The siege of Candahar.

THE A.D.1736. Nad. 49. following year presents us with the most remarkable scene in the life of Nader­kuli; which was succeeded by a series of noble actions, that might have added lustre to the most shining characters of antiquity. He had now restored the kingdom of Persia to its former splendour, he had extended its limits, and expelled its invaders; and was forming a design of retiring to his castle of Kelat, and of passing the remainder of his days in a splendid retreat, when the death of the young king Abbas gave a new turn to his thoughts, and awakened his natural passions, the love of dominion, and the desire of conquest. He sent immediate orders to the governours and principal men of every province, to attend a general diet, and to repair with all possible haste to the plains of Mogan, which lie near the confluence of the rivers Cyrus and Araxes, and which are equally famous for their vast extent, and their agreeable situation. At the same time, he sent a great number of inge­nious artists and builders to the plains just men­tioned, in order to raise several temporary palaces, for the reception of the noblemen and com­manders, whom he had summoned. These edi­fices were very slight, but extremely elegant, and consisted of pavilions, baths, temples, and apartments adorned in the richest manner. Naderkuli marched at the head of his troops, who were A.D.1736. Nad. 49. now recovered from the fatigue of their late expedition against the rebels of Daghestan: and on the twelfth of January he encamped in Mogan, where he was joined by a considerable number of the Persian Nobles, and found near a hundred thousand men assembled on the plains. When the council was formed, he opened to them the affair for which they were summoned, and bade them proceed to the election of a King, advising them at the same time, to chuse one whom they knew to be endowed with great and noble qualities. Mohammed Massûm, a man of an illustrious rank in Shiraz, replied, that the Persians would be ruled by no other sovereign than their deliverer and protector, which asser­tion was immediately confirmed by the concur­rence of every voice in the assembly. Nader­kuli refused the offer of the kingly name and authority, protesting that he had never enter­tained the least hopes of the regal diadem, and that he was amply recompensed by the satisfac­tion he received from the happy deliverance of his country, and the reduction of its enemies. These assemblies continued a whole month, but were always broken off, with the same offer of the crown on the one side, and the same refusal of it on the other; till, upon the pressing entreaties of the nobles and the populace, Naderkuli consented to accept it, on condition that they would forsake the sect of Ali, and embrace that of Omar, which he assured them would be the only method to restore the Persian empire to its ancient tranquillity. They agreed to this pro­posal, and an edict was immediately proclaimed for a general conformity of religion. Upon Nader’s acceptance of the diadem, the whole multitude seemed to testify their joy by the loudest A.D.1736. Nad. 49. acclamations. The twenty-sixth of February was fixed for the day of the corona­tion, which was celebrated with all the mag­nificence, that the riches of the East could supply, and that the fertile inventions of the best artists could devise. That day, the prayers in the mosques were made in the name of the new monarch; and coins of various sorts were struck with all his titles on the one side, and, on the reverse, with an Arabick inscription, implying that what had happened, was the best*. The letters of this sentence are numeral, and, when added together, make eleven hundred and forty-nine, the year of the Mahometan epoch in which Nader was raised to the throne of Persia.

Nader Shah began his reign by allotting the chief provinces of his Empire to proper governors. He assigned the government of Kho­rasan to the prince Rizakuli, and that of Azarbigian to his brother Zoheireddoula: Herat was intrusted to Babakhan; Fars to Mohammed Taki of Shiraz, and Shirvan to Mahadibeg, who on this occasion was honoured with the title of Khan. These governors departed for their respective provinces, and all the Nobles, who attended the diet, were dismissed with the highest marks of distinction, and each of them was presented, after the oriental manner, with a silken robe interwoven with gold. The Turkish minister also received leave to depart; and Abdelbaki, a nobleman of distinguished rank and eminent qualities, was sent to the Porte in company with Abulcassem, the chief man of the law, A.D.1736. Nad. 49. in order to inform the Great Turk of Nader’s elevation to the Persian throne; for which pur­pose an ambassador was at the same time des­patched to the court of Russia. Nader Shah sent the Turk a present of elephants and other curiosities, with a letter containing the most amicable proposals, and expressing a desire to establish a firm and lasting peace between the two empires. In the same letter, he gave an account of the refor­mation, which he had made in the religion of his subjects, and proposed the following terms to the Turkish court; “that, as there were four ortho­dox sects in the religion of Mahomed, the Per­sians should be considered as the fifth sect, under the protection of Jaffer son of Mohammed Becr, who was related to the Prophet, and dis­tinguished for his excellent qualities: that a fifth pillar should be erected in the mosque of Mecca in honour of the new sect: that the Persian pilgrims should be conducted to Mecca through part of Syria, and that the Porte should send a man of rank and power to defend them from any insult: that the prisoners of both nations should be set at liberty, and that there should be a free trade between the two kingdoms: that the sovereigns of both empires should appoint able and faithful ministers, to reside constantly at their respective courts, in order to determine every important affair, and to fix the peace between them upon the surest basis.” It seems difficult at first, to assign a reasonable motive for the proposal of the three first articles, but, on a nearer view, we discover the great sagacity and foresight of this extraor­dinary man; he certainly had no intentions of maintaining a perpetual peace with the Turks, but he was not disposed to engage in a war with them, A.D.1736. Nad. 49. while the Afgans were gathering strength in Candahar, and while several revolts were break­ing out in different parts of the Empire, to the suppression of which he foresaw a Turkish war would be a great obstacle. He determined, there­fore, to amuse them and keep them in play, by proposing terms of religion, to which he knew those superstitious zealots would never consent; while their refusal would at any time supply him with a plausible pretence for declaring war, though his abolition of the sect of Ali had deprived them of their usual pretext for being the aggressors. At this time, a complaint was brought against Alimerdan governor of Endekhod, who had refused to submit to the royal mandate, and was preparing for a revolt: Nader Shah immediately sent a detachment to reduce him to obedience, and they marched toward the just mentioned district by the way of Badghis.

On the tenth of March, the festival of Nurûz was celebrated with all the splendour imaginable; and several days were spent in shows, ban­quets, and festivity. This was the time that Nader Shah had fixed for his memorable expe­dition against Candahar; accordingly he made the strictest enquiries concerning the strength of that City, and the nature of the country through which he must pass to it; and, on the fourth of April, he marched towards Cazvin at the head of a numerous army. Near Carachemen he was joined by Zoheireddoula with the troops of Azarbigian, whom he dispatched, in conjunction with the prince Nasralla, to destroy a tribe of wild barbarians, that inhabited the forests and mountains, and were always ripe for revolt. The two commanders were so successful, that they A.D.1736. Nad. 49. slew two thousand savages, with no very considerable loss on their side, and so expeditious, that they reached Cazvin as soon as the royal army. The Prince remained with his father, but Zoheireddoula returned with his troops to Tauris, the Capital of his province.

While Nader Shah was in Cazvin, he received the agreeable news of the conquest of Bahrein, which had long been governed by an Arabian prince named Gebâra, but was then attacked and taken by Mohammed Taki, governor of Farsistan. About this time a messenger arrived from Dilaver, chief of the tribe of Taimni, a bold and treacherous rebel, who had often revolted, and as often been received into favour; but at last, having committed several acts of violence, and being overpowered by the royal troops, he fled to the habitation of the Afgans, by whom he was received with open arms; he contracted an intimacy with Hussein, prince of Candahar, who soon took offence at his arrogant behaviour, and drove him from the mansion, which had been allotted him. This reduced him to the necessity of sending a suppliant message to Nader Shah, entreating forgiveness for his insolence and ingratitude, and promising to atone for his rashness by the most perfect submission. The prince Rizakuli had already interceded in favour of all the revolted tribes; but the King, divided between his just resentment, and his desire to gratify his son, gave no answer at that time to the petition, but pursued his march towards Candahar. In his way he resolved to chastise a more formidable rebel, named Alimo­rad, whom the savage nation of the Bakhtiaris had chosen as their leader. These were a wild race A.D.1736. Nad. 49. of mountaineers, that inhabited the rocks and caverns in the very heart of Persia, and always refused to submit to a superiour power. As they were very numerous, enured to war from their earliest youth, and naturally forti­fied by craggy mountains, and thick woods, they had often gained considerable advantages over the troops that were sent against them; especially, at the time when Nader was engaged in laying siege to Erivan. The total reduction of them was reserved for Nader in his regal character, who sent several troops to attack them on all sides, and, having left the care of the military stores to the prince Nasralla, set out on the sixth of August, and arrived on the same day at the habitation of the rebels. He imme­diately sent a detachment to drive them from their retreat; and the Bakhtiaris after a short skirmish were put to flight. The fugitives took advantage of the darkness of the night, and, having passed the river Leirûk, demolished the bridge, and fled precipitately to the inmost recesses of the caverns and mountains. In the morning Nader Shah reached the river, and finding the bridge destroyed, ordered it to be rebuilt with all possible expedition. This was some obstruction to his progress; but at length he passed the Leirúk, and encamped on the summit of a mountain; whence he despatched his troops on all sides, to discover the places where the savages had concealed themselves. A considerable number of them were found in the dens and caves, and about three thousand families were either taken prisoners or slain. It happened in the mean time, that Alimorad, who lay with a few companions in the cavity of a rock, was distressed for want of water, and, A.D.1736. Nad. 49. going in search of it, passed by the foot of the mountain, on which the forces of Nader Shah were encamped. He was discovered and brought before the king, who condemned him to be blinded, and to lose his right a??m and leg: in this miserable situation he languished two days, at the end of which he expired. But Nader Shah showed more lenity to the other captives, whom he set at liberty, and removed to a distant and more accessible habitation: at last having spent a whole month in reducing this barbarous race, he marched towards the source of the river Zenderoud. Here he was joined by the prince Nasralla, and advanced with him towards Ispahan, which he entered on the fifth of October. He stayed some time in this City, in order to relieve his army after their fatigue, and to regulate some affairs of his kingdom. On the twelfth of November, he marched towards Candahar by the way of Kerman; and when he reached Seistan, he intrusted the bag­gage to the care of an approved officer, and set out upon an expedition against the Afgans of the districts bordering on Candahar.

The A.D.1737. Nad. 50. King left Seistan on the twenty-fourth of January, and, in sixteen days, reached a castle belonging to the Afgans, which he took by storm. He then sent two detachments, under the command of able officers, against two adjacent forts; and on the twelfth of February he passed the river Hirmend. The plains on the other side of the river were naked and barren; as the prince of Candahar had set fire to all the forage on the borders of his territory. This was a great distress to the army, and obliged them to change their route, till, in about twelve days, A.D.1737. Nad. 50. they pitched their tents on the banks of the Arghendáb. Hussein, having received notice of their approach, resolved to make a desperate attempt, and to attack the Persian camp at mid­night; but he was unsuccessful, and, having lost a great number of his men, retired in confusion to Candahar. The next day Nader Shah led his army over the river Arghendab, which at that time was very rapid; and marched with his artillery to a village about two leagues from the city, which he had marked for destruc­tion. Candahar was fortified on one side by a mountain, by the foot of which the Persians marched with incredible order and regularity, though they were exposed to the fire from the ramparts. When Nader Shah had reached the eastern side of the city, he ordered the tents to be pitched, and prepared to celebrate the annual festival of the tenth of March. When all the ceremonies were ended, he despatched a select body of men to attack a neighbouring fort, from which he apprehended some danger. Hus­sein was soon informed of this design, and sent his principal officer Seidal, to obstruct the progress of the Persians. Seidal soon discovered them upon an eminence, where they had halted, and, believing themselves in perfect security, had neglected to set a guard on the brow of the hill; which the Afgans perceiving, lay in ambush on the plain below, and waited for a proper opportunity to attack them. By a very for­tunate circumstance, a Persian prisoner had escaped from the city, and apprised Nader Shah of Hussein’s project, and Seidal’s expedition; upon which the King set out in person, and over­took the Afgans, who fled at his approach: many of them were slain in their flight, and those A.D.1737. Nad. 50. who escaped, retired with Seidal to a very strong castle, where they found Mohammed, son of Hussein, with several other chiefs. Nader Shah returned to his camp, and gave a considerable present to the prisoner above-mentioned, who had informed him of Seidal’s excursion.

On the thirtieth of March, the royal tents were removed to a place more convenient for a design which Nader had conceived, of building a large city adjacent to Candahar, and of reducing Hussein to despair by the length of the siege. Agreeably to this vast project, a surprising num­ber of architects and masons were summoned from all quarters of the empire, who made such inconceivable expedition, that, in a few days, they had laid the foundations of sumptuous edifices, aqueducts, baths, mosques, stables, mar­kets, and houses for the common inhabitants: they contrived to turn a small, but very clear, river, called Torpuk, through the city; and some were employed in finishing the buildings in the most elegant manner, whilst others were raising a noble Citadel, and the rest, either decorating the royal palace, or building the walls of the new city, which was named Naderabâd, or The mansion of Nader.

In the mean time Ashref, an Afgan chief of high rank, deserted from the service of Hussein, and was favourably received by the Persian monarch. A short time after, a troop of Afgans made an excursion towards the river Arghendab, but were repulsed with great loss: after this defeat they acted entirely upon the defensive, and could not be induced to leave their walls, though Nader Shah had left the plain A.D.1737. Nad. 50. open, in hopes of enticing them to give him battle. This made him determine to enclose the city of Candahar on all sides with strong towers, at a considerable distance from each other: between these towers he erected a num­ber of batteries, which he was obliged to mul­tiply, on perceiving that some Afgans had sallied from their gates at midnight; but, by raising two more batteries between each of the large towers, he totally precluded them from the least possibility of passing his lines. At the beginning of May he received intelligence, that his officers had taken the town of Sefa, and the castle of Bast, the former by storm, and the latter by capitulation; upon which he sent other commanders to guard those places, and recalled those who had taken them. At the close of the month the King’s women and the baggage, which had been separated from the army in Seistan, arrived at Naderabad. The castle, to which Seidal had retired, was at this time taken by a Persian commander named Imamvirdi, who seized the just mentioned Afgan, with the other chiefs, and the son of Hussein, and sent them in chains to the royal camp. It has already been related in the preceding sections, that Seidal had ever been a promoter of violence and sedition; for which he was at this time punished with the loss of his sight: but the son of Hussein was treated with every mark of kindness and lenity.

While Nader Shah was endeavouring to tire out the Prince of Candahar by a tedious block­ade, his son Rizakuli was enlarging the limits of his province, and pursuing a course no less glorious than that of his father. He had recovered Endekhod, and chastised its rebellious governor A.D.1737. Nad. 50. Alimerdan; he had defeated the numerous army of Abulhassan, Prince of Balkh, whose capital city he had taken, and whose ter­ritories he annexed to the kingdom of Persia. He afterwards passed the river Oxus with twelve thousand men, and put to flight forty thousand Tartars, commanded by the Kings of Bokhara and Kharezm; the latter of whom fled before the action, while the former, having lost a great number of his men, retired to a strong hold called Kershi. While the Prince was preparing to storm this castle, he received from his father a magnificent present of gold, beautiful horses, and rich vests, together with a letter applauding his valour, but desiring him to desist for the present from any further hostilities against the King of Bokhara. It is not easy to account for this check to the career of so brave a young man, unless we suppose that Nader Shah was desirous of moderating the power of his son, whose actions might possibly have eclipsed his own; or that he wished to reserve for himself the conquest of Transoxan Tartary, which the ancient kings of Persia were not able to subdue, in the course of a long and memorable war. The Prince, however, obeyed his command, and repassed the Oxus, which had been fixed, before the reign of Cyrus, for the boundary of the Persian empire.

The A.D.1738. Nad. 51. blockade of Candahar had now lasted ten months; but the Afgans, relying upon the plenty of their provisions, which they had been collect­ing for several years, and, deceived by the apparent strength of their situation, had not entertained the least thoughts of surrendering their City. Their obstinacy compelled the King to have A.D.1738. Nad. 51. recourse to more violent measures; and he made preparations for a general assault upon the citadel. In a short time the Persians took six­teen towers, two of which were built of stone, and situated upon a craggy mountain, which commanded a view of the whole town. The assailants, by the King’s order, carried their mortars and cannons of a vast size over this mountain, and planted them upon the summit of it. On the next morning they began to bombard the citadel, and filled the garrison with the utmost conster­nation; but a body of Persians, attempting too hastily to mount a breach, were repulsed by the Afgans, and two hundred of them were either killed or wounded. The tenth of March was celebrated with the usual solemnities; and on the twelfth, four thousand Persians were ordered to lie concealed in different parts of the moun­tain, and to wait for a proper opportunity of scaling the walls. The next day a tower, called Dehdeh, was taken by a company of Bakhtiari’s, who were enlisted in the service of Nader Shah. These intrepid barbarians passed on, in defiance of the Afgans, and planted the Persian ensigns on four other forts; which opened a way for the soldiers who lay hid on the mountain, and who, by the help of scaling-ladders, forced in a short time the gates of the citadel; whence they poured like a torrent through the city, and destroyed all that opposed them. Hussein had scarce time to fly with a few Afgans, and some of his women, to a fortress situated on an emi­nence in the northern part of the city: Nader Shah pointed his artillery against this fortress, and had actually begun to storm it, when Hus­sein, finding himself reduced to the last extremity, sent his sister Zeineb, a princess of excellent virtue, A.D.1738. Nad. 51. to implore the clemency of the conqueror. Nader received her with kindness, and promised to accept the submission of her brother. The next day, Hussein and his family, together with the Afgan commanders who had escaped the violence of the storm, prostrated themselves before the throne of Nader Shah, who gave them their lives, and sent Hussein with his son Mohammed, and all his relations, to the province of Mazenderan, where he allotted them a settlement. He divided all the plunder of the city among his soldiers, and having ordered the citadel of Candahar to be demolished, he appointed Naderabad the Capital of the province, and gave the government of it to Abdal­gani, a nobleman, who had once been suspected of disaffection, but had since been restored to favour. He rewarded Ashref, who had left Hussein, during the siege, with the government of a castle, and made him chief of a tribe named Touki: he selected a company of stout young Afgans for the reinforcement of his army, and gave the rest an habitation in the districts adjacent to Nishapour. This colony passed the Arghendab on the third of April, and were con­ducted to their new settlement in Khorasan.

On the twenty-seventh of the same month, the King’s ambassadors to the Porte arrived at Naderabad. They had been received with great respect by the Othman court, who had sent with them an ambassador, and two doctors of the Turkish law, with a congratulatory letter to Nader Shah upon his elevation to the throne, in which he was desired to dispense with the two articles proposed by him, concerning the fifth pillar in the temple of Mecca, and the march of the A.D.1738. Nad. 51. Persian pilgrims through Syria. They assured him, “that the first would be a dangerous innovation, and that the second would be attended with infinite trouble; but that if he would suffer the pilgrims to take the route of Irak, the inhabitants of Bagdad should make the roads commodious for their progress, and should provide every thing necessary for their security and convenience.” The Great Turk’s letter was accompanied with a present of valuable rarities, and, among the rest, of some fine Arabian horses with trappings of gold. Nader showed all imaginable marks of distinction to the Turkish ministers, and presented each of them with an ermine robe, and a beautiful horse richly caparisoned. He discoursed with them publickly upon the two articles in question, and told them he hoped to prevail with their court to consent to the ratification of them: in order to press this point, he named an able minister his ambassador to the Porte, who departed on the ninth of May, in company with the three Turks above-mentioned.