Marching across the Punjab

The 31st Regiment entered the Punjab at Ferozepore, crossing the Sutlej River on a bridge of boats provided by the Sikh government. The regiment had been joined on the march by a troop of horse artillery and a contingent of irregular horse described as principally the descendants of Pathan gentlemen who, though in reduced circumstances, would not take service in the Company's army as ordinary troopers They received monthly pay, and provided their own horses and weapons. When they liked their leader they would, it was said, fight admirably, which the 31st Regiment was able to confirm on a number of occasions.

Passing through the Punjab was an interesting experience. From the Sutlej to the Jhelum rivers the countryside was fertile and the people prosperous Even the peasant women working in the fields wore bangles of pure gold. Thereafter it became barren and hilly, a foretaste of what Afghanistan would be like, and the further the regiment went the more difficult it became to prevent servants and animal handlers from deserting. They heard alarming tales of Afghan ferocity, and the Sikhs made a point of frightening them still more. The Sikhs were fine looking men but great boasters and inclined to pilfer the baggage at every opportunity. The Sikh envoy who accompanied the regiment was excellent company in the officers' mess, and had a remarkable capacity for imbibing port in vast quantities.

The regiment reached Peshawar on 21st August 1842. The officers were entertained hospitably by the governor of the city, the Italian General Avitabile who had been recruited by Ranjit Singh to train his army and had stayed on to serve his son. They were impressed by the evidence of his methods of maintaining law and order. At each corner of the city there was a large gallows on which malefactors were hanging.


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