Afghanistan and the Anglo-Russian Dispute


Theophilus Francis Rodenbough (1838–1912) was a Union Army officer during the American Civil War, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Trevilian Station (Virginia) in June 1864. After his retirement from the Army in 1870, Rodenbough wrote several books on military themes. He composed Afghanistan and the Anglo-Russian Dispute very rapidly in the spring of 1885, as it appeared that Russia and the British Empire were headed for war in a dispute over the presence of Russian military forces in the region south of Merv (near present-day Mary, Turkmenistan). The Russians were reportedly established on the road to Herat, Afghanistan, which was seen by the British as a threat to Afghanistan and through Afghanistan to India. Following introductory chapters on the geography and recent history of Central Asia and Afghanistan, the heart of the book is two chapters, “The British Forces and Routes” and “The Russian Forces and Approaches.” Each of these chapters discusses the organization, size, geographic distribution, systems of transport and supply, and leadership of the two armies. The British chapter covers the routes by which a British army would proceed from British India (through present-day Pakistan, then part of India) into Afghanistan to confront the Russians; the Russian chapter describes the routes by which Russian forces might move against Herat. In a final chapter, “Review of the Military Situation,” Rodenbough endorses the view of British Lieutenant General Sir Edward Bruce Hamley that British interests would best be served by fighting the Russians on the Kandahar‒Ghazni‒Kabul line. In the end, the crisis of 1885 was defused by diplomatic means, and there was no war between Russia and Great Britain. The book is illustrated with sketches of scenes from Afghanistan and portraits of leading Afghan political figures. It includes three maps, one a large fold-out map of Afghanistan and surrounding territories, drawn and corrected from the latest military surveys.

Last updated: August 17, 2016