For the Weekend: Cowboy Junkies: Sweet Jane

Comment of teh Day: Erik Lund: : "In the last post on this theme, Japan's early success in replicating Armstrong-pattern guns in domestic arsenals was mentioned...

...which brings me to one of my favourite tragedies in the long history of European imperialism, the defeat of a gratuitously understrength British punitive expedition at Maiwand by the Herati army, using percussion-cap fired rifles and Armstrong guns, all made in the Kabul arsenal. According to the contemporary campaign narrative, the steel of which these guns were made was forged into bars at a water-powered trip mill built by a "Black Persian," unnamed.

So never mind Japan: As of 1880, the industrial revolution was on track in Kabul, too. If you want to know how it came to be derailed there, and not in Japan, I still think we need a great deal more attention on political contingency, a lot less on "culture" and "institutions."...

The Kabul arsenal didn't just shape and make steel. It also produced percussion caps. And, yes, the technology was transferred from Dum Dum. The point is that the Afghans were perfectly capable of receiving the transfer.

The Durrani state never had a plausible path to great power status, and probably wouldn't have developed a scientific military-industrial complex. What I'm saying is that if you arrived in your typical Eurasian city state of 1880 and asked the local arsenal to make an Armstrong gun and accessories, they'd muddle through. And, given state financing, and resources, probably muddle through the entire industrial revolution project, too, absent the internal collapse of their state.

It's the collapse that matters; not "culture."...


That Day: "IT got beyond all orders an’ it got beyond all ’ope...

...It got to shammin’ wounded an’ retirin’ from the ’alt.
’Ole companies was lookin’ for the nearest road to slope;
It were just a bloomin’ knock-out—an’ our fault!
Now there ain’t no chorus ’ere to give,    Nor there ain’t no band to play;
An’ I wish I was dead ’fore I done what I did,
Or seen what I seed that day!   We was sick o’ bein’ punished, an’ we let ’em know it, too;
An’ a company-commander up an’ ’it us with a sword,
An’ some one shouted “’Ook it!” an’ it come to sove-ki-poo,
An’ we chucked our rifles from us—O my Gawd!
  There was thirty dead an’ wounded on the ground we wouldn’t keep—
No, there wasn’t more than twenty when the front begun to go—
But, Christ! along the line o’ flight they cut us up like sheep,
An’ that was all we gained by doin’ so!   I ’eard the knives be’ind me, but I dursn’t face my man,
Nor I don’t know where I went to, ’cause I didn’t ’alt to see,
Till I ’eard a beggar squealin’ out for quarter as ’e ran,
An’ I thought I knew the voice an’—it was me!   We was ’idin’ under bedsteads more than ’arf a march away:
We was lyin’ up like rabbits all about the country-side;
An’ the Major cursed ’is Maker ’cause ’e’d lived to see that day,
An’ the Colonel broke ’is sword acrost, an’ cried.
We was rotten ’fore we started—we was never disciplined;
We made it out a favour if an order was obeyed.
Yes, every little drummer ’ad ’is rights an’ wrongs to mind,
So we had to pay for teachin’—an’ we paid!
  The papers ’id it ’andsome, but you know the Army knows;
We was put to groomin’ camels till the regiments withdrew,
An’ they gave us each a medal for subduin’ England’s foes,
An’ I ’ope you like my song—because it’s true!
  An there ain’t no chorus ’ere to give,
Nor there ain’t no band to play;
But I wish I was dead ’fore I done what I did,
Or seen what I seed that day!

Wikipedia: Battle of Maiwand: "27 July 1880... Under the leadership of Ayub Khan, the Afghans defeated a much smaller force consisting of two brigades of British and Indian troops under Brigadier-General George Burrows...

...albeit at a high price: between 2,050 and 2,750 Afghan Pashtun warriors were killed, and probably about 1,500 wounded.[2] British and Indian forces suffered 969 soldiers killed and 177 wounded.... On the afternoon of 26 July information was received that the Afghan force was making for the Maiwand Pass.... Burrows decided to move early the following day to break-up the Afghan advance guard. At about 10 am horsemen were seen and engaged, and the brigade started to deploy for battle. Burrows was not aware that it was Ayub's main force. The Afghans numbered 25,000 including Afghan regular troops and five batteries of artillery, including some very modern Armstrong guns. The Afghan guns gradually came into action and a three-hour artillery duel ensued at an opening range of about 1,700 yards (1,600 m), during which the British captured smoothbore guns on the left expended their ammunition and withdrew to replenish it. This enabled the Afghans to force the left hand battalion back. The left flank comprising Indian infantry regiments gave way and rolled in a great wave to the right, the 66th Regiment, as a result of this pressure was swept away by the pressure of the Ghazi attack.

E Battery / B Brigade Royal Horse Artillery (Captain Slade commanding) and a half-company of Bombay Sappers and Miners under Lieutenant Henn (Royal Engineers) stood fast, covering the retreat of the entire British Brigade.... E/B RHA came into action again some 400 yd back (370 m).... Some remnants of the 66th Foot and Bombay Grenadiers in a small enclosure at a garden in a place called Khig where a determined last stand was made. Though the Afghans shot them down one by one, they fired steadily until only eleven of their number were left, and the survivors then charged out into the masses of the enemy and perished. Henn was the only officer in that band and he led the final charge....

Of the 2,476 British troops engaged, the British and Indian force lost 21 officers and 948 soldiers killed, and eight officers and 169 men were wounded: the Grenadiers lost 64% of their strength and the 66th lost 62%, including twelve officers, of those present (two companies being detached); the cavalry losses were much smaller. British and Indian regimental casualties....

1st Infantry Brigade (Brigadier-General George Burrows, commanding)

  • 66th (Berkshire) Regiment of Foot: 286 dead, 32 wounded.
  • 1st Bombay Native Infantry (Grenadiers): 366 dead 61 wounded.
  • 30th Bombay Native Infantry (Jacob’s Rifles): 241 dead, 32 wounded.
  • Bombay Sappers and Miners (No.2 Company): 16 dead, 6 wounded.

1st Cavalry Brigade (Brigadier-General Thomas Nuttall, commanding)

  • E Battery / B Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery:[5] 19 dead, 16 wounded.[3]
  • 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry: 27 dead, 18 wounded.
  • 3rd Sind Horse: 15 dead, 1 wounded. One estimate of Afghan casualties is 3,000, reflecting the desperate nature of much of the fighting,[2] although other sources give 1,500 Afghans and up to 4,000 Ghazis killed....

The loss of the Queen's Colour and Regimental Colour of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment of Foot at the Battle of Maiwand, following so soon upon the loss of the Colours of the 1st/24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment at the Battle of Isandlwana (22 January 1879) during the Anglo-Zulu War, resulted in colours no longer being taken on active service...