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Letter XII

Camp, Curachee, Feb. 14th, 1840.

MY DEAR FATHER,--You will see, by my date, that our share of the campaign is ended; in fact, we are only waiting here for shipping, which is on its way from Bombay, to take us from this place to Mandavie, in Cutch, where we land, and then march immediately to Deesa, in Guzerat; so that, after all our toilsome marches, &c., we have yet another, still more toilsome, before us of 240 miles. The climate of Cutch and Guzerat during the period of year that we shall be occupied in marching is so hot that no changes of station are ever made even by native corps, and Europeans are never allowed to march in Guzerat except during the cold months. It is sharp work on our poor men; many of whom appear very unfit for it; but they are now so accustomed to hard work, that they will get well through it I have little doubt.

We left Tuggur Bandur, from which place I wrote to Eliza and Kate, on the 13th of January, and drifted quietly down the river in boats, pulling up and coming to an anchor every evening at sunset. We reached Tatta Bundur, about five miles from the town, on the 21st, and after staying there a few days, started again for this place, which we reached in five marches, on the 31st. We were immediately most hospitably entertained by the officers of H.M. 40th, which is an excellent regiment. Here we have been ever since, living on the fat of the land, and enjoying ourselves very much, after all our toils. This is now a rather considerable station: one Queen's and one Company's regiment, and detail of foot artillery, and plenty of European supplies brought by the Bombay merchants. It is a very decent climate; and would make a very good station. I wish they would leave us here in place of sending us to Deesa, at this time of the year. Sir John Keane, General Willshire, and the Bombay staff are expected here in a day or two. Sir John is bringing down with him Hyder Khan, Dost Mahomed's son, who commanded at Ghuzni when it was taken. He is to be brought to Bombay, and as he is of a very quiet, amiable disposition, will, so report says, be eventually allowed to join his father. Poor Dost, they say, is in a very bad way, deserted by nearly all his followers; but there still seems to be mischief brewing in the north-west. All accounts say that Bokhara is very much inclined to the Russian interest, and Shah Kamran's vizier at Herat has been carrying on a correspondence with the Persians, the object of which is said to be the delivery of Herat into their hands. The Punjab is also in a very unsettled state; so there are plenty of materials for getting up another row in these countries before long. War is most positively said to be decided on with China, and seven regiments, to be followed by a reserve of equal number, together with a considerable naval force, are to be sent there as soon as possible. Lord Auckland, we are told, has had carte blanche from the Home government to act as he thinks fit with regard to China, and that he has determined upon a hostile movement as soon as this campaign is regularly finished, which it may be said to be; so there will be glorious fun there. It is not yet known here what regiments will go. I am afraid there is little chance for the Queen's.

The 4th Light Dragoons have arrived here, having come down by land; they are to return to their old quarters at Kickee, near Poonah. The 17th may also be expected in a few days; they are to occupy our old quarters at Belgaum. The 18th (Royal Irish) have come on from Ceylon, and are to go to Poonah; and the 6th go home (to England) as soon as possible. This is understood to be the destination of each regiment, but this affair with China may cause an alteration.

I am very sorry to mention the unfortunate death of poor little Halkett, one of my best friends, and the son of General Halkett, of Hanover, who was so very civil to me while I was there, and nephew of Sir Colin Halkett.

Since we have been here, I have received your letter, dated November 2nd, by which it appears that you had just then heard of the taking of Ghuzni. You mentioned, also, in it that you had received my letter from Candahar, which I am very glad to hear, as I was very much afraid, from the state of the country, that it would never reach its destination. As you mention nothing about it, I suppose you had not received the letter I wrote from Ghuzni almost immediately after the capture. I know many letters were lost about that time, and mine, I am afraid, among the number. There is a report here (but I think, too good to be true) that all officers with the advance, or storming, party at Ghuzni, consisting of the light companies of the European regiments, were to get brevet rank. In that case, as the company to which I belong--viz, the Light--was one of the number, and, in fact, headed the assault, Capt Holdsworth would be my future rank. Tell Eliza that I got her letter which was enclosed in yours, and was very much surprised at its contents.

I do not know what to say about Deesa as station, reports are so various on the subject. The heat, I believe is awful in the hot weather the thermometer rising to 120 in the houses; and the worst part of the business is, that this heat, which is occasioned by the hot winds, lasts all night through; so that the night is nearly as hot as the day. At other times of the year, I believe, the climate is very pleasant. The 40th give a very good account of it. There is a great quantity of game there, and some of the best hog-hunting in India. Mount Aboo, called the Parnassus of India, is within fifty miles of it, and is a great place of resort during the hot weather.

Should this expedition to China take place, which seems decided upon at present, what an immense power the English will eventually have in the East. In a few years, I have no doubt it may extend from Herat to the most eastern parts of China, including all the islands in the adjacent seas. Like the Romans, England seems to be extending her dominion everywhere--"super et Garamantes et Indos, proferet imperium," and yet what a row she kicks up about Russia. The French papers seem to be rather jealous about Ghuzni. How the English papers butter it up! and yet it was not half so brilliant an affair as Kelat, nor so hardly contested; but very little is said about the latter.

Enclosed, I send you a view of the north front of Kelat, shewing the gate by which we entered. It gives you a pretty good idea of the place, and was drawn by Lieutenant Creed, of the Engineers.

I went yesterday to see a tank, about seven miles from this place, in which are a great quantity of alligators, half tame. The tank in which they are belongs to a Mahomedan temple, which is considered a very holy one, and much resorted to, and these animals are kept there by the priests of the establishment, in order to induce a greater number of visitors. A calf was killed and thrown in among the scaly gentlemen, who very soon demolished it. I never saw anything so loathesome and repulsive as these monsters.

This letter goes by the "Hannah" packet, which sails this evening for Bombay, and will, I hope, reach that place in time to go by the "overland packet." I suppose you know that this is classic ground, and the place from which Nearchus, Alexander's admiral, started on his return to the Euphrates. I have no time for more. So, with love to all at home,

Believe me your affectionate son,