17. The Only Man to Complete the Catastrophic British Evacuation of Kabul
The next day, and those after, the Afghans shook down the British for more hostages and more money. The British piled blunder atop blunder and agreed time after time to the Afghans’ demands, in exchange for empty promises to rein in the hostile tribesmen. On January 11th, 1842, the British commander and his deputy were forced to surrender in exchange for yet another promise of safe passage. Like the previous promises, it was worthless. Soon thereafter, the British found their escape path barred, this time for good, by entrenched Afghans who had blocked and fortified a pass. A desperate charge was made to try and break through, but it was beaten back.
A Dr. William Brydon and five other British officers escaped as far as Fattehabad. There, hostile Afghans fell upon them, and all but Brydon were slain. On January 13th, 1842, a week after they set out from Kabul, the last armed survivors formed a tiny square and made a last stand. They put up a heroic fight, but went under just the same. Later that afternoon, British sentries in Jellalabad, on the lookout for the arrival of the Kabul garrison, saw a single rider approaching. It was Dr. Brydon, wounded and on his last legs from hunger, thirst, and fatigue. He was the only one who completed the British retreat from Kabul.