In the early 19th century, England and Russia pursued their own national goals in what they called the "Great Game." Russia wanted to extend its borders or influence to include access to a warm water port, and to encroach on English interests in India. Great Britain wanted to deny Russia an increase in influence, and also wanted to extend its control over regions bounding Russian holdings.
In 1838 England sent an army in Afganistan to install a deposed former ruler, and to depose the usurper, who enjoyed wide popular support. With fierce resistance, the English army and their native allies captured city after Afgan city, and finally took Kabul. After an occupation of over a year, a popular uprising rose up and many people were killed, including British officers at a parlay with the revolutionaries. Their mutilated bodies were displayed in the marketplace of Kabul.
A treaty was made by which the British would withdraw to Jelalabad, from which they would continue to exit the country, with the British garrison of Jelalabad. In the middle of winter, 16,000 British troops and many wives and children of the troops left Kabul and headed to Jelalabad.
The army was harassed by snipers the entire way, with stragglers picked off from the flanks and rear, and from behind every rock on the route. Finally the army came to Koord Cabul pass, which had been fortified to oppose their passage. At that point the army turned over the women and children as captives, to save them from the fate of the soldiers. The passage was negotiated, and the army passed through the pass under constant harassing fire. The army dwindled and became a handful of survivors. Within a few miles of Jelalabad there were six survivors, and five of those were killed outside Jelalabad. One soldier of the 16,000 made it to Jelalabad, Dr. Brydon.
The Commander at Jelalabad refused to recognize the validity of the terms of surrender, and within the year several British forces retook Kabul, and rescued the women and children of the higher ranking officers.
Dr. Brydon reaches Jelalabad after retreat from Kabul.