'Major Cavagnari', 1879.
© NMeM / Kodak Collection / Science & Society
A photograph by John Burke [1845-1900] of Major Sir Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari [1841-1879] sitting amongst a group of Afghan chieftains and army officers, taken in January 1879 and published in the album 'The Afghan War, Attogk to Jellalabad, Gandamak and Surkhab'. Cavagnari is shown here during discussions at Gandamak with local Afghans. After serving with the 1st Bengal Fusiliers he transferred to the Political service and became Deputy Commissioner at Peshawar. His knowledge of the frontier made him a natural choice for a diplomatic job in Afghanistan. Defeats at Ali Masjid and Peiwar Kotal had forced Afghanistan's new ruler, Amir Yaqub Khan [ d 1914], to accept a humiliating peace with the British which included accepting Cavagnari as envoy in Kabul. Widespread resentment in the country at the British presence led to an attack on the British residency in Kabul on 3 September 1879. Despite fighting bravely, Cavagnari and his small escort were killed. This, in turn, led