Narrative of the War in Affghanistan, in 1838-39


Narrative of the War in Affghanistan, in 1838‒39, by Sir Henry Havelock (1795–1857), is a two-volume account of the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839‒42), based on Havelock’s personal experiences, when he was a captain in the 13th Regiment and aide-de-camp to Major-General Sir Willoughby Cotton, commander of the Bengal Division of the Army of the Indus. In December 1838 the British launched an invasion of Afghanistan from India with the aim of overthrowing the Afghan ruler, Amir Dost Mohammad Khan, and replacing him with the supposedly pro-British former ruler, Shah Shujaʻ. The British were at first successful. They installed Shah Shujaʻ as ruler in Jalalabad and forced Dost Mohammad to flee the country. In 1841 Dost Mohammad returned to Afghanistan to lead an uprising against the invaders and Shah Shujaʻ. After the occupying forces suffered major defeats, the British sent a larger force from India to exact retribution and to recover hostages, before finally withdrawing in October 1842. Published in 1840, Havelock’s book covers only the first two years of the war and not the insurgency that began in 1841. In the first volume, Havelock recounts the preparations for war, the British alliance with Sikh leader Ranjit Singh, and the march by the Army of the Indus to Kandahar and the occupation of the city. The second volume recounts the arrival of the Bombay Division in Kandahar, the joint march to Kabul and the fall of the city, and the skirmishes with the Afghan tribesmen around the Khyber Pass as the army moved out of Kabul toward the Indus. A sketch map shows the route taken by the Army of the Indus. The appendix at the end of volume two contains the texts of many military orders and other historical documents. Havelock went on to serve with distinction in the Sepoy Rebellion (1857‒59), where he died of wounds sustained in the first year of that conflict.

Last updated: August 17, 2016