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had been dragged through the Bolan Pass. So little attention, moreover, had been paid to the necessity for scientific knowledge, that the senior engineer officer with the expedition was only a captain of Engineers. Fortunately, however, if Captain Thomson were comparatively young in his profession, he was fertile in expedients and bold in his designs. He had already proved his capacity by throwing a bridge of boats over the Indus. He now saw that a new situation necessitated a new expedient. As the walls were too strong to be breached with the artillery at his disposal, and too high to be scaled, he determined to blast open a gate, and thus afford an entrance to the storming party. A spy, a nephew of Dost Mahommed's, revealed the fact that all the gates of the fortress except that on the opposite side, which led to Cabul, had been walled up. By a movement, imitated years afterwards on a larger scale in the Crimea, the army was transferred by a circuitous route from the south to the north of Ghuznee. On a dark and tempestuous night a small party of engineers placed 300 lbs of powder 2 against
The fuse was lighted, the powder exploded, the gate shivered by the force of the explosion, and the storming party, held in readiness, rushed in over the ruin which had been made. The enemy, stunned by the magnitude of the disaster, and distracted by a false attack which had previously been made, was unprepared to resist the assault. Driven into the central square, it was swept down by the musketry of the troops; and, as daylight dawned, the British army stood in undisputed possession of the fortress.
The fall of Ghuznee decided the campaign. On the 30th of July the army resumed its march. Dost Mahommed fled at its approach, and, on the 7th of August, Shah Sooja entered
1 Havelock's Afghan War, vol. ii. p. 62.
2 Durand's Afghan War, p. 174 et seq. Sir H. Durand led the Engineers on the occasion. Sir H. Havelock, Afghan War, vol. ii. p. 72, talks of goo lbs. of powder, but this appears to be a mistake. Colonel Yule has published a short sketch of the career of Captain, afterwards Colonel, Thomson (London, 1886), which may be usefully referred to for an account of this officer's great services in the first Afghan war.
Cabul.' Titles were freely given to those who had taken part in the campaign. Auckland was made an earl; Keane a baron; Wiltshire, who had commanded a division of the army, Macnaghten, and Pottinger, baronets; and a shower of inferior honours was thrown on lesser men. The expedition was regarded as a masterpiece of policy. Its supposed success was emphasised by an ample distribution of rewards, intended to show the importance which the ministry attached both to the achievement and to the cause.
Yet even peerages and honours and stars could not reconcile the public to the circumstances of the campaign or convince
it of its wisdom. With a much truer instinct than criticism on that of the ministry, the people doubted the policy
of plunging into an unknown country for the purpose of meeting Russia in the deserts of Central Asia.
“ Would ministers tell us," asked a rising politician, “that it was necessary to create a barrier for our Indian Empire? When he looked at the geographical position of India he found an empire separated on the east and west from any Power of importance by more than 2000 miles of neutral territory, bounded on the north by an impassable range of rocky
1 Extraordinary anticipations were formed of the consequences of British predominance in Afghanistan. On the first news arriving of Auckland's decision to make war, Palmerston wrote to Melbourne: " ' By taking the Afghans under our protection, and in garrisoning (if necessary) Herat, we shall regain our ascendency in Persia. . . But British ascendency in Persia gives security on the eastward to Turkey, and tends to make the Sultan more independent, and to place the Dardanelles more securely out of the grasp of Nicholas." Life of Melbourne, vol. ii. p. 274. It seems almost incredible that any man of Palmerston's powers should have persuaded himself that the occupation of Herat should have, in any way, affected the future of the Dardanelles.
2 Mr. Marshman, with some bitterness but much truth, says that “Lord Auckland was created an earl, and Sir John Keane, who had done nothing but leave his battering-train behind him when he ought to have brought it on to Ghuznee, a baron, with a pension of £2000 a year for two lives. . . . Captain Thomson, whose exertions at Ghuznee saved the campaign from an ignominious failure, received only a brevet majority and the lowest order of the Bath, and at once retired from the service;" vol. iii. p. 152. Lord Keane placed a representation of Ghuznee on his shield, and assumed the Cabul Gate for a crest, The despatches on the taking of Ghuznee are reprinted in Ann, Regi, 1840, Chron., p. 550.
mountains, and on the south by 10,000 miles of ocean. He wanted to know how a stronger barrier, a more efficient frontier, could be secured than this which they possessed.” Yet this was the frontier which ministers had left behind them -"those fortunate gentlemen who proclaimed war without reason and prosecuted it without responsibility.” 1 soon known in England, moreover, that, if the objects of the expedition had in one sense been secured, the need for interference was not over. The ministers had deluded themselves with the expectation that Shah Sooja, their "puppet" king, a would be received with enthusiasm by his former subjects. He was everywhere met, on the contrary, in sullen silence or with open demonstrations of dislike. It was obvious that the withdrawal of the British troops would be the signal for an insurrection against his authority, and the ministry had apparently to choose between the abandonment of the whole programme and the permanent occupation of Afghanistan.
The choice was, moreover, affected by other circumstances. Runjeet Singh, the old Sikh chieftain, who had been the faithful ally of Britain for nearly thirty years, died while the army was advancing on Cabul. Thenceforward of Runjeet
Singh. it became increasingly probable that the Punjab, the highway from British India to Afghanistan, would be subjected to influences hostile to those of the Company. About the same time, moreover, Russia decided on sending an expedition to punish the Khan of Khiva, who had carried Russian subjects from the shores of the expedition Caspian into slavery. It was impossible to deny the right of Russia to avenge an outrage on defenceless Russians. But it was not the less impossible to avoid perceiving that the Russian advance might counteract all the consequences of Auckland's policy. What Auckland called the just influence of the British Government would hardly obtain its proper footing among the natives of Central Asia if Russia overawed by her arms the Khan of Khiva.
1 Disraeli (Hansard, vol. lxiv. p. 455); words which are worth quoting, as they are exactly applicable to Lord Beaconsfield's own policy forty years afterwards. 2 Durand's Afghan War, p. 187. 3 Kaye, vol. i. p. 497.
The star of Britain has frequently shone clear amidst the gathering clouds of difficulty. It burst forth with fresh lustre in the spring of 1840. The expedition which Russia despatched to Khiva perished of famine and pestilence; the supremacy
of Britain in Central Asia was again assured ; and Macnaghten's policy Macnaghten, with no European enemy to trouble in 1840.
him, suggested fresh conquests. Kamram at Herat, the worthless monarch whom Eldred Pottinger had saved, was intriguing with Persia. Runjeet Singh's grandson was intriguing at Lahore. Macnaghten coolly proposed to complete the work by the conquest of Herat, and by wresting Peshawur from Lahore. Fresh wars, fresh conquests, were the only means by which a puppet king could be permanently supported on an unstable throne.
Yet, while he was suggesting fresh conquests, his forces, unwisely scattered through a territory only nominally subdued, were hardly adequate for the task of preserving order. Here, there, almost everywhere, the troops were constantly engaged in punishing insurrections against Shah Sooja's authority. At last, in August 1840, Dost Mahommed himself escaped from Bokhara, whither he had fled and where he had been retained captive, and raised his banner on the slopes of the Hindoo Koosh. The troops which had been raised in Shah Sooja's name deserted to Dost Mahommed's service; Macnaghten in Cabul wrote urgent letters for reinforcements; and, on the end of November, Dost Mahommed, heading in person a charge upon the British lines, won a signal
victory. Yet, in this the darkest hour which had The surreno
yet been experienced, the star of Britain again rose
with a happy augury. Dost Mahommed, better acquainted than his countrymen with the strength of Britain, determined to yield in the hour of his triumph, and rode with only a solitary attendant into the British lines. Macnaghten, and those who were with him, did their best to secure their victim an honourable retreat in India, where a pension on the Indian revenues compensated him to some extent for his fall.
1 See Durand's Afghan War, p. 294.
der of Dost Mahommed.
The surrender of Dost Mahommed in the closing weeks of 1840 afforded for the moment fair prospects of a settlement. During the first eight months of 1841, Macnaghten indeed, the country was disturbed by an insurrection of Douranees, the most important of the Afghan quiet. tribes, and of the Ghilzies, the most numerous and warlike of the subject races.
This new insurrection was, however, quelled, after months of disturbance, by a victory on the Helmund; and, for the first time since he had entered the country, Macnaghten was able, in August 1841, to proclaim that the land was quiet from Dan to Beersheba.1 It was high time for quiet to come. Three
had been spent in the conduct of an operation which had been reckoned on its inception as easy of accomplishment; and men in London, in Calcutta, and in Cabul were weary of a story which seemed never to approach its end, and of an expense which was drying up the resources of the East India Company. Macnaghten, indeed, thought that the whole difficulty arose from Auckland's reluctance to complete the work. Afghanistan would never be quiet till its boundaries were enlarged to its old limits, and Herat on the west and Peshawur on the east were permanently annexed to Shah Sooja's dominions. Afghanistan, even when thus enlarged, would only remain at peace if Shah Sooja were upheld by British bayonets; and Douranees and Ghilzies were conciliated by British gold. Strange to say, if any advice which the Melbourne Cabinet offered can be considered strange, ministers at home shared a portion of Macnaghten's views, and sent out a despatch in the spring of 1841 to seize Herat. But the orders were not carried out. The Commander-in-Chief in India declared that he had no troops for a fresh adventure. The GovernorGeneral, negotiating for a new loan, was forced to admit that he had no money for it. As peace too was at last said to reign from Dan to Beersheba, a new reason was afforded
1 Kaye, vol. i. p. 603. The account of the Douranees and Ghilzies in Elphinstone's Cabul, p. 391 et seq., is even now worth reading. Cf, for the Ghilzies, Durand's Afghan War, p. 252. VOL. VI.