Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pollock, George
POLLOCK, Sir GEORGE (1786–1872), baronet, field-marshal, youngest son of David Pollock of Charing Cross, London, saddler to George III, was born on 4 June 1786. He was educated with his brother, Jonathan Frederick [q. v.], afterwards lord chief baron, at a school at Vauxhall, and entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, where a few candidates of the East India Company artillery and engineers were received. Pollock quitted Woolwich in the summer of 1803. Although he had passed for the engineers, he elected to serve in the artillery, and sailed for India in September on board the Tigris. He was commissioned lieutenant fireworker on 14 Dec. 1803, and after his arrival at Dumdum was promoted lieutenant on 19 April 1804. In August he moved to Cawnpore, to join the army in the field, under Lake, against Holkar. From Cawnpore he went to Agra, where the remnants of Colonel Morison's brigade were struggling in after a disastrous rout. He finally joined his company of artillery at Mathurá; but, as Holkar advanced with ninety thousand men, the British forces fell back on Agra, and Pollock with them. On 1 Oct. Lake marched to meet Holkar, who evaded him and moved on Delhi. Pollock joined Marmaduke Brown's battery of 6-pounders, under General Fraser, who left Delhi, after Holkar had been compelled to abandon his efforts to besiege it, on 5 Nov. with six thousand men, to watch the Maráthá infantry. On 12 Nov. he came up with the enemy near the fort of Díg, and the following day the battle of Díg was fought, in which the battery to which Pollock belonged played an important part. The battle was a very severe one, and the issue was for some time doubtful. Fraser was wounded, and Morison assumed command. Eventually the Maráthás were defeated, and the remnant of Holkar's army took refuge in the fort of Díg. On 2 Dec. Lake united his forces before Díg, and on the 17th fire was opened. Pollock served in the mortar-battery, and on the night of 23 Dec. 1804 the assault was made and the outworks captured. The next morning Pollock was detailed with his guns to destroy the gates of the citadel. As Pollock, with the brigade major, was reconnoitring the same evening, he discovered that the enemy had evacuated the place, and on Christmas-day Lake occupied Díg. Before Bharatpúr, to which Lake laid siege on 4 Jan. 1805, Pollock was again in the mortar-battery, and did good work. After four assaults were repulsed, the siege was converted into a blockade; but on 2 April, when Lake completely defeated Holkar in the field, the rajah of Bharatpúr, dreading the renewal of the siege, hastened to conclude peace. Pollock was promoted captain-lieutenant on 17 Sept. 1805.
Lake moved to Jallor on the Chambal, and Pollock went with his battery to Marabád. In August Lake gave Pollock the command of the artillery of a field force, under Colonel Ball, ordered for the pursuit of Holkar. By December, Holkar, a helpless fugitive, sued for peace, and Pollock was stationed with his battery at Mírat, until he was appointed quartermaster to a battalion of artillery at Dumdum. Later he was made adjutant and quartermaster of the field artillery at Cawnpore; he remained there until his promotion to captain on 1 March 1812, when he was ordered to Dumdum. He was in command of the artillery at Fathgarh in 1813. Shortly afterwards the offer of his services to serve in Nipál was accepted, and in January 1814 he joined Major-general John Sullivan Wood's division at Jeitpúr, with reinforcements of two companies of artillery. Finding himself senior officer of artillery, he took command of that arm in the division. On the conclusion of hostilities Pollock returned to Dumdum, and in 1815 was given the appointment of brigade-major of the Bengal artillery. For some years he remained in cantonments. He was promoted brevet-major on 12 Aug. 1819, and regimental major on 4 May 1820.
In 1820 he was appointed assistant adjutant-general of artillery, a post which he held until his promotion to a regimental lieutenant-colonelcy on 1 May 1824. In 1824 the first Burmese war began, and Pollock, ordered to the front, arrived at the seat of war after the capture of Rangoon. He did much good work in organising the artillery and completing the equipment. In February 1825 he accompanied the commander-in-chief in his advance on Prome, moving by water up the Irrawaddy, with his detachment of artillery and guns. Prome was entered on 25 April. He took part in the operations near Prome in November and December, commanding the artillery of General Willoughby Cotton's division in the march and capture of Mallown. He was specially mentioned in despatches for the prominent part he had taken in the bombardment of Mallown. On 25 Jan. 1826 the army marched on Ava, and came upon the enemy between Yebbay and Pagahm on 9 Feb. The Burmese were defeated, and Pagahm Mew, with all its stores, ordnance, and ammunition, fell to the British. Pollock took his full share in the day's proceedings, in which the artillery again took the most prominent part. On 16 Feb. the march on Ava was resumed, and the force arrived at Yandabú, some forty-five miles from Ava, on the 22nd. Here the treaty of peace was signed. On 8 March the army left Yandabú. Pollock's services in the campaign were specially acknowledged by the governor-general in council, and he was made a C.B. On his return to Calcutta his health was so much shaken by the hardships of the campaign that he received sick leave to proceed to Europe early in 1827. He was promoted brevet-colonel in the company's service on 1 Dec. 1829.
He returned to India in 1830, and was posted to the command of a battalion of artillery at Cawnpore. He was promoted regimental colonel and colonel-commandant of the Bengal artillery on 3 March 1835. In 1838 he was appointed brigadier-general with a divisional command at Dánápúr. From Dánápúr he was transferred to the command of the Agra district. On 28 June 1838 he was promoted major-general.
In November 1841 the disastrous rising at Kábul took place. It was followed in January by the annihilation of the British army in the Khyber pass [see Brydon, William; Macnaghten, Sir William Hay]. Troops were gradually collected at Pesháwar, and Pollock was selected in January 1842 to command, with political powers, the expedition for the relief of Sale and his troops at Jalálábád. Pollock reached Pesháwar on 5 Feb. For two months he remained there, waiting for reinforcements and organising his column. Much sickness prevailed among the native troops, and nearly two thousand men were in hospital. The native troops were also somewhat demoralised. Urgent as Pollock understood the case of Jalálábád to be, he preferred to face hostile criticism on his delay to risking anything at such a crisis. On 31 March he advanced with his column to Jamarúd. He had reduced his army baggage to a minimum, and was himself content to share a tent with two officers of his staff. He had conciliated his Sikh allies, and inspired his own native troops with some confidence. On 5 April he advanced to the mouth of the pass, where the enemy had made a formidable barrier in the valley, had taken up strong positions, and had erected redoubts on the high ground to the right and left of the pass. Pollock had made all his arrangements beforehand with care, and had personally ascertained that each commander was acquainted with the dispositions. He directed columns, under Lieutenant-colonel Taylor and Major Anderson, to crown the heights on the right of the pass, while similar columns, under Lieutenant-colonel Moseley and Major Huish, were to crown the hills on the left. Artillery and the infantry of the advanced guard were drawn up opposite the pass, and the whole of the cavalry placed so that any attack from the low hills on the right might be frustrated. The heights on each side were scaled and crowned, in spite of a determined opposition from the hardy mountaineers. On finding their position turned, the barrier at the mouth of the pass was abandoned, as well as the redoubts on the heights, and Pollock's main body commenced the destruction of the barrier. The flank columns now descended, and attacked the enemy, drawn up in dense masses, who, in spite of a vigorous defence, were compelled to retreat; and Pollock pushed on to Ali Masjid, some five miles within the pass. Ali Masjid had been evacuated, and was at once occupied by the British force. Detained during 6 April at Ali Masjid by finding the Sikhs had not completed the arrangements for guarding the road to Pesháwar, Pollock marched on the 7th to Ghari Lala Beg, meeting with trifling opposition on the road, and pushed on to Landikhana. Thence he advanced to Daka, and emerged on the other side of the pass. He formed a camp near Lalpura, where Saadut Khan made an effort to oppose him, but was driven off, and on the 16th Pollock arrived at Jalálábád, the band of the 13th regiment marching out to play the releasing force into the town. Sale had sallied out on 7 April, and with eighteen hundred men had completely defeated Akbar Khan, whose force was six thousand strong, with heavy loss, capturing his guns and burning his camp.
Lord Auckland had been relieved by Lord Ellenborough as governor-general at the end of February 1842, and on 15 March Ellenborough addressed a spirited letter to the commander-in-chief in India, advocating not only the relief of the troops at Jalálábád, Ghazni, Kalát-i-Ghilzai, and Kandahar, but the advantage of striking a decisive blow at the Afghans, and possibly reoccupying Kábul, and recovering the British captives, before withdrawing from the country. Unfortunately the news of Sale's victory at Jalálábád, and of the forcing of the Khaibar and arrival at Jalálábád of Pollock, was more than counterbalanced in Lord Ellenborough's eyes by the news of the capitulation of Ghazni by Colonel Palmer, after holding out for four months, and of Brigadier-general England's repulse on 28 March at Haikalzai, and he induced both Pollock at Jalálábád and Nott at Kandahar to make arrangements for the withdrawal of all British troops from Afghanistan. Fortunately neither Pollock nor Nott feared responsibility, and both were of an opinion that an advance on Kábul must be made before withdrawing from the country. Pollock at once communicated with Nott, requesting him on no account to retire until he should hear again from him. In the meantime Pollock remonstrated strongly against the policy of the governor-general, and pointed out the necessity of advancing, if only to recover the captives, while at that season it was highly advantageous for the health of the troops to move to a hotter climate rather than retire with insufficient carriage through the pass to Pesháwar. He further assumed that the instruction left him discretionary powers. Having received further orders from the governor-general that, on account of the health of the troops, they would not be withdrawn from Afghanistan until October or November, Pollock remained at Jalálábád negotiating with Akbar Khan for the release of the captives, but making preparations for an advance on Kábul. On 2 Aug. Captains Troup and George Lawrence arrived from Kábul, deputed by Akbar Khan to conclude negotiations, but they were obliged to return to captivity, as Pollock would not agree to retire. In July Lord Ellenborough decided to leave the responsibility of an advance on Kábul, or as he put it, a withdrawal by way of Kábul, to the discretion of Pollock and Nott, directing Pollock to combine his movements with those of Nott, should he decide to adopt the line of retirement by Ghazni and Kábul; and, in that case, as soon as Nott advanced beyond Kábul, Pollock was directed to issue such orders to Nott as he might deem fit. It now became a race, in which the two generals were each bent on getting to Kábul first. In the middle of August Pollock heard from Nott that he would withdraw a part of his force by way of Kábul and Jalálábád, and on 20 Aug. Pollock moved towards Gandamak, leaving a detachment to hold Jalálábád. Pollock reached Gandamak on the 23rd, and on the 24th he attacked the enemy and drove them out of their positions at Mamú Khel and Kuchli Khel, and then out of the village and their adjoining camp. Major Broadfoot and his sappers greatly distinguished themselves, and captured the whole of the enemy's tents, cattle, and a good supply of ammunition. The Afghans fled to the hills; the heights were attacked, and position after position carried at the point of the bayonet. Having dispersed the enemy and punished the villagers of Mamú Khel, Pollock busied himself in collecting supplies at Gandamak, and in making all necessary arrangements for the advance on Kábul. Letters arrived from Nott on 6 Sept., and Pollock, having secured sufficient supplies and leaving a strong detachment at Gandamak, advanced on 7 Sept. in two divisions, the first, which he himself accompanied, under the immediate command of Sir Robert Sale, the second under Major-general McCaskill. Pollock encountered the enemy on the 8th when advancing on the Jagdalak pass. The position occupied by the enemy was one of great strength and difficult of approach. The hills on each side were studded with ‘sungahs’ or breastworks, and formed an amphitheatre inclining towards the left of the road. After shelling the ‘sungahs’ for some time, Sale with much courage dispersed the enemy, and Pollock pushed on his troops, rejecting the advice of Sale to give the men rest after the fatigues of the day and to spare the cattle. He wisely deemed it best to give the enemy no time to rally, even at the cost of some of the baggage animals. Captain Troup, who was at this time at Kábul, a captive with Akbar Khan, subsequently told Pollock that, had he not pushed on, the sirdar would have sallied out of Kábul with twenty thousand men. Pollock reached Seh Baba on the 10th, and Tezin on 11 Sept., and was joined on the same day by the second division.
Akbar Khan had sent the captives to Bamian, and, on learning that Pollock had halted at Tezín, at once determined to attack him there. He opened fire in the afternoon of 12 Sept. Pollock immediately attacked the enemy, some five hundred of whom had taken post along the crest and upon the summit of a range of steep hills running from the northward into the Tezin valley. They were taken by surprise, and driven headlong down the hills. Hostilities were suspended by the approach of night. At dawn preparations were made for forcing the Tezin pass, a most formidable pass, some four miles in length. The Afghans, numbering some twenty thousand men, had occupied every height and crag not already crowned by the British. Sale, with whom was Pollock, commanded the advanced guard. The enemy were driven from post to post, contesting every step, but overcome by repeated bayonet charges. At length Pollock gained complete possession of the pass; but the fight was not over. The Afghans retired to the Haft Kotal, an almost impregnable position on hills seven thousand eight hundred feet above the sea, and the last they could hope to defend in front of Kábul. But Pollock's force had now become accustomed to victory, and was burning to wipe out the stain of the disasters that had befallen Elphinstone's army near the same spot. The Haft Kotal was at length surmounted and the enemy driven from crag to crag. Pollock, having completely dispersed the enemy by these operations, on 12 and 13 Sept. pursued his march. The passage through the Khurd Kábul pass was unmolested, but the scene was a painful one, for the skeletons of Elphinstone's force lay so thick on the ground that they had to be dragged aside to allow the gun-carriages to pass. Bútkháh was reached on the 14th, and on the 15th the force encamped close to Kábul. The British flag was hoisted with great ceremony in the Bála Hisár on the morning of the 16th. Akbar Khan, who had commanded the Afghans in person at Tezin, fled to the Ghorebund valley. On the following day Nott arrived from Kandahar and encamped at Arghandeh, near Kábul. The armies of Nott and Pollock were encamped on opposite sides of Kábul (Nott having shifted his camp to Kalát-i-Sultán), and Pollock assumed command of the whole force. Immediately upon his arrival at Kábul Pollock despatched Sir Richard Shakespear with seven hundred Kazlbash horsemen to Bamian to rescue the captives, and on 17 Sept. he sent a request to Nott that he would support Shakespear by sending a brigade in the direction of Bamian. Nott, however, who was annoyed by Pollock's victory in the race to Kábul, objected, saying his men required rest for a day or two, and excused himself from visiting Pollock on the plea of ill-health. Pollock, whose amiability was never in doubt, went on the 17th to see Nott, and, finding that he was still indisposed to send a brigade, directed Sale to take a brigade from his Jalálábád troops and push on to the support of Shakespear. The captives had, however, by large bribes effected their own deliverance, and, starting for Kábul on the 16th, met Shakespear on the 17th, and arrived in Pollock's camp on 22 Sept.
Pollock ascertained that Amír Ullah Khan, one of the fiercest opponents of British authority in Afghanistan, was collecting the scattered remnant of Akbar's forces in the kohistan or highlands of Kabul. He therefore sent a strong force, taken from both his own and Nott's division, under McCaskill, whose operations were crowned with complete success. The fortified town of Istálif was carried by assault, and Amír Ullah forced to fly. Charíkar and some other fortified places were destroyed, and the force returned to Kábul on 7 Oct.
On 9 Oct. Pollock instructed his chief engineer, Captain (now Major-general Sir Frederick) Abbott, to demolish the celebrated Char Chutter (or four bazaars), built in the reign of Aurungzebe by the celebrated Ali Mardan Khan, where the head and mutilated remains of the British envoy, Sir William Macnaghten, had been exhibited. On 12 Oct. Pollock broke up his camp, and started on his return to India. He took with him as trophies forty-four pieces of ordnance and a large quantity of warlike stores, but, for want of carriage, was obliged to destroy the guns en route. He also removed with him two thousand natives, sepoys and camp followers of Elphinstone's army, who had been found in Kábul. Pollock, with the advanced guard under Sale, reached Gandamak on 18 Oct., with little opposition; but McCaskill had some fighting, and the rear column under Nott was engaged in a severe affair in the Haft Kotal. On the 22nd the main column arrived at Jalálábád, McCaskill arriving on the 23rd, and Nott on the 24th. On 27 Oct. the army commenced to move from Jalálábád, having during the halt there destroyed both the fortifications and the town. Pollock reached Daka on the 30th, and Ali Masjid on the 12th Nov. Having during the whole of his march exercised the greatest caution, he met with no difficulty in any of the passes. McCaskill's division met with much opposition in the Khaibar, and suffered severely. His third brigade, under Wild, was overtaken at night in the defiles leading to Ali Masjid, and lost some officers and men. Nott arrived at Jamrúd with the rear division on 6 Nov. The whole army encamped some four miles from Pesháwar. On 12 Nov. it moved from Pesháwar, and crossing the Punjab arrived, after an uneventful march, on the banks of the Satlaj, opposite Firozpúr. Here they were met by the governor-general and the commander-in-chief, who, with the army of reserve, welcomed them with every circumstance of pomp. On 17 Dec. Sale, at the head of the Jalálábád garrison, crossed the bridge of boats into Firozpúr. On the 19th Pollock crossed, and was received by the governor-general; and on the 23rd Nott arrived. Banquets and fêtes were the order of the day. Rajah Shen Singh presented to Pollock, through the governor-general, a sword of honour. Pollock was made a G.C.B. and given the command of the Dánápúr division. In the session of parliament of 1843 the thanks of both houses were voted to Pollock, and Sir Robert Peel dwelt eloquently on his services.
In December 1843 Nott, who had been appointed political resident at Lucknow, resigned on account of ill-health, and Pollock was appointed acting resident, an office which he held until the latter part of 1844, when he was appointed military member of the supreme council of India. On his arrival at Calcutta he was presented with an address, and a medal was instituted in commemoration of his services, to be presented to the most distinguished cadet at the East India Company's military college at Addiscombe on each examination for commissions. This medal, which has the head of Pollock on the obverse side, has since the abolition of Addiscombe been transferred to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. Pollock was compelled to resign his appointment and leave India in 1846 in consequence of serious illness.
On his return to England the directors of the East India Company conferred upon Pollock a pension of 1,000l. a year; the corporation of London voted their thanks to him and presented him with the freedom of the city; the Merchant Taylors conferred on him the freedom of their company. On 11 Nov. 1851 he was promoted lieutenant-general. He was appointed colonel-commandant of the C brigade of the royal horse artillery. On the initiation of the volunteer movement in 1861 he accepted the honorary colonelcy of the 1st Surrey rifles. On the institution in 1861 of the order of the Star of India, Pollock was made one of the first knights grand cross.
In April 1854 Pollock was appointed by Sir Charles Wood the senior of the three government directors of the East India Company, under the act of parliament passed in the previous year. The appointment was for two years. Pollock resided at Clapham Common, and, after the expiration of his two years of office, did not again undertake any public post. On 17 May 1859 he was promoted general. On 24 May 1870 he was gazetted field-marshal. One of the last occasions on which he appeared in public was on 17 Aug. 1871, at the unveiling of the memorial of Outram. On the death of Sir John Burgoyne in 1871, Pollock was appointed to succeed him as constable of the Tower of London and lieutenant and custos rotulorum of the Tower Hamlets. In March 1872 the queen created him baronet as ‘of the Khyber Pass.’ He died at Walmer on 6 Oct. 1872, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. His remains received a public funeral. His portrait was painted by Sir Francis Grant, afterwards president of the Royal Academy, for the East India Company, and is now in the India office. Pollock also sat for his likeness at the request of the committee of the United Service Club; and a marble bust, by Joseph Durham, is in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Pollock's second wife presented a portrait of her husband, in the uniform of a field-marshal, to the mess of the officers of the royal artillery at Woolwich.
Pollock was twice married—first, in 1810, to Frances Webbe, daughter of J. Barclay, sheriff of Tain. She died in 1848. By her he had five children: Annabella Homeria, married, first, to J. Harcourt of the Indian medical service, who was killed in the retreat from Kábul, and, secondly, to John Binney Key. Frederick, the eldest son, entered the royal engineers, and succeeded to the baronetcy; he married Laura Caroline, daughter of Henry Seymour Montagu of Westleton Grange, Suffolk, and in 1873 assumed the name of Montagu-Pollock; he died in 1874, and was succeeded by his son Sir Montagu, who has male issue. Sir George's second son, George David, F.R.C.S., of Early Wood, Surrey, was surgeon to St. George's Hospital, and surgeon-in-ordinary to King Edward VII, when Prince of Wales. Robert, a lieutenant in the Bengal horse artillery, died from the effects of a wound received at the battle of Mudki on 18 Dec. 1845 (he was aide-de-camp to his father in Afghanistan); and Archibald Reid Swiney of the Indian civil service. Pollock married, secondly, in 1852, Henrietta, daughter of George Hyde Wollaston of Clapham Common. She died on 14 Feb. 1872. Pollock's fame rests chiefly on his Afghanistan campaign. Although not a brilliant commander, he was a very efficient one. He took the greatest trouble in looking after his men, and made all his arrangements with great care and precision. Cautious and prudent, he husbanded his resources; but when he was ready to strike he was bold and determined. The Afghan campaign was a model of mountain warfare, and is a standing example in all textbooks on the subject.[Despatches; Low's Life of Field-marshal Sir George Pollock, London, 1873; Stocqueler's Memorials of Afghanistan, Calcutta, 1843; Broadfoot's Career of Major George Broadfoot, London, 1888; Kaye's Hist. of the War in Afghanistan in 1838 to 1842, 3 vols.; Ann. Reg. 1842; Stocqueler's Memoirs and Correspondence of Sir William Nott, 2 vols. 1854.]