General Nott at Kandahar

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This article is part of the section on the 1st Afghan War

Events in and around Kandahar 1839-42

When Sir John Keane entered Afghanistan with the invading army William Nott was left in command at Quetta. After Shah Shujah had been installed at Kabul the Combined Army withdrew. The Bengal Force went via the Khyber Pass leaving a garrison at Jalalabad and the Bombay Force moved south leaving garrisons at Ghazni and Kandahar. General Nott was given command of the Kandahar occupying forces and he took post there on 13 November 1839. Major Henry Rawlinson was appointed political officer.


All was comparatively quiet until spring of 1840 when rebel Ghilzai chiefs brought forces near Khelat-i-Ghilzie intending to cut communications between Kandahar and Kabul. They were defeated at Tazee by a force under Colonel George Wymer. Shortly afterwards General Nott moved up to Khelat-i-Ghilzie to complete the reduction of the rebellion.


It was decided to restore the defences of Khelat-i-Ghilzie and this further antagonised the tribesmen. They assembled menacingly around the fort and Nott sent Colonel Wymer to disperse them. On 29 May 1841 the Ghilzais were defeated at Asseer-Eelmee.

Aktar Khan continued to foment rebellion amongst the Durrani tribesmen in Helmabnd Province despite professing loyalty to Shah Shuja. He threatened the garrison at Gereshk and Nott had to send detachments to counter his attacks. There were successful actions at Gereshk, Karootoo and Khawind in July and August 1841.

General Nott led a large contingent north east from Kandahar into the districts of Zemindaur, Tireen and Derawut in September. Akram Khan was captured and sent to Kabul where he was executed.[1] The show of force seemed to subdue the tribes and Nott returned on 1 November. While he was away Kandahar was reinforced by the arrival of the 40th Foot and on 2 November he reviewed the whole garrison of 5,000 fighting men.

Headquarters in Kabul believed the country to be pacified and instructed Nott to sent part of his troops back to India. On 8 November the 16th, 42nd and 43rd Bengal Native Infantry under Colonel Maclaren set out for Quetta. They had only gone one march when news came of the death of Captain Woodburn. Nott promptly recalled Colonel Maclaren and his troops.

A letter from headquarters with news of the Kabul Uprising requested Nott to send the three regiments to reinforce the capital. They were dispatched under Colonel Maclaren on 17 November. The Siege of Ghazni began on 20 November and communication north was cut. Colonel Maclaren turned back in the face of extreme weather[2] and reached Kandahar again on 8 December. Nott and his garrison remained bottled up until the end of the year. On 27 December two regiments of Shah Shujah's Afghan cavalry (Janbaz) mutinied. Two days later Prince Sufder Jung, son of Shah Shujah, fled Kandahar and joined Atta Mahomed.


Major Rawlinson tried unsuccessfully to persuade General Nott to send an expedition after the Prince and Atta Mahomed who were at Dehli, forty miles from Kandahar. Nott judged it too great a risk in winter weather but, when the rebels approached within 12 miles of the city, he defeated them at the Battle of Killu-l-Shah on 12 January 1842.

A period of quiet ensued. Though the Durranis continued to hover around Kandahar, winter discouraged both sides from action. Attacks on foragers and seizure of baggage animals began to increase and by March General Nott felt it time to take the offensive. Major Rawlinson cleared the city of possible troublemakers - some 1,000 families and Nott set out leaving a minimum garrison under Major Lane. The Afghans drew him away however before doubling in his rear to attack the city on the night of 10 March. A desperate defence eventually repulsed the Attack on Kandahar. Meanwhile the Siege of Khelat-i-Ghilzai had begun.

Lt-Col Wymer was dispatched to clear dissidents from the surrounding countryside and on 25 March his force was attacked near Baba Wullee. The Durranis were defeated again. Then came news that on 6 March Ghazni had been captured and all but 10 officers killed. This gave the Durranis fresh encouragement and they sent a contingent south to join Mahomed Sadig who was opposing the advance of Brigadier England from Quetta with reinforcements. England suffered a defeat at the Battle of Hykulzye on 28 March and Nott was obliged to send Wymer with three regiments to meet him at the Kojak Pass before he managed to proceed to Kandahar which was reached on 10 May.

On 19 April Lord Ellenborough, who had succeeded Lord Auckland as Governor-General, wrote to Nott ordering him to withdraw from Kandahar to Sind via Quetta. Nott sent to Quetta for baggage animals to transport the army and on 19 May Wymer was dispatched to relieve Khelat-i-Ghilzie so that the garrison could withdraw. By the time of his arrival, however, the besieging force had been defeated by Capt. Craigie.

On 22 July a further letter arrived from the Governor-General dated 4 July giving Nott the option to withdraw either north or south. He determined to go north to meet General Pollock in Kabul while Maj-Gen England was to take a smaller part of the force to Quetta. The occupying army moved out of the city on 7 August and the two contingents set out on 9 August 1842.

Related articles

For further details of events during this period see the following articles

Battle of Tazee 16 May 1840
Battle of Asseer Eelmee 29 May 1841
Battle before Girishk 3 July 1841
Action at Karootoo 5 August 1841
Battle of Khawind 17 August 1841
Battle at Syadabad 2 November 1841
Siege of Ghazni 20 November 1841 - 6 March 1842
Mutiny of the Janbaz 27 December 1841
Battle of Killu-l-Shah 12 January 1842
Siege of Khelat-i-Ghilzai 9 March-21 May 1842
Attack on Kandahar 10 March 1842
Battle of Baba Wullee 25 March 1842
Action at Kandahar 29 May 1842


Forces under General Nott 2 November 1841


Entries in the Dictionary of Indian Biography 1906:
John Keane (1781-1844)
William Macnaghten (1793-1841)
William Nott (1782-1845)
Henry Rawlinson (1810-1895)
Shah Shuja (1780?-1842)
George Wymer (1788-1868)

External Links

1st Afghan War Wikipedia
Afghan Wars Heritage History
A Memoir of Major-General Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson - Life during the great Affghan War 1839-1842 Google Books

Historical books on-line

History of the War in Afghanistan Vol 1 by John William Kaye 1851 (Google Books)