Eldred Pottinger

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Eldred Pottinger.

Eldred Pottinger (12 August 1811 – 15 November 1843) was an Anglo-Indian army officer and diplomat.


Pottinger was the son of Thomas Pottinger of Mountpottinger, County Down (now in Northern Ireland), and Charlotte Moore. He was educated at Addiscombe Military Seminary, and entered the Bombay Artillery in 1827. After some years of regimental duty he was appointed to the political department under his uncle, Colonel (afterwards Sir) Henry Pottinger.

Portrait by Colesworthey Grant

In 1837 he made a journey through Afghanistan in disguise. Arriving at Herat, he found it threatened by a Persian army (with whom were some Russian officers) and immediately made himself known to the Afghan commander, offering his services. The attack which soon followed was conducted with the greatest vigour, but the defense, inspired by Pottinger, was ultimately successful, and after a year the siege was lifted.[1]

For this great service Pottinger was thanked by the governor-general, the earl of Auckland, made brevet-major, and also received the C.B. He was also appointed Political Officer at Herat. In 1841 he was political officer in Kohistan when the revolt against Shah Shuja broke out there. Taking refuge with the Gurkha garrison of Charikar, Major Pottinger withstood a siege of fourteen days, and then made an adventurous retreat to Kabul. Less than a fortnight after his arrival Sir William Macnaghten was murdered, and Pottinger succeeded to his position as envoy to the Afghan court. The apathy of the military leaders made resistance hopeless, and it only remained to negotiate for the withdrawal of the British army. Pottinger himself was one of the hostages handed over to Akbar Khan, and thus escaped the near-total massacre of the retreating British and Sepoy troops in the evacuation from Kabul to Jelalabad in January, 1842. Released, after some months in captivity, by Sir George Pollock's army, he returned to India, and a year later died while visiting Hong Kong.


Pottinger's role in the siege of Harat was picked up by the 19th century British historiography, which described him as a genius of defensive sieges, and called him "Hero of Herat", as part of the propaganda campaign aiming to show the power of the British military, and to secure British domination in Middle East and Asia.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Great Game: On Secret Service in High Asia, Peter Hopkirk, Chapter 14
  2. ^ Fedirko, J. (2007). "TRAGICZNY BOHATER WYPRAWY HERACKIEJ: Generał Izydor Borowski" (PDF). Alma Mater (in Polish). 94: 121–125. 

Further reading[edit]