Monday, 13 December 2010

How the Bad News came to Jallalabad

In this Post, The Reverend George Glieg's account of how the Force under Lady Sale's husband, General Robert, "Fighting Bob" Sale, themselves penned up by hostiles in Jellalabad, heard the news of the disaster

"It is a fact, which every surviving officer of the thirteenth will vouch for, that almost from the first, Colonel Dennie had boded ill of the force left in Cabul...His words were :

"You'll see. Not a soul will escape from Cabul except one man; and he will come to tell us that the rest are destroyed." Under such circumstances, it is very little to be wondered at, if men's blood curdled while they watched the advance of the solitary horseman, and the vopice of dennie sounded like the response of an oracle when he exclaimed "Did I not say so? Here comes the messenger."

He was brought in bleeding and faint and covered with wounds; graspoing in his hand the hilt and small fragment of a sword...

Dr Brydon told how the column set forth; disorganised and cowed; how first the baggage and, by and by, the soldiers, were set upon by the enemy. He described the wavering and imbecility of the leaders, the insubordinate conduct of the men ...and last of all, the treachery of Akbar Khan, who, enticing the General (Elphinstone), with all the other officers of rank, into his power, left the wreck of the army without anyone to guide it...when matters arrived at this point, there was an end to discipline, to order, and of course, to last, all the sepoys and camp followers having died, some of cold and fatigue, others by bullets or the sword, a miserable remnant of the 44th regiument, with about forty European officers, arrived in the vicinity of it seems that some of the officers and men parted by one they dropped off...till six only remained...a band of ruffians rushed upon them, and cut down two. The other four galloped off, and Dr Brydon, who was the worst mounted...soon fell into the rear...he soon came up with the body of one of his friends, terribly Afgahn horseman, armed to the teeth, confronted him...hew fought for his life...he rode on bleeding and weak...and being soon afterward espied from the rtamparts of Jellalabad, was brought in to the garrison."

In the words of contemporary military historian, Patrick McCrory :"Here was a force that, with its camp followers, women and children, had numbered some 16000 souls on the day it marched from Kabul under a shameful capitulation and an illusory safe-conduct; one week later, on 13 January 1842, Surgeon William Brydon rode alone into Jellalabad, the only British survivor. In the nights that followed a great light would be kept burning over the Kabul gate at Jellalabad and every fifteen minutes four buglers would sound advance. But there were no more stragglers to respond to beacon or bugle."