AFGHANISTAN AND THE ANGLO-RUSSIAN DISPUTE
by THEO. F. RODENBOUGH
Bvt. Brigadier General, U.S.A
AN ACCOUNT OF RUSSIA'S ADVANCE TOWARD INDIA, BASED UPON THE REPORTS AND EXPERIENCES OF RUSSIAN, GERMAN, AND BRITISH OFFICERS AND TRAVELLERS; WITH A DESCRIPTION OF AFGHANISTAN AND OF THE MILITARY RESOURCES OF THE POWERS CONCERNED
* * * * *
WITH THREE MAPS AND OTHER ILLUSTRATIONS
* * * * *
I. THROUGH THE GATES OF ASIA
II. ON THE THRESHOLD OF INDIA
III. THE BRITISH FORCES AND ROUTES
IV. THE RUSSIAN FORCES AND APPROACHES
V. REVIEW OF THE MILITARY SITUATION LIST OF AUTHORITIES INDEX
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Afghanistan and the Surrounding Territories (Drawn for this Work and Corrected by the Latest Military Surveys—end of vol.)
The Asiatic Territories Absorbed by Russia During the Past Two Centuries, with the Dates of the Various Annexations
The Russian Lines of Advance from their Base of Supplies
Abdurrahman Khan, Ameer of Kabul (Frontispiece)
Mahaz Khan (A Tajik), Khan of Pest Bolak Jehandad (Lohanir), from Ghazni
Wullie Mohammed, a Dahzungi Hazara Pozai Khan, a Shinwarri (Musician)
Khan Baz, a Khumbhur Khel Afreedi Tooro Baz, a Kookie Khel Afreedi
Zool Kuddar, an Adam Khel Afreedi Mousa, a Kizilbash, Born in Peshawur
The City of Kandahar, Afghanistan
Castle of Zohak, First March from Bamian, Irak Road to Kabul
An Afghan Post-Chaise; Going to the Front
Gate of the Bazaar at Kabul
Major-General, Sir F. S. Roberts, V.C., K.C.B.
Khelat-i-Ghilzi, between Kandahar and Ghazni
Elephant with Artillery; on the Road to Ali Musjid
Detail of Elephant Saddle
Noah's Valley, Kunar River
Watch Tower in the Khaiber Pass
Fort of Ali Musjid, from the Heights above Lala Cheena, in the Khaiber Pass
Fort of Dakka, on the Kabul River
The Ishbola Tepe, Khaiber Pass
Entrance to the Bolan Pass, from Dadur
Entrance to the Khojak Pass, from Pishin, on the Road to Kandahar
The Order of March in Central Asia
Gorge in the Tirband-i-Turkestan, through which the Murghab flows
Jelalabad, from Piper's Hill
AFGHANISTAN AND THE ANGLO-RUSSIAN DISPUTE
THROUGH THE GATES OF ASIA.
In universal history there is no more interesting subject for the consideration of the political student than the record of Russian progress through Central Asia.
In one sense this advance is a practical reestablishment or extension of the influence of the Aryan race in countries long dominated by peoples of Turki or Mongolian origin; in another sense it has resulted in a transition from the barbarism or rude forms of Asiatic life to the enlightenment and higher moral development of a European age. In a religious sense it embodies a crusade against Oriental fanaticism; and it is a curious feature of the Anglo-Russian dispute, that upon a question of temporal gain, the greatest Christian nation finds itself allied with the followers of Buddha and Mahomet against Russia under the Banner of the Cross.
The descendants of the great Peter have opened up in Central Asia a new region which, if as yet it has not been "made to blossom as the rose," has nevertheless profited by the introduction of law, order, and a certain amount of industrial prosperity.
Russia commenced her relations with Central Asia as early as the sixteenth century. Not only through embassies sent, but by military expeditions; these, however, at that time were private ventures by roving Cossacks and other inhabitants of Southern Russia. Authorized government expeditions commenced with Peter the Great, who in 1716-17 sent two exploring parties into the Central Asian deserts— Bekovitch to Khiva, and Likhareff to the Black Irtish. These expeditions were undertaken in search of gold, supposed to exist in those regions, but failed in their object; the detachment under Bekovitch being entirely destroyed after reaching Khiva. Peter next turned his attention to the country bordering upon the southern shores of the Caspian Sea; taking advantage of Persian embarrassments, with the consent of the Shah and of the Sultan he acquired, in 1722-3, the provinces of Gilan, Mazanderan, and Asterabad; but the great expense of maintaining a large garrison so remote from Russia, and the unhealthiness of the locality, induced the Russian Government, in 1732, to restore the districts to Persia. In the same year Abul-Khair, the Khan of the Little Kirghiz Horde, voluntarily submitted to Russia. Twenty years later a small strip of the kingdom of Djungaria, on the Irtish, was absorbed, and toward the commencement of the reign of Catharine II, Russian authority was asserted and maintained over the broad tract from the Altai to the Caspian. This occupation was limited to a line of outposts along the Ural, the Irtish, and in the intervening district. During Catharine's reign the frontier nomads became reduced in numbers, by the departure from the steppe between the Ural and Volga of the Calmucks, who fled into Djungaria, and were nearly destroyed on the road, by the Kirghiz.
The connection between Russia and Central Asia at this time assumed another character, that of complete tranquillity, in consequence of the development of trade through Orenburg and to some extent through Troitsk and Petropaulovsk. The lines along the Ural and Irtish gradually acquired strength; the robber-raids into European Russia and Western Siberia almost entirely ceasing. The allegiance of the Kirghiz of the Little and Central Hordes was expressed in the fact that their Khans were always selected under Russian influence and from time to time appeared at St. Petersburg to render homage. With the Central Asian khanates there was no connection except that of trade, but as regarded the Turcomans, who, it is said, had frequently asked for Russian protection, intercourse was discouraged, as they could not be trusted "within the lines," being simply bandits.
The Emperor Paul imagined that the steppes offered a good road to Southern Asia, and desiring to expel the English from India, in the year 1800 he despatched a large number of Don Cossacks, under Orloff, through the districts of the Little Horde. At the time a treaty was concluded with Napoleon, then First Consul, by virtue of which a combined Russo-French army was to disembark at Asterabad and march from thence into India by way of Khorassan and Afghanistan. The death of the Emperor of Russia put an end to this plan.
During the reign of Alexander I, Central Asia was suffered to rest, and even the Chinese made raids into Russian territory without interruption. In the third decade of the present century, however, several advanced military settlements of Cossacks were founded. "Thus," says M. Veniukoff, "was inaugurated the policy which afterward guided us in the steppe, the foundation of advanced settlements and towns (at first forts, afterwards stanitsas [Footnote: Cossack settlements.]) until the most advanced of them touches some natural barrier."
About 1840, it was discovered that the system of military colonization was more effectual in preserving order in the Orenburg district than by flying detachments sent, as occasion required, from Southern Russia; and in 1845-6 the Orenburg and Ural (or Targai and Irgiz) forts were established. In 1846 the Great Kirghiz Horde acknowledged its subjection to Russia on the farther side of the Balkash, while at the same time a fort was constructed on the lower Yaxartes.
In 1847 the encroachments of Russia in Central Asia had brought her upon the borders of the important khanates of Khiva and Khokand, and, like some huge boa-constrictor, she prepared to swallow them. In 1852 the inevitable military expedition was followed by the customary permanent post. Another row of forts was planted on the Lower Yaxartes, and in 1854 far to the eastward, in the midst of the Great Horde, was built Fort Vernoye—the foundation of a new line, more or less contiguous to natural boundaries (mountains and rivers), but not a close line. Between Perovsky and Vernoye there were upwards of four hundred and fifty miles of desert open to the incursions of brigands, and between the Aral and Caspian seas there was a gap, two hundred miles in width, favorable for raids into the Orenburg Steppe from the side of Khiva. Finally, under the pretext of closing this gap, a general convergent movement of the Siberian and Orenburg forces commenced, culminating under General Tchernayeff in the capture of Aulieata and Chemkent in 1864, and of Tashkent in 1865.
Here, M. Veniukoff says: "The Government intended to halt in its conquests, and, limiting itself to forming a closed line on the south of the Kirghiz steppes, left it to the sedentary inhabitants of Tashkent to form a separate khanate from the Khokand so hostile to us." And this historian tells us that the Tashkendees declined the honor of becoming the Czar's policemen in this way, evidently foreseeing the end, and, to cut the matter short, chose the Russian general, Tchernayeff, as their Khan. The few Central Asian rulers whose necks had so far escaped the Muscovite heel, made an ineffectual resistance, and in 1866 Hodjeni and Jizakh were duly "annexed," thus separating Bokhara and Khokand.
Here we may glance at the method by which Russia took firmer root on the shores of the Caspian, and established a commercial link with the Khivan region. In 1869 a military post and seaport was planted at Krasnovodsk, on that point of the east shore of the Caspian, which presents the greatest facilities for shipping, and as a base of operations against the Turcomans, who were at that time very troublesome. Several military expeditions set out from this point, and every year detachments of troops were despatched to keep the roads open toward Khiva, the Kepet Dagh, or the banks of the Attrek. Within five years (1870-'75) the nomads living within the routes named had become "good Turcomans," carried the Czar's mails to Khiva, and furnished the Krasnovodsk-Khivan caravans with camels and drivers. But the colonization scheme on the lower Caspian had once more brought the Russians to the Persian boundary. In 1869 the Shah had been rather officiously assured that Russia would not think of going below the line of the Attrek; yet, as Colonel Veniukoff shows, she now regrets having committed herself, and urges "geographical ignorance" of the locality when the assurance was given, and the fact that part of her restless subjects, on the Attrek, pass eight months of the year in Russian territory and four in "so-called" Persia; it is therefore not difficult to imagine the probable change on the map of that quarter.
The march continued toward Khiva, and after the usual iron-hand-in- velvet-glove introduction, General Kaufmann in 1873 pounced upon that important khanate, and thus added another to the jewels of the Empire. Nominally, Khiva is independent, but nevertheless collects and pays to Russia a considerable contribution annually.
In 1868 Russia seized Samarcand, and established over the khanate of Bokhara a similar supervision to that in Khiva. As the distinguished Russian already quoted remarks: "The programme of the political existence of Bokhara as a separate sovereignty was accorded to her by us in the shape of two treaties, in 1868 and 1873, which defined her subordinate relation to Russia. But no one looks at these acts as the treaties of an equal with an equal. They are instructions in a polite form, or programmes given by the civilized conqueror to the conquered barbarians, and the execution of which is guaranteed by the immediate presence of a military force."
The district of Khokand, whose ruler, Khudoyar Khan, submitted himself to Russia in 1867, was for a number of years nominally independent, but becoming disturbed by domestic dissensions, was ultimately annexed under the name of the Fergana Province.
To this point we have followed Colonel Veniukoff's account of the Russian advance. It will doubtless interest the reader to continue the narrative from an English view, exceptionally accurate and dispassionate in its nature.
In a lecture before the Royal United Service Institution in London, May 16, 1884, Lieut.-General Sir Edward Hamley, of the British Army, discussed the Central Asian question before an audience comprising such Indian experts as Sir Henry Rawlinson, Lord Napier of Magdala, and Mr. Charles Marvin, and many distinguished officers, including Lord Chelmsford, Sir F. Haines, and Colonel Malleson. Among other things, General Hamley said:
"Probably England has never been quite free, during the present century, from some degree of anxiety caused by the steady, gradual approaches of Russia through Central Asia toward India. It was seen that where her foot was planted it never went back. It was seen that with forces comparatively small she never failed to effect any conquest she was bent on, and that the conquest, once effected, was final. This security in possession was owing in great measure to the fact that the governments she displaced were bad governments, and that she substituted one far better in itself and of a simplicity which was well adapted to the people with whom she was dealing. She aimed mainly at three things—the establishment of order and of confidence and the obtaining of some return for her own heavy expenses. From the establishment of order and of confidence sprang a prosperity which enabled her to obtain a certain revenue, though entirely inadequate to her expenditure. Thus we beheld her pressing solidly on, and we knew not where she might stop. Pretexts, such as it was difficult to find a flaw in, were never wanting on which to ground a fresh absorption of territory. And seeing behind this advance a vast country—almost a continent—which was not merely a great Asiatic Power, but a great European State, under autocratic, irresponsible rule, with interests touching ours at many points, it is not to be wondered at that we watched with anxiety her progress as she bore steadily down toward our Indian frontier."
General Hamley says that England became particularly suspicious of Russia in 1867 when she absorbed Turkestan, and this feeling was intensified in 1878, while the Treaty of Berlin was still pending. General Kaufmann assembled a small army of about 12,000 men and thirty-two guns on the frontier of Bokhara, and although upon the signing of the treaty all threatening movements ceased, yet the British commander then operating in Afghanistan knew that Kaufmann had proposed to march in the direction of Kabul, and menace the British frontier.
It has ever been the practice of Russia, in her schemes of aggrandizement, to combine her diplomatic with her military machinery; but, unlike other nations, the ambassador has generally been subordinate to the general.
At the time that General Kaufmann sheathed his sword under the influence of the Treaty of Berlin, in 1878, there remained another representative of Russia—General Stolietoff—who had been quietly negotiating with the Ameer of Afghanistan, Shere Ali, the terms of a "Russian treaty," whose characteristics have already been described. Hearing of this, the English Ambassador at St. Petersburg questioned the Russian Minister, who answered him "that no mission had been, nor was intended to be, sent to Kabul, either by the Imperial Government or by General Kaufmann." This denial was given on July 3d, the day after Stolietoff and his mission had started from Samarcand. After the envoy's arrival at Kabul, another remonstrance met with the reply that the mission was "of a professional nature and one of simple courtesy," and was not, therefore, inconsistent with the pacific assurances already given. The real nature of this mission became known from papers found by General Roberts at Kabul in 1879. These showed that Shere Ali had been invited to form a close alliance with the Russian Government. General Kaufmann had advised Shere Ali to try and stir up disaffection among the Queen's Indian subjects, promising to aid him, eventually, with troops. Finding that this scheme was impracticable at the moment, Russia dropped the Ameer, who fled from the scene of his misfortunes, and died soon after.
For the moment England breathed more freely. There were still great natural obstacles between the empires of Russia and of India. Not only the friendly state of Afghanistan, but on its northwestern border the neutral territory of Merv, hitherto an independent province, and inhabited by warlike tribes of Turcomans difficult to reach through their deserts and likely to harass a Russian advance to Herat to an embarrassing extent. It was seen that the possession of this territory would at once free Russia from much difficulty in case of an advance and give her the means of threatening Herat as well as Kabul from her base in Turkestan, and even to some extent to carry forward that base beyond the Oxus.
On the part of Russia, the success of General Skobeleff in capturing the fortified position of Geok Tepe, January 24, 1880, marked the beginning of negotiations with the Turcomans for the acquisition of Merv. For a long while these were unsuccessful, but early in 1884 it was cabled to London, that "The Queen of the World" had accepted the White Czar as her future liege lord.
The immediate cause of this event was the effect produced upon the minds of the Turcoman deputation to Moscow by the spectacle of the Czar's coronation. The impression created by the gorgeous ceremonial was heightened by the presence of so many Asiatic chiefs and kinglets at the ancient and historic capital of Russia. The tales they brought back were well calculated to influence the minds of a wild and primitive people; and when the Khan of Khiva proffered his services for the settlement of their relations with Russia, that section of the Tekke tribe in favor of peace accepted them. The chiefs tendered their formal submission to the Czar, and promised to allow Russian merchants to reside among them, and pledged themselves to maintain the security of the routes from the Oxus to the Tejend; also accepting the responsibilities of Russian subjects by rendering tribute either in money or by military service. To all intents and purposes it is equivalent to the establishment of a Russian garrison in Merv.
The thorough way in which Russia seeks to bind her Asiatic subjects is shown in the fact that in 1884, at the request of the Khan of Khiva, a Russian tutor was selected to instruct his children.
Soon after it was reported that the Russians had established themselves at Sarakhs on the direct road to Herat and just over the Persian boundary of Afghanistan. These later movements again aroused the distrust of England, and a joint commission of Russian and English officials was appointed early in the year 1885.
While the English members of the commission under Sir Peter Lumsden were awaiting the convenience of their foreign colleagues, the presence of Russian troops was reported on the disputed territory in the vicinity of Herat.
This action alarmed the Afghans, and a collision seemed imminent. The English Government considered M. de Giers' explanation of this encroachment unsatisfactory. Pending an adjustment of the new complication both nations prepared for the worst.
Here we will leave the subject of the Russian advance through the Gates of Asia and pass to the consideration of the present neutral ground of Afghanistan.
ON THE THRESHOLD OF INDIA.
From the Amu Daria and the Turcoman steppes to the deserts of Beloochistan, from Persian Khorassan to the valley of the Indus, stretches the country of the Afghans. Men of renown and events of world-wide interest have been connected with its history. Its records tell of the murder of Cavagnari in recent times; of the tragedy of Elphinstone's command (1838-42); of Shah Nadir, the butcher of Delhi (1738-39); of Baber Khan, the founder of Mongolian rule in India (1520); of Timur, the assailer of the world (1398); of Genghiz Khan, the annihilator of the civilization of ancient Asia (1218-24); of the great ruler, Sultan Mahmoud (A. D. 1000); and yet earlier, of Alexander, "the divinely favored Macedonian." Afghan history dies away, in the hymns of the Indian Vedas, eighteen hundred years before the birth of Christ.
The territory of Afghanistan—which is destined to be the arena of a great international duel—covers an area of 12,000 square miles, or a tract measuring from north to south 688 miles, and from east to west 736 miles. It is a mountainous country; a high plateau, 6,000 feet above the sea, overlooked by lofty mountain ranges which open out and sink toward the west and south. On the north it is bordered by the western ranges of the Himalayas, which reach to the Amu Daria; by the wall-like range of the Hindu Kush, some of whose peaks are 19,000 feet high; and by several smaller ridges. Between the Kabul and Kuram rivers rises the snow-capped Sufeid Koh, the principal peak of which, to the south of Jelalabad, attains an altitude of 15,000 feet. To the south of this, in Southern Afghanistan, the Suleiman range, of an average height of 9,000 feet, falls rapidly toward the valley of the Indus. Between the Hindu Kush and the Suleiman ranges there are several lesser ones stretching toward the southwest, including the Auran Mountains (7,000 feet).
Of the principal rivers noted here (the Helmund, Har-i-Rud, Kabul, Kuram, and the Gomal) the Helmund alone is navigable. The Helmund terminates in the swamps of Seistan, as also do the Kash, Farrah, and Herat rivers, running parallel to the Helmund across the Kandahar-Herat roads, at 80, 150, and 200 miles, respectively, to the west of it. These rivers are without bridges, but (with the exception of the Helmund—provided with ferry at Girishk) are fordable, save in the months of April and May. The country is otherwise open and easily traversable, but only on the main routes can water be readily obtained, and forage is scarce in the winter.
The Turnuk valley, running northeast from Kandahar, is followed by the great route to Ghazni and Kabul skirting the Guikok range— separated from the Hazaristan to its west by the parallel valley of the Argandab. The latter valley is also followed by a route which enters it from Mooktur, the source of the Turnuk. This debouches upon the Herat road about ten miles west of Kandahar, and there is no communication west of it between Herat and Kabul, save by impracticable mountain routes across the Hazaristan.
Three routes from Kandahar to Herat separate at Girishk on the Helmund, cross the Kash at different points, and meet at Sabzawar (280 miles from Kandahar) on the Herat; both of the southernmost passing by the town of Farrah, which is 230 miles from Kandahar. From Girishk also a road follows the Helmund to Seistan and Lash Jowain, where it joins the Herat road at Farrah on the river of that name, or at Sabzawar on the Herat. The southernmost of the routes to Farrah also branches from Kash down the river named Kash, joining the Seistan route at Lash.
The general aspect of Afghanistan is that of a series of elevated flat-bottomed valleys, in the vicinity of the streams, somewhat under cultivation. The scenery is often wild and beautiful, and some of the defiles to the north of the Hindu Kush are said to be of appalling grandeur, while the soft, still loveliness of the sheltered glens on the southern slope of that range strongly impresses the traveller who visits them. Some of the ranges in the north and northeast are well timbered with pine and oak.
The eastern half of Afghanistan is generally cold and rugged, but sustains innumerable flocks and herds, and abounds in mineral wealth, especially lead and sulphur. In the more sheltered valleys considerable fruit is grown, but only grain enough for the actual consumption of the inhabitants. Water and fodder abound, but fuel is deficient; a serious matter, as the cold in the winter is extreme. The western part of Afghanistan is a more fertile region, interspersed, it is true, with lofty ranges, but comprising many pleasant valleys and pastures.
The population is approximately estimated at eight millions. Afghanistan is a genuine society of different nations, although the greater part are of Persian descent. The strongholds of the German self-protecting federations are here produced on a large scale.
Thus the Duranis, Tajiks, Yusafzais, Ghilzais, Eimaks, Hazaris, Kaffirs, Hindus, Jats, Arabs, Kizilbashis, Uzbeks, Biluchis, are near neighbors; of these about 3,000,000 may be real Afghans who profess the Suni faith and speak Indo-Persian Puchtu. There are over four hundred inferior tribes known. The Duranis are numerically strongest and live in the vicinity of Kandahar. Next in importance are the Ghilzais, estimated at 30,000 fighting men living in the triangle—Kabul, Jelalabad, Khelat-i-Ghilzai; until 1747 they furnished the rulers of Afghanistan. To the south of the Ghilzais live the Puchtu-speaking races who chiefly defend only their own territory; the mountainous eastern border is inhabited by the Momunds, Afridis, Arakzais, Zymukts, Waziris, who have never been subdued. Their sense of independence, however, does not prevent them from selling their friendship for ready money to the highest bidder. On the watershed of the Helmund and Indus dwell the independent Pathans and Biluchis. The Persian-speaking Kizilbashis in Kabul, comprise 3,000,000 of Shiahs, who are not Afghans, many of whose 30,000 fighting men are in the Ameer's regular army. The Tajiks— about 10,000 men—are chiefly in the Kabul and Ghazni districts. The Hazaris and Eimaks are in the central section of Afghanistan, known as the Hazaristan, extending east and west from the Koushan pass over the Hindu-Kush range to Marchat on the Turcoman frontier, and north and south from Sirpool in Turkestan to Girishk, between Kandahar and Herat; they are the descendants of the military settlers left by the Tartar hordes that swept Central Asia under Genghiz Khan, and still maintain a quasi-independence; they cordially detest the Afghan Government, but pay an annual tribute in money to its support. Finally there is a million of foreign nationalities, including Turks, Persians, Indians, Armenians, and Kaffirs; the last-named are Hindus, and violent antagonists of the Mohammedans living around them.
Thus it is seen that modern Afghanistan comprises three great districts—Herat in the west, Kabul in the east, and Kandahar in the centre, with the seat of government at the cities of the same names respectively. Within each district are, as already described, a large number of tribes occupying sub-districts, closely connected like the cells of a honey-comb, but each with its destinctive manners and customs and irregular military forces, in no instance numbering less than 6,000 men, and often twice that number, divided about equally into horse and foot. Many of these render military service to the Ameer, many are bandits in the worst sense. The nomadic tribes—like the Eimaks peopling the Heratic region—live principally in tents, encamping in winter in the valleys, and in summer on the table-lands of the mountain ranges. They are ignorant, hospitable, and brave and ardent hunters. Their principal trade is with Herat, and consists of woollen and camel-hair fabrics and clarified butter.
The farming population all live in small hamlets. The better classes of these live in villages surrounding or joined to the castle of a Khan. These castles are encompassed by a rude wall, having frequently turrets at the corners, and occasionally armed with swivel-guns or wall-pieces. The principal gardens are always on the outside of the castle, and the herds of horses and camels belonging to the Khan are kept at distant pastures and attended by herders, who live in tents. In the Bori and Ghazgar valleys the houses are of wood. In the Ghazgar valley they are all fortified, as already described; the doors are generally mere man-holes, and the top of the towers are loopholes. The better class, and more modern of these, have flat roofs, from which the water is carried by spouts; the walls surrounding are at least twelve feet high, and cover nearly an acre of ground. Three or four such houses usually constitute a village. These semi-barbarians are noted for the length and ferocity of their feuds. Sometimes two branches of a family who are neighbors become enemies. The distance between their "fortlets" may be two hundred yards, and on that space no one ventures. They go out at opposite gates and walk straight from their own fort in a line protected by its walls from the fire of the other, until out of range, then they turn around to their fields. Broadfoot relates that "once in Zurmat I saw a fort shut by rolling a stone against the door, instead of with the usual heavy chain. On inquiring as to the cause of such carelessness, the Malik, a fine old man with a plump, good-humored face, stretched his arms out toward the line of distant forts, and said: 'I have not an enemy!' It was a pleasing exception to the rule."
These feuds are a system of petty warfare, carried on by long shots, stealing cattle, and burning crops. Samson, burning his neighbor's corn, acted just like an Afghan. When the harvest is nearly ripe, neither party dare sleep. The remedy is sometimes for both to fight until an equal number are killed on each side, when the neighbors step in and effect a reconciliation; another method is to pay forfeit of a feast and some sheep or cloth; in exceptional cases, a few Afghan virgins are substituted for the sheep, but they are given in marriage, and are well treated.
Our space does not permit an extended reference to the manners and customs of this primitive people but a few characteristics may be briefly noted. The love of war is felt much more among Afghans than by other Eastern peoples, although but little effort has been made by them to augment the means of resistance and aggression. Pillage, fighting, and disturbances are at times necessary to their very existence, and are followed by long days of idleness, during which they live on the fruits of their depredations. There is no shade of difference between the character of the nomad and the citizen; a town life does not soften their habits; they live there as they live in a tent, armed to the teeth and ready for the onslaught. Though full of duplicity, one is nevertheless liable to be taken in by their apparent frankness. They are hospitable to strangers, but only because this is an ancient custom which has the force of law and is not a virtue which springs from the heart. The pride of the Afghans is a marked feature of their national character. They boast of their descent, their prowess in arms, their independence; and cap all by "Am I not a Puktan?"
The Afghan people, occupied with the defence of their homes, have failed to assist the Ameer in the formation and maintenance of that indispensable instrument—an organized, well-equipped, easily mobilized army. In regular battle the Afghans can have but little hope of success; their strength lies in the petty warfare peculiar to a wild, mountainous country. As auxiliaries, as partisan troops in their own country, they would be of great value to their allies and extremely troublesome to their enemies. For outpost, courier, and scouting purposes, they would doubtless be most efficient. The strength of the organized army in the service of the Ameer of Afghanistan is about 50,000 men of all arms. The traveller Vambery, who visited Herat in 1863, says:
"The Afghan's national costume consists of a long shirt, drawers, and dirty linen clothes; or, if he is a soldier, he affects a British red coat. He throws it over his shirt, while he gets on his head the picturesque Indo-Afghan turban. Others again—and these are the beau-monde—are wont to assume a half-Persian costume. Weapons are borne by all. Rarely does any one, whether civil or military, enter the bazar without his sword and shield. To be quite a la mode one must carry about one quite an arsenal, consisting of two pistols, a sword, poniard, hand-jar, gun, and shield." M. Vambery also describes a drill of some Afghan regulars.
"The men had a very military bearing, far better than the Ottoman army that was so drilled forty years ago. These might have been mistaken for European troops if most of them had not had on their bare feet the pointed Kabuli shoe, and had not had their short trowsers so tightly stretched by their straps that they threatened every moment to burst and fly up above the knee."
The adventurous O'Donovan thus describes an Afghan cavalryman whom he met unexpectedly, near Herat, in 1880: "He wore a dark-colored turban, one end of the cloth pulled up in front so as to resemble a small cockade. His uniform was blue-black, and he wore long boots. A broad black leather cross-belt, with two very large brass buckles, crossed his breast. He had sabre, pistols, and carbine."
The actual fighting strength of the army of Afghanistan cannot be definitely stated. Major Lumsden, who has represented the British Government in that country in various diplomatic capacities, stated (some years since) that the regular army of the Ameer consisted of sixteen regiments of infantry, three of cavalry, and seventy-six field guns. The infantry regiments numbered about 800 men each; the men were obtained by compulsory levy. Their uniform consisted of English cast-off clothes purchased at auction. The pay, about five rupees per mensem, was paid irregularly and often in kind; two months' pay was deducted for clothing. The cavalry and artillery were badly horsed; and the horses were sent to graze in summer. A Russian report of 1868 estimates the infantry at 10,000 men. The armament, equipment, and instruction of the troops have doubtless improved since that time, as ten years later the British Government supplied the Afghan Government with 10,000 Enfield and 5,000 Snider rifles and one field battery, and very recently (1885) it was announced that a present of Martini-Henry rifles and improved field guns had been sent to Abdurrahman by the Indian authorities.
Besides the regular army there is a paid irregular mounted force of about 20,000 men, active and formidable in "hill operations," and known as Jezailchis.
The late General Colin Mackenzie, in an account of his experiences in the Elphinstone disaster of 1842, says:
"The Jezailchis are so called from their jezails or long rifles. The Afghans are said to be among the best marksmen in the world. They are accustomed to arms from early boyhood, live in a chronic state of warfare with their neighbors, and are most skilful in taking advantage of cover. An Afghan will throw himself flat, behind a stone barely big enough to cover his head, and scoop a hollow in the ground with his left elbow as he loads. Men like these only require training to make first-rate irregular troops.
"As a trait of Afghan character, I must mention that whenever the Jezailchis could snatch five minutes to refresh themselves with a pipe, one of them would twang a sort of a rude guitar as an accompaniment to some martial song, which, mingling with the notes of war, sounded very strangely."
The Russian General Staff have also estimated the Ameer's force, exclusive of the irregulars, at 66,400 men with 30 guns.
The efficiency of this body, by reason of their peculiar surroundings, must vary with the character of the operations. For defence—particularly of their own section—they form an important consideration; for aggressive purposes their strength lies in partisan operations, in small detachments, requiring great mobility.
Just as it is difficult to understand the rapidity with which large numbers are assembled in Afghanistan for fighting purposes, so the dispersing of an Afghan army together with its attendant masses of tribal levies in flight is almost beyond comprehension; men who have been actually engaged in hand-to-hand combat dispose of their arms in the villages they pass through, and meet their pursuers with melons or other fruit in their hands, While they adopt the role of peaceful inhabitants.
A brief description of some of the more noted cities of Afghanistan may be appropriate here.
Sir Henry Rawlinson gives the following details respecting the so-called Key of India—the city of Herat:
"That which distinguishes Herat from all other Oriental cities, and at the same time constitutes its main defence, is the stupendous character of the earthwork upon which the city wall is built. This earthwork averages 250 feet in width at the base and about 50 feet in height, and as it is crowned by a wall 25 feet high and 14 feet thick at the base, supported by about 150 semicircular towers, and is further protected by a ditch 45 feet in width and 16 feet in depth, it presents an appearance of imposing strength. Whether the place is really as strong as it looks has been differently estimated. General Ferrier, who resided for some time in Herat, in 1846, states that the city is nothing more than an immense redoubt, and gives it as his opinion that, as the line of wall is entirely without flanking defences, the place could not hold out for twenty days against a European army; and M. Khanikoff, who, although not a professional soldier, was a very acute observer, further remarks that the whole interior of the city is dominated from the rising ground 700 yards distant and covered with solid buildings at the northeast angle, while the water supply both for the ditch and the city would be at the mercy of an enemy holding the outside country; the wells and reservoirs inside the wall, which could then alone be available—being quite inadequate to the wants of the inhabitants: but on the other hand, all experience testifies to the defensibility of the position.
"Not to speak of the siege which Herat sustained at the hands of Genghiz Khan, of Timur, and of Ahmed Shah, we have only to remember that in 1837 the Afghans of Herat, under Major Eldred Pottinger, beat off the continuous attacks, for nearly ten months, of a Persian army of 35,000 regular troops supported by fifty pieces of artillery, and in many cases directed and even commanded by Russian officers. The truth seems to be that Herat, although in its present state quite unfit to resist a European army, possesses great capabilities of defence, and might by a skilful adaptation of the resources of modern science be made almost impregnable. Major Saunders, a British engineer officer, calculated in 1840 that, at an outlay of L60,000, which would include the expenses of deepening the ditch, clearing the glacis and esplanade, providing flanking defences, and repairing the walls throughout, Herat might be rendered secure against any possible renewal of the attack by Persia."
The location of this city upon the principal thoroughfare between India, Persia, and Turkestan gives it a special importance in a military sense. It is also the principal mart of Western Afghanistan, and comprises extensive manufactures in wool and leather. The natural fertility of the country near Herat has been enhanced by irrigation.
"The valley, or julgah (as the Persians say), in which the city lies is rich in the possession of a river. This valley is about thirty miles long by sixteen in breadth, exclusive of the ground taken up by the fortress and the walls. Four of these miles separate the town from the northern and twelve from the southern hills, while at one quarter of the greater distance runs the Her-i-Rud or Herat River, which, rising near the Kuh-i-Baba, pursues a westerly course till, passing the city, it sweeps, first gradually, then decidedly, to the north, eventually to lose its identity in the environs of Sarakhs. It is of political as well as of geographical importance, for it passes between the Persian and Afghan frontier posts of Kahriz and Kusun respectively, and may be considered to mark the Perso-Afghan boundary at the Western Paropismus. The Plain, south of the walls, is watered by a net-work of eight or nine large and many minor ditches. The aqueducts are stated to be superior to those of Bokhara, Samarcand, and Ispahan. The grain produced is abundant— beyond the requirements of town and suburbs together. The bread, the water, and the vines have the merit of special excellence. Yet, with all this wealth of means and material, capable of subsisting an army of 150,000 men for some time, much of the legacy of past ages is disregarded and nullified by the supineness of a present generation. The ruins visible on all sides are not all useless or obsolete works. As one conclusive instance may be cited the neglected 'Pul-i-Malan.' This bridge, of twenty-three arches, can scarcely be considered void of purpose or practical benefit. It is, however, rapidly falling into decay, and as the river has changed its bed, part of it remains, barren of object, on dry land. On the rising of the waters this state of things is inconvenient; for the river, at such time, is no longer fordable, and the Kandahar caravans, going to and fro, have difficulty in crossing." [Footnote: Sir F. J. Goldsmid, "Journeys Between Herat and Khiva."]
In 1830 Conolly was of opinion that the city was one of the dirtiest in the world, being absolutely destitute of drainage; and Vambery, thirty-three years afterward, when the city was captured by Dost Mohammed, says the city was largely a heap of rubbish, having suffered the horrors of a long siege.
The city of Kabul, from which the surrounding territory of Eastern Afghanistan takes its name, stands in lat. 34 degrees 30' N., and long. 69 degrees 6' E., near the point where the Kabul River is crossed by three bridges. Its altitude is 6,400 feet, and, within a short distance to the north, is overtopped by pinnacles of the Hindu Kush about 14,000 feet higher.
The winters are severe, but the summers are very temperate—seldom going above 80 degrees. Kabul is fortified without and within; being separated into quarters by stone walls: the Bala Hissar, or citadel proper, being on the east, while the Persian quarter of the city is strongly protected on the southwest. In the days of Sultan Baber, Kabul was the capital of the Mogul empire. In modern times, it has been the scene of many Anglo-Indian struggles. It was taken by the British in 1839, and lost by them, through treachery, in 1841; in the following January, 4,000 British soldiers and 12,000 camp-followers were massacred while retreating.
Kandahar, the capital of Central Afghanistan, is about two hundred miles S. W. of Kabul, and three hundred and seventy-one miles E. of Herat. It is said to have been founded by Alexander of Macedon. The city is laid out at right angles, and is watered from the neighboring rivers through canals, which send to every street an ample supply. Sir Michael Biddulph describes the surroundings: "Kandahar stands on the western side of a plain, which was originally a barren skirt of the mountain. Exactly opposite to the city, and two miles to the westward, there is a wide break in the dividing ridge, through which the road to Herat leads, and by which are conducted the many canals and watercourses, taken from the Argandab, to supply the town and fertilize its environs. The energy and skill displayed in these extensive water-works cannot be too highly extolled. Brought from a point many miles distant in the Argandab valley, the chief canal, with its offshoots, conducts a vast body of water, which is dispersed along the contours of the declining plain in innumerable channels, spreading a rich fertility for many miles in a fan-like form to the southeast of the gap. Villages cluster around the city on three sides; cornfields, orchards, gardens, and vineyards are seen in luxurious succession, presenting a veritable oasis within the girdle of rugged hills and desert wastes all around. And if we turn to the aspect of the country beyond the gap, we see in the Argandab valley, along the canals and the river banks, a fair and beautiful landscape of village and cultivated ground, stretching for many miles in each direction. This productive character of the immediate neighborhood of Kandahar, and its commanding position within reach of other fertile districts, would give to this place, under a strong, stable, and just government, as much prosperity and happiness as falls to the lot of any place in the world."
Jelalabad stands on the Kabul River, about half-way between Kabul and the Khaiber Pass. It was the scene of the stubborn defence by Sir Robert Sale in 1842, referred to elsewhere. It has a floating population of about three thousand souls. Our engraving is taken from the south and west. The stream in the west is the Kabul River. The Jati gate in the south wall is the exit from the Hindu quarter. The Kabul exit is on the west, while the road to Peshawur commences at the gate of that name on the east wall of the city. The northern gate is known as the Pheel Khana, or elephant quarter. The walls of the town and of its houses are of mud, and the roofs generally of wood. The city is laid out in the form of a parallelogram intersected by two main streets crossing in the centre.
The town of Ghazni (the ancient Ghizni) is another historical landmark in a region famous for its evidences of former grandeur. It stands about 230 miles northeast of Kandahar on the road to Kabul; it is literally "founded upon a rock" at an elevation of 7,726 feet, and its base is 280 feet above the adjacent plain. It has walls thirty-five feet high, and a wet ditch, but is not considered in any sense formidable by modern engineers, as it is commanded by neighboring heights; it will always be a rendezvous for the natives, and forms a station or an important line of communication between the Indus and the Murghab. In the tenth century it was the seat of an empire comprising the present territory of Afghanistan, and which had in the space of seventy years absorbed thirty-eight degrees of longitude and twenty degrees of latitude. Its decline dates from the twelfth century, when the seat of government was transferred to Lahore. From 1839 to 1880 it has been occupied alternately by the British and the Afghans. The climate is not exceptionally severe, although in winter the mercury drops to 25 degrees below zero at times. The population averages about ten thousand.
Peshawur is one of the most important towns, both in a military and commercial sense, in the Derajat. It is the capital of a province of the same name on the N. W. frontier of India, eighteen miles from the Khaiber Pass and one hundred and fifty miles S.E. of Kabul. It has the usual bastioned defences, besides some detached works of more importance. It was once a rich and populous city, but has, like many other like places in that region, fallen from its high estate. It is garrisoned by the British, and can boast of fair trade and a population of about fifty thousand. It is the centre of a fruitful district containing more than one million inhabitants.
The fruitful valley and pass of Bamian lie on the road leading from Kabul to Turkestan. The pass, at an elevation of 8,496 feet, is the only known defile over the Hindu Kush practicable for artillery. This valley was one of the chief centres of Buddhist worship, as gigantic idols, mutilated indeed by fanatical Mussulmans, conclusively prove. Bamian, with its colossal statues cut out in the rock, was among the wonders described by the Buddhist monks who traversed Central Asia in the fourth century. The statues are found on a hill about three hundred feet high, in which are a number of cells excavated in the rock, not unlike those found in the Zuni country in the western part of the United States. The male figure is about 160 feet, the female 120 feet, in height; they are clothed in light drapery, and a winding stair may be ascended to the head.
Eight miles eastward of Bamian lies the ancient fortress of Zohak, attributed to the fabulous Persian serpent-king of that name. It is still used as one of the defences of the pass.
The animals of Afghanistan adapted to military transport purposes are the camel, the yabu (mountain pony), and the donkey.
From certain professional papers, on the camel, by Captain Yaldwyn and other officers of the Indian Army, we learn that this beast of burden has been often utilized by the British in Afghanistan, and the supply of camels raised in that country has generally been augmented by drafts from India, although the last mentioned do not thrive under the transition. The camel is docile, capable of abstinence in an emergency, well adapted for the imposition of loads and for traversing over flat or sandy ground, adapts itself to rough roads, has acute sight and smell, and, during progression, moves both feet on one side, simultaneously. Its flesh and milk are wholesome articles of food. It is deficient in muscular power behind, and cannot readily climb hills. Those found in Afghanistan are of the Arabian species. They are strong, thickset, with abundance of hair; are short in the leg, better climbers, and more accustomed to cold than others of the species. Their feeding requires as much care as that of cavalry or artillery horses; they are fond of green food, and certain trees and shrubs. In grazing, camels brought from India sometimes are poisoned by eating the oleander bush and other plants which the native camel avoids. Elphinstone's ill-fated expedition in 1841 lost 800 out of 2,500 camels from this cause alone. On the march, or where grazing does not abound, they are fed with grain and bhoosa [Footnote: Chopped straw.]; this is given them in one ration at the end of the day. The theory that camels do not require much watering is declared a fallacy; the Arabian species can take in five or six gallons, sufficient for as many days; they will not drink cold running water; but, where water can be had, they should be watered daily. The load of the camel varies from 300 to 450 pounds, depending upon its condition. It is admirably adapted for carrying long articles, as ladders, tent-poles, and even light mountain guns. The marching power of camels depends on a number of conditions. They are good goers in loose sandy soil, and even over stony ground, if the stones are not too large and sharp; in slippery places they are useless, as they have no hold with their feet. They are very enduring, making the longest marches at an average speed of two miles an hour, and can ford deep rivers with ease if the current is not too rapid. When the bottom of the ford is shifting sand, the passage of a number of camels renders it firm. A string of 500 camels covers about one mile of road; 1,250 mules, carrying the same weight of supplies, occupy double the distance. Camels must be unladen at ferries. For military purposes these animals are purchased between the ages of five and nine years, and may be used up to the age of sixteen. They average about one thousand pounds in weight, seven feet in height to the top of the hump, and eight feet in length from nose to tail. In camp and when not at work they are arranged in lines facing each other, or in circles heads inward; the latter plan is the favorite formation at night. The allowance of spare camels on service is ten per cent.
Lieut. Martin, R. E., states that his company, of Sappers and Miners, was able to get an exceptional percentage of labor from the camels under his charge by attention to certain details; and says further, that "camels are very quarrelsome and bite each other badly when grazing. They can ford four feet of moderately running water, easily, if the bed is good; but a yard of greasy mud, a few inches deep, will throw many camels and delay a convoy for hours. Camel-bridges were carried on the leading camels, with a few shovels and picks, in every convoy of the Kandahar Field Force, and all small cuts or obstructions were thus bridged in a few minutes; the camels remaining by their bridges (two gang-boards eight by three feet) until the last baggage camel had passed. In perfectly open country, such as Kandahar to Girishk, it was found possible to march the camels on a broad front, the whole convoy being a rough square; camels starting at 3 A.M. have been known to arrive at camp ten miles off as late as 5 P.M."
Captain Yaldwyn says: "A camel's carrying-power is equal to that of two and a half mules or ponies, whilst his ration is only about that of one mule or pony. Thus 500 camels only eat as much as 500 mules or ponies, and whilst the latter can only carry 1,000 maunds [Footnote: A maund is 80 pounds.] the former can carry 2,500. Again, 500 camels only require 125 attendants to be paid, clothed, and fed, whilst 500 mules or ponies require 167 attendants." But, on the other hand, the immense losses of camels from excessive heat or cold, or over-exertion in mountainous or rough roads, and other causes, greatly neutralize the force of this comparison.
The yabu is a hardy mountain pony used by the Afghans for the saddle and packing purposes; they are very strong, active, and sure-footed, and have been frequently used by the British forces in their military operations. In 1839 Captain (afterward General) Outram relates that his yabu, "although but thirteen hands high, carried me and my saddlebags, weighing altogether upward of sixteen stone, the whole distance from Kalat in seven days and a half (an average of nearly forty-seven miles a day), during which time I had passed 111 hours on its back; there was no saddle on the pony, merely a cloth over his back."
They will carry from four to five maunds with perfect ease, making journeys of thirty miles a day. Those which are ridden and which amble, are called yurgas. The Afghans tie a knot in the middle of the long tails of their horses, which, they say, strengthens the animal's backbone!
The Afghan donkey was severely tested in 1880 during the operations of Sir Donald Stewart between Kabul and Kandahar, and this class of carriage was found very useful in the conveyance of provisions. Afghan donkeys will march with troops and carry loads of grain or flour, averaging ninety pounds, without difficulty. They keep pace with mules or ponies in a baggage column, as they avoid the frequent checks which retard the larger animals; they browse on the line of march, and find their own forage easily in the neighborhood of camp; they are easily controlled and cared for, and are on all accounts the most inexpensive transport in Eastern countries. [Footnote: Lieut.-Col. E. F. Chapman, C.B., R.A.]
The transport animals found in India and Turkestan will be described in the parts of this book devoted to the military resources of those regions.
In concluding this sketch of the "Threshold of India," a mere glance at the military history of the country will suffice. In fact, only so far as it may have a bearing upon the present, has reference to the past any place in this volume.
The early periods of eventful interest to Afghanistan have been already noted at the opening of this chapter. Its purely Oriental experiences were beginning to fade with the death of Nadir Shah— variously termed the "Butcher of Delhi," and the "Wallace of Persia," in 1747. His progress toward India, from which he was to tear its choicest treasure and loot its greatest city, reminds one of the Arabian Nights. A camp-follower from Jelalabad reported as follows: "He has 36,000 horsemen with himself . . . After morning prayers he sits on a throne, the canopy of which is in the form of a dome and of gold. One thousand young men, with royal standards of red silk and the lance tops and tassels of silver, are disposed regularly; and, at a proper distance, five hundred beautiful slaves, from twelve to twenty years old, stand—one half on his right and the other on his left. All the great men stand fronting him; and the Arzbegi stands between, in readiness to represent whatever he is desired, and everybody has his cause decided at once: bribery is not so much as known here. He has particular information given him of every thing that passes; all criminals, great and small, rich and poor, meet with immediate death. He sits till noon, after which he dines, then reposes a little; when afternoon prayers are over he sits till the evening prayers, and when they are over he shoots five arrows into the Khak Tudah, and then goes into the women's apartments." [Footnote: Fraser's "Nadir Shah."]
The splendor of the Robber King has departed, but his deeds of blood and treachery have often been repeated in the country of the Afghans.
A succession of struggles between Afghan and Persian leaders for the control of Afghanistan marked the next fifty years.
When the project of Russian invasion of India, suggested by Napoleon, was under consideration in Persia, a British envoy was sent, in 1809, to the then Shah Sujah, and received the most cordial reception at Peshawur. But Shah Sujah was, in 1810, superseded by his brother, Mahmud, and the latter was pressed hard by the son of his Wazir to such an extent that Herat alone remained to him. In 1823 his former kingdom passed to Dost Mohammed, who in 1826 governed Kabul, Kandahar, Ghazni, and Peshawur. The last-named place fell into the hands of Runjeet Singh, the "Lion of the Punjab." Dost Mohammed then applied to England for aid in recovering Peshawur, failing in which he threatened to turn to Russia.
That Power was (1837) engaged in fomenting trouble in the western part of Afghanistan, encouraging an attack by 30,000 Persians, led by Russian officers, upon Herat. Instead of acceding to the request of Dost Mohammed, the British Governor-General—Lord Auckland— declared war against that potentate, alleging in a proclamation that "the welfare of the English possessions in the East rendered it necessary to have an ally on their western frontier who would be in favor of peace, and opposed to all disorders and innovations."
This was the beginning of intrigues relating to Afghanistan on the part, alternately, of England and Russia, in which John Bull has had to pay, literally, "the lion's share" of the cost in blood and treasure. In 1850, Sir John Cam Hobhouse, President of the Board of Control in India confessed: "The Afghan war was done by myself; the Court of Directors had nothing to do with it." The reason already mentioned was alleged as an excuse for hostilities. They were declared, notwithstanding that the British political agent at the Court of Dost Mohammed reported that ruler as "entirely English" in his sympathies. This report was suppressed. Twenty years later the facts were given to Parliament, Russian letters were found implicating the Czar's ministers, and the English agent, Burnes, was vindicated.
The Anglo-Indian army—consisting of twenty thousand troops, fifty thousand followers, and sixty thousand camels—advanced in two columns, one from Bengal, and the other from Bombay by the Indus. Scinde, which had hitherto been independent, like the Punjab and Lahore, was subjugated en route, and nine thousand men were left behind to occupy it. On the 23d of February, 1839, a simultaneous advance from Shikarpur, on the Bolan Pass, commenced. Kandahar was occupied April 25th, Ghazni July 23d, and Kabul August 6th, and Shah Sujah was proclaimed Ameer by British authority. By the following September the greater part of the English forces returned to India. Only five regiments of infantry and one of cavalry remained in Afghanistan, where suspicious symptoms of discontent with the new order of things began very soon to show themselves. During the summer of 1840 insurrections had to be put down by force in several places. In November of the same year Dost Mohammed defeated the English in the Perwan Pass. From that time until the autumn of 1841 a sultry calm reigned in the country.
The English commanders, although fully aware of the state of mind of the people, neglected to take the most simple measures of precaution.
The local control was vested in a mixed military and civil council, consisting of General Elphinstone, unfitted by disease and natural irresolution from exercising the functions of command, and Sir William McNaghten, the British envoy, whose self-confidence and trust in the treacherous natives made him an easy victim. In the centre of an insurrection which was extending day by day under their eyes and under their own roofs, these representatives of a powerful nation, with a small but effective force, deliberately buried their heads in the sand of their credulity, not realizing the nature of the danger which for weeks was evident to many of their subordinates.
Finally a force of the insurgents, under the direction of the son of the deposed ruler, Akbar Khan, threw off the disguise they had assumed before the English, and taking possession of the Khurd Kabul Pass near the city, entirely cut off the retreat to India which Elphinstone had commenced.
As there was no intelligent concert of action among the British leaders, the garrison melted away in detail, the Afghan auxiliaries refused to fight, or turned their arms against the Europeans. Sir William McNaghten was murdered by Akbar, at a council in sight of the garrison. A few attempts to force a passage, or to defend themselves, made by certain brave officers of the beleagured force, failed.
On January 6, 1842, an agreement was made by which the Afghan leader promised to ensure to the British forces a safe withdrawal to India. This was violated with Afghan readiness, and the entire Anglo-Indian contingent of seventeen thousand souls was destroyed; sacrificed to the murderous brutality of the Afghan insurgents, or dying from exposure to one of the most severe winters known to that region. Months after, heaps of dead bodies, preserved by the intense cold, obstructed the mountain passes. The horrors of Moscow were repeated in the Khurd Kabul, and the noblest attributes of humanity were exemplified in the acts of the officers and soldiers of the doomed party. Only twenty of this entire force survived. The news of this horrible disaster was brought to Jelalabad by the only man who penetrated the Afghan environment, Dr. Brydon.
On receipt of the news of this overwhelming catastrophe, the Indian Government endeavored to rescue the garrisons of Kandahar and Ghazni, as well as that of Jelalabad; but the Mohammedan troops refused to march against their co-religionists, and the Sikhs also showed great unwillingness. The garrison of Ghazni, thinking to secure its safety by capitulation, was cut to pieces December 23, 1841. Jelalabad, held by 2,400 men under General Sale, still withstood the storm like a rock of iron. General Nott, the energetic officer commanding at Kandahar, on receiving the news of the destruction of the British, blew up the citadel of the town, destroyed every thing not necessary to his object, and started, August 8, 1842, for Ghazni, which he also destroyed, September 6th.
Another British force of twelve thousand men, under General Pollock, was organized at Peshawur, to punish the Afghans, and, so far as might be, retrieve the errors of Elphinstone and McNaghten. Pollock's operations were, in the sense of retaliation, successful. An eminent German authority wrote: "Kabul and other towns were levelled with the ground; Akbar's troops were blown from guns, and the people were collected together and destroyed like worms." General Pollock carried the famous Khaiber Pass, in advancing to the relief of Jelalabad in April, 1842. This was the first time that the great defile—twenty-eight miles in length—had ever been forced by arms. Timur Lang and Nadir Shah, at the head of their enormous hosts, bought a safe passage through it from the Afridis. Akbar the Great, in 1587, is said to have lost forty thousand men in attempting to force it, and Aurangzeb failed to get through.
The misfortune of Elphinstone's command, great as it was, would have been much more humiliating to England, had it not been for the firmness of the gallant General Pollock, who, ordered to withdraw with his command to Peshawur, by Lord Ellenborough, without effecting one of the objects of the expedition—the deliverance of the English captives in Akbar's hands at Kabul,—protested against such a suicidal act on the part of any Englishman or any Administration, and, at great personal risk, gained his point.
In the forced march to Kabul, which Pollock made subsequently, the force of about eight thousand men moved in as light order as possible. After loading the commissariat camels to their utmost carrying capacity, the General discovered that the mounted men had in their kit a spare pair of pantaloons apiece, on which he ordered the legs to be filled with grain and carried by the men in front of them, on their saddles. By the middle of December the British had started on their return march, pursued as far as the Indus by the Afghans, and by this hurried conclusion to the war lessened their prestige in Asia to an enormous degree.
As Sir Henry Rawlinson wrote:
"It was not so much the fact of our retreat; disaster would have been diminished, if not altogether overcome; but retreating as we did, pursued even through the last pass into the plains by an implacable enemy, the impression became universal in India as well as in Central Asia, that we had simply been driven back across the mountains."
A very able Hindu gentleman, very loyal to the British, traced the mutiny of 1857 in a great measure to the Afghan campaign of 1842. He said: "It was a direct breach of faith to take the Sepoys out of India. Practically they were compelled to go for fear of being treated as mutineers, but the double pay they received by no means compensated them for losing caste. The Sepoys mistrusted the Government from that time forward, and were always fearing that their caste would be destroyed; besides, the Kabul disaster taught them that Europeans were not invincible."
The departure of the English forces was followed by the reestablishment of Dost Mohammed's authority in Afghanistan. Once, at the time of the Sikh insurrection, the Dost crossed the Indian border with two thousand horsemen, and narrowly escaped falling into the hands of the British in the affair of Gujrat, February 21, 1849, where the speed of his horse alone saved him from capture. In 1855 a better understanding was effected between the son of Dost Mohammed and his powerful European neighbor. He reconquered Balkh in 1850, and gained Kandahar by inheritance in 1855, while he lost Herat to the Persians in 1856. With the aid of Great Britain, in 1857, Persia relinquished all claims to Herat, but the Dost had eventually to besiege that city, occupied by a rebellious faction, in 1863, and after a siege of ten months reduced the place, only to find a tomb within its walls. After the usual struggle for the throne, peculiar to a change of dynasty in Afghanistan, Shere Ali, one of the Dost's sons, prevailed, and was recognized in 1868. The next decade was notable for a series of diplomatic manoeuvres between England and Russia for Afghan friendship. Shere Ali now leaned toward the Lion, now in the direction of the Bear, with the regularity of a pendulum. The advances were received with presents and promises on the one hand, and promises, powerful embassies, and imposing military expeditions on the other. On September 21, 1878, a British ambassador was turned back by the Afghan commandant of the frontier fort of Ali Musjid, and on the 20th of November, of the same year, war was declared against Shere Ali by the Anglo-Indian Government. At that time the Russian General Kaufmann was operating on the northern border of Afghanistan with a force of fifteen thousand men and sixty guns, and the Ameer had reason to think that he could rely on Russian cooperation against the English, who, with a force of forty thousand men, promptly invaded his dominion.
This force moved into Afghanistan in four columns, under the command, respectively, of Generals Browne, Roberts, Biddulph, and Stewart, with reserves under Generals Maude and Primrose.
We shall have occasion later to consider some of the details of the protracted operations which followed. They embraced several admirably conducted marches, exposure to excessively severe winter weather, the successful surmounting of great natural obstacles, the development of the usual weakness in the department of transport, with unnecessary losses in animals, a considerable sick-list, and an inconsiderable proportion of killed and wounded in action.
The military benefits were those resulting from a long and arduous field experience in a rough country. The interruption to these actual "field manoeuvres," this "fire-drill," by the enemy, was comparatively feeble,—as a rule, stimulating the Anglo-Indian force to put its best foot foremost. Under this system, at the end of the two years' campaign, all departments of the army had become moulded into the efficient machines essential to success in any military venture.
Politically, the campaign had been a failure. The fate of the gallant Major Cavagnari and his mission, murdered at Kabul, September 3, 1879, made a deeper impression on the Afghan mind than the British occupation of Afghan cities or the Afghan losses in battle.
In the same year the British Secretary for India, in London, wrote to the Governor-General that: "It appears that as the result of two successful campaigns, of the employment of an immense force, and of the expenditure of large sums of money, all that has yet been accomplished has been the disintegration of the State which it was desired to see strong, friendly, and independent, the assumption of fresh and unwelcome liabilities in regard to one of its provinces, and a condition of anarchy throughout the remainder of the country."
Early in the year 1880, the British Government prepared to make a dignified withdrawal from Afghanistan. That volcanic region was by no means tranquil, although the chief rebel, Yakoub Khan, had been driven out of Kabul by General Roberts, and had retired to the distant country of the Her-i-rud. At this time appeared the exiled Abdurrahman Khan, who had long resided at Tashkend, and who was welcomed warmly by the local sirdars on the northern frontier of Afghanistan. As he approached Kabul his authority and influence increased, and the British political officers, acting under instructions, formally recognized him as Ameer of that district. In the meanwhile Yakoub advanced westward from Herat with a strong force, encountered a British brigade, under General Burrows, near the Helmund, and utterly routed it. The remnant of the European force took refuge in Kandahar, where General Primrose was in command. Surrounding the city, Yakoub succeeded in effectually "bottling up" the British garrison for some time. Sir Frederick Roberts, however, made a rapid march from Kabul on Kandahar, and after a successful and decisive battle with the Afghans, completely dispersed the native force, and relieved the beleaguered garrison. Soon after, Abdurrahman was formally installed as Ameer of Afghanistan, and the British army withdrew from the country.
THE BRITISH FORCES AND ROUTES.
A sketch of the military resources of Great Britain, more especially those available for field service in Afghanistan, with notes upon the strength and composition of the forces, means of transport and supply, nature of important lines of communication, and of certain strategic points in the probable theatre of operations, will be attempted in this chapter.
Organization.—The military system of Great Britain is based upon voluntary enlistment instead of the usual European plan of universal liability to service. Recruits may enlist either for the "short-service" or "long-service" term; the first being for six years in the ranks and six on furlough, and the last for twelve years in the ranks; the furlough of short-service men is passed in the army reserve, and then, in consideration of liability to be recalled to the colors, the men are paid sixpence a day.
The troops of the Standing Army, (United Kingdom,) March, 1885, were proportionately distributed as follows: forty-three per cent. in England, two per cent. in Scotland, twenty-five per cent. in Ireland, and thirty-five per cent. abroad, not including India.
AVAILABLE BRITISH LAND FORCES. [Footnote: Approximately, from late returns (1885), but short of authorized "establishment" by 90,000.]
ENGLAND. ================================================================== Army Army Militia Yeomanry Volunteers Reserve ================================================================== Class: Engineers Officers 423 Men 4,762
Cavalry Officers 559 Men 11,840 11,441
Royal Horse Artillery Officers 108 Men 2,426
Royal Artillery Officers 690 Men 18,351
Infantry Officers 2,862 Men 80,324
Aggregate ———- ———- ———- ——— ———- All Ranks 122,345 44,503 108,462 11,441 209,365 ================================================================== Grand Aggregate 469,116 ==================================================================
INDIA. [Native Contingents, Independent States of India,  about 349,831.] ================================================================== Army (E'r'p'n) (Native) ================================================================== Engineers Officers 436 Men  232 3,109 Cavalry Officers 198 304 Men 4,086 18,071 Royal Horse Artillery Officers Men Royal Artillery Officers 453 19 Men 10,809 1,842 Infantry Officers 1,400 1,068 Men 44,106 102,648 ———- ———- Aggregate All Ranks 61,488 127,263 ================================================================= Grand Aggregate 188,751 =================================================================
[Footnote 2: Cashmere 27,000, Nepaul 100,000, Hyderabad 44,000.]
[Footnote 3: Sappers and Miners.]
For purposes of administration, instruction, and mobilization, Great Britain and Ireland are partitioned into thirteen military districts commanded by general officers. These are sub-divided as follows: for the infantry one hundred and two sub-districts under regimental commanders; for the artillery there are twelve sub-districts, and for the cavalry two districts. The brigade of an infantry sub-district comprises usually two line battalions, two militia battalions, the brigade depot, rifle volunteer corps, and infantry of the army reserve. Of the line battalions one is generally at home and one abroad. In an artillery sub-district are comprised a proportion of the royal artillery and artillery of the militia, volunteers, and army reserve respectively. In like manner a cavalry sub-district includes the yeomanry and army reserve cavalry.
The officers on duty in the Adjutant-General's and Quartermaster's departments of the British army are, as a rule, detailed for a term of five years from the Line, but must rejoin their regiments immediately upon orders for foreign service.
The Royal Engineers then were and are organized into forty-three companies.
The cavalry is divided into the Household Cavalry and Cavalry of the Line. The first named comprises the 1st and 2d Life Guards and Royal Horse Guards,—three regiments. The Line is composed of twenty-eight regiments, as follows: seven of dragoon guards, three of dragoons, thirteen of hussars, five of lancers. The strength of regiments varies from 450 to 625 men with from 300 to 400 troop horses each.
The artillery—under the title of the Royal Regiment of Artillery— is divided into three classes; the Royal Horse Artillery of two brigades of twelve batteries each, making a brigade total of sixty guns; the Field Artillery of four, brigades of seventy-six batteries, and the Garrison Artillery of eleven brigades. For the non-professional reader it may be well to say that, in the horse artillery, all the personnel of a battery is mounted, the better to act with cavalry or mounted infantry; under the general term "field artillery" may be classed mountain batteries (only maintained in India), field batteries proper, in which the guns are somewhat heavier, and served by gunners who are not mounted, but on occasion are carried on the limbers and on seats attached to the axles, and in an emergency may be carried on the "off" horses of teams. Under the class "field artillery," also, would come such large guns as are required in war for siege or other heavy operations, and which in India or Afghanistan would be drawn by bullocks.
The infantry is composed of the Guards, the Line, and the Rifles. The Guards consist of three regiments—Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, and Scots Fusilier Guards; in all seven battalions. The Line comprises 102 regiments (204 battalions); the Rifles four battalions. Besides these there are two regiments of Colonial (West India) colored troops.
The Militia is intended for local defence, but can be ordered anywhere within the United Kingdom, and is available for garrison duty in the Mediterranean. Enlistment in the militia is for six years. The officers are commissioned by the Queen, and, as before noted, all the details of control and recruitment are entrusted to district commanders. For instruction this force may be called out, for a period not to exceed eight weeks annually, with regular officers as instructors. There are 212 battalions of infantry, 25 brigades of garrison artillery, and 3 regiments of engineers comprised in this force.
The Militia Reserve, limited to one fourth of the active militia, is liable to army service in case of an emergency, and for the term of six years is entitled to L1 per annum.
The Volunteers represent "the bulwark" in case of invasion; they are organized principally as garrison artillery and infantry. The officers are commissioned by the county lieutenants, subject to the approval of the Queen. The men are recruited, armed, and instructed by the Government. Recruits are required to attend thirty drills, and afterward not less than nine drills annually. The volunteer force is composed of 278 battalions of infantry, 46 brigades of garrison artillery and 15 battalions of engineers.
The Yeomanry Cavalry are equipped as light cavalry, drill eight days per year, and are subject to call in case of riot and insurrection, when each man with a horse receives seven pence a day. There are thirty-eight regiments.
The Army of India differs from that of the United Kingdom, not only in its composition, but in the character of its organization. This organization dates from 1858, when the government passed from the East India Company to the Crown.
The European regiments serving in India are in all respects organized and maintained, as in England. In each presidency forming the three political subdivisions, and among which the Anglo-Indian army is distributed, exists a staff corps which supplies all European officers, permitted to serve with native troops. These officers must pass certain examinations before they can be assigned to any of the following vacancies in any native regiment.
1 Commandant, 1 Second-in-command and wing officer, 1 Wing-officer, 2 Wing-subalterns, 1 Adjutant, 1 Quartermaster, 1 Medical officer.
2 Subadars (captains), 1st class, 2 " " 2d " 4 " " 3d " 4 Jemandars (lieuts.), 1st " 4 " " 2d " 1 Havildar (sergt.-major), 40 Havildars (sergeants), 40 Naicks (corporals), 16 Drummers, 600 Sepoys (privates).
The duties of the commandant of a native regiment correspond in general to those of a similar officer in a European corps. Three times a week he holds a "durbar," for the trial of offenders and transaction of general regimental business. The men are paid by the native officers in presence of the European "Wing-officer," who is responsible for all public property issued to his half battalion, or wing.
The native officers are commissioned by the Indian Government, and, as a rule, are promoted from the ranks, and are of the same caste as the privates. Certain native officers of the engineers and artillery may be eligible to appointment in the corresponding European corps; one is always assigned as an aide-de-camp to the Viceroy. When on detailed service, a native officer is allowed to command his company, but "no battalion parades should take place without the presence of a British officer." [Footnote: Indian Army Regulations.] In each regiment there is a drill-sergeant and drill-corporal, who receive extra pay for their services. Corporals are promoted from privates who know how to read and write in at least one character, or who have displayed extraordinary courage. The pay per month of a sepoy is equal to $3.50; havildar, $7; jemandar, $17.50; subadar, $33.50 to $50. European officers with native regiments: commandant, $620; wing-officers, $302 to $322; adjutant, $237.86; quartermaster, $187.86; medical officers, $300, monthly. The annual pay-roll of a native regiment of 720 combatants and 45 non-combatants amounts to about $69,114. In consideration of the pay each sepoy is required to provide his rations and clothing, except one coat and one pair of trousers issued by the Government every two years; in consequence, each regiment is accompanied by a native village called a bazaar, containing tradesmen of all kinds; this bazaar is under strict discipline and is managed by the quartermaster. The entire outfit follows the regiment into the field.
Colonel Gordon of the Indian army testifies: "With regard to native troops under a cannonade I may say that I saw our native infantry twice under the fire of the Afghan mountain guns, and they behaved very steadily and coolly. Ammunition was economically expended. I attributed much the small loss sustained by the troops in Afghanistan to our excellent straight shooting."
The cavalry of India has in certain instances borne an excellent reputation for efficiency in action, is well set up, and in its instruction and discipline is modelled after the British system. The artillery comprises well-instructed native organizations, but its principal experience has been with light field guns against irregular troops. The Achilles heel of the Indian army consists in this, that there are but eight European officers to each regiment, and of these but six would be available to lead in battle: the quartermaster and surgeon being at such a time otherwise engaged. The native officers, seldom having an opportunity to command in Peace, would be unreliable leaders in such an emergency. At the action of Ali Musjid, November 21, 1878, the day before the occupation of that fort, six British officers of a native battalion were placed hors de combat, so that on the first day after crossing the Afghan frontier there was but one European officer to manage the regiment.
Besides the regular establishment there are about 10,000 European volunteers (including 4,000 railway officials and employes) available for local defence.
The feudatory chiefs of India enjoy an aggregate revenue of some L15,000,000, equal to more than one third of the income of the British Government of India. They maintain forces aggregating 350,000 men with 4,000 guns to perform the duties of court ceremonial, garrison, military police, guards, and escorts, throughout territories aggregating nearly 600,000 square miles with 50,000,000 of inhabitants. These forces are unreservedly held at the disposal of the Crown by the native Princes.
Transport and Supply.—This essential feature of all wars will be briefly considered in the light of the Anglo-Afghan War of 1879-80. Large quantities of supplies were transported from the main base of operations on the Indus, and distributed to the troops in the field over four or five distinct lines of communication, and over roads, and mountain paths of varied degrees of ruggedness. The country on both sides of the Indo-Afghan frontier was severely taxed to furnish the necessary animals. Part of the transport was hired—and as in the case of the Brahuis camels—with the services of the owners, who were easily offended and likely to decamp with their property in a night. During the first year the system was under the direct control of the commissariat department; but as this proved unsatisfactory, in the subsequent campaign it was entirely reorganized and superintended by an officer of engineers, with a large number of officers from the Line to assist. This gave better satisfaction. Immense numbers of camels died from heat, [Footnote: Of a train of eighteen hundred unloaded camels on the road from Dadur to Jacobabad, for six days in June, six hundred died of exhaustion. In March, 1855 Col. Green, C.B., lost one hundred and seventeen horses out of four hundred, from the heat, during a march of thirty miles.] overwork, irregular food, and neglect. Owing to the dryness of the climate and intense heat of the summer the bullock-carts were perpetually falling to pieces. The mules, donkeys, and ponies gave the best results, but do not abound in sufficient quantities to enable an army in Afghanistan to dispense with camels. A successful experiment in rafting, from Jelalabad to Dakka, was tried. The rafts consisted of inflated skins lashed together with a light framework; between June 4-13, seven thousand skins were used, and, in all, 885 soldiers and one thousand tons of stores were transported forty miles down the Kabul River, the journey taking five hours. A great deal of road-making and repairing was done under the supervision of the transport corps. A system of "stages" or relays of pack-animals or carts was organized, by which a regular quantity of supplies was forwarded over the main lines, daily, with almost the regularity, if not the speed, of rail carriage. The great number of animals employed required a corresponding force of attendants, inspectors, and native doctors, all of whom served to make up that excessive army of "followers" for which Anglo-Indian expeditions are famous. Drivers were required at the following rate: one driver for each pair of bullocks, every four camels, every three mules and ponies, every six donkeys. [Footnote: The average carrying power of certain kinds of transport, in pounds, is as follows: bullock-carts (with two pairs), on fairly level ground, 1,400; on hilly ground, 1,000; (with one pair) on fairly level ground, 850; on hilly ground, 650; camels, 400; mules, 200; ponies, 175; men, 50.]
The great obstacle to the satisfactory operation of the transport system was its novelty and experimental character, and that its organization had to be combined with its execution. Besides which, cholera broke out in June and swept away three hundred employes. Grazing camps were established in the neighborhood of the Bolan Pass for the bullocks, and aqueducts built for the conveyance of a water supply; one of these was of masonry, more than a mile in length, from Dozan down to the Bolan. It has been stated that grazing was scarce in the region of the Bolan: in 1879 more than four thousand bullocks were grazed there during the summer, and large quantities of forage were cut for winter use.
Any prolonged military operations in Afghanistan must, to a certain extent, utilize hired transport, although there are many objections urged.
Sir Richard Temple said (1879): "That the amount of transport required for active service, such as the late campaign in Afghanistan, is so great that to hire transport is synonymous to pressing it from the people of the district from which it is hired, and impressment of the means of transport must lead to impressment of drivers, who naturally (having no interest whatever in the campaign in which they are called upon to serve) render the most unwilling service and take the earliest opportunity of rendering their animals unserviceable in hopes of escaping a distasteful duty. This service is frequently so unpopular that, sooner than leave the boundaries of their native country, the impressed drivers desert, leaving their animals in the hands of the transport authorities or take them away with them. . . . For the above reasons I should recommend that all transport for a campaign should be the property of Government."
In commenting on this subject, Lord Wolseley relates that when serving in China with Indian troops he "awoke one morning and found that all our drivers had bolted. Our transport consisted of carts supplied by the Chinese Government, by contractors, and by the country generally. I do not think that the carts had been carried away, but all the mules and men had disappeared except three drivers who belonged to me. I was very much astonished that these men had not bolted also. I had a small detachment of cavalry with me and a very excellent duffadar in charge of it. I asked him how he had managed to keep these drivers—having some time before said that unless he looked after them well he would never get to Pekin. He replied, with some hesitation: 'I remember what you told me, and the fact is I tied the tails of those three men together, overnight, and then tied them to the tent pole, and put a man over them.'"
The Elephant, like the stage coach, finds his field of usefulness, as a means of transport, growing smaller by degrees. He is still a feature in India, and has been used for military purposes to some extent in the eastern part of Afghanistan. He will doubtless form part of the means of transportation employed by the British forces near their present base, and in rear of the Kabul-Kandahar line, and for that reason is noticed here. [Footnote: The use of elephants in transporting field guns in Afghanistan is emphatically discouraged by those who served with it last; very few flankers were employed to protect the Elephant artillery used in the Kuram valley, and its success can only be interpreted by supposing the direct interposition of Providence or the grossest stupidity to our feeble enemy.]