Siege of Kahan

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Siege of Kahan
Part of 1st Afghan War 1839-42
Date: 11 May-29 September 1840
Location: Kahan, Kohlu District, Baluchistan
Presidency: Bombay
Co-ordinates: 29.300004°N 68.901592°E
Result: British withdrawal
British Marri tribes
Capt Lewis Brown Dodah Khan


Captain Lewis was put in charge of a detachment to occupy the fort at Kahan in the Muree (Marri) Hills. He set out from Sukkur with Lieut Clarke of the 2nd Grenadiers reaching Poolajee (Foliji) on 8 April 1840. The field detachment noted below was waiting for him. He was ordered to send the guns to Lahri but, knowing he could not force the passes without artillery, he kept one gun. He left Poolajee on 2 May without the Pathan horse who he felt would be of limited help. The Surtoff Pass was reached on 8 May with little interference from the Baluchis and on 10 May they crested the Nuffoosk Pass where there was more resistance. Kahan Fort was occupied on 11 May.

On 16 May Lieut Clarke started the return journey with 700 unladen camels and an escort of 80 infantry and the 50 cavalry. Lewis feared he would meet opposition and added a party of 5 havildars and 80 sepoys under a subadar but Clarke sent these back when he was unopposed at the Nuffoosk Pass. Some hours later a dhooly bearer came back to the fort to announce that he was the only survivor of the returning subadar party which had been ambushed by 2,000 Baluchis and massacred. On 21 May a message came that Clarke's detachment had reached Surtoff Mountain 13 miles away when they were attacked. Clarke with 30 infantrymen advanced up the hill but, after a two hour battle, ran out of ammunition and were slaughtered. The Baluchis then fell on the convoy at which the cavalry fled towards Poolajee and the infantry except for one havildar and 11 privates were killed. The camels and baggage were lost.

Captain Lewis was then left with the garrison noted below. Under constant attack he held out for a further four months until he learned that a relief force under Major Clibborn had been turned back in a Battle at Nuffoosk Pass on 31 August. Knowing he would eventually run out of supplies, he negotiated a safe conduct with the Marri chiefs. The garrison left the fort on 28 September with 20 sick on camels and dragging the field gun. They ascended the Nuffoosk Pass to come across the bodies of Clarke's massacred detachment which they had to leave unburied. They marched on over the Surtoff mountain and on 30 September found water but were forced to abandon their ammunition so that they could transport the sick.Their Marri guide went ahead to Poolajee for help and returned on 1 October with some cavalry, spare camels and gun bullocks. They reached safety at midnight.

Field detachment

  • 300 bayonets 5th Regiment under Ensign Taylor
  • Two 12-pounder howitzer under Lieut D Erskine
  • 50 Scinde Irregular Horse
  • 50 Patan Horse
  • 600 camels with supplies for 4 months


Capt Lewis Brown

Spelling Variants

Modern name:Kahan
Variants: Kahun

External Links

Captain Brown's Journal Google Books