Blowing Up The Cabul-Gate.
The morning star was high in the heavens, and the first red streak of approaching morning was on the horizon when the explosion party stepped forward to its duty. In perfect silence, led by the engineer, Durand, they advanced to within one hundred and fifty yards of the works, when a challenge from the walls, a shot, and a shout told that the party was discovered. Instantly the garrison were on the alert, their musketry ran free and quick from the ramparts, and blue lights suddenly glared on the top of the battlements, brilliantly illuminating the approach to the gate. . . . Strange to say, though the ramparts flashed fire from every loophole, the bridge was passed without a shot from the lower works. . . Without the loss of a man from the heavy fire of the battlements. Durand reached the gate, and having laid the first bag of powder containing the end of the fuse, man after man stepped up, deposited his powder, and retired as they advanced, in single file, edging the foot of the wall, and under the eye and charge of the engineer Macleod. . . The sappers having deposited the last of the powder and retired, Durand, aided by Sergt. Robertson, uncoiled the fuse, laying it close to the foot of the scarp ; while the defenders, impatient at the restraint of their loopholes, jumped up on the top of their parapets and poured their fire at the foot of the wall, hurling down also lumps of earth, stones, and bricks, but omitting, fortunately, bine lights. The officer and his sergeant were hit by the missiles; their force had, however, been broken by striking on the scarped bank on which the wall was built. . . . On igniting the quick-
match the port-fire did not light, as the engineer was some time blowing at his slow-match and port-fire together before the latter caught and blazed. Even then, however, when laid down on the ground, it went out. The engineer, surprised at this, drew his pistol to flash the fuse ; but finding the piece of port fire in its place, he gave it another trial, and once more blew at the slow-match and port-fire together until the latter again blazed, when having watched it burn steadily for some moments, the sergeant and himself retired to cover. . . . The assault
was one of simple daring, not founded on the supposed ignorance or negligence of the enemy, but with a full anticipation that success, if obtained must bo bought with much blood. Keane, however, could thus alone retrieve the errors of a posi tion in which a want of battering guns and provisions had placed him ; and he acted with a decision and resolution suited to the emergency. A grateful country may on such an occasion pour forth its titles and its honors, not making men’s merits the measure of its bounty ; but it will nevertheless, act wisely in remembering that war has its principles, and that to hazard, needless of military prudence, soldiers’ lives and a country’s fame upon a gamester’s throw is to court a stern rebuke. —“ The First Afghan War,” Sir Henry Marion Durand.
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 20, 11 November 1879
Blowing Up The Cabul-Gate. Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 20, 11 November 1879
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