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Letter I

On board the ship Syden,
Off the mouth of the Indus, Nov. 27th, 1838.

MY DEAR FATHER,--We left Belgaum on the 22nd of last month, and arrived at Bombay on the first of this; and we started from Bombay on the 18th, for this place. I had intended to write from Bombay, but everything was in such a state of confusion and bustle whilst we were there, that I literally could find no time or place for doing so. We are now at anchor off one of the mouths of the Indus, and have had a delightful voyage. Our ship is a very nice one, of 750 tons, belonging to a Swede, who is an excessively good fellow, and has treated us very well.

Sir John Keane is already arrived in the steamer Semiramis and also one of the native regiments. Our Bombay force consists of 5500 men, of which 2000 are Europeans--viz., 500 of the Queen's, and 500 of H.M. 17th regiment, one squadron of the 4th Light Dragoons, with foot and horse artillery. The rest of the force is composed of native regiments, horse and foot. We shall not land, I think, until to-morrow evening, as we are almost the only ship that has yet arrived. The infantry are divided into two brigades, and the cavalry form another by themselves. Our brigade (the first) consists of the Queen's, and the 5th and 19th regiments of Native Infantry, commanded by our worthy Colonel, now General Willshire, C.B.; the other brigade is commanded by a Company's officer. We have to go in boats about thirty miles, it is said, up the river, before we finally march. Where it is I am perfectly ignorant; however, some place between this and Hydrabad, whence we shall march as far north as Shikarpoor, where we are to form a junction with the Bengal troops, 13,000 in number, under Sir H. Fane. What our destination will be after that I know not; whether we shall advance with the Bengalees upon Herat, or form a corps of reserve on the Indus.

The country between this and Shikarpoor belongs to the Ameers of Sinde. They were very restive at first, when they heard of our intention to march through their country, and threatened to oppose our progress; but I believe they have since thought better of it; however, I do not think that they can do anything against us: time will soon shew. We have been excessively crowded on board: twenty-six officers. I have been obliged to sleep on the poop every night, which, when the dew was heavy, was by no means pleasant. I hope we shall go further than Shikarpoor, as I should like very much to see Cabool, Candahar, and all that part of the world, which so few Europeans have visited.

What is the cause of all this bustle and war I hardly know myself, and, at all events, it is too long to make the subject of a letter; I must therefore refer you to the papers for it; but I have heard from old officers that for the last twenty years the Company have been anxious to establish themselves west and north of the Indus. It is not likely, therefore, now that they have such an opportunity, that they will let it slip, so that perhaps we may be quartered there for the next two or three years. How it will turn out I know no more than the man in the moon: a soldier is a mere machine, and is moved by his superiors just as a chessman by a chess-player. Should there be any skrimmaging, our men are in high spirits, and will, I think, soon make the Ameers put their pipes in their pockets. Ours is the first European army that has been on the Indus since the time of Alexander.

I was obliged to sell my horses and other things on leaving Belgaum, at a dead loss. I intend buying another horse when we land in Sinde, as I am told we can get good ones very cheap there. This is a regular case of here to-day and there to-morrow: perhaps my next letter may be dated from Cashmere--who knows? I felt rather sorry at leaving Belgaum; we were all of us excessively rejoiced to get out of Bombay. The report at first was, that we were to garrison it for the next two or three years, and we were therefore very glad when we found that was not to be the case. Now, it is said, there is a chance of our going into Persia; but I do not think that we shall. The man waits to lay the cloth on the cuddy table, where I am writing, so I must conclude for the present.

Nov. 28th.--The regiment is beginning to disembark right in front. The Grenadiers are now going into the boats of the natives that are to take them up the river. Since I wrote yesterday, I have heard all the news relative to our disembarkation. We are to go fifteen miles up the river in native boats to a place called Vicur, where we form our first camp ground. We are to remain there for a week or ten days, in order to collect camels, bullocks, &c., for the transportation of our baggage. We have to pass a very dangerous bar in getting to this place, where several boats have been wrecked; but we have fine large ones. From all accounts, the Ameers are now peaceably disposed, except one fellow, who, we hear, is inclined to be rather obstreperous; but I think the sight of our force will soon bring him to his senses. There are, however, a set of men who live on the mountain borders of Sinde, called Beloochees, the eastern inhabitants of Beloochistan, who are a robber, free-and-easy kind of people, who may give us some trouble in endeavouring to walk off with part of our baggage, &c.

I intend to keep a journal of what occurs, and will write by every opportunity. I think I have now mentioned everything that I have heard relative to this grand expedition; except, by-the-bye, that Sir Henry Fane has denominated the force as "The army of the Indus," and ours, the Bombay branch of it, as "The corps d'armée of Sinde." There is a grand title for you! I have nothing more to say; and as I must be looking after my traps previous to disembarking, I must conclude with best love to you, and all at home.

Your most affectionate son,

P.S.--I must trust this to the captain of the vessel, giving him instructions to put it into the Bombay post when he returns, so that it is equally doubtful when you may receive it. He is an excessively good fellow, the captain; and we are going to make him a present of a silver goblet, worth 35l., for his attentions to us whilst on board his ship.