Anglo-Persian War (1856–1857)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Britain vs. Persia
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Persia
DECLARATION: Britain declared war on Persia on
November 1, 1856.
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Britain supported
Afghanistan against Persian invasion.
OUTCOME: Britain prevailed; no Persian concessions were
sought, except for Persian evacuation of Afghanistan and
recognition of Afghan boundaries.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
Anglo-Indian forces, approximately 21,000; Persia, 20,000
regulars supplemented by 150,000 irregular cavalry
CASUALTIES: Anglo-Indian, 500 killed; Persian, 1,500 killed
TREATIES: Treaty of Paris, April 1857
Persian forces invaded Afghanistan in 1855, occupying the
strategically positioned city of Herat in 1856. Feeling its
Indian frontier threatened, Britain declared war. Although
Persia’s regular army numbered on paper 86,700, only
about 20,000 men were fit for duty. These regular forces
were supplemented by 150,000 poorly trained and poorly
equipped irregular cavalry troops. Against these forces the
British mustered about 21,000 Anglo-Indian troops, of
whom some 5,000 were dispatched to take the Bushire
Peninsula on the Persian Gulf. An equal number of Persian
troops were defeated on the peninsula within a month, and
the campaign ended on November 1, 1856. It was followed
late in January 1857 by an inland advance of 4,400 Anglo-
Indian troops to confront a superior Persian force of 7,800
at Khoosh-ab, about 40 miles from the gulf coast. The battle
took place on February 8, 1857, and was a humiliating
defeat for the Persians, who lost some 700 immediately
and several hundred more in the pursuit that followed.
Anglo-Indian losses were just 19 killed and 64 wounded.
In March the Anglo-Indian forces began an assault
against Mohammerah on the northern end of the Persian
Gulf and at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates
Rivers. The position was very strongly defended by
artillery emplaced behind 18-foot earth berms. The Persian
garrison was some 13,000 strong. The British strategy
was to coordinate naval bombardment from the gulf with
land operations by 4,000 Anglo-Indians under Sir James
Outram (1803–63). This combination easily defeated the
fortress, which fell on March 26. Persian losses totaled
about 300, whereas the Anglo-Indian army lost 41 killed
or wounded. The capture of Mohammerah came while
peace negotiations were already in progress and resulted
in the surrender of Shah Nasr ed-Din (1831–96), who
agreed to evacuate Afghanistan and to respect its borders
See also PERSIAN-AFGHAN WAR (1855–1857).
Further reading: A. J. Abraham, The Awakening of
Persia: The Reign of Nasr al-Din Shah, 1848–1896 (Berrien
Springs, Mich.: Vandevere Publishers, 1993).