The Kabul Insurrection of 1841‒42


The Kabul Insurrection of 1841‒42 by Sir Vincent Eyre (1811‒81) is an updated and expanded edition of his The Military Operations at Cabul, originally published in 1843. Eyre was an officer in the Indian army who served as commissary of ordnance in the Kabul Field Force that marched into Afghanistan in the fall of 1839. He arrived in Kabul in April 1840, bringing with him a large quantity of ordnance stores. In November 1841 he was caught up in the uprising in Kabul by the Afghans against the Anglo-Indian force in which Sir Alexander Burnes was killed. The occupiers were besieged in their cantonments and Eyre was severely wounded. Under a treaty with the Afghan government, in early 1842 the Anglo-Indian force was given safe passage to evacuate the country. Accompanied by his wife and child, Eyre joined the column heading eastward but, along with the other British soldiers and civilians, he was taken hostage by the amir, Akbar Khan (1816–45, ruled 1842–45). The British hostages spent nearly nine months in captivity and suffered many privations, including severe cold and the effects of an earthquake and its aftershocks. In August 1842 the captives were marched north towards Bamyan in the Hindu Kush under the threat of being sold as slaves to the Uzbeks. They finally were released on September 20, after one of the prisoners, Major Pottinger, succeeded in buying off the Afghan commander of their escort. Prior to his release, Eyre had managed to smuggle the manuscript of his journal in parts to a friend in India, who sent it to England where, with the help of Eyre’s relatives, it was published the following year as The Military Operations at Cabul, as were his Prison Sketches, Comprising Portraits of the Cabul Prisoners, and Other Subjects. Eyre went on to have a distinguished army career, and retired with the rank of major general in October 1863. With the onset of the Second Anglo-Afghan War in late 1878, Eyre decided to reissue his journal from the earlier war. Published in 1879, The Kabul Insurrection of 1841‒42 contains a new author’s preface and two new preliminary chapters, the first a brief account of Afghanistan and its inhabitants, the second a retrospective, from the vantage point of the late 1870s, on the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839‒42). The contents of the older book are then reproduced, with the journal beginning at chapter four. The Kabul Insurrection of 1841‒42 includes a fold-out map by Eyre of the Kabul cantonment and surrounding country that appeared in the older book, a sketch map of Afghanistan, and three appendices with the texts of documents relating to the 1841 uprising in Kabul.

Last updated: September 30, 2016