Siege of Jalalabad

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Siege of Jalalabad
Part of 1st Afghan War 1839-42
Date: 13 November 1841-14 April 1842
Location: Jalalabad, Afghanistan
Presidency: Bengal
Co-ordinates: 34.456712°N 70.384276°E
Result: Siege relieved
British & Indians Ghilzai tribesmen
Maj-Gen Sir Robert Sale Mohammad Akbar Khan
1,500 5,000

This was an event during the 1st Afghan War
For context see main article General Sale's March from Kabul to Jalalabad


Having left Kabul on 9 October 1841 Sale's brigade fought its way east until it reached Jalalabad on 12 November. The town walls were in a bad state of repair and there was debate as to whether such a long perimeter could be defended or whether it would be better to retreat into the citadel. In the event it was decided to repair the walls and this began directed by Captain George Broadfoot of the Sappers under constant attack from the surrounding Afghans.

On 16 November Col Monteath of 35th Bengal Infantry led a sortie of 1,100 men which drove the enemy away from the walls. George MacGregor as Commissariat Officer sent out foraging parties and built up a month's supplies.

By the end of the month Afghan attacks were getting bolder and a second sortie was made on 1st December under William Dennie which was equally successful.

On 8 January 1842 a letter was received from Kabul confirming that the British had agreed to capitulate and leave the city under safe escort of the Afghans and ordering Sale to evacuate Jalalabad. Sale and MacGregor sent a reply declining to do so as they were aware that the local tribes were being ordered to attack the retreat. This decision was proved right when on 13 January Dr Brydon arrived wounded and alone to relate the massacre of Elphinstone's army following its departure from Kabul on 9 January.

Considerable progress had been made over three months in building up the defences of the city. The ramparts were widened and the parapets raised. In addition cover outside the walls was removed by demolishing buildings and filling ditches. However a severe earthquake on 19 February threw down two bastions and caused a major breach in the walls. Hurried efforts were made to repair the damage before the Afghans realised their opportunity for attack.

At the beginning of March Akbar Khan moved troops closer to the city and began to construct stone sangars. A sortie on 11 March led by Col Dennie dispersed them temporarily. Sale was writing regularly to General Pollock in Peshawar warning that if a force from Kabul attacked with artillery, he would not be able to hold out. Pollock however was hampered by disaffection amongst his sepoys and want of supplies. It was not until 5 April that the Army of Retribution left Jamrud.

On 1 April a sortie was able to bring in a flock of 500 sheep and on 7 April Sale mounted a major assault on Akbar Khan's forces and defeated them convincingly though Colonel Dennie was killed. Akbar retreated towards Kabul and the district chiefs tendered their submission. Sale had effectively raised the siege. Pollock's army reached Jalalabad on 16th April.

The Jellalabad Medal was awarded to the defenders.

British & Indian Regiments

13th Regiment of Foot
35th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry
1 Squadron of Skinner's Horse
Shah Shujah’s Sappers


Entries in the Dictionary of Indian Biography 1906:
Mahommed Akbar Khan (1813?-1849)
William Brydon (1811-1873)
William Dennie (1785?-1842)
William Elphinstone (1782-1842)
Thomas Monteath (Douglas) (1787-1868)
George Pollock (1786-1872)
Eldred Pottinger (1811-1843)
Robert Sale (1782-1845)
Claude Wade (1794-1861)

External Links

Historical books on-line