« PreviousContinue »
least 50,000 of the best troops of their army. A still greater number is supposed to have perished in the pursuit, for the Afghans gave no quarter.
Above two hundred pieces of cannon with all their baggage, including an immense booty taken at Dehly and other places during this expedition, fell into the hands of the conquerors. * Soon after this event Ahmed returned to Cabul, carrying with him, besides the principal part of the richest booty taken from the Mahrattas, a large sum paid to him by the different Mohammedan chiefs for his assistance.
Early in 1762, he again crossed the Attock, and over-ran the whole of the Panjab, every where defeating and dispersing the Sikhs, who took refuge in the woods and mountains. He halted at Lahore, in order to complete the conquest, and regulate the affairs of that province. The Sikhs, thereupon, assembled in Sirhind, where being above a hundred miles from Lahore, they were without apprehension of any immediate danger: but Ahmed, by one of those sudden and rapid movements, to which he frequently had recourse in his operations, after two days march, surprised and defeated them.* The Sikhs lost on this occasion above twenty thousand men, the rest again betook themselves to their fastnesses. Amritsar was now entirely razed to the ground, and the sacred reservoir filled with its ruins. Every Sikh that could be found, was instantly put to death; pyramids of their heads were to be seen in the market places; and the walls of such mosques as they were thought to have
* See an account of this battle by Casi Rajah Pundit, who was an ocular witness of it. Asiat. Researches, vol. iii. p. 488-491. Having examined some of the prisoners, he computes the number of persons of every description, men, women, and children, taken or killed, on this occasion, at near five hundred thousand. This number may appear incredible to those who have not seen Indian armies, but in the usual way of warfare in India, at least three followers of all kinds, may be reckoned to every one who is to fight as a soldier.
defiled, were washed with their blood, as an expiation of their pollutions. But these barbarities instead of intimidating and deterring them from farther enterprize, animated them with a desire of revenge, superior to the fears of danger. Though unable to meet Ahmed's troops in the field, they neglected no opportunity to surprise them, and retaliate their cruelties. Some commotions in his western dominions having recalled him to Cabul, they attacked his troops in Lahore, took that city, and there levelled with the ground the mosques, which a few months before, had been stained with the blood of their countrymen. In 1762, Ahmed retook Lahore, and subdued also all the adjacent countries; but being obliged, as before, to recross the Indus, the Sikhs again made themselves masters of the Panjab. The discipline and courage of the Affghans, when deprived of the presence of their leader, gradually declined, and at last yielded to the extraordinary activity and unremitting perseverance of the Sikhs. Ahmed died on the 15th July,
1773, in the 50th year of his age, at a place to the north of Cabul, named Khotoba, whither he had retired on account of the temperature of its climate at that season. He seems to have possessed all the qualities fit for conquering, and forming an empire. With undaunted courage, and a spirit neither to be discouraged by difficulties, nor dismayed by adversity, he was at the same time a skilful captain and consummate politician. In the government of his Affghan and Persian territories, he is said to have been just; liberal in rewarding merit, but severe in his punishments. In warfare he was cruel. He, on those occasions, exhibits one of those terrible but happily rare examples of the exercise of power without mercy, by one insensible to pity, and incapable of remorse.* He left his eldest son, Taimur Shah, the sole heir IT of his very extensive dominions : but this ti
* Impartiality, however, requires us to observe that a more favourable character of him than that above stated, has been given by Mr. Elphinston, in his Account of the Kingdom of Cabul and its Dependencies, p. 557.
“ After the battle of Pannyputh, thousands of Mahratta prisoners were put to death by him in cold blood. The
body of Biswas Row had been conveyed to the camp of a Sujah Ul Dowlah. Ahmed sent for it, he said, to look at; all who saw it, were in admiration of its beauty; it was not disfigured by death, but appeared as an innocent youth asleep; he had a wound from a sword in the neck, and one from an arrow over his left eye. 10 Some of Ahmed's troops, who had assembled to gaze at it, called out: This is the body of a king of unbelievers ; it ought to be preserved, and sent to Cabul to be shewn there. It was accordingly sent to the quarters of one of Ahmed's officers, named Berkhordar Khan. soon as Sujah Ul Dowlah was informed of what had passed, he waited on Ahmed, and represented to him, that animosity should cease with the life of an enemy; keych that it was always the custom in Hindūstan, after a victory to restore the bodies of the chiefs, of whatever the body race or tribe they were, in order that they should reo ideas ceive their proper obsequies, according to the rites of their particular faith; such conduct, he observed, did honour to the victors. Your Majesty, said he, is only here for a time, but Sujah Ul Dowlah, and the other Hindūstanee chiefs, are to reside in this country, and may have future transactions with the Mahrattas, when our conduct on the present occasion will be remembered; therefore let the body be given up to them, that they whicha may act as is customary here. Though all the Hindūstanee Mohammedan chiefs joined in the request, it re