THE FIRST AFGHAN WAR, 1839-42. 21 1 Mountstuart Elphinstone, formerly Governor of Bombay). Sir William Macnaghten was the Political Officer. General Elphin- stone, an old man, proved unequal to the responsibilities of the position. Macnaghten was treacherously murdered at an interview with the Afghan chief Akbar Khan, eldest son of Dost Muhammad. After lingering in its cantonments for two months, the British army set off in the depth of winter, under a fallacious guarantee from the Afghan leaders, to find its way back to India through the passes. When it started, it numbered 4000 fighting men, with 12,000 camp-followers. A single survivor, Dr. Brydon, reached the friendly walls of Jalalabad, where General Sale was gallantly holding out. The rest perished in the snowy defiles of Khurd-Kabul and Jagdalak, from the knives and matchlocks of the Afghans, or from the effects of cold. A few prisoners, chiefly women, children, and officers, were considerately treated by the orders of Akbar Khan. Lord Ellentaorough, 1842-1844: The Army of Retri- bution, 1842. — The first Afghan enterprise, begun in a spirit of aggression, and conducted amid dissensions and mismanage- ment, had ended in the disgrace of the British arms. The real loss, which amounted only to a single garrison, was magnified by the horrors of the winter march, and by the completeness of the annihilation. Within a month after the news reached Calcutta, Lord Auckland had been superseded by Lord Ellen- borough, whose first impulse was to be satisfied with drawing off in safety the garrisons from Kandahar and Jalalabad. But bolder counsels were forced upon him. General Pollock, who was marching straight through the Punjab to relieve General Sale, was allowed to penetrate to Kibul. General Nott, although ordered to withdraw from Kandahar, resolved to go round by way of Kabul. Lord Ellenborough gave his commands in well- chosen words, which would leave his generals responsible for any disaster. General Nott accepted that responsibility, and, instead of retreating south-east to the Indus, boldly marched north to Kibul. After hard fighting, the two British armies, under Pollock and Nott, met at their common destination in Kabul, in September 1842. The great bazar of Kabul was blown up with gunpowder, to fix a stigma upon the city; the 2
Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/215
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