Camp, Candahar, June 8th, 1839.
MY DEAR FATHER,--I begin this letter to you on the 8th of June, 1839, though when it will reach you, or whether it ever will, is very doubtful. I have not written, I see, since the beginning of March, from Larkhanu; there was, however, very little use in so doing, as there was very little chance of your ever getting it, our friends the Beloochees, Kaukers, &c., having made free with nearly every mail, and destroyed them. I am very much afraid that I also have been a sufferer by them, and that you must have written to me long ere this, but that our friends of the Bolan Pass have made use of the letter to wrap their cabobs in. I have not heard from you or from home at all since the 2nd of February, when I got your letter, dated November 20th, enclosing the bill on government, and informing me of Kate's intended marriage. I have, however, long since this heard of my lieutenancy, and seen my name in the "Gazette," but have not yet received the confirmation of it from Sir H. Fane in this country, so that I have been fighting my way, and am likely to continue so, on the rank and pay of a full ensign; however, there will be so much the more back pay to receive when it does come; it is a great nuisance, however, not having it, as I require it so much in this country. You can form no conception of the hopeless expense which we have inevitably been obliged to incur. We have had a tolerable share of hardships, &c., and the poor marching soldiers have suffered terribly. What do you think of our having made a forced march of thirty to forty miles, for six hours of it under the hottest sun I can recollect, and I have felt a few of them in India? Since we left Larkhanu we have met with little but a series of robberies, murders, alarms, and skirmishes; in short, everything but an actual stand-up fight, which we were all anxious for, as it would settle matters at once, and free us from the predatory attacks and cold-blooded murders of these barbarous tribes.
To begin from where I left off: we marched from Larkhanu on the 11th March, and reached Dadur, about four miles from the entrance to the Bolan Pass, the nest of the robber hordes of Kaukers, Tuckers, and Beloochees, on the 6th of April, having halted several times at intermediate places, and made some terrible marches, fifteen miles being the average distance. We often lost our way, and marched thereby a great deal further than was necessary, through bad guidance. I must tell you, however, that before leaving Larkhanu, Sir J. Keane assumed the command of the whole army, both Bengal and Bombay, by which General Willshire got command of the Bombay division. The two Bombay brigades were broken up, the Grenadiers and 5th regiment of Native Infantry were sent to garrison Bukkur, a tolerably strong fort on the Indus, and the 23rd Native Infantry was sent to Lukkur, a town on the opposite side. There also the different regiments that were to go on sent their sick, and Bukkur was made a depot for supplies, medical stores, &c. The greater part of the foot and some of the horse artillery were sent there also. Our regiment and the 17th were then made into one brigade, and marched from Larkhanu, as I said before, on the 11th. The cavalry and horse artillery, &c., did not march for two days after, with the Commander-in-chief, who took with him his pet corps; the 19th Native Infantry. They marched by a different route from ourselves on account of the scarcity of supplies in that desert country; we halted for them at Kochee, which place we reached on the 15th about 3 P.M., after the thirty to forty miles' march I before told you of, across the marshy desert which seems to divide Sinde from Cutch Gundava. This march ought only to have been twenty-six miles; but owing to the stupidity of our guide we went a longer and more circuitous route, and also had the pleasure of losing our way during the night; in addition to which, on arriving at the village where it was intended to halt, our staff found out, all of a sudden, that there was not a sufficiency of water for the whole force, in consequence of which we were moved to another village (Kichee) five miles further on.
It was during this march that I first witnessed the effects of extreme thirst on men, however well disciplined. It was, as I have said before, the hottest day I ever felt; not a breath of air, and the sun enough to knock you down. The men were suffering dreadfully, and falling out by sections, when about eleven or twelve o'clock they caught sight of some water carriers with their mussacks full, so that they knew water could not be far off. All discipline was pitched to the devil in an instant, and the men rushed from the ranks for the water more like mad devils than anything else--nothing could stop them; the mounted officers galloped in amongst them, and threatened, but to no purpose; nothing short of cutting them down would have stopped any of them. In the midst of this, General Willshire, at the head of the brigade, hearing a row and looking round, saw the greater part of the 17th (they being in front on this day) scampering across the country like a pack of hounds; not knowing what was the matter, he galloped up to the colonel and demanded an explanation, when, seeing what was the cause, he made the best of it, called a halt, and every one immediately rushed to the wells, the scenes at which were most ridiculous, fighting, pushing, knocking down &c. I saw one man actually lie down and wallow in a filthy ditch full of every description of dirt imaginable. We halted here about two hours, and then marched to our ground, about six or seven miles further on, the men performing this latter part of the march with great cheerfulness. We halted here two days to rest the men, and were joined by the rest of the Bombay force, with the Commander-in-chief.
We marched again on the 18th, another night march about twenty miles. Here we made another halt for three days, while some of the staff went on to get information of the country a-head, about which they were ignorant. All the villages we had passed through were deserted, and in some places the water was stinking. We looked back upon Sinde as a paradise compared to the country we were now in. All the little grain that was supplied to the bazaars by the commissariat was sold at the most exorbitant price, yet we were obliged to buy it, and as much as we could get of it too, and lucky we thought ourselves to get any of it, even at this rate, at times, in order to feed our horses and camels, which were beginning to knock up terribly. We could not now, as we used to do in Sinde, send the latter into the jungle to feed on the small brushwood, of which they were so fond, except at the risk of being robbed of them, and having the servants who looked after them murdered by the bands of Beloochees who hovered about us in every direction. Still, notwithstanding these annoyances, the humbugging system of conciliation was kept up, and although there was not an inhabitant to be seen, we were robbed to our faces very nearly; yet if a poor sub.'s horse or camel happened to break his ropes and strayed into a field he was immediately pounced upon by a provost-marshal and put into a sort of pound, from which he was not released except on the payment of a certain sum to be given to the owners of the field! Where were they to be found? The loss of camels now was irreparable; even if there were any to be sold, the prices asked were so exorbitant that few of us youngsters, hampered as we were, could afford to purchase; loss of camels produced loss of kit, loss of kit produced loss of health, &c. Yet during the whole of this march we were losing camels through robberies and fatigue, and no measures taken that we ever heard of to put a stop to it. We marched from this place on the 22nd, and came to a halt again at a place called Kotrie, close under the Hala mountains, about five miles from the Gundava Pass. Here we (i.e., our brigade and the 4th Light Dragoons) halted for a week. Sir J. Keane pushed on a-head with two troops of Light Cavalry and the left wing of the 19th Native Infantry, in order to catch up Sir Willoughby Cotton, who was marching in command of the main body of the Bengal division. General Willshire, with the staff, artillery, and cavalry, was at Gundava, about eight miles from us. At this place, Kotrie, which the inhabitants luckily had not deserted, we were better off in point of supplies than we had been since we left Larkhanu, and there was plenty of shooting and fishing; but it was without exception the hottest place I ever was in. Being close under a high range of mountains, we were perfectly screened from any cool breezes that might take it into their heads to blow from that quarter; add to this, the hills themselves, being composed of granite, or some stone of that description, attracted the sun, and reflected the heat back again on us, so that we were attacked from two sides at once. By this time we had no stronger liquor with us than tea, so that we were perfectly eligible to become members of the Tea-total Temperance Society; our supplies in the liquor line, which we had sent on from Hydrabad to Larkhanu by water, not having reached the latter place in time for us to get them. In this respect the men were better off than ourselves, they having their dram or two every day. Here the robbers began to be more bold, and we did not lose sight of them until we reached Candahar. Five mails (one of them an "overland," bringing, perhaps, letters from you or some one at home) out of six were robbed between this and Shikarpoor; and news was received from Sir J. Keane in advance that at the entrance of the Bolan Pass several bodies of sepoys of Shah Shooja's army were lying, there having been a grand skrimmage there between the sepoys and Beloochees, in which the former, being caught napping, were worsted. We stayed at this place, as I said before, a week, and started again on the 31st.
On the morning of the 2nd of April, during a severe march of twenty-two miles, one of our men, a straggler, who had fallen to the rear with dysentery, was murdered by these robbers, and another man of the 17th cruelly wounded, but he has since recovered. They were sitting together by the side of the road, when of a sudden a party of Beloochees rushed out from some low bushes, and, before either had time to rise, fired into them. Adams, of the Queen's, received a ball on the outside of his right thigh, passing down, and coming out at his knee on the other side, and cutting some particular vein or artery, which occasioned his death through loss of blood. The 17th man was hit on the right side, the ball coasting round his body, and coming out at the other side, without touching his tripes or any vital part. Adams had not his firelock with him, but the 17th man had his, but unloaded, and, in his struggles to keep possession of it, received some desperate sabre cuts; but he has since recovered. Of course he was soon overpowered, as Adams could give no assistance. The Beloochees then stripped them of everything, except their shirt and trowsers, and left them to their fate, till another man of the 17th came up, in charge of some of his company's camels, who brought in the news to camp; but the apothecary who went out was too late to save poor Adams. It was gratifying to know that Cunningham, with a party of his horse, having received intelligence that a party of these blackguards were encamped in a jungle, beat through it, and followed their tracks for fourteen miles, when he came upon them, and killed six and took four prisoners; Cunningham having outstripped his party, killed two men himself and took another prisoner. These rascals were brought into camp, and strictly guarded, or I believe they would have been torn to pieces by the European soldiers. One of them was sworn to by the wounded 17th man as being one of the murderers, and we were all in great hopes of seeing the blackguards dancing the tight rope; but, instead of that, they were all brought on (except one, who being badly wounded, died on the road) to Dadur, where they were given up to one of the political diplomatic gentlemen, who, it is said, actually let them go with five rupees to carry them home. Fancy a Beloochee's home! This was carrying the conciliation principle far with a vengeance!
We started again at half-past twelve, on the night of the 3rd--another night-march of nineteen miles. Both the nights we were at this place we were alarmed by a supposed attack of Beloochees; but they turned out to be nothing more than a loose horse or two of the dragoons, for which one of their camp-followers suffered, being taken for a Beloochee, while running after one of the horses, and therefore cut down by a dragoon on sentry. The night we left this place was one of the most fearful I ever remember; it had been threatening all the afternoon, and about eight the simoom came on with dreadful violence, blowing for five minutes at a time, at intervals of twenty minutes or so, until we got under weigh, at half-past twelve. The wind, hot and scorching, like a blast from a furnace, rushed over the country with the violence of a hurricane, bringing with it perfect clouds of dust and sand, so that it was totally impossible to face it, except at the risk of being actually blinded or stifled. The baggage was to have gone on before us at nine o'clock, as the moon was expected to be up, but the clouds of dust, &c., completely hid her from us, and she did not shew her nose the whole night. During the blasts it was the most perfect "darkness visible" that you can imagine, and at the intervals when it ceased, the sensation of the atmosphere was more like standing before a hot fire than anything else. I had read of these things before in novels, travels, &c; I now, for the first time, experienced the reality. Add to all these little annoyances, we were every moment expecting a rush of Beloochees; and if they had had the pluck of a hare, they might have considerably crippled our proceedings, by rushing in and ham-stringing our camels. The darkness, the unavoidable confusion, the awkwardness of the camels themselves, all favoured them, and I expected nothing less; if they had been Cossacks instead, they would have played the very devil with us altogether. At length, at half-past eleven, the baggage got off, and now for the first time with a baggage guard, consisting of a troop, or company, from each of the three regiments, together with all the irregular horse we possessed, with strict orders that any Beloochees shewing themselves at all near the baggage were instantly to be cut down or bayoneted. The main body followed in another hour, with a strong rear-guard, to pick up stragglers, &c. These precautions ought to have been taken before, and poor Adams would have been saved. I know very little of this march, as I remember I slept through the whole of it, until morning, on horseback, being terribly fatigued and worn out. The morning was delightfully cool, with a fresh bracing breeze from the north. You may well imagine how we enjoyed it, after the terrible relaxation of the night before. We reached our ground about seven, at a place called Nonsherah. Here we heard some bloody-minded reports of the Beloochees, who had been plundering the artillery and left wing of the 19th, which were here the day before. They seemed, however, to have made a pretty good retaliation, and four Beloochees' heads were stuck upon the walls of the town, in proof of the soldiers' vengeance. In consequence of there being a good baggage-guard, the Beloochees made themselves tolerably scarce during this march, although the ground was very favourable for them. However, they now and then took long shots from the nullahs, &c., that were near the road, but without doing any damage. At last, a soldier, from the baggage-guard company of the 17th, having occasion to fall out, and going into a nullah for his purpose, unexpectedly found himself cheek by jowl with thirty of these rascals. He was knocked down, but bellowing out most lustily, his section came up, and being joined by another section of the Queen's, they shot about six of them dead, and put the rest to flight, having rescued the 17th man. The robbers at this place were rather forward, and actually walked off with some camels that were out feeding close to the rear of our encampment, in the middle of the day. They were, however, all recovered very soon by the Irregulars, and those of the robbers who could not manage to escape, managed to get their heads broken by these surwars; and intelligence having been received that a whole gang, with their families, were encamped near us, a party of fourteen, and one jemadar, of the 1st Light Cavalry, were sent out, who coming unexpectedly upon them, the robbers advanced to shew fight, when the jemadar gave the word to fire, and each trooper brought down his bird. The rest immediately took to their heels, and owing to the nature of the ground (it was among the hills) effected their escape. The troopers returned to camp with the swords and shields, &c., of the fallen. From this place we marched again the next morning, and a short and easy march brought us to Dadur.
June 27th.--I have not been able to write much lately, as it was literally too hot to do so. We have had it from 115 to 120 in our tents during the day; for the last week, however, it has been getting cooler, and to-day is pleasant enough. I wished also to keep the letter open as long as I could; but now, since we march on Sunday next, the 30th, I have not much time left, though I have a great deal more to say. I received by the mail the confirmation of my lieutenancy, by Sir H. Fane, from Bombay. An "overland" arrived again here last night, but no letters or anything for me. I see, by the English papers, that there was a report at home that we had lost 3000 men already--the greatest lie possible. If we had lost that, we should have lost more than half the Bombay army. We have not lost more than we generally do in quarters, though the men have been, terribly knocked up, and well they may be, with the horrible marches they have made. I was very much amused by the debates in Parliament, with regard to our "military promenade," as some of the papers call it. I wish I could see some of their writers on an out-lying picket, with a prospect of a twenty miles' march, I rather think they would not talk so much of "promenading." The Bengal army, with our cavalry, and most of the artillery, marched this morning for Cabool. Shah Shooja goes to-morrow or next day, and we bring up the rear, as I said before, on Sunday. However, we will talk of that anon, or I shall forget where I left off. On looking back, I find that I have brought the force up as far as Dadur. Well; we halted there till the 12th. The 17th, artillery and Irregular Horse, however, marched before us, on the 9th. While there, the rascally Beloochees and Kaukers kept hovering about us, and walked off with some camels and a horse or two. They generally, however, paid very dearly for them, as the cavalry that were sent after them on these occasions made a terrible example of them.
While here we heard of a shocking murder at Curachee. A Captain Hand, of the 1st Bombay Grenadier Regiment, was taking his morning's ride, when, on turning a corner on the top of a hill, he unexpectedly found himself in the midst of about thirty Beloochees. They talked to him very civilly, and he allowed them to get round his horse, not suspecting anything, when one rascal behind him gave him a terrible wipe on the back of his head with his sword, which knocked him off his horse, and the others rushed in, and cut him to pieces. A Lieut. Clarke, of the same corps, happened to be riding this way, and seeing these Beloochees, asked them if they had seen a Latich pass that way, meaning Hand; to which they replied by a volley from their matchlocks, a ball from one of which struck Clarke on the leg, and he galloped for camp as fast as he could, and fell off his horse exhausted before the quarter-guard of H.M. 40th regiment. A party was immediately sent out, and they found the body of poor Hand horribly mutilated. A good number of these rascals have been since taken, and, I suppose, hanged; unless the conciliation principle lets these rascals off also. They belong to different bands, under different robber-chiefs, among the hills. These robber Khans have strongholds on the almost inaccessible mountains that run up the whole west frontier of Sinde, and divide it from Beloochistan. All merchandize and travellers passing through Sinde to the west of the Indus are obliged to pay a sort of black mail to these Khans to be allowed to pass through; but so bad is their name for treachery, ferocity, &c., that few, if any, of the traders between India and Central Asia go this route. They do not care a farthing for the Ameers, who also secretly connive at their proceedings, in order to draw recruits from them on any emergency.
Well; we got the steam up again on the 12th, and, together with the 4th Light Dragoons, and about sixty Irregulars, started for the celebrated Bolan Pass, with a great quantity of commissariat stores from Bukkur, for the army in advance, under our charge. This celebrated Pass would be the best line of communication between the countries of Central Asia and Sinde; and as far as the Pass is concerned itself, it is quite guiltless of the bad character it holds. It is merely the bed of a winter torrent, and is an easy ascent the whole way through; and during the greater part of the year quite passable for any description, of conveyance; but in consequence of the great number of robbers, from all parts of Beloochistan and Sinde, who infest it, no one thinks of travelling this route, unless with a very strong escort. A great number, therefore, of native merchants, &c., took advantage of the opportunities offered by the passage of it by the different divisions of our army. We had with us a native horse-dealer, who had travelled the same way down the year before, with horses for the Bombay market, and, as he considered, with a sufficient escort; but they were suddenly attacked, his brother killed, and he only saved himself by the swiftness of his horse. These robbers are several degrees more savage than even their brother Beloochees in the south of Sinde. There are two clans of them. The Kaukers and Tuckers; of these, the Kaukers are by far the worst. They are represented as being regular barbarians, and are even said to be cannibals, though perhaps that is a little too melodramatic. They possess few fire-arms, but roll down large pieces of rock in the narrow passes, and rush out from the small recesses of the rocks, leading God knows where, which abound in every part. They never spare any one, and cut and hack about the bodies of their victims in the most frightful manner. With all this they are the greatest cowards possible; a few determined men would be a match for the greatest odds; but the very name of Kauker seems to convey terror in it to a traveller. I saw the head of one of these rascals lying about at Dadur, and it was the most frightful face I ever beheld, more like a wild beast's than a human being's. On entering the Pass, which we did as if expecting an enemy, with skirmishers, flanking parties, &c., we were nearly stifled by the horrible smell arising from the number of dead camels which were lying on the ground, in every degree of putrefaction. We soon, however, came to bodies of a different sort; for on the banks of a small rivulet, and in the water, most in the long reeds, some in the middle of the road, were about twenty or thirty dead Sepoys and followers. They were in every kind of shape and contortion that could indicate a violent death. Some were in a tolerable state of preservation, but others, again, had been sadly mauled; tripes torn out by jackals, and one or two were perfect skeletons. We kept on coming also upon an arm or a leg, or an ugly-looking skull; but the most disgusting sight was an arm and leg, protruding out of the centre of the stream, washed to the consistency of a washer-woman's hand after a hard day's washing. If you can fancy all this on a dark, sluggish-looking stream, surrounded by high and barren rocks, you may, perhaps, guess what feelings of disgust it excited in us. However, before reaching Candahar we were pretty well accustomed to these sights, and got rather callous on the subject, as there was a fair sprinkling of them to be met with all the way to that town. Well; we made five marches through this delightful Pass, and debouched on a fine wide plain on the 17th. Not a stick, not a particle of forage, except some high rank grass, was to be got in all this time, and we had been obliged to take on supplies for our camels and horses from Dadur; so there was a new expense, and new carriage to be provided. The robbers did not attempt any attack upon us at all (though, if they had had the slightest pluck, they might have crippled us pretty considerably) except in the last march, but then we fired on them first. My company was on baggage-guard this day, which was sent on in advance of the column; and Halket, seeing some of the rascals on the hills, had a crack at them with his double-barrel, which produced a reply of three shots from them; but a soldier of the company taking a beautiful aim at one of them, at a distance I am afraid to mention, and nearly knocking a fellow's head off, the rest took to their heels, and we saw no more of them. Our Grenadiers, however, who were bringing up the rear, had a slight skrimmage with them, and killed five or six, without any of their shots taking effect, although one man's firelock and another man's belt were cut in half by a bullet. They fired on the column which came on afterwards, and wounded one trooper of the Light Dragoons, and a few native followers, and killed three horses. Most of us lost a deal of kit in this Pass, owing to the camels' feet knocking up, from the sharpness of the stones; and the very moment the column was off the ground the rascals would be down and fighting for what was left behind. I was on rear-guard the second day's march, and the very moment we cleared the ground it was most amusing to see the rascals popping out of the holes in the rocks in every direction.
On the 18th, we reached Siriab, where we halted for one day. This was a rather pretty valley, with some fruit gardens, but the fruit not ripe. Here I was taken unwell, and obliged to go on the sick-list; I had been ailing some time; the doctor, however, put me off the list again on the 24th; but owing to the fatigue &c. I underwent on 25th, in going through the Ghwozhe Pass, I caught a violent fever, and the next day was laid on my beam ends, and did not get round again till the middle of last month. In the Ghwozhe Pass our company was on baggage guard. We left our last encamping ground at 3 A.M. on the 25th; we had only four miles to the Pass, and the Pass was five more, when we reached our new ground, so it was not more than nine miles altogether, yet it was 10 o'clock at night before the rear-guard, bringing up the fag end of the baggage, came in. For nearly the whole of this day I was exposed to an infernally hot sun, and the stench arising from the dead cattle was really frightful. I was also literally twenty-six hours without getting a morsel to eat or a drop to drink, and but the day before on the sick-list. No wonder I was laid up! This Ghwozhe Pass was a great deal worse than any part of the Bolan. It was nothing but a succession of the most difficult ascents and precipitous descents; the most trying kind of ground for the poor camels, who fell down in great numbers, and in some parts the path lay between two high rocks, and was only four feet wide; how the artillery got over it I cannot imagine. A handful of determined men could, I should think, defend it against an army. We were on the qui vive the whole time, expecting an attack on the baggage, but we only lost a few camels. Here we caught up the 17th and artillery, which left Dadur before us. If our toils had been great, those of the 17th and artillery were twice as much, as it took them two days and two nights to get the guns through, and they were obliged to bivouack in the Pass, and were attacked once or twice by the Ghiljees; whom, however, one section or so easily drove off. I must now tell you that on leaving the Bolan Pass the Kaukers &c. made their bows to us, but handed us at the same time over to the care of their intimate friends the Ghiljees. These are a kind of half-civilized robbers, a large clan, and abound throughout the whole of Afghanistan. Their chief is a friend of Dost Mahomed. They gave us a little annoyance on the road, but whenever they did so they managed to get the worst of it. They murdered a few poor camp followers. At one place they fired on some grass-cutters belonging to the 4th Light Dragoons, after coming among them and talking with them in a friendly manner, as is their usual custom, in order to ascertain what might be the chance of an attack. A troop of that corps was immediately sent out, with nearly all the officers. Some villagers who had been bringing things to our camp joined the robbers, but the 4th played the d--l with them, killing or wounding about forty, and only one horse belonging to the 4th was wounded. Major Daly, who commands the corps, killed four men himself with a simple bamboo hunting spear, used for killing boars. Sir J. Keane had fourteen of them shot that had been caught stealing camels at Quittah, one march from Siriab, where we left our sick: a brigade of the Bengal army is quartered there.
Well; in spite of Ghiljees, Kaukers, Passes, &c., we reached Candahar on the 4th of May, having only halted two days since we left Dadur,--pretty good work! We were very much disappointed in the country, which is little better than a desert, and the weather cruelly hot. I remember very little of what occurred after I was on the sick-list, except that on arriving at our ground at one place, after a march of eighteen miles, we found that the natives had destroyed the well which was to have supplied us with water,--pleasant news for a man laid up with fever; in consequence of which they made a good profit by bringing it in for sale. About as much as would fill two moderate-sized pitchers was sold for half a rupee, about 14d. My European servant came and begged to be allowed to drink the water in my basin with which I had just washed myself, and before I could say anything, drank down the whole of it with a zest as if it had been champagne.
We reached Candahar on the 4th, and on the 8th his Majesty Shah Shooja-ool-Moolk was crowned, after which there was a review of all the troops that were here by his Majesty, a grand "tomasha;" but such, I am told, was the unpopularity of the Shah that out of the whole population of Candahar very few persons were looking on, though the Easterns are devoted sight-hunters. On the -- he held a levee, where every officer had the honour of making his leg to his Majesty. I was not present at either of these grand occasions, being at the time still on the sick-list. I, however, had a glimpse of his Majesty the other morning as he was taking his airing. He is a fine-looking man, with a splendid black beard. I am told that he is a very accomplished man, but an exceedingly bad ruler. He has written his own life, which is said to be very interesting: I should think it must be so, as few men have experienced so many changes of fortune as he has. You will find a very good description of him, as well as of Cabool and Sinde, in "Burnes' Travels in Bokhara," the present Sir Alexander Burnes, who is second in command to Macnaghten, and a great deal with the Shah. I read also an excellent article on this country &c. in the last December or January number of "Blackwood's Magazine."
Another horrible murder, somewhat similar to that of Capt. Hand, occurred here about the middle of last month. Two officers of the 16th Lancers, Inverarity and Wilmer, went one day on a fishing excursion to a small river about seven miles from this; several parties had been there before on pic-nic excursions, as it was much cooler, and there were some beautiful gardens, with lots of fruit, on the banks of the stream. There is a slight hill to be crossed in getting to it, at the top of which is a cut-throat narrow pass, formed out of the rock; you must pass through it in single file, and the bottom being of rock is so slippery and rough that it is with difficulty a horse can keep his footing on it. They were returning home about half-past eight o'clock, when Wilmer, being rather wrong in his stomach, got off his horse for a short time, and Inverarity said he would walk to the top of the hill to look at the view by moonlight; Wilmer followed in a few minutes on foot, his ghorewalla following with his horse. On coming near the top of the hill before mentioned, he was somewhat astonished at a large stone whizzing by his head, and immediately afterwards about six or seven men jumped on him out of the rocks. He had time to draw back, and received two different cuts on his walking stick, which cut it through, and slightly wounded him on the forehead. He managed to draw back from another, which was made at him with such strength that the fellow fell with the force of his own blow. Wilmer then thought it as time to cut and run, and bolted as fast as he could with these chaps after him. They luckily, however, stopped to rob his and Inverarity's bangies, containing their kit, which they met his servant carrying, &c. Wilmer did not stop till he reached a detachment of the Shah's force which is stationed there, he returned with a party from them, and on reaching the other side of the hill found poor Inverarity lying on the ground dreadfully mutilated; he was not quite dead when they came up, and Wilmer says he can never forget the convulsive shudder he gave on their arrival, taking them for the murderers returning to finish him. He died, however, almost immediately, merely saying, "For God's sake, look at my hands! I am afraid I am very badly wounded." Thus fell another victim, as we all feel, to the conciliation principle! Neither Inverarity's horse nor anything of then kit has been since seen, though Wilmer has recovered his horse. This will give you a pretty idea of the country we are living in. The next day there was an order out from Sir J. Keane, in which, after giving an account of the murder, he begged all officers never to go out into the country on sporting expeditions unless in large parties and well armed. The Shah and Sir John were also on the point of burning down the village near which the murder occurred, but the political department would not allow it. Seven or eight men were, however, taken up, though nothing certain has been proved. They are still in chains in the town; what will be done with them I don't know. I always have my holster pipes, and pistols loaded, whenever I ride out, as there is nothing like being prepared.
I have little to say of Candahar, which appears to me to be just the same as every other town I have seen in the East, very dirty, &c. It stands in a tolerably fertile plain, with hills scattered all round it. It is a perfect square, each side of which is nearly a mile in length; two streets, one from north to south, the other from east to west, run through it, and bisect each other in the centre: in these are the different bazaars. The rest of the town, as it appeared to me as I rode round the walls the other day, is perfectly deserted. There are double walls to the town, entire all the way round, but I should think it could be easily taken. A great number of the inhabitants have left it on account of the dearness of provisions, occasioned by the hungry mouths of so large a force as ours, and also because, on his first arrival, the Shah wished to play some of his old arbitrary acts over again.
The Ghiljees have been at their old tricks lately, robbing some supplies for the army, which came up by the Bolan Pass about a week ago, and which they followed nearly into our camp. The caravan, however, was under the charge of a right sort of fellow, the Rajah of Buhawulpoor, who was bringing up a contingent to the Shah's force, and if any of his camels were taken away he took two for one from the first village he arrived at. The Ghiljees got more bold afterwards, and actually endeavoured to walk off with the camels of the Bengal army, and five or six were taken prisoners by some Sepoys, and one blown from a gun in the town. They, however, killed one, and severely wounded two other unarmed soldiers of H.M. 13th Light Infantry, who were out with the camels of their regiment, the guard for the camels having very quietly gone to sleep in a house. The poor fellows made a desperate fight, defending themselves with their shoes; and one of them pulled a mounted Ghiljee off his horse, but had his arm cut through before he could get the fellow's sword from him: they lost a great many camels.
June 29th.--Well, to-morrow we are off for Cabool; I hope the country may improve as we advance. Everybody speaks very highly of Cabool itself--a fine climate, 6000 feet above the sea. It has been very hot the whole time we have been here. They say there is plenty of grain to be had on the road; I hope this may be true, and that we shall not have a repetition of what took place before in regard to expense. I was congratulating myself, a day or two since, on the prospect of getting my back pay, but now I hear that I shall not only be minus that, but that we are not to get any more pay for three months, owing to some mismanagement or other; consequently, we shall be obliged to get into debt, with a nice little interest to pay off. I wish, therefore, that next year you would give me credit for another 60l. I do not wish you to send it out to me, but that you would let me draw upon you as far as that sum, in case I should find it necessary, as this campaign has sadly crippled me. Your last 60l. is nearly gone, and yet I have not spent a farthing that I could help: this irregular way of paying troops is very disgusting to them.
The report is now that we are not likely to have any regular fighting, as it is pretty generally believed that Dost Mahomed has agreed to our terms; the "on dit" is, that he is at Peshawur, and awaits our arrival in Cabool, to give himself up to the British government. Colonel Wade, one of the political diplomatic line, is near Peshawur with a part of Runjet's army, but Dost Mahomed will not surrender himself to him, nor will Colonel Wade cross the Punjab frontiers, on account of the great enmity which exists between the Afghans and Sikhs: however, all this is to be proved. I wish we could have one good brush with them, as we should then have plain sailing; as it is, I suppose we shall be annoyed by these rascally Ghiljees all the way up: out-lying pickets to take care of camels, &c. With regard to the climate of this country I can say little, as we have only been here during the hot weather, and hot we have found it with a vengeance; but then we have been living in tents. One man of ours has died by a coup de soleil; he was one of the camel guard. I do not consider the climate an unhealthy one. It is a very lucky thing for us that we were not left in Sinde: the troops left there have suffered terribly. Sinde is one of the hottest places in the world, and very unhealthy; in fact, I consider it to be about one of the most disgusting countries in the world. The 17th regiment lost an officer there under very melancholy circumstances. He was coming up to join his regiment, having been only lately appointed to it, and lost his way in that dreadful desert I told you of, where he wandered in a wretched state for two days, during which time the simoom came on, and he died from its effects a short time after reaching his tent; the simoom was still so violent that his servants were obliged to dig his grave inside his tent: his body turned black immediately after death.
We have had excellent European fruit here, and the gardens about the place are very large and beautiful--peaches, apricots, cherries, apples, grapes, and mulberries. I never tasted anything more delicious than the melons here. You cannot imagine, in your temperate climate, how refreshing they are on a hot day; but, then, they are said to be very dangerous. The vegetables, too, are good, particularly to those who had been without them so long as we had. There are peas, beans, salad, cucumber, but, unfortunately, no potatoes; what would we not give for a nice mealy murphy! we have not tasted one for four months; however, in all these respects Cabool is much superior. What we shall do when we reach that place I cannot imagine,--one thing, the Hindoo Koosh, prevents our marching further. The report is, that if everything goes smooth we shall go back again this year; but this I do not believe, as I hardly think it probable that the government would be at such expense in marching us such a distance just to keep us at Cabool for a month, and if we overstay that it will be too late, and the snow and severity of the climate will hinder our returning. Moreover, Runjet Sing is very ill, and, they say, is likely to kick, in which case there will, I take it, be a regular shindy in the Punjab; and John Company, when he has once put his foot into a country, does not withdraw it very soon. Besides, there is Herat and Persia to be looked to. For my part, I have no objection to a winter in Cabool; and if we can only get up our supplies in the liquor line, we shall, I have no doubt, make ourselves very comfortable. The 16th Lancers have an excellent pack of foxhounds with them, and horses are very cheap. There are to be races &c. on a grand scale also when we get there; and if we can get our supplies up by that time, we may look forward to spending a merry Christmas even in such a distant country. How curious all this must sound to you in your quiet, lovely home of Brookhill. I have often thought of you all during this campaign, particularly the other day, when I had the fever; and I hope and trust my life maybe spared that I may see you all once more, particularly as I have never seen you at Brookhill.
With regard to myself, my health, with the exception of the fever, has been much better than I could have expected, considering what we have gone through. I have, however, been sadly bothered the whole time I have been in the country with rheumatism; at times, during the march, I was so bad with it that I could not walk ten minutes at a time. I have also had terrible pains in the joints of my arms, and have them still, and it is with difficulty I can get a gun to my shoulder. I can walk pretty well now, but running is totally out of the question; so that I am afraid I should come off poorly in a hand-to-hand encounter with these rascals. I applied to the doctor for some medicine, but he said "he could give me none;" in fact, they will not give an officer any medicine now unless he is very seriously ill, as they are very short of medical stores.
I hope you may be able to get through this letter; the blue paper I have been writing on is Russian, and bought in Candahar. I do not think I have anything more to say. I will write again when I reach Cabool. Tell Kate I will write to her too: I hope she got my letter which I wrote in January last under cover to you.
With best love to all at home,
Believe me your very affectionate son,
P.S.--By-the-bye, there is an officer here in H.M. 13th Light Infantry, with the Bengal force, who knows Arthur very well, in fact, I think a great deal better than I do myself. His name is Wood; he is a Canterbury man, and seems to know Mr. Baylay and everybody else there. He was in the 48th when Arthur was at Canterbury with the 4th Drag. Guards. He desired to be kindly remembered to Arthur when I wrote. I hope Eliza's hooping-cough is well. I was very sorry to hear of poor Sluman's death: as far back as I can recollect he is always associated in my mind with home. I hope Ghiljee, Kauker, Beloochee, and Co., will let this pass.