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Asiatic Annual Register

Nov. 5. — In March last a small party of gentlemen from Bombay consisting of Colonel Macquarrie, Dr. Thomas, and Lieut-general [sic] Brande, passed over to Bussorah in order to proceed thence overland to Europe. A letter was received from Bagdat, under date the 15th of May, respecting their progress; and stating, "that they proposed, notwithstanding the existence of hostilities between England and the Porte, to go direct from Bagdat [sic] to Baku, on the Caspian, there to embark for Astracan, and so pass through Russia by the North of Europe, and to reach England by the Baltic."

On the 16th, they left Bagdat [sic] with the caravan, having been joined there by Major O'Neil, of his Majesty's service. The latter gentleman afterwards met with the following singular and perilous adventure, in one of those little excursions which are not very dangerous perhaps in a flat country, but which are undoubtedly imprudent in a hilly one.

On the 5th of June, having travelled about two-thirds of the distance between Bagdat [sic] and the Caspian sea, he lost sight of the caravan in one of those picturesque places, and wandered about the whole day without being able to find it again.

During this time repeated attempts were made to disarm and rob him by the lawless wretches who prowl about the country. At length, about sun set, he was so suddenly attacked by four of them, that, before he could stand on his defence, he was knocked down from his horse and disarmed. The banditti then literally stripped him to the skin, and shared the plunder amongst them, giving him a few of their own rags to defend him from the cold ; after much ill treatment, and repeated threats against his life, they finally dismissed him.

In this folorn [sic] condition he walked all night, and early the next morning was again attacked by three other men. One of them who was well mounted and better armed than the others, after striking him several times, seized him, and dragged him in the crudest manner to his house; where for two days he obliged him by blows to work at the hardest labour. Making him pull grass for his cattle, dig gravel, and carry it home from the pit, and then pull up by the roots a weed of remarkably strong fibres, which over-ran the greater part of an adjacent tract of meadow ground.

Notwithstanding this insupportable degree of labour, the barbarian had not the humanity to give him any other food than bread, and some milk diluted with water.

On the third day, however, he was liberated from this dreadful state of slavery by the gallantry of the chief driver of the caravan, who generously volunteered to go in search of him. Even after the major was discovered by this brave and honest fellow, there was some difficulty in effecting his release; and nothing but the determined spirit of the driver, who threatened the Russian [sic] with the immediate vengeance of the whole caravan, could have prevailed.

The feelings of major O'Neil may be easily conceived. He had little hopes of ever being discovered, the village being situated in a retired part of the mountains. The night preceding his delivery he received a private hint that it was in contemplation to cut his throat, unless he instantly made his escape.

This probably was an indirect method of attempting to get rid of him; as the fellow who kidnapped him might have been alarmed by enquiries making after his victim.

The travellers gave the following account of their subsequent proceedings : —

"We entered Persia on the 22d of May. — In consequence of the resident of Bagdat,[sic] having previously written to the court of Persia, giving notice of our intended journey, orders were issued permitting us to pass wheresoever we desired: but a Frenchman, resident at the court, as ambassador from Buonaparte, hearing of our arrival, contrived to insinuate unfavourable suspicions of the motives of our travelling into Persia ; and in consequence a khan was directed to conduct us to court. The khan accordingly waited upon us, announcing himself as our memendar, and delivered a highly complimentary message, in the Eastern style, from the vizier, stating that his highness could on no account allow a party of English gentlemen to travel through his Majesty's dominions, without having the pleasure of seeing them at court. — On the morning succeeding the day on which we were visited by the khan, Major O'Neil had unluckily parted with the caravan, and could no where be found. This circumstance alarmed the deputation, and raised a suspicion that the major made his escape to avoid being carried to court, and that he had gone off with information of importance to the Russians, now at war with Persia. Three days elapsed before the major was discovered. Having thoughtlessly strolled to a distance from the caravan, he was seized, robbed, stripped, and detained in captivity. The major being fortunately recovered, and restored to our society, served to do away all suspicion, as to the objects of our journey. The Persians were fully convinced as to the truth of our account, that the Turkish war was the sole motive of our travelling to Europe by the circuitous route of Persia.

It happened luckily, at this time, that the king was on the road from his capital to the camp, and crossing our intended track, saved us the necessity of a long and tedious journey. I shall say nothing further on political subjects, than that we have reason to believe that the king of Persia, and his confidential advisers, discern the true character of the French propositions, and that they have already given a decided negative to the late overtures of Buonaparte; and have signified to his ambassador, that they cannot take any measure to disturb the good understanding that now subsists between Great Britain and Persia. The king is anxious to put an end to the war with Russia. Colonel Macquarrie has letters, both from the king and the vizier, addressed to his Britannic Majesty, and to his ministers, requesting, as we understand, the mediation of England, in effecting a peace between the two empires.

In our journey through Persia we have been occasionally entertained, with princely splendor, by the governors of the cities through which we passed. With the apparent fertility, the finely diversified scenery of Persia, and its natural beauties, we have been delighted. Very different must be our account of its inhabitants. We embark in a day or two upon the Caspian, to proceed to Astracan, thence we go to Petersburg, and still hope to reach England in September."

The internal evidence of the extracted account suggests that it was part of a letter written by either Lieut. Brande or Assistant-Surgeon William Thomas from Sultaniyah, the site of the Shah's summer camp to friends in Bombay. Sultaniyah (also known as Sultaniyya, Soltaniyeh or Soltanieh: 'Town of the Sultans') was located midway between Tehran and Tabriz.

'Bombay Occurrences for November 1807'.
Asiatic Annual Register for the Year 1808. Vol. X [publ. 1811] pp.179-181.

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