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1879]

POLITICAL SITUATION AT KABUL

429

Such an impetus was supplied by the fervent preaching of the aged mulla Mushk-i-Alam, who denounced the English in every mosque throughout the country. The people were further incited to rise by the appeals of the ladies of Yakub Khan's family to popular sympathy, and bribed to do so by the distribution of the concealed treasure at their command.

war.

The mullas, in short, became masters of the situation, and, having once succeeded in subordinating private quarrels to hatred of the common foe, the movement rapidly assumed the aspect of a religious The Afghan successes of 1841-42 were cited as examples of what might happen again, and the people were assured that, if they would only act simultaneously, the small British army in Sherpur would be overwhelmed, and the plunder of our camp would be part of their reward.

From time to time reports reached me of what was going on, and, from the information supplied to me, I gathered that the Afghans intended to gain possession of the city, and, after occupying the numerous forts and villages in the neighbourhood of Sherpur, to surround the cantonment.

It was under the stimulating influences of religious enthusiasm, patriotic and military ardour, the prestige of former success, and the hope of remuneration and plunder, that the Afghans took the field against us early in December.

It was arranged that the forces from the south† should seize the range of hills extending from Charasia to the Shahr-i-Darwaza heights, including the fortifications of the upper Bala Hissar and the high conical peak called the Takht-i-Shah; that those from the north should occupy the Asmai heights and hills to the north of Kabul; and those from the west§ should make direct for the city.

As it was evident to me that these several bodies, when once concentrated at Kabul, would be joined by the thousands in the city, and the inhabitants of the adjoining villages, I determined to try and deal. with the advancing forces in detail, and disperse them, if possible, before the concentration could be effected. I had, however, but a very imperfect idea of the extent of the combination, or of the enormous numbers arrayed against us. My intelligence was most defective; neither the nature of the country nor the attitude of the people admitted of extended reconnaissances, and I was almost entirely dependent for information on Afghan sources. Some of the Afghan soldiers in our ranks aided me to the best of their ability, but by the Sirdars, notably Wali Mahomed Khan, I was, either wilfully or from

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1879]

MACPHERSON ATTACKS THE KOHISTANIS

431 December, skirting the fringe of low hills which intervenes between Kohistan and the Chardeh valley. He reached the Surkh Kotalwhich divides western Kohistan from the Arghandeh valley-without opposition. From this point, however, the Kohistanis were sighted, occupying a position about two miles to his right front, their centre on a steep, conical, isolated hill, at the base of which lay the village of Karez-i-Mir.

Macpherson was now able to obtain a good view of the Paghman and Chardeh valleys on his left and left rear, and the numerous standards planted on the different knolls near the villages of Paghman gave ample evidence of the presence of the enemy discovered by Lockhart the previous day, and showed him that, unless he could quickly succeed in scattering the Kohistanis, he would find himself attacked by an enemy in his rear, in fact, between two fires.

Macpherson made his disposition for an attack with skill and rapidity. Leaving Lieutenant-Colonel Money with one company of the 67th, five companies of the 3rd Sikhs, and two guns, to hold the ridge, he sent the remainder of the Sikhs to harass the enemy's left flank and support the Cavalry, who were ordered to hover about and threaten the line of retreat, while Macpherson himself went forward with the rest of the force.

The Kohistanis retreated rapidly before our skirmishers, and the attacking party, protected by a well-directed fire from Morgan's guns, advanced with such promptitude that the enemy made no attempt to rally until they reached the conical hill, where they made a stubborn resistance. The hill was carried by assault, its defenders were driven off, leaving seven standards on the field, and Morgan, bringing up his Artillery, inflicted severe loss on the flying Kohistanis. On this occasion Major Cook, V.C., of the 5th Gurkhas, was again noticed for his conspicuous gallantry, and Major Griffiths, of the 3rd Sikhs, greatly distinguished himself. Our casualties were one officer (LieutenantColonel Fitz-Hugh) and six men wounded.

It was evident that the tribesmen from the directions of Arghandeh and Paghman intended to ascend the Surkh Kotal, but suddenly they appeared to change their minds, on discovering, probably, that our troops held all the commanding positions and that their allies were in full flight.

Soon after noon on the 10th I received the report of Macpherson's success and the enemy's retirement towards Arghandeh. I at once sent off Lieutenant-Colonel B. Gordon, R.H.A., with orders to intercept them with the Horse Artillery and Cavalry at Aushar; but when I rode over myself later in the day to that place, I was much disappointed to find that Gordon had not been able to give effect to my instructions, as the enemy, on perceiving his troops, dispersed and took shelter in the surrounding villages and on the slopes of the hills.

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Macpherson encamped for the night between the Surkh Kotal and Karez-i-Mir, and Baker, who had steadily pursued his march along a very difficult road, halted a short distance west of Maidan and eight miles only from Arghandeh.

To Macpherson I sent orders to march very early the next morning -the 11th-through Paghman towards Arghandeh and in Baker's direction; at the same time I informed him that Massy, whom I had placed in command of the troops at Aushar, would, according to directions from me, leave that place at nine o'clock to co-operate with him, via the Arghandeh and Ghazni road. That evening Massy came to my room, and I carefully explained to him his part in the next day's proceedings; I told him that he was to advance cautiously and quietly by the road leading directly from the city of Kabul towards Arghandeh, feeling for the enemy; that he was to communicate with Macpherson and act in conformity with that officer's movements; and I impressed upon him that he was on no account to commit himself to an action until Macpherson had engaged the enemy.

Up to this time the combination of tribesmen, which later proved so formidable, had not been effected; Macpherson for the time being had dispersed the Kohistanis and checked the force advancing from Ghazni under the leadership of Mahomed Jan; the Logaris and Ghilzais were merely watching events, and waiting to see how it fared with the Kohistani and Ghazni factions, before committing themselves to hos tilities; they had but recently witnessed our successful advance through their country; they knew that their homes and property would be at our mercy should we be victorious, and they were uncertain as to Baker's movements.

On the morning of the 11th December,* therefore, only one section was actually in opposition to us, that led by Mahomed Jan, who during the night of the 10th had taken up a position near the group of villages known as Kila Kazi.

Further, I felt that Mahomed Jan must be disheartened at our recen

* On the 11th December, the troops at and around Kabul amounted to 6,352 men and 20 guns, which were thus disposed:

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