Camp, Larkanu, Dec. 26th, 1839.
MY DEAR ELIZA, — I finished and sent off a
letter to my father yesterday, giving an account of the storming of Kelat,
and the wounds I received in the skrimmage, and telling him of everything
that had happened since I wrote before, which was the day we left Cabool.
You can see his letter, which gives a pretty full account of all our proceedings
up to the present time.
I have now to make many apologies for not
having answered your two letters, one dated May 29th, giving an account
of Kate's wedding, and the other, dated the 29th of July, from Bristol,
and likewise for having forgotten to thank you for the money you were kind
enough to send out with my father's, last year. I can assure you never
came money more acceptable, as no one can imagine what expenses we have
unavoidably been obliged to incur in this campaign, which I suppose has
cost officers more than any other campaign that ever was undertaken. I
think there are few of us who have come off under 100 pounds besides our
pay; and yet this was merely for the common necessaries of life, — just
sufficient to keep body and soul together. I can assure you I feel very
much obliged for your present, as also for the two letters which I received
while on the march. I have often thought of Brookhill during the many dreary
marches that we have made, and on the solitary out-lying pickets, with
no one to speak to, and deplored my unlucky fate, in being obliged to leave
home just as you seem to be comfortably settled there. Still I have hope
that I may yet return, some day or other.
I can now give you more definite intelligence
with regard to our movements than I did in my father's letter; since sending
off which orders have come out, and the campaign, as far as our regiment
is concerned, is decidedly brought to a close. H.M. 17th, with Gen. Willshire,
Baumgardt, and Head-quarter Staff, marched this morning for Bukkur, where
they are to remain for four or five months, so report says, and longer
than that I suppose, if their services are required. The Queen's, and the
4th Light Dragoons, are to return to Bombay as soon as the necessary arrangements
for their transportation thither &c. are completed. We march from this
tomorrow for the banks of the river, about twelve miles, and shall probably
remain there for three weeks or so, until the shipping is got ready in
Bombay, when we shall drop down the Indus in boats, and embark from Curachee
for the Presidencies: would it were for England. Most of our married officers
have obtained leave to precede the regiment, and are off in a day or two.
I hope to see Lieutenant-Colonel Fane when
we arrive at Bombay. His father, Sir H. Fane, has publicly and officially
resigned the commander-in-chief-ship in favour of Sir Jasper Nicolls. Sir
Henry has been dangerously unwell at Bombay; but report says he is now
getting better. He intends sailing as soon as possible, I believe, and
so will most likely be gone before we arrive there. Sir J. Keane has also
resigned, and is to be succeded by Sir Thomas M'Mahon. It is not quite
certain that we shall go to Bombay, as some say that we shall land at Cambay,
and go up to Deesa, and others that we shall return to Belgaum. Last night
we received Bombay papers, giving an account of the taking of Kelat. They
have buttered us up pretty well, and seem to think it a much more gallant
affair than that of Ghuzni — in this last particular they are only doing
Dec. 30th, Camp, Taggur Bundur; Banks of the
Indus.— We arrived here the day before yesterday, and are likely to remain,
I believe, a fortnight or so. We muster rather small, as most of the married
officers are off to-day and yesterday. As to my wounds, I have only one
hole still open — namely, the one through which the bullet took its final
departure, and that, I think, will be closed in a day or two. I am sorry
to say that since arriving here I have caught a "cruel cold," from which
I am suffering severely at present.
By-the-bye, there are a few incidents connected
with the taking of Kelat which I forgot to mention in my letter to my father.
Mehrab Khan, the chief of Kelat, managed to send away all his harem and
family on the morning of the fight, directly we were seen approaching,
but his other chiefs were not so fortunate, and the greater part of them
deliberately cut the throats of all the females belonging to their establishments,
including wives, mothers, and daughters, as soon as we established ourselves
within the town, rather than suffer them to fall into the hands of us infidels.
I forgot, I think, also, to mention that I
managed to procure rather a handsome Koran, which was found in the citadel,
and also an excellent Damascus blade, both of which I intend giving to
my father, and a few articles of native costume, which would go far to
make up a neat fancy dress, but it is not quite complete. A great number
of handsome articles were stolen by the camp followers and other rascals,
worse luck for us poor wounded officers, who could not help ourselves.
We were rather surprised at finding some excellent European articles in
the shape of double-barrelled guns, pistols, beautiful French musical boxes,
prints, looking-glasses, and pier-glasses, &c., in the rooms of the
citadel. Where Mehrab Khan could have picked them up I cannot think, unless
they were the result of some successful foray on some unfortunate caravan.
The day after the fight, Captain Outram, of
whom I have so often spoken in my letters to my father, volunteered to
take the dispatches to Bombay, and started for that purpose straight across
country to Someanee Bay, on the sea-coast, a distance of 350 miles, and
across the barren mountains that compose the greatest part of Beloochistan.
This route had up to that time never been traversed by any European, except
Pottinger, who passed through all these countries twenty years ago, disguised
as a native. It was attempted last year by Captain Harris, of the Bombay
Engineers, author of the "African Excursions," a very enterprising officer,
and who landed at Someanee Bay for that purpose; but after getting about
twenty miles into the interior, reported the route as impracticable.
When this is taken into consideration, with
the great chance there was of Captain Outram's falling into the hands of
the many straggling fugitives from Kelat, and the well-known character
of these gentlemen, now smarting under the painful feeling of being driven
from their homes, &c., it must be confessed that it required no little
pluck to undertake it. The plan proved, however, perfectly successful.
He travelled in the disguise of an Afghan Peer or holy man, under the guidance
of two Afghan Seyds, a race of men much looked up to and respected in all
Mahomedan countries, on account of their obtaining (whether true or not,
I know not), a pure descent from the Prophet. Outram and his party fell
in with several bands of fugitives, and actually came up and were obliged
to travel a day or two with the harem and escort of Mehrab Khan's brother.
As there was a chance of Outram's being discovered by this party, the Seyd
introduced him in the character of a Peer, which holy disguise he had to
support during the whole journey; and after some extraordinary escapes
he arrived at Someanee Bay in seven or eight days.
Our sick and wounded have been left behind
at Kelat, under the charge of an officer of the 17th, since which things
have gone on very smoothly there. The new Khan has been very accommodating,
and has given fêtes, &c., to the officers left behind, in honour
of our gallantry. He has also written to General Willshire to say that
he intends giving us all a medal each, whether we are allowed to wear it
or not, as he does not see why, if the Shah did it for Ghuzni, he might
not do it also for Kelat. Lord Auckland has published an order that all
regiments belonging to the Company that went beyond the Bolan Pass shall
wear Afghanistan on their colours and appointments, and all engaged at
Ghuzni that name also; and has written to the Queen for permission for
Queen's regiments employed in like manner to bear the same. I suppose we
shall get Kelat in addition.
There is one other point which, in my hurry
to get my letter off in time for the January mail, I totally forgot to
mention — viz., about drawing some money on my father. I have before mentioned
the great expense we have been put to in this campaign; in addition to
this, when we were ordered from Quettah to take Kelat, we were also under
orders to return to Quettah after having taken the place. A sergeant was
therefore left behind at Quettah to take charge of whatever effects any
person might leave, and officers were strongly advised to leave the greater
part of their kit at this place. I, as well as most of my brother officers,
was foolish enough to follow this advice, and brought only a bundle of
linen; consequently now I am almost minus everything; dress-coat, appointments,
are all left behind, as General Willshire, after the taking of Kelat, instead
of returning to Quettah, proceeded into Cutch Gundava by the Gundava Pass.
Nothing has been since heard of what we have
left behind, except that the sergeant could not get camels or carriage
sufficient to bring them down. Moreover, it is unsafe to go through the
Bolan Pass without a tolerably strong escort; so, taking all things into
consideration, I do not think there is much chance of our ever seeing anything
of them again. The consequences will be, that, on our arrival at Bombay,
I shall be obliged to get an entire new fit-out, and as the campaign has
drained me dry, I shall be obliged to draw upon my father for it; however,
I will repay him by the end of the year, as by that time the Company will
given us half a year's full batta, which they intend doing as a sort of
indemnification for the losses we have sustained on the campaign; my batta
will be about 72 pounds.
I do not think I have any more to say, and
as the January overland sails on the 25th, I hope this letter will reach
Bombay in time to go by it, as well as my father's. By-the-bye, how is
old Nelly? If she has any good pups, I wish you would manage to keep one
for me, as I expect the old girl will be either dead or very old by the
time I return. I am longing to get out of the "sick-list," as the thickets
here near the river are full of partridges and hares, and the climate,
at this time of the year, is very cool and pleasant. My rheumatism is much
better since I was wounded; but I still have it in my left arm. Well, no
more; but wishing you, and all, a happy new year.
Believe me ever your very affectionate brother,