GARDNER, Alexander Soldier and Traveller. Memoirs of Alexander Gardner, Colonel of Artillery in the Service of Majaraja Ranjit Singh. Edited By Major Hugh Pearse. Edinburgh and London, William Blackwood And Sons, 1898.
8vo. Original brick-red cloth, spine ornamented and lettered in gilt, front cover lettered in black; pp. xxxiv, 359, 32 (publisher's catalogue), photogravure portrait-frontispiece with tissue guard, one further portrait (tissue guards and two maps printed in two colours; With Publisher's Compliments blind-stamped to corner of p. ix; light offsetting from endpapers and frontispiece, otherwise a a remarkably well-preserved copy, name on initial blank.
First edition. Alexander Haughton Campbell Gardner (1785-1877) 'set out on a journey to Astrakhan where his elder brother was in the Russian service. In 1817, he left Russia and after wandering for many years in Central Asia, drifted to Afghanistan where he took up service under Amir Habibullah Khan. When in 1826, Amir Dost Muhammad became master of Kabul, Gardner fled and reached Peshawar in 1831 to be appointed commander of artillery by Sultan Muhammad Khan Barakzai, a tributary of the Sikh government. In 1832, he was summoned to Lahore where he became an artillery officer in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army with the rank of colonel. Gardona Sahib, as he was popularly known in the Sikh army, served in several military campaigns until 1836 when Raja Dhian Singh took him over from the Maharaja’s service and placed him in full command of his own artillery. He successively served Hira Singh and Gulab Singh' (All About Sikhs, online). The trusworthiness of his deads in Northern India haves been disputed, however his Central Asian and Afghan adventures (the first nine of 16 chapters) withstand the test.
'According to the legend, this American-born freebooter roamed the forbidden lands of Turkestan for years, fording the Oxus umpteen times, wintering in the high Pamirs, the first explorer to make a full circuit of that daunting range. He slew brigands, married an Afghan princess, penetrated remotest Kafiristan, the scene of The Man Who Would Be King (Kipling cribbed the idea from Gardner’s memoirs). Some of his exploits made Flashman look respectable (he walks on in the Flashman saga too)' (TLS online review of John Keay's The Tartan Turban. In Search of Alexander Gardner).