Our Soldiers

W.H.G. Kingston
Our Soldiers, by W.H.G.

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Title: Our Soldiers Gallant Deeds of the British Army during Victoria's
Author: W.H.G. Kingston
Release Date: October 17, 2007 [EBook #23052]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

Our Soldiers; Gallant Deeds of the British Army during Queen
Victoria's Reign, by W.H.G. Kingston.

In 1809 the reigning Ameer of Afghanistan, Shah Soojah-ul-Moolk,
was dispossessed of his throne and an exile. Runjeet Singh, the Sikh
ruler of Punjaub, plundered and imprisoned him at Lahore, and
obtained from him the famous Koh-i-noor, the great diamond which is
now among the crown jewels of Great Britain. Eventually Soojah
escaped from Lahore and became a pensioner of the East India
Company. For many years after the fall of Shah Soojah, anarchy ruled
in Afghanistan, until in 1826 Dost Mahomed established himself upon
the throne at Cabul.
Meantime Shah Soojah never ceased to plot for his restoration, and in
1832 came to an agreement with Runjeet Singh, in pursuance of which
the latter undertook to assist him in an armed attempt to oust Dost
Mahomed. The Indian Government, while professing neutrality,
indirectly assisted Shah Soojah by paying his pension in advance.
In 1833 Shah Soojah's army was thoroughly beaten by Dost Mahomed
before Candahar, though he himself escaped. But Runjeet Singh was
more successful; he drove the Afghans back into the Khyber Pass and
occupied Peshawur, which province he held against all the attempts of
the Afghan Ameer to expel him.
In 1837 the Shah of Persia, under the instigation of and with assistance
from, Russia, and in spite of strong remonstrances by the British, made
war upon Afghanistan and marched upon Herat.
The siege of this place commenced on the 23rd of November 1837, and
lasted over nine months, when it utterly collapsed, owing mainly to the
determination and courage of Lieutenant Pottinger, who had arrived in
the city just before, and assisted the Afghans in the defence.
Notwithstanding the assistance of Russian volunteers the Persian attack
was but feebly delivered; still, but for the presence of Pottinger and the
courage given by his example, the Afghan defence would have been
equally spiritless. At length, after some days' bombardment, a general

assault was made on the 23rd of June 1838, and repulsed by Pottinger
with heavy loss. Soon after the Shah, hearing that a British expedition
had been sent up the Persian Gulf to force him to retire, raised the siege
and left Herat, which has remained up to the present in the hands of the
Afghans--a fact which may be said to be in the first instance due to the
heroic achievements of one young British officer, Lieutenant Eldred
The Indian Government had now determined, for reasons into which it
is not our province to inquire, to make war upon Dost Mahomed and to
replace Shah Soojah upon the throne.
This war, which ended so disastrously to our arms and prestige, seems
at this time, when it is possible to take an impartial view of the question,
to have been one of wanton aggression against a prince well disposed
towards our Government--and who, with whatever faults he had, was a
strong and wise ruler, and accepted by his people--in order to force
upon the Afghans a mere nominee of the British, and one whose
authority could only be supported by the bayonets of an alien race.
Such an enterprise was as discreditable to our councillors as it proved
to be disastrous to our soldiers.
The army collected for this purpose consisted of the Bengal contingent,
which, after leaving a division in reserve at Ferozepore, was 9500
strong, under the command of Sir Willoughby Cotton, and the Bombay
contingent, consisting of another 6000, the whole being under the
command of Sir John Keane.
At the same time, another force, nominally under the command of Shah
Soojah, was to be raised in the Company's territories, to accompany
him into Afghanistan. This army crossed the Indus near the fortress of
Bukkur, entering territories famous from their association with the
operations of Alexander the Great, and which had never before been
traversed by British troops.
Marching from Shikapore, the army advanced for fifty miles through

the dark defiles of the Bolan Pass, lofty mountains covered with snow
towering above their heads. It now entered a desert region, where
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