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Letter XI

Camp Larkanu, Dec. 26th, 1839.

MY DEAR ELIZA,--I finished and sent off a letter to my father yesterday, giving an account of the storming of Kelat, and the wounds I received in the skrimmage, and telling him of everything that had happened since I wrote before, which was the day we left Cabool. You can see his letter, which gives a pretty full account of all our proceedings up to the present time.

I have now to make many apologies for not having answered your two letters, one dated May 29th, giving an account of Kate's wedding, and the other, dated the 29th of July, from Bristol, and likewise for having forgotten to thank you for the money you were kind enough to send out with my father's, last year. I can assure you never came money more acceptable, as no one can imagine what expenses we have unavoidably been obliged to incur in this campaign, which I suppose has cost officers more than any other campaign that ever was undertaken. I think there are few of us who have come off under 100l. besides our pay; and yet this was merely for the common necessaries of life,--just sufficient to keep body and soul together. I can assure you I feel very much obliged for your present, as also for the two letters which I received while on the march. I have often thought of Brookhill during the many dreary marches that we have made, and on the solitary out-lying pickets, with no one to speak to, and deplored my unlucky fate, in being obliged to leave home just as you seem to be comfortably settled there. Still I have hope that I may yet return, some day or other.

I can now give you more definite intelligence with regard to our movements than I did in my father's letter; since sending off which orders have come out, and the campaign, as far as our regiment is concerned, is decidedly brought to a close. H.M. 17th, with Gen. Willshire, Baumgardt, and Head-quarter Staff, marched this morning for Bukkur, where they are to remain for four or five months, so report says, and longer than that I suppose, if their services are required. The Queen's, and the 4th Light Dragoons, are to return to Bombay as soon as the necessary arrangements for their transportation thither &c. are completed. We march from this to-morrow for the banks of the river, about twelve miles, and shall probably remain there for three weeks or so, until the shipping is got ready in Bombay, when we shall drop down the Indus in boats, and embark from Curachee for the Presidencies: would it were for England. Most of our married officers have obtained leave to precede the regiment, and are off in a day or two.

I hope to see Lieutenant-Colonel Fane when we arrive at Bombay. His father, Sir H. Fane, has publicly and officially resigned the commander-in-chief-ship in favour of Sir Jasper Nicolls. Sir Henry has been dangerously unwell at Bombay; but report says he is now getting better. He intends sailing as soon as possible, I believe, and so will most likely be gone before we arrive there. Sir J. Keane has also resigned, and is to be succeded by Sir Thomas M'Mahon. It is not quite certain that we shall go to Bombay, as some say that we shall land at Cambay, and go up to Deesa, and others that we shall return to Belgaum. Last night we received Bombay papers, giving an account of the taking of Kelat. They have buttered us up pretty well, and seem to think it a much more gallant affair than that of Ghuzni--in this last particular they are only doing us justice.

Dec. 30th, Camp, Taggur Bundur; Banks of the Indus.--We arrived here the day before yesterday, and are likely to remain, I believe, a fortnight or so. We muster rather small, as most of the married officers are off to-day and yesterday. As to my wounds, I have only one hole still open--namely, the one through which the bullet took its final departure, and that, I think, will be closed in a day or two. I am sorry to say that since arriving here I have caught a "cruel cold," from which I am suffering severely at present.

By-the-bye, there are a few incidents connected with the taking of Kelat which I forgot to mention in my letter to my father. Mehrab Khan, the chief of Kelat, managed to send away all his harem and family on the morning of the fight, directly we were seen approaching, but his other chiefs were not so fortunate, and the greater part of them deliberately cut the throats of all the females belonging to their establishments, including wives, mothers, and daughters, as soon as we established ourselves within the town, rather than suffer them to fall into the hands of us infidels. I forgot, I think, also, to mention that I managed to procure rather a handsome Koran, which was found in the citadel, and also an excellent Damascus blade, both of which I intend giving to my father, and a few articles of native costume, which would go far to make up a neat fancy dress, but it is not quite complete. A great number of handsome articles were stolen by the camp followers and other rascals, worse luck for us poor wounded officers, who could not help ourselves. We were rather surprised at finding some excellent European articles in the shape of double-barrelled guns, pistols, beautiful French musical boxes, prints, looking-glasses, and pier-glasses, &c., in the rooms of the citadel. Where Mehrab Khan could have picked them up I cannot think, unless they were the result of some successful foray on some unfortunate caravan.

The day after the fight, Captain Outram, of whom I have so often spoken in my letters to my father, volunteered to take the dispatches to Bombay, and started for that purpose straight across country to Someanee Bay, on the sea-coast, a distance of 350 miles, and across the barren mountains that compose the greatest part of Beloochistan. This route had up to that time never been traversed by any European, except Pottinger, who passed through all these countries twenty years ago, disguised as a native. It was attempted last year by Captain Harris, of the Bombay Engineers, author of the "African Excursions," a very enterprising officer, and who landed at Someanee Bay for that purpose; but after getting about twenty miles into the interior, reported the route as impracticable. When this is taken into consideration, with the great chance there was of Captain Outram's falling into the hands of the many straggling fugitives from Kelat, and the well-known character of these gentlemen, now smarting under the painful feeling of being driven from their homes, &c., it must be confessed that it required no little pluck to undertake it. The plan proved, however, perfectly successful. He travelled in the disguise of an Afghan Peer or holy man, under the guidance of two Afghan Seyds, a race of men much looked up to and respected in all Mahomedan countries, on account of their obtaining, [whether true or not, I know not] a pure descent from the Prophet. Outram and his party fell in with several bands of fugitives, and actually came up and were obliged to travel a day or two with the harem and escort of Mehrab Khan's brother. As there was a chance of Outram's being discovered by this party, the Seyd introduced him in the character of a Peer, which holy disguise he had to support during the whole journey; and after some extraordinary escapes he arrived at Someanee Bay in seven or eight days.

Our sick and wounded have been left behind at Kelat, under the charge of an officer of the 17th, since which things have gone on very smoothly there. The new Khan has been very accommodating, and has given fêtes, &c., to the officers left behind, in honour of our gallantry. He has also written to General Willshire to say that he intends giving us all a medal each, whether we are allowed to wear it or not, as he does not see why, if the Shah did it for Ghuzni, he might not do it also for Kelat. Lord Auckland has published an order that all regiments belonging to the Company that went beyond the Bolan Pass shall wear Afghanistan on their colours and appointments, and all engaged at Ghuzni that name also; and has written to the Queen for permission for Queen's regiments employed in like manner to bear the same. I suppose we shall get Kelat in addition.

There is one other point which, in my hurry to get my letter off in time for the January mail, I totally forgot to mention--viz., about drawing some money on my father. I have before mentioned the great expense we have been put to in this campaign; in addition to this, when we were ordered from Quettah to take Kelat, we were also under orders to return to Quettah after having taken the place. A sergeant was therefore left behind at Quettah to take charge of whatever effects any person might leave, and officers were strongly advised to leave the greater part of their kit at this place. I, as well as most of my brother officers, was foolish enough to follow this advice, and brought only a bundle of linen; consequently now I am almost minus everything; dress-coat, appointments, are all left behind, as General Willshire, after the taking of Kelat, instead of returning to Quettah, proceeded into Cutch Gundava by the Gundava Pass. Nothing has been since heard of what we have left behind, except that the sergeant could not get camels or carriage sufficient to bring them down. Moreover, it is unsafe to go through the Bolan Pass without a tolerably strong escort; so, taking all things into consideration, I do not think there is much chance of our ever seeing anything of them again. The consequences will be, that, on our arrival at Bombay, I shall be obliged to get an entire new fit out, and as the campaign has drained me dry, I shall be obliged to draw upon my father for it; however, I will repay him by the end of the year, as by that time the Company will have given us half a year's full batta, which they intend doing as a sort of indemnification for the losses we have sustained on the campaign; my batta will be about 72l.

I do not think I have any more to say, and as the January overland sails on the 25th, I hope this letter will reach Bombay in time to go by it, as well as my father's. By-the-bye, how is old Nelly? If she has any good pups, I wish you would manage to keep one for me, as I expect the old girl will be either dead or very old by the time I return. I am longing to get out of the "Sick-list," as the thickets here near the river are full of partridges and hares, and the climate, at this time of the year, is very cool and pleasant. My rheumatism is much better since I was wounded; but I still have it in my left arm. Well, no more; but wishing you, and all, a happy new year.

Believe me ever your very affectionate brother,