Sitana: A Mountain Campaign on the Borders of Afghanistan in 1863
In October 1863, the British Indian army sent a hastily organized campaign to punish the “Sitana Fanatics,” whom the British accused of depredations along the India-Afghanistan border. The fanatics in question, originally Wahhabi Hindustanis from Bengal, had in 1824 established a colony among the Yusufzai tribes of the North-West Frontier to fight Sikh rule. Following the Indian Mutiny (1857–58), they were reinforced by sepoy mutineers, and by 1862 they reestablished themselves around the village of Sitana, near the Mahabun Mountain in the Hindu Kush. The British Indian force, under the decorated Brigadier General Neville Chamberlain, faced difficulties almost immediately. The arduous terrain and fierce resistance by the enemy blocked Chamberlain’s progress, allowing the Wahhabis time to win over the neighboring tribes in the fight against the invading British. The book presented here is an account of the events surrounding the campaign, the most violent of the 42 expeditions the British led against the border tribes between 1857 and 1890. The author, John Adye (1819–1900), was at the time a colonel in the Royal Artillery. He was dispatched with then-Major Frederick Roberts to report on Chamberlain’s progress. The book comprises 14 short chapters, with the first three describing the scene of the war and the character of the tribes, the old policy of the East India Company, and a short account of the Wahhabis. The fourth and fifth chapters cover the decision to send the expedition, and the misgivings of the commander in chief, General Hugh Rose, whom the viceroy overruled. The sixth chapter discusses the difficulties of mountain warfare. Chapters 7‒13 describe the details of the military engagements, including the wounding of Chamberlain, and his replacement by General John Garvock, who arrived with reinforcements to beat back the Yusufzai warriors. The final chapter discusses the insecure frontier with Afghanistan and the British worries that Russia might use it to attack India. Adye, however, dismisses those worries, arguing that having Russia as a neighbor would be better than relying on “the dubious friendship of wild Asiatic hordes.”
Richard Bentley, London
Title in Original Language
Sitana: a mountain campaign on the borders of Afghanistan in 1863
Type of Item
vii, 101 pages : maps, tables ; 23 centimeters
- E.M. Lloyd, revised by James Lunt, “Chamberlain, Sir Neville Bowles (1820‒1902),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).
- Willasey-Wilsey, Tim. "The Place of Slaughter. Umbeyla 1863." The Victorian Web (www.victorianweb.org). http://www.victorianweb.org/history/empire/india/66.html.
Last updated: December 19, 2017