Kandahar in 1879


Kandahar in 1879 is the diary of Brigade Major Augustus Le Messurier (1837–1916), a British Indian railroad engineer who first joined the Bombay Engineers in 1856 and rose to become chief engineer and secretary to the government of Punjab in 1889. In November 1878, very shortly before the beginning of the Second Anglo-Afghan War, Le Messurier was assigned to the Quetta Field Force, which at the time was assembled at Mooltan (present-day Multan, Pakistan). Under the command of Lieutenant General Donald Stewart, the force was one of three columns that simultaneously invaded Afghanistan during the first phase of the war. Tasked with clearing the Bolan Pass and the valleys up to Kandahar, the Quetta Field Force did not see as much action as the other two columns, but it faced severe supply shortages and encountered difficult terrain and weather conditions before it could reach and occupy the city. The diary, presented here in book format but with no introduction or conclusion, recounts the events surrounding the march to Kandahar and the time Le Messurier spent serving in Afghanistan before his return to India in October 1879. The entries are divided into 14 chapters. The first three chapters describe the advance to Kandahar and the difficulties the force encountered. Chapters 4–12 cover military life in the British cantonment in Kandahar as well as offer descriptions of the city’s fortifications, natural features, neighborhoods, trades, antiquities, and amusements. The two remaining chapters describe the initial preparations made by the British troops to withdraw to India after the end of the first phase of the war, as well as the recall of the troops following the Afghan uprising in Kabul and the killing of the British envoy to Kabul, Sir Louis Cavagnari, events that triggered the second phase of the war. Le Messurier did not remain in Afghanistan but was sent back to India, where he served as engineer in chief and manager of the Mysore State Railway. The diary was published in London in 1880.

Last updated: September 30, 2016