CAMPAIGN OF THE INDUS.
CAMPAIGN OF THE INDUS:
IN A SERIES OF LETTERS FROM AN OFFICER OF THE BOMBAY DIVISION.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION, BY A.H. HOLDSWORTH, ESQ.
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The circumstance of an English army penetrating into Central Asia, through countries which had not been traversed by European troops since Alexander the Great led his victorious army from the Hellespont to the Jaxartes and Indus, is so strong a feature in our military history, that I have determined, at the suggestion of my friends, to print those letters received from my son which detail any of the events of the campaign. As he was actively engaged with the Bombay division, his narrative may be relied upon so far as he had an opportunity of witnessing its operations; and it being my intention to have only a few copies printed, to give to those friends who may take an interest in his letters, I need not apologize for the familiar manner in which they are written, as they were intended by him only for his own family, without an idea of their being printed. A history, however, may be collected from them most honourable to the British soldiers, both Europeans and natives of India. They shew the patience with which, for more than twelve months, the soldiers bore all their deprivations and fatiguing marches through countries until then unknown to them, whether moving through arid sands or rocky passes, under a burning sun; or over desolate mountains, amidst the most severe frosts, with scarcely an interval of repose. Neither was their gallantry less conspicuous than their patience, when they had the good fortune to find an enemy who ventured to face them. Although the circumstances which his letters detail might well deserve a better historian than my son, yet are they of that high and honourable character, that they cannot lose any part of their value by his familiar manner of narrating them.
When I decided upon printing these letters, it became a matter of interest to place before the reader a short account of the countries in which the operations of the army were conducted, as well as of the native rulers who took part in, or were the cause of them; in order that the letters might be more clearly understood by those friends who have not felt sufficiently interested in the history of those countries to make any inquiries about them. But, before I do so, I shall draw the attention of the reader to the army of Alexander, to which I have before alluded.
Without entering into the causes which led to his extraordinary conquests, predicted by Daniel as the means ordained of God to overthrow the Persian empire, then under the government of Darius, certain it is that he conquered the whole of those countries which extend from the Hellespont to the Indus, when his career was arrested by his own soldiers. Having overrun Syria, Egypt, Media, and Parthia, keeping his course to the north-east, he not only passed the Oxus, and forced his way to the Jaxartes, but, pressed by the Scythians from its opposite shore, he crossed that river, and beat them in a decisive battle. From the Jaxartes he returned in a southern direction towards the Indus, and having suffered the greatest privations, and struggled with the most alarming difficulties during the time that he was engaged in the conquest of those mountainous districts, he at length reached Cabool, making himself master of Afghanistan. Here he appears to have halted for a considerable time, to refresh and re-equip his army, which, with the addition of 30,000 recruits, amounted to 120,000 men.
At this place, Alexander first came upon the scene of the campaign referred to in the following letters. Here he meditated the invasion of India, intending to march to the mouth of the Ganges; but the conquest of that country was destined for a nation almost unknown in the days of Alexander, and lying far more remote from it than Greece; and, until the campaign of 1839 drew our armies to the western side of the Indus, the Sutlej was alike the boundary of Alexander's conquests to the east, as of those of England towards the west.
Alexander having prepared his army for this expedition, moved towards the Indus, taking many strong places on his march. Having crossed that river, the king of the country offered no resistance, but became the ally of Alexander, who expected to have found Porus, whose kingdom was on the other side of the Hydaspes, equally ready to submit. But it required the utmost skill of Alexander to cross the river, which he effected, and conquered Porus, after a most severe struggle, with the loss of his renowned charger, Bucephalus, and he was so pleased at the magnanimity of Porus that he not only gave him back his kingdom, but added several small states to it, making him a sincere ally. Alexander then continued his march towards the east, conquering all who opposed him, until he reached the banks of the Hyphasis (Sutlej), which he was about to cross, when his progress was arrested by murmurs and tumults in his camp. His soldiers declared their determination not to extend his conquests, and entreated him to return. He then marched back to the Acesines, gave the whole country as far as the Hyphasis to Porus, and thus made him ruler of the Punjab. Alexander encamped near the Acesines until the month of October, when the fleet which he built, consisting of 800 galleys and boats, being ready, he embarked his army and proceeded towards the Indus; but before he reached that river he came to two countries possessed by warriors who united their armies to oppose his progress. After beating them in many engagements, Alexander attacked the city of the Oxydracae, into which the greater part of those armies had retired. Here his rash valour had nearly terminated his career: he was severely wounded in the side by an arrow, from the effects of which he was with difficulty restored to health. He then descended the river, a portion of his army marching on its banks, conquering every nation that opposed him. About the month of July he reached Patala (Tatta), where he built a citadel and formed a port for his shipping. He then proceeded, with part of his fleet, by the western branch of the river, to discover the ocean. This he accomplished at great hazard, when he sacrificed to the gods (particularly to Neptune), and besought them not to suffer any mortal after him to exceed the bounds of his expedition. He then returned to join the rest of his fleet and army at Patala, and to make arrangements for his march to Babylon. He appointed Nearchus admiral of his fleet, and having given him orders to ascend the Persian Gulf to the Euphrates, he commenced his march through Beloochistan, leaving Nearchus to follow him as soon as the season would permit. Alexander was more than sixty days in reaching the frontiers of Persia, during which time his army sufficed such dreadful privations from want of food, that the soldiers were obliged to eat their own war-horses, and from the sickness consequent upon such a state of distress, his army was reduced to less than one-half of the number which left Patala. It is not necessary to follow him to Babylon, or to describe the voyage of Nearchus, who, having sailed up the Persian Gulf, united his forces to those of his royal master in the river Pasi-Tigris, near Susa. Enough, however, may be learned from this history to convince us that if such an army could be conducted 2000 years ago from the Hellespont to the Jaxartes and Indus, the march from the southern shores of the Caspian Sea to Cabool would require comparatively but very slight exertion, if those who have the means should have the desire also to accomplish it.
I can say little of my own knowledge of the political causes which gave rise to the war, as I am unacquainted with the affairs of India and the motives which actuated its governors; but a brief outline may be collected from a book lately published by the Hon. Capt. Osborne, military secretary to the Governor-General, to which I shall refer, after making some observations upon the countries through which the operations of the army were conducted, and particularly on the situation of Afghanistan, in reference to those persons who had before been, is well as those who were, its rulers, when Shah Shooja was restored by the British Government to its throne. These observations I have chiefly collected from the valuable work of that enterprising officer Lieut. Burnes, which he published after visiting those countries in 1831, 1832, and 1833.
The chief portion of the Bombay division of the army engaged in the operations to which these letters refer, landed at the Hujamree mouth of the Indus, and marching through Lower Sinde, by Tatta, ascended the Indus by its western bank. On arriving in Upper Sinde, it was found that Shah Shooja with his contingent, as well as the Bengal division of the army, had crossed the Indus en route from that Presidency, and had advanced towards Afghanistan, and that the Bombay division was to follow them. To effect this, the division marched through Cutch Gundava, and the Bolan Pass, which is situated in the mountains which divide the province of Sarawar, in Beloochistan, as well as Cutch Gundava, from Afghanistan. Having made their way through the Bolan Pass, the army entered the Shawl district of Afghanistan, and thence proceeded through the Ghwozhe Pass to Candahar, Ghuzni, and Cabool; at which last-mentioned place Shah Shooja's eldest son joined his father with some troops of Runjet Sing's, which had crossed the Indus from the Punjab, marching by Peshawur and the Kyber Pass. The division of the Bombay troops under General Willshire having remained at Cabool about a month, returned to Ghuzni, and thence in a straight direction to Quettah, leaving Candahar some distance on the right; Capt. Outram, who commanded a body of native horse, preceding the main body of the division for the purpose of capturing the forts, or castles, belonging to those chiefs who had not submitted to Shah Shooja. From Quettah, General Willshire moved with a part of his division upon Kelat, and thence through the Gundava Pass and Cutch Gundava to the Indus, where these troops were met by the rest of the division, which came from Quettah by the Bolan Pass. Hence they descended to Curachee to embark for their respective quarters in India. The fate of one of the regiments of the division, the 17th, as it is recorded in a Bombay paper, is most distressing. They embarked at Curachee for Bombay, and sailed in the morning with a fair wind and a fine breeze, but before the night closed in upon them the ship was fast aground upon a sandbank, off the Hujamree branch of the Indus, scarcely within sight of land. Everything was thrown overboard to lighten the ship, but in vain; she became a total wreck, and settled down to her main deck in the water. She fortunately, however, held together long enough to allow all the men to be taken on shore, which occupied three days, but with the loss of everything they had taken on board with them. The other regiments, we may hope, have been more fortunate, as they were not mentioned in the paper which gave this melancholy account of the 17th regiment.
Sinde, the country through which the army first passed, is divided into three districts, each governed by an Ameer, the chief of whom resides at Hydrabad, the second at Khyrpoor, and the other at Meerpoor; and when Lieut. Burnes ascended the Indus, in 1831, the reigning Ameers were branches of the Beloochistan tribe of Talpoor. With these the chief of Kelat and Gundava, Mehrab Khan (who was related by marriage to the Ameer of Hydrabad), was more closely allied than any other prince. Like them, he had been formerly tributary to Cabool, and had shaken off the yoke, and, possessing a very strong country between Afghanistan and Sinde, he became as useful as he had at all times proved himself a faithful ally to the Sindeans. Shikarpoor, with the fertile country around it, as well as Bukker, had formerly belonged to the Barukzye family of Afghanistan, and, although they still possessed Candahar, Cabool, and Peshawar, they had in vain endeavoured to withdraw Mehrab Khan from his alliance with the Sindeans, or to recover those lost possessions.
To understand the political state of Afghanistan, into which the army marched for the purpose of restoring Shah Shooja to its throne, it will be necessary to go back to the early part of the last century, when Nadir Shah had raised himself to the throne of Persia. His name having become formidable as a conqueror, he turned his thoughts to the conquest of India, and, assuming sufficient pretexts for breaking the relations of amity which he professed for the monarch of that country, he determined to invade it, and for that purpose began his march in 1738. Taking with him some of the chiefs of Afghanistan, he crossed the Punjab and entered Delhi. He there raised enormous contributions, and seized upon everything worth taking away; amongst other things the far-famed Peacock throne, in which was the renowned diamond called "The Mountain of Light." The spoils with which he returned to Persia were valued at nearly seventy millions of pounds sterling. It is not necessary to follow the history of Nadir; it will be enough to say that, amidst the confusion which followed his death, Ahmed Khan obtained possession of part of his treasure, amongst which was the great diamond. He escaped with it into Khorassan, where he made himself master also of a large sum of money which was coming to Nadir from India. Ahmed was a brave and intelligent man, had been an officer of rank under the Shah, and, being in possession of the treasure necessary for his purpose, he proclaimed himself king, and was crowned at Candahar "King of the Afghans." Ahmed was of the Suddoozye family, which were but a small tribe; but he was greatly assisted by the powerful Barukzye family, whose friendship he justly valued and made use of to his advantage: of this latter family Hajee Jamel was then the chief. Ahmed knew how to conciliate the independent spirit of his Afghan subjects, and by making frequent incursions on his neighbours, kept alive that spirit of enterprise which was congenial to their feelings; but from the time of his death the royal authority began to decline, as Timour, his son and successor, had neither the sense nor enterprise necessary to uphold it. Affairs became still worse under the sons of Timour. Shah Zumaun was of a cruel disposition, and wanted the education necessary to the situation he was called upon to fill; his brothers, Mahmood and Shah Shooja, were not better disposed; and towards the Barukzye family, who had been so instrumental in placing their grandfather, Ahmed, on the throne, they conducted themselves not only most imprudently, but with dreadful cruelty.
Shah Zumaun was succeeded by Shah Shooja, of whom, although the chief person in the present drama, little more need be said of this part of his history than that, ignorant of the mode of governing such independent tribes as the Afghans, his power was never great, and, after the fall of his vizier, and the murder of his comrade, Meer Waeez, it gradually declined, until he lost his throne at Neemla, in 1809. He had taken the field with a well-appointed army of 15,000 men; but was attacked by Futteh Khan, an experienced general, at the head of 2000 men, before the royal army was formed for battle; Akram Khan, his vizier, was slain, and he fled to the Kyber country, leaving the greater part of his treasure in the hands of his conquerors. Shah Shooja had failed to conciliate the Barukzye family; Futteh Khan, their chief, had therefore espoused the cause of the king's brother, Mahmood, and having driven Shah Shooja from his throne, he placed Mahmood upon it, and accepted for himself the situation of vizier. Under his vigorous administration, the whole of the Afghan country, with the exception of Cashmere, submitted to the dominion of the new sovereign. The Shah of Persia, anxious to possess himself of Herat, sent an army against it, but was defeated in his object, and Herat was preserved to Mahmood by the successful exertions of Futteh Khan. No sooner, however, was Mahmood thus firmly established in his dominions, than his son Kamran became jealous of the man who had raised him to the situation, and had secured to him the kingdom; he therefore determined to effect the ruin of the vizier. The prince was not long in gaining over his father to his views; and Futteh Khan being at Herat, Kamran seized on his person and put out his eyes. In this state he kept him prisoner for about six months, during which time the brothers of the vizier, irritated at the conduct of Kamran, began to show signs of disaffection. Mahmood ordered Futteh Khan to be brought before him in the court of his palace, and accusing the brothers of the vizier of rebellion, directed him to bring them back to a state of allegiance. The vizier, in the dreadful condition in which he had been reduced, replied to the demand of Mahmood, "What can an old and blind man do?" when, by the order of the king, the courtiers cut the vizier to pieces, limb after limb: his nose and ears were hacked off; neither did he receive his death blow until not a member of his person was left upon which they could inflict torture. With the fall of his vizier the king's power rapidly declined, and he fled to Herat, virtually yielding up the rest of his kingdom. He died in 1829, his son, Kamran, succeeding to the limited government of that portion only of his former dominions. Upon the flight of Mahmood to Herat, the horrid murder of their brother threw the whole of the Barukzye family into open revolt, the eldest of whom, Azeem Khan, recalled Shah Shooja from his exile. From the time Shah Shooja lost his throne, he had been first a captive in the hands of the son of his former vizier, and then a pensioner on the bounty of the Maharajah, at Lahore, who in return extorted from him the famous diamond, "The Mountain of Light," and other jewels, which he had brought away with him when he fled at Neemla. He then made his escape from the Maharajah, and found protection and support from the British government of India. Upon the summons from Azeem Khan, Shah Shooja immediately hastened to Peshawur; where, before his benefactor had time to meet him, he practically displayed his ideas of royalty so unwisely, and so insulted some of the friends of the Barukzye family, that the whole party took offence, and they at once rejected him, and placed his brother Eyoob on the throne.
Eyoob was but a puppet king, the tool of the family who raised him to the government; Azeem Khan, who was appointed his vizier, being in truth the ruler. Several of the young princes who aspired to the throne were delivered over to Eyoob, who put them to death.
Shooja, driven from Peshawur, retired to Shikarpoor, which the Ameers of Sinde ceded to him; where, in place of conducting himself with prudence, he was so addicted to low intrigue with those about him, that his enemies availed themselves of this propensity to effect his ruin, and drove him from Shikarpoor, when, crossing the Indus, he fled through the desert by Juydalmeer, and returned to Loodiana. "The fitness," says Lieut. Burnes, "of Shah Shooja-ool-Moolk for the station of a sovereign seems ever to have been doubtful. His manners and address are highly polished, but his judgment does not rise above mediocrity; had the case been otherwise, we should not now see him an exile from his country and his throne, without a hope of regaining them, after an absence of twenty years, and before he has attained the fiftieth year of his age."
The civil wars which had thus so frequently occurred in Afghanistan weakened the resources of the country and its means of defence. Runjet Sing availed himself of the advantage which this state of affairs presented to him, and obtained possession of Cashmere; when, continuing his conquests, he crossed the Indus, and made himself master of Peshawur, burning its palace, and laying the country under tribute. Azeem Khan made a precipitate retreat before the army of the Sikhs towards Cabool, without attempting to arrest their progress, and was so stung with remorse at the weakness of his conduct that he died on reaching that city. With the death of Azeem the royal authority was extinguished. The king fled to Lahore, and lived under the protection of his conqueror. Herat alone remained in the possession of one of the Suddoozye family. The brothers of the late vizier seized his son, and deprived him of his treasure and his power. The kingdom was then divided between them. Cabool fell into the hands of Dost Mahomed; Peshawur and Candahar were held by two of his brothers; the Sindeans threw off their yoke, and refused to pay tribute; Balk was annexed to the dominions of the King of Bokhara; the richest portion of the provinces having fallen into the possession of the Sikhs. In seventy-six years from the time that Ahmed Shah was crowned at Candahar, the Dooranee monarchy again ceased to exist.
As I have given the character of Shah Shooja, it will be interesting to quote that of Dost Mahomed, from the same author. "He is unremitting in his attention to business, and attends daily at the courthouse, with the Cazee and Moollahs, to decide every cause according to law. Trade has received the greatest encouragement from him, and he has derived his own reward, since the receipts of the customhouse of the city have increased fifty thousand rupees, and furnished him with a net revenue of two lacs of rupees per annum. The merchant may travel without a guard or protection from one frontier to another, an unheard-of circumstance in the time of the kings. The justice of this chief affords a constant theme of praise to all classes. The peasant rejoices at the absence of tyranny, the citizen at the safety of his home, the merchant at the equity of his decisions and the protection of his property, and the soldier at the regular manner in which his arrears are discharged." "One is struck with the intelligence, knowledge, and curiosity which he displays, as well as at his accomplished manners and address."
To this short sketch of Afghanistan, and of the persons connected with its political history, I will add some extracts from the work of the Hon. Capt. Osborne, because they explain the circumstances which led to the campaign of the Indus, and to the restoration of Shah Shooja to the throne of Cabool. He says, "In May, 1838, a complimentary deputation was sent by Runjet Sing to the Governor-General at Simla, consisting of some of the most distinguished Sikh chiefs, who were received with all the honours prescribed by oriental etiquette. Shortly afterwards, Lord Auckland resolved to send a mission to the court of Lahore, not merely to reciprocate the compliments of the Maharajah, but to treat upon all the important interests which were involved in the existing state of political affairs in that quarter of the world. The recent attempts of the Persians on Herat, the ambiguous conduct of Dost Mahomed, and the suspicions which had been excited with respect to the proceedings and ulterior designs of Russia, rendered it of the greatest importance to cement the alliance with Runjet Sing, and engage him to a firm and effective co-operation with us in the establishment of general tranquillity, the resistance of foreign encroachment, and the extension of the benefits of commerce and the blessings of civilization. Accordingly, W.H. Macnaghten, Esq., was deputed on the mission to the Maharajah, accompanied by Dr. Drummond, Capt. Macgregor, and the Hon. W. Osborne, military secretary to the Governor-General.
"The object of the Governor-General's mission to Lahore having been accomplished, and the concurrence, and, if necessary, the co-operation of Runjet Sing, in the restoration of Shah Shooja, secured, Mr. Macnaghten repaired to Loodiana, for the purpose of submitting to the Shah the treaties that had been concluded, and announcing to him the approaching change in his fortunes. The envoys seem to have been much struck with the majestic appearance of the old pretender, especially with the flowing honours of a black beard descending to his waist, always the most cherished appendage of oriental dignity. He had lived for twenty years in undisturbed seclusion, if not 'the world forgetting,' certainly 'by the world forgot,' consoling himself for the loss of his kingdom in a domestic circle of six hundred wives, but always 'sighing his soul' towards the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan, and patiently awaiting the kismet, or fate, which was to restore him to his throne. The preparations thenceforward went rapidly on. The contingent raised by the Shah was united (more for form than use) to the British force, and in three months the expedition began its operations."
But before I conclude this introduction to the letters, which detail the results of these treaties with the Maharajah, and the march of Shah Shooja to Cabool, as I have spoken of the leading characters of Afghanistan, I may be permitted to say a few words about the persons through whose exertions the Shah has been restored to the throne of that country—the officers of the British army; and I do so the more anxiously, because the naval and military glory of our country, which in my early days was the theme of every song, is now seldom heard of in society, and those gallant services appear to be nearly forgotten, which during a long protracted state of warfare, within our own recollection, placed England in a position to dictate her own terms of peace to the world:—a state of society which encourages a certain class of persons the more effectually to abuse the military profession, and to mislead their deluded followers, by clamouring about the expense of the army, and the aristocratic bearing of its members, that they may the more readily carry out their own schemes of personal vanity and demoralizing political economy.
It is the peculiar feature of the British army, to which we are indebted for its high and honourable bearing, that the sons of the first families in the land are ever anxious to bear arms under its standards, looking not to pecuniary emolument, but to those honours which military rank and professional attainments can procure for them; whilst the first commands and the highest stations in the service are filled without distinction from every grade in society. It is this happy mixture which induces that high sense of honour, so peculiarly characteristic of our service; that acknowledged distinction between the officers and the privates; that true discipline which, tempered with justice and kindly feeling, wins the respect of the soldier, and induces him to place that reliance upon his commander everywhere so conspicuous, whether in the camp or field of battle. But this high feeling in the army causes no additional expense to the country; the charge is altogether a deception. Let the following sketch of a young soldier's life of the present day, as applicable to others as to himself, answer the charge of these politicians.
He was educated for the highest walk of the legal profession, and had nearly prepared himself for the university, when he decided to change his course and go into the army. The Commander-in-chief placed his name amongst the candidates for commissions, and he went to Hanover, where, after he had made himself master of the German language, his Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge kindly gave him a commission in the Yagers of the Guard, better known in England, in the Peninsula, and at Waterloo, as the Rifles of the German Legion. Being only a volunteer in the regiment, he could not receive pay from the government; he was, therefore, at very considerable personal expense to keep his proper standing with his brother officers; and as soon as he had acquired all the military knowledge that he was likely to get in the regiment in time of peace, he obtained leave to return to England; and, as he had not any immediate expectation of a commission, he visited France, to make himself more perfect in the French language. After this, he was allowed to purchase a commission in the 2nd regiment, or Queen's Royals; and he embarked to join that corps in India. His letters will shew what that regiment, in common with others, have endured during a campaign of fifteen months in Central Asia, their privations and expenses; and when his second commission was paid for, during that campaign, he found himself at its close, at the age of twenty-five, a lieutenant on full pay, the amount of which, if he was in England, would be far short of the interest of the money which has been expended in his commissions and education, and with fifteen lieutenants still above him on the roll of his regiment.
It will be seen by his letters, and it is confirmed by the official despatches of the Commander-in-chief, that the company to which he was attached (the light company of the Queen's) led the storming party at Ghuzni. He was shot through the arm and through the body, and left for dead at the foot of the citadel at Kelat, whilst endeavouring to save the lives of some Beloochees who were crying for mercy. And for these services he is to be rewarded with a medal, by Shah Shooja; for Ghuzni, and for the capture of both places he has the full enjoyment of the highest gratification that a soldier can feel—the consciousness that he has done his duty to his country, and, let me hope, in the act of mercy in which he suffered, his duty to his God as a Christian. But he is not a solitary example of such good fortune. No one who was wounded and survived may have been nearer death than himself, yet are there others who have done more, and suffered more, as the history of the army of the Indus would bear ample testimony.
Let me then ask, in behalf of the British officer, when he is lightly spoken of as a man, or when the expenses of the army are cavilled at, on which side is the debt—on his, or on that of his country?
It may be right to draw the attention of the reader to a circumstance which, at first sight, may appear singular—that the same letters frequently contain reports quite contradictory to each other. It should therefore be borne in mind that such letters were probably written at different times, as the writer found opportunity; who, being anxious that his family should know all that passed as well in the camp as in the field, preferred leaving each report in the way in which it was circulated at the time of his writing it, rather than correct it afterwards, as the truth, might turn out. Such letters shew the situation in which an army is placed on its landing in a new country, where no account of the movements of the inhabitants can be relied upon, and the heavy responsibility which attaches to the officers who are entrusted with its command.
CAMPAIGN OF THE INDUS.
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On board the ship Syden, Off the mouth of the Indus, Nov. 27th, 1838.
MY DEAR FATHER,—We left Belgaum on the 22nd of last month, and arrived at Bombay on the first of this; and we started from Bombay on the 18th, for this place. I had intended to write from Bombay, but everything was in such a state of confusion and bustle whilst we were there, that I literally could find no time or place for doing so. We are now at anchor off one of the mouths of the Indus, and have had a delightful voyage. Our ship is a very nice one, of 750 tons, belonging to a Swede, who is an excessively good fellow, and has treated us very well.
Sir John Keane is already arrived in the steamer Semiramis and also one of the native regiments. Our Bombay force consists of 5500 men, of which 2000 are Europeans—viz., 500 of the Queen's, and 500 of H.M. 17th regiment, one squadron of the 4th Light Dragoons, with foot and horse artillery. The rest of the force is composed of native regiments, horse and foot. We shall not land, I think, until to-morrow evening, as we are almost the only ship that has yet arrived. The infantry are divided into two brigades, and the cavalry form another by themselves. Our brigade (the first) consists of the Queen's, and the 5th and 19th regiments of Native Infantry, commanded by our worthy Colonel, now General Willshire, C.B.; the other brigade is commanded by a Company's officer. We have to go in boats about thirty miles, it is said, up the river, before we finally march. Where it is I am perfectly ignorant; however, some place between this and Hydrabad, whence we shall march as far north as Shikarpoor, where we are to form a junction with the Bengal troops, 13,000 in number, under Sir H. Fane. What our destination will be after that I know not; whether we shall advance with the Bengalees upon Herat, or form a corps of reserve on the Indus.
The country between this and Shikarpoor belongs to the Ameers of Sinde. They were very restive at first, when they heard of our intention to march through their country, and threatened to oppose our progress; but I believe they have since thought better of it; however, I do not think that they can do anything against us: time will soon shew. We have been excessively crowded on board: twenty-six officers. I have been obliged to sleep on the poop every night, which, when the dew was heavy, was by no means pleasant. I hope we shall go further than Shikarpoor, as I should like very much to see Cabool, Candahar, and all that part of the world, which so few Europeans have visited.
What is the cause of all this bustle and war I hardly know myself, and, at all events, it is too long to make the subject of a letter; I must therefore refer you to the papers for it; but I have heard from old officers that for the last twenty years the Company have been anxious to establish themselves west and north of the Indus. It is not likely, therefore, now that they have such an opportunity, that they will let it slip, so that perhaps we may be quartered there for the next two or three years. How it will turn out I know no more than the man in the moon: a soldier is a mere machine, and is moved by his superiors just as a chessman by a chess-player. Should there be any skrimmaging, our men are in high spirits, and will, I think, soon make the Ameers put their pipes in their pockets. Ours is the first European army that has been on the Indus since the time of Alexander.
I was obliged to sell my horses and other things on leaving Belgaum, at a dead loss. I intend buying another horse when we land in Sinde, as I am told we can get good ones very cheap there. This is a regular case of here to-day and there to-morrow: perhaps my next letter may be dated from Cashmere—who knows? I felt rather sorry at leaving Belgaum; we were all of us excessively rejoiced to get out of Bombay. The report at first was, that we were to garrison it for the next two or three years, and we were therefore very glad when we found that was not to be the case. Now, it is said, there is a chance of our going into Persia; but I do not think that we shall. The man waits to lay the cloth on the cuddy table, where I am writing, so I must conclude for the present.
Nov. 28th.—The regiment is beginning to disembark right in front. The Grenadiers are now going into the boats of the natives that are to take them up the river. Since I wrote yesterday, I have heard all the news relative to our disembarkation. We are to go fifteen miles up the river in native boats to a place called Vicur, where we form our first camp ground. We are to remain there for a week or ten days, in order to collect camels, bullocks, &c., for the transportation of our baggage. We have to pass a very dangerous bar in getting to this place, where several boats have been wrecked; but we have fine large ones. From all accounts, the Ameers are now peaceably disposed, except one fellow, who, we hear, is inclined to be rather obstreperous; but I think the sight of our force will soon bring him to his senses. There are, however, a set of men who live on the mountain borders of Sinde, called Beloochees, the eastern inhabitants of Beloochistan, who are a robber, free-and-easy kind of people, who may give us some trouble in endeavouring to walk off with part of our baggage, &c.
I intend to keep a journal of what occurs, and will write by every opportunity. I think I have now mentioned everything that I have heard relative to this grand expedition; except, by-the-bye, that Sir Henry Fane has denominated the force as "The army of the Indus," and ours, the Bombay branch of it, as "The corps d'armee of Sinde." There is a grand title for you! I have nothing more to say; and as I must be looking after my traps previous to disembarking, I must conclude with best love to you, and all at home.
Your most affectionate son, T.W.E. HOLDSWORTH.
P.S.—I must trust this to the captain of the vessel, giving him instructions to put it into the Bombay post when he returns, so that it is equally doubtful when you may receive it. He is an excessively good fellow, the captain; and we are going to make him a present of a silver goblet, worth 35l., for his attentions to us whilst on board his ship.
Perminacote, five miles from Vicur, right bank of the Hujamree, one of the branches of the Indus, December 8th, 1838.
MY DEAR KITTY,—I wrote to my father, about ten days ago, from the ship in which we came here, stating what I then knew about this expedition; but having since received your letter, and my father's, dated Sept. 4th, I cannot think of going on this bloody campaign without first answering yours. Things look now a little more warlike. The Ameers have endeavoured to cut off everything like a supply from this part of the country, and we have to depend in a great measure, at present, on the supplies brought by the shipping. We have nothing in the shape of conveyance for our baggage. We expected two thousand camels and five hundred horses here for sale; but they are not to be seen at present, and where they are, or when they will arrive, no one knows. News has been received, it is said, from Pottinger, the Company's political agent at Hydrabad, the principal town of the Ameers, that they have called in their army, consisting of 20,000 Beloochees, as they tell Pottinger, "for the purpose of paying them off;" but he says it looks very suspicious, and that they are also fortifying the various towns on the Indus. He has been expected here for the last two or three days, but has not yet arrived. Report also says that he has been fired at in his way down.
We are kept in the most strict discipline, and have a great deal to do. Out-lying and in-lying pickets every night, the same as if we were in the presence of an enemy. This is a very pleasant climate at present, though excessively cold at night-time, as we feel to our cost when on picket, sleeping in the open air, with nothing but our cloaks to cover us; and some nights the dew is excessively heavy, which is very unhealthy, and has laid me up for the last few days with an attack of rheumatism. However, I hope to be out of the sick list to-day. There is such a sharp, cutting, easterly wind, that I can hardly hold my pen. It averages from 80 to 84 in the shade during the hottest part of the day, but that is only for about two hours. However, in the hot season it is worse than India; and we have proof here, even at this time, of the power of the sun occasionally; so I hope that we shall push on for Shikarpoor, and join the Bengal army, under Sir H. Fane, as quickly as possible, as we shall then have some chance of getting to Cabool, which is said to be a delightful climate.
We are still totally ignorant of our future proceedings, except what I have stated above. We are in great hopes that we have not been brought here for nothing, and that we may have a chance of seeing a few hard blows given and taken ere long. Hydrabad and loote is what is most talked about at present. It will, however, be a most harassing kind of warfare, I expect, as the force of the Ameers consists of Arabs and Beloochees; a regular predatory sort of boys, capital horsemen, but not able, I should think, to engage in a regular stand-up fight. I think their warfare will consist in trying to cut off a picket at night, breaking through the chain of sentries, and endeavouring to put the camp in confusion, &c. &c.; so that the poor subalterns on picket will have anything but a sinecure there; however, it will be a capital way of learning one's duty in the field. By-the-bye, I forgot to tell you, amongst other rumours of war, that an Ameer was down here a few days ago to obtain an interview with Sir J. Keane, who refused to see the Ameer, or to have anything to do with him, and told him that he would soon talk to him at Hydrabad.
Our force is now nearly all arrived, all except the Bombay grenadier regiment, which is to form part of ours, (i.e., the first brigade,) and not the 19th regiment, as I told my father. We have now here two squadrons of H.M. 4th Light Dragoons, the Queen's, and the 17th regiment. The native regiments are, the Grenadiers, the 5th, the 19th, and the 24th; there is also a due proportion of horse and foot artillery, together with some native cavalry, making in all 5500 fighting men. We are now about fifteen miles from the sea, and we got up quite safe, although there is a very dangerous bar to cross, and all the boats were not so lucky as ours, as the horse artillery lost fifteen horses; and a boat belonging to a merchant of Bombay went down, in which goods to the amount of one thousand rupees (100l.) were lost.
Our camp presents a very gay appearance—so many regiments collected together; and altogether I like this sort of campaigning work very well, although I expect that we shall be very hard put to it when we march, if we do not get more means of conveyance. The wind is blowing such intolerable dust into the tent that I can hardly write. The captain of the vessel which brought us from Bombay came up here last night, and returns to-day about eleven o'clock, and sails this evening for Bombay; I shall give him this letter to take, so that you and my father will receive my letters at the same time. As long as I keep my health I do not care where we go or what we do. The doctor has just come in and put me off the sick list. It is getting very near eleven o'clock, and the captain will be off directly, so that I must conclude my letter, hoping you will, for this reason, excuse its shortness; and with best love, &c., to all at home, believe me ever your most affectionate brother,
P.S. I have not any horse at present, which I find a great inconvenience. I sold what I had at Belgaum, before I left it, at a dead loss, as I expected to get plenty here on my arrival, but have been wofully disappointed. There were some splendid creatures for sale at Bombay, which was very tempting, but they asked enormous sums for them. I wonder where I shall eat my Christmas dinner! This is the first European army that has been on the Indus since the time of Alexander the Great.
Camp near Tatta, four miles from the Indus, January 1st, 1839.
My DEAR FATHER,—I write to wish you a happy new year on this the first day of 1839, which, if it turns out as its opening prognosticates, is likely to be a very eventful one for me, if I do not get knocked on the head or otherwise disposed of. I wrote to you from the ship Syden, about the 28th of November, and to Kate from our last station at Bominacote, on the right bank of the Hujamree, about the 12th of last month, both which letters will, I expect, leave Bombay to-day by the overland mail for England; but as another mail will leave on the 19th, and I thought you would be anxious to learn as much of our movements &c. as possible, I dare say the present letter will not be amiss.
We remained at our old encampment, Bominacote, until the 26th of last month, and I picked up my health very fast there, and was able to enjoy myself shooting a great deal, particularly the black partridge, which is an uncommonly handsome bird, and much bigger than the English. The 2nd brigade of infantry, consisting of H.M. 17th regiment, the 19th and 23rd regiments Native Infantry, under the command of General Gordon, a Company's officer, together with the 4th Light Dragoons, a regiment of Native Cavalry, and one troop of horse artillery, left the aforesaid place on the 24th, with Sir John Keane and his escort; and the first brigade, consisting of ourselves, the 1st Grenadiers, and 5th regiment Native Infantry, under the command of our chief, General Willshire, left on the 26th. I was on out-lying picket the night before, (Christmas night,) and a very curious way it was of passing it. The first part of the night, till twelve o'clock, was exceedingly fine and beautiful, and, as I lay on the cold ground, my thoughts travelled towards poor old Devonshire, and I could not help fancying in what a much more comfortable way you must be spending it at home, all snug, &c. at Brookhill. After twelve, the strong northerly wind, which blows with great force at intervals this time of the year in this country, sprung up, and it soon got intensely cold. Towards two I forgot myself for about half an hour, and nodded on my post, and on awakening I was taken with what I am sure must have been a slight attack of cholera. I was stone cold, particularly my arms, hands, legs, and feet, and suffered excruciating pains in my stomach, till nature relieved me, which she was kind enough to do uncommonly frequent. I had luckily some brandy with me, of which I drank, I should think, half a bottle down without tasting it; but it did me a great deal of good at the time, although I have not been well since, and am still very far from being so. Our camels, of which I had two, were furnished us by the commissariat, and we ought to have had them at four o'clock on the day before; but, like everything else, we did not get them till four o'clock the morning we marched, about an hour before we turned out. I had to trust entirely to Providence with regard to mine, as to whether I should get them or not, as I was on outlying picket, and could not attend to them, and I had just two minutes, after coming from picket in the morning, to get a mouthful of villanous coffee, when I was obliged to fall in with my company, which formed the advanced guard of the brigade, and march off in double quick time, leaving all to chance. My poor stomach wanted something most awfully to stop its proceedings, but it was totally out of the question, as General Willshire hurried us off at a slapping pace; luckily, the march was only eight miles, so it did not fatigue me much: I marched on foot the whole of it, as I could not get my pony in the hurry of starting. We got nothing to eat till two o'clock, when part of our mess things arrived, and we pitched into whatever we could get. This march; though, was by far the most pleasant, as we had a good firm tract of country to pass over, and no sand. The "rouse" sounded at five, and we marched again at half-past six. This night I was on in-lying picket, and was obliged to pass it in harness, and ready to turn out at a moment's notice, although awfully tired. We had a very unpleasant march, as the north winds got up soon after we started, and blew the dust and sand right into our eyes; we had, however, being on the advance guard, comparatively easy work, as there were only two sections with each officer: the poor column suffered severely. This day, however, was paradise compared to the next, which was eighteen miles, through an uninhabited sandy desert, with a few tamarisk shrubs and no water, except a few stagnant pools, which was the cause of the march being so long, there being no place for encampment. General Willshire, however, made the best of a bad matter, and sent on the night before to a place about half way, and the least unchristian-like spot he could find, half the men's rations for the next day, together with the bheesties (or water carriers) and the men's grog, &c., with orders for the cooks to have these rations cooked and ready for the men as soon as they marched in; so that on arriving at the ground we piled arms and formed a curious sort of pic-nic in the middle of the desert. We halted here about an hour, and lucky it was that the men got the means of recruiting their strength in this manner, as the latter part of the march was a terrible teaser. We marched off from this place about twelve. Although we had found the morning pleasant enough, with a fine bracing breeze, yet in the afternoon, about half an hour after starting, the wind went down, and the sun shone out terribly; the sand in some parts was half knee deep, and although there was no breeze to blow it in our faces, yet it rose from the trampling of so many feet in successive dense columns, and completely enveloped the whole brigade, almost blinding the men, so that they could hardly see the man before them, and getting into their noses and mouths so as nearly to suffocate them; however, they bore it manfully, and marched straight through it like Britons. Our encampment that night was at a place called Golam Shah, on the Buggaur, one of the branch streams of the Indus. We found that the second brigade had only left it the same morning, having been obliged to halt there the preceding day; and General Willshire found a letter from Sir John Keane, advising a halt there for the following day, which we accordingly did, and a precious comfortable day we had. I got off my pony at the close of this day's march with a dreadful headache, and had to wait for an hour till Halket's tent and kit, with whom I am doubling up, arrived. His servants brought me the delightful intelligence that my camel man had bolted with his camels at our last encampment, and that my things were all left there on the ground, with my servant, and that it was quite uncertain when they would be up; in fact, it seemed exceedingly doubtful whether they would arrive at all. However, they did come in at last, but very late, on three ponies, two bullocks, and one donkey, which were the only things my boy could get, and for which I had to pay considerably. I turned in as soon as I could; and the next day, which was a most wretched one, I was very unwell. This place, Golam Shah, must, I think, be one of the most wretched places in the whole world, situated as it is in the heart of a desert, with only one recommendation,—viz., the river Buggaur, the water of which is excessively sweet and wholesome. The day we passed at it was the coldest I remember since leaving England. A strong northerly wind blew the whole day, and the clouds of dust and sand that rose in consequence were so thick as perfectly to obscure the sun, and all we could do we could not keep ourselves warm. Here we had the misfortune also to lose the only man that has as yet fallen on the march, an old soldier. He was taken with cholera at eight in the morning and died at twelve at night: he was buried about six hours afterwards, just as the regiment marched. The hospital men had no time to stretch him, and he was laid in the earth in the same posture in which he died, with his arms stuck a kimbo, pressing upon his stomach, which shews that he must have suffered intense agony. Poor fellow! they had not time to dig his grave very deep, and I am afraid the jackals will be the only benefiters by his death. We left this place the next morning, the 30th, and arrived here (Tatta) about eleven o'clock, a twelve-mile march. A great number of the 2nd brigade rode out to meet us, and the 4th Light Dragoons very kindly asked us to breakfast immediately on our arrival. You may be sure they had not to ask us twice!
Tatta is a very ancient town, said to have been built by either Alexander, on his march down the Indus, or by one of his generals; the ancient name was Patala. At that time the country was in possession of Hindoos, or, at least, of the followers of Brahma, who were most probably the original possessors of the greater portion of the east. Afterwards, on the rise of Mahomet, it was soon in possession of his followers, who seem to have held it for a long period, as they have left magnificent proofs of their grandeur, both in the city and all round the neighbourhood, which is studded with splendid cupolas, domes, temples, and tombs; there is one in particular in the town itself an old tomb, now used as a caravanserai, which is excessively handsome. When I talk of a tomb being turned into a caravanserai, you will of course understand that a tomb in this part of the world is very different from one in the western part of the globe. This tomb itself would cover as much ground as Exeter Cathedral. The inside of the domes are very beautifully enamelled in the chastest colours, and with most excellent taste, and would put to shame the most handsome drawing-room in London, I should think. I have never repented not being able to draw so much as I have since I have been in the East, but particularly since I have been at this place, where there is so much that would look well in a sketch; but I would not give twopence to be able to draw and not draw well, particularly when I see the daubs that some men, who fancy they are hands at it, produce, after fagging at the simplest thing possible, and I believe that if nature does not give you a turn for it, all the trying possible would never make a painter, and that what the old Roman proverb said of the poet, "Non fit sed nascitur poeta," is equally applicable to the painter. I tried it for a short time, at Hanover, but my master told me I was the most awkward and stupid pupil he ever had, and advised me to cut the concern, and I followed his advice; nor am I sorry that I did so, as I should never have been able to draw well, and should have only been discontented, and given it up in disgust. We have, however, two officers in our regiment who both draw and sketch exceedingly well; and I will try to get duplicates from them if possible, so that, if God spares my life, and I ever return home, I shall be able to shew you some specimens of the country we have passed through.
Jan. 2nd.—Well, we are to have no fighting, at least at present, it appears. This will be cheering news for Kitty, I expect. We were most egregiously disappointed in the town or city of Tatta itself. We saw it at a great distance on our march, and on arriving on our encamping ground, it looked excessively well, and gave us the idea of a very handsome place. We saw what we imagined to be high houses, built of stone, towers and pillars; but lo! when we rode in to examine it, these splendid buildings turned out to be a most miserable collection of white mud houses, which had the appearance of stone at a distance. Some of them were tolerably high, certainly; but the most wretched-looking things possible. This is the case with most towns in the east. Like Dartmouth, they all look best a la distance.
I am sorry to say that we have a great many men in the hospital now, and four officers on the sick list; two of them very unwell. All the cases are bowel complaints, and most of them dysentery. This is the case generally. While on the march, soldiers seldom feel it; but when the halt afterwards comes, then they get touched up awfully. However, it is not to be wondered at, when one considers the quantity of duty which they have to perform at present. Out-lying and in-lying pickets, and guards, &c.; add to which, the being suddenly transported from the climate of India, to which most of them have become inured by a residence, on the average, of twelve years, to this comparatively cold and changeful climate, is enough of itself to shake them a little. They have also done what no Indian troops have done before: in marching in India, almost everything is carried for the soldier; he merely carries what he does on parade—viz., his firelock and accoutrements. Our regiment though, by-the-bye, has always carried a blanket, with a clean shirt and stockings and flannel waistcoat wrapped up in it, that they may be enabled to change as soon as they have marched in. On this march, each man has carried his knapsack, with his kit in it, twenty rounds of ammunition, a havresack with his day's rations, and a small round keg containing water, the weight of all which is no joke. While at Bominacote, we fully expected to have a little fighting after passing Tatta, and on our arrival here we heard a report which induced us to believe that we should have a brush with the Ameers very shortly; but it appears now that the Ameers have seen the folly of such proceedings, and have determined to receive us amicably, and to assist our passage through their country, and that it was only one of the Ameers that was inclined to be restive. He endeavoured to stop our camels, &c., and managed to do so for some time, and collected as much of what they call an army as he could—about 5000 of these Beloochees, but with no guns, or anything of that sort. However, on collecting them, they represented to him that the British troops were behaving so well, and the inhabitants of the country were getting so much more money for their articles of sale than they ever got before, that they considered it was more for their profit and advantage that the English should march through their country than that they should oppose them, and get licked into the bargain, as they were sure they would be. All eastern nations have an awful dread of European artillery. It also happened that the poor Ameer had unfortunately not the wherewithal to carry on the war, and his army made excessively high demands on him, you may be sure. The consequence of all which was, that the army dissolved itself as quietly as possible, and the poor Ameer found himself solus. The result is, that a deputation is now here, with a small force from the head Ameer, at Hydrabad, under the command of Nur Mahomed, another Ameer, and that he has made most ample apologies for the conduct of his brother Ameer, and offered not only to let us pass through his country, but to assist us in so doing to the utmost of his power. It was indeed well for the Ameers that they came to this decision, as had they acted contrary we should have taken possession of their country to a moral certainty. Now they have a chance of keeping half the loaf.
We have here certainly the flower of the Bombay army, and a very respectable force in every respect: two of the best European regiments, four of the best native, the 4th dragoons, two regiments of light cavalry, two troops of horse artillery in prime order, and a battalion of foot artillery, together with a splendid band of auxiliary horse from Cutch, the finest looking fellows I ever saw: they arrived here on the same day as ourselves. I was standing on one of the hills as they wound their way round it; I was never struck with anything so much, nor have I ever seen anything so orientally military before. They are dressed in green garments, edged with gold, and red turbans, tied under the chin, like the old Mahratta soldiers; their arms are match-lock, lance, scimitar, and pistols, and they appear to be excellent and practical riders. They are quite an independent corps, each man finding his own horse, arms, accoutrements, &c., and they take good care to be excellently mounted. They have a few European officers attached to them from the Bombay establishment. Their dress is also uncommonly handsome; a green hussar dress, with gold braiding. In addition to all this force, we have a subsidiary one nearly as large, coming on directly to follow our steps, and occupy Sinde, while we march on with the Bengalees for Cabool. This force, they say, is to consist of H.M. 40th regiment from Deesa, the 10th, 16th, 22nd, and 24th regiments, 23rd N.I., together with H.M. 90th and 61st regiments, and Ceylon Rifle Corps (Malays) from Ceylon, so that I expect the government at home will have to send more regiments to India as quickly as possible. Sir J. Keane is very likely to have the command of the whole force, both Bombay and Bengal, as they say Sir H. Fane is gone back to Bengal with half the Bengal force, in consequence of the Burmese declaring war; which, as might have been expected, they did directly when so many regiments were marched from their neighbourhood. This report is, however, contradicted, and they say now that Sir H. Fane is going home, and will meet us at Shikarpoor or Hydrabad, give up the command to Sir J. Keane, and go down the Indus, and thence to England overland. Which is the true version I know not; but I am afraid that I have little chance of meeting Colonel Fane, and giving him Arthur's letter, which I expected to do when I wrote last. I am delighted at the prospect of our going to Cabool: there we may have some fighting, and have a chance of being permanently quartered till we return to Europe, whenever that may be.
What the original cause of all this was, as I told you before, I hardly know; and you are more likely to get at the true version from some of the Indian newspapers, or from any friends you may have connected with this part of the world, than from me. But, as far as I can learn, this appears to be it: Shah Shooja is the rightful heir to the throne of Cabool, and Dost Mahomed is what Mr. C. Dickens calls the "wrongful one," alias the usurper. Dost Mahomed had possession of the country, and the Indian government, from what motives I know not, determined to unseat him and replace Shah Shooja. In this matter they are assisted by old Runjet Sing, King of Lahore, or, as his oriental title goes, "the blind lion of the Punjab." The Persians, on the contrary, took part with Dost Mahomed, insulted our resident at their court, and besieged Shah Shooja's party in Herat; from which, however, after a siege of long duration, they were finally obliged to retire. There was a report at first that Russia was concerned in this affair, and that Russian troops were present with the Persians at the siege, but these turned out to be a regiment or two of Russian renegadoes whom the King of Persia has in his pay. There was another report of a letter having been discovered from the government of Russia to the King of Persia, which induced the belief that the Emperor of Russia was playing a deep game, the object of which was to lessen our influence in the East; and many people, I believe, are very much of this opinion. How far all this may be true I know not; but I have been told by old Indians that for a long time the Indian government have been anxious to have a strong footing in Sinde, and to command the navigation of the Indus; and that now they have the opportunity they are not likely to let it slip. The Afghans are a very hardy race of men, and we may have some sharp work with them; but I think a gun or two of our horse artillery would have sent the Beloochees scampering. They are miserably equipped; but being nearly all robbers, they might have annoyed us by a night attack, which would have been anything but pleasant, particularly for the poor sub. on out-lying picket. Some Bombay native merchants are at present at Tatta; they have been here for ten years, and have been afraid to stir for fear of being robbed. I have no doubt but that the inhabitants of the country would prefer our government considerably to that of the Ameers, as they are exceedingly tyrannical, and grind their subjects to the last degree, demanding half of everything that is offered for sale. When Burnes travelled first in this country, some few years ago, and was received by the Ameer in divan, at Hydrabad, an old priest who was present is said to have reproved the Ameer for receiving Burnes so civilly, and to have told him "that since one Englishman had seen the Indus, it would not be long before they would be in possession of it;" and so it seems likely to turn out.
Well; as long as I keep my health I care little where we go or what we do; but marching in ill health is a great damper to the spirits. The stay-at-home soldiers in England little know what service in this climate really is. I should like to see —— of the —— on out-lying picket here; he would not find it quite so pleasant as Almack's. I have very little time to add more, as the post goes to Bombay to-day, but to wish you all at home a very happy new year, and love to all relations and friends, as you may not hear from me again for some time. I will endeavour to pick up as many curiosities and things of that description as possible for you, if I do not get knocked on the head. I keep a journal, and will write by every opportunity. Your next letter to me may find me in Cabool. Once more, good bye.
Ever your affectionate son, T.W.E. HOLDSWORTH.
Camp, near Jarruk, on the banks of the Indus, Twenty miles from Hydrabad, January, 31st, 1839.
MY DEAR FATHER,—I had fully intended this letter for Kitty, but such a dreadful event happened in our regiment yesterday, that I was afraid, if she was at all unwell when she received the letter, connecting it, as she would, with me, it might throw her into some dreadful fever, or something of that sort. I have very little time to write, as the post leaves this, by steamer, at three o'clock to-day; and I have a great deal to do during the day. I think it my duty, however, to write, as the report of the circumstance might get into the papers without mentioning names, or giving wrong ones, and you might be needlessly alarmed.
To strike at once in medias res, this event is no less than the horrible death of three of our officers in a burning shikargur, or large thicket, enclosed by the Ameers for the preservation of game. The names of the poor, unfortunate fellows are Sparky (whom, by-the-bye, you might have seen at Chatham,) Nixon, and Hibbert. The two first, Lieut. Sparke, in the Grenadiers, and Nixon, in the Light Company. Hibbert was assistant-surgeon. They were three of the finest hearted fellows: Nixon, a long time one of my fellow subs in the Light Company. (I can hardly write, my hand shakes so.) Poor Hibbert was an exceedingly clever fellow, and a great traveller, and one of the most beautiful draughtsmen you could meet with any where. They are all three a terrible loss to our corps. I will tell you the mournful tale as it happened. We arrived here on the 25th. I breakfasted on Tuesday with them at mess, which was the last time I ever saw them alive: they were in exceedingly high spirits. The success of an enterprise the day before appears to have determined them to go upon another expedition on this day, which at first sight did not appear half so hazardous as it unfortunately proved to be; this was no less than going into a shikargur (of which I have explained the meaning above) about four or five miles in the rear of our camp, and which was supposed to be well stocked with game. It happened that this jungle had been set on fire about two days previously, most likely by some of our camel drivers, or other native followers: some said it was done by the Beloochees; but this I think very unlikely, as it is dead to leeward of our camp. Well, they did not appear in the evening, and we began to be rather alarmed on their account: however, we thought they would turn up by some chance or other. Next morning (yesterday), when the regiment fell in, an hour before daylight, which the whole camp does here every morning, as we are supposed to have a hostile force not very far from us, they were reported absent. Breakfast came; no tidings of them: ten; eleven o'clock; and they began to be the talk of the whole camp. However, we speculated that the worst that could have happened to them was being taken prisoners by a party of Beloochees, and kept as hostages, or something of that sort. At twelve, General Willshire became so alarmed and anxious about them that he sent out a troop of the 1st Light Cavalry to scour the jungles, and discover what they could of them; another officer sent out a party of six natives, with the promise of a reward of two hundred rupees if they could find any tidings of them. Well; the day went on; and at mess, at six o'clock, nothing had been heard relative to their fate, except that a little dog belonging to poor Nixon returned to camp about four o'clock. About eight o'clock I was in Dickinson's tent, smoking a cheroot, &c., previous to turning in, when one of our servants rushed in with the dreadful intelligence that the bodies had been found in the jungle by the Light Cavalry. It struck us at first so unexpectedly, and as being a thing so dreadful, that we would hardly believe it; however, all doubt was soon changed into horrible reality by the arrival of the bodies within our lines. I was determined not to see them; but there was a horrible fascination which drew one along with the rest to the hospital tent, where they were lying.
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Twelve o'clock.—Well; I am just returned from seeing the last honours paid to their remains; it is a melancholy business a military funeral; every officer in camp attended; and, after all, they have had the satisfaction of a Christian burial, which may not be our luck in a short time. I do not know why, but this sad event has made me an old woman almost! They lie side by side on a hill just in the rear of our camp; "no useless coffin enclosed their corse;" but there they lie together, wrapped in their cloaks. Peace to their manes! We intend erecting a monument to them, if possible. I learned that some of the staff had been to the jungle to investigate it thoroughly to-day, and from various circumstances, have come to the conclusion that they had climbed up some high trees, which surrounded the place where they fell, in order to shoot the game as they came out, and that before they had time to make their escape, a breeze came, which brought the smoke, and which most likely stifled, or at least rendered them senseless. Let us hope that this was the case, as I should think that so their death would not have been very painful: the position in which their bodies were lying when found seems to warrant this supposition. A porcupine was found close to their trees, burnt to a cinder. It blew very hard last night, and I passed an almost sleepless night in thinking of these poor fellows. It gives a man an awful shake in going through life, seeing the very fellows you have lived with for the last two years, in whose proceedings you have borne a part, brought suddenly before you in such a state: a man in these situations thinks more in two hours than he does in the whole course of his natural life under ordinary circumstances. It proves what helpless beings we are; how little we can control our own actions: truly, "in the midst of life we are in death."
I wrote to you on the new year's day everything that had happened up to that time; the letter was to have gone by the overland mail of the 19th. I hope you will receive it safe, as I should be sorry you should lose anything from me now, as it may be the last you may ever have, so precarious are the chances of a soldier's life on actual service. Shortly after writing to you, I got ill again, and it ended in a slight fever, which cleared me out altogether, since which I have been in perfectly good health, thank God. I came off the sick list on the 22nd January, the day before we marched from Tatta. I will give you my journal from that time to the sad event which has just happened.
Wednesday, Jan. 23, 1839.—On this day, at 6 A.M., the corps d'arme of Sinde marched out of the encampment near Tatta en route for Hydrabad, the Cutch Auxiliary Horse in advance, detaching flankers, &c., then the main body in the following order:—The 4th Light Dragoons in front; next, one squadron of horse artillery, followed by two squadrons of the 1st regiment of Bombay Light Cavalry, one company of foot artillery, then the first brigade of infantry, under General Willshire, consisting of the Queen's Royals, 5th and 1st, or Grenadier regiment, Native Infantry, a second squadron of horse artillery, a second company of foot artillery; the 2nd infantry brigade, consisting of H.M. 17th regiment, the 19th and 23rd regiments Native Infantry; the whole closed by two other squadrons of 1st Light Cavalry. We (i.e., the 1st brigade) left our ground a quarter before six, and halted on a rising ground close to the walls of Tatta, whence we had a very fair view of the cavalry, artillery, &c., that were in the advance of us, winding their way through a pretty avenue of trees: the whole presented a very animated and martial appearance, the different corps marching off with colours uncased, band playing, &c. Cunningham's, or the Poonah Auxiliary Horse, having only arrived the night before, did not join the main body, but came up somewhat later in the day, I believe. The march of the main body this day was not more than ten miles; but our brigade was posted two miles in advance of the rest of the force, and the Queen's were nearly a mile in advance of the other two regiments of the brigade; so that we marched about thirteen miles. We encamped in a rather pretty valley surrounded by barren rocks, with our right resting on a shikargur (or hunting thicket); we had a fine pebbly bottom, which was a great relief to our feet after the hot dust of Tatta. My baggage did not make its appearance till about five o'clock, my unfortunate young camel having proved restive, and flung its load two or three times, thereby considerably damaging my cot and table: mess at six,—nothing particular.
Thursday, Jan. 24.—In consequence of our being so much in advance, our "rouse" did not sound till six o'clock this morning, and we did not march off our ground till seven. After we had marched about two miles; we halted and piled arms, to enable the cavalry, &c., in our rear to pass on, and thus we had a very good review of them: they marched in the same order as yesterday, except that in addition, and near to the light cavalry, came Cunningham's horse from Poonah: this was the first time we had seen them; they made a very splendid appearance, about 600 strong, and well equipped in every respect; their dress and accoutrements the same as the Cutch Horse, (of which I gave you a description in my last,) with the difference of wearing yellow and red instead of green and red. We had a very pleasant march this day, except the latter part, which was exceedingly dusty; some very pretty and romantic scenery, consisting of ruined forts, abrupt hills, large rocks, interspersed with some beautiful lakes here and there. We reached our encamping ground rather late—half-past eleven o'clock—lost my breakfast, owing to my native groom, who carried some stock for me, and to whom I had given directions to wait by the regiment till they had piled arms and were dismissed, having disobeyed my orders, and cut off with my tatter to the river, about three miles off: gave chase directly the parade was dismissed, and walked through a shikargur to the river, but could not find the rascal. I had, however, a good view of the Indus, which does not here appear to be very broad: a cruel hot day; and, in addition to my other misfortunes, was nearly stifled by the clouds of dust raised by cavalry of every description leading their horses to water. On my return to camp I luckily found my baggage arrived, and had a good snoose till six o'clock, mess time; heard at mess that the Ameers had agreed to all our terms, and would do everything to assist our passage through their country; that we were to march straight to Shikarpoor, without halting at Hydrabad; after remaining at which place for some time, we should advance upon Candahar,—all fudge. Our position this halt was about the centre of the army,—bad encamping ground,—very dusty.
Friday, 25th.—Left our encampment at six, in the same order as before; our out-lying picket, under Stisted, joined us near our first halt, about three miles. Warlike news,—the Ameers had rejected our treaty, and that a force of 10,000 Beloochees had crossed the river; and would probably give us some trouble. Stisted had received orders to keep a very sharp look-out with his picket, as there was a chance of its being attacked: Jephson joined, with news from Sir J. Keane, that there was every chance of our being attacked on the line of march; however, we were not, although we passed over some very pretty ground for a battle. Marched into our encamping ground about half-past ten, near a half-ruined village called Jarruk, on the banks of the river; the army here took up a rather strong position, on a chain of heights; our brigade being, however, pushed on again in advance, on some low and jungly ground near the river; the Queen's again on the extreme front. News still warlike; the Beloochees, under Meer Mahomet, one of the Ameers, and the most restive of them, being supposed to be near us in great force, though nobody seemed to know where. All the oot-wallas, or camel-drivers, put under charge of sentries, as there was reason to suspect they meditated deserting in the night with our camels. Bad encamping ground again,—a dusty, half-cultivated field.
Saturday, 26th.—Turned out of bed between two and three, A.M., with orders to fall in, at a moment's notice, in "light marching order," as an attack was strongly expected. Spies had reported that 10,000 Beloochees were in a shikargur not seven miles from us, and that they intended a night attack; everybody in the highest state of excitement, pistols loading, &c. Fell in an hour before daylight; cavalry sent out in all directions; staff and field-officers galloping about like mad fellows; remained under arms till day had fully broke, when we were dismissed, but commanded not to stray far from camp: great excitement all day; Cunningham's horse sent out to reconnoitre; returned late at night, reporting that they had patrolled sixteen miles in advance, had closely examined the shikargur in question, and could find no traces of the Beloochees,—a strong suspicion, however, remained that there were Beloochees in our neighbourhood.
Sunday, 27th.—Under arms an hour before daylight; no further news; camp quiet. As I was to be on out-lying picket this evening, rode out after breakfast to look at my ground, which appeared rather strong, intersected with ravines, brushwood; &c., and a good place to hold against cavalry. Mounted picket at five o'clock, P.M., fifty-seven rank and file, two serjeants, four corporals, and one bugler, a chain of nine double sentries, the right resting on the river and the Hydrabad road, and the chain running along a dry nullah, till it communicated with the sentries of the 5th regiment's picket; a corporal's party of three men detached in advance to an old ruin on the left front; a picket of cavalry about two miles in advance, with videttes on some high ground. A beautiful moonlight night, and not very cold till about one o'clock in the morning; lay on the ground and thought of what was going on at Brookhill and fancy ball at Torquay; visited my sentries continually; the men in high spirits, and very much on the alert; nothing extraordinary occurred.
Camp Kotree, four miles from Hydrabad, February 6th, 1839.
MY DEAR FATHER,—I wrote to you a few days ago from Jarruk, informing you of the melancholy fate of three of my brother officers; but having received your letter since, dated Nov. 20th, containing the bill for 670 rupees (or 70l.), and informing me of the news of Kate's intended marriage, I could not let slip an opportunity which has just occurred, by our having got possession of Curachee, of writing to Kitty, and also, at the same time, of informing you of what has occurred since. You will receive this at the same time as you do the other, since it will arrive at Bombay in time to go by the same overland mail.
I wrote to you on the 31st; and on Sunday, the 3rd of February, we marched out of Jarruk for this place; we made a two days' march of it, both very disgusting; horrible, or rather no roads at all; nothing but dust and sand under our feet, which the wind blew into our eyes every minute; add to which, small halts every five minutes, on account of the artillery in our front, who could not get on through the badness of the way: this perpetual halting is the most wearisome thing possible to a soldier when once fairly under weigh. Well; we arrived here on the day before yes-day; our front is now completely changed, being towards the river, and not turned from it, or with our right resting on it, as it has been before; our brigade is on the extreme right. Of course, you know that we are on the western bank, and that Hydrabad is on the eastern, and therefore the opposite one. Since we have been here, we have a little relaxed in our discipline, being no longer under arms before daylight; but reports are still very various as to whether we are to have peace or war with the Ameers, and whether we shall eventually have to sack Hydrabad or not. A deputation from thence came over yesterday to Sir J. Keane. It appears that the Ameers will agree to our treaty, but demur about the money which that treaty obliges them to pay. As far as I can learn, though I do not advise you to put much reliance on it, as I may very likely be wrong, this seems to be the case. It appears that the Ameers have long owed our ally, whom we are going to place on the throne of Cabool, Shah Shooja, twenty lacs of rupees; that on our declaring war they agreed to pay this sum, with Shah Shooja's consent, to our government to meet the expenses of the war, and to give us a passage through their country to Shikarpoor. However, from our first landing in their country they have played a most underhand game, and endeavoured to throw every indirect obstacle in our way, behaving friendly to our faces, but behind our backs giving very different directions to their satellites: this was found out by means of intercepted letters, particularly at our last halt at Jarruk. The conduct of our party may not be considered of quite the fairest nature, as we are establishing posts in their country by way of communication, and reserves at three or four different places. This was, no doubt, part of the original plan that sent us here, as these posts are to be strongly fortified, consisting, it is supposed, of Shikarpoor, Schwun, Tatta, and Curachee, and are to be the posts of defence on our north-west frontiers against any incursions from our northern neighbours, particularly Russia. The Ameers are particularly indignant at this, as I am told it did not form part of the original treaty, and they see in it, no doubt with justice, a prelude to our final possession of their country. Pottinger, the political agent, had collected, before he left Hydrabad, grain for the army to the value of three lacs of rupees; this, it is now found out, has either been taken away or destroyed, and Sir J. Keane immediately added it to the other twenty lacs contained in the treaty. The Ameers say they will pay half the whole sum demanded here, and the remaining half on our arrival at Shikarpoor. This Sir J. Keane has refused, and told them he will not leave this or Hydrabad till he gets every fraction.
We yesterday received news which must, I should think, have an effect on the Ameers one way or the other. The admiral on this station, Sir F. Maitland, brought up in his 74 (I think the Wellesley) H.M. 40th regiment, from Mandivie, in Cutch, to Curachee, a fort on the westernmost branch of the Indus. On approaching the fort, the Beloochees who garrisoned it, taking it for a common free-trader, had the foolish presumption to fire into her; the admiral wore his vessel round, just gave one broadside, down came their fort in one second about their ears,—you may guess how it astonished them: they sent word to say that the English fire a lac of shot in one second. They say the Ameers were one year in taking this place, which cost the English one second. I think myself that we shall not have any fighting here, and that Hydrabad will still remain in the hands of the Ameers.