Pottinger, Eldred (DNB00)

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POTTINGER, ELDRED (1811–1843), soldier and diplomatist, born in Ireland on 12 Aug. 1811, was son of Thomas Pottinger, esq., of Mount Pottinger, co. Down, and nephew of Sir Henry Pottinger [q. v.] He was educated at Addiscombe, the East India Company's military college, and entered the Bombay artillery in 1827. After some regimental service he was appointed to the political department and was posted as assistant to his uncle, Colonel Henry Pottinger. In 1837 the latter granted his request to travel in Afghanistan in order to satisfy his love of adventure and to collect information. Disguised as a horse-dealer, with a slender retinue he journeyed by Shikárpur, Dera Ismáil Khán, and Pesháwar to Kábul and Herát. Soon after his arrival at Herát (September 1837) the city was invested by a Persian army, accompanied by Russian officers. Thereupon Lieutenant Pottinger made himself known to Yár Mahammad Khán, the wazír and commander of the forces under Sháh Kámrán, and offered his services for the defence. These were accepted, and, mainly through the young officer's energy, a stubborn resistance was organised. At the same time a naval demonstration was made in the Persian Gulf, and the siege was raised by the Persians in September 1838. Pottinger's services were highly appreciated, and the governor-general (George Eden, earl of Auckland) thanked him as one ‘who, under circumstances of peculiar danger and difficulty, has by his fortitude, ability, and judgment honourably sustained the reputation and interests of his country.’ Though only a subaltern, he received a brevet majority, was created C.B., and was appointed political agent at Herát. But he left that city in 1839, when his place was taken by Major D'Arcy Todd. In 1841 Pottinger was sent back to Afghanistan as political officer in Kohistán, a district of Afghanistan north of Kábul. On 2 Nov. the revolt of the Afghans against Shah Shuja, whom the British had imposed on the throne and maintained by force of arms, broke out at Kábul. On the same day an attack was made by the insurgents on Pottinger's residence at Lughmání, and he had to flee to Chárikár, the neighbouring city, three miles off, which was in the occupation of the 4th Ghoorkas, under the command of Christopher Codrington. There Pottinger was at once besieged. Codrington was killed on 6 Nov. and succeeded by John Colpoys Haughton [q. v.]; Pottinger was wounded. On the 14th the Ghoorkas evacuated the place, and amid incredible difficulties Pottinger and Haughton (both now severely wounded) made good their escape to Kábul, which they reached on the 11th. There, on 23 Dec. 1841, the British envoy, Sir William Hay Macnaghten [q. v.], was murdered by Akbar Khán, one of Dost Mahammad's sons, and Pottinger succeeded to Macnaghten's dangerous post. Demoralisation was rampant; the English garrison, under General William George Keith Elphinstone [q. v.], was helplessly inactive, and, against his better judgment, Pottinger opened negotiations for the retreat of the British troops from Kábul. On 6 Jan. 1842 the march began towards Jalálabad. Akbar Khán demanded sureties for the observance of the conditions made by Pottinger for the evacuation, and Pottinger was detained as one of three hostages. He thus escaped the treacherous massacre by which the retreating army was destroyed in the Khyber Pass [see Brydon, William]. But he was kept prisoner at Kábul until Sir George Pollock [q. v.] arrived there on 17 Sept. 1842. He returned to India with Pollock's army in October. His services received scanty recognition from the new governor-general, Lord Ellenborough, and he went on a visit to his uncle, Sir Henry Pottinger, at Hongkong. There he died, after a brief illness, on 15 Nov. 1843.

[Alison's History, vi. cap. xl.; Career of Major Broadfoot, C.B., p. 442; Durand's First Afghan War, chap. iv. p. 48; Sir Vincent Eyre's Kabul Insurrection of 1841–2 (revised by Malleson, 1879); Kaye's Lives of Indian Officers; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography; Haughton's Char-ee-kar, 2nd edit. 1879; Vibart's Addiscombe, its Heroes, &c.; manuscript records, official and family.]

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