On their return, the whole party, with several French officers and men, were surrounded by the Chinese. Some were cut down, and others were made prisoners; but Colonel Walker, suspecting what was about to occur, called out to those of his companions near him to charge for their lives through the midst of the enemy. At the word of command, they bent down to their horses' necks, and spurred their chargers through the Tartar ranks, which gave way before them; and though a fire was opened on them, one dragoon only was wounded. The action instantly commenced; but after lasting two hours, the enemy, unable to withstand the fierce charges of the cavalry and the hot fire of the Armstrong guns, gave way in all directions, being dreadfully cut up by the Dragoon Guards and Fane's and Probyn's Horse.
On the 21st, the Allies, being strengthened by the arrival of 1000 French troops, again advanced to meet the enemy. General Michel's division was on the left, and the cavalry brigade and the marines, and the 2nd Queen's taking the extreme left. While Sir Hope Grant was riding towards the French, to confer with General Montauban, a furious charge was made towards him and his staff by a large body of Tartar cavalry. The General and his followers, at once galloping to the right and left, disclosed the Armstrong guns, which had just before been ordered to move their position. They were, however, under the command of Lieutenant Rochfort, who, as he was about to obey the order, saw the threatening movement of the enemy. He therefore held his ground, and when the General and his staff rode aside, he was ready for action. At first the range was incorrect. With perfect coolness he altered the elevation, and, as the Tartars came on, yelling furiously, opened a fire which, aided by the rifles of the 2nd Queen's, emptied many a saddle, and sent the enemy speedily to the right-about, with yells of terror and despair. Another body of Tartar cavalry were posted on an eminence which had a sudden fall at the foot of it, with a deep ditch in front. It was evident that they thought the cavalry could not pass this ditch, and that they might easily pick them off with their matchlocks. The 1st Dragoon Guards, however, rode at it, and cleared the ditch, one or two men only getting out of the ranks. The dragoons then made a furious charge, and soon put the Tartars to flight. Finally, the Chinese intrenched camp was taken, and their army was driven back towards Pekin, completely broken and disorganised. During these operations, nearly 600 guns were captured by the Allies. The army now advanced towards Pekin; and on the 7th of October the Emperor was informed that unless the prisoners were restored, and one of the gates of the Imperial city was placed in the hands of the Allies, Pekin would be stormed.
These terms were agreed to. On the 13th of October, at noon, possession was taken of the gate by a small body of English and French; the money demanded was paid, and the surviving prisoners were delivered up; others had died under the barbarous treatment received by them.
THE NEW ZEALAND WAR—1863-1865.
ENSIGN MCKENNA—AN EXAMPLE OF COOL COURAGE AND DEVOTION.
We do not like to hear of war in New Zealand. Long ago the native inhabitants of these magnificent islands desired to become subjects of Queen Victoria. Their offers were accepted, and New Zealand became a British colony.
Differences, however, arose between the settlers and the natives, chiefly about land; and from time to time the latter have attempted to assert their rights in a thoroughly barbarous fashion, by murdering all the white settlers they could fall on unprepared. It is difficult to say by whom they were instigated to revolt. The possession of certain lands claimed by settlers was the ostensible cause of each outbreak; and the natives invariably commenced hostilities, by murdering some settlers whom they attacked unawares. Such was the commencement of the last New Zealand War. One of their chiefs had been proclaimed king by the rebel tribes, who had declared their intention of driving the British from the northern island. Although the natives may be pitied for their ignorance, it was necessary immediately to put down such pretensions by force. Preparations were therefore made for attacking the enemy in their strongholds—a nature of warfare arduous and hazardous in the extreme, and requiring great judgment and discretion not only in the leaders, but in the non-commissioned officers and privates. Where British soldiers have an opportunity of exhibiting these qualities, they are generally found in their possession.
The 65th Regiment of Foot was stationed at Auckland at the commencement of the war in July 1863, and were about to return to England, when they were ordered to the front in search of the enemy. For two months a detachment under the command of Captain Swift was posted at Fort Alexandra, in the neighbourhood of Cameron Town, where Mr Armitage, a magistrate, had his residence.
On the 7th of September, news was brought to the fort that Mr Armitage, a few white men, and a large number of friendly natives residing near him, had been massacred by the enemy.
Captain Swift, on hearing this, immediately set out, with Lieutenant Butler, Sergeant McKenna, two other sergeants, a bugler, and a party of fifty men, into the bush in pursuit of the foe. Swamps were crossed, rivers forded, hills climbed, and dense woods penetrated, and other difficulties overcome, till towards the evening the gallant little band found themselves in an open space near the place where they expected to fall in with the enemy. A party of ten were sent in advance to feel the way.
The advance guard, however, lost the path, thus greatly reducing the main body. Again they advanced, when, having reached another opening in which the savages had been encamped, they once more halted. Hearing the sounds of the enemy's voices, they were advancing to chase them, when they found themselves exposed to a terrific fire from out of the bush on either side. Captain Swift was the first to fall; and directly afterwards Lieutenant Butler, while bravely animating his men, and having shot three of the enemy, received his death-wound. The command now devolved on Sergeant McKenna, who, leaving Corporal Ryan and two men with the wounded officers, with the rest of the force charged the enemy in the most spirited manner, and put them to flight. A fresh position was again taken up in an opening, on the left and front of which the Maories had collected. The sergeant, ordering his men to extend in skirmishing order across the opening, kept up a hot fire for a considerable time with the savages, bringing down some who had climbed up into trees for the purpose of taking more certain aim.
Any wavering or disorder on the part of the soldiers would have caused their immediate destruction. Their steady coolness alone seemed to overawe the natives, who, after losing several of their number, retired to a greater distance. They still, however, kept up a fire at the little body of British, by which another man was killed. Night was drawing on. McKenna saw that the time for retreating had arrived. He took his measures with admirable coolness and presence of mind. He ordered the front rank of skirmishers to fire a volley, and, giving a loud cheer as if about to charge, to retire down the hill by a sheltered path through the bush. The movement was executed with the utmost steadiness. When they were established below, the rear rank performed the same manoeuvre, and, finding a stream of clear water, were able to refresh themselves. They were not to retire unmolested. They were again attacked by the Maories, numbering, it was ascertained, nearly 300 men, who were, however, successfully driven back; and at eight o'clock the party commenced their arduous retreat through the bush, many of them severely wounded. It would be impossible to describe fully the difficulties of that midnight march through the tangled bush, with bloodthirsty foes swarming on every side. The judgment and coolness of the non-commissioned officers in charge of the party cannot be praised too highly. It was not till eight o'clock in the morning that they came in sight of the redoubt, and met a body of 100 men marching to their relief.
They then learned that Corporal Ryan and Privates Bulford and Talbot had, in the most devoted manner, remained with Captain Swift, after carrying him for some distance, till he died, and that the savages had at one time actually surrounded them, while they lay hid among the brushwood. Not till he had breathed his last, and they had covered up his body with branches, did they think of seeking their own safety by making their way towards the redoubt.
In the same truly devoted manner Privates Thomas and Cole had remained all the night with Lieutenant Butler. The dying officer complained bitterly of the cold, and not only did the two brave fellows cover him up with their own greatcoats, but one of them, Thomas, took off his own serge shirt and put it on him. They knew full well that their suffering superior would not live to report their conduct, or to reward them, and that very probably they would themselves be slaughtered by the savages. In the above narrative, we find an exhibition of courage, judgment, discipline, coolness, devotion, and affection rarely surpassed. Sergeant McKenna obtained the Victoria Cross and his commission.
INCIDENTS OF A SKIRMISH IN NEW ZEALAND, IN THE WAR OF 1865, LIEUTENANT-COLONEL HAVELOCK COMMANDING.
GALLANTRY OF CAPTAIN HEAPHY, A.R.V.
That British militia and volunteers, when opportunity offers, possess no lack of gallantry, they have often given proof, especially in the Cape Colony and New Zealand.
In the last war in New Zealand, Colonel Waddy, C.B., was in command of the advance force of the British, composed of regulars, militia, and volunteers, at Paterangi near a native pah or fort.
Under him was serving Lieutenant-Colonel Havelock.
To the right, facing the pah, at some distance from the camp, the river Mangapiko forms a complete bow or loop. At the narrow end or knot there is an old native pah, with the river flowing on either side of it. Inside the loop at the broad end is a thick scrub, and here 100 Maories from the Paterangi pah had formed an ambush.
A number of soldiers from the camp, unsuspicious of danger, had gone to the river to bathe directly opposite this scrub, there being a ford at the spot across the river.
Immediately the natives began to fire on the bathers, the inlying pickets of the 40th and 50th Regiments turned out, a party under Major Bowdler going to the right to attack the natives retreating up that part of the river, while Lieutenant-Colonel Havelock, with the men he could collect, accompanied by Captain Fisher, Captain Heaphy, and Captain Jackson, marched rapidly on the left a considerable distance towards the old pah, to cut off the retreat of the natives who had formed the ambush, or to intercept any others who might come from Paterangi to their relief. At the narrow end of the loop there was a deep gully, with an old canoe thrown over it as a bridge.
While Major Bowdler's party were attacking the natives who had taken post in the old pah on one side, Captain Fisher led a few men across the bridge on the opposite side, followed by Captain Heaphy, who had collected some men of the 40th and 50th Regiments. Large numbers of natives now came rushing up from Paterangi pah, and the fight became general over a wide extent of woody ground, the English soldiers often dashing forward incautiously at the enemy, and suffering considerably; Captain Fisher recrossing the bridge to repel the Maori reinforcements. Colonel Havelock, who had no arms, and Captain Heaphy were left with a few men in the midst of the enemy. Captain Heaphy now shot a Maori, and, having secured his gun and pouch, gave Colonel Havelock his own breechloader and a few cartridges, continuing the fight himself with the Maori gun and ammunition. Captain Jackson, when wading the river, shot a Maori who had snapped both barrels at him, and then, hauling the man to the bank, secured his gun and pouch.
Meantime, Captain Fisher being hotly engaged and somewhat pressed by a large body of natives coming from Paterangi, Captain Heaphy collected a party of stragglers under fire, told them off into front and rear ranks, and, placing them under cover, directed their fire on the above-mentioned natives, who, receiving thus a cross fire, made no further headway.
A series of hand-to-hand encounters took place during the fight about the old tree-covered pah, between the Maories, crouching in the thick bush, and the British, who showed a keen eagerness to dart at and close with their lurking enemies. A private, Cassan of the 50th, having been desperately wounded, fell into one of the deep overgrown ditches near the pah, within reach of many Maories concealed there. Captain Heaphy, on hearing of this, called for volunteers and hastened down for the purpose of bringing off the wounded soldier, though exposed to a hot fire from the enemy directly above him. Two of his followers were shot dead, while five balls pierced his cap and clothes, and he was wounded in three places, providentially but slightly. He remained by the man, to defend him from the enemy, till Assistant-Surgeon Stiles of the 40th Regiment joined him, when the poor fellow was brought off, though he died directly after. Dr Stiles greatly exposed himself, and took great pains to get the wounded removed to the camp.
When wounded, Captain Heaphy was urged by Colonel Havelock to go back to camp, but he remained in the skirmish to the end, after aiding Dr Stiles in attending to other wounded. When the troops withdrew to camp after dark, while ten files of Major Von Tempsky's Rangers were covering the rear of the stretcher parties, he remained with them, only crossing the river with the last men. At the very moment of fording the stream, a ball, passing between him and Colonel Havelock, struck a man of the 40th farther in advance through the wrist, thus proving that the gallant Heaphy was under fire to the very end of the fight. Few will dispute that this brave officer of the Auckland Volunteer Rifles, in addition to the majority he forthwith obtained, deserved as much as any man the honour of the Victoria Cross.
THE ABYSSINIAN EXPEDITION—1867-1868.
A glance at the map of Africa shows us Abyssinia situated at the south of Egypt, beyond Nubia, with the Red Sea on the east, and a wild and little-known country of arid and sandy desert on the west, and a still more mountainous and barbarous country to the south. It has therefore long been considered a region inaccessible to an invading army. On the north, the unhealthy plains and valleys of Nubia render its approach dangerous and difficult, while a range of lofty mountains, rugged and precipitous, and deep valleys run almost parallel with the sea, having at their base a dry and sandy region, destitute of water, and productive of fever and agues. The centre of the country consists of lofty plateaus and rugged mountains, with deep valleys, lakes, and streams. The higher regions are healthy and fertile, but in the valleys, at certain seasons, pestilence destroys numbers who are subjected to its influence.
Dark-skinned people, though of different tribes, inhabit this region. A portion of the population who formerly dwelt in the eastern part of the country are Jews. The ruling race are the Amharas, who are a warlike and intelligent people, but of cruel and bloodthirsty disposition. They are Christians, having been converted about the fourth century, but their Christianity has been greatly corrupted. The country has for centuries remained in a state of chronic disorder, the chiefs rebelling against the sovereign, and being in a constant state of warfare amongst themselves. Notwithstanding, therefore, its many natural advantages, it has made no progress in civilisation or prosperity, and the great mass of the people are ignorant and barbarous in the extreme. The chiefs, too, are often cruel, bloodthirsty, turbulent, and grasping. Though their complexion is dark, their features are regular and handsome. They wear their hair plaited and wound round their head, covered thickly with butter. Their costume consists of drawers, a cotton shirt, with a white cotton-cloth cloak, called a shama, having a broad scarlet border, and, in addition, a lion-skin tippet with long tails. On their right side hangs a curved sword in a red leather scabbard, and a richly ornamented hilt, while a hide shield, ornamented with gold filigree bosses, and with silver plates, is worn on the left arm, and a long spear is grasped in the right hand. The most invincible enemies of the Amharas have been the heathen tribes of the Gallas, inhabiting the regions to the south of Abyssinia. At the end of last century, however, one of their chiefs, Rass Guka, obtained possession of the person of the then puppet emperor, and assumed supreme power. He outwardly conformed to the Christian religion, many of his people following his example.
When in 1838 the Egyptian troops of Mahomed Ali attempted to invade Abyssinia, they were defeated by Dejatch Confu, chief of Kuara, who had a nephew, Kasa by name. Kasa was deprived of his father at an early age, and his mother was reduced to a state of poverty, and compelled, it was said, to follow the humble calling of a kosso seller. He was sent to a convent to be brought up as a priest or scribe, but the convent being attacked by a robber chief, who put most of the inmates to the sword, Kasa escaped to the castle of his powerful uncle. Here, listening to the conversation of various chiefs, he imbibed an enthusiastic love of war and daring exploits. On the death of his uncle, his cousins quarrelled. He sided with the eldest, was defeated, and became a robber chief. At length he unfurled the standard of rebellion, under the pretence of checking oppression and restraining violence. The queen of the usurping semi-Christian Galla race, of whom we have just spoken, long hated in the land, sent an army against him. Her troops were, however, speedily defeated. Finding that force would not prevail against him, the wily sovereign hoped to entrap him by guile, and offered him her granddaughter in marriage, having instructed the young lady how to betray him. The princess, however, admiring his character, became a most faithful wife, warning him of all the plots contrived for his destruction. At length the treacherous queen and her son, Kasa's father-in-law, were defeated in a pitched battle, and fled from the country. Kasa had still several chiefs and provinces to conquer. The most important province was that of Tigre, governed by a warrior, Dejatch Oulie, whose army awaited him drawn up on the heights of Gemien. On the 3rd of February 1856 was fought one of the most desperate battles in the annals of Abyssinian warfare. It resulted in favour of Kasa, who was crowned under the name of King Theodorus. Many a battle had still to be fought; and King Theodore, as we will call him, lost not a moment in endeavouring to quell rebellion. He now became sovereign of Tigre and Amhara, the principal provinces of Abyssinia. Not content, however, with the power he had gained, his great ambition was to conquer the Galla tribes, whom he treated with the greatest cruelty. Having reduced many of them to a temporary submission, he marched towards Tigre, where a rebellion had broken out. Here also he was victorious, but he treated those he had conquered in so barbarous a way, that he made enemies of the chiefs in all directions. It was about this time that a number of missionaries were sent into the country, for the purpose of preaching the gospel to the Jewish Falashas, at the instigation of Bishop Gobat, of Jerusalem. The principal one was the Reverend Mr Stern, an English clergyman, who was accompanied by several German missionaries and their wives. In the camp of the king there were also a number of artisans of various nations, some of whom were engaged by the king to manufacture cannon and muskets. Mr Stern, on returning to England, wrote an interesting volume, in which he made some disparaging remarks on King Theodore. The book unfortunately found its way into the country, and these remarks were translated to the king. He had previously written a letter to the Queen of England, which for a long time remained unanswered. This and other circumstances greatly excited his anger; at the same time, he suspected that the English were disposed to assist the Egyptians, who he thought purposed invading his country. The English Government, desirous of cultivating friendly relations with Abyssinia, had appointed Captain Cameron as consul to that country. He was stationed at Massowa, on the shores of the Red Sea. During an expedition into the interior, he was seized by Theodore, in revenge for the insult he considered he had received, the king having also thrown Mr Stern and some of the other missionaries into prison. At length Mr Rassam was sent as ambassador to King Theodore, in hopes of obtaining the release of the prisoners. He was accompanied by Lieutenant Prideaux and Dr Blanc. At the very moment that it appeared the king was about to release the prisoners, Mr Rassam and his companions were themselves seized and treated with the greatest indignity. In vain every attempt was made by the English Government to obtain their release. Theodore would listen to no expostulations, and at length it was resolved to send an English army to compel him to deliver them up, although the difficulties of the undertaking were well-known. Never was an expedition undertaken for a more generous object or with purer motives. It was simply for the release of the captives. The thought of conquest or the acquisition of territory did not for a moment enter into the views of the British Cabinet. The work to be done was to march an army of some thousand men a distance of 400 miles across a mountainous and little-known region, inhabited by tribes who might prove hostile, to the fortress in which the king had confined certain British subjects, and to compel him to release them. The persons, both military and civil, who were believed to be the best able to carry it out, were selected without favouritism or party consideration of any sort. Colonel Merewether, an officer of known talent, was appointed to make the preliminary preparations, and to select the spot best suited for the base of operations. The reconnoitring party selected a place called Mulkutto, in Annesley Bay, on the shores of the Red Sea, for that object. In the previous month, Sir Robert Napier, then Commander-in-Chief of the Bombay Army, was appointed to command the Abyssinian expedition, and Major-General Sir Charles Staveley was nominated as second in command, with a force under them of 4000 British and 8000 native troops. The reconnoitring party consisted of the 10th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry, the 3rd Regiment of Bombay Cavalry, a mountain train of four guns, with native gunners, and two companies of Bombay Sappers. Associated with Colonel Merewether were Colonel Phayre, Quartermaster-General of the Bombay Army, and Colonel Wilkins, of the Royal Engineers.
The first work of importance was the construction of a landing-pier, the beach being too gradually shelving to allow of landing without it. In a short time a pier was run out for 300 yards, where there was a depth of five feet at low-water spring tides, and a tramway was laid down from its head to some way up the beach, for bringing up stores. Wells were also dug, and the surrounding country carefully examined for water. Exploring expeditions were also made for a considerable distance, under a blazing tropical sun overhead, through a wild and unknown region. On the 21st of October, the advance brigade arrived, under command of Colonel Field. H.M.S. Satellite also reached the bay, with apparatus for condensing sea-water, and she and other, steamers were able in a short time to produce 32,000 gallons a day, which was conveyed on shore by pipes raised on trestles above the sea. Officers also were sent in all directions to purchase mules and other beasts of burden for the transport service. A friendly understanding was soon established with the Shoho tribes, who gladly undertook to furnish guides and to convey stores into the interior. Friendly relations were also established with several powerful chiefs then in rebellion against Theodore, and who gladly offered all the assistance in their power. Sir Charles Staveley now arrived with a brigade which had been embarked at Scinde, under Brigadier-General Collins, consisting of the 33rd Regiment, the G 14 Armstrong battery of six 12-pounder guns, under Captain Murray, the Beloochee regiments, and 3rd Scinde Horse. On the 3rd of January 1868, Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Napier, Commander-in-Chief of the expedition, arrived on board H.M.S. Octavia. He expressed his satisfaction at the progress made by the expedition, which had now obtained a firm footing on the highlands of Abyssinia. A convenient port had been established on the desert shore; a road for cart traffic had been formed through a difficult mountain pass; the most determined robbers, the Shohos, had been turned into useful assistants; and an advance force had already gained the Abyssinian plateau, and friendly relations had been secured with the principal chiefs ruling over the territories up to Magdala itself. It must be understood that some time before this the British and other prisoners had been sent by Theodore to the fortress of Magdala, to reach which was therefore the main object of the expedition. Two plans were now open to Sir Robert Napier for the conduct of the campaign: one was, relying on the friendliness of the people for keeping communications open with his base, to push forward and attack Theodore on his flank march before he could reach Magdala, and thus prevent the prisoners again falling into his power. Sir Robert, however, considered that in order to make any real and permanent advance, he must be entirely independent of the resources of the country, and that he should not have a force of much less than 10,000 men, with six months' supplies stored at Senafe; that Theodore might at any time abandon his guns should he hear of his approach, and push forward to Magdala, which he could quickly reach without them. It was believed, however, that this he would never attempt doing, as it was the prestige of those guns which served as his only protection from being attacked and overwhelmed by the numerous rebel forces surrounding him. This latter plan, however, was not adhered to. Great efforts were made to improve the transport train. Owing to the want of care and barbarity of the natives who had been brought from India, a large number of the mules and camels died, but fresh supplies continued to arrive, and the whole organisation of the transport train was entrusted to Major Warden, who served in the same department in the Crimea. By the time the campaign was over, there was a corps of 12,000 muleteers, 400 native and 160 European inspectors, and 80 commissioned officers. The most difficult piece of work to be accomplished was the conveyance of the artillery, next to the transport organisation. The guns and equipments were brought from England by Lieutenants Nolan and Chapman, who had prepared everything at Mulkutto for two batteries, A and B 21, the officers and men of which came from India. The guns were conveyed athwart-ships on mules, and they, with the ammunition and equipments for the two batteries, required go mules for their carriage. This may give some idea of the number of animals required for the work. A Naval Brigade, consisting of 80 men, with two rocket tubes, commanded by Captain Fellowes of the Dryad, was also organised. The advance force halted in a beautiful district near Adigerat, upwards of 8500 feet above the sea. From this they pushed on to Antalo, where they halted for nearly a month, in consequence of having to wait for a supply of dollars, without which no purchases could be made. At length, on the 12th of March, the march to Magdala really commenced. Colonel Phayre led the advance force, accompanied by a pioneer force consisting of two companies of the 33rd, two of native sappers, one of Punjaub Pioneers, and 80 sabres of native cavalry; the whole commanded by Captain Field, of the 10th Native Infantry. The rest of the force was divided into two brigades, under Sir Charles Staveley. With the first brigade marched the Commander-in-Chief and headquarters. It consisted of the 33rd Regiment, two companies of Beloochees, the head-quarter wing of the 10th Bombay Native Infantry, the 10th company of Royal Engineers, a battery of mountain guns, and the Scinde Horse. The second brigade was composed of the 4th Regiment, a wing of the Beloochees, a company of sappers, Punjaub Pioneers, Naval Brigade, and Armstrong guns, and two mortars with elephants, the B battery of mountain guns, and the 3rd Bombay Cavalry. Sir Charles Staveley and his staff marched with this brigade. The road before them was rough and mountainous in the extreme, with difficult passes, mountain torrents to be crossed, and often lofty overhanging rocks above their heads. Frequently, before the first brigade could advance, the roads had to be made practicable for mules and carts. The 33rd Regiment distinguished itself by the persevering way in which the men laboured, often going out as grass-cutters, laying out the camp, and working hard at road-making, along the whole line. All superfluous baggage had been sent to the rear. The camp equipage now consisted of small bell-tents only, without tables, chairs, bedsteads, luggage, or any of the usual comforts of camp life. The rations were of the roughest and most unvarying description; seldom anything but tough beef and chowpatties were eaten, the Commander-in-Chief enjoying no greater luxuries than the private soldier. During the halts the men were employed on the roads, and often even on marching days. For 17 days the force pushed on from the Buya camp, near Antalo, to the Wadela plateau, a distance of 118 miles, during which they crossed no less than six formidable ranges of mountains. Perhaps the severest march of the campaign was one performed on the 24th of March, from Marawa to Dildi, on the banks of the Tellare, a distance of 16 miles, up and down the steep spurs of the Lasta mountains. Starting soon after eight in the morning, with a long train of mules, they had to scramble up and down the rugged, tree-covered mountain-sides, the 33rd Regiment carrying, in addition to their arms, a heavy weight of blankets and waterproofs. Towards the end of it rain came on, and during some hours of the night the men came straggling in, footsore, hungry, and wet, and complaining not a little of their hardships.
The cold, too, was severe on that high ground after sunset. All luxuries about this time also began to fall short. No spirits remained, and but a small quantity of tea and compressed vegetables. Magdala was almost reached. The country now appeared open and covered with grass; long stages of grassy hill and dale, with occasional rocky ridges, and here and there among the hills a lovely lake, with streams and narrow valleys, formed the general aspect of the country. Round Magdala, situated itself on a high rock, rose numerous peaks and saddles above the large plateau on which it stands. They form a curve, Magdala being at the east end, and a peak called Sallasye at its base, and a smaller plateau called Fala at the south-west end. Sallasye and Magdala are connected by a saddle about a mile long called Islamgye, bounded on either flank by scarped precipices with sides below sloping rapidly down to the ravines, and covered with trees and bushes, some of the ravines nearly 3000 feet below the fortress. Meantime, Theodore was advancing towards Magdala, having burnt his capital of Debra Tabor, likewise forming roads up the steep sides of mountains and across deep ravines for the transport of his heavy guns, on which he mainly depended for the success of his arms, with a force under him of about 6000 soldiers, a host of camp followers, and several European workmen. By the 18th of March his army had reached Arogye. At this time there were in Magdala the whole of the British prisoners, as well as 570 natives, many of them chiefs. Some days afterwards, the king sent for Mr Rassam, Lieutenant Prideaux, and Dr Blanc to visit him, and treated them with courtesy, but the very next day in a drunken fit he ordered nearly 200 of his native prisoners to be murdered. Some he killed with his own hands, others were thrown over the precipice of Islamgye. A letter was next addressed by Sir Robert Napier to the king, demanding the liberation of the captives. To this no answer was sent. On the 8th of April, two brigades of the British army encamped on the Delanta plateau, in full view of the heights of Magdala. By the night of the 9th all preparations were completed for storming the fortress. Theodore had posted his army, consisting of 3000 soldiers armed with percussion guns, a host of spearmen, and several pieces of ordnance, on the flat-topped hill of Fala. Here he had come to conquer, as he thought it possible, with his cherished guns, or to die should he meet with defeat. Between the armies was the plain of Arogye. In front rose, more than 1000 feet above it, the lofty stronghold of the tyrant. To the left of Fala appeared the lofty peak of Sallasye, the two being connected by a lower saddle. The British army consisted of 3733 men, of whom 460 were cavalry. They had two batteries of steel mountain guns, a battery of four Armstrong 12-pounder guns, and two mortars, besides which many of the troops were armed with the deadly Snider rifle, against which the weapons of the Abyssinians were almost useless. The Naval Brigade of 80 men were armed also with deadly rockets, especially calculated to create a panic among such troops as the Abyssinians. The greater part of the day had passed, and Sir Robert had no intention of commencing an action, when, at forty-two minutes past four in the afternoon of the 10th of April, a gun was fired from the crest of Fala, 1200 feet above the Arogye plain. A few rounds followed, plunging into the ground close to the British, when several thousand men, the flower of Theodore's army, rushed impetuously over the crest of the hill down the precipitous slopes, yelling defiance, led by their chiefs on sure-footed Galla ponies. While the main body advanced across the plain, a large detachment hastened to attack the baggage train of the British on one side.
Immediately the Naval Brigade opened upon them with their rockets, while Sir Charles Staveley moved the infantry of his brigade down to the plain, the Snider rifles keeping up a fire against which the Abyssinians could not for a moment stand. Unable to get within range themselves, they were mown down in lines. Their old general, Fitaurari Gabriye, led them on again and again, but he soon fell, shot through the head; and night coming on, the shattered remnant retired towards the Fala saddle, still shouting defiance. Colonel Milward, who accompanied Penn's battery, had opened fire on the left, while Chamberlain with his pioneers drove back the enemy who were attacking the baggage train. They still, however, persevered, but were finally checked by the baggage guard, consisting of two companies of the 4th under Captain Roberts. As the Abyssinian army retreated, Captain Fellowes and his bluejackets took up a fresh position farther in advance, sending their rockets into the flying crowd as they ascended the hillside. Of the Abyssinian force, nearly 800 were killed and 1500 wounded, most of the survivors flying in all directions, few returning to Magdala; while of the British force, Captain Roberts and six men of the 4th, twelve Punjaub Pioneers, and one Bombay sapper alone were wounded, two of them mortally. The first brigade encamped on the Aficho plateau, without food, water, fires, or tents, while the second formed their camp on the plain of Arogye. Meantime Theodore, who had hitherto always headed his own troops, remained on the heights watching the combat. As night came on, and claps of thunder resounded over his head, he paced the ground at the foot of the Sallasye peak, waiting the return of his chiefs and soldiers. He called for his faithful old general Gabriye, but no answer came; for other trusted leaders,—there was no reply. He now saw that all hope of victory was gone. He must yield to the demands of an irresistible enemy or die. Fearful must have been the anxiety of the prisoners. Any moment he might have sent to order their destruction. Providentially, however, he resolved to try and obtain the friendship of the English by delivering up the captives. Lieutenant Prideaux and Mr Flad were sent into the English camp to propose terms. The English general, however, would offer none short of an unconditional surrender, guaranteeing, however, honourable treatment for the king and his family. On their return across the field of battle, the body of the old General Gabriye was found. He was lying flat on his back, with his arms stretched out, habited in a rich shirt of scarlet and gold. A Snider rifle bullet had passed through his temples. The dead and dying thickly strewn about had frightful wounds, many with half their skulls taken off. On the arrival of two envoys, the king was found sitting on the brow of Sallasye. He immediately sent them back to the English camp with a document he had been dictating, refusing to deliver himself up. Soon after their departure, he put a pistol to his head, but the bullet was turned aside by his attendants. The king after this appears to have resolved to live, and to have conceived the hope of obtaining peace by releasing his captives. Many of his chiefs, however, had advised him to kill them, and fight to the last. One alone—Basha Abito—urged that they should be preserved, lest a terrible vengeance should be exacted by their countrymen. Immediately the king had arrived at this decision, he ordered one of his officers to escort Mr Rassam and all the prisoners at once to the English camp, believing, no doubt, that by so doing acceptable terms would be secured for him. Meantime Sir Robert Napier had sent Lieutenant Prideaux back with a message to the king, reiterating the contents of his former letter. The gallant young officer knew perfectly well the fearful risk he was running. Happily he encountered a German workman, who informed him of the release of the captives, when he and Mr Flad returned to the camp. The released prisoners were Mr Rassam, Dr Blanc, Lieutenant Prideaux, Consul Cameron, Mr Stern the missionary, Mr Flad, Mr and Mrs Rosenthal, young Kerans, secretary to Captain Cameron, and Pietro, an Italian servant. As may be supposed, they received the warmest welcome in the camp, and every attention was paid to them. The king now made another attempt at reconciliation, by sending a present of cattle. On finding that this was refused, he seems to have given way to despair. Having spent the night on Islamgye, he summoned his soldiers, and ordered those not prepared to share his fortunes to the last to provide for their own safety. The whole army immediately disbanded, a few chiefs and personal followers only answering his call. After this he seems to have wished to make his escape, but he was cut off by the British on one side, while the Gallas were eagerly watching on the other to capture him. On seeing the English advancing up Islamgye, he mounted his favourite horse Hamra, and, followed by some of his chiefs, furiously galloped up and down in circles, firing off his rifle as a challenge, perhaps wishing that some kind bullet might at the moment end his career. Probably he experienced a peculiar pleasure at that desperate moment in displaying his horsemanship and other soldierlike qualities. As the British advanced and opened fire, he was compelled to abandon his guns and retreat into Magdala, followed by the few chiefs who had remained faithful. Part of the British army now took possession of the heights of Islamgye, while a party of the 33rd Regiment, the 10th company of Royal Engineers, and a company of Madras sappers were ordered to assault the Koket-bir gate of the fortress. The guns from Islamgye and the Fala saddle opened fire, and continued it during the afternoon. The ascent to the fortress, or amba, as it is called, was by an excessively steep and narrow path, amidst large boulders, with perpendicular black cliffs on the right. The Koket-bir gate consisted of a rough stone gateway 15 feet deep, with folding wooden doors. On either side the approach was defended by a thick hedge with stakes. Seventy feet higher up there was a second hedge, and another gate opening on the flat summit of the amba. As the British soldiers climbed up the rocky path, firing rapidly with their Sniders, they received a dropping fire in return, by which seven men were wounded and a few others slightly injured. The 33rd then made a dash at the hedge, climbed over it, and opened the door from the inside, when the rest of the storming party rushed in. The dead bodies of a few chiefs, richly dressed, were found lying in a heap inside the gate, but no enemy appeared. Deserted by most of his followers, the king, after attempting to pile up large stones against the inside of the gate, took his seat on the rocks between the two gates, surrounded by his friends, watching the English guns with his glass. When the assault commenced, he and nine who had remained with him commenced firing at the English. By a volley fired into the little band, most of those who had hitherto survived were wounded. Theodore on this retired to some huts on the amba, about 50 yards from the second gate. Here, dismissing his remaining followers, he turned to his body-servant, Walda Gabir, saying that, sooner than fall into the hands of his enemies, he would kill himself. Then, putting a pistol to his mouth, he fired it, and fell dead. The bullet had passed through the roof of his mouth and through the back of his head. This was at about 4:10 p.m.
Some prisoners who had escaped pointed out the body of the king to the English. It was now put into a litter, and brought to Sir Charles Staveley. It appears that Theodore had eaten nothing for four days, supported only by tej and drams of araki. He was of medium stature, well-built, broad chest, small waist, and muscular limbs, his complexion being dark even for an Abyssinian, though with a finely cut aquiline nose, with a low bridge, his thin lips telling of his cruel disposition. He was in his 50th year and the 15th of his reign. The level area of the now well-known fortress was almost entirely covered with well-built circular thatched huts, most of them surrounded by a hedge or wall. The king's own house, in which the Queen Terunish and her little boy resided, was an oblong building of two storeys. Other buildings were attached to it, with a sort of summer-house commanding a magnificent view of the country. Amidst the houses was a church in miserable condition; indeed, Magdala was not considered Christian ground, being in the territory of the heathen Gallas. The whole town contained about 3000 persons. The body of the king, having been embalmed, was buried by the Abyssinian priests, within the precincts of this wretched church, a small guard of the 33rd attending to keep order. The grave was shallow, and soon covered in with stones, and the surface strewn with straw. The queen came for protection to the British camp, and expressed her wish that the English would take charge of her son. She, however, died on the march, and her young son remained under charge of the English, by whom he has been brought up and educated. The huts in Magdala were burned, the gates of the fortress were blown up, and all the guns, to the number of 37, collected by Theodore, were burst.
The return march was performed as successfully as the advance, and before the end of the month of June the last man of the expedition had departed from Annesley Bay. The larger body returned to India, while the Commander-in-chief sailed in the Feroze for England. A peerage, a Grand Cross of the Bath, and a pension were conferred upon Sir Robert Napier; and two Knight Commanderships and 27 Companionships of the same order were bestowed on other officers; while 15 colonelcies, 18 Lieutenant-Colonelcies, and 13 majorities were distributed among the other officers of the expedition. The Abyssinian Expedition will ever be remembered for the judgment and forethought exercised in its preparation, the perseverance and energy of the officers employed, and the admirable conduct of the men.
THE ASHANTEE WAR—1873-1874.
On that part of the West coast of Africa which runs east and west, extending from the Bight of Benin to Cape Palmas, a portion being known as the Gold Coast, are situated a number of forts, some of which belonged to the Dutch and Danes, who lately ceded them to the British Government.
The principal fort is Cape Coast Castle, and to the west of it is the late Dutch fort of Elmina.
The largest river in this part of Africa is the Prah, which, running for some distance from the north-east to the south-west, takes an almost due southerly course, and falls into the sea about 20 miles west of Cape Coast Castle. The whole region is almost entirely covered by dense scrub or lofty trees, with a thick undergrowth of shrubs and creepers, through which it is impossible to pass, unless where native paths exist or a way has been cut by the axe of the pioneer; while in all directions marshes exist, emitting exhalations destructive to the health and lives of Europeans exposed to their noxious influences.
The Ashantees, a large and warlike tribe who had fought their way from the interior, established themselves early in the last century to the north and west of the Prah, and founded Coomassie as their capital, about 140 miles to the north of Cape Coast Castle. Having devastated the country by fire and sword, they soon after annexed the greater part of Denkera to their kingdom, driving the surviving inhabitants to the south-east, where they are at present settled near the Swat River, which falls into the sea between Cape Coast Castle and Elmina.
The country between Cape Coast Castle and the Prah is inhabited by the Fantis, a tribe which, although at one time warlike, have greatly degenerated. Neither the Dutch nor the English have attempted to subdue any of the neighbouring tribes; and though the people residing in the immediate vicinity of the forts have been friendly, the Europeans have throughout their occupancy been subject to serious attacks from the savages in the neighbourhood.
The most formidable of these foes have been the Ashantees, who have on several occasions threatened Cape Coast Castle, and numbers of the garrison marching out to drive them back have been cut off.
The Fantis have been, since the commencement of this century, constantly attacked by the Ashantees, and in 1820 they placed themselves under the protection of England. A fatal expedition for their defence was undertaken in 1824 by Sir Charles Macarthy, who, crossing the Prah with a small force without waiting for the main body of his troops, being deserted by the Fantis and surrounded by the Ashantees, was with all his forces cut to pieces, three white men only escaping.
This and other successes over our native allies induced the reigning king of Ashantee, Coffee Calcalli, to hold the British power in contempt. The barbarous customs of the Ashantees almost surpass conception. Their religion is the grossest fetishism. Human life is utterly disregarded; and thousands of slaves are yearly slaughtered as sacrifices by the king, their bodies being thrown into a vast pit in the neighbourhood of his palace. In 1873, this black potentate having made alliances with the chiefs of other tribes, sent a large Ashantee force across the Prah, with the avowed intention of capturing Elmina, which he asserted the Dutch had no right to dispose of to the English. Destroying the Fanti villages in their course, they advanced to within a few days' march of Cape Coast Castle. Every effort was made by Colonel Harley, who was then in command there, to induce the Fantis to withstand the enemy, while he collected such forces as were available for their support. One of the bravest and most disciplined races in that part of Africa are the Houssas, a body of whom were at once obtained from Lagos, and who, with some companies of the 2nd West India Regiment and a body of Fanti police, were marched to the front, under the command of Lieutenant Hopkins.
The Fantis, however, though far more numerous than their invaders, took to flight, and the force which had been sent to their assistance had to return.
The Ashantees now took possession of Dunquah, from whence they moved to the east towards Denkera. As serious apprehensions were entertained that both Elmina and Cape Coast Castle would be attacked, the English Government sent out H.M.S. Barracouta, Captain Fremantle, with a detachment of no marines, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Festing, of the Royal Marine Artillery.
They landed at Cape Coast Castle on the 9th of June, when Colonel Festing assumed command of the troops on the coast, and Captain Fremantle became senior naval officer on the station. Martial law was proclaimed; and as the inhabitants of the native town of Elmina showed a disposition to revolt, on the refusal of the chiefs to give up their arms the place was bombarded and set on fire, the rebels making their escape. A large body of Ashantees, two or three thousand strong, now approached Elmina, when they were gallantly attacked by Colonel Festing with the marines, and a party of bluejackets under Captain Fremantle, some men of the 2nd West India Regiment, and a body of Houssas.
The enemy advanced boldly along the plain, and were about to outflank the British force on the right, when Lieutenant Wells, R.N., of the Barracouta, attacked them with a heavy fire of Sniders, and drove them back, on which Colonel Festing, ordering the advance of the whole line, repulsed the enemy, who left 200 men dead on the field.
This was the first of several actions which ensued; but it was very evident that no adequate punishment could be inflicted on King Coffee and his subjects unless by a strong body of disciplined troops. This was the opinion of all the principal officers acquainted with the country. The British Government, however, not being at first thoroughly satisfied of the necessity of sending out troops from England, appointed Sir Garnet Wolseley, who had displayed his abilities as a general in the Red River Expedition, to proceed to Cape Coast Castle, with a well-selected staff of officers, and to make his report.
One of the most active officers at this time was Lieutenant Gordon, who had raised and drilled a body of Houssas, with whom he rendered good service during the war. He now formed a redoubt at the village of Napoleon, about five miles from Cape Coast, and several others being thrown up, the intermediate country to the south was well protected. A further body of marines arrived by the Simoom.
In the meantime Commodore Commerell, who had arrived in the Rattlesnake from the Cape of Good Hope, made an excursion with several other officers up the Prah, to communicate with the chiefs residing on its banks.
Having had an interview with the chiefs he found near the mouth of the river, he led his fleet of boats about a mile and a half up, when, without any warning, an enemy concealed in the bush opened a heavy fire on them. The commodore was badly wounded, and Captains Luxmoore and Helden were also severely hurt, as were several of the men. On this the commodore ordered the return of the boats to the Rattlesnake, when the town of Chamah was at once bombarded, and quickly destroyed.
In this unfortunate affair four men were killed and sixteen wounded, while so severe was Commodore Commerell's wound, that he was ordered immediately to return to the Cape.
Space will not allow a description of the numerous engagements with the enemy, in which all the officers employed exhibited the greatest courage and endurance, although none surpassed Lieutenant Gordon and his Houssas in the services they rendered.
On the 2nd October, Sir Garnet Wolseley arrived at Cape Coast Castle in the Ambris, having previously touched at Sierra Leone, and made arrangements with the governor for raising men from the various tribes along the coast; steps were also immediately taken to form an army of Fantis. The major-general, however, was soon convinced that the attempt was hopeless; and, after a month's experience of the native forces he was able to collect, supported as they were by marines, bluejackets, and West India regiments, he wrote home requesting that the regiments which had been selected might be immediately sent out.
In the meantime, Captain Glover, formerly of the navy, who had served as administrator of the Government at Lagos, proposed a plan to raise a force of 10,000 natives, and to march from the east on Coomassie, the base of operations being on the river Volta, on which some steam-launches and canoes were to be placed. Captain Glover's plan being sanctioned, he at once proceeded out with the officers he had selected to act under him.
He was now busily employed in raising the proposed troops, which, from a thorough knowledge of the people, he succeeded in doing in the most complete manner.
One of Sir Garnet Wolseley's first exploits was a well-conducted attack on several of the villages in the neighbourhood of Elmina held by the Ashantees. Keeping his plan secret until the moment the march was commenced, he was able to surprise the enemy, who, however, stood their ground until put to flight by the rockets and the Snider rifle. Several officers and men were, however, wounded—Colonel McNeill badly in the wrist, as was also Captain Fremantle.
The seamen and marines had been up all night, and marched 21 miles under a burning sun, yet there were only two cases of sunstroke, and only four men were admitted to hospital the following day.
Captain Rait and Lieutenant Eardley Wilmot, of the Royal Artillery, had drilled a number of Houssas as gunners for Gatling guns and rockets, who afterwards rendered admirable service.
Besides Captain Rait's artillery, two efficient regiments had been formed of between 400 and 500 men each, from the bravest tribes, the one under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Wood, the other under that of Major Russell. Both these corps were well drilled by experienced English officers, and on all occasions exhibited the greatest bravery.
So well-conducted were the attacks made on the Ashantee forces which had invaded the Fanti territory, that at length, towards the end of October, they broke up their camp and began to retreat over the Prah. They were closely pursued; but many of the native allies, as on other occasions, refusing to proceed, the difficulty of carrying on reconnaissances fell mostly on the English officers.
In this work Lord Gifford especially distinguished himself. Colonel Festing commanded the force employed in the pursuit. He had with him Lieutenant Eardley Wilmot, in charge of eight Houssas of Rait's artillery. While pushing on gallantly in front, Lieutenant Wilmot was wounded in the arm, yet in spite of this he continued under fire, until an hour later he was shot through the heart; and Colonel Festing, when bringing in his body from where it was lying, was wounded by a slug in the hip.
Abrakrampa, one of the British advance posts, was garrisoned by the black regiment commanded by Major Russell, who had with him also a party of marines and bluejackets. He had received orders to send the latter back to Cape Coast, but just as they were about to march he received information that his camp would certainly be attacked. The report proved to be true. The enemy came on in great force; but each time that they attempted to break out of the bush, they were driven back by the hot fire kept up by the little garrison.
Major Russell immediately despatched a requisition for assistance, when a body of marines and bluejackets from the ships in the roads were landed and sent off. The Ashantees again and again renewed the attack, but were each time driven back.
The British force marching to the relief of the place suffered greatly from fatigue. They arrived, however, in time to assist in driving back the enemy, who now retreated towards the Prah at a more rapid rate than heretofore. While in pursuit of the enemy, large numbers of the native allies again took to flight, proving how utterly unreliable they were.
Sir Garnet Wolseley's chief object now was, having driven the enemy before him, to construct a road in the direction of Coomassie, and prepare halting-places for the European troops which were soon expected out.
Sickness, however, rendered a considerable number of the English officers incapable of duty.
The pursuit of the enemy by the force under Colonel Wood was especially harassing work. He and many of his officers were suffering from fever. The Ashantees frequently halted and fired on their pursuers, though on each occasion driven back.
As many bluejackets as could be spared from the ships were now landed, and several officers arrived out from England. The major-general was able to report on the 15th December 1873—"That the first phase of this war had been brought to a satisfactory conclusion by a few companies of the 2nd West India Regiment, Rait's artillery, Gordon's Houssas, and Wood's and Russell's regiments, admirably conducted by the British officers belonging to them, without the assistance of any English troops except the marines and bluejackets, who were on the station on his arrival." The Fanti country being cleared, a road towards the Prah was now energetically pushed forward. It was 12 feet wide, cleared of stumps or roots, swamps were either drained or avoided, or causeways made over them, and all the streams were bridged. This task was confided to Major Home, of the Royal Engineers.
The rough clearing of the first 25 miles had, however, already been performed by Lieutenant Gordon.
Stations were selected, and huts erected for the accommodation of the troops, and for stores and provisions. Means were taken to secure an ample supply of water, either by digging wells or from streams in the neighbourhood. At Prahsu the river Prah makes a sharp bend, within which a large camp was formed, with shelter for 2000 European troops, an hospital, and storehouses. Complete arrangements were made for the accommodation of the sick. The great difficulty was to obtain native carriers, who frequently deserted as soon as they were collected; and it was not until some time had passed that the transport service could be arranged in a satisfactory manner.
The plan which the major-general had arranged for the campaign was as follows:—The main body, consisting of three battalions of European troops, the Naval Brigade, Wood's and Russell's regiments and Rait's artillery, was to advance from Prahsu by the Coomassie road. On the extreme right, a native force under Captain Glover was to cross the Prah near Assum, and, as a connecting link between him and the main body, a column composed of natives, under the command of Captain Butler, 69th Regiment, was to cross the same river lower down; while, on the extreme left, another column of natives, commanded by Captain Dalrymple of the 88th Regiment, was to advance by the Wassaw road on Coomassie.
MARCH TO COOMASSIE.
On the 26th December, the major-general with his staff left Cape Coast Castle for Prahsu, which he reached on the 2nd January. Here the Naval Brigade arrived the following day.
The disembarkation of the regular troops commenced the 1st of January at 1:45, and by 6:35 that evening the whole of the troops had landed, and the brigade had reached Inquabun, six miles from Cape Coast Castle.
They consisted of the 42nd Highlanders, the Rifle Brigade, a detachment of the Royal Engineers, the 23rd Fusiliers, a detachment of the Royal Artillery, numbering in all 2504 men. As, however, there was great difficulty in obtaining transport, the Fusiliers and Royal Artillery were re-embarked, to remain on board the ships until required. Two hundred of the Fusiliers were afterwards re-landed, and marched to the front. Besides these, there were the 2nd West India Regiment, of 350 men, Rait's artillery, 50 men, and Wood's and Russell's regiments, numbering together 800, afterwards increased by a detachment of the 1st West India Regiment, lately landed.
During the early part of January, the whole of the British troops reached Prahsu, and on the 20th, the bridge across the Prah being finished, the force intended for the attack on Coomassie marched out of the camp.
Lord Gifford, in command of a well-trained body of native scouts, had previously gone forward, followed by Russell's and Wood's regiments, which obtained possession of the crest of the Adansi Hills. Lord Gifford pushing ahead, the enemy's scouts retreated before him, and the inhabitants deserted the villages. The king, it was evident, by this time was seriously alarmed, and, hoping for peace, released the European prisoners in his hands. He first sent in Mr Kuhne, a German missionary, who was followed by Mr Ramseyer, another missionary, and his wife and their two children, and Monsieur Bannat, a French merchant, from whom much important information was obtained. As the army advanced, the villages taken possession of were fortified and garrisoned, so that communication with the rear should be kept up and the sick carried back to hospital. Already a considerable number of officers and men were suffering from sickness. Captain Huyshe died the day before the major-general left Prahsu. Thus, out of the whole European force of 1800 men forming the main body, 215 men and 3 officers were unfitted for duty.
Fommanah, a large village 30 miles from Coomassie, having been deserted by the enemy, was entered on the 24th. The king sent letter after letter to Sir Garnet Wolseley petitioning for peace, but as he did not forward the hostages which were demanded, the army continued its advance, while the answer sent to him was "that the governor meant to go to Coomassie."
In an attack on the village of Borborassie, in which the Naval Brigade, a company of Fusiliers, and another of Russell's regiment, with Rait's artillery, were engaged, Captain Nicol, who led the advance, was unhappily shot dead, the first officer to fall north of the Prah. Information being received that the enemy was posted near the villages of Amoaful and Becquah, it was resolved immediately to attack them. The nature of the ground over which the operations were carried on must be described.
Excepting where the clearings for the villages existed, or native paths, the whole country was covered thickly with lofty trees, from which hung creepers innumerable, while below was thick brushwood, through which the pioneers had to cut a way before the troops could advance. Such a region afforded the enemy ample means of forming ambushes as well as for fighting under cover, of which they did not fail to take full advantage. The only other openings to be found were where swamps had prevented the growth of trees. Such was the difficult country in which Sir Garnet Wolseley had to manoeuvre his troops. The army advanced, with Lord Gifford's scouts skirmishing in front, Rait's guns and rockets leading, followed by the 42nd Highlanders, the 23rd Fusiliers, and the Rifle Brigade in succession, and on either flank the Naval Brigade and Russell's and Wood's regiments,—that on the right under command of Colonel Wood, and on the left of Colonel McLeod.
Lord Gifford, with 40 scouts, pushing ahead early in the morning, occupied the village of Egginassie by a rush. On the other side the enemy was found in considerable force. On this, Brigadier Sir Archibald Alison sent two companies of the 42nd Highlanders, forming the advance guard, up the main road to the front, and a section up a path which branched off to the left. Being soon hotly engaged, they were quickly supported by other companies under Major Macpherson, and the remainder of the regiment was immediately afterwards pushed forward. As company after company descended, their pipes playing, they were rapidly lost to sight in the thick smoke beneath, and their position could only be judged of by the sharp crack of their rifles, in contradistinction to the dull roar of the Ashantee musketry.
It was with the greatest difficulty, when fresh companies were sent to the support of those in action, that the latter could find their friends in the midst of the enemy's fire. The engineer labourers under Captain Buckle were cutting paths in the required directions, but so heavy a fire was brought to bear by the enemy, that their progress was much delayed. While at this time engaged in urging on his men, Captain Buckle fell mortally wounded. By one of the paths thus formed, Lieutenant Palmer brought his rockets into action, and, covered by their fire, two of the companies of Russell's regiment, led by Captain Gordon, made a splendid dash at the enemy. The Naval Brigade, under Captain Luxmoore, were engaged at the same period in exchanging a heavy fire with the Ashantees, who were making desperate attempts to retake the village. Before long, Major Macpherson and several other officers were wounded. Captain Rait's guns were now sent across the swamp, to attack a spot on which a dense mass of the enemy were collected together. After 14 or 15 rounds, which caused tremendous slaughter, they showed signs of giving way, and a rush being made, their position was carried. On the summit was found a large camp, in which their main body had been posted. This being quickly traversed by the British troops, the Ashantees again made a bold stand from a ridge behind it.
Once more Rait's guns were brought into action, followed by a heavy rifle fire, when, another charge being made, the fresh position taken up by the enemy was also carried. In the meantime, the right column, under Colonel Wood, which had been supported by the Fusiliers, was hotly engaged, and a considerable number of men were wounded, Colonel Wood and his aide-de-camp among them. So fierce was the opposition, that a second support of two companies of the Rifle Brigade was next ordered up. Pushing forward, they gallantly drove the enemy from their cover, and about half-past twelve the Ashantees took to flight.
As the cheers in front announced that the battle was gained, a rapid fire was heard in the direction of Quarman, showing that the Ashantees were attempting to cut off the communication with the rear. Four companies of the Rifle Brigade were accordingly ordered back, and so actively did they ply their rifles, that in less than an hour the Ashantees were put to flight. Another attack was, however, made on the right and rear of Quarman, by one of the principal Ashantee generals, but the enemy was gallantly held in check by its small garrison until the arrival of a company of the Rifle Brigade.
In the meantime Amoaful had been taken by a gallant rush of the 42nd Highlanders, led by Major Cluny Macpherson, and here the major-general established his headquarters.
The action altogether had lasted twelve hours, extending along two and a half miles of road. During the greater part of the time the firing was incessant,—the loss suffered by the 42nd being proof of its severity, nearly every fourth man having been hit. The enemy must have lost upwards of 2000 men in killed and wounded.
In the action, besides Captain Buckle, there were two privates of the 42nd and one of Wood's regiment killed. Of wounded, there were 15 military officers, and 147 men; 6 officers of the Naval Brigade, and 26 men. As short a time as possible was spent at Amoaful, when the force again advanced on the 2nd of February.
The advance guard was under Colonel McLeod, the main body under Brigadier-General Sir Archibald Alison. The troops carried two days' rations in their haversacks, a similar quantity being conveyed by the spare hammock bearers. A fifth day's rations were to be brought forward to them.
Colonel McLeod, pushing on, found but little opposition. The force was now concentrated at a place called Aggemmamu, within fifteen miles of Coomassie.
Sir Garnet now announced his intention of making a dash on Coomassie. The soldiers were asked whether they would undertake to make their rations for four days last if necessary for six. The answer was, as may be supposed, "Most willingly." Leaving their baggage under the care of such men as were too weakly to march, the army advanced on the morning of the 3rd.
As usual, Lord Gifford with his scouts went ahead, followed by Russell's regiment under Colonel McLeod. In a short time the enemy was encountered. After a sharp and short action, however, he was driven back, but with some loss on the side of the British. The advance guard pushed on until within a short distance of Coomassie, when messengers arrived from the king again entreating for peace, at the same time stating that there were 10,000 men on the other side of the river, who would fight if the British advanced. Sir Garnet Wolseley returned word, "that unless the queen and prince royal should be put into his hands, the march would be continued."
The advance guard reached the river Ordah at 2:10 p.m. It was found to be fifty feet wide and waist deep. Russell's regiment at once passed over, forming a covering party to the Engineers, who immediately set to work to throw a bridge across for the passage of the European troops, while clearings were made on the south bank, and rush huts thrown up in which the British soldiers bivouacked. At first some apprehensions were entertained that a night-attack would be made, but a heavy thunderstorm coming on, during which the flintlocks of the enemy would have been useless, rendered that improbable.
By daybreak on the 4th, the bridge over the Ordah was completed, Major Home, of the Engineers, having worked at it all night throughout the whole of the tornado and drenching rain.
As no hostages had arrived, it was expected that another battle would have to be fought.
At an early hour the advance guard pushed on, the Naval Brigade being left at the bridge to guard the passage until the baggage had crossed. Directly the troops advanced, the enemy opened fire. The native troops on this occasion firing wildly, Colonel McLeod ordered a company of the Rifle Brigade and the 7-pounder gun under Lieutenant Saunders to the front.
The enemy pressing the advance, a vigorous flank fire being also opened on the troops under Sir Archibald Alison, reinforcements were ordered up. Colonel McLeod continued steadily to advance, Lieutenant Saunders' gun clearing the road, when the Rifles again pushed forward, until the village of Ordahsu was carried and a lodgment effected there.
In this skirmish Lieutenant Eyre was mortally wounded, and several of the men were severely hurt, although the enemy did not fight with the same obstinacy as at Amoaful. As the village was approached, a tremendously heavy fire was opened on both flanks of the British force. The Rifle Brigade and the Fusiliers, with two of Rait's guns, having now got up to the village, under Sir Archibald Alison's command, the force was ordered to move on.
At that moment the enemy commenced a vigorous attack on the village, so that the Rifle Brigade and Fusiliers had to be thrown into the bush to check them. According to the brigadier's request, the 42nd were pushed forward, the object being to break through the enemy who appeared in force in front. The Highlanders were quickly sent on, and the major-general with the headquarters entered the village immediately after them. A short halt, however, was required, to allow the baggage to arrive.
During this time the enemy pressed boldly up to the village, firing volleys of slugs, one of which struck the major-general on the helmet, fortunately at a part where the leather band prevented it entering.
About noon, the 42nd, with Rait's artillery, led the attack on the enemy's front, for the purpose of breaking through and pushing on direct for Coomassie, followed by the Rifle Brigade. They had not got far before a tremendous fire was opened on the head of the column from a strong ambuscade behind a fallen tree, and several men were knocked over, but the flank companies working steadily through the bush, the leading company sprang forward with a cheer. The pipes struck up, and the ambuscade was carried. Then, without stop or stay, the 42nd rushing on cheering, their pipes playing, officers to the front, ambuscade after ambuscade was successfully carried, and village after village won in succession, until the whole of the Ashantee army broke and fled in the wildest disorder down the pathway towards Coomassie. The ground was covered with traces of their flight. Umbrellas, war chairs of their chiefs, drums, muskets, killed and wounded, strewed the way. No pause took place until a village about four miles from Coomassie was reached, when the absolute exhaustion of the men rendered a short halt necessary.
Meanwhile the attack on the village continued, and the enemy were allowed to close around the rear, Ordahsu, however, being strongly guarded.
On the arrival of the major-general, he ordered an advance of the whole force on Coomassie. It was nearly five o'clock before the troops again moved forward. The village of Karsi, the nearest to Coomassie, was passed without opposition. When close upon the city, a flag of truce was received by the brigadier, who forwarded it with a letter to Sir Garnet Wolseley, whose only reply was, "Push on." On this the brigadier immediately advanced, and, passing the Soubang swamp which surrounds the city, entered the great market-place of Coomassie, without opposition, about 5:30. The major-general himself arrived at 6:15, when the troops formed on parade, and, at his command, gave three cheers for Her Majesty the Queen.
The town was full of armed men, but not a shot was fired. The brigadier had so placed the artillery that it could sweep the streets leading to the market-place, and had thrown out the necessary pickets. A party was sent down to the palace, under the guidance of an Englishman who had long been a resident at Coomassie; but the king, queen-mother, and prince, with all other persons of distinction, had fled. Due arrangements were made to preserve order. The major-general issued a proclamation, threatening with the punishment of death any person caught plundering. The troops were exposed to much danger, flames bursting out in several directions, the work of the Fanti prisoners who had been released. The great palace of the king was entered,—a building far superior to the ordinary habitations of the natives,—and was found to contain treasures of all sorts, and evidence also of the fearful atrocities committed within it; while close to it was seen the dreadful pit into which the bodies of those slaughtered almost daily by the king's command were thrown.
In vain Sir Garnet Wolseley waited for the king to fulfil his promise; neither any part of the sum demanded, nor the hostages, had been delivered. To remain longer at Coomassie was hazardous in the extreme. The rains had already commenced, and the rivers, which had been crossed with ease, were now much swollen.
For the sake of the health of the troops, the major-general resolved, therefore, having destroyed the town and palace, to retreat. That the enemy might not be aware of his intentions, a report was circulated that the army would advance in pursuit of the king, and that any Ashantee found in the town after six o'clock would be shot. This effectually cleared out the natives.
Prize agents were appointed to take charge of the riches in the palace. Arrangements were made for destroying it on the following morning, and setting the whole town on fire.
Early the next morning the return march began. The rear company of the 42nd Highlanders remained at the south end of the market-place while the guard was removed from the palace. The city was then set on fire, and the mines for the destruction of the palace exploded,—the dense columns of smoke which curled up in the sky showing the King of Ashantee and all his subjects that the white man had not failed to keep his word. Gallant Colonel McLeod remained until the last of the engineers and sappers had passed to the front; he then waved his hand as a signal for the rear company to march, and Coomassie was abandoned to the flames.
The troops on their return march, although they encountered some difficulties, were not molested, so thoroughly and completely had the Ashantees been defeated. As a further proof of this, ambassadors from the king overtook the army on the 12th, bringing upwards of 1000 ounces of gold, as part of the indemnity of the 50,000 ounces demanded, and returned with a treaty of peace for the black monarch to sign. The forts which had been constructed were destroyed, the sick and wounded, with the stores, sent on, and the major-general and his staff reached Cape Coast Castle on the 19th of February.
The Naval Brigade, consisting of 265 men and 17 officers, rendered valuable service throughout the campaign, and fought on all occasions with most dashing courage. Though only one was killed, 63 were wounded in action, while several others were killed and wounded during the operations which took place along the coast, to punish several of the petty chiefs who had sided with the Ashantees.
One of the most gallant performances of the campaign was the ride across the country, from the eastward, by Captain Sartorious, who with 20 followers passed through Coomassie five days after the army had quitted it, and, though fired on twice by the enemy, safely arrived at Prahsu. The following day, Captain Glover, R.N., having marched from the Volta, entered the city at the head of 4600 native allies. Here King Coffee sent him a token of submission by the hands of an ambassador, in the shape of a plateful of gold, which he returned, and then proceeded southward with his forces into friendly territory, having performed an exploit which, for daring, intrepidity, judgment, and the perseverance with which it was carried out, stands almost unrivalled.
Most of the officers engaged in the expedition were promoted, but on two only—Lord Gifford and Sergeant McGaw of the 42nd—was the Victoria Cross bestowed,—an honour which, by the unanimous voice of all who witnessed their behaviour, they richly deserved.
The Commander-in-Chief also recommended Captain A.F. Kidston of the 42nd, Private George Cameron, and Private George Ritchie, for the same honour.
The officers killed in action were Lieutenant E. Wilmot, R.A., Lieutenant Eyre, 90th Regiment, Captain Nicol, Hants Militia, Captain Buckle, RE; while three died from the effects of the climate,— Lieutenant the Honourable A. Charteris, A.D.C., Captain Huyshe, D.A.Q.M.G., Lieutenant E. Townshend, 16th Regiment; while seven others were wounded.
THE AFGHAN WAR—1878-1879.
For many years previous to the war, the relations between England and Afghanistan had been unsatisfactory. Shere Ali, the ruler of the latter country, received an annual subsidy from us, and had, besides, been presented with large quantities of arms and other warlike weapons. The events which led to the war have been debated with great acrimony, and are viewed in opposite manners by persons of different political opinions, and it is enough here to say that the approach of Russia to the northern frontier of Afghanistan caused considerable uneasiness to the Ameer, and that, unable to obtain from us any positive assurances of support in case of attack from the north, he appears to have determined that his best course would be to throw himself into the arms of Russia, even at the risk of breaking with us.
For some time all communications with the Ameer had ceased, and it was from a native news-writer that the intelligence that a Russian general with a mission had arrived in Cabul, and had been honourably received, came to the ears of our authorities.
Upon the news being made public, the Viceroy of India wrote to Shere Ali, requesting him to receive also an English mission. The answer of the Ameer was evasive, and Major Cavaignari, an officer of great experience in Afghanistan, was sent up with an escort as a precursor of a larger and more important mission to follow. Upon the 21st September he arrived at Ali-Musjid, an Afghan fort in the Khyber Pass, and was there stopped by an officer of the Ameer with a large force. A long parley took place; but the officer refused to allow him to pass, and Major Cavaignari, not having a sufficient number of men with him to force his way up, retired, with an intimation that the Ameer would be held responsible for the conduct of his officer.
As it was clearly impossible that the Indian Government could put up with this insult, and that, moreover, England could not submit to see Russian envoys received by a country upon her border which refused to admit her own officers, preparations were at once made for war. It was decided to invade Afghanistan in three columns, one starting from Jumrood, at the north of the Khyber Pass, the second to advance through Tull by the Kuram Valley, and the third to move via the Bolan Pass upon Candahar. The first of these was to be commanded by General Sir S. Browne, the second by General Roberts, the third by General Biddulph. The preparations for the concentration of these columns occupied considerable time, as India had been for some time in a state of profound peace, and the commissariat and transport service had to be entirely organised. The greatest efforts were, however, made, and the troops were rapidly got into place.
On the 26th of October a defiant reply to the Viceroy's letter was received from the Ameer, and an ultimatum was in consequence sent to him, to the effect that unless the British demands were complied with, the troops would advance across the frontier. No reply having been received from him up to the night of the 20th November, orders were given to the troops to advance, and upon the following morning Generals Roberts and Browne advanced across the frontier with their respective columns.
The division of General Browne was divided into four brigades. The first, under General Macpherson, consisted of the fourth battalion of the Rifle Brigade, the 20th Bengal Infantry, and the 4th Ghurkas, with a mountain battery. These were to go round by a mountain road, to make a long circuit, and to come down into the pass at a village lying a mile or two beyond Ali-Musjid. The second brigade, under Colonel Tytler, consisting of the first battalion of the 17th Foot, the Infantry of the Guides, the 1st Sikhs, and a mountain battery, were to take a hill opposite to Ali-Musjid, and capture some batteries which the Afghans had erected there; while the third and fourth brigades were to advance direct up the valley. The former of these brigades consisted of the 81st, the 14th Sikhs, and the 24th Native Infantry. The fourth brigade was composed of the 51st Foot, the 6th Native Infantry, and the 45th Sikhs. With them was a mountain battery, and a battery of Horse Artillery.
The fort of Ali-Musjid is situated on a rock standing out in the valley, at a distance of some six miles from the frontier. It is a most commanding position, and, flanked as it was by batteries on the hillsides, was a most formidable place to capture. The advancing column marched forward until from a rise in the valley they could see Ali-Musjid at a distance of a mile and a half. The fort at once opened fire. The gunners there had been practising for some weeks, and had got the range with great accuracy. The column was therefore halted, and the men allowed to eat their dinners, as it was desired that the flanking columns should get into position before the front attack began. The guns of the battery answered those upon the fort, and a battery of 40-pounders coming up and opening fire, their effect upon the fort was at once visible.
The Sikhs were now thrown out upon the hillside, and these began a heavy musketry fire against the Afghans in the batteries there. Presently a general advance was ordered. The 81st and 24th Native Infantry advanced on the right-hand slopes of the valley, while the 51st and 6th Native Infantry and the Sikhs worked along on the left.
The scene is described as one of the most picturesque ever seen in warfare. From the fortress standing on the perpendicular rock in the centre of the valley, the flashes of the great guns came fast and steadily, while the edges of the rocks and forts were fringed with tiny puffs of musketry. On the British side the heavy 40-pounders and the batteries of Horse and Royal Artillery kept up a steady fire, while both sides of the steep hill-slopes were alive with British infantry, the quick flash of the rifles breaking from every rock and bush.
Gradually our skirmishers advanced until they were nearly abreast of the fort; but, so far, there was no sign that Macpherson's brigade had accomplished its task and carried the hill, or that Tytler had worked round to the village in the rear. Some attacks, however, were made upon the Afghan intrenchments. These, however, were unsuccessful, and some valuable lives were lost. Major Birch and Lieutenant Fitzgerald, both of the 27th Native Infantry, were killed; Captain Maclean, of the 14th Sikhs, was wounded; and between thirty and forty rank and file killed and wounded.
As the fort and its defences could not have been carried without vast loss of life, it was now determined to halt, in order to give the flanking columns time to get in their places. These, who had met with enormous obstacles on their march, arrived in the night at their respective destinations, and the defenders of Ali-Musjid, taken by alarm at the news that forces were advancing which would cut off their retreat, precipitately abandoned their posts and fled. A great number were taken prisoners, and in the morning the troops occupied Ali—Musjid without resistance. So completely taken by surprise were the Afghans at the easy capture of a fort which they believed to be absolutely impregnable, that they fled without further resistance; and the British, moving quietly up the valley, occupied place after place with scarcely a shot fired until they reached Jellalabad.
In the meantime, General Roberts was advancing up the Kuram Valley. The tribes here greeted our advance with pleasure, for they were tributary to Cabul, and viewed the Afghan rule with aversion. It was upon the Peiwar Khotal, a steep and extremely strong position, that the Afghans determined to take their stand.
On the 30th of November the forces approached this position. The Afghans remained silent, and preparations were made for encamping at the commencement of the pass. The enemy, however, were nearer and more active than had been supposed, and scarcely had the troops taken up their position, when a heavy fire was opened upon them from above, and the force had to retire hastily out of range. Some of the infantry were pushed forward, and for a time brisk firing took place. The troops then encamped for the night out of range of shot. The next day was passed in endeavouring to feel the position of the enemy, who occupied the line upon the top of the crest, and it was not until the 2nd that an attack was delivered.
After thoroughly reconnoitring the ground, it was found that the position of the Afghans was too strong to be attacked in front, and it was determined to turn it by a long and very difficult night-march of nine miles, up a path leading to the extreme left of the enemy's position. The 72nd Highlanders, the 5th Ghurkas, and the 29th Native Infantry were told off for the service, and started after nightfall. At daybreak they came upon the enemy's pickets, and a fierce fight took place, the Afghans defending themselves desperately. Captain Kelso brought up his battery of mountain guns, and did good service in aiding the infantry, who were all fiercely engaged. He himself, however, was shot dead.
After three hours' hard fighting the enemy's left wing was beaten, and the British, pressing forward, drove them in confusion upon the centre. The 2nd Punjaub Infantry, the 23rd Pioneers, and four artillery guns on elephants now arrived on the scene. It was well that they did so, for the enemy were again found in a strong position in a thick wood, and an obstinate fight ensued. It was some hours before they were dislodged from this point, as they continually brought up fresh troops. So severe was their resistance that it was found impossible to force them back by a direct attack, and General Roberts now directed his men to advance in such a direction as to still further turn their position and threaten their line of retreat. This had the desired effect. The Afghans, as usual, lost heart as soon as it appeared that their retreat was menaced, and, leaving the strong positions on the Peiwar itself, fled hastily.
While this fight had been going on, the second battalion of the 8th Foot had advanced direct from the camp below. Hitherto they had made no great progress, but had succeeded in attracting the attention of the enemy and keeping a large body of men in their intrenchments, and so aided the main attack on the right. The moment the Afghans yielded, the 8th pushed forward and occupied the enemy's position.
The total loss on our side was 2 officers killed, 2 wounded, and 90 rank and file (Europeans and natives) killed and wounded. The troops were too much fatigued with their hard marching and fighting to be able to pursue the enemy. But no ill effect was caused by this, as the Afghans had completely lost heart, and in their retreat threw away arms and abandoned baggage of all kinds, most of their guns being left behind, and one battery falling into the hands of the British when they advanced to the Shaturgurdan Pass. General Roberts with a small party went on to this point, which they found abandoned, and from whence they commanded a view across the heart of Afghanistan almost to Cabul. It was considered unnecessary to occupy this position, as the winter was now at hand, during which time the pass is absolutely closed by snow. There was, then, no fear of the Afghans taking the offensive from this quarter.
Thus in two engagements the military strength which Shere Ali had been building up for many years, and which he considered sufficient to defend his country against the attacks of the British, fell absolutely to pieces; and a few days later he himself left Cabul, and started, a fugitive, for the northern frontier with the intention of passing into Russia. It was necessary, however, that letters should be sent asking permission for him to take this step, and during the delay which ensued the Ameer was seized by fever, and expired.
General Roberts determined to leave a force to garrison the Peiwar, and to take up his headquarters in the lower valley, there to winter. On the way down he followed a route hitherto unknown, leading through the defile of the Chappri. It turned out to be extremely wild and difficult, and the people of this part, a tribe called Mongols, attacked the baggage, which was proceeding under a small escort only, the troops having passed through ahead. The attack was sudden and unexpected; but the men of the baggage guard stood their way well. Captain Goad, assistant-superintendent of transport, was shot through the legs, and fell while fighting bravely. The natives made a rush towards him, but four soldiers of the 72nd stood over him and gallantly defended him against a crowd of enemies until the 5th Ghurkas, under Major Fitzhugh, came up from the rear. Heavy as the fire was, singularly enough, only one of these gallant fellows was wounded.
The Mongols stood boldly, and, taking to the rocks, kept up a very rapid fire, while the Ghurkas repeatedly charged home with the bayonet, using their terrible knives with great effect, and finally putting them to flight, three of the 5th being killed and 13 wounded. Farther up the defile the Mongols made another rush upon the train, but were here more easily beaten back. The attack was made with the hope of plunder only, and from no political animosity.
The population in the valley, although not hostile to British rule, were eager to plunder British waggons, and constant outrages of this kind took place, many soldiers and camp followers being killed. The marauders were in some cases taken and executed upon the spot.
Early in January, General Roberts started with a force up the valley of the Khost. The General reached Khost without much opposition. The villages round sent in their submission, and all appeared likely to terminate quietly. But upon the day after their arrival at the fort, the natives from around mustered in great numbers, and advanced to an attack upon the camp, occupying a number of steep hills around it, and massing in the villages themselves. A troop of the 5th Punjaub Cavalry advanced to attack them, with orders, if possible, to tempt them out on to the plain. This was well managed. The enemy, seeing the smallness of the force, poured out of the villages, when Major Bulkeley with the 10th Hussars swept down upon them, and the Afghans fled and took post on the hills.
They again advanced on all sides, and attacked the camp, and for four hours the 72nd, with two guns to assist them, could get but little advantage of them. Then, unable to withstand the fire of our breechloaders and the effect of our shell, they fell back to the hills. Near the villages on the south side Major Stewart with thirty men of the 5th Punjaub Cavalry made a notable charge. A body fully a thousand strong of the enemy was making from the hills, when, with his handful of men, he dashed down upon them, scattering them in all directions, cutting down twenty, and wounding a large number.
When the enemy had retired to the hills, the villages were searched; and as the inhabitants of these had taken part in the fight, and large numbers of arms were found concealed there, these were burnt, the inhabitants being expelled, and those whom their wounds showed to have taken part in the fight—over 100 in number—brought as prisoners. The loss on our side was but two killed and eight wounded, showing that the Afghans, courageous as they are, are contemptible as marksmen.
This brought the fighting to a close. General Roberts, finding his force too small to hold the Kuram and Khost valleys, evacuated the latter, and the force went into winter quarters.
This step had already been taken in the Khyber. It had not been intended from the first to push the advance as far as Cabul before the winter came on, as the difficulties in the way of so doing would have been enormous, and the troops would have had great difficulty in maintaining their position, even should they capture Cabul before the snow set in. The flight of the Ameer, too, and the accession to power as his father's representative of Yakoob Khan, his eldest son, who had for many years been kept by his father as a prisoner, naturally arrested the course of affairs. It was hoped that Yakoob would at once treat with us, and that our objects would be attained without further advance. These anticipations were to some extent verified. Negotiations were opened, and upon the 3rd of March Yakoob offered to negotiate terms of peace.
Nothing has been said as yet of the doings of the third column of invasion under General Stewart, who had taken the command originally assigned to General Biddulph. The difficulties in the way of advance of this column were immense. First, a sandy desert almost destitute of water, extending between the Indus and the foot of the mountains, had to be crossed; then the ascent of the Bolan Pass had to be made, a work of the most tremendous difficulty. This pass, whose ascent occupies three days, is in fact the mere bed of a stream, full of boulders and stones of all sizes, in which the baggage and artillery horses sank fetlock deep. In making this passage vast quantities of camels and other animals died, and a long delay took place in assembling the force at Quettah, a post occupied by us at the top of the pass. The arrangements were completed at last, and General Stewart advanced upon Candahar, which he captured on the 8th of January, having met with, a small amount of resistance only.