Bala Hissar and city of Caubul with the British cantonments from the 'Ba Maroo' Hill
Artist: James Rattray (1818-1854)
Medium: Lithograph, coloured
This lithograph is taken from plate 16 of 'Afghaunistan' by Lieutenant James Rattray.
Kabul has been the capital of Afghanistan since 1773 and is strategically located in a narrow stretch of the Kabul River Valley near an entrance to the Khyber Pass. This made it a key area in the quest for power in the region. The British had taken it briefly in 1839 but, forced to retreat, they were ambushed and massacred.
Rattray sketched this view of the cantonments from the low hills of the village of Bibi Mahru, where many soldiers later died, writing: "our subsequent annihilation can be ascribed in the first instance to the unaccountable absence of military judgment or skill, which selected such a position for the army in the heart of a half-conquered country; a cantonment which troops could neither quit nor enter without running the gauntlet of [fire] poured into them from fortress, garden, village, hill and wall, which hemmed in ... the ill-contrived and widely-scattered lines."