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The First Afghan War in .NET framework
The First Afghan War
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Maintaining a pro-British ruler on the throne of Afghanistan was vital to Britain in the Great Game, securing India s back door In 1835 Dost Mohammed succeeded to the crown, but three years later he was having problems with his Russian-backed Persian neighbours to the west and with the Sikhs to the south He asked Lord Auckland, the Governor General of India, to assist Auckland refused brusquely, so Dost Mohammed turned to the Russians, who quickly sorted things out with the Persians Auckland, believing that this was simply a prelude to Russian troops appearing on the Indian border, reached the conclusion that Dost Mohammed had to go It seems not to have occurred to Lord Auckland to attempt to resolve the Russian involvement in Afghanistan through the normal diplomatic channels between London and St Petersburg Instead, in a decision bordering on imbecility, he despatched a 21,000-strong army under General Sir John Keane into Afghanistan in 1839, occupying Kandahar in April, storming the fortress of Ghazni in July, and capturing Kabul on 7 August Dost Mohammed became a prisoner and was sent to India A British nominee, Shah Shuja, replaced him and Keane returned to India, leaving a garrison in Kabul to support two British diplomats, Sir William Macnaghton and Sir Alexander Burns
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Part IV: Nineteenth-Century Wars
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Dost Mohammed was a popular king, and in November his son, Akbar Khan, led a major uprising His men murdered Macnaghton and Burns and surrounded the British garrison Major General William Elphinstone commanded the garrison, but he was elderly and ill, and worse still, he was a ditherer He dithered to the point that Akbar Khan was all but telling him what to do He agreed that his garrison should not only leave Kabul but quit Afghanistan altogether, under safe conduct This action amounted to nothing less than a shameful capitulation In his decision to leave, Elphinstone faced three difficulties from the outset: His march was being made in the dead of winter His column contained 4500 soldiers and 12,000 camp followers, including many of the sepoys (Indian soldiers ) families His army marched heavy An officer s kit, including heavy furniture and everything else necessary for his comfort in the field, required several baggage animals or carts Add to that numerous servants, contractors of every kind, and drivers for the hundreds of animals needed to transport everything In effect, Elphinstone signed everyone s death warrant No sooner had the column left Kabul than Akbar Khan s tribesmen fell on it, killing at will Day by day the column struggled on, leaving a trail of dead and dying in its wake Only the British 44th (1/The Essex Regiment) and the Bengal Horse Artillery retained the ability to fight back, but at Gandamak in the Jagduluk Pass tribesmen surrounded their remnant With no hope in sight, the 44th removed their Colours from their staffs and Captain Souter wore them as a sash to prevent their being recognised They made a final stand, fighting back to back, but the end was inevitable Although Souter was wounded, the tribesmen spared his life since they took the richly embroidered sash to indicate a man of great importance who made a valuable hostage They also spared the lives of three or four wounded privates, perhaps with a degree of admiration Elphinstone was also spared but died a prisoner In less than a week since leaving Kabul the entire column had been wiped out Only one European, Dr William Brydon, and a bare handful of Indians got through to the fort of Jellalabad, held under the command of Brigadier General Robert Sale Sale conducted an energetic defence of the fort, making regular sorties that cost his besiegers dear On 16 April 1842, an avenging army under General Sir George Pollock relieved Jellalabad Pollock fought his way to Kabul, first taking the heights on either side of the road to draw the teeth from any planned Afghan ambush The skeletons of Elphinstone s doomed column lined the road itself The British reached Kabul in September They released the prisoners and the arrival of the Kandahar garrison, which had also withstood a siege, reinforced the army As the
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