The Army of Retribution March to Kabul

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The March from Peshawar to Kabul
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Maj Gen George Pollock’s March from Peshawar to Kabul in the 1st Afghan War


Jamrud to Jalalabad
At the end of 1841 General Robert Sale was besieged in Jalalabad and asking for assistance. Forces were sent from British controlled territory to Peshawar then under Sikh rule. General George Pollock was appointed commander and started for Peshawar from Agra. In the meantime Brigadier Wild, in command at Peshawar, attempted and failed to establish a strong garrison at Ali Masjid.

Pollock arrived at Peshawar on 5 February and found the regiments unfit for departure due to sickness and low morale. It took all of February and March to overcome these difficulties but finally, on 5 April, the Army of Retribution set out. They successfully forced the Khyber Pass and reached Jalalabad on 14 April.

The new Governor-General Lord Ellenborough was firmly in favour of withdrawing from Afghanistan and on 29 April General Pollock was instructed to return to Peshawar. Subsequent communications seemed to allow him some discretion and he was reluctant to withdraw while the hostages were in the hands of Akbar Khan. He was unable to advance towards Kabul however due to lack of transport animals.

Ellenborough was under pressure from public opinion and the press which wanted to see a British victory over the Afghans. On 4 July 1842 he wrote saying he had not changed his mind about withdrawal but, if General Nott wanted to direct his retreat through Kabul and General Pollock wished to assist the withdrawal but advancing to Kabul, they could use their discretion.

Jalalabad to Kabul
It took some time before correspondence between the two generals confirmed that both were of the same mind. Nott left Kandahar on 9 August and Pollock set out from Jalalabad on 20 August. Pollock's force reached Gundamak on 23 August and on the following day defeated two local chiefs at Mamoo Khail. General Pollock remained at Gundamak gathering supplies and waiting for letters from General Nott. On 7 September he, accompanied by General Sale, moved out with the 1st Division of the Army. The 2nd Division under General M'Caskill left the following day.

On 8 September the Ghilzies were defeated at Jugdulluk. The army then advanced to Tezeen which was reached on 11 September. Akbar Khan in Kabul attempted to negotiate but when he realised the British intended to advance to the capital he brought his forces through the Khoord-Kabul Pass and occupied the heights around the Tezeen Valley. Actions on 12 & 13 September resulted in the defeat of the Afghans. Akbar Khan retreated to Ghorebund and the army advanced unmolested to Kabul which was reached on 15 September.

Related articles

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

Forcing the Khyber Pass 5 April 1842
Raid on the Shinwarree Valley 7 June-3 August 1842
Actions at Mazeena 24 & 26 July 1842
Battle of Mamoo Khail 24 August 1842
Battle of Jugdulluk Crest 8 September 1842
Actions from Gundamak to Tezeen 9-11 September 1842
Battle of Tezeen 12 & 13 September 1842


Entries in the Dictionary of Indian Biography 1906:
Mahommed Akbar Khan (1813?-1849)
Captain George Broadfoot (1807-1845)
John McCaskill (?-1845)
Thomas Monteath (Douglas) (1787-1868)
William Nott (1782-1845)
George Pollock (1786-1872)
Robert Sale (1782-1845)

External Links

1st Afghan War Wikipedia
31st Regiment march to Kabul

Historical books on-line

Memorials of Affghanistan - Pollock's march from Peshawar by J H Stocqueler 1863 (Google Books)
History of the War in Afghanistan Vol III (1841-1842) - Pollock sets out by John William Kaye Revised Edition (1858)