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SECOND ANGLO-AFGHAN WAR, SIEGE OF THE SHERPUR CANTONMENT]. [Autograph Letter Signed Addressed to the Author's Father From Besieged Sherpur, Providing Vivid Details of the Siege].
Kabul 1879 - Sherpur, Kabul, 20 December 1879. Octavo (ca. 21x13,5 cm). 14 pp. Brown ink on paper. Old folds with minor tears on margins, paper lightly browned, overall a very good letter. Expressive first-hand account of the Siege of the Sherpur Cantonment (15-23 December 1879) during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880). The Siege took place during the second phase of the war when in October 1879, Kabul was occupied by the British troops after the British Resident Sir Pierre Cavagnari had been murdered there. In November mutinous Afghan troops amassed to the north of Kabul and, on December 15 mounted a siege on British troops in the Sherpur Cantonment. The siege was raised with arrival on December 23 of the relief column under the command of Brigadier General Charles Gough. Captain Bloomfield Gough was serving with the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers cavalry regiment, and took active part in the defence of the Sherpur Cantonment. In his extensive and emotional letter written when the siege was still on, Gough gives a "full and true account of my battles and the siege of Sherpore as far as it has gone." The account starts with the period from December 9, and describes at length the ferocious fight in Kabul¿s neighbourhood Kila Kizi on December 11. Gough recreates all the events of the day in strict consistency, names all officers in command (Brig.-Gen. Macpherson (infantry), Capt. Stewart-Mackenzie and Lieut.-Col. Cleland (9th Queen's Royal Lancers), Major Smith Widham (artillery) et al); and gives amounts of wounded and killed officers, men and horses. Gough's letter provides remarkable descriptions of battle scenes: "After going about 4 or 5 miles the advance partly were fired upon and soon afterwards we saw the enemy collecting in great numbers to our left front. I got my troop under cover of a hillock and the enemy numbering (I am told 1200) began advancing with standards and tom toms and great shouting. Our guns soon came into action and the enemy guns replied. As soon as they came within 800 yards, I opened fire with half my troop dismounted, and owing to our being under cover and the enemy advancing in the open, succeeded in stopping them on our right, however seeing the guns retire and fearing I should be cut off, I remounted my troops and retired over a lot of stony ground at a gallop, keeping my troop well in hand. [To?] turn upon then, if as I expected they (the enemy) would come after me. Well we retired about ¾ of a mile, and the enemy cavalry pursued, coming on with shouts of Allah and Bismillah, and as I hoped in very straggling order. When I thought they were far enough away from the enemy I got my troop into a trot and gave the order Right about Wheel - Charge! - Well I never seen such a scene of consternation. My men came with a shout and the enemy who were at first so brave appeared thunder struck. Some came on, most stood still and some ran away The charge was a great success." The battle description is illustrated with a nice little drawing in text (leave 2, inside) showing the lancers' attack on the enemy positions. Gough's account of December 13 describes a fierce fight near Siah Sung Heights in which the 9th Lancers commander was killed: "Poor Batson shot dead with a bullet through his heart, Chrisholme being wounded with a shot through the leg and Trowers' other horse, a very nice black whaler shot dead. 4 men dead and 9 wounded and about 30 dead Afghans lying in heaps. I am awfully sorry for Batson, poor fellow. We also lost several horses, killed or wounded." In the end Gough states that "I am beginning to think war is not such good sport as people say and think hunting far better for fun and much less dangerous", and describes the Afghans who "are quite different from those we met at first; mostly armed with Sniders, and are not out of the way cowards, though fortunately they are very bad shots," and notes that "it is terribly cold with snow on the ground wherever the sun cannot get at it".
      [Bookseller: The Wayfarer's Bookshop, ABAC/ILAB/PBFA]
Last Found On: 2014-10-02           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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