Sale, always to the front when fighting was going on, was wounded leading his men up the heights. On 12 and 13 Sept. some twenty thousand men had occupied every post of vantage in the Tezin pass, but Sale drove them from crag to crag, contested at every step, until the pass was cleared, but only to find numbers assembled in an almost impregnable position on the Haft Kotal (7,800 feet). The hill was after much labour scaled, and the enemy driven from height to height. A decisive victory was gained, and on 15 Sept. Sale encamped his division at Kabul.
On arrival at Kabul, Sir Richmond Campbell Shakespear [q. v.] had been at once despatched with six hundred horsemen to rescue the captives at Bamian, and on the 17th Sale took a brigade of his Jalalabad troops and pushed on to Shakespear's support. The captives, who had by bribery already effected their own release, met Shakespear on 17 Sept. and the following day were safe in Sale's camp.
On 12 Oct. Sale led the advanced guard on the return march to India by the Khaibar pass, and, having exercised great caution, met with no difficulty, and reached Ali Masjid on 12 Nov.
On 17 Dec., at the head of the Jalalabad garrison, Sale crossed the Satlaj by the bridge of boats into Firozpur, and was received with great honour and ceremony by the governor-general. On 24 Feb. 1843 the thanks of parliament were unanimously voted to Sale for the skill, intrepidity, and perseverance displayed in the military operations in Afghanistan. The resolution was moved in the House of Lords by the Duke of Wellington, and in the House of Commons by Sir Robert Peel. On the death of General Edward Morrison, colonel of the 13th (Prince Albert's) regiment of light infantry, Sale received on 15 Dec. 1843, as a special promotion for distinguished service, the colonelcy of his old regiment, a most unusual distinction for so junior an officer. In addition to the special medal for Jalalabad, Sale received medals for Ghazni and Kabul.
Sale went to England, but returned to India on appointment, on 29 March 1844, as quartermaster-general of the queen's troops in the East Indies. On the outbreak of the Sikh war, towards the end of 1845, he served as quartermaster-general of the army under Sir Hugh (afterwards Lord) Gough. His left thigh was shattered by a grape-shot at the battle of Mudki on 18 Dec., and he died from the effects on 21 Dec. 1845.
Sale was a brave soldier. He was nicknamed ‘Fighting Bob,’ and wherever there was fighting he was always in the thick of it. His men followed him anywhere. He was too much afraid of responsibility to make a good general, nor indeed had he the special gifts which make a great commander. Sir Robert Peel, in the House of Commons, paid a graceful tribute to his memory when proposing a vote of thanks to the army of the Satlaj, and suggested a public monument. A portrait of Sale was painted by George Clint, A.R.A., and engraved in mezzotinto by Thomas Lupton. Another portrait was painted by Scarlet Davis, and in 1846 was in the possession of John Hinxman, esq.
Sale married, in 1809, Florentia (born 13 Aug. 1790), daughter of George Wynch, esq. She was at Ludiana at the time of her husband's death. On the retreat of the British force from Kabul in January 1842, and the massacre which ensued, Lady Sale had shared the horrors of those cold snowy days and nights. She did what she could to alleviate the sufferings of the women and children and the wounded. Her clothes were riddled with bullets, and she was twice wounded and had a bullet in her wrist. With her daughter, Mrs. Sturt, she soothed the last moments of her mortally wounded son-in-law, Lieutenant Sturt of the engineers, who died near Khurd Kabul on 9 Jan. 1842, and was the only officer who received Christian burial. At last, on 10 Jan., Akbar Khan had compassion on these unfortunate women and children, and carried them, with other prisoners and hostages, to a fort in the Khurd Kabul. Their baggage was all looted, and they had only the clothes they were wearing. Fortunately, before leaving Kabul, Lady Sale had taken out her diary to make an entry, and then, finding her baggage gone, put it in a bag which she tied to her waist. This graphic account, begun at Kabul in September 1841, was continued through her captivity, and published in 1843. On 11 Jan. 1842 the captives were moved from Khurd Kabul; they reached Jagdalak on the 13th, on the 15th Tigri, a fortified town in the valley of Lughman, twenty-five miles north of Jalalabad, and on the 17th Badiabad, eight miles higher up the valley, the fort of which formed the prison of nine ladies, twenty gentlemen, and fourteen children, besides seventeen European soldiers, two European women, and one child. Crowded together, with no spare clothes nor necessaries, except coarse food and shelter, they were nevertheless not molested, and Lady Sale was even allowed to carry on a correspondence with her husband in Jalalabad. They suffered a good deal from the earthquake of 19 Feb. and frequent earthquakes