elphinstone has taken with him to Afghanistan, lacks the resources to establish his monarchy over the whole country. He is opposed by Mahmud who fortunately is equally impoverished.

Mahmud has possession of Kabul whilst Shuja is in control of Peshawar. Meanwhile Atta Mohamed Khan is said to have 8,000 men marching from Kashmir, formerly a vassal state of Kabul, but whether he will support Shuja or Mahmud or has some other plan is unknown.

Sat 12th May 1810

The new Persian ambassador to London was effectively detained in his hotel until the King returned to London. It is Persian etiquette not to show oneself until one has presented one’s credentials. He was ‘released’ on 20th December when the ceremony occurred at the Queen’s Palace.

The India Company needs Persian co-operation to exclude France from their territory. The Persians, for their part, want a British minister in Teheran to help them with the Russians.

We were determined to show the ambassador the utmost respect and he was permitted to enter the Queen’s Palace through the great doors which are normally reserved solely for the use of royalty; everyone else has to go through the lodge. He is a handsome and affable chap and apparently very friendly – he has 63 children, 6 of whom were born on the same day.

When he left the Queen’s Palace, the crowd gave him three cheers. Soon afterwards Sir Gore Ouseley was appointed minister to Persia. Once the Persian ambassador heard of the appointment he commenced preparations to go home. He will leave in March.

Sat 1st June 1811
It is reported that the former administrators and military chiefs of the various provinces we have conquered in the last three years (Oudh, Agra, Delhi, the Doab, Rohilcund) have collected under the banner of the Emir Khan and are establishing a Muslim nation in the lands of the Rajputs.
The Emir Khan controls an army of about 90,000 men. He is an Afghan Rohilla. He led Holkar’s troops in the battle of Ujjain in which Sindhia was heavily defeated – that was the beginning of his rise to power.

He keeps a third of his men with him under arms, another third rest at their homes on stand-by and the remainder act as merchants supplying goods to his camp. They rely chiefly on the farmers of Rajputana for revenue.

Sat 31st Aug 1811

British residents of India will remember Cherry, the British Resident at Benares who was murdered by Vizier Ali Khan and his accomplices about 12 years ago.

The man who administered the first stab to Cherry was Warris Ali and he has just been arrested in Lucknow. The Benares plot projected the killing of all the British community there but in fact only Cherry and a few other Englishmen were killed.

Sat 23rd May 1812
The Basra Packet (Clement) arrived 16th May from the Gulf with news from Tabriz to 12th March. The English officers seconded to the Persian army have just returned from a winter campaign against the Russians on the River Kur.

Major D’Arcy and Captains Lindsey and Christie fought a successful action but were unable to secure their advance as their troops all dispersed to plunder and were then annihilated when the Russians counter-attacked with bayonets.

Sat 13th March 1813

Although the British ministry is in alliance with Russia, the Company is committed to thwarting Russian expansion into Persia and has seconded army officers to assist the Persian defence forces.
On 31st October at Aslanduz in Georgia, Captain Charles Christie of the 8th Regiment of Native Infantry was killed during a Russian attack on the Persian army camp. He has been employed by the Company in Persia for the last three years.

Prince Abbas Mirza, the heir to the Persian throne, has announced Christie’s death with regrets.

Sat 13th August 1814

The Grand Mughal Saadat Ali Khan died on 11th July. He was put on the throne by Sir John Shore in Jan 1798. His succession was opposed by other members of the ruling House and we had to remove him from Lucknow to Calcutta and later Benares for his own safety.

The Company procured £40,000 a year from his brother to fund the Mughal’s lifestyle. He had many wives and myriad children – the identity of his replacement is not yet decided.

Sat 25th March 1815

The Company’s army units serving with the Persian army are leaving Teheran on their return to India. They will march via Shiraz to Bushire for the sea passage back. We plan to release Mohamed Nubba Khan from prison in Shiraz on the way and bring him back with us. He was the ambassador who visited India recently and was Minister to the Prince of Fars.

We like him and cultivated his friendship as a rare contact with a powerful officer in the Persian government. The presents he took from here and his money, jewelry, horses and slaves have all been confiscated by the Prince to settle government debts in Fars. Even his harem was entered and his wives’ jewelry seized. He was kept in prison while the Prince checked that all his valuable possessions had been surrendered. Nubba feared that after that time he would be killed and, the suspicions being valid, he bribed the guards with a large ruby and escaped to our Resident at Bushire who has given him British protection.

Nubba told our Resident that the Prince of Fars has taken three times the debts of his province. As Nubba is now indebted to us for his life, he should become a useful contact in the Persian government.
1816 – Whole year missing in BL copy
1817 – Whole year missing in BL copy

Sat 3rd July 1819
The Calcutta Times, 8th June – The Nabob of Lucknow, probably the richest of the Indian rulers that are tributary to us, has declared his independence of the Grand Mughal at Delhi. He does not acknowledge Viceroy status but has assumed a royal title himself.

He mints coins in the name Shah Zemaun (King of the Earth). This is a blow to the Mughal although his authority has long been nominal.

Sat 23rd Sept 1820

The Company is intending an expedition against the Emirs of Sind. They govern the province beyond the Indus. The reasons for contention are unknown. The 8th Madras cavalry has just arrived at Malligaum where the army is being assembled. H M’s 67th Regiment will be involved.

Sat 18th Nov 1820

The ministers of the Emirs of Sind are leaving Bombay to return home. They have concluded a treaty with us but no details are available. Capt Sadlier has been appointed ambassador to the Sindhi Court.

Sat 25th May 1822
The British Charge d’Affaires at Teheran, a Company man named Willock, was requested by the Shah to pay that part of the promised subsidy that is still due under our recent treaty.

Willock had been told to pay nothing without specific instructions from India. The Shah then threatened Willock’s decapitation if payment was not forthcoming in five days.

Willock demanded his passport, which was refused, and he then said he was no longer a diplomatic representative. He proposed to leave Teheran if he was not detained, and left for London in early April

Sat 8th June 1822

Russian expansion to the south, at the expense of Ottoman, Persian and Chinese lands, has attracted the critical attention of the Company’s Directors. A proposal to increase the size of the Company’s army is being discussed. Russia already occupies a huge amount of territory with an enormous population.

The Mughal Raj was the result of one of the incursions from Central Asia that invariably arrive in India via Afghanistan. The continuance of Company rule in the sub-continent is accordingly seen as at risk of invasion from that direction.

The Tsar’s plans are occult. He professes moderation but the speed with which he reverses himself (over Napoleon, freemasonry, the Spanish Revolution) indicates the uncertainty of his future conduct.
We should take care. Fortunately we have a Governor-General who readily defends us as the Gurkhas and Mahrattas have recently learned.

Vol 1 No 22 – Sat 31st May 1828

Peace negotiations have commenced between Russia and Persia. The new frontier is on the Axartes and Persia has agreed to pay an indemnity of 10 million silver Tomans. These moderate terms are supposed to be due to British influence. Our influence in Persia is deemed essential for the safety of our Empire in India.

Vol 2 No 17 – Fri 18th September 1829

It is rumoured that Sir John Malcolm, Governor of Bombay, intends to permit the import of contraband Malwa to Bombay and thus take some profit from the Portuguese exporters at Damaun. They receive it by sea from Karachi[12] after it has been caravanned overland. The contraband supply is expected to be about 4,600 chests this year. Clearly the British Indian government cannot control the Maratha princes or their opium supply from their own lands.

We think there will be no relaxation of the controls that prevent the native drug travelling direct to the coast but smuggled Malwa is taken beyond the Company’s lands. We can derive a profit from it by providing it with an entrepot at Bombay. This appears to be Malcolm’s intention.

Bombay is the most convenient port for this purpose. The major opium traffickers would welcome a new system that pre-empts the need for the vexatious reporting presently required. It would additionally boost Bombay shipping which is in the doldrums. A duty of 100 Rupees per chest would equate with the great costs of transport on the overland route to Sind and would produce 400,000 – 500,000 Rupees annually to the Presidency.

Canton Register Vol 7 No 32 – Tues 12th August 1834

From Montgomery Martin’s History of the British Colonies:
Kashmir – the greatest market for cashmere wool is Gilgit, a dependency of Ladakh, 20 days distant from the northern boundary of Kashmir. There are two types of cashmere. One is white and readily takes a dye. The other is ash-coloured and cannot easily be dyed. 2 lbs of wool can be obtained from a goat each year. The down is separated from the coarse hair by hand and then washed repeatedly in water infused with rice starch. At Gilgit the best raw wool costs 1 rupee a pound. After separation and washing, the raw weight is halved. After it has been spun, three Rupees weight of wool becomes 1 Rupee value of thread. Shawls are made of various types for various markets. The ones sent to Turkey are the finest and most delicate. The coarser cashmere is used to make carpets.[13]

Vol 8 No 41 – 13th October 1835

Sind – Lieutenant Burnes’ travels to Bokhara:
“We visited the Indus unannounced and sent a letter to the Emirs at Karachi explaining our purposes. A day later a search party of 50 soldiers arrived to examine our boats, breaking open everything. The officer said we should return to the river mouth and await instructions from Hyderabad before continuing. Some Baluchis fired over our heads to intimidate us.”
Burnes applied to the Sind authorities and to Colonel Henry Pottinger, the British Resident at Kutch, and this latter gentleman provoked a friendly letter from the Emir. It professed the impossibility of navigating the Indus by boat but did not contain an outright refusal to permit this attempt. Burnes then entered the river by another of its many mouths and send another note informing the officials at Karachi.

The messenger received no reply but learned that the previous official had been dismissed for failing to deter Burnes’ entry to the river. He said we were not permitted to land nor receive water or supplies. Later when our water was exhausted, Burnes sent a small boat up-river but it was seized and the watering party detained. Burnes later learned from the British Agent at Hyderabad that the Emir feared he (Burnes) was the precursor of an army. He finally decided not to permit the voyage but did not know how to retract his previous agreement.

Burnes persevered and, after another remonstrance from Pottinger, obtained the offer of passage through Sind by land. “This was the first opening we had obtained so I seized it and set off a third time for the Indus. Pottinger meanwhile advised the Emir that I was coming and that a land passage to Lahore was impossible. He also complained the previous attitude of the Emir was unfriendly particularly as I was carrying gifts from the King of England.”

On arrival at the mouths of the Indus, Burnes was met by an official who said no ships could enter the river and we were to be confined to our boats and again denied fresh water. Burnes decided to adopt the suggested but impossible land route which he could use to reach the Emir and discuss the matter. As soon as he set off on foot the officials released the boats and permitted them to sail up-river. He was soon informed and instructed his boatmen to remain where they were. After three days he received permission to proceed by boat.

Vol 8 No 45 – 10th November 1835

Letter to the Editor – The similarities that you allege to exist between the styles of the Chinese and Sind governments also apply to the government of British India. Using Lieutenant Burnes’ Travels as example, let me note a letter he sent to the Emir of Northern Sind which he says is in the epistolary style of the country:

“I have long heard of your Highness and I congratulate myself for having arrived at your dominions. I have brought presents for you from His Majesty the King of England, mighty in rank, terrible as the planet Mars, a monarch great and magnificent, of the rank of Jemshid, of the dignity of Alexander, unequalled by Darius, as just as Norsherwan, great as Fureedoon, admired as Cyrus, famed as the Sun, the destroyer of tyranny and oppression, upright and generous, pious and devout, favoured from above, etc., etc., may his dominion endure for ever.

“It is well known that when a friend visits a friend it is a source of happiness and I have therefore written these lines but when I see you my joy will be increased. The respected Mahomed Gohur, one of those enjoying your confidence, has arrived here and told me of your profession of respect and friendship for the British government, bringing with him many marks of your hospitality. Need I say I am rejoiced; such civilities mark the great …….”
Lt Burnes observed the style and form of the Sindhi government and it is the policy of the present government of India to do so. Ought this not be the policy of the British in their relations with China?
I will end with advice from Lt Burnes:

’there is no difference between the manners of Europe and Asia as striking as in correspondence. In Asia a secretary is simply told to write a letter of friendship, of congratulation or whatever and he does so. The official merely affixes his seal often without reading it. If the seal is illegible you cannot know who sent the letter because his name does not appear in it.’

This style approximates the style of China except they generally add their names. I think we should conform with the custom of the people in our correspondence. Sgd Hon Yan.


Vol 10 No 3 – 16th January 1838

Calcutta Courier, 14th October – Mackeson has reported on the trade between Ludhiana and the towns on the Sutlej, Gharu and Indus rivers. He says

“the Ludhiana merchants took a small quantity of opium to test their markets but it was insufficiently refined and unsellable”.

Many thousands of pounds of opium are grown in our Hill states and in the protected Sikh provinces and this is sent via Jeselmir and Sind to Damaun notwithstanding the existence of our Agency at Bombay to buy it. The overall quantities are not yet large but the merchants of Amritsar have asked what price opium attracts at Bombay and whether they can export it to that city. Nothing is more likely to increase our trade on the Indus than opium.

Editor – when the Indus is opened to navigation, Malwa will have a new rival from the Punjab. This new area of production will make opium speculation even more dangerous.[14]

Vol 11 No 38 – 18th September 1838

The Indian papers are alleging Russian intrigue around the northern frontier has caused an alliance between the Persians, Afghans and Nepalese against British India.

Editor – Burma is thought likely to join. This will extend the British Indian army and treasury and ends hopes that the opium monopoly can be abandoned.

Vol 11 No 51 – 18th December 1838

The Russians are sending 10,000 troops across the Caspian to attack Herat. Should they succeed the whole province of Khorassan will be theirs and the Company will have a common frontier with the Tsar. Russia should realise that any move on Herat will be viewed by us as aggressive and brings the possibility of a European war into focus. This will be a naval war focused on the Baltic and Black Seas (where the Russian fleets are based).

To prevent this, the Company is supporting Shuja Shah, the ex-King of Kabul. A forward party of 6,000 men has been sent to his assistance. Another 14,000 from Bengal and 10,000 from Bombay are preparing to depart for Afghanistan. A force is also reported to be preparing to leave England. It will have to pass through Sind to get to the war. Sir Henry Fane will command our forces.

Vol 12 No 6 – 5th February 1839

The Calcutta Englishman of 22nd October 1838 contains the East India Company’s Declaration of War on Afghanistan and Persia, dated 11th October 1838:

The Governor-General says the 1832 treaties with Sind, Bahawulpore and the Sikhs (Rajah Ranjit Singh) were all intended to open the Indus to our navigation, extend our commerce and increase our influence in central Asia.

In 1836 Captain Burnes was sent to the de facto ruler of Afghanistan, Dost Mohamed Khan at Kabul, to arrange commercial matters.

While on his way Burnes learned Dost Mohamed had attacked our ally Ranjit Singh. This was likely to produce war in an area where we wanted to trade. Burnes advised Dost Mahomed to settle with Ranjit Singh and we would assist in the process. Ranjit Singh agreed to Company mediation and suspended hostilities.

We then learned that a Persian army was besieging Herat and Persian agents were intriguing in Afghanistan to extend Persian influence across the Indus. The British mission in Persia was insulted and it appeared the country was pursuing policies at variance with the terms of its alliance with us. Dost Mohamed was implacably opposed to Burnes and relied on Persia for aid. He persisted in his unreasonable misunderstanding with the Sikhs and made demands which the British government of India could not recommend to Ranjit Singh. Dost’s policies endangered the security of British India and, as matters progressed, he openly called on Persian aid thus compelling Burnes to leave Kabul.
Our wishes to settle the differences between the Sikhs and the Afghans cannot progress while Dost remains de facto ruler in Kabul.

The siege of Herat has continued for months in spite of British protests and after our many offers of accommodation had been all rejected. The ill-will of Persia to England has been manifested and our envoy has been withdrawn. We now intend to raise the Persian siege. The acts of Persia in Afghanistan are directed against British interests. The Shah has been informed of our opinion. Dost’s brother, who is chief of Kandahar, has been openly assisting the Persians against Herat.
In these circumstances we have re-evaluated the rival claim of Shah Shuja-al-Mukh to the throne of Kabul. He was previously helpful to us and is now living in asylum in India. We have already assessed the Barukzye chiefs for leadership and found them wanting. Their disunion and unpopularity disqualifies them. We tolerate them provided they do not act against us but they are also injuring our interests.

The welfare of our Indian possessions requires a settled border in the west with good neighbours. Those western neighbours are now subservient to Persia which is hostile to us. We have decided to promote Shah Shuja al Mukh as King of Kabul and, in justice to our long friendship with Ranjit Singh, we have invited him to join us in a punitive attack. MacNaughten has concluded a tri-partite agreement with Ranjit Singh and Shah Shuja al Mukh whereby Sikh borders are guaranteed in return for Sikh assistance in placing Shah Shuja al Mukh on the throne at Kabul.

A guarantee of independence is offered to the Emirs of Sind and the integrity of Herat under its present ruler will be respected. Shah Shuja al Mukh will enter Afghanistan with his own troops supported by a British army. We expect the Afghan people to themselves overthrow Dost. Once Shah Shuja al Mukh is installed the British army will leave. The proposed measure will secure our western frontier and stimulate trade in Afghanistan.

Vol 12 No 7 – 12th February 1839

Statistical Society – Russia is rapidly expanding its territories. It has occupied half of Sweden (the colony in Finland); it has taken Poland from the Austrian empire, it has seized parts of Turkey; it is paramount in Persia and it is moving into Tartary.

Her territorial acquisitions since 1770 have doubled her lands in Europe. In 1762 the population was recorded at 25 millions; in 1825 it was 58 millions.

Vol 12 No 25 – 18th June 1839

The Observer, 10th February 1839 – The Russian Tsar has disavowed any hostility to India and considers the lands beyond the Indus to be surplus to his needs. He says he approved the Persian siege of Herat because the inhabitants around that town were continually rebelling. It appeared to him that the pacification of Herat was essential to the tranquillity of Persia.

Vol 12 No 28 – 9th July 1839 (actually published 12th July)

Bombay Times, 11th May – Admiral Maitland has arrived in the Wellesley at Bombay from the Persian Gulf on Thursday night. He plans to stay a few days and then sail to Ceylon.
He has withdrawn the British Resident from Bushire because the Persian administrator of the port is harassing Englishmen by withholding supplies from ships and demanding the Royal Navy use the public landing place in town (where their goods and persons are subject to Customs inspection) instead of the British Resident’s private landing place.

Maitland led a force of several ships and thousands of men. The administrator of Bushire reports to the Prince at Shiraz whom we will influence to control his subordinate. In the interim Colonel Sherrif went to Bushire to patch-up things and the Administrator asked him if it was to be peace or war. The administrator said that if the Resident wished to return he would have to petition the Prince at Shiraz for permission. The closure of the Residency will disturb the British merchants of Bushire as it was their sanctuary in the event of an attack.

Vol 13 No 12 – 24th March 1840

As a result of the successful conclusion of the Afghan War, numerous officers have been recognised and the Russian Persian Company has been disbanded by the Tsar.

Colonel Pottinger is made a baronet. The Shah of Persia has acceded to all our demands and diplomatic relations will soon be re-established. A commercial treaty will probably be one of the first fruits of victory.

The Morning Chronicle says ‘it is not so much the commercial advantages that will flow from victory as the improved security of our Indian possessions that results from prospective alliances with Persia and the central Asian states. The distrust between England and Russia is also reduced.

Vol 13 No 17 – 28th April 1840
The London Gazette of 11th December (recited in the Englishman 25th February 1840) has a list of distinctions earned mainly in the Afghan War. Colonel Henry Pottinger gets a baronetcy but we are particularly glad to see the hero of Herat, Lieutenant Eldred Pottinger of the Bombay Artillery, gets a CB.

The Oriental Herald gives some biography on him. He comes from an ancient family whose seat was for many centuries at the Hoo, Hertfordshire. His ancester Thomas Pottinger removed to Ireland in the early 17th century where he and his brother Edward had been granted a large tract of land. This has since been disposed of.

One of Eldred’s ancestors was a knight in the army of Henry II at the conquest of Ireland in 1182. Another courted the daughter of the Earl of Warwick. Yet another was the godson of Sir Walter Raleigh but was banished from England for fighting two duels in one day. He established a branch of the family in Europe. Lt Eldred Pottinger is the eldest son of the present representative of the Irish branch of the family. His mother is the daughter of Mr K Moore of Elsinore, another ancient Irish family. Eldred was born in August 1811.

Vol 13 No 24 – 16th June 1840

The Bombay Gazette of 30th March carries a lamentable report of the loss of the transport Hannah at the mouth of the Indus shortly after sailing from Karachi on conclusion of the War. She carried 300 men of H M’s 17th Regiment and some 150 camp followers who all providentially survived but the ship itself has been lost and it contained all the clothing, arms and equipment of the regiment, its mess plate together with the loot from the battle of Kalat. All the jewels and prize money have gone.

Friend of China 14.3.42 edition

The military disaster at Kabul is the worst incident in the Indian government’s history. When the Lion of the Punjab (Ranjit Singh) took Afghan’s fairest province (the Punjab, Land of the Five Rivers), Dost Mahomed, the ruler of Kabul, and his brothers the rulers of Kandahar appealed to the Company for help but Bentinck was required to pursue an economical policy. He could not involve the company in territorial aggrandisement and he declined to oblige. Dost then applied to the Shah of Persia. The strong Russian influence at the Persian court was thus introduced into Northwest India. When Lord Auckland replaced Bentinck he immediately sent a supporting force in 1836-7 but Dost was still angry with England and rejected our assistance.
The expedition’s object on this occasion became:
  • the removal of Dost from power,
  • the reinstatement of our old friend Shuja, whom Dost had dispossessed of the crown, and
  • a declaration of the independence of Afghanistan from Persian / Russian influence.
Of these aims, only Shuja was restored but he was so despicable, his subjects threw him out again. Our latest mission was thus opposed to a popular King and this might explain the force of feeling against it.

When Sir Wm MacNaughton went out to parley with the insurgents to obtain better terms for British withdrawal or a delay until reinforcements arrived (which the Afghans suspected was the case) he was shot and killed with his party and only two men (Capt Lawrence and Lt Connolly) survived as wounded prisoners.

Mohamed Akbar Khan said ‘I have given you food and camels but still you are here’. MacNaughton replied that the weather was unsuitable for travel. He offered many advantages to Akbar if he would permit delay. Akbar was angered, MacNaughton rose and Akbar shot him. Capt Trevor was then cut down and two Indian escorts killed. The two other British officers were wounded and captured. They were held as hostages with Capts Drummond and Walsh, Lts Eyre, Webb and Warburton who were all previously appointed to Shuja’s service.

The evacuation of the force and its subsequent annihilation en route to Jalalabad demands retribution. The Company’s expedition was denounced by the Duke of Wellington and disapproved by Ellenborough, who now has the job of restoring British honour.

Friend of China 7.4.42 edition

Notice from Fort William: Intelligence from Kabul notes the British force there maintained its positions for six weeks against overpowering forces but finally had to make terms as their food ran out.

They retired east towards Jalalabad but were pursued, harassed and suffered extreme disaster. Reinforcements are being sent to reassert British honour and interests.

Friend of China 28.4.42 edition

News from Kabul. Dr Brydon has returned to Jalalabad and described the annihilation of the entire expedition of nearly 5,000 men. Six officers were given up as hostages and the sick and wounded left at Kabul. The force marched out of Kabul on 6th January under a safe conduct agreed with Mohamed Akbar Khan but was immediately and continually sniped upon.

It appears Khan had required that our guns be left behind but General Sale refused to do so.
On the 3rd day the ladies of the party were sent back to Kabul under Khan’s supposed protection. Actions occurred at Huftcotal and at Tezeen where Generals Elphinstone and Shelton were captured. About 200 men survived to continue to Jugdulluk but Brydon separated from them on 12th Jan and reached Jalalabad the next day. A native trooper has also arrived here but, after 7 days wait, no further survivors have turned-up. About 160 officers have been lost.

Friend of China 12.5.42 edition

Kabul : We now hear in letters from British prisoners that an insurrection broke out in the city on 21st November and the Envoy, who was always keen on offensive action (whereas Elphinstone favoured the defensive), immediately sent an officer to the King, Shah Shuja al Mukh, our candidate for occupier of the Durrani throne. The messenger was attacked and fired upon but got through. He persuaded the King to permit Brigadier Sheldon’s two regiments and Capt Nicoll’s troops to take possession of the Bala Hissar from whence the shelling of the city emanated.[15]

The following day the insurgents took possession of the commissariat fort where all the stores etc., of the British expedition were kept. Our cantonments had been drawing only 2 days reserve of atta so an immediate panic arose. On the previous day Sir Alexander Barnes, Capt Barnes and Capt Broadfoot had been killed. Capt Johnston’s treasury was also lost. Another fort, also used for storage, was attacked but Capt MacKenzie defended it for 3 days until his ammunition ran out. MacNaughton (the Envoy) captured two forts which contained some grain. Fighting continued all the time and many officers were killed. Then news of the destruction of Codrinton’s corp at Chareekar arrived.
After some days Brigadier Sheldon’s force was recalled from the Bala Hissar to the cantonment. He returned with one regiment but still the Envoy’s recommended offensive action was not commenced as General Elphinstone had concluded that the position was hopeless. The troops thus became despondent. Whenever they went out to clear enemy positions they were in small numbers and barely adequate to the task. The continual sniping kept them down as their food was incrementally expended. Then they found the bribes etc., paid for a supply of atta from the Afghans were no longer adequate and our reserves were only 6 days. Capt Connolly, who was with the king, suggested retiring into the Bala Hissar to which the envoy agreed but the force commanders thought the troops were no longer reliable. So the remaining regiment in the Bala Hissar (the 54th) was withdrawn and the king was left alone.

The Envoy continued to eschew negotiations until he heard that the brigade expected from Kandahar had gone back; General Sale’s brigade at Jalalabad was busy, and no assistance could be expected from Peshawar. Then he complied with the General and other C.O.’s wishes and put out feelers for a treaty. Several conferences were held at which Akbar Khan took a leading role and 20 articles were drawn up in Persian and approved. The native chiefs wanted the matter concluded quickly and sent a message through a cousin of Akbar’s to that effect on 22nd December.

On the next morning MacNaughton, with Capts Lawrence, MacKenzie and Trevor went to the conference but within 5 minutes they were all seized. The party was tied and required to mount horses. The envoy refused and Trevor fell off his mount. They were both killed. The other two officers were taken away behind mounted Afghans. The natives chopped at them but did not fire for fear of wounding the Afghan escorts. They were imprisoned for a few days and after interviews with Akbar were returned to our cantonment on 28th December.

The treaty negotiations were then taken up by Major Eldred Pottinger and on 6th January the force marched out over a foot of snow. It reached Beegroma unmolested apart from some casualties in the rear guard. On 7th January it moved to Bareekhar fighting a rear guard all the way and losing three mountain guns.[16] The numbers of irregulars pursuing the force and collecting its lost baggage etc., increased hourly. The next morning they awoke to find the camp was surrounded.

Capt Skinner rode out to parlay with Akbar who blamed the British for leaving town before the troops he called for their protection had been assembled. He said only he could control the sniping tribesmen. He was willing to exert discipline on the tribesmen if the British gave six hostages and agreed not to move beyond Tazeen until Sale’s brigade had withdrawn from Jalalabad. He requested Capts Lawrence and MacKenzie as hostages and Major Pottinger, who was lame from a wound, volunteered to join them. The Khan appeared satisfied and the British force marched on to Khoord Kabul but the Sirdar could not restrain the tribesmen who continued to attack. When Akbar and the hostages followed-on they came upon a carnage. The remaining gun was unattended. Some children had been carried off. Only four women and a wounded soldier survived.

The next day Akbar said his men were uncontrollable and the only hope of the survivors was to take his protection. The women and hostages were halted for 1-2 days then continued on to Jugdulluck finding the road covered with dead and dying. Many of our dead were uninjured but frozen. At Jugdulluck the remaining troops made a stand in an abandoned fort until 30 rounds each were left. They tried to negotiate and Akbar called Elphinstone, Brigadier Shelton and Capt Johnson to attend him but when they came out they were cut down by the troops. The remaining hostages are at Buddiabad. The details of the 20 articles agreed are unavailable but one, presumably, is the restoration of Dost Mohamed as King.

Editor – People are going to ask how a well-provisioned army occupying a defensible post, generally an army better provided than that of Clive or Coote, could have been annihilated.

Friend of China 12.5.42 edition

A copy of the Friend of India dated 24th April says General Sale at Jalalabad was attacked by 2,500 cavalry and infantry under Akbar Khan but without much effect. A large supply of munitions reached Peshawar on 6th March.

Friend of China 19.5.42 edition

The Afghans have adopted the course of action that we taught the Spanish to use against the French in the Peninsular War. The Spanish guerilla defence was formerly characterised as noble and honourable by England.

The progress of British India has been checked and the cause of the Russians advanced. If we take any further action it should not be a war of retribution but the annexation of the Punjab. This is the only worthwhile province of Afghanistan and its possession will give us a frontier on the Indus which provides a natural barrier between British India and Afghanistan.

Friend of China 2.6.42 edition

Investigations concerning the debacle in Afghanistan preparatory to Courts Martial have produced the following recommendations:
  • Major General Elphinstone for misdirection generally.
  • All political officers at Kabul.
  • Lt Colonel Palmer for surrendering the citadel of Ghazni.
  • The direction and conduct of the troops at Kabul.
Friend of China 16.6.42 edition

Afghanistan: The entire 27th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry is rumoured to have been annihilated by the Ghaznis. Peshawar has fallen to the Afghans.
General Pollock’s relieving column has crossed the Khyber Pass and is within two days of Jalalabad.
Learning of his approach General Sale sallied out from Jalalabad with 1,500 men and routed Akbar Khan’s 6,000 besiegers. The enemy camp was taken and two of our standards and four of our guns were recaptured.

Friend of China 30.6.42 edition

Recital from the Delhi Gazette:
The Kabul prisoners are being well treated. Capt Colin MacKenzie has arrived at Jalalabad from Kabul to negotiate the terms of their return to us. He says he saw Akbar kill MacNaughton. He believes Shuja was implicated in the outbreak. Elphinstone, luckily for him, died on 23rd April. Monteath’s and Rolton’s brigades have had to be merged to make up numbers. The scarcity at Jalalabad is severe and the sale of dead officers’ effects is attracting high prices.

Friend of China 30.6.42 edition

The disastrous news from Afghanistan has prompted the home government to sent 10,000 British troops to India. All the infantry will get the new percussion lock rifles. The total augmentation of our Indian forces to date is 15,000 men.

Friend of China 21.7.42 edition

Mr Cameron is the law officer who, on behalf of Lord Ellenborough, is looking through all the papers concerning the disaster at Kabul. We hope the enquiry will not be Burked. Public justice demands that the truth be known.

Friend of China , 28th July 1842:

H M Govt has informed the Governor-General of India that the entire disposable force of the United Kingdom will be available to him to effect any measures essential to the maintenance of our Eastern Empire.

Friend of China 28.7.42 edition

Afghanistan – Capt MacKenzie has left Jalalabad for Tezeen bearing General Pollock’s reply to Akbar Khan’s proposals regarding the prisoners but the details are unknown. Elphinstone’s body has reached Jalalabad and been interred in the fort. The London papers allege he was a coward and a fool.
All the chief actors are dead – Shah Shuja, Sir Alexander Barnes, Sir Wm MacNaughton, Brigadier Anquetil, Colonels Orchard and Chambers.

The rumour is that MacNaughton was plotting treachery. He is said to have asked Akbar Khan to betray Ameenoulah, the soul of the Afghan revolution, and bring him to the conference where MacNaughton had prepared two regiments nearby to seize him. This seems unbelievable but we recall Eldred Pottinger saying ‘the English name is sunk beyond redemption in Kabul’ so perhaps it is true.

Mr Cameron has the statements detailing this part of the proceedings and his report is awaited.
Friend of China 1.9.42 edition

The expedition of the Russian General Pesowski to Khiva has strangely frightened our diplomats. We think it demonstrates English strength and Russian weakness. The general has been cooked by day and frozen by night; he has eaten his camels and horses and has been lucky to get most of his force back to Orenburg.

In that part of the globe we should let the savages fight each other. All the petty principalities around British India are powerless. A brigade sent here and there to deter robbery is all that is required to control them.

The siege of Herat by the Persians deeply concerned the Indian Government. Herat is a small group of mud huts in the middle of a desert. It is absurd to describe it, as the India Company describes it, as the ‘key to India’. The idea of this siege being the prelude to a Persian invasion of India is silly.
Our experience in Afghanistan shows how inhospitable the country is. It is said the Persians have assembled 60,000 men to attack Herat. Let them do so.

Friend of China 1.9.42 edition

Lord Ellenborough has not indicated to his council what he will do about Afghanistan. He is at Allalabad and the council is at Calcutta. For the first time in the history of the British Raj there is no communication between the two.

The armies are in the field. The Company incurs much the same expense whether they fight or sit around.

Friend of China 20.10.42 edition

Lord Ellenborough is said to have determined on an immediate advance of our punitive force on Kabul.

Friend of China 3.11.42 edition

The Friend of India reports that a large column of English troops is advancing on Kabul.
Friend of China 22.12.42 edition

We have a recent report from the Company’s army of retribution in Afghanistan via Calcutta:
On 30th August 42 General Nott defeated an enemy force and on 5thSeptember 42 he brought his army before Ghazni. The city was full of men and the hills to the north east were covered with troops of infantry and cavalry. Cavalry and artillery were used to drive the enemy out of the suburbs and into the town. The low hills to the north-east were cleared and occupied and the ground marked out for breaching batteries.

Before the siege could commence it was discovered that the occupying force had slipped away from Ghazni overnight. Nott dismantled the citadel, destroyed the principal gate and released 327 sepoys of our 27th Native Infantry who had been sold into slavery there. The British loss was 3 killed and 43 wounded. Nott was expected to arrive at Kabul on 17th September 42. He has seized as prize the celebrated sandalwood gates of the temple of Ghazni that were brought there by Mahmud from Somnath.

On 16th September 42 General Pollock entered Kabul. He had encountered and defeated Akbar Khan and 10,000 men at Tezeen three days earlier. Fighting was hard and some engagements were decided with the bayonet. Several hundred dead and wounded Afghans were left on the field with two field guns, lots of stores and ammunition and three standards. Resistance was less than had been expected and British losses were only 32 killed and 130 wounded.

Akbar Khan was deserted by his troops and fled north into Turkestan with his British prisoners pursued by Sir Richmond Shakespeare with 700 kuzzul-bashees. Shakespeare hopes to rescue the rest of the British prisoners although many have already come into camp. He went to Bamian looking for Akbar who has said he will not release the prisoners unless he gets Dost Mohamed in exchange. Mrs Trevor and 8 children, Capt and Mrs Anderson and 3 children, Capt Troup and Dr Campbell have all come into camp. Supplies are abundant and Kabul remains quiet.

The gallant General Sale’s injury was from a spent ball and was only slight.

There has been an invasion of Bamkhan by the King of Bokhara
Editor – Having restored British honour and displayed our power to the Afghans it would be wise to withdraw back across the Indus. The disturbed state of the Punjab will likely require our intervention soon and the ‘mushroom’ dynasty of the Singhs should there be uprooted and their whole country taken under British protection.

Friend of China 29.12.42 edition
Afghan War – The Company’s Court of Directors asked Robert Peel to pay a portion of the expenses incurred in the recent war to install our man on the throne of Kabul. Peel told them to ‘go away’.
The India Company need not worry. With the end of the opium war, demand for the Drug along the China coast has increased and prices in some places have more than doubled. This has translated into higher auction prices.

We expect the increase to be worth 5,000,000 – 7,500,000 Rupees beyond this year’s sale proceeds. With Lord Ellenborough’s general policy of economy, this should satisfy the India Company.

Friend of China , 12.1.43 edition

Report from Afghanistan:
The last British prisoners have been released and we have turned our backs on this unlucky country. The retribution the Company’s army has extracted is called a ‘needless ruthless barbarity’. Dost Mohamed and the other Afghani prisoners are being returned to their devastated country and will no doubt hate us implacably for turning their towns to rubble. Even now in evacuating the country, the infuriated inhabitants were able to kill a few of our people and steal guns and baggage as we marched-out.

Friend of China 23.2.43 edition

In an address at Simla following the recent success of the Company’s army in Afghanistan, Governor-General Ellenborough referred to the original war in these terms:
‘disasters which were unparalleled in their extent, unless by the errors in which they originated, and by the treachery by which they were completed, have been avenged.’
This consigns to everlasting infamy the policy of Lord Auckland.

Friend of China 16.3.43 edition

From Bombay we hear the Emirs of Sind are agreeable to making convivial terms with the Company’s Emissary Major Outram.

Friend of China 11.4.43 edition

The victory of Sir Charles Napier over the Emirs of Sind at Meeanee (now Miani, near Hyderabad) is a complete success. Two crore (20 million rupees) of treasure was found in the Hyderabad treasury which will make this another profitable war. We hope the army gets its prize money quickly.[17] The part of Sind we now occupy is all that we need for control of navigation on the Indus.

Friend of China 27.4.43 edition

Mohamed Akbar Khan is King of Kabul again. He has proclaimed a holy war (jihad) against the infidel Sikhs to recover the lands seized from the Durrani monarchy by Ranjit Singh (the Punjab and Kashmir).

Dost Mohamed, the ex-Emir of Kabul, is said to be loath to trust himself to the power of his son.

Friend of China , 8.6.43 edition

The Gentleman’s Gazette reports the Emirs of Sind have been dispatched to Bombay as prisoners. Sir Charles Napier has received the submission of the two principal power groups in Sind and is so confident of peace in his new acquisition that he has sent for Lady Napier to join him.


Friend of China 15.6.43 Supplement

From the Bombay Times - Sir Charles Napier achieved a victory over the Baluchis on 24th March. The General took his whole army of 6,000 men plus 18 guns to meet Sher Mohamed of Mirpur, who had 20,000 men. All the Baluchis eleven guns and some of their standards were captured.
Sher Mahomed escaped into the desert on horseback with some friends, pursued by Napier’s irregular horse. We lost 39 killed and 228 wounded.

Friend of China 7.9.43 supplement

Sir Charles Napier marched his troops out of Hyderabad in mid June. The heat extinguished some of his European soldiers – one lieutenant, two sergeants and 29 privates fell down and died in a couple of hours.

Its not the marching that is fatal – within the fort of Hyderabad itself three sergeants, one drummer and 14 privates have also died of the same cause. They just fall down dead.

Friend of China 16.3.44 edition

A fierce battle was fought between British forces under Sir Hugh Gough and a Maratha army at Gwalior in Sind. About 40 officers and 500 of our men were killed. The Indians were well assisted by the French Artillery Colonels Baptiste and Jacob. Jacob commanded the batteries at Shikarpore, Baptiste the batteries at Maharajpore.[18]

Friend of China 23.3.44 edition

Calcutta Star Obituary – Major Eldred Pottinger
He entered the Company’s military academy at Addington, Kent in 1826, obtained his commission in Dec 1827 and arrived Bombay the following year. In a few years he was made adjutant to a battalion and then appointed to command a detail of the Cutch Horse escorting his uncle (Henry Pottinger – now the Governor of Hong Kong), then the British Resident in Sind.

He was then appointed to survey a part of Central Asia. Disguised as an Asiatic with two NCO’s and a few others he made his way through Afghanistan via lower Sind, Cutch, Gundava and the Bolan Pass to Quetta thence to Kandahar through Kakur country to Nowah where the party joined the road to Ghazni near Ab Istadah. Passing through Ghazni he went to Kabul remaining some time to learn the habits, feelings and history of the people. From Kabul he walked to Bamian, Sinipul, Mymunah, Kilanow and finally to Herat from whence he was able to transmit his first political messages.
Herat was at that time besieged by a Persian army supported by a powerful artillery mainly staffed by Russians. Russians also directed this siege of Herat which Eldred reported.

The occupants of Herat were prepared to surrender. Lt Pottinger wished to prevent this. He attended the Durbar, threw-off his disguise, identified himself as a British officer and volunteered his services in a more vigorous defence. This was accepted and he then commenced to manufacture the necessary materials within Herat to accomplish the defence. He mined the besiegers on one occasion and sallied out to their trenches on another. It was not just skill and perseverance but moral courage. Aware of what was at stake, he did everything necessary including drawing bills on India for his costs. In 1838 the British representative to the Persian Court was finally able diplomatically to get the siege raised.
Eldred was then nominated by the Governor General to the Political Department as assistant to Sir Wm McNaughton. The King concurrently appointed him to an Indian Majority and made him a CB. In 1839 he returned to India and was employed at Calcutta settling accounts for his journey and arranging the results of his surveys for publication. In 1841 he joined Sir Wm McNaughton at Kabul and was appointed Political Agent at Kohistan. On arrival at Chareekar he assessed the dangerous state of the defences and removed the troops to an old fort nearby where abundant water was available. In the outbreak at Kabul, his position was attacked early but he defended it until it became untenable. His extraordinary escape with a wounded companion is well known. His subsequent performance at Kabul was splendid. He became a prisoner of Akbar Khan but was honourably acquitted of any responsibility for the overall fiasco. With a shattered limb he returned to the British lines and was then abused in every respect until offered employment in Hong Kong. His life serves as a model for all young Englishmen. He was a credit to the uniform.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. There is considerable emulation of Rome in British military and colonial administration. Every British schoolboy was tutored in Roman history.
  2. Zaman Khan in the old newspapers is today renamed Zaman Shah Durrani, the King of Afghanistan since 1793.
  3. Persuasive evidence of a reluctant ally. British forces had the same experience for the same reason with the Spanish army in the Peninsular War – see the Europe chapter.
  4. This time the Nabob gave the Company’s army 1.1 million Rupees and three smaller awards to the widows of officers killed.
  5. The size of the expedition suggests a substantial investment by someone but regrettably that aspect never develops in the newspaper.
  6. It will be recalled that few Europeans knew how to swim in those days – rivers made absolute barriers to European troops until Napoleon instructed his infantry and other nations then copied him.
  7. Specifically the agreement to pay nearly 10 million Rupees annually to the Company as a contribution to the money required by Pitt’s government. The Governor General sells the receivables to the private Calcutta merchants enabling him to remit a far larger sum to London than the annual contribution.
  8. In view of Zaman Shah’s approach and the fear of French invasion.
  9. The eventual remedy adopted by the Company’s army against the mud forts of India is the Mongol solution of undermining. The really dangerous work is in approaching the walls to commence excavations and, when that is successful, in the subsequent assault.
  10. This is not the famous Eldred Pottinger, who was then only an infant,  but, presumably a relative. A couple of thrilling books have been published detailing Pottinger’s later exploits – “Judgment of the Sword” and more recently “Afghan Connection.” He was a hero to 19th century British schoolboys.
  11. Also known as Shuja Shah Durrani, one of many relatives of Zaman Shah.
  12. It is thus said to appear at Damaun as an import from the Emirs of Sind. Their province was placed under the Company’s protection in 1830s and annexed to British India a few years later. This route was only briefly used. It appears more likely however that Malwa opium then came directly down the Nerbudda River from the growing districts and somehow passed the Company’s Customs stations however that implicates the Company’s army units controlling the river trade and cannot be mentioned in a newspaper.
  13. The wool is taken off by the farmer by scratching the animal with his fingers, a process still used in parts of central Asia that the goat clearly enjoys.
  14. Particularly dangerous for the Sikhs and the Emirs of Sind whose sovereignty is soon to be largely assumed by the Company. The reference to opium being insufficiently refined must refer to the need to store opium whilst the unpleasant fractions evaporate off – something the Indian farmer cannot afford to do.
  15. The Bala Hissar is an ancient fort within the city of Kabul that performed the functions of a citadel.
  16. Mountain guns were the lightweight knock-down 3 lb cannon designed at Woolwich Arsenal for Spanish guerrillas in the Peninsular War. They could be carried on muleback.
  17. It appears from former distributions that terms of service in the Company’s army allow the men half the value of enemy property seized. The Company retains the rest, although when these distributions were litigated in London the Company’s share was struck-out. It may have been 
  18. recovered by a contractual term in letters of appointment.
    Control of the Indus is requisite to assure both control over the supply of Maratha opium from Malwa and the Punjab and to open the Indus hinterland to British trade.
  19. A rare case of heavy British losses in India, due to an assault ordered on the Sikh artillery.
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