Captured Guns, Kabul


This photograph of Afghan artillery captured during the British occupation of Kabul in October–December 1879 is from an album of rare historical photographs depicting people and places associated with the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Sir Frederick Roberts (1832–1914), the commander of the Kabul Field Force, brought at least 20 field guns (usually horse-drawn mobile cannons) with his army during the conquest and occupation of Kabul during the second phase of the war. His move against Kabul was sparked by the assassination in September 1879 of Sir Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari (1841–79), the British envoy in Kabul and the official who had signed the Treaty of Gandamak with Amir Mohammad Yaqub Khan (1849–1923) in May of that year. Roberts and his staff are shown here on horseback inspecting the captured Afghan artillery in the Sherpur Cantonment, located 1.5 kilometers north of Kabul. British artillery was usually superior to Afghan armament, but occasionally it was ineffective, as at the Battle of Maiwand in July 1880. The Second Anglo-Afghan War began in November 1878 when Great Britain, fearful of what it saw as growing Russian influence in Afghanistan, invaded the country from British India. The first phase of the war ended in May 1879 with the Treaty of Gandamak, which permitted the Afghans to maintain internal sovereignty but forced them to cede control over their foreign policy to the British. Fighting resumed in September 1879, after an anti-British uprising in Kabul, and finally concluded in September 1880 with the decisive Battle of Kandahar. The album includes portraits of British and Afghan leaders and military personnel, portraits of ordinary Afghan people, and depictions of British military camps and activities, structures, landscapes, and cities and towns. The sites shown are all located within the borders of present-day Afghanistan or Pakistan (a part of British India at the time). About a third of the photographs were taken by John Burke (circa 1843–1900), another third by Sir Benjamin Simpson (1831–1923), and the remainder by several other photographers. Some of the photographs are unattributed. The album possibly was compiled by a member of the British Indian government, but this has not been confirmed. How it came to the Library of Congress is not known.

Last updated: September 30, 2016