The Superintendent of the Government Elephant Kheddahs at Dakka has given us, in a recent paper, much information concerning the elephant in freedom and captivity. He does not claim a high order of intelligence, but rather of extraordinary obedience and docility for this animal Very large elephants are exceptional. Twice round the forefoot gives the height at the shoulder; few females attain the height of eight feet; "tuskers," or male elephants, vary from eight to nine feet; the Maharajah of Nahur, Sirmoor, possesses one standing ten feet five and one half inches. The age varies from 80 to 150 years, according to the best authorities, and it is recorded that those familiar with the haunts of the wild elephant have never found the bones of an elephant that had died a natural death. In freedom they roam in herds of thirty to fifty, always led by a female; mature about twenty-five. In India the males only have tusks; in Ceylon only the females. They are fond of the water, swim well, [Footnote: Elephants have been known to swim a river three hundred yards wide with the hind legs tied together.] but can neither trot nor gallop; their only pace is a walk, which may be Increased to a shuffle of fifteen miles an hour for a very short distance; they cannot leap, and a ditch eight by eight feet would be impassable.
In Bengal and Southern India elephants particularly abound, and seem to be increasing in numbers. In the Billigurungan Hills, a range of three hundred square miles on the borders of Mysore, they made their appearance about eighty years ago; yet prior to that time this region was under high cultivation, traces of orchards, orange groves, and iron-smelting furnaces remaining in what is now a howling wilderness. Elephants are caught in stockades or kraals. The Government employs hunting parties of 350 natives trained to the work, and more than 100 animals are sometimes secured in a single drive.
New elephants are trained by first rubbing them down with bamboo rods, and shouting at them, and by tying them with ropes; they are taught to kneel by taking them into streams about five feet deep, when the sun is hot, and prodding them on the back with sharp sticks.
The total number of elephants maintained is eight hundred, of which one half are used for military purposes. They consume about 400 pounds of green, or 250 pounds of dry fodder daily, and are also given unhusked rice. An elephant is expected to carry about 1,200 pounds with ease. In the Abyssinian Expedition elephants travelled many hundreds of miles, carrying from 1,500 to 1,800 pounds (including their gear), but out of forty-four, five died from exhaustion; they are capable of working from morning to night, or of remaining under their loads for twenty hours at a stretch. [Footnote: There is no "elephant gun-drill" laid down in the Imperial Regulations, but when the gun goes into action the elephant is made to kneel, and long "skids" are placed against the cradle upon which the gun rests, so as to form an inclined plane to the ground. The gun is then lifted off the cradle and down the skids by levers and tackle.]
An elephant's gear consists of a gaddela, or quilted cloth, 1-1/2 inches thick, reaching half-way down his sides and from the neck to the croup. On this is placed the guddu, or pad, 6x5 feet and 9 inches thick, formed of stout sacking stuffed with dried grass. The whole is girthed with a long rope passed twice around the body, round the neck as a breast-strap, and under the tail as a crupper. The whole weighs 200 pounds. An improvement upon this has been made by our authority (Mr. Sanderson), which seems to bear the same relation to the old gear that the open McClellan saddle does to the ordinary British hunting saddle. It consists (see illustration) of two pads entirely detached, each 4 feet long, 15 inches wide, and 6 inches thick, made of blanket covered with tarpaulin, and encased in stout sacking. One is placed on each side of the elephant's spine, and retained there by two iron arches. There is no saddle-cloth, the load rests on the ribs; the breast-strap and crupper hook into rings on the saddle; there are rings to fasten the load to; it weighs 140 pounds. With foot-boards it is convenient for riding; a cradle can also be attached for carrying field guns. Recent experiments have shown the practicability of conveying elephants by rail in ordinary open cattle-trucks; they were indifferent to the motion, noises, or bridges; it is said that 32 elephants could be thus carried on one train.
The excellent railway facilities for moving troops and supplies to the Indo-Afghan frontier were described in 1880, by Traffic Manager Ross, of the Scinde, Punjab, and Delhi Railway, before the United Service Institution of India.
He stated that experiments had been made by the military and railway authorities in loading and disembarking troops and war materiel, and that much experience had been afforded by the Afghan operations of 1878-9.
The movement of troops to and from the frontier commenced in October, 1878, and ended June, 1879. During that period were conveyed over his road 190,000 men, 33,000 animals, 500 guns, 112,000,000 pounds of military stores. The maximum number carried in any one month was in November—40,000 men, 8,000 animals, and 20,800,000 pounds of stores. The greatest number of special trains run in one day was eight, carrying 4,100 men, 300 animals, and 800,000 pounds of stores. As an instance of rapid loading, when the both Bengal Cavalry left for Malta, 80 horses were loaded on a train in 10 minutes appears to have been clean forgotten. The Politicals were by no means silent, and the amount of knowledge they possessed of border statistics was something marvellous. Did any step appear to the military sense advisable, there was a much better, though less comprehensible, political reason why it should not be undertaken. The oracle has spoken and the behest must be obeyed. An enemy in sight who became afterwards hostile, must not be kept at a distance; through political glasses they appear as 'children of nature,' while the country out of sight must not be explored, the susceptibilities of the sensitive 'Tammizais' having to be respected. That much valuable service was performed by political officers there can be no doubt, but that they caused great exasperation among soldiers cannot be denied, and the example of the War of 1839-40 causes them to be looked upon as a very possible source of danger.
Anglo-Afghan Operations.—The observations of a participant [Footnote: Lieut. Martin, R. E. (Journal U. S. I. of India).] in the last British campaign in Afghanistan will be found of value in the study of future operations in that country. Of the Afghan tactics he says: "The enemy (generally speaking, a race of Highlanders) vastly preferred the attack, and usually obtained the advantage of superior numbers before risking an attack; . . . being able to dispense (for the time) with lines of communication and baggage and commissariat columns, the Afghan tribes were often able to raise large gatherings on chosen ground. They could always attack us; we were rarely able (except when they chose) to find them at home." This observer says the regular troops of the Ameer were not so formidable as the tribal gatherings. The presence of a tactically immovable artillery hinders the action of an Asiatic army. The mounted men are usually the first to leave when the fight is going against their side in a general engagement. One of the best specimens of their tactics was at Ahmed-Kheyl, on the Ghazni-Kandahar road, when the British division was one hundred miles from any support. The Afghans assembled a force outnumbering the British ten to one. The attack was made in a series of rushes, twice dispersing the British cavalry, and once driving back the infantry. Exposed to a constant fire of field guns, the Afghans stood their ground, although poorly armed with a variety of obsolete weapons—from an Enfield to a handjar or a stick. Trouble may always be expected from the night attacks of certain tribes like the Alizais and Waziris.
The English infantry formation was an objectionably close one, and Lieut. Martin says that the bayonets and rifle-barrels of the front rank were sometimes struck and jammed by bullets from the rear rank. The action of the English cavalry, as at Ahmed-Kheyl, was suicidal in receiving the enemy's charge—practically at a halt. Occasionally shelter trenches were used, but disapproved.
In the Kuram valley column, under General Roberts, the cavalry (principally native, with one regular squadron and a battery of horse artillery) formed a brigade, but was never used independently, nor was it instructed (although well equipped) for modern cavalry work. The opposition to dismounted cavalry duty is still so great, in the British army, that the mounted arm is paralyzed for effective service.
Very little was done by the horse artillery with the Kuram column. In the case of the field artillery it was found necessary on two occasions to transfer the ammunition boxes from the bullock-carts to the backs of elephants, on account of the steepness of the hills. The mountain artillery (native) was the most serviceable; a Gatling battery, packed on ponies, and in charge of a detachment of Highlanders, was never used however.
The armament of the infantry included both Martini and Snider rifles, requiring two kinds of ammunition, but, as the service by pack-mules was ample, no confusion ensued, although Lieut. Martin says: "In one case I heard a whisper that a regimental reserve of ammunition was found to be blank cartridges, but this must be a heavy joke." Intrenching tools were carried on camels. A mixture of military and civil-engineer administration and operation is mentioned as unsatisfactory in results. There was great difficulty in getting tools and materials at the opening of the campaign—particularly those required for road and bridge work, although a railroad within two hundred miles had a large stock on hand.
The art of camping and rough fortification was well practised. The best defended camp was surrounded by bush abatis and flanked by half-moon sungas of boulder-stone work, which held the sentries. The most approved permanent camps or "posts" were mud serais flanked by bastions at the alternate angles and overlooking a yard or "kraal." These were established about ten miles apart, to protect communications, and furnished frequent patrols. During the latter part of the campaign these outposts were manned by the native contingents of the Punjab who volunteered.
The rapid march of General Roberts from Kabul to Kandahar in August, 1880, and the final dispersion of the forces of Ayoub Khan, illustrated British operations in Afghanistan under the most favorable circumstances. The forces included 2,800 European and 7,000 Indian troops; no wheeled artillery was taken; one regiment of native infantry, trained to practical engineering work, did the work of sappers and miners; for the transportation of sick and wounded 2,000 doolie-bearers, 286 ponies, and 43 donkeys; for transport of supplies a pack-train of 1,589 yabus, 4,510 mules, 1,224 Indian ponies, 912 donkeys—a total of 10,148 troops, 8,143 native followers, and 11,224 animals, including cavalry horses; 30 days' rations, of certain things, and dependence on the country for fresh meat and forage. The absence of timber on this route rendered it difficult to obtain fuel except by burning the roofs of the villages and digging up the roots of "Southern-wood" for this purpose. The manner of covering the movement rested with the cavalry commander. Usually the front was covered by two regiments, one regiment on each flank, at a mile from the column, detaching one or more troops as rear-guard; once movement had commenced, the animals, moving at different gaits were checked as little as possible. With such a number of non-combatants the column was strung out for six or seven miles, and the rear-guard leaving one camp at 7 A.M. rarely reached the next—fifteen to twenty miles distant—before sundown.
Routes.—For operations in Afghanistan the general British base is the frontier from Kurrachee to Peshawur. These points are connected by a railway running east of the Indus, which forms a natural boundary to the Indian frontier, supplemented by a line of posts which are from north to south as follows: Jumrud, Baru, Mackeson, Michni, Shub Kadar, Abazai, and Kohut; also by fortified posts connected by military roads,—Thull, Bunnoo, and Doaba.
From the Indus valley into the interior of Afghanistan there are only four lines of communication which can be called military roads: first, from Peshawur through the Khaiber Pass to Kabul; second, from Thull, over the Peiwar and Shuturgurdan passes to Kabul; third, from Dera Ismail Khan through the Guleir Surwandi and Sargo passes to Ghazni; fourth, by Quetta to Kandahar and thence to Herat, or by Ghazni to Kabul. Besides these there are many steep, difficult, mule tracks over the bleak, barren, Sulimani range, which on its eastern side is very precipitous and impassable for any large body of troops.
The Peshawur-Kabul road, 170 miles long, was in 1880 improved and put in good order. From Peshawur the road gradually rises, and after 7 miles reaches Jumrud (1,650 feet elevation), and 44 miles further west passes through the great Khaiber Pass. This pass, 31 miles long, can, however, be turned by going to the north through the Absuna and Tartara passes; they are not practicable for wheels, and the first part of the road along the Kabul River is very difficult and narrow, being closed in by precipitous cliffs.
As far as Fort Ali Musjid the Khaiber is a narrow defile between perpendicular slate rocks 1,460 feet high; beyond that fort the road becomes still more difficult, and in some of the narrowest parts, along the rocky beds of torrents, it is not more than 56 feet wide. Five miles further it passes through the valley of Lalabeg 1-1/2 miles wide by 6 miles long, and then after rising for four miles it reaches the top of the Pass, which from both sides offers very strong strategical positions. From thence it descends for 2-1/2 miles to the village of Landi Khana (2,463 feet), which lies in a gorge about a quarter of a mile wide; then on to Dakka (altitude 1,979 feet). This pass, 100 to 225 feet wide and 60 feet long, is shut in by steep but not high slopes, overgrown with bushes.
On the eleven miles' march from Dakka to Hazarnao, the Khurd Khaiber is passed, a deep ravine about one mile long, and in many places so narrow that two horsemen cannot pass each other. Hazarnao is well cultivated, and rich in fodder; 15 miles farther is Chardeh (1,800 feet altitude), from which the road passes through a well-cultivated country, and on through the desert of Surkh Denkor (1,892 feet altitude), which is over 8-1/2 miles from Jelalabad. From this city (elsewhere described) onward as far as Gundamuck the route presents no great difficulties; it passes through orchards, vineyards, and cornfields to the Surkhab River; but beyond this three spurs of the Safed Koh range, running in a northeastern direction, have to be surmounted.
Between Jelalabad [Footnote: The heat at Jelalabad from the end of April is tremendous—105 degrees to 110 degrees in the shade.] and Kabul two roads can be followed: the first crosses the range over the Karkacha Pass (7,925 feet alt.) at the right of which is Assin Kilo, thence through the Kotul defile, and ascending the Khurd Kabul [Footnote: The Khurd Kabul Pass is about five miles long, with an impetuous mountain torrent which the road (1842) crossed twenty-eight times.] (7,397 feet alt.) to the north reaches the high plateau on which Kabul is situated; the other leads over the short but dangerous Jagdallak Pass to Jagdallak, from which there are three roads to Kabul—the northernmost over the Khinar and the third over the Sokhta passes; all these, more difficult than the Khaiber, are impassable during the winter. It was here, as already related, that the greater part of Elphinstone's command, in 1842, perished. There is a dearth of fuel and supplies by this line of communication. The second, or Thull-Kuram-Kabul, route, was taken by General Roberts in 1878-9. It extends from Thull, one of the frontier posts already mentioned, some forty miles into the Kuram valley, and then inclining towards the west leads to the Kuram fort (Mohammed Azim's), a walled quadrangular fortress with flanking towers at an elevation of 6,000 feet. The Kuram valley is, up to this point, well cultivated and productive; wood, water, and forage abound. Winter only lasts with any severity for six weeks, and the Spring and Autumn are delightful.
A short distance above the fort commences the ascent toward the Peiwar Pass (8,000 feet alt.), twenty-four miles distant. The road, thickly bordered with cedar and pine trees, is covered with boulders and is very difficult, and from the village of Peiwar—one of many en route, of the usual Afghan fortified type—it leads through a winding defile to the top of the pass. Here the road is confined by perpendicular chalk rocks, the summits of which are covered with scrub timber and a luxurious growth of laurel. On the farther side of the pass the road ascends to the height of the Hazardarakht, (which is covered with snow in the winter), and then climbs to the Shuturgurdan Pass (11,375 feet alt.), reaching a plateau on which the snow lies for six months of the year; thence it descends into the fertile Logar valley and reaches Akton Khel, which is only fifty-one miles from Kabul. The total length of this route is about 175 miles.
The third, or Dera-Ismail-Khan-Sargo-Ghazni, route passes through a region less frequented than those mentioned, and is not thought sufficiently difficult for detailed description. Passing due west, through seventy miles of mountain gorges destitute of supplies or forage, it debouches, through the Gomal Pass, into a more promising country, in which forage may be obtained. At this point it branches to Ghazni, Kandahar, and Pishin respectively. A road exists from Mooltan, crossing the Indus at Dera-Ghazi-Khan, Mithunkot, Rajanpur, Rojan, Lalgoshi, Dadur to Quetta, and was utilized by General Biddulph, from whose account of his march from the Indus to the Helmund, in 1879, is gleaned the following. The main point of concentration for the British forces, either from India or from England via Kurrachee is thus minutely described.
"The western frontier of India is, for a length of 600 miles, bounded by Biluchistan and territories inhabited by Biluch tribes, and for 300 miles Biluch country intervenes between our border and Afghanistan. The plains of the Punjab and Sind run along the boundary of Biluchistan, and at a distance of from 25 to 50 miles the Indus pursues a course, as far down as Mithunkot, from north to south, and then winds south-west through a country similar to that of Egypt. A belt of cultivation and beyond that the desert . . . this line of hills (the Eastern Sulimani) extends as a continuous rampart with the plains running up to the foot of the range, and having an elevation of 11,000 feet at the Tukl-i-Suliman, and of 7,400 near Fort Munro (opposite Dera-Ghazi-Khan), gradually diminishes in height and dwindles away till it is lost in the plains near Kusmore, at a point 12 miles from the Indus. The strip of low-land country on the west bank of the Indus up to the foot of the hills is called the Derajat. It is cut up and broken by torrents, the beds of which are generally dry wastes, and the country is, except at a few places where permanent water is found, altogether sterile and hot. If we view the physical aspect looking north and north-west from Jacobabad, we notice a wide bay of plains extending between the broken spur of the Sulimani, and a second range of hills having a direction parallel to the outer range. This plain is called the Kachi, extends in an even surface for 150 miles from the Indus at Sukkur, and is bounded on the north by successive spurs lying between the two great ranges. The Kachi, thus bounded by barren hills on all sides but the south, is one of the hottest regions in the world. Except where subject to inundations or within reach of irrigation it is completely sterile—a hard clay surface called Pat,—and this kind of country extends around to the east of the spur of the Suliman into the Derajat country. Subject to terrific heats and to a fiercely hot pestilential wind, the Kachi is at times fatal even to the natives."
The range of mountains bounding the Kachi to the westward is a continuous wall with imperceptible breaks only, and it bears the local names of Gindari, Takari, and Kirthar. Through this uniform rampart there are two notable rents or defiles, viz.: the Mulla opening opposite Gundana, leading to Kelat; and the Bolan entering near Dadur, leading to Quetta, Kandahar, and Herat. The Bolan is an abrupt defile—a rent in the range,—the bottom filled with the pebbly bed of a mountain torrent. This steep ramp forms for sixty miles the road from Dadur, elevation 750 feet, to the Dasht-i-Bedowlat, elevation 6,225 feet. This inhospitable plateau and the upper portion of the Bolan are subject to the most piercingly cold winds and temperature; and the sudden change from the heat of the Kachi to the cold above is most trying to the strongest constitutions. Notwithstanding the difficulties of the road, the absence of supplies and fuel, and the hostile character of the predatory tribes around, this route has been always most in favor as the great commercial and military communication from Persia, Central Asia, and Khorassan to India.
The causes which led to the establishment of a British garrison at Quetta are not unlike those which are urged as good Russian reasons for the occupation of territory in certain parts of Central Asia. Briefly stated, it seems that after the conquest of the Punjab, the proximity of certain disturbed portions of Biluchistan, and the annoyance suffered by various British military expeditions, in 1839-1874, from certain tribes of Biluchis—notably the Maris and Bugtis,—made it desirable that more decisive measures should be adopted. In 1876 a force of British troops was marched to Kelat, and by mutual agreement with the Khan a political agency was established at Quetta, ostensibly to protect an important commercial highway, but at the same time securing a military footing of great value. But the character of the lords of the soil—the Maris, for instance—has not changed for the better, and the temporary general European occupation of the country would afford an opportunity to gratify their predatory instincts, which these bandits would not hesitate to utilize. The Maris can put 2,000 men into the field and march 100 miles to make an attack. When they wish to start upon a raid they collect their wise men together and tell the warriors where the cattle and the corn are. If the reports of spies, sent forward, confirm this statement, the march is undertaken. They ride upon mares which make no noise; they travel only at night. They are the most excellent outpost troops in the world. When they arrive at the scene of action a perfect watch is kept and information by single messengers is secretly sent back. Every thing being ready a rush of horsemen takes place, the villages are surrounded, the cattle swept away, the women and children hardly used—fortunate if they escape with their lives. The villagers have their fortlets to retreat to, and, if they reach them, can pull the ladders over after them and fire away from their towers.
Dadur is an insignificant town at the foot of the Bolan. From here the Kandahar road leads for sixty miles through the Pass—a gradual ascent; in winter there is not a mouthful of food in the entire length of the defile.
Quetta, compared with the region to the south, appears a very Garden of Eden. It is a small oasis, green and well watered.
From Quetta to Pishin the road skirts the southern border of a vast plain, interspersed with valleys, which extend across the eastern portion of Afghanistan toward the Russian dominion. A study of the Pishin country shows that it is, on its northwestern side supported on a limb of the Western Sulimani. This spur, which defines the west of the Barshor valley, is spread out into the broad plateau of Toba, and is then produced as a continuous ridge, dividing Pishin from the plains of Kadani, under the name of Khoja Amran. The Barshor is a deep bay of the plain, and there is an open valley within the outer screen of hills. A road strikes off here to the Ghilzai country and to Ghazni. Though intersected by some very low and unimportant hills and ridges, the Pishin plains and those of Shallkot may be looked upon as one feature. We may imagine the Shall Valley the vestibule, the Kujlak-Kakur Vale the passage, the Gayud Yara Plain an antechamber, and Pishin proper the great salle. Surrounded by mountains which give forth an abundant supply of water, the lands bordering on the hills are studded with villages, and there is much cultivation; there is a total absence of timber, and the cultivation of fruit-trees has been neglected. The Lora rivers cutting into the plain interferes somewhat with the construction of roads.
The Plain of Pishin possesses exceptional advantages for the concentration and rendezvous of large bodies of troops, and has already been utilized for that purpose by the British.
From the Khoja Amran, looking toward Kandahar, the plains, several thousand feet below, are laid out like a sea, and the mountains run out into isolated promontories; to the left the desert is seen like a turbulent tide about to overflow the plains.
The rivers on the Quetta-Kandahar route do not present much impediment to the passage of troops in dry weather, but in flood they become serious obstacles and cannot be passed until the waters retire.
The ascent from the east through the Khojak Pass is easy, the descent on the west very precipitous. A thirteen-foot cart road was made, over the entire length of twenty miles, by General Biddulph in 1878-9, by which the first wheeled vehicles, which ever reached Khorassan from India, passed.
From Kandahar (elsewhere described)—which is considered by General Hamley and other authorities, one of the most important strategic points in any scheme of permanent defence for India—diverge two main roads: one a continuation of the Quetta-Herat route bearing N.W., and one running N.E. to Kabul.
Gen. Biddulph says: "The position of Kandahar near to the slopes of the range to the westward of the city renders it impossible to construct works close at hand to cover the road from Herat. The high ridge and outlying hills dividing Kandahar and its suburbs from the Argandab valley completely command all the level ground between the city and the pass. Beyond the gap a group of detached mountains extends, overlooking the approaches, and follows the left bank of the Argandab as far down as Panjwai, fifteen miles distant. Positions for defensive works must be sought, therefore, in front of that place on the right bank of the river. To the N.E. of Kandahar the open plain affords situations for forts, well removed from the hills, at a short distance, and at Akhund Ziarut, thirty miles on the road to Ghazni, there is a gorge which would, if held, add to security on that quarter."
The country between Kandahar and the Helmund has the same general characteristics—plains and mountain spurs alternately,—and while generally fit for grazing is, except in a few spots, unfit for cultivation.
According to the eminent authority just quoted, the great natural strategic feature of this route is the elevated position of Atta Karez, thirty-one miles from Kandahar. He says: "On the whole road this is the narrowest gateway, and this remarkable feature and the concentration of roads [Footnote: The roads which meet at Atta Karez are: the great Herat highway passing through Kokeran and crossing the Argandab opposite Sinjari, whence it lies along the open plain all the way to Atta Karez; the road which crosses the Argandab at Panjwai; and the road from Taktipul towards Herat.] here, give to Atta Karez a strategic importance unequalled by any other spot between India and Central Asia."
General Biddulph examined this position carefully in 1879, and discovered a site for a work which would command the valley of the Argandab and sweep the elevated open plain toward the west and northwest.
Abbaza is a village at the crossing of the Herat road over the Helmund, forty-six miles west of Atta Karez. On the west bank lies the ancient castle of Girishk. The country between the Argandab and the Helmund is rolling and inclining gradually from the hills toward the junction of these rivers. The plateau opposite Girishk is 175 feet above the river, which it commands.
The Helmund has already been described. There are numerous fords, but, at certain times, bridges would be required for military purposes. The land in the vicinity of the Helmund is very fertile and seamed with irrigating canals.
From Girishk a road via Washir runs through the hills to Herat; this is said to be cool, well supplied with water and grazing, and is a favorite military route. A road, parallel, to the south, goes through Farrah, beyond which both roads blend into one main road to the "Key." Still another road, by Bost, Rudbar, and Lash, along the course of the river, exists. Although not so direct, it is an important route to Herat; upon this road stand the ruins of the ancient city of Bost in a wonderful state of preservation; here, as elsewhere in this region, the remains of fortifications testify to the former military importance of the spot. The citadel of Bost is built on the debris of extensive works and rises 150 feet above the river.
British Generals.—Perhaps the most prominent of modern British commanders, next to Lord Wolseley—is the young and successful soldier, Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Roberts, G.C.B., C.I.E., commanding the Anglo-Indian Army of the Madras Presidency. He has already seen service in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and has been appointed to the command of one of the principal divisions of the British forces intended to oppose the threatened advance of the Russians on Herat. It was said of him by one of the most brilliant military leaders of the age,—Skobeleff: "For General Roberts I have a great admiration. He seems to me to possess all the qualities of a great general. That was a splendid march of his from Kabul to Kandahar. I think more highly of him than I do of Sir Garnet Wolseley, but there is this to be said of all your generals, they have only fought against Asiatic and savage foes. They have not commanded an army against a European enemy, and we cannot tell, therefore, what they are really made of."
The Commander-in-chief of the Army of India, General Sir Donald M. Stewart, G.C.B., C.I.E., to whom has been intrusted the conduct of the British forces in Afghanistan, is also a very distinguished and experienced officer—probably more familiar with the nature of the probable field of operations than any other in Her Majesty's Service.
Like the United States, the great latent power of England is indisputable, and so long as superiority at sea is maintained, time is given to render that latent power active. For the first year of the coming struggle England must lean heavily upon her navy. Nearly all the regiments of infantry are below the average peace limit, and if filled up simultaneously to a maximum war strength will include more than fifty per cent, of imperfectly trained men, and as the practice has been to fill up those corps ordered abroad with men transferred from other small regiments, it may come to pass that so-called "regular" regiments will consist largely of raw material. Colonel Trench of the British Army says "the organization of the regular cavalry is very defective," and especially complains of the maladministration we have just noted. Demands for cavalry for the Soudan were met by a heavy drain on the already depleted strength of regiments in England. The Fifth Dragoon Guards, which stood next on the roster for foreign service, gave away nearly two hundred horses and one hundred men. Colonel Trench says that the reserve cavalry have no training, and that there is no reserve of horses. It is doubtful if more than seventy per cent. of the enlisted strength and fifty per cent. of the horses, on paper, could be put in the field now.
Allusion has already been made to the notorious weakness of the British transport system. [Footnote: Captain Gaisford, who commanded the Khaiber Levies in the Afghan campaign, recommended reforms in the system of transport and supply. He advocated certain American methods, as wind and water-mills to crush and cleanse the petrified and gravelled barley, often issued, and to cut up the inferior hay; the selection of transport employes who understand animals; and more care in transporting horses by sea.] If this has been the case in the numerous small wars in which her forces have been engaged for the last twenty-five years, what may be expected from the strain of a great international campaign.
On the other hand, Great Britain can boast of an inexhaustible capital, not alone of the revenues which have been accumulating during the last quarter of a century, but of patriotism, physical strength, courage, and endurance, peculiar to a race of conquerors.
THE RUSSIAN FORCES AND APPROACHES.
A mere glance at the ponderous military machine with which Russia enforces law and order within her vast domain, and by which she preserves and extends her power, is all that we can give here.
No army in the world has probably undergone, within the last thirty years, such a succession of extensive alterations in organization, in administrative arrangements, and in tactical regulations, as that of Russia. The Crimean War surprised it during a period of transition. Further changes of importance were carried out after that war. Once more, in 1874, the whole military system was remodelled, while ever since the Peace of San Stefano, radical reforms have been in progress, and have been prosecuted with such feverish haste, that it is difficult for the observer to keep pace with them. [Footnote: Sir L. Graham (Journal Royal U. S. Institution).]
The military system of Russia is based upon the principles of universal liability to serve and of territorial distribution. This applies to the entire male population, with certain exemptions or modifications on the ground, respectively, of age or education. Annually there is a "lot-drawing," in which all over twenty, who have not already drawn lots, must take part. Those who draw blanks are excused from service with the colors, but go into the last reserve, or "Opoltschenie."
The ordinary term of service is fifteen years,—six with the colors and nine with the reserves; a reduction is made for men serving at remote Asiatic posts; the War Office may send soldiers into the reserve before the end of their terms. Reduction is also made, from eleven to thirteen years and a half, for various degrees of educational acquirement. Exemptions are also made for family reasons and on account of peculiar occupation or profession. Individuals who personally manage their estates or direct their own commercial affairs (with the exception of venders of strong liquors) may have their entry into service postponed two years. Men are permitted to volunteer at seventeen (with consent of parents or guardians); all volunteers serve nine years in the reserve; those joining the Guards or cavalry must maintain themselves at their own expense. The total contingent demanded for army and navy in 1880 was 235,000, and 231,961 were enrolled; of this deficit of 3,039, the greater number, 3,000, were Jews.
Organization.—The Emperor is the Commander-in-Chief, who issues orders through the War Ministry, whose head is responsible for the general efficiency of the Army. There is also the "Imperial Head-quarters," under a general officer who, in the absence of the War Minister, takes the Emperor's orders and sees to their execution. The War Council, presided over by the War Minister, supervises all financial matters in connection with the army. There are also a High Court of Appeals, and the Head-quarters Staff, who supervise the execution of all military duties. Commissariat, artillery, engineer, medical, military education, Cossack, and judge-advocate departments complete the list of bureaus.
The military forces are arranged into nineteen army corps: five comprise three divisions of infantry; one, two divisions of cavalry; the remainder, two divisions of cavalry and one of infantry; with a due proportion of light artillery and engineers the war strength of an army corps is 42,303 combatants, 10,755 horses, and 108 guns.
When war is declared an army is formed of two or more corps. The general commanding exercises supreme control, civil and military, if the force enters the enemy's country. His staff are detailed much as usual at an American army head-quarters in the field.
There are in the active army—Infantry: 768 battalions (192 regiments, 48 divisions), 54 batt. riflemen. Cavalry: 56 regular regiments (4 cuirassiers, 2 uhlans, 2 hussars, 48 dragoons); 29 regt. Cossacks, divided into 20 divisions, kept in time of peace at 768 men (864 with sub-officers) per regiment. Artillery: 51 brigades, or 303 batteries of 8 guns each; 30 horse-batteries of 6 guns each; besides 14 batteries with Cossack divisions. Fifty "parks" and 20 sections of "parks" supply each infantry brigade and cavalry division with cartridges.
THE LAND FORCES OF RUSSIA. [Footnote: Approximately from latest (1884-85) returns. (Combatants only.)]
EUROPE. Field Troops PEACE. Engineers. 21,335 Cavalry. 52,902 Infantry. 49,581 Artillery. 323,701 Total. 447,519 Horses. 71,565 Guns. 1,188 WAR. Total. 821,243 Horses. 155,149 Guns. 2,172
Reserve, Fortress, and Depot Troops PEACE. Engineers. - Cavalry. 10,504 Infantry. 23,704 Artillery. 54,995 Total. 89,203 Horses. 8,703 Guns. 144 WAR. Total. 891,404 Horses. 109,822 Guns. 1,236
CAUCASUS. Field Troops PEACE. Engineers. 1,548 Cavalry. 12,364 Infantry. 8,442 Artillery. 59,254 Total. 81,608 Horses. 15,927 Guns. 198 WAR. Total. 150,313 Horses. 31,700 Guns. 366
Reserve Fortress Troops PEACE. Engineers. - Cavalry. 5,480 Infantry. 2,860 Artillery. 2,270 Total. 10,610 Horses. 6,137 Guns. 8 WAR. Total. 51,776 Horses. 36,862 Guns. 12
TURKESTAN. PEACE. Engineers. 496 Cavalry. 6,744 Infantry. 2,468 Artillery. 12,522 Total. 22,230 Horses. 8,246 Guns. 48 WAR. Total. 34,125 Horses. 12,780 Guns. 76
SIBERIA. PEACE. Engineers. 244 Cavalry. 2,606 Infantry. 1,273 Artillery. 7,752 Total. 11,875 Horses. 3,412 Guns. 24 WAR. Total. 29,779 Horses. 14,745 Guns. 58
Grand Aggregate of the Empire. PEACE. Engineers. 23,623 Cavalry. 90,600 Infantry. 83,328 Artillery. 460,494 Total. 663,045 Horses. 113,990 Guns. 1,610 WAR. Total. 1,978,640 Horses. 367,089 Guns. 3,920
During 1884 the engineer corps was reorganized. Henceforward the peace establishment will consist of seventeen battalions of sappers; eight battalions of pontoniers; sixteen field-telegraph companies, each of which is mounted, so as to maintain telegraphic communication for forty miles, and have two stations; six engineering parks or trains, each ten sections, carrying each sufficient tools and material for an infantry division; four battalions of military railway engineers; four mine companies; two siege trains, and one telegraph instruction company. The whole is divided into six brigades, and provisions are taken for training recruits and supplying the losses during war. The fortress troops, for the defence of fortresses, consist of forty-three battalions of twelve hundred men each in time of war, and nine companies of three hundred men each. The depot troops, for garrison service, consist of thirteen battalions and three hundred detachments.
The reserve troops supply 204 battalions of infantry, 56 squadrons of cavalry, 57 batteries of artillery, and 34 companies of sappers. If mobilized, they are intended to supply 544 battalions, 56 squadrons, 144 batteries, and 34 companies of engineers. The second reserve, or "Zapas," consists of "cadres" for instruction, organized in time of war.
The training of the Russian infantry comprises that of skirmishing as of most importance; the whistle is used to call attention; the touch is looser in the ranks than formerly; squares to resist cavalry are no longer used; [Footnote: A British officer, who has had good opportunities, says the infantry drill is second to none.] the Berdan breech-loader is the infantry arm; sergeant-majors wear officers' swords, and together with musicians carry revolvers.
A great stimulus has been given to rifle practice in the Russian army, with fair results, but complaint is made of want of good instructors. The dress and equipment of the infantry is noted for an absence of ornament, and hooks are substituted for buttons. Every thing has been made subordinate to comfort and convenience. Woollen or linen bandages are worn instead of socks. The entire outfit of the soldier weighs about fifty pounds. The Guards, alone, are yet permitted to wear their old uniform with buttons. The arms of the Turkestan troops are mixed Berdan and Bogdan rifles. The field clothing is generally linen blouse with cloth shoulder-straps, chamois-leather trousers, dyed red, and a white kepi. Officers wear the same trousers in the field. Cossacks wear gray shirts of camel's hair.
The artillery is divided into field artillery and horse artillery, of which the strength is given elsewhere. The horse batteries have the steel four-pound gun.
Col. Lumley, of the British army, says: "In Russia it is believed that the field artillery is equal to that of any other Power, and the horse artillery superior." Lieut. Grierson, R.A., from his personal observation, confirms this opinion.
It is not too much to say that, in any European conflict in the near future, the Russian cavalry will be conspicuous and extraordinarily effective. In a war with England, in Asia, the use of large bodies of cavalry, organized, instructed, and equipped after the American plan, must become the main feature.
From the wonderful reforms instituted by Russia in her huge army of horsemen, which have put her before all other nations, not excepting Germany, we may expect to hear of wonderful mobility, stunning blows at the enemy's depots, and the appropriation of choice positions under his nose: of stubborn contests with the Anglo-Indian infantry, the only weapon a Berdan carbine; of communications destroyed by high explosives: especially, of the laying waste smiling Afghan valleys, inexpedient to occupy:—these are a few of the surprises to which we may be treated if Russia gets the chance. In this manner she is doubtless prepared to take the initiative in her next war.
[Footnote: The bold operations of General Gourko in the Russo-Turkish war of 1878, afford the best illustration of the versatile qualities of the progressive military horseman since the American war, 1861-5. An Austrian officer says: "The Russian cavalry reconnoitred boldly and continuously, and gave proof of an initiative very remarkable. Every one knows that Russian dragoons are merely foot soldiers mounted, and only half horsemen: however, that it should come to such a point as making dragoons charge with the bayonet, such as took place July 16th near Twardista, seems strange. Cossacks and Hussars dismounted on the 30th, formed skirmishing lines, coming and going under the fire of infantry, protecting their battery, and conducting alone an infantry fight against the enemy. At Eski Zagra, July 31st, the dragoons did not leave the field until all their cartridges were exhausted. On the other hand, the offensive action, and the spirit of enterprise and dash, which are the proper qualifications of cavalry, were not wanting in the Russians."]
The whole of the regular cavalry of the line has been converted into dragoons armed with Berdan rifle and bayonet; the Guard regiments must adopt the same change when ordered into the field, and the Cossacks have been deprived of the lance (excepting for the front rank); new musketry regulations have been prescribed. Great stress is now laid upon the training of both horses and men in the direction of long marches, and the passage of obstacles. Forced marches are also made to cover the greatest possible distances in the shortest possible time.
[Footnote: Among other experiments are noted that of 7 officers and 14 men of the Orenburg Cossacks who in November last in bad weather travelled 410 versts between Niji Novgorod and Moscow in 5 days— about 53 miles a day; then covering 685 versts from Moscow to St. Petersburg in 8 days—56 miles a day; on arrival an inspector reported horses fresh and ready for service; the party was mentioned in orders, and presented to the Czar. A month before, in snow and intense cold, 7 officers and 7 men of the cavalry school covered 370 versts in 4 days—60 miles a day. It is asserted that the best Russian cavalry can travel 70 miles a day, continuously, without injury. General Gourko recently inspected two sotnias of Don Cossacks who had cleared 340 versts in 3 days, or 74 miles a day.]
Swimming was practised in the Warsaw, Odessa, and Moscow districts, the horses being regularly taught with the aid of inflated bags tied under them. The Suprasl was crossed by the entire 4th Cavalry Division swimming. In order to acquire a thorough knowledge of pioneer duty, both the officers and non-commissioned officers of cavalry are attached to the engineer camp for a short course of instruction. In one division a regular pioneer squadron has been formed for telegraphic and heliographic duty. The mounted force, provided for in the Russian establishment, comprises twenty-one divisions of 3,503 sabres and 12 guns each, or an aggregate of 73,563 men and 252 field guns.
A feature of the Russian cavalry equipment is the pioneer outfit, consisting of tools for construction or destruction, as they desire to repair a bridge or destroy a railroad; this outfit for each squadron is carried on a pack-mule; dynamite is carried in a cart with the ammunition train.
The Cossack (except of the Caucasus) is armed with a long lance (front rank only), a sabre without guard, and a Berdan rifle. Those of the Caucasus have in addition pistol and dagger, besides a nagaska or native whip. The uniform is blue, high boots, fur cap, cloak with cape. The snaffle-bit is universally used, even by the officers, although the average Russian troop-horse is noted for his hard mouth.
In the mounted drill of the Cossacks there is a charge as skirmishers (or "foragers") called the "lava," which is executed at a great pace and with wild yells of "Hourra!"
Lieut. Grierson, of the British army, writes that: "A big fine man mounted on a pony, with his body bent forward and looking very top-heavy, always at a gallop, and waving his enormous whip, the Cossack presents an almost ludicrous appearance to one accustomed to our stately troopers. But this feeling is dashed with regret that we possess no such soldiers."
Transport and Supply.—The Russian system of transport is in a very experimental and unsatisfactory state. It is the only army which provides regimentally for the personnel and materiel of this department. In each regiment is a non-combatant company, in which all men required for duty without arms are mustered.
All military vehicles required for the regiment are under charge of this company. The intention of the system now developing is to reduce the quantity of transportation required. [Footnote: In 1878 the head-quarters baggage of the Grand Duke Nicholas required five hundred vehicles and fifteen hundred horses to transport it.] Besides the wagons and carts used for ordinary movements of troops, Russia will, in Afghanistan, depend upon the animals of the country for pack-trains and saddle purposes. After the Camel, of which large numbers exist in the region bordering Afghanistan on the north, the most important aid to Russian military mobility is the remarkable Kirghiz Horse. The accounts of the strength, speed, endurance, and agility of this little animal are almost incredible, [Footnote: In 1869 a Russian detachment of five hundred men, mounted on Kirghiz horses, with one gun and two rocket-stands, traversed in one month one thousand miles in the Orenburg Steppe, and only lost three horses; half of this march was in deep sand. In October, M. Nogak (a Russian officer) left his detachment en route, and rode one horse into Irgiz, 166-2/3 miles in 34 hours.] but they are officially indorsed in many instances. He is found in Turkestan, and is more highly prized than any other breed. The Kirghiz horse is seldom more than fourteen hands, and, with the exception of its head, is fairly symmetrical; the legs are exceptionally fine, and the hoofs well formed and hard as iron. It is seldom shod, and with bare feet traverses the roughest country with the agility of a chamois, leaping across wide fissures on the rocks, climbing the steepest heights, or picking its way along mere sheep-tracks by the side of yawning precipices, or covering hundreds of versts through heavy sand, with a heavier rider, day after day. Its gaits are a rapid and graceful walk of five and one half to six miles an hour, and an amble [Footnote: Moving both feet on a side almost simultaneously.] at the maximum rate of a mile in two minutes. This animal crosses the most rapid streams not over three and one half feet deep, lined with slippery boulders, with ease. They are good weight carriers. [Footnote: The mounted messengers (pony express) over the steppes, use these horses, and carry with them, over stages of 350 miles in 8 days, an equipment and supplies for man and horse of nearly 300 pounds.] With a view of stimulating horse-breeding in Turkestan, the government in 1851 offered prizes for speed. [Footnote: The greatest speed recorded (1853.) was 13-1/2 miles (on a measured course) in 27 minutes and 30 seconds.] Kirghiz horses have been thoroughly tested in the Russian army. For modern cavalry and horse-artillery purposes they are unsurpassed. The average price is L6, but an ambler will bring L12. Great Britain is said to possess 2,800,000 horses, while Russia, in the Kirghiz steppes alone, possesses 4,000,000 saddle or quick-draught horses.
The supply of the Russian army is carefully arranged under the central Intendance. The ration in the field was, in 1878, 14.3 ounces of meat, 14.9 black bread, preserved vegetables and tea, with an issue of brandy in the winter. Immense trains follow each division, at intervals, forming consecutive mobile magazines of food. A division provision train can carry ten days' supply for 230,000 men.
Forage is now supplied for transport in compressed cakes, of which 20,000,000 were used by Russia in her last war. [Footnote: A compressed ration of forage was extensively used by the Russians in 1878, weighing 3-1/2 pounds; 5 days' supply could be carried on the saddle with ease.]
Clothing is furnished by the supply bureau of certain regions in which there are large government factories; it is usual to keep on hand for an emergency 500,000 sets of uniform clothing.
Routes.—Having devoted a share of our limited space to an account of the roads leading to Herat, from India, we may consider, briefly, certain approaches to Afghanistan or India from the northwest. This subject has been so clearly treated in a recent paper read before the Royal United Service Institution by Captain Holdich, R.E., who surveyed the region referred to, in 1880, that we quote liberally as follows:
In improving our very imperfect acquaintance, both with the present military resources and position of Russia in Central Asia, and of the difficulties presented both geographically and by the national characteristics of the races that she would have to encounter in an advance south of the Oxus, a good deal has been already learned from the Afghans themselves. Among the turbulent tribes dwelling in and around Kabul, whose chief and keenest interest always lies in that which bears, more or less directly, on their chances of success in mere faction fights, which they seem to regard as the highest occupation in life, the Russian factor in the general game must be a matter of constant discussion. Thus it may possibly arise from their individual interest in their national position that there is no better natural geographer in the world than the Afghan of the Kabul district. There is often an exactness about his method of imparting information (sometimes a careful little map drawn out with a pointed stick on the ground) which would strike one as altogether extraordinary, but for the reflection that this one accomplishment is probably the practical outcome of the education of half a lifetime.
Russia's bases of military operations towards India are two: one on the Caspian Sea at Krasnovodsk, and Chikishliar, with outposts at Chat and Kizil Arvat; and the other on the line of Khiva, Bokhara, Samarcand, and Margillan, which may roughly be said to represent the frontier held (together with a large extent of boundary south of Kuldja) by the Army of Tashkend, under General Kaufmann. But between this latter line and the Oxus, Russia is undoubtedly already the dominant Power. The mere fact of Russia having already thoroughly explored all these regions, gives her the key to their future disposal. There is no doubt that in all matters relating to the acquirement of geographical knowledge, where it bears on possible military operations, Russian perceptions are of the keenest. Her surveying energies appear to be always concentrated on that which yet lies beyond her reach, rather than in the completion of good maps to aid in the right government of that which has already been acquired.
With what lies north of the Oxus we can have very little to say or to do; therefore it matters the less that in reality we know very little about it. The Oxus is not a fordable river. At Khoja Saleh, which is the furthest point supposed to have been reached by the Aral flotilla, it is about half a mile wide, with a slow current. At Charjui it is about the same width, only rapid and deep. At Karki it is said to be one thousand yards wide, and at Kilif perhaps a quarter of a mile. But at all these places there are ferries, and there would be ample means of crossing an army corps, if we take into account both the Aral flotilla and the native material, in the shape of large flat-bottomed boats, capable of containing one hundred men each, used for ferrying purposes, of which there are said to be three hundred between Kilif and Hazarasp. These boats are drawn across the river by horses swimming with ropes attached to their manes. But under any circumstances it seems about as unlikely that any British force would oppose the passage of a Russian army across the Oxus as that it would interfere with the Russian occupation of the trans-Oxus districts; but once south of the Oxus, many new conditions of opposition would come into play, arising principally from the very different national characteristics of the southern races to those farther north. It would no longer be a matter of pushing an advance through sandy and waterless deserts, or over wild and rugged mountains, difficulties which in themselves have never yet retarded the advance of a determined general, but there would be the reception that any Christian foe would almost certainly meet at the hands of a warlike and powerful people, who can unite with all the cohesion of religious fanaticism, backed up by something like military organization and a perfect acquaintance with the strategical conditions of their country. Most probably there would be no serious local opposition to the occupation by Russia of a line extending from Balkh eastwards through Khulm and Kunduz to Faizabad and Sarhadd, all of which places can be reached without great difficulty from the Oxus, and are connected by excellent lateral road communications. But the occupation of such a line could have but one possible object, which would be to conceal the actual line of further advance. Each of these places may be said to dominate a pass to India over the Hindoo Kush. Opposite Sarhadd is the Baroghil, leading either to Kashmir or to Mastuj and the Kunar valley. Faizabad commands the Nuksa Pass. Khulm looks southwards to Ghozi and the Parwan Pass into Kohistan, while from Balkh two main routes diverge, one to Bamian and Kabul, the other to Maimana and Herat.
It would be a great mistake to suppose that this short list disposes of all the practicable passes over the Hindoo Kush. The range is a singularly well-defined one throughout its vast length; but it is not by any means a range of startling peaks and magnificent altitudes. It is rather a chain of very elevated flattish-topped hills, spreading down in long spurs to the north and south, abounding in warm sheltered valleys and smiling corners, affording more or less pasture even in its highest parts, and traversed by countless paths. Many of these paths are followed by Kuchis in their annual migrations southward, with their families and household goods piled up in picturesque heaps on their hardy camels, or with large herds of sheep and goats, in search of fresh pasturage. South of the Hindoo Kush we find most of the eastern routes to our northwest frontier to converge in one point, very near to Jelalabad. There are certain routes existing between the Russian frontier and India which pass altogether east of this point. There is one which can be followed from Tashkend to Kashgar, and over the Karakoram range, and another which runs by the Terek Pass to Sarhadd, and thence over the Baroghil into Kashmir; but these routes have justly, and by almost universal consent, been set aside as involving difficulties of such obvious magnitude that it would be unreasonable to suppose that any army under competent leadership could be committed to them. The same might surely be said of the route by the Nuksan Pass into the valley of Chitral and the Kunar, which joins the Khyber route not far from Jelalabad. Its length and intricacy alone, independently of the intractable nature of the tribes which border it on either side, and of the fact that the Nuksan Pass is only open for half the year, would surely place it beyond the consideration of any general who aspired to invade India after accomplishing the feat of carrying an army through it. West of Kafirstan across the Hindoo Kush are, as we have said, passes innumerable, but only three which need be regarded as practicable for an advancing force, all the others more or less converging into these three. These are the Khak, the Kaoshan (or Parwan, also called Sar Alang), and the Irak. The Khak leads from Kunduz via Ghori and the valley of the Indarab to the head of the Panjshir valley. Its elevation is about thirteen thousand feet. It is described as an easy pass, probably practicable for wheeled artillery. The Panjshiris are Tajaks, and, like the Kohistanis generally, are most bigoted Suniu Mohammedans. The rich and highly cultivated valley which they inhabit forms a grand highway into Kohistan and Koh Dahman; but all this land of terraced vineyards and orchards, watered by snow-cold streams from the picturesque gorges and mountain passes of the Hindoo Kush and Paghman mountains,—this very garden of Afghanistan, stretching away southwards to the gates of Kabul, is peopled by the same fierce and turbulent race who have ever given the best fighting men to the armies of the Amirs, and who have rendered the position of Kabul as the ruling capital of Afghanistan a matter of necessity; with their instincts of religious hostility, it will probably be found that the Kohistani, rather than the Hindoo Kush, is the real barrier between the north and the south. The Sar Alang or Parwan Pass leads directly from Kunduz and Ghori to Charikar and Kabul. It is the direct military route between Afghan Turkestan and the seat of the Afghan Government, but is not much used for trade. It cannot be much over eleven thousand feet elevation, and it is known to be an easy pass, though somewhat destitute of fuel and forage. The next route of importance is that which leads from Balkh, via Bamian, to the Irak Pass on the Hindoo Kush, and into the upper watercourse of the Helmund River, and thence by the Unai over the Paghman range to Kabul. This is the great trade route from the markets of Turkestan and Central Asia generally to Kabul and India. The Irak, like the Parwan, is not nearly so high as has been generally assumed, while the Unai is a notoriously easy pass. This route is at present very much better known to the Russians, who have lately frequently traversed it, than to ourselves. Like the Parwan and the Khak, it is liable to be closed for three or four months of the year by snow. During the winter of 1879-80 they were open till late in December, and appear to be again free from snow about the middle of April. Between these main passes innumerable tracks follow the "durras," or lines of watercourse, over the ridges of the Hindoo Kush and Paghman, which afford easy passage to men on foot and frequently also to "Kuchi" camels. These passes (so far as we can learn) could, any of them, be readily made available for mountain artillery with a very small expenditure of constructive labor and engineering skill. In Koh Dahman nearly every village of importance lying at the foot of the eastern slopes of the Paghman (such as Beratse, Farza, Istalif, etc.) covers a practicable pass over the Paghman, which has its continuation across the Shoreband valley and over the ridge of the Hindoo Kush beyond it. But between the Khak Pass and the Irak, the various routes across the Hindoo Kush, whether regarded as routes to India or to Kandahar, although they by no means converge on Kabul City, must necessarily pass within striking distance of an army occupying Kabul. Such a force would have, first of all, thoroughly to secure its communication with the Oxus, and a strong position at Kabul itself.
Having the official statement of a military engineer with reference to the Oxus-Hindu-Kush line, as a barrier or base or curtain, we may pass to the principal approach to Herat from the northwest.
There are four distinct lines by which Russia could move on Herat:
I. From the Caspian base a trans-Caucasian army corps could move (only with the concurrence and alliance of Persia) by the Mashed route direct;
II. Or it could move outside Persian territory, from Chikishliar by the Bendessen Pass to Asterabad, and would then have to pass through Persian territory to Sarakhs, or across the desert to Merv;
III. From the Tashkend-Bokhara base a route exists via Charjui, the Oxus, direct to Merv; and there is
IV. Also the well-known road by Balkh and Mamiana, direct to Herat.
Routes III. and IV. having just been discussed, let us look at Routes I. and II.
Referring to the small outline map of the trans-Caspian region, herewith, it will be seen that troops could embark from Odessa in the fleet of merchant steamers available, and, if not molested en route by hostile cruisers, would reach Batum in from 2 to 3 days, thence by rail to Baku in 24 hours, another 24 hours through the Caspian Sea to Krasnovodsk, a transfer in lighters to the landing at Michaelovsk, and the final rail transportation to the present terminus of the track beyond Kizil Arvat; this, it is said, will soon reach Askabad, 310 miles from Herat. The Secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society, Mr. Cust, with his wife, passed over this route in 1883, and testifies to the ease and comfort of the transit and to the great number of vessels engaged in the oil trade, which are available for military purposes, both on the Black and Caspian seas. He estimates that they could easily carry 8,000 men at a trip. [Footnote: Mr. Cust says: "There are three classes of steamers on the Caspian. 1, the Imperial war steamers with which Russia keeps down piracy; 2, the steamers of the Caucasus and Mercury Company, very numerous and large vessels; 3, petroleum vessels—each steamer with a capacity of 500 men."]
General Hamley [Footnote: Lecture before R. U. S. Institution (London), 1884.] says: "We may assume that if on the railway (single track) the very moderate number of 12 trains a day can run at the rate of 12 miles an hour, the journey would occupy 40 hours. The successive detachments would arrive, then, easily in two days at Sarakhs. A division may be conveyed, complete, in 36 trains. Thus, in six days a division would be assembled at Sarakhs ready to move on the advanced guard. An army corps, with all its equipments and departments, would be conveyed in 165 trains in 17 days. It would then be 200 miles—another 17 days' march—from Herat. Thus, adding a day for the crossing of the Caspian, the army corps from Baku would reach Herat in 35 days. Also the advance of a corps from Turkestan upon Kabul is even more practicable than before." [Footnote: In his plan of invasion, Skobeleff thought 50,000 men might undertake the enterprise without fear of disaster. This force could be doubled from the Caucasus alone.]
The route from Tchikishliar via Asterabad (where it strikes the main Teheran-Mashed-Herat road) would be an important auxiliary to the railway line, via Asterabad. There is also a more direct caravan track running south of this across the Khorassan, from Asterabad (through Shahrud, Aliabad, Khaf, Gurian) to Herat; or, at Shahrud, an excellent road running between the two already described straight (via Sabzawar and Nishapar) to Mashed.
From Sarakhs to Merv the road is said to be good and fairly supplied with water. From Merv to Herat the well-worn expression "coach and four" has been used to denote the excellent condition of the road. [Footnote: For the first 100 miles the road follows the Murghab, which Abbott describes as "a deep stream of very pure water, about 60 feet in breadth, and flowing in a channel mired to the depth of 30 feet in the clay soil of the valley; banks precipitous and fringed with lamarisk and a few reeds."] Yalatun is described as fertile, well populated, and unhealthy. [Footnote: Band-i-Yalatun, or "bank which throws the waters of the Murghab into the canal of Yalatun."] From Penjdeh, where the river is sometimes fordable, the road follows the Khusk River, and, ascending the Koh-i-Baber Pass, descends into the Herat valley, immediately beneath it. [Footnote: Before closing the chapter on the "Russian Forces," a brief description of the order of march customary in Central Asia may be proper. From a translation by Major Clarke, R.A., from Kotensko's "Turkestan," it appears that the horses accompanying Central Asian detachments are so considerable that the latter form, as it were, the escort of the former. As an Asiatic enemy nearly always attacks from every side, the distribution of the troops, during the march, must be such that they may be able to repulse the enemy no matter where he may appear. Usually, a half sotnia (70 men) of cavalry marches in advance at a distance from 3/4 to 1-1/3 miles, so as to be in view of main body. Immediately in front of main body marches a detachment of sappers and a company or two of infantry; then part of the artillery; then more infantry; the train; behind the train, remainder of artillery and infantry; as a rear guard, a sotnia of cavalry. Bivouacs in the Steppe are usually chosen at wells, and are, in many respects, similar to those customary in the Indian country in America. First, an outer line of carts or wagons; then the troops; and inside, all the animals. The accompanying diagram is from The Journal Royal United Service Institution (London).]
REVIEW OF THE MILITARY SITUATION.
The purpose of this volume has been to give as much reliable information upon the cause of the Anglo-Russian dispute, the nature of the probable theatre of operations in case of war, and of the armies of the Powers concerned, as could be obtained and printed within a single fortnight. The richness of the available material made this especially difficult, comprising as it did the record of recent campaigns in Afghanistan, as well as the opinions of those who, like Vambery, Veniukoff, Rawlinson, Napier, and Cust, are authorities upon Asiatic topics.
As these lines are written [Footnore: April 18, 1885.] the civilized nations of the world await with bated breath the next scene upon the Afghan stage.
Seldom when two gladiators, armed and stripped, enter the arena does a doubt exist as to their purpose. Yet such an exceptional uncertainty attends the presence of England and Russia on the border of Afghanistan.
At least 50,000 British soldiers are drawn up in front of the Indus awaiting a signal from their Queen. Nearly twice that number of Russian troops are massed on or near the northwestern angle of the Ameer's country. [Footnote: Since the events noted in our first chapter (page 12) transpired, another page has been added to Afghanistan's blood-stained record. After confronting each other on the Khusk River for some weeks a large Russian force under General Komaross attacked (March 30, 1885) the Afghan troops at Penjdeh, and after a gallant resistance on the part of the native garrison it was utterly routed and the town occupied by the victors. The Russian casualties were inconsiderable, but the Afghans lost nearly 1,000 men.]
It is impossible to eliminate, altogether, from a study of the present military situation, certain political elements.
It is apparent that the Russians near Herat stand practically at "the forks of the road"; it is a three-pronged fork—one branch running due south to the sea and two branches due east to India. The first-named requires but passing comment and only as it relates to Herat, planted on a route which cannot be controlled without its possession, for military and commercial reasons well understood.
As already explained, the routes to India, available to Russia, enable her to move from her base on the Merv-Herat line, both via Balkh and Kabul, for the purpose of flanking a British column moving from Quetta westward, or of raiding the rich valley of the Helmund; from Turkestan above this route, a British force moving from Kabul to Balkh could also be threatened. By the main Herat-Kandahar route an advance from the east could also be directly opposed; the crossing of the Helmund by either army would probably be contested.
In case of war, whether Anglo-Russian or Russo-Afghan, the first great battle would doubtless be fought on the Kandahar-Ghazni-Kabul line.
General Hamley, the leading British military authority, [Footnote: Lieut.-General Sir. E. Hamley, K.C.B.] shows that this line is, of all proposed, at once the most practicable and desirable line for the defence of India. [Footnote: Three lines had been considered: first, the line of the Eastern Sulimani, but this would leave the seaport of Kurrachee unprotected; second, from Pishin northeast to Kabul.] He says: "We should have a strong British governor in Kandahar, and a strong British force on the Helmund and on the road to Kabul; the railway completed to Kandahar, and, in case of a movement from Turkestan against Kabul, a force on our side on its way to occupy that city, and new recruiting grounds open to us amid warlike populations. Surely there can be no question as to which of these two sets of circumstances would give us most influence in Afghanistan, most power to oppose Russia and to maintain confidence in India." [Footnote: Gen. Hamley's remarks were made before the Royal United Service Institution (May 18, 1884), and, in the discussion which followed, Colonel Malleson said: "Recently in India some influential natives said to me: 'Russia will continue her advance; she will not stop until she has gained the fertile country of Herat, and then she will intrigue with the native princes behind the Indus, and when you send an army to meet her, you will find those native princes rising in your rear.' I may fortify my own experience by what was told me by an Austrian gentleman who visited India about seven years ago. He paid a visit to the Maharaja, of Cashmere, who said to him: 'From you I hope to get the truth; you are not an Englishman nor a Russian. Tell me which is the stronger— the English power or the Russian; because it will be necessarily my duty, if Russia should advance, and if I should find Russia stronger than England, to go for the defence of my throne on the side of Russia.'"]
The same authority approves Sir Michael Biddulph's recommendation to utilize the strong natural positions near Girishk on the Helmund. As to Afghanistan he testifies: "With a power like Russia closing on it, holding Persia and Persian resources subject to its will, it is in vain to think that Afghanistan will be long independent even in name. It is between hammer and anvil, or, to use a still more expressive metaphor, between the devil and the deep sea. Bound to us by no traditions, by no strong political influences such as might have been used to constrain them, the Afghan tribes, mercenary and perfidious to a proverb, an aggregate of tribes—not a nation,—will lose no time, when the moment occurs, in siding with the great power which promises most lavishly, or which can lay strongest hold on them."
The burning words with which General Hamley closed his lecture one year ago are singularly true to-day, and form a fitting termination to this sketch:
"I do not undervalue the many influences which will always oppose any policy entailing expense. But if the present question is found to be—How shall we guard against a terrible menace to our Indian Empire? any cost to be incurred can hardly be admitted as a reason which ought to influence our course. Magnanimous trustfulness in the virtue and guilelessness of rival states; distrust and denunciation of all who would chill this inverted patriotism by words of warning; refusal of all measures demanding expense which do not promise a pecuniary return:—such is the kind of liberality of sentiment which may ruin great nations. The qualities of the lamb may be very excellent qualities, but they are specially inapplicable to dealings with the wolf. Do those who shrink from expense think that the presence of Russia in Afghanistan will be inexpensive to us? Will the weakness which will be the temptation and the opportunity of Russia be less costly than effectual defence? When we enter the councils of Europe to assert our most vital interests, shall we speak as we have been accustomed to speak, when our free action is fettered by the imminent perpetual menace to India? These are questions which, now put forth to this limited audience, will, perhaps, within the experience of most of us, be thundered in the ears of the nation. England is just now not without serious perplexities, but none are so fraught with possibilities of mischief as the storm which is now gathering on the Afghan frontier."
LIST OF AUTHORITIES.
[Footnote: Unless otherwise designated, the authors named are officers of the British Army, and nearly all the works are in the Library of the Military Service Institution of the United States, (Governor's Island, N. Y. H.).]
[Source 1: Journal Royal United Service Institution (London).]
[Source 2: Journal of the United Service Institution of India (Simla).]
ANDERSON, Capt. "A Scheme for Increasing the Strength of the Native Armies," etc. 
ARMY LIST, British Official, 1885.
BIDDULPH, Gen. "The March from the Indus to the Helmund." 
BELLEW, H. W., C.S.I. "A New Afghan Question." 
BENGOUGH, Lieut-Col. "Mounted Infantry."  (From the Russian.)
BISCHOFF, Major. "The Caucasus and its Significance to Russia." (Ger.) 
BLUNDELL, Col. "British Military Power with Reference to War Abroad." 
BAKER, Col. "The Military Geography of Central Asia." 
COLQUHOUN, Capt. "On the Development of the Resources of India in a Military Point of View." 
CANTLEY, Major. "Reserves for the Indian Army." 
CALLEN, Major. "The Volunteer Force of India," etc. 
CAVENAGH, Gen. "Our Indian Army." 
CHAPMAN, Lieut-Col. "The March from Kabul to Kandahar in 1880." 
CLARKE, Capt, "Recent Reforms in the Russian Army." 
CUST, R., Sec. R.A.S. "The Russians on the Caspian and Black Seas." 
DAVIDSON, Major. "The Reasons why Difficulty is Experienced in Recruiting for the Native Army." 
DALTON, Capt. "Skobeleff's Instructions for the Reconnaisance and Battle of Geok-Tepe."  (From the French.)
ELIAS, Capt. "A Streak of the Afghan War." 
ESME-FORBES, Lieut. "Cavalry Reform." 
FURSE, Major. "Various Descriptions of Transport." 
GAISFORD, Capt. "New Model Transport Cart for Ponies and Mules." 
GLOAG, Col. "Military Reforms in India." 
GOWAN, Major. "Progressive Advance of Russia in Central Asia."  "The Army of Bokhara."  "Russian Military Manoeuvres in the Province of Jaxartes."  (From the Russian.)
GRAHAM, Col. "The Russian Army in 1882." 
GORDON, Capt. "Bengal Cavalry in Egypt." 
GRIERSON, Lieut. "The Russian Cavalry," and "The Russian Mounted Troops in 1883." 
GREENE, Capt. "Sketches of Army Life in Russia." (New York, 1881.)
GRIFFITHS, Major. "The English Army." (London.)
GREY, Major. "Military Operations in Afghanistan." 
GERARD, Capt. "Rough Notes on the Russian Army in 1876." 
GOLDSMID, Gen. "From Bamian to Sonmiani."  "On Certain Roads between Turkistan and India." 
HEYLAND, Major. "Military Transport Required for Rapid Movements." 
HOLDICH, Capt. "Between Russia and India." 
HENNEKEN, Gen. "Studies on the Probable Course and Result of a War between Russia and England."  (From the Russian.)
HILDYARD, Lieut.-Col. "The Intendance, Transport, and Supply Service in Continental Armies." 
HASKYNS, Capt. "Notice of the Afghan Campaigns in 1879-81. From an Engineer's View." 
HAMLEY, Lieut.-Gen., Sir E. "Russia's Approaches to India." (1884.) 
JOURNAL of the Military Service Institution of the United States.
KELTIE, J. S. "The Statesman's Year-Book." (London, 1885.)
KIRCHHAMMER, A. "The Anglo-Afghan War."  (From the German.)
KOTENSKO. "The Horses and Camels of Central Asia."  "Turkestan."  (From the Russian.)
LITTLE, Col. "Afghanistan and England in India."  (From the German.)
LEVERSON, Lieut. "March of the Turkistan Detachment across the Desert," etc.  (From the Russian.)
MARTIN, Capt. "Tactics in the Afghan Campaign,"  "Notes on the Operations in the Kurrum Valley."  "Horse-Breeding in Australia and India."  "Notes on the Management of Camels in the 10th Company Sappers and Miners on Field Service."  "British Infantry in the Hills and Plains of India." 
MORGAN, D. "A Visit to Kuldja, and the Russo-Chinese Frontier." 
MORTON, Capt. "Gourko's Raid."  (From the French.)
MACKENZIE, Lieut.-Gen. "Storms and Sunshine of a Soldier's Life."
MOSA, P. "The Russian Campaign of 1879," etc.  (From the Russian.)
MEDLEY, Col. "The Defence of the Northwest Frontier." 
NEWALL, Lieut.-Col. "On the Strategic Value of Cashmere in Connection with the Defence of Our Northwest Frontier." 
O'DONOVAN, E. "The Merv Oasis." (New York, 1883.)
PRICE, Capt. "Notes on the Sikhs as Soldiers for Our Army." 
PITT, Lieut. "A Transport Service for Asiatic Warfare," etc. 
ROSS, D., (Delhi Railway). "Transport by Rail of Troops, Horses, Guns, and War Materials." 
ST. JOHN, Major. "Persia: Its Physical Geography and People." 
STRONG, Capt. "The Education of Native Officers in the Indian Army." 
STEEL, Veterinary-Surgeon. "Camels in Connection with the South African Expedition, 1878-1879." 
SHAW, Major. "Army Transport." 
SANDERSON, G. P. "The Elephant in Freedom and in Captivity." 
TEMPLE, Lieut. "An Historical Parallel—The Afghans and Mainotes." 
TYRRELL, Lieut.-Col. "The Races of the Madras Army." 
TROTTER, Capt. "The Tribes of Turkistan." 
TRENCH, Col. "Cavalry in Modern War." (London, 1884.)
UPTON, Gen. "The Armies of Asia and Europe." (New York, 1878.)
VENIUKOFF, Col. "The Progress of Russia in Central Asia."  (From the Russian.)
YALDWYN, Capt. "Notes on the Camel." 
Abazai, mil. post Abbaza, village Abdurrahman, the Ameer Absuna, pass Abul-Khair Afghanistan: Territory; mountains; rivers; roads, animals; people; army; cities; military history Ahmed-Kheil, city Ahmed-Shah Akbar Khan Akbar, the Great Akhunt Ziarut, city Akton Khel, city Alexander I. Alexander, Czar Alexander of Macedon Ali Musjid, fort Altai, river Aliabad Amu Daria (Oxus), river Aral, sea Argandab, valley; river Army, British: Strength; organization; transport; supply; routes; operations Indian Army, Russian: Strength; organization; transport; supply; routes Aryan, race Askabad Assin Killo, city Asterabad Atta Karez, mountain Attreck, river Auckland, Lord Aulicata, city Auran, mountain Aurangzeb Ayoub Khan
Baber Khan Baku Balkash, mountain Balkh, city Bamian, pass Baroghil, pass Barshor, valley Baru, military post Batum Bekovitch, Gen. Beloochistan, state Bendessen, pass Bengal, city Beratse, village Berlin, city Biddulph, Sir M. Billigarungan, hills Bolan, pass Bokhara, province Bombay, city Bori, valley Bost, city Broadfoot, Capt. Browne, Gen. Brydon, Dr. Bunnoo, mil. post Burnes, agent Burrows, Gen.
Calmucks Camel Cashmere, Maharaja Caspian, sea Catharine II. Cavagnari, Major Ceylon, island Chapman, Col. Charikar, town Chat, town Charjui, town Chelmsford, Lord Chemkent, city Chikishliar, town Chitral, town Clarke, Major Conolly, M. Cossacks Cust, Mr.
Dadur, city Dakka, city Dasht-i-Bedowlat, mountain Delhi, city Dera Ghazi Khan, village Dera Ismail Khan, city Derajat, district Djungaria, province Doaba, military post Dost, Mohammed Dozan, city
Elephant Ellenborough, Lord Elphinstone, Gen. Eski Zagra, town
Faizabad, city Farrah, town Farza, village Fergana, province Ferrier, Gen.
Gaisford, Capt. Gayud Yara, plain Geok Tepe, fort Genghiz Khan Ghazgar, valley Ghazni, city Ghilzai, district Ghori, valley Gilan, province Gindari, mountain Girishk, city Gordon, Col. Gourko, Gen. Graham, Sir L. Green, Col. Grierson, Lieut. Guikok, range Gujrat, city Guleir Surwandi, pass Gundamuck, city Gundana, town Gurian, city
Haines, Sir F. Hamley, Gen. Har-i-Rud Hazaristan, river Hazarasp, city Hazardarakht, mountain Hazarnao, city Helmund, river Herat, city; river Himalayas, mountain Hindu Kush, mountain Hobhouse, Sir J. C. Hodjeni, province Holdich, Capt. Horse, yabu; khirgiz
Inderabad, river India, On the threshold of Indus, river Irak, pass Irgiz, fort Irtish, river Ispahan, city Istalif, village
Jacobadad, city Jagdallack, pass Jamrud, city Jelalabad, city Jizakh, province Jumrud, military post
Kabul, city; river Kachi, plains Kadani, plains Kafristan, province Kabriz, fort kalat, city Kandahar, city Karakoran, mountain Karkacha, pass Karki, town Kash, river; city Kashgar Kashmir, city Kaufmann, Gen. Kelat, town Khaiber, pass Khanikoff, M. Khaf Khak, pass Khinar, pass Khiva, province Khoja-Saleh, city Khokand, province Khoja-Amran, mountain ridge Khorassan, province Khulm, city Khurd-Kabul, pass Khurd-Khaiber, pass Khusk', river Khirtar, mountain Kilif, city Kizil Arvat, city Koh Daman, mountain Kohut, mil. post Kohistan, province Koh-i-Baber, mountain Kokiran, district Komaroff, Gen. Kotensko Krasnovodsk, city Kuh-i-Baba, mountain Kujlak-Kekur, valley Kuldja, city Kunar valley Kunduz, city Kurrachee, city Kuram, river; valley; fort Kusmore, village Kussun, fort
Lalaberg, valley Lalgoshi, village Lahore, city Landi Khana, village Lash Jowain, city Lakhareff, Gen. Logar, valley London, city Lora, river Lumsden, Sir P. Lumley, Col.
Mackenzie, Gen. C. Mackeson, fort McNaghten, Sir W. Mahmoud, sultan Mahomet Mahommed Azim Maimana, town Malleson, Col. Malta Margilan, town Maris, tribe Martin, Lieut. Marvin, C. Mashed, city Mastuj, town Maude, Gen. Mazanderan, province McClellan, saddle Merv, province Michaelovsk, town Michni, fort Mithunkot, town Mogul Mooktur valley Mooltan, city Moscow, city Mulla, pass Munro, fort Murchat, town Murghab, river Mysore, province
Nadir, Shah Nahur, Maharajah of Napier, Lord Napoleon Nicholas, Grand Duke Nijni Novgorod, town Nishuper, town— Nogak, M. Nott, Gen. Nuksan, pass
Odessa, city O'Donovan, M. Orenburg, province Orloff, Gen. Outram, Capt. Oxus, (See Amer. Daria)
Paghman, mountains Panjshir, valley Panjwai, town Paropismus, mountains Parwan, pass Pat, clay Paul, Emperor Peiwar, pass Pekin Penjdeh, town Persia Perwan, pass Perovsky, fort Peter the Great Petropanlovsk, province Peshawur, city Pishin, village; plain Pollock, Gen. Pottinger, Major Primrose, Gen.
Raganpur, city Rawlinson, Sir H. Roberts, Gen. Rogan, village Ross, railway manager Rudbar, town Russian Army: strength; organization; transport; supply; routes
Sabzawar, city Sale, Sir R. Samarcand, city Samson San Stefano Sarahks, town Sargo, pass Sarhadd, town Saunders, Major Scinde, province Seistan, district Shahrud, town Shere Ali Shikapur, town Shul Kadar, fort Shurtargurdan, pass Singh Runjit Sirpul, town Skobeleff, Gen. Stewart, Sir D. Stolietoff, Gen. St. Petersburg Sufed Koh, mountain Sujah Shah Sulimani, mountains Suprasl, river Surkh Denkor Surkhab river
Takwir, mountain Taktipul, town Targai, fort Tartara, pass Tashkend, city Teheran Tehernayeff, Gen. Tejend, river Temple, Sir R. Terek, pass Timwi Trench, Col. Troitsk, province Turkestan Turnak, valley Twarditsa, town
Unai, river Ural, mountains
Vambery, M. Veniukoff, M. Vernoye, fort Volga, river
Warsaw, city Washir, town Wolseley, Lord
Yakoub, Khan Yalatun, town Yaldwin, Capt. Yaxartes, river
Zurmat, district Zohak, fort