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Title: Khartoum Campaign, 1898 - or the Re-Conquest of the Soudan
Author: Burleigh, Bennet, -1914
Language: English
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KHARTOUM CAMPAIGN

1898

OR THE

RE-CONQUEST OF THE SOUDAN

BY

BENNET BURLEIGH.

AUTHOR OF "SIRDAR AND KHALIFA."


WITH MAPS, PLANS OF BATTLE, AND NUMEROUS
ILLUSTRATIONS


SECOND IMPRESSION.


LONDON: CHAPMAN & HALL, LIMITED
1899



PREFACE.


By the overthrow of Mahdism, the great region of Central Africa has
been opened to civilisation. From the date of the splendid victory of
Omdurman, 2nd September 1898, may be reckoned the creation of a vast
Soudan empire. At so early a stage, it is idle to speculate whether
the country will be held as a British possession, or as a province of
Egypt. "The land of the blacks," and their truculent Arab despoilers,
has the intrinsic qualities that secure distinction. Given peace, it
may be expected that the mixed negroid races of the Upper Nile will
prove themselves as orderly and industrious as they are conspicuously
brave. Whoever rules them wisely, will have the control of the best
native tribes of the Dark Continent, the raw material of a mighty
state. This, too, is foreshadowed; the dominant power in Central
Northern Africa, if no farther afield, will have its capital in
Khartoum, "Ethiopia will soon stretch out her hands unto God."

The recent events which have so altered the condition of affairs upon
the Upper Nile, deserve more than ephemeral record. A campaign so full
of inspiriting incident, a victory which has brought presage of a
great and prosperous Soudan, merits re-telling. Through half a score
of battles or more, from the beginning to the death of Mahdism, I have
followed British and Egyptian troops into action against the
dervishes. I knew General Hicks, and had the luck to miss accompanying
his ill-fated expedition. In the present volume, "Khartoum Campaign,"
the narrative of the reconquest is completed, the history being
carried to the occupation of Fashoda and Sobat, including the
withdrawal of Major Marchand's French mission. I have made use of my
telegrams and letters to the _Daily Telegraph_, London, and the full
notes I made from day to day during the campaign. Besides, I have
quoted in certain cases from official sources, and given extracts from
verbal and written communications made to me by distinguished officers
engaged in the operations.

For use of maps, sketches, and photographs, I am indebted to the
proprietors of the _Daily Telegraph_, to Mr Ross of _Black and White_,
Surgeon-General William Taylor, Colonel Frank Rhodes, Lieutenant E. D.
Loch, Grenadier Guards, Mr Francis Gregson, Mr Munro of Dingwall,
N.B., and others.

                                                      BENNET BURLEIGH.

LONDON, _December 1898_.



CONTENTS.


                                                                  PAGE

    CHAPTER I.

      INTRODUCTORY--REVIEW OF THE FIELD,                             1

    CHAPTER II.

      DAYS OF WAITING AND PREPARATION,                              14

    CHAPTER III.

      MUSTERING FOR THE OVERTHROW OF MAHDISM,                       35

    CHAPTER IV.

      BY THE WAY--FROM CAIRO TO DAKHALA,                            45

    CHAPTER V.

      DAKHALA CAMP: GOSSIP AND DUTY,                                63

    CHAPTER VI.

      MARCHING IN THE SOUDAN--FROM DAKHALA TO WAD HABESHI,          75

    CHAPTER VII.

      WITH THE ARMY IN THE FIELD--WAD HAMID TO EL HEJIR,            92

    CHAPTER VIII.

      EL HEJIR TO UM TERIF--INCIDENTS AND ACCIDENTS,               105

    CHAPTER IX.

      ADVANCE TO KERRERI--SKIRMISHING WITH THE ENEMY,              119

    CHAPTER X.

      THE BATTLE OF OMDURMAN--FIRST PHASE OF THE FIGHT,            135

    CHAPTER XI.

      BATTLE OF OMDURMAN--_continued._--THE CAVALRY
      FIGHTS--MACDONALD'S SAVING ACTION,                           167

    CHAPTER XII.

      STORIES OF THE BATTLE--OMDURMAN,                             199

    CHAPTER XIII.

      CLOSE OF CAMPAIGN--GORDON MEMORIAL SERVICE, KHARTOUM,        228

    CHAPTER XIV.

      KHARTOUM MEMORIAL COLLEGE--THE OFFICIAL DESPATCHES,          263

    CHAPTER XV.

      THE FASHODA AFFAIR--A RED BRITISH LINE THROUGH AFRICA,       295

    POSTSCRIPT,                                                    334



ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                                  PAGE

    Brigadier-General H. A. Macdonald, C.B., D.S.O.,    _Frontispiece_

    Bennet Burleigh,                               _To face page_    1

    Headquarters, Wady Halfa,                                        9

    Darmali (British Brigade Summer Quarters),                      23

    Group of Staff Officers--Colonel Wingate in Centre,             34

    Street in Dakhala,                                              53

    Troops going to Wad Habeshi,                                    58

    Wood Station (_en route_ to Omdurman),                          69

    Loading Up--Breaking Camp,                                      77

    21st Lancers--Advance Guard,                                    81

    Halt by the Way,                                                87

    Slatin Pasha (on Foot),                                         89

    Artillery going towards Omdurman,                              125

    Battle of Omdurman--Zereba Action,                             151

    Macdonald's Brigade advancing,                                 182

    Sirdar directing Advance on Omdurman,                          183

    Khalifa's Captured Standard (Sirdar extreme left),             195

    Chief Thoroughfare, Omdurman (Mulazim Wall, left; Osman
    Digna's House, right),                                         196

    Effect of Shell Fire upon Wall (Mulazim Enclosure),            197

    Khalifa's House,                                               217

    Mahdi's Tomb--Effect of Lyddite Shells,                        219

    Interior Mahdi's Tomb (Grille around Sarcophagus),             221

    Khalifa's Gallows (cutting down his Last Victim),              223

    Neufeld on Gunboat "Sheik"--Cutting off his Ankle-Irons,       225

    Khalifa's Chief Eunuch (surrenders in British Camp),           229

    Fresh Batch Wounded and Unwounded Dervish Prisoners,
    Omdurman, 4th September 1898,                                  231

    Neufeld, with Abyssinian Wife and Children; also Fellow
    Prisoner,                                                      241

    Distant View, Khartoum (from Blue Nile),                       255

    Hoisting Flags, Khartoum,                                      259

    Col. H. Macdonald at Omdurman, with Officer and
    Non-Commissioned Officer of 1st Brigade,                       291


MAPS AND PLANS.

    General View Plan, "A,"                                 _page_ 173

    Zereba Plan, "B,"                                         "    179

    First Attack on Macdonald's Brigade, "C," Plate 1,        "    187

    Second Attack on Macdonald's Brigade, "D," Plate 2,       "    191



KHARTOUM CAMPAIGN.



CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTORY.--REVIEW OF FIELD.


It is an easier and kindlier duty to set forth facts than to proclaim
opinions and pronounce judgments. Before Tel-el-Kebir was fought in
September 1882 and the Egyptian army beaten and disbanded, the
insurrection headed by the Mahdi or False Prophet had begun. In the
disrupted condition of affairs which succeeded Arabi Pasha's defeat by
British arms the dervish movement made further rapid progress. To Sir
Evelyn Wood, V.C., at the close of 1882, was assigned the task, as
Sirdar or Commander-in-Chief of the Khedivial troops, of forming a
real native army. It was that distinguished soldier, aided by an
exceptionally able staff, who first took in hand the re-organisation
and proper training of the fellaheen recruits. By dint of drill,
discipline and stiffening with British commissioned and
non-commissioned officers he soon made passable soldiers of the
"Gippies." The new army was at first restricted to eight battalions
of Egyptian infantry, one regiment of cavalry, and four batteries of
artillery. Although there were Soudanese amongst Arabi's troops, they
were mostly gunners. It was not until May 1884 that the first "black"
regiment was raised. Yet it had been notorious that the Soudanese were
the only Khedivial soldiers who made anything of a stubborn stand
against us in the 1882 campaign. The blacks who came down with the
Salahieh garrison on the 9th of August 1882, and joined in the
surprise attack upon General Graham's brigade then in camp at
Kassassin, were not easily driven off. The large body of Egyptian
infantry and cavalry, although supported by several Krupp batteries
which, issuing from the Tel-el-Kebir lines, assailed us in front, were
readily checked and pushed back. It was our right rear that the
"blacks" and others forming the Salahieh column menaced, and it
required some tough fighting before Sir Baker-Russell with his cavalry
and horse artillery was able to drive them off. In truth, the "blacks"
held on long after the main body of Arabi's force had abandoned their
intention of driving the British into the Suez Canal or the sea.

The first Soudanese battalion was recruited and mustered-in at Suakim.
It got the next numeral in regimental order, and so became known as
the "Ninth." Many of the blacks who enlisted in the Ninth--Dinkas,
Shilluks, Gallas, and what not--were deserters from the Mahdi's
banner, or dervishes who had been taken prisoners at El Teb and Tamai.
It has never yet been deemed advisable to enrol any of the Arab
tribesmen in the Khedivial regular army. Hadendowa, Kababish, Jaalin,
Baggara, and many other clans, lack no physical qualifications for a
military career. Their desperate courage in support of a cause they
have at heart is an inspiration of self-immolation. But they are as
uncertain and difficult to regulate by ordinary methods of discipline
as the American Red Indian, and so are only fitted for irregular
service. In March 1885 General Sir Francis Grenfell succeeded to the
Sirdarship. With tact and energy he carried still further forward the
excellent work of his predecessor. Four additional Soudanese
battalions were created during his term, and the army was strengthened
and better equipped for its duties in many other respects. Sir Francis
had the satisfaction of leading his untried soldiers against the
dervishes, and winning brilliant victories and, in at least one
instance, over superior numbers. He it was, who, at Toski in August
1889, routed an invading army of dervishes, whereat was killed their
famous leader Wad en Nejumi. That battle put an end to the dream of
the Mahdists to overrun and conquer Egypt and the world. The Khalifa
thereafter found his safest policy, unless attacked, was to let the
regular Egyptian forces severely alone.

It was shown that, when well handled, the fellaheen and the blacks
could defeat the dervishes. Lord Kitchener of Khartoum became Sirdar
in the spring of 1892. His career in the land of the Nile may be
briefly summarised: first as a Lieutenant, then successively as
Captain, Major, Colonel and General, that Royal Engineer Officer from
1882 has been actively employed either in Egypt proper or the Soudan.
He has, during that interval, been entrusted with many perilous and
delicate missions and independent commands. Whatever was given him to
do was carried through with zeal and resolution. In his time also
little by little the Khedivial forces have been increased. A sixth
Soudanese battalion was raised in 1896, and in that and the following
year four additional fellaheen battalions were added to the army. When
the Khartoum campaign began, the total muster-roll of the regular
troops was eighteen battalions of infantry, ten squadrons of cavalry,
a camel corps of eight companies, five batteries of artillery,
together with the customary quota of engineers, medical staff,
transport, and other departmental troops. There was a railway
construction battalion numbering at least 2000 men, but they were
non-combatants. As the whole armed strength of Egypt was, for the
occasion, practically called into the field, the peace of the Delta
had to be secured by other means. A small armed body called the Coast
Guard and the ordinary police, apart from the meagre British garrison,
were responsible for public tranquillity. The re-organisation and
increase of the Coast Guard, which was decided on, into an army of
8000 men, was a brilliant idea, and one of the recent master-strokes
of Lord Cromer and the Sirdar. It is ostensibly a quasi-civil force,
and it was formed and equipped without the worry of international
queries and interference. The Coast Guard is mainly composed of picked
men, including old soldiers and reservists. Their duties carry them
into the interior as well as along the sea-coast, for, partly on
account of the salt tax, there are revenue defaulters along the
borders of the Nile as well as by the Mediterranean and Red Sea. They
are dressed like soldiers and are armed with Remingtons.

Mohammed Achmed, who called himself the Mahdi, or the last of the
prophets, whose mission was to convert the world to Islamism, was a
native of Dongola. He was born near El Ordeh, or New Dongola, in 1848,
and was the son of a carpenter. In person, he was above the medium
height, robust, and with a rather handsome Arab cast of features.
During 1884 I saw his brother and two of his nephews in a village
south of El Ordeh. All of them were tall stalwart men, light of
complexion for Dongolese, courteous and hospitable to strangers.
Mohammed Achmed, from his youth, evinced a taste for religious studies
coupled with the ascetic extravagances of a too emotional nature. From
Khartoum to Fashoda he acquired a great reputation for sanctity.
Religious devotees gathered around him and followed him to his retreat
upon the island of Abba. There he, in May 1881, first announced his
claims as the true Mahdi. His barefaced assertions of special divine
command and guidance found credulous believers. With the wisdom of the
serpent he had added to his influence and security as a prophet by
marrying daughters of Baggara sheiks, _i.e._ chiefs. Mohammed Achmed
was a vigorous and captivating preacher, learned in all the literature
of the Koran, ever ready with apt and telling quotations. His early
teaching was decidedly socialistic, including a command for the
overthrow of the then existing civil state. His principles have been
summed up officially as "an insistence upon universal law and
religion--his own--with community of goods, and death to all who
refused adherence to his tenets." Unfortunately, "opportunity" played
into his hands. The misrule of the Pashas, the burden of over-taxation
coupled with the legal suppression of the slave trade, and the
demoralisation of the Egyptian forces enabled Mohammed Achmed to rebel
successfully. Troops sent against him were defeated and annihilated.
Towns capitulated to his arms and within a period of two years the
inhabitants of the Soudan were hailing him as the true Mahdi, their
invincible deliverer. With the capture of Khartoum, on the morning of
the 26th of January 1885, and the abandonment of the Soudan and its
population--the Egyptian frontier being fixed by British Government
order at Wady Halfa--the over-lordship of that immense region from the
Second Cataract to the Equatorial Lakes was yielded to the so-called
Mahdi Mohammed Achmed did not long enjoy his conquests. Success killed
him as it has done many a lesser man. For a season he gave himself up
to a life of indolence and the grossest lust. On the 22nd of June
1885, less than six months after Gordon's head had been struck off and
brought to him, the Mahdi suddenly died. It is said by some that his
death was due to smallpox, by others that one of his women captives
poisoned him in revenge for the murder of her relatives. His demise
was kept secret for a time by his successor Abdullah, the chief
Khalifa, and the other dervish leaders. It was given out that the
Mahdi's spirit had been called to Heaven for a space but would soon
return to lead his hosts to fresh triumphs and further fat spoils. A
tomb was erected over the place where his body lay, and the legend of
his mission was taken over by Abdullah, who also in due season had
visions and communicated reputed divine ordinances to the dervishes.
Abdullah, who was ignorant, illiterate and cruel, far beyond his dead
master--"the cruellest man on earth," Slatin Pasha dubbed him,--by his
exactions and treacheries soon overreached himself. Events were
hastening to the overthrow of Mahdism. Sheiks and tribes fell away
from the Khalifa and returned to the fold of orthodox Mohammedanism.
By 1889, as an aggressive force seeking to enlarge its boundaries,
Mahdism was spent. Thereafter, stage by stage, its power dwindled,
although Omdurman, the dervish capital, remained the headquarters of
the strongest native military power that North Africa has ever known.

Lord Cromer has been blamed for many things he did, and much that he
left undone, during the earlier days of Mahdism. A fuller knowledge of
the whole circumstances justifies my saying that, as custodian of
_British interests_, he acted throughout with singular prudence and
great forbearance. It was not with his wish or approval that several
of the untoward expeditions against the dervishes were undertaken. It
is permissible to regret that, from a variety of causes, the British
Government engaged in more than one ill-considered and irresolute
campaign for the destruction of Mahdism. Much treasure and countless
thousands of lives were foolishly squandered and all without the
least compensating advantage. The barren results of the Soudan
campaigns directed from the War Office in Pall Mall form too painful a
subject for discussion. It is only fair to say, that the military
officials' hands may have been much hampered from Downing Street.

[Illustration: HEADQUARTERS, WADY HALFA.]

As I have stated elsewhere, it was not until 1896 that the serious
reconquest of the Soudan was begun. Before then there had been, as Mr
Gladstone after all appropriately termed them, "military operations,"
but not a state of war. He might have called them "blood-spilling
enterprises," for they were only that and no more. The re-occupation
of the province of Dongola in 1896, freed the Nile up to Merawi, and
gave the disaffected Kababish, Jaalin and riverain tribesmen a chance
of reverting to their allegiance to the Khedive. It also enabled the
Sirdar to pass his gunboats farther up the river. Another gain issuing
from the forward movement was that his right was secured from serious
attack. Then followed the building of the wonderful Wady Halfa direct
desert railway towards Abu Hamid, Berber, and Dakhala at the mouth of
the Atbara. It was the 1897 campaign which put all these places into
the Sirdar's hands. During that year's high Nile, he passed his
gunboats over the long stretch of cataracts betwixt Merawi and Abu
Hamid, and ran them up the river where they co-operated with the land
forces, regulars and friendlies. Nay more, the steamers were set to do
a double duty: convey stores to the advanced posts and assail and
harass the dervishes, pushing as far south as Shendy and Shabluka,
the Sixth Cataract. By prodigies of labour and enterprise the railroad
was speedily constructed to Abu Hamid, then on to Berber, and thence
to Dakhala. The whole situation became greatly simplified the moment
the line reached Abu Hamid. From the first, the question of dealing a
death-blow to Mahdism with British-led troops had turned upon the
solution of the transport problem. The through rail and river
connection once established from Cairo _viâ_ Wady Halfa to Abu Hamid
put an end forever to all serious difficulty of providing adequate
supplies for the troops. From Abu Hamid the Nile is navigable far
south for many months during the year. Then again, the occupation of
Abu Hamid unlocked the Korosko desert caravan route and drew more wary
and recanting dervishes away from the Khalifa. Following the capture
of Abu Hamid, Berber was promptly taken for Egypt by the friendlies,
and the Suakim-Berber trade route, which had been closed for many
years, was re-opened.

The end was slowly drawing near, for the Sirdar was closing the lines
and mustering his forces for a final blow. Railroad construction went
forward apace. At the rate of from one to two miles a day track was
laid so as to get the line up to Dakhala. Meanwhile, workshops were
being erected at suitable points, and three additional screw gunboats,
built in England, were re-fitted for launching. The flotilla was
becoming formidable; it comprised 13 vessels, stern-wheelers and
screw-steamers, all armed with cannon and machine guns and protected
by bullet-proof shields.

Believing there was a chance to wreck the railroad and capture
outposts and stores, Mahmoud, a nephew and favourite general of the
Khalifa's, led a powerful dervish army from Shendy north to raid the
country to and beyond Berber. In spite of the gunboats, after
disposing of the recalcitrant Jaalins, Mahmoud crossed the Nile at
Metemmeh to the opposite bank. Accompanied by the veteran rebel, Osman
Digna, he quitted Aliab, marching to the north-east with 10,000
infantry, riflemen and spearmen, ten small rifled brass guns and 4000
cavalry. It was his intention to cross the Atbara about 30 miles up
from the Nile, and fall upon the flank and rear of the Sirdar's
detached and outlying troops, killing them in detail. He reckoned too
confidently and without full knowledge. Using the steamers and the
railways the Sirdar quickly concentrated his whole force, bringing men
rapidly up from Wady Halfa and the province of Dongola. The entrenched
Egyptian camp at the junction of the Atbara with the Nile was
strengthened, and General Gatacre's brigade of British troops was
moved on to Kunur, where Macdonald's and Maxwell's brigades also
repaired. Mahmoud had ultimately to be attacked in his own chosen
fortified camp. His army was destroyed and he himself was taken
prisoner. So closed the unexpected Atbara campaign in March last.
Thereafter, as the Khalifa showed no intention of inviting fresh
disaster by sending down another army to attack, the Sirdar despatched
his troops into summer rest-camps. Dry and shady spots were selected
by the banks of the Nile between Berber and Dakhala. One or another of
the numberless deserted mud villages was usually chosen for
headquarters and offices. With these for a nucleus, the battalion or
brigade encampment was pitched in front and the quarters were fenced
about with cut mimosa thorn-bush, forming a zereba. All along the
Upper Nile, wherever there is a strip of cultivable land, or where
water can be easily lifted from the river or wells for irrigation,
there the natives had villages of mud and straw huts. In many places,
for miles following miles, these hamlets fringe the river's banks,
sheltered amidst groves of mimosa and palms. The fiendish cruelty and
wanton destructiveness of the dervishes, who, not satiated with
slaughtering the villagers--men, women and children--further glutted
their fury by firing the homesteads and cutting down the date palms,
resulted in depopulating the country. Ignorant and fanatical in their
religious frenzy to convert mankind to their new-found creed, the
Mahdists held that the surest way to rid the world forthwith of all
unbelievers lay in making earth too intolerable to be lived in.

These native dwellings, when cleaned, were not uncomfortable abodes.
As the flat roofs were thickly covered with mats and grass whilst,
except the doorway, the openings in the mud-walls were small, they
were even in the glare of noontide heat, pleasantly cool and shady.
The troops found that straw huts or tukals afforded far better
protection than the tents from the sun and from dust-storms. So it
came about that, copying the example set by the fellaheen and black
soldiers, "Tommy Atkins" also built himself shelters, and "lean-to's"
of reeds, palm leaves and straw. Drills and field exercises were
relaxed, and the troops had time to rig up alfresco stages and
theatres and to enjoy variety entertainments provided by comrades with
talent for minstrelsy and the histrionic arts. Meanwhile the
preparations for the final campaign against Mahdism were not
slackened. Vast quantities of supplies and material of war were stored
at Dakhala. Outposts were pushed forward and Shendy was occupied,
whilst Metemmeh was held by friendly Jaalin tribesmen, who had
suffered much at the Khalifa's hands. The Bayuda desert route also had
been cleared of dervishes by these and by neighbouring tribesmen. On
the direct track from Korti to Omdurman, outlying wells and oases were
in possession of the Kababish and their allies who had broken away
from Abdullah's tyranny. The whirligig of time had transformed the
equality preachings, and "unity in the faith" of Mahdism into the
unbridled supremacy of the Baggara and especially the Taaisha branch
of that sept over all the people of the Soudan. They alone were
licensed to rob, ravish and murder with impunity. It was the natural
sequence of lawless society. Once the foe they leagued to plunder and
kill had been disposed of, they turned and rent each other. Abdullah
being a Taaisha, he, as a prop to his own pretensions, set them in
authority over all the races of the Soudan. One by one, however, Arab
clansmen and blacks repented and deserted Mahdism.

The time was ripe for ending the mad mutiny against government and
civilisation. July is the period of high Nile in the upper reaches,
and the Sirdar planned that his army should be ready to move forward
by then. At that date all was in readiness. The Egyptian army which
was to take the field consisted of one division of four brigades, each
of four battalions with artillery, cavalry and camelry. Besides these
there were two brigades of British infantry--Gatacre's division--a
regiment of British cavalry, the 21st Lancers, and two and a half
English batteries, with many Maxims. It was known that Abdullah had
called into Omdurman all his best men and meant giving battle.



CHAPTER II.

DAYS OF WAITING AND PREPARATION.


"Everything comes to him who waits," but the weariness of it is
sometimes terrible. Oftentimes waiting is vain, without accompaniment
of hard work. The Sirdar made deliberate choice to carve out a career
in Egypt. He did so in the dark days when the outlook was the reverse
of promising, in nearly every aspect, to a man of action. Abdication
of our task of reconstruction was in the air, the withdrawal of the
British army of occupation a much-talked-of calamity. Through every
phase of the situation, Kitchener stuck to his guns, keeping to
himself his plans for the reconquest of the Soudan. He wrought and
watched while he waited, selecting and surrounding himself with able
officers, and exacting from each diligence and obedience in the
discharge of their duties. The Dongola campaign and the fortuitous one
of the Atbara against Mahmoud greatly strengthened his position. There
might be further delay, but his triumphal entry into Omdurman and the
downfall of the Khalifa were certain. The Sirdar had but to ask, to
receive all the material and men he wished for. He adhered to his
early decision to employ only as many British troops as were actually
necessary to stiffen the Khedivial army, and no more.

After the battle and victory of the Atbara in the spring, the British
troops, or Gatacre's brigade, marched back from Omdabiya by easy
stages to the Nile. The wounded and sick were conveyed into the base
hospital at Dakhala, whence they were afterwards sent down to
Ginenetta or, as it then was, Rail-head. From that point they were, as
each case required, forwarded by train and steamboat to Wady Halfa and
Cairo. It was at Darmali, 12 miles or more north of Dakhala, that the
British soldiers went into summer-quarters. On the 14th of April the
brigade mustered 3818 strong, made up as follows:--833 Camerons, 826
Seaforths, 969 Lincolns, and 665 Warwicks. Two companies of Warwicks
had been left in the Dongola province when the advance was made.
Besides the muster of battalions enumerated, the brigade included a
Maxim battery, detachments of the Army Service Corps, and other
details. The "Tommies" settled down in camp, living under peace
conditions, for with the rout of Mahmoud's men, the nearest dervish
force worth considering was as far off as Shabluka Cataract. Everybody
was bidden to make himself as snug as possible. Outlying houses and
walls were thrown down to secure a free circulation of air. As for
sunlight, that was shut out wherever practicable. The first home
drafts to make up for losses arrived at Darmali on the 23rd of April.
About 130 men then joined. It was thought desirable to maintain the
British battalions at their full strength, and some of them mustered
nearly one thousand strong. As the percentage of sick was continuous,
and the rate increased as the campaign progressed, the actual roll of
men "fit for duty" grew less as we neared Omdurman. Of course,
"youths," and all the "weedy ones," were in the first instance
rejected by the army doctors, and were never permitted to go to the
front. Men over 25 years of age were preferred, and it so happened
that both the Grenadier Guards and the Northumberland Fusiliers had a
high average of relatively old soldiers, and consequently few sick.
From the end of April until the end of May, dull hot days in the
Soudan, leave was granted to officers to run down to Alexandria and
have a "blow" at San Stefano, by the sea-side. There were quite a
number of deaths in the brigade shortly after the men got into camp,
the customary reaction having set in on account of the exposure and
strain precedent to the victory of the Atbara. To reduce the numbers
quartered at Darmali, the Lincolns and Warwicks, on the 19th of April,
were marched a mile farther north along the Nile, to Es Selim, where
they formed a separate encampment, the Camerons and Seaforths
remaining at the first-named place. The average daily number of sick
in the brigade at that period was 100 to 150. On one occasion there
were 190 men reported unfit for duty. Most of the cases were not of a
serious nature, and the patients speedily recovered and returned to
their places in the ranks. There was no lack of stores and even
dainties at the camps, for supplies were carried up by caravan,
escorted by Jaalin friendlies, from Berber and elsewhere. Much of the
sickness in the army was probably due to the men recklessly drinking
unboiled and unfiltered Nile water. At that season the river had sunk
into its narrowest bed, and there were backwashes and sluggish
channels full of light-green tinted water. More filters were procured,
and extra care was taken with all the water used for domestic
purposes.

In May there were route marches twice a week, the brigade going off at
5.30 a.m. and returning about 7.30 a.m., all in the cool of the
morning or such bearable temperature as there was in the 24 hours'
daily round in that month. During these exercises the troops had
plenty of firing practice, being taught to blaze away at bushes, and
occasionally at targets representing dervishes. In that way the
remainder of the million of tip-filed Lee-Metford bullets were
disposed of, for it had been arranged that there was to be a new
cartridge case for the Omdurman campaign. The latest pattern
"man-stopper" was a bullet fashioned with a hollow or crater at the
point, the nickel casing being perforated.

So the days droned past for the British soldiers, with little to do
beyond essaying the impossible of trying to keep cool. It was often
otherwise with the Egyptians, for they had to assist in getting the
railroad through to Dakhala from Ginenetta, in forwarding boats and
stores, and later on in establishing wood stations and cutting fuel
for the steamers. The first of the tropical summer rain showers fell
at Darmali on the 27th of May. On the 18th of June Major-General
Gatacre went off on a shooting excursion up the Atbara, taking with
him a party of ten officers and a few orderlies. They found relatively
little big game but plenty of gazelle and birds. The bodies of the
slain in Mahmoud's zereba at Omdabiya still lay where they fell,
unburied, but dried up and mummified by the sun. Natives had stripped
the place and carried off everything left behind by us. A number of
dervishes were seen lurking about, part of the defeated army of the
enemy, who were afraid to return to Omdurman, anticipating that the
Khalifa would have them killed. Indeed, it appeared that numbers of
the runaways had settled down at New Hilgi, and were attempting to
cultivate. As for the four or five thousand dervish cavalry that
Mahmoud had with him, they also never returned to Omdurman. Quite
probably they made their way back to their original homes in small
bands, rightly believing that Mahdism was doomed. Assured of pardon
and good treatment at our hands, fourteen of the Mahdists and a number
of women came in with General Gatacre's people. No attempt was made by
the dervishes in the neighbourhood to "snipe" the party. They returned
to Darmali on the 27th of June. With the sun gone north came the
rising of the Nile and fresh breezes. The gunboats kept diligently
patrolling the river, watching for any signs of movement on the part
of the Khalifa and his forces. The enemy were reported to be gathering
in large numbers at Omdurman for the coming conflict. As Shendy was
held by a small force of Egyptians, and Metemmeh nominally by the
Jaalin for us, frequent visits were made to those posts. Later on,
other shooting parties went up to Omdabiya and found that there was an
increase in the numbers of natives about, and that flocks and herds
were to be seen grazing in the vicinity. The tribesmen showed that
they had abandoned the Khalifa by tearing the dervish patches off
their clothing. All being quiet, and peace assured in the Dongola
province, the two detached companies of the Warwickshire left Korti
and joined their comrades in Es Selim camp.

July was a very busy month. The river flotilla and transport service
had all to be thoroughly organised for the impending advance. Gunboats
received the final touches and completed their armament. The steamers,
barges and giassas, native sailing craft, underwent thorough repair.
More and still more munitions of war and provisions were sent forward
and stored at Dakhala. That post grew into a formidable camp. The
three new twin-screw gunboats built on the Thames, besides other
ship-work reconstruction, were put together near Abadia, a village
above the Fifth Cataract and north of Berber. The railroad had been
hastily laid and completed to Abadia after the battle of Atbara.
Thither the sections of the barges and steamers needed for the
campaign had been sent by rail from Wady Halfa. Before that date,
engineering and other workshops had been erected at Abadia, which,
because of its favourable position, was chosen for a permanent camp
and industrial centre. Base-hospitals, too, were built there, in order
that the wounded and sick might travel as far as possible by water.
Astonishing as had been the rapidity with which the Wady Halfa Abu
Hamid portion of the desert railroad was laid, smarter work still was
done carrying the line through to the Atbara. The utmost energy was
put forth, after the defeat of Mahmoud, by the Director of Railways,
Major Girouard, R.E., to get the track completed to Dakhala, the
junction of the Atbara with the Nile. Not only the railroad battalion,
which was nearly 3000 strong, but every available Khedivial soldier,
laboured in some way or other at the task. They put their hearts and
thews to the toil, for it was recognised that its completion not only
solved the transport problem, but was a swift and sure means of return
to Egypt. The railroad battalion worked wonders in grading and laying.
Fellaheen and negro, they showed a vim and intelligence in
track-making that Europeans could not surpass. Native lads, some in
their early teens, clothed with little beyond a sense of their own
importance and "army ammunition boots," many sizes too big for their
feet, adjusted the fish-plates and put on the screw nuts. Then, for
those who bore the heavy burden of rails and sleepers and carried
material for the road bed, there were licensed fools, mummers, and
droll mimics, who by their antics revived the lagging spirits of the
gangs. There is an unsuspected capacity for mimicry in what are called
savage men. I have seen Red Indians give excellent pantomimic
entertainments, and aborigines in other lands exhibit high mumming
talent. In the railroad battalion there was an eccentric negro who was
a very king of jesters. From the Sirdar and the Khalifa downwards--for
he was an ex-dervish and had played pranks in Omdurman--none escaped
a parodying portrayal of their mannerisms. He imitated the tones of
their voice and twisted and contorted his face and body to resemble
the originals. Nothing was sacred from that mimic any more than from a
sapper. He showed us Osman Digna's little ways, and gave ghastly
imitations of trials, mutilations and executions by hanging in the
Mahdist camps. And these things were for relaxation, though maybe they
served as a reminder of the dervishes' brutal rule. There were
vexations and jokes of another sort for Major Girouard and those held
tightly responsible for the rapid construction and regular running of
the material trains, as indeed all trains were. When the line had been
laid beyond Abu Dis, for a time known as Rail-head, the camp and
quarters were moved on to the next station. Abu Dis sank in dignity
and population until only a corporal and two men were left to guard
the place and work the sidings. The desert railway being a single
track, frequent sidings are indispensable for the better running of
trains. All the control for working the system was vested in the Wady
Halfa officials. One night there came to them over the wires an
alarmist message to send no more trains to Abu Dis. It was the
corporal who urgently rang up his chiefs. What could it mean? Had they
deserted, or, more likely, were the dervishes raiding the district? A
demand was made from Wady Halfa for the corporal to explain what had
happened. His answer was naive, if not satisfactory: "The wild beasts
have come down from the hills, and we really cannot accept any trains
from any direction." "What do you mean?" was again queried back. So
the corporal and his two men responded: "Sir, there are wild beasts
all around the hut and tent; what can we do? We dare not stir out."
"Light fires, you magnoons," (fools), was the final rejoinder, and the
train service went forward as usual. It appeared that the hyenas and
wolves, wont to snap up a living around the men's camp, bereft of
their pickings were in a state of howling starvation, and had turned
up and made an appeal, by no means mute, to the station guard, which
the latter failed to understand or appreciate. In a remarkably short
space of time the hyenas and pariah dogs had adopted the habit of
scavengering around all the camps and snifting along the track, after
the trains, for stray scraps.

[Illustration: DARMALI (BRITISH BRIGADE SUMMER QUARTERS).]

I returned to Cairo early in July, where, having paid into the
Financial Military Secretary's hands the £50 security required of war
correspondents, intended to cover cost of railway fares south of Wady
Halfa, and for any forage drawn from the stores, I received the
official permit to proceed to the front. All the restrictions as to
the number of correspondents allowed up, which were imposed during the
Atbara campaign, were singularly enough removed, and the "very open
door" policy substituted. In consequence, there was a large number,
over sixteen in all, of so-called representatives of the press at the
front. As an old correspondent aptly observed, some of them
represented anything but journals or journalism, the name of a
newspaper being used merely as a cover for notoriety and medal
hunting. Having secured my warrant to join the Sirdar's army, I
started from Cairo for Assouan and Wady Halfa. The headquarters at
that date were still in Wady Halfa. On the 21st of July the first
detachments of the reinforcements that were to make up the British
force to a division, which Major-General Gatacre was to command, left
Cairo for the south. Thereafter, nearly day by day up to the 9th of
August inclusive, troops were sent forward. These consisted of
artillery, cavalry, the 21st Lancers, baggage animals, Royal
Engineers, Army Service Corps, Medical Corps, and the four battalions
of infantry which were to form the second British brigade. The brigade
in question comprised 1st Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, the 1st
Northumberland Fusiliers, the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers, and the 2nd
Battalion Rifle Brigade, together with a battery of Maxims manned by a
detachment of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. Brigadier-General the
Honourable N. G. Lyttelton, C.B., commanded the second brigade, whilst
Major-General Gatacre's former command, the 1st British Brigade, was
taken over by Brigadier-General J. Wauchope. The first brigade was
made up of the Lincolns, Warwicks, Seaforths, and Camerons, with six
Maxims. To prepare for eventualities, and clench the special training
he had bestowed upon his men, Major-General Gatacre issued a printed
slip of notes, or hints, to his men. I give the salient points of that
production:--

"1. As the strength of a European force lies in the occupation of and
in movement over open ground, which gives it advantage of fire, so the
strength of a dervish force lies in fighting in depressions of the
ground, or in a jungle country out of which they can pour suddenly and
quickly their thousands of spear-armed warriors, who, unless checked
by a murderous fire, constitute a grave danger, even to a perfectly
disciplined force.

"It follows, then, that a force halted for the night must always be
protected where possible by a zereba, which will check under fire the
attacking dervishes.

"2. That a cleared zone be prepared along outer edge of the zereba.

"3. That a force, when moving, should march at a respectful distance
from jungle cover.

"4. It should have the ground in its front and on its flanks searched
out by cavalry, mounted infantry, or native levies.

"5. That when mounted troops have found the enemy, they must
invariably clear the front of the infantry to enable the latter to use
their rifles.

"6. That brigades must be so trained that each battalion and
individual soldier must know how to get into the best formation with
the least possible delay for meeting the attack of the spearmen, who,
it must be remembered, can move at least three times as quickly as a
British soldier can double.

"To carry out the above, a high standard of training and steadiness is
required, and battalions must be provided with a liberal supply of
cutting tools, felling axes, hand axes and bill hooks to enable them,
the instant the battalion marches into bivouac, to cut down small
trees or strong branches of prickly trees with which to construct a
thorn fence.

"Piquets must be withdrawn at dusk, otherwise they might get
surrounded and cut off, or, in falling back, would possibly suffer
from the defenders of the zereba.

"The protection of the zereba against surprise must depend on the
vigilance of its sentries and piquets which line the fence, and whose
strength will naturally depend on the proximity of the dervishes to
the force. With reliable information, and the ground properly
reconnoitred, a patrol of ten men per company, patrolling constantly
and noiselessly along the inner edge of the zereba, is adequate, so
long as the enemy's dem is say 15 miles distant (a day's march); when
nearer than this, the strength of the piquets to remain awake and
under arms will depend upon the circumstances of the moment.

"All night duties of this nature should be found by companies, so that
portions of the line along its whole length shall be on duty. Words of
command and orders must be given in a low tone; there must be no
shouting and no fires burning till the hour arrives for making the
morning tea. Men should always be allowed to smoke, but should be
warned of the danger of fire in zereba by a cigarette or match-end
thrown into dry grass.

"Officers must sleep immediately behind their men; a certain number
will always be on duty.

"All, officers and men, must sleep in their clothes, boots and
accoutrements, and each man must have his rifle with him. None but
sentries' should be loaded, and bayonets should not be fixed, even by
the patrols, except when there is expectancy of attack. Under no
circumstances should men sleep with their bayonets fixed, or serious
accidents will occur.

"And here, one word about 'alarms.' I do not refer to the assembly by
bugle sound, but what is ordinarily called a panic, in other words a
disgraceful absence of discipline and self-control, which, while
ruining the reputation of the corps concerned as a reliable battalion,
may be the cause of serious mischief, and must be disastrous to the
confidence the General Officer places in its officers and men.

"One of the great advantages accruing to an army on service is the
close association of the officer with the man; each learns something
from the other, and the officer will, in after years, appreciate the
value of the habit he gets into of talking to his men and of storing
up in his mind all sorts of dodges and hints, which assist troops in
the field to make themselves comfortable; more than this, it is in the
field only that the officer can get the opportunity of instilling into
the men's minds the necessity for deliberation under fire, the high
standard of the regiment, its past history, its superiority in
everything to all other regiments in the division, and his confidence
in his men to maintain such a standard of excellence. In many
expeditions it has happened that shots have been fired at nothing,
night after night, thus disturbing the whole force; such bad habits
must be firmly checked."

Before leaving Cairo I had the opportunity of witnessing a trial of
the new siege guns that were to be used in levelling the walls and
defences of Omdurman. To the eastward of Abbassieh barracks, near the
rifle ranges, 150 feet of stone wall had been erected. It was a
replica of part of the structure which the Khalifa had built around
the tomb of the Mahdi, his own grounds, that of his body-guard, and
the more important buildings situated in the centre of the dervish
capital.

The stout rectangular wall at Omdurman stood with its narrowest side
facing the Nile, and its longest sides ran inland from the river for
about a mile. It was twelve feet in height, and even more in places,
ten feet in thickness at the base, tapering to six feet at the top. It
was a well-made structure, laid in mortar and faced on either side
with dressed limestone blocks.

Shortly after six a.m. on the morning of 22nd July, a large number of
officers assembled at the Abbassieh ranges to watch the result of the
experiments of the sham bombardment. Lieutenant-General Sir Francis
Grenfell and staff, Major-General Lyttelton, and many others were
present. It was arranged that the new 5-inch howitzer battery, with
the "Lyddite" or high explosive shells, was to make the first attempt
to breach or throw down the wall. There were six of these new
howitzers, and they were worked by the 37th Field Battery, commanded
by Major Elmslie. Except that the bore was larger, there was little to
distinguish the pieces from the 15-lb. Maxim-Nordenfeldt automatic
recoil guns used at the battle of the Atbara. The latter cannon,
however, only used cordite, whereas the 5-inch howitzer shells are
filled with a picric compound resembling M. Turpin's melinite. For
over ten years Russia has had 100-lb. howitzer batteries in the field,
firing high explosives. It was the Sirdar who insisted upon the
necessity of being supplied with these light and handy cannon. Neither
the velocity nor the range of their shell-fire is great, but it is
enough--4000 yards or thereby--for all practical purposes, and is
fairly accurate. The explosion of the picric shells was very violent,
and the danger area about 300 yards from where they burst. It has been
found that, with about six or eight mules to draw the guns, the
battery was quite mobile. Egyptian drivers were employed, though the
men serving the guns were all British artillerymen. Even the drivers
of the 32nd Field Battery, commanded by Major Williams, had "gippy"
teamsters. Both batteries were drawn by smart Cyprus mules. The
howitzers opened fire at 750 yards from the wall. With few exceptions,
the Lyddite shells hit the mark. Range is given more by increase or
diminution of the charge than elevation or depression of the
howitzers. The guns kicked viciously and ran back at each discharge.
Bursting violently, the shells threw out big sheets of tawny flame,
followed by showers of stones and a cloud of dust and brownish smoke.
It was possible to see the missiles in their flight and note where
they struck. As each shell rushed through the air it made a noise not
unlike an express train passing under a bridge. There were salvoes of
two or three guns, and huge chunks were knocked out of the wall.
Pieces of flying débris frequently dropped at no great distance from
the gunners. It was plain that the shells were bursting upon impact,
and only blowing away the face of the wall to the depth of but a foot
or two. Had there been thick shells with retarding fuses the structure
might have been breached in two or three rounds.

After a preliminary ten rounds had been fired, the wall was closely
inspected. It was seen that infantry might have clambered over the
débris to the top of the structure and jumped down upon the other
side. A strange feature was that wherever the "Lyddite" explosive
failed to detonate the stones and ground around had been transformed
to a deep chrome colour. The battery was moved closer, to about 350
yards from the wall, and the firing was recommenced at that range.
Much better results were obtained, and the upper part of the wall was
knocked away, and easy, practicable breaches made. One of the other
advantages of these new guns is that with reduced firing charges they
become reliable mortars, and the high explosive shells can be dropped
over a wall or building, so as to drive the defenders from their
works. Not a man would have escaped injury had there been an enemy
behind the wall, for blocks of stone were scattered in all directions.
When the howitzers had finished their practice, six rounds were fired
from two 40-lb. Armstrong guns, which were also ordered to assist in
breaching Omdurman's walls. Next to the 7-lb. screw guns the 40-lb.
Armstrong is reputed to be the most accurate shooting cannon in the
British service. Mounted on lofty carriages, these siege guns were
laid to fire at 800 yards range. Oddly enough, one of the 40-lbs.
scored as high a percentage of misses as the howitzers. The great
velocity of the 40-lb. shells, filled with the slower-bursting
gunpowder, carried them well into the part of the wall aimed at, with
the result that, in a few seconds, they made a good breach. The
morning's experiments were concluded by a detachment of the Royal
Irish Fusiliers, under Captain Churches, firing their Maxims against
targets representing bands of dervishes, the dummy enemy being, as
usual, riddled with bullets.

From Cairo to Dakhala, evidence was not lacking that the form and
movement of preparations for the general advance were growing apace.
Every train and boat going south was overloaded with officers, men,
and transport animals, together with munitions of war galore for the
campaign. The gunboats and deserters brought in reports that the
dervishes were concentrating at Omdurman. The strongly defensible
positions of Shabluka, together with the mud forts, had been evacuated
by the dervishes. Very quickly the Sirdar sent small bodies of troops
up stream to occupy suitable positions for wood-cutting and forming
advance camps. In that way the river pass at the Sixth Cataract was
seized without the long anticipated fight for that difficult bit of
country. The Nile highway was at length in the Sirdar's undisputed
possession up to within thirty miles of Omdurman.

There is no dustier journey by rail, or one of an altogether more
uncomfortable nature, than from Cairo to Shellal. It is bad enough in
the so-called winter season, for you have to breathe an atmosphere of
dust the whole way, and are powdered and almost suffocated before you
reach Luxor. The same trip taken in midsummer, in the stuffy, crowded
carriages of the Egyptian lines, is real martyrdom, or something akin
thereto. High speed or over twenty-five miles an hour is not
attempted. Although the journey ordinarily occupies thirty-two hours,
I was forty hours _en route_. There are no refreshment-bars or
restaurants for the supply of palatable food or drink for the fierce
needs of the passengers. I made some provision for the trip, and
managed to survive it, as I have done before, but I cannot forget its
tortures any more than the newest of new-comers. Not until we reached
Assouan could we secure a fair supply of water and get a bath and an
enjoyable meal. That same afternoon, I, with three other
correspondents, was allowed to take passage on barge No. 9, which,
with two giassas, was taken in tow up to Wady Halfa by a sternwheeler.
Among others proceeding on the craft to join the army were
Major-General Wauchope and Surgeon-General Taylor, and a number of
other army medicoes, fresh in their new dignity as officers of the
"Royal Army Medical Corps." Under the instruction of Surgeon-General
Taylor, Surgeon-Major Wilson was good enough to present each of us
with a packet of first field dressings, a kindness which I
appreciated, but of which I hoped not to have need.

[Illustration: GROUP OF STAFF OFFICERS.--COLONEL WINGATE IN CENTRE.]



CHAPTER III.

MUSTERING FOR THE OVERTHROW OF MAHDISM.


A hackneyism lacks the picturesqueness of originality, but is as
useful in its way as a public road to a desired destination. The
quotation which I am at the moment anxious to make use of is, "The
mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small." Time
the avenger had all but fulfilled the meed of punishment for the evil
day of 26th January 1885, when the streets of Khartoum ran with blood,
and the headless body of General Gordon was left to be hacked and hewn
by ferocious hordes of dervishes. Major-General Sir Herbert H.
Kitchener had so managed that the decisive blow should be delivered in
the most effective manner. Stage by stage he had moved forward and
improved his lines of communication. The advanced base, or point of
departure for the campaign, was no longer Wady Halfa, or Korti in the
province of Dongola, as in 1884, but Dakhala. Nay, with the
unassailable power and command of the Nile his flotilla gave him, it
might be said the real base of the Sirdar's army was where he chose to
fix it, even hard by Omdurman. As for the Khalifa, ruined to some
extent by years of successes and easy victories, he was committing the
fatal military error of over-confidence. He had drawn around him from
all parts of the Soudan the best of his trusty warriors, the pick of
the fighting tribes of Africa. The leaders were mostly sheiks who were
too far committed to hope for pardon and restoration, in the event of
defeat, from the Khedivial Government. Besides, there were still
plenty of ignorant fanatics amongst the chosen "Ansar," or servants of
God, to fire the naturally truculent mass of armed men.

To ensure the smashing of the Mahdists, the Sirdar was leading the
largest and best equipped expedition ever seen south of Wady Halfa.
The river flotilla comprised eleven well-armed steam gunboats. For the
transport of troops and stores beyond Dakhala he had numberless native
craft, giassas, nuggars, several steamers, and specially constructed
iron barges. What with their crews and detachments of British gunners,
engineers, and infantry, each gunboat had a fighting force of about
100 men aboard. These vessels could easily have carried many more
hands; indeed, the newest type of Nile men-o'-war, the twin-screw
steamers, were built to convey a thousand soldiers. The land forces
included over 8000 British troops and fully 15,000 Egyptian and
Soudanese soldiery. In artillery the army was exceptionally strong.
Lieut.-Colonel C. J. Long, R.A., commanding that arm, had practically
eight batteries and ten Maxims at his disposal, not counting the
machine guns, Maxims, attached to the British division. The artillery
included the 32nd Field Battery R.A. of six 15-pounders under Major
Williams; the 37th Field Battery R.A. of six 5-inch howitzers under
Major Elmslie, and two 40-pounders R.A. Armstrong guns under Lieut.
Weymouth. There were also, No. 1 Egyptian Horse Artillery Battery
(Krupps) under Major Young, R.A., of six guns; No. 2 Egyptian Field
(mule) Battery under Major Peake, consisting of six 12½-pounder
Maxim-Nordenfeldt automatic recoil guns, firing when necessary a
double shell, and Egyptian Field Batteries Nos. 3, 4, and 5, each of
six of the same type of guns, under Captain C. G. Stewart, R.A., Major
Lawrie, R.A., and Major de Rougemont, R.A., and two 6-centimetres
Krupps on mules. The ten Maxims, or at least six of them, were mounted
upon galloping carriages drawn by horses. On these vehicles or limbers
the gunners could remain in position and bring the weapons into action
at any moment. Captain Franks had the control of these machine guns,
two of which were, nominally, attached to each Egyptian battery.
Besides the four brigades of Khedivial infantry, together with
artillery, cavalry, and camelry, and minor details, the Egyptian army
also included a large transport column of some 2800 camels and about
as many men.

A new solar-hat, a poke-bonnet sort of head-gear, was designed and
tied on the pates of one thousand transport camels as an experiment to
prevent sickness and sunstroke. Although the brutes have the smallest
modicum of brains, they are very liable to attacks of illness from
heat-exhaustion. That they are born in the tropics confers no
immunity. Strange to say, on the march south from Assouan, of a
thousand and odd only one animal succumbed to sunstroke, and that was
a camel that had no sun-bonnet. If anything could have added to the
naturally lugubrious expression of those lumbering freight carriers,
it was the jaunty poke-bonnets with the attenuated "Oh, let us be
joyful" visages grinning beneath. The transport department was managed
by Colonel F. W. Kitchener, brother of the Sirdar. His care it was,
when the army actually took the field, to see that the supplies of
food, forage, and ammunition advanced with the columns. As a matter of
fact, in that respect the campaign, as at the Atbara, was admirably
ordered, and the troops lacked for nothing in reason. There were few
mules and donkeys employed in the baggage trains, the bulk of the
stores being camel-borne. It was the free and full use of water
transport, by the Nile, that enabled supplies to be sent on rapidly
and regularly with the army when the troops advanced beyond Rail-head.
Besides the regular army which was to proceed up the left or west bank
and attack Omdurman, there was a column of armed friendlies who were
to operate against the dervishes quartered between Shendy and
Khartoum, by the east or right bank of the Nile. Nor were the bands of
tribesmen upon that shore the only auxiliaries who had volunteered to
assist in overthrowing Mahdism. Jaalin scouts and runners put
themselves under the Sirdar's orders to scour the front and flanks of
the army, at least up to Kerreri. Colonel Parsons, R.A., was to lead
a mixed force of fellaheen soldiers, Abyssinian levies, ex-Italian
Ascari, and Arabs from Kassala to attack Gedarif and menace Khartoum
from the east.

There was a degree of soreness in several British battalions at not
being allowed to bear part in the campaign. The troops forming the
Army of Occupation believed that they should have had the first call.
Among these were the Royal Irish Fusiliers. It had been anticipated
that as they were next on the army list for active foreign service,
they would certainly not be passed over. Instead of receiving orders
to march, they were left severely alone, another Fusilier battalion
being sent in their place. The proceeding gave rise to much bickering
and bitterness in certain quarters. An attempt, I believe, was made to
send half of the Royal Irish Fusiliers to the front, but that fell
through owing to various causes. According to the War Office
requirements, the Royal Irish Fusiliers were not in a satisfactory
condition. There were serious drawbacks which would have terribly
militated against the effective employment of the battalion as a
first-class fighting unit. Individually, the men were all right, but
the battalion record in certain respects was held to be very faulty. I
have no wish to cavil at the War Office authorities' honest desire to
serve the public and yet temper their judgment with mercy to
individuals. But the case was one where they should not have
temporised in any way. As matters turned out, the Royal Irish
Fusiliers were very angry at being passed over at the eleventh hour
for another regiment. For several generations they have never had a
chance of being in action. They were fairly spoiling for a fight, and
it was hard, at the last moment, to have the road to glory closed in
their faces for the deficiencies of the few.

He whom Arabs and blacks of the whole Soudan call the "Grand Master of
the Art of Flight," our old friend Osman Digna, was with the Khalifa
in Omdurman. Osman was wily and experienced, and his counsel, had it
been listened to by his chief, would have added to the difficulties of
carrying the Mahdist stronghold by assault. I have some knowledge of
that astute ex-slavedealer and trader's ways in the Eastern Soudan and
elsewhere. He, many years ago, even condescended to honour me with his
correspondence and an invitation to join the true believers, _i.e._,
the Mahdists. I have no doubt he meant well, but the land and the
dervishes were alike abhorrent to me. Osman had quietly come to the
wise conclusion that Mahdism was near its end. With his usual
prescience he made his own arrangements without consulting the
Khalifa. Early in the year he had all his women and children and such
wealth as he could smuggle out of the country sent over to Jeddah.
There his family are now living under the protection of some of his
old friends and kinsmen. When Omdurman fell he had no intention, the
Hadendowas said, of sharing the Khalifa's further fortunes in hiding
among the wilds of Kordofan. He would instead try and escape across
the Red Sea and rejoin his family. The Arab clansmen are like the
Hielan' caterans; they may fight and quarrel with one another, but
unless there is a blood feud it is unlikely they will help either the
English or the Egyptians to bag old Osman Digna. If the Turk gets him
for a subject, well, the Sublime Porte is likely to be deeply sorry
for it later on. "Fresh troubles in Yemen," or elsewhere in the
Arabian Peninsula, will be amongst the headlines of news from that
quarter once Osman the plotter finds his feet again after his last
flight. After the Atbara he just missed being taken by the skin of his
teeth, so to speak. His camp letters and private correspondence were
all secured. It was in this way: When the news of the Atbara victory
reached Kassala, Captain Benson and a party of about 200 Abyssinian
irregulars set out to see whether Osman Digna and his more immediate
followers were not trying to make their way back to Omdurman, viâ
Aderamat and Abu Delek. It may be recollected that the fugitive Shiekh
had established a camp at the last-named place after he had been
driven out of the Eastern Soudan. Sure enough, Captain Benson and the
irregulars came up with Osman Digna and 400 of his people encamped
near the Atbara. They called on them to surrender, but that they would
not do. A running fight began, in the course of which Osman, his
nephew Mousa and many more escaped. The Abyssinians, however, killed
and captured over 200 of the dervish leader's followers, and returned
in triumph with the captives and spoils. I am told that Mousa Digna,
though he watched the fight in question, never fired a shot. The tale
goes, that he has never drawn sword or trigger against us since we
gave him his life at the battle of Gemaizeh, near Suakin. That
morning I found Mousa, shot through the stomach, reclining upon the
ground. He was still truculent, and brandishing his spear. The
Soudanese were anxious to despatch him forthwith, and fired several
shots at him, the aim of which I spoiled by direct interference. I had
even then difficulty in getting Mousa to lie down quietly, having to
show him my revolver. Finally, he partly realised the situation. He
was taken up, carried into Suakin, carefully attended to, fed upon a
milk diet, and, in the end, recovered and returned to his Uncle Osman
and the dervishes. It has always been upon my mind that I was therein
instrumental in furnishing a dervish recruit to the cause of furious
anarchy, and I am relieved to think Mousa is not without compunction,
if not a decent modicum of conscience. But your proper Hadendowa is
not a Baggara.

"Three removals are worse than a fire," and it is much the same in
campaigning. Constant trudging to and fro, making and breaking camps
with the hardships of marches and raw ground for bivouacs, furnish a
bigger mortality bill than an ordinary battle. One of the smart things
done by the Sirdar, which served to show that he had closely knit all
the ends of the new frontier lines together, was to bring troops up
from the Dongola province and the Red Sea Littoral, to swell the
strength of his army in the field. The 5th Egyptian battalion under
Colonel Abd El Borham marched across from Suakin to Berber in eighteen
days. It was not by any means sought to make it a forced march. The
Fifth was accompanied by a company, 100 men and animals, of the Camel
Corps and had 40 baggage camels for ordinary transport. Leisurely, day
by day, they tramped along over the 250 odd miles of rock and sand
that intervene betwixt the Nile and the sea. Hadendowa and Bishaim
tribesmen were friendly, and scouts led them in the best tracks
whether they tramped by night or by day. At one place they had to make
a long forced march as the water in the wells had been exhausted by a
previous caravan. In time to come, with a little outlay, new wells
will be dug and an abundant supply of water provided along the whole
route. Later on, the 5th Egyptian battalion marched up from Berber to
Dakhala camp. The men were tall, muscular fellaheen. They were, as has
become the custom in Egypt since the army has been officered by the
Queen's soldiers, played into quarters on this occasion by a native
Soudanese band to the swinging tune of "O, dem Golden Slippers."

It is warm enough in Lower Egypt in July to be uncomfortable, and to
turn the most obdurate into a melting mood. Assouan has the deserved
reputation of being hotter in that month than Aden, the Persian Gulf,
or--well, any other hot place. So, as I have said before, the British
troops were not required to do more than the minimum of duty at that
period. Decidedly "circumstances alter cases," even in matters
military. I hope I may be pardoned for these recurring quotations and
saws. The intolerably fervent solar heat of the Soudan at that season
did not admit of much originality in thought, expression, or act. One
of my companions was a veritable modern Sancho Panza, and in one's
limp, mental, noontide condition his sapient "instances" were
catching. When he left Cairo, as he confided to me, though it was warm
enough there, he decided not to buy too thin clothing lest he might
catch cold. He therefore purchased articles that even in England would
be called woolly and comfortable. Later on, as he reclined upon his
couch in a thrice-raised Turkish bath temperature, he lamented that he
"could not catch cold" even in a state of nature or next to it. He no
longer wondered at Sydney Smith's wish to sit in his bones, and
thought that expression would have acquired additional force if the
witty divine had added "packed in ice."



CHAPTER IV.

BY THE WAY--FROM CAIRO TO DAKHALA.


Ten days from London to the junction of the Atbara with the Nile: so
far from England and yet so near. By-and-by, no doubt, the Brindisi
mail, speeding in connection with the Khartoum express, will make the
run in seven or eight days. From England to Port Said is now but a
matter of four days by the new Peninsular and Oriental service. It
took me six days from Cairo to reach Dakhala. The officials prefer to
know the place as "Atbara Camp." There is no absolute rule for the
bestowal of proper names, or at least no practice one need care about
in the Soudan, so I prefer to dub the locality by its native title of
Dakhala, or Dakhelha. It saves a word in telegraphing, and there is
more fitness in calling that dusty, dirty enclosure by the less
euphonious name.

One could not but note what a wondrous change in the military and
political situation had been wrought in the land since 1884-85.
Railways had solved every difficulty of dealing with the dervishes.
Quite easily nowadays the remote provinces of the whilom great
Egyptian equatorial empire can be reached and governed. With ordinary
care under the altered conditions millions of Arabs and blacks can be
transformed from chronic-rebellious into trusty loyal subjects. There
has been bloodguiltiness and to spare in the Soudan since 1883-84,
therefore the rehabilitation of the country through the setting up of
just government will be in the nature of discharging a duty long
incumbent upon Great Britain. From the Atbara southward, the Niles and
their tributaries are open to steam navigation the year round. The
possession of these noble waterways, which extend over thousands of
miles, includes the fee-simple of sovereignty in the fertile lands of
the two Nile basins and their commerce. By admirable foresight and
indomitable Anglo-Saxon persistence the Sirdar had achieved a unique
position in African conquest. He had got together an armed force "fit
to go anywhere and to do anything." The heart of Africa was his, to
loose or to bind. Of all the terrible railway rides in the world, for
dirt and discomfort, none compares with the trip from Cairo to Luxor
and Assouan. The carriages are stuffy and unclean, and during the
whole journey one stifles in an opaque atmosphere of grit mixed with
the sweepings of the ages. The calcined earths quickly cushion the
seats, powder you from head to foot, and fill your pockets and every
other receptacle with soil enough to make you feel like a landed
proprietor--or, at any rate, rich enough in loam to lay out a suburban
garden. With all the accessories at hand for the creation of an acrid
and measureless thirst, neither the railway authorities nor private
enterprise have had the wit as yet to provide travellers with the
means of mitigating their sufferings. It is little short of a horror
to think of that journey of over forty hours' duration, which had to
be endured without the succour to be found in a refreshment-room
where, for a consideration, could be got a sparkling cool drink or a
mouthful of passable victuals. Were it to take me a month to travel
the distance by river, if time permitted I had rather adventure next
time upon the Nile than ever go by train over that line again. I
confess I have made the journey by rail frequently but it becomes
really more unendurable each trip. Of course I laid in stores of
liquids and solids for the voyage. I ought to have known better, but
one thinks nothing of the toothache when it is past. The mineral
waters became too hot to drink, and not quite near enough the
boiling-point to make good tea of, whilst, as for the provisions, such
as got not too high, were so swathed in layers of questionable dust
and grit as to be repulsive. Keeping even passably tidy was
impossible, and in personal cleanliness a London scavenger could give
a traveller by rail from Cairo to Assouan many points. It was at Wady
Halfa that I got booked in the way-bill for Dakhala, or Atbara Camp,
390 miles away. The construction of the Halfa-Atbara line was, as I
have said before, a masterpiece of military strategy, the credit for
which is due to the Sirdar. By-and-by a railway bridge will span the
Atbara at Dakhala, and the iron way will be laid into Khartoum. The
170 miles betwixt the Atbara and Khartoum offer no difficulties, and
the line will be laid within a year from the time when the money is
granted the Sirdar for its construction.

Since the foregoing was written, the requisite amount has been voted
Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, and the contracts for material have been
issued and signed. About a quarter of a million sleepers have to be
delivered in Egypt before the end of June 1899. The Atbara and forty
small khors will be bridged, and the work be completed in twelve
months. It is intended that the terminus shall be on the east bank
opposite Khartoum.

All the trains on the Halfa-Atbara line carried goods, ordinary
passengers being incidental. Four of my colleagues, Major Sitwell, of
the Egyptian army, and myself got places in a horse-box. In the next
truck to us, likewise a horse-box, were five English officers,
returning to duty with Gatacre's, or rather Wauchope's, brigade at
Darmali. In that same horse-box truck we five contrived to cook, eat,
sleep, and dress for two round days, for, as I have stated, there were
no restaurants or buffets within 1000 miles of the desert railway. The
wayside stations were but sidings or halting-places where the
locomotives drew coal and water, of which small supplies were usually
stored under an Egyptian corporal's guard. Ours was a long and heavy
train, and more than once on the up grade to No. 6 or Summit station
out from Halfa the engine came to a standstill, "to recover its
breath," as the negroes said. In the horse-box we got along together
for the most part very comfortably, accommodating ourselves to the
situation. Such a picnic as we had then made it less of a puzzle to
the common understanding how certain creatures are able to do with a
tight-fitting shell for their house and home. If Major Girouard, R.E.,
had not left the direction of the Soudan military railways--which
under the Sirdar he built--to join the Board of the Egyptian lines, we
should, I believe, have had better provision made for passengers.
Ziehs, or porous native clay-jars to hold cool drinking water, and
various other little accessories to lighten the hardships of the trip
would surely have been provided. Later on, the officials took care to
have ziehs and plenty of cool drinking water in the carriages and
trucks of all trains carrying troops, so that the men had at least
plenty to drink.

On our way up we passed Wauchope's brigade encamped at Es Selim and
Darmali. Colonel Macdonald's 1st and Colonel Maxwell's 2nd Khedivial
Brigades started to march from Berber to Dakhala about that time, the
end of July. Many of the British soldiers, so as not to sleep upon the
ground, had built for themselves benches of mud or sun-dried bricks,
whereon they spread their blankets. The plan secured some immunity
from such crawling things as scorpions and snakes. Sun-baked mud in
the Soudan is a hard and decently clean material for bench or bed. The
Theatres Royal, Darmali and Es Selim, were in full swing, though it
was very 'dog-days' weather. Officers liberally patronised the men's
entertainments and occasionally held jollifications of their own.
There were a good many who exercised the cheerful spirit of Mark
Tapley under the trials of the Soudan. Lively and original skits and
verses were given at these symposiums. Here are a few verses of a
topical song on the refractory blacks and fellaheen fallen under the
condemnation of either the civil or military law and forced to hard
labour. It was written and frequently sung by a clever young engineer
officer:--

    We're convicts at work in the Noozle,
      We carry great loads on our backs,
    And often our warders bamboozle,
      And sleep 'neath mountains of sacks.

                                Chorus: Ri-tooral il looral, &c.

(The Noozle is the commissariat depôt.)

    We convicts start work at day dawning,
      Boilers we mount about noon,
    Sleepers we load in the morning,
      And rails by the light of the moon.

    Our warders are blacks, who cry Masha! (march),
      And strike us if we don't obey,
    Or else he's a Hamla Ombashi,
      Who allows us to fuddle all day.

Hamla Ombashi is a corporal of the transport service, and "fuddle" is
to sit down. It was the chorus with spoken words interlarded that
caught on astonishingly, and showed that the men's lungs were in
magnificent condition. Another howler, but by another author, was
"Roll on to Khartoum." Here is a specimen verse and the chorus:--

    Come, forward march, and do your duty,
      Though poor your grub, no rum, bad 'bacca,
    Step out, for fighting and no booty,
      To trace a free red line thro' Africa.

    No barney, boys, give over mousing,
      True Britons are ye from hill and fen,
    Now rally lads, and drop all grousing,
      And pull together like soldier-men.

                                Chorus.

    Then roll on, boys, roll on to Khartoum,
      March ye and fight by night or by day,
    Hasten the hour of the Dervishes' doom,
      Gordon avenge in old England's way.

"Grousing" is Tommy Atkins for grumbling, which is an Englishman's
birthright. As for no rum, subsequently the men were allowed two tots
a week; Wednesdays and Saturdays were, I think, the days of issue.
Less than half a gill was each man's share. I am inclined to believe
had there been a daily issue of the same quantity of rum it had been
better, and the young soldiers might have escaped with less fever.

Dakhala had undergone many changes since March. It was bigger in every
respect, but no better as a camping-ground. Truth to tell, it was so
bad as to be well-nigh intolerable. The correspondents' quarters were
exceptionally vile, the location being the worst possible within the
lines. We had no option, and so had to pitch our tents behind the
noozle in a ten-acre waste of dirtiest, lightest loam, which swished
around in clouds by day and night, making us grimy as coal-heavers,
powdering everything, even our food and drink, with gritty dust and
covering us in our blankets inches deep. The river breeze was barred
from us, and the green and fresher banks of the Atbara and the Nile,
beyond the fort, were for other than correspondents' camps. Many rows
of mud huts had been built in the interior. As for the sun-dried brick
parapets and ramparts of the fortifications, these were already
crumbling to ruin or being cast down for use in newer structures. The
lofty wooden lookout staging, called the Eiffel Tower, had been
removed, and its timbers converted to other purposes. On the
completion of the railway to Dakhala, Abadia had become but a
secondary workshop centre. Newer and larger shipbuilding yards and
engine works were erected by the Atbara. Under Lieutenant Bond, R.N.,
and Mr Haig gunboats, steamers, barges and sailing craft were put in
thorough order, native artisans toiling day and night. The clang of
hammermen, riveters, carpenters and caulkers resounded along the river
front. The Dakhala noozle was an immense depôt, stuffed full of grain,
provisions, ammunition boxes, ropes, wires, iron, medical stores and
other material, like one of the great London docks. As usual the
indefatigable Greek trader had adventured upon the scene. North of the
fortified lines, with the help of the natives he had run up a mud
town. It consisted of a double row of one-storeyed houses, between
which ran a street of nearly 300 yards. The place, known as the
bazaar, was a hive of stores, wretched cafés, and the like. As the
Sirdar had had all the beer and liquor in the place seized and put
under seal before the advent of Mr T. Atkins, there was little to be
had in Dakhala bazaar besides a not too pure soda-water, coffee,
sardines, beans, maccaroni, oil, tobacco and matches.

[Illustration: STREET IN DAKHALA.]

For six weeks southerly winds blew almost daily. South of 17 degrees,
the northerly breeze does not commence to blow before the end of
August. It was warm, extremely warm, under the burning tropical sun.
The heat bore down like a load upon head and shoulders and enveloped
us like a blast from a roaring furnace. About noontide it was
ordinarily 120 degrees Fahr. in my tent. Still, I am sure it was by no
means so oppressive as at Korti in March 1885. The Atbara and the Nile
helped to temper the fiery glow that radiated from the desert rocks
and sands. At best, the heat is a sore trial, but to be borne with
more patience than the "devils" and sand storms that bother by night
as well as by day. Snow-drifts are mild visitations of Providence
compared with a dust storm or whirlwind. These latter would smother
you, if you would let them, quicker and less respectably than a shroud
of snow. Jack Frost bites mildly, preferring to do his serious work by
dulling the nerves; but the Dust Devil is a cruel tormentor from first
to last. You may bury your head in folds of cloth and mosquito
netting, and sweat and stifle in the attempt, but he snuffs you and
powders you all the same. He puffs his finest clouds in your face, and
round and round you till you find bedding and clothing are no more
protection against him than they are against the Röntgen ray. One
particular night he came in great strength to Dakhala, heaped waves of
sand over us, dug great hollows around our quarters, and completed his
diabolical games by completely overturning two of my colleagues'
tents. I saw my friends emerge from the ruins of canvas, bedding, and
boxes, wild, half-clad, terra-cotta figures, such as may have escaped
from the destruction of Pompeii. But the human mind is a curious
thing. It does not acknowledge defeat easily, and so a victim said to
me he had pulled his tent down to keep it from falling. The Dust Devil
had nothing to do with it.

Early in August the situation assumed a peculiar interest to us of the
fourth estate. We were told that the troops were shortly going forward
to rendezvous at Nasri Island, whereas it was a matter of notoriety
that Wad Habeshi, which was further south, had been selected as the
advanced camp for the army on leaving Dakhala. Of course, not one word
of the true state of matters were we permitted to wire home.
Detachments, true enough, had been sent ahead to "cut wood" and set up
a camp upon Nasri Island. But that was merely to have a secure
secondary depôt and hospital station. It had been ascertained after
the occupation of Shendy that the dervishes were in no great strength
at Shabluka or the Sixth Cataract. They occasionally sent down about a
thousand Baggara horsemen to that place, and their riders scouted
around the bluff rocks and hills bordering the Nile on either side of
the "bab," or water-gateway and rapids of Shabluka. As a rule, only
about two hundred of them ever crossed to the east bank. The others
hung around on the west bank, and built low walls for riflemen and dug
a number of trenches and then returned to Omdurman. A few hundred only
remained to guard the forts and the narrow fairway. Much labour had
been expended and considerable rude skill shown by the enemy in
building bastions and other defensive works at various places on the
river,--particularly in the Shabluka gorge and before Omdurman. Why
the Khalifa committed the blunder of making no adequate preparation
for defending the pass at Shabluka it is difficult to understand. Only
one conclusion suggests itself. He was probably afraid to trust his
followers so far from his sight, lest the negroes should desert. We
continually heard from our own blacks that most of Abdullah's
_jehadieh_ Soudani riflemen would come over to us the first chance
they got. Major-Generals Hunter and Gatacre, having learned that the
dervish infantry had been withdrawn from Shabluka, scouted south up to
the cataract and selected Wad Habeshi as a suitable camp and
rendezvous. That village, or rather district, is on the west bank,
south of Nasri Island and but fifteen miles north of Shabluka.

A big zereba was made at Wad Habeshi and trenches were dug. The place,
in short, long before the British troops stirred south beyond Dakhala,
was turned into a fortified post and made the real rendezvous of the
Sirdar's army.

[Illustration: TROOPS GOING TO WAD HABESHI.]

On 2nd August, in the face of a strong south wind, the 1st and 2nd
Khedivial brigades, respectively Colonel Macdonald's and Colonel
Maxwell's, embarked in very close order on steamers and giassas for
Wad Habeshi. The distance was about 140 miles by water from Dakhala,
but it took the gunboats and their tows over three days to get there,
for the craft were deeply ladened with men and stores. The soupy
whirling Nile flood washed the decks of the steamers almost from stem
to stern. It was little short of the rarest good fortune there was no
accident by the way. Everybody turned out to see the brigades off.
Merrily stepped the black battalions, their women-folk raising the
usual shrill cry of jubilation, whilst the bands played the favourite
air, "O, dem Golden Slippers." Regimental bands do droll things
occasionally. I remember in the year of the Dongola Campaign and the
cholera visitation, 1896, a grim blunder made by a native battalion's
band. The serious surroundings of those days led me to say nothing of
the matter at that time. Military interments, in cholera cases, were
ordinarily made very early in the morning or late in the afternoon,
just before sunset. A popular native Egyptian officer fell a victim to
the epidemic one afternoon. The sun had but set when the funeral
party, headed by the full regimental band, were seen hastening towards
the cemetery, for there was no time to lose. The tune actually being
played was not the "Dead March in Saul" but "Up I came with my little
lot." When the gunboats started up the Nile for Wad Habeshi, towing
alongside barges and giassas, all the crafts crammed with men and
stores, more than one of the fellaheen battalions were regaled with
the full strains of "'E dunno were 'e are."

By the end of July the Egyptian cavalry--nine squadrons--under Colonel
Broadwood, with the camel corps under Major Tudway, the horse
artillery and one or two batteries, had been ferried across from
Dakhala to the west bank. On the 4th of August the whole of the
mounted force named, about 2000 strong, started to march along the
bank to Wad Habeshi. Going along the bank means, at high Nile, leading
the troops upon a course half to a full mile from the river so as to
avoid creeks and overflows and, at same time, secure the advantage of
moving upon the more open ground beyond the zone of cultivation, out
upon the edge of the bare desert. It was also early in August that the
last of the fourteen double-decked iron barges, designed for the
conveyance of troops, was finished at Dakhala. Except the surplus and
reserve stores everything was put to instant service. As good a march
in its way, if not better in some respects than that of the 5th
Egyptian battalion from Suakin to Berber, was the tramp of the 17th
Egyptian--also a fellaheen regiment--from Merawi to Dakhala. They
made a record rapid tramp, following the Nile, up to Dakhala.

At Dakhala I frequently saw and conversed with the Sirdar, Generals
Rundle and Gatacre, Colonels Wingate and Slatin Pasha. There seemed no
reason to doubt but that the Khalifa would remain at Omdurman and give
us a fight. Abdullah the Taaisha gave out as widely as he could that
he meant actual business and dying if necessary at the Mahdi's tomb.
His women-folk had not then been sent away, and that looked promising
for battle. We heard that he was building more stout walls and digging
numberless trenches for defence. Of ammunition for small arms and his
ordinary brass rifled guns we were told he had no lack. For the three
or four excellent batteries of Krupps he possessed he had but sixty
rounds per cannon--enough, with good common and shrapnel shell, had he
made right use of his means, to have made matters unpleasant for us
until our gunners and Maxims found the range. It was regarded as
doubtful whether he would be able to employ any of the machine guns in
the dervish armoury. Of all Gordon's "penny steamers" only one, it was
said, was serviceable, and she was kept under steam night and day at
Omdurman.

Though he kept a bold front, blustered, and promised his adherents no
end of good things, and told them that, as in 1884-85, it was God's
will to turn the English back at the eleventh hour, Khalifa Abdullah
was truly in a parlous state. With all the Sirdar's care, we could not
keep from the dervish leader the extent of our preparations or
forwardness for the advance. As usual, Sir Herbert Kitchener was well
ahead of the time planned for moving on. We learned that, bar
unforeseen accidents and delays, the whole of his army would be in
front of Omdurman in a little over one month from the 1st of August.
Two dates in September were given for the fall of that stronghold. It
turned out to be neither. Kordofan had become openly rebellious
against the Khalifa. A caravan of over 1140 people, with women,
children and cattle marching overland, had arrived from that remote
region at Korti in the Dongola province. The multitude, who were
accompanied by many influential sheikhs flying from Mahdist misrule,
sent a deputation to the Sirdar asking his assistance to take and hold
El Obeid. As if that were not enough in the way of shutting the door
behind the Khalifa, sheikhs came down from the Blue Nile provinces,
seeking protection. Help was given to them, and bodies of friendlies
were got together to seize Senaar and other important places. The Nile
was running very swift and full in August, the current moving at fully
six miles an hour past Dakhala. In July the Atbara, which had again
begun slowly to flow, suddenly rose, the muddy water roaring along in
a series of terraced wave-walls. Its 300-yards wide bed, where it
joined the Nile, was within a few minutes choked with the tawny flood
up to nearly the top of the 30-foot banks on either side. Bursting
into the Nile the sea of soup seemed to push its way in a well-defined
stream nearly across the 1200-yards broad bosom of the Father of
Waters.

The first half of the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade arrived on
the 2nd of August at Dakhala, during a blustering dust-storm. For all
that, black and travel-stained, they were glad to detrain, and to plod
through the sand, and breast the laden atmosphere, in order to get
into camp hard by the Atbara. The following day the remainder of the
battalion marched in under somewhat pleasanter conditions. Everybody
turned out to cheer the smart, soldierlike detachments. On the 6th
inst. the first half of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards arrived,
and later on the remainder. The Sirdar and Generals Rundle and
Gatacre, and the staffs went to greet them. A finer and more stalwart
body of troops was never seen in the Soudan. Native opinion was more
than favourable respecting them, and I heard observations on all sides
that the Khalifa had no men he could set against them. The Sirdar and
General Gatacre also expressed themselves much pleased with the
appearance of the Grenadiers, who looked like seasoned soldiers and
came in without a sick man in their ranks.



CHAPTER V.

DAKHALA CAMP: GOSSIP AND DUTY.


Dirt is the essence of savagery, and there is a superfluity of both in
the Soudan. I have no desperate wish so to describe the vileness of
the surroundings of the correspondents' camp at Dakhala that even
casual thinkers will sniff at it. The place was bad enough in all
conscience, and, mayhap, therein I have said all that is necessary. As
for the worry of our lives, squatted as we were in the least agreeable
quarter of the big rectangular fort, long will the memory of those
days and nights burden our existence. What a time I had on those sand
and dust heaps, where every puff of wind and every footfall raised
clouds of pulverised cosmos. For two weeks, amid the wretched scene,
hideous by night as by day, I persisted in existing. It was a huge pen
with men, horses, camels, donkeys, dogs and poultry hobnobbing amid a
daily wreckage of old provision tins, garbage of soiled forage and
stable-sweepings and whatnot. All that, with a temperature of 116
degrees to 120 degrees Fahr. in the shade, wore the temper and added
amazingly to the consumption of wet things. At the Grenadier Guards'
mess one sultry evening they consumed twenty-eight dozen of sodas, and
it was not a record night. Without giving anybody's secret away, I may
say I know a gentleman who could polish off three dozen at a sitting,
and unblushingly call for more. These are details of more interest to
teetotalers than to the general public. Yet, not to let the subject
pass without a word of caution to afflicted future travellers in the
Soudan, the inordinate use of undiluted mineral waters of native
manufacture is most dangerous to health.

We correspondents had to wink both eyes in much of our telegraphic
news from the front, for military reasons. The press censor was
Colonel Wingate, chief of the Intelligence Department. In his absence,
Major-General Rundle, chief of staff, usually acted. Personally,
either gentleman was all that could be desired. Both were alike ready
and courteous in the discharge of their at all times rather onerous
duty, giving frequent audience to the numerous contingent of eager
newsmen, garrulous and prodigal with pencil and pen. Some of the
new-comers to the business felt sorely hit, because they were
precluded from writing at large upon all subjects connected with the
campaign. The excision of their copy grieved and hurt them as much as
if they had been subjected to a real surgical amputation. Yet those
two officers but obeyed orders, for after all, and under every
circumstance, the Sirdar, as I am well aware, was the real censor. It
is perhaps fairly open to argument whether the course adopted in
dealing with correspondents' copy was wise or necessary in a war
against an ignorant and savage foe. There was, at least, one official
blunder which gave occasion for much annoyance, and ought to have been
promptly remedied, or better still, never committed. It was expected
of Colonel Wingate, the censor, that amid multifarious important
responsibilities as chief of the Intelligence branch he should find
time daily to peruse and correct tens of thousands of words, often
crabbedly written, in press messages. With the approach of the day of
battle, his own department taxed more and more his entire attention,
and side by side the correspondents' telegrams grew in length and
importance. The task of proper censorship under such conditions was
impossible for any human being to discharge adequately. On that
account the public interest suffered, for press matters were often
neither promptly nor fully despatched. As a rule, the correspondents
were left in blissful ignorance of what had been cut out of their
copy, as well as of the exact nature of the residuum transmitted.
Besides these grievances there was one of favouritism alleged, but of
that there is always more or less in every phase of life and
association. All told, it may be thought that the correspondents'
complaints were of no very serious character. That depends on how they
are looked at. I have no taste for cavilling or grumbling over events
that are past. Surely, however, there is a middle way somewhere to be
found between the absolutism of a general in the field, who may gag
the correspondents or treat them as camp followers, and the clear
right of the British public under our free institutions to have news
dealing with the progress of their arms rapidly transmitted home. I
am well aware of the grave responsibilities that hedge a
commander-in-chief, and the cruel injury that an unrestrained
non-combatant may do him by recklessly writing on subjects calculated
to jeopardise the success of a campaign and hazard countless lives and
fortunes. The latter is an remote possibility. A commander-in-chief
has to consider that any enemy worth his salt is usually kept informed
by spies and deserters, and press-men who are known and cognisant of
their duty are no more likely to betray secrets to their country's
enemies than any officer or soldier in the Queen's service. And
nowadays the private correspondence from troops in the field cannot be
suppressed, and it is often published. Commanders of armies will
either have to accept the presence of recognised writers, over whom
they can exercise some control, or instead stand powerless before a
dangerous flood of random army letters poured into the public press.
The case can be met with judgment and care--plus penalties where
deserved. I am bringing no charges here, but discussing a vexed and
withal important question. I am glad to say that during the Omdurman
Campaign there was no attempt, within my knowledge, of muzzling the
press. This does not bear upon the Fashoda incident, but that came
later.

Nasri Island as a base of concentration was, as I have intimated, a
blind. Although we correspondents were not permitted to go up the
river, or indeed move beyond the Atbara, until the Sirdar and
headquarters had started, yet we kept ourselves fully informed of all
that was happening at the front. There had been one or two little
skirmishes between bands of mounted dervishes and our wood-cutting
parties of Khedivial infantry. In these encounters our men had
generally the best of the fighting, and the Baggara horsemen
invariably retreated with a few empty saddles. In July Major-Generals
Hunter and Gatacre had, during a small reconnaissance, proceeded as
far up as Shabluka Cataract or Rapid on one of the gunboats. The
enemy, it was seen, were in no great strength there, and the seven
well-planned, thick-walled mud forts blocking the passage were weakly
held. Those two officers landed with a small body of troops and
surveyed a suitable camping site, at what they called Wad Hamid, but
which, in reality, was north of that place and close to Wad Habeshi.
The object was to find a spot easily accessible by river and land, and
with not too much bush about. At that season, the Nile having in many
places overflowed its lower borders, marshes extended for miles along
the ordinarily solid river banks. Wad Habeshi was merely a native
wood-cutting station at first, but little by little troops appeared on
the scene, and a large entrenched camp, with lines extending for
several miles, was duly formed. At the end of July two steamers, which
had made the perilous voyage up the Nile from the province of Dongola,
came in and made fast alongside the mud bars at Dakhala.

It was still early in August when all the four battalions of
Major-General Hon. N. G. Lyttelton's Second British Brigade reached
Dakhala. They were quartered in a cool and cleanly camp by the Atbara,
to the south-east of the fortified lines. The 21st Lancers also
arrived at Dakhala in due course. Major Williams' Field Battery, the
32nd R.A. of 15-pounders; Major Elmslie's 37th R.A., with the new
50-pounder Howitzers firing Lyddite shells; and Lieut. Weymouth's two
40-pounder Armstrong guns, besides other cannon and Maxims, were
likewise on time. Very smartly the batteries and Maxims were stowed
aboard native craft, which were taken in tow by gunboats to Wad Hamid.
Detachments of gunners accompanied the pieces and carriages, but the
majority of the artillerymen were ferried to the west bank, whence
they marched overland to the new camp. It was at Wad Habeshi that the
army was first actually marshalled as a concrete force, and forthwith
took the field. Not a moment was lost by day or night in moving men
and supplies onward. The little paddle steamer captured from the
dervishes during the 1896 Dongola Expedition, which had been repaired
and sent to Dakhala, was continually carrying troops and stores from
the east to the west bank. As the Nile was running at the rate of six
miles an hour in its wide bed, the "El Tahara," as the craft was
called, had to make a big circuit to effect a passage. The "El Tahara"
was one of the boats General Gordon built at Khartoum but never lived
to launch. As she was a new craft, the Mahdi changed her name, calling
her "The Maid," instead of "Khartoum," as it had been intended to dub
her. She was an excellent vessel, with fine engines much too powerful
for her frame.

[Illustration: WOOD STATION (EN ROUTE TO OMDURMAN).]

Both Surgeon-General Taylor, on behalf of the British division, and
Surgeon-Colonel Gallwey, for the Egyptian troops, completed their
arrangements for succouring the sick and wounded upon the march from
Shabluka to the attack upon Omdurman. Adequate provision was made for
field hospitals, floating hospitals and relief stations, for medical
officers, and attendants, with cradlets and stretchers, to follow each
military unit into action. For the British infantry it meant,
substantially, that behind each battalion a medical officer and two
non-commissioned officers should march, accompanied by six camels
bearing cacolets, and men with nine stretchers. A somewhat modified
scheme was got out for the cavalry and artillery, as well as for the
other Khedivial troops. In the anticipated action before Omdurman,
temporary operating stations were to be set up, out of ordinary
rifle-range, and native craft, which had been fitted up with cots,
were to be brought as near the scene as practicable to receive the
wounded.

An attempt made to lay a cable from Dakhala to the west bank was not
over successful. It was found that the great sag, caused by the
current, carried the cable down stream, so the whole length ran out
before the opposite bank was reached. The steamer "Melik" was the
telegraph ship, and paid the cable out from a wooden reel placed on
her stern quarter. A few days after the failure she was employed
picking up the wire, most of which was recovered by Captain Manifold,
R.E., who was the director of military telegraphs in the last as in
the three previous expeditions against the dervishes. The recovered
line was relaid across the Atbara, which is barely a third of the
width of the Nile. From the south bank of the Atbara two land lines
pass up the east shore of the Nile. Upon a lofty corresponding pair of
trestles an overhead wire was also hung across the smaller river. A
few miles south of Dakhala a cable had been laid to an island and
thence to the west bank. From the latter point an ordinary land wire
ran along the desert to Metemmeh. Later on it was laid to Omdurman.
The line was put down step by step as the troops advanced. Thus an
alternative system of telegraphic communication with Khartoum was
early provided for.

It stirred the blood of everybody in our dull camp to see detachment
after detachment of the second British brigade detrain. Most of us
turned out and like schoolboys followed the drums and fifes as they
played the troops to their camping-ground. A half-battalion of the
Grenadier Guards, led by Colonel Villiers-Hatton, arrived at Dakhala
on the 6th of August. Hale and strong the big fellows looked in their
campaigning khaki. "First-class fighting material," as Arabs and
negroes, who are by no means poor judges, were openly heard to confess
in their interchange of confidences. There is always much camp chaff
and yarning amongst "Tommies"--and their officers, too, for that
matter--at the expense of England's picked battalions. "Have you seen
the 'Queen's Company,' my man," asked a subaltern of the Grenadiers
one day of a private in the Northumberland Fusiliers. Now the "Queen's
Company" are all over six feet in stature, and there was a friendly
rivalry in grenadiership between them and certain Fusilier regiments.
The question was asked when the troops were marching over undulating
but rather bare ground where the tufted grass was little over knee
high. It happened the officer had been detached on other duty, and was
anxious to rejoin his command. "I think, sir," said the Northumbrian,
saluting respectfully, "that they have got lost in the long grass."
The subaltern looked unutterable things, but the "Tommy" held a
stoical face and said not a word more till the officer went off to
hunt anew for his men. For all the chaff, every one was glad to see
the Guards, and to speak of them as the Queen's soldiers. Of the
second brigade General Gatacre said that a better body of troops could
not be wished for by any general.

I rode out to several of the brigade field-days, or rather, mornings,
for there was plenty of drilling and field exercises for Lyttelton's
men. The brigade was repeatedly practised in attack formation against
imaginary bodies of dervishes, as well as at assaulting supposed
works. On more than one of these occasions the gallant Colonel of the
Guards, not having his charger up at that date, led his Grenadiers
afoot, and once, at any rate, was mounted on donkey-back.
Particularism gets lost in the desert. In the manoeuvres the troops
were usually led in line, the flanks being supported by two or three
companies in quarter column, and the centre having in rear a few
sections of companies ready to fill gaps. Save for a little noise in
passing orders, the result of a fast-becoming obsolete school of
training, even captious criticism could find no actual fault with
their work. Advancing across wadies and scaling knolls upon the
desert, the troops were instructed to open fire with ball cartridge.
The range given was 500 yards, and the ammunition used was the
tip-filed Lee-Metford bullets. As at the Atbara, without halting, the
line moved slowly on, the front rank firing as at a battue, each man
independently. There were a few section volleys tried, the soldiers
pausing for an instant to deliver their fire. Once or twice also, the
rear rank was closed up, and joined in the fusilade. One effect was to
paralyse the deer and birds within range. I noticed that the tip-filed
bullets did not usually spread, and that their man-stopping quality
was something of a myth. Even the dum-dum does not invariably "set up"
on striking an object. For the Omdurman Campaign a new hollow-nosed
bullet was issued for the Lee-Metfords. So far as I was able to
judge, it generally spread on hitting, and made a deadly wound,
tearing away bone and flesh at the point of exit.

On the 12th of August the 21st Lancers, together with camel and mule
transport animals, were crossed to the west bank in readiness for
marching to Wad Hamid. Saturday, the 13th August, was a very busy day
at Dakhala. On that date the Sirdar went by steamer to the front,
direct to Wad Habeshi. It was given out he was merely going on a
flying visit for inspection. There was renewed active drilling of
troops. Eight steamers that came down were reloaded and sent back with
troops and stores in the course of twenty-four hours. General Gatacre
went to Darmali, and there assisted in the embarkation of his old
brigade, Major-General A. Wauchope's. The task was effected within the
course of twelve hours, the Camerons, Seaforths, Lincolns and
Warwicks, with their kits and supplies, being densely packed upon the
steamers "Zafir," "Nazir," "Fatah," and the barges and giassas, which
these craft towed. Had the Thames Conservancy writs run on the Nile
there would have been terrible fines exacted for unlawful
overcrowding. On the 14th August these stern-wheelers, heavily laden
with Wauchope's men, steamed at a fast rate past the Atbara camp, on
their way south. These craft, the first of which took part in the 1896
Dongola Expedition, turned out to be really the most useful and
dependable of the whole Nile flotilla. They steamed remarkably well,
towed splendidly, and were, besides, good fighting craft. The three
Admiralty-designed twin-screw steamers, "Sheikh" "Sultan" and "Melik,"
were not as fast as had been expected; they could not tow any
reasonably big load, and, though they were stuffed with many
novelties, few of the innovations were of the least practical value.
They needed all their engine power to steam and when under weigh had
none to spare for driving the circular saws to cut firewood for fuel,
or to start the dynamos to work the search lights with which they were
fitted. Major Collinson, commanding the 4th Khedivial Brigade, left
Atbara camp for the front with the 17th and 18th Battalions, or half
his force, the 1st and 5th Battalions having preceded him some time
previously.



CHAPTER VI.

MARCHING IN THE SOUDAN--FROM DAKHALA TO WAD HABESHI.


What a land the Soudan is! As a sorely-tried friend said to me, after
passing a succession of sleepless nights owing to the dust and rain
storms, and overburdened days because of the heat, "What do the
British want in this country? Is it the intention of the Government to
do away with capital punishment and send all felons here? I am not
surprised the camel has the hump. I would develop one here myself.
What an accursed country!" Yes, it is not an elysium; and when one
allows the dirt, heat, and discomfort to wither all power of
endurance, the Soudan becomes a horror and anathema, particularly in
the summer time. Now, the camel is to me the personification of animal
wretchedness, a fit creature for the wilderness. The Arabs have a
legend that the Archangel Michael, anxious to try his skill at
creative work, received permission to make an attempt, and the camel
was the issue of his bungling handiwork. Poor brute, his capacity for
enjoyment is, perhaps, the most restricted of the whole animal
kingdom. Ferocious of aspect, with a terrible voice, he is
nevertheless the most timid of beasts, and his fine air of haughty
superciliousness is, like the rest, but a sham. It might be fancied
that he is for ever nursing some secret grief, for he takes you
unawares by lying down and suddenly dying. Yet that is ordinarily but
his method of proclaiming an attack of indigestion.

[Illustration: LOADING UP--BREAKING CAMP.]

I struck my tent at Dakhala on the 15th of August, packed my gear, and
during the course of the day crossed over to the west bank with my
servants, horses, camels and other belongings. Having obtained
permission from headquarters to go up to the front, I decided to go by
land, marching with the cavalry and guns, for I was not free to travel
except in their company, at least until we reached Metemmeh but of
that anon. The column in question was under Colonel Martin of the 21st
Lancers, and comprised three squadrons of that regiment, or about 300
men mounted upon Arab horses; three batteries, the 32nd R.A., the 37th
R.A. (howitzers), and the Egyptian Horse Artillery; two Maxims with
division and transport trains, and a number of officers' led horses.
As I have already explained, the guns of the 32nd and 37th field
batteries, together with the limbers and ammunition, were sent on to
Wad Habeshi by water. There was much merrymaking as usual that
evening, for we were to start on the morrow. I squatted like many more
in the low rough scrub by the river's brink with my caravan around me.
During the evening I went out to dine with some officer friends. As I
had over a mile to walk to their pitch, the poor glare of the camp
fires made the darkness more inky, and I had sundry narrow escapes
from tumbling into ditches and water holes. Our bivouac was an
ill-omened beginning to the route march of the column under Colonel
Martin. One of the periodical summer gales came on, raising whirlwinds
of dust and sand. To complete our discomfiture a thunderstorm
followed, and there was a heavy sprinkling of rain for herbage, but
too much for men. Truly, misfortunes rarely befall singly. It was a
big Nile year, not a flood, but enough and to spare. A blessing, no
doubt, for Lower Egypt, but a calamity for us, for during the night
the river rose 2 feet, and overflowed its low, level banks. The water
overran part of the camping ground, compelling many a drenched soldier
to shift his quarters hurriedly. We got through the dark and troublous
night somehow, though keenly vexed by the muttered discontent of the
camels, and the persistent, blatant, variegated amorous braying of 500
donkeys. A cat upon the tiles, a Romeo, was to this as a tin whistle
to a trombone. Sleep was a nightmare. It was after six a.m. before the
head of the column moved out towards the desert track. The rear did
not get away before eight o'clock, much too late an hour for marching
in the Soudan. The weather was hot, the sun scorching despite a brisk
southerly breeze. Lieutenant H. M. Grenfell had charge of the fine
Cyprus mule train for carrying the British divisional baggage. There
was with the column a great following of native servants mounted upon
sturdy Soudan donkeys. The gawky camel shuffles along, a picture of
woe with a load of 2 cwt. to 4 cwt., whilst the little moke trips
smartly with almost an equal weight upon his back. Two Jaalin guides
were supposed to show us the shortest and best track. Major Mahan, of
the Egyptian Cavalry, had been told off to keep an eye on them and to
assist us generally during the march. Two squadrons of Lancers rode in
front, whilst the rest of the troopers were supposed to protect the
flanks and act as "whippers-in" to the column. Fortunately, there was
no enemy nearer than Kerreri or Omdurman, for our line was usually
stretched out for a great distance; two, three, and four miles often
intervened between the head and rear of the column.

After a few days of such marching as we had, straggling became the
normal condition of affairs, except so far as the leading squadrons of
Lancers were concerned. The last three days of the journey, in fact,
became a sort of "go-as-you-please" tramp. To inexperience and want of
wise forethought may be set down most of the difficulties, hardships,
and losses that befell that column on its 140-mile march south,
whereof later.

During the earlier portion of our first day's march (16th August) the
track lay along the edge of a pebbly desert, which left but a skirting
of one to three miles of loam and rank vegetation between its
measureless sterility and the tawny Nile waters. The small rounded
pebbles and the fine sand of the Nubian wilderness were surely
fashioned in some great lake or sea of a prehistoric past. Far as we
were from the dervishes, a childish terror of them was entertained by
the servants. At the last moment several domestics decamped, my cook
among them. I rode back three miles to catch the rascal. With unwonted
alacrity and prescience he had recrossed to the opposite bank before I
arrived at the place of bivouac, and, having no time, I had to retrace
my steps without his enforced attendance. It had been arranged that
the column should only go fifteen miles the first day. What with
winding and twisting to avoid flooded khors or shallow gulleys we
marched over twenty miles I fancy. At any rate, with no protracted
halting for meals or for baiting the animals, we trudged on throughout
the heat and worry of the day until sunset. It was putting both men
and animals to the severest possible strain, and few of the soldiers,
at least, had had any preliminary hardening, for they had been
travelling for days by boat and train and were out of condition. As a
rule, the Lancers trotted a few miles ahead, halted, dismounted, and
waited for the convoy to come up. Then they would ride on again, halt,
and so on, repeating the proceeding many times during each day's
march. From start to finish the column was ever a loosely-jointed
body. The pace was slow, little more than 2¼ miles an hour, though Sir
Herbert Stewart's Bayuda desert column managed to average upon a
longer and almost waterless route, from Korti to Metemmeh, 2¾ miles an
hour. In that campaign, however, most of our marching was done during
the cooler hours of very early morning and late eventide.

The head of the column turned in towards the river about three p.m. on
the 16th, at Makaberab, or, as the natives call it, Omdabiya--_i.e._,
the place of hyenas. For over a mile, men and animals had to make
their way through halfa-grass scrub, and then over bare alluvial land,
deeply sun-cracked and scored in all directions. The ground was
cris-crossed like a chessboard, the lines being a foot to two feet
apart, and four to six inches wide, and several feet in depth. There
were numberless spills through these pitfalls. One camel snapped his
leg, and many mules and horses were strained and lamed. It was indeed
fat land, and had formerly grown cotton. The cracks, as we found
later, were full of scorpions. During that night's bivouac, and in the
early morning, very many men and animals were stung by these venomous
pests. Only one soldier succumbed from a scorpion sting during the
campaign. The pain of the wound is as an intense burning or wounding,
and continues troublesome for hours. Ammonia was freely used by the
doctors when the stings were severe, but where whisky could be got,
that was preferred.

[Illustration: 21ST LANCERS--ADVANCE GUARD.]

We were early astir on the 17th inst., but it was not until daylight
or 5.30 a.m. that it was safe for the column to pick its way out of
the field of cracks. Why the spot was selected, except as an earthly
trial, I am unable to state, officially or otherwise. Hard by, on
either hand, there was solid and most passable ground for bivouacking.
We had a good many stragglers on the 16th inst., most of whom came
rather late tumbling and grumbling to supper and bed on the rough dank
ground. Others lost their way and wandered to the Nile, where they
were guided by natives, and later were lucky to get a lift to the
front upon gunboats. Two men of the 21st Lancers left upon the desert
with a sick comrade down with sunstroke, watched him die, and,
scraping a grave, buried him where he expired. Lieutenant Winston
Churchill, who was detained until late at Dakhala, in trying to follow
us, lost his way, and had to pass the night alone upon the desert. He
sat holding his horse till daybreak, and then, burning with thirst,
made his way to the Nile. Subsequently he hired a native guide and was
enabled to come up with the column on the afternoon of the 17th.
Spending the night alone upon the desert has been many times my lot in
Soudan campaigns.

During Wednesday's march, 17th August, we crossed the low shoulders of
many rocky ridges. They are called "jebels" (hills), but most of them,
including Jebel Egeda, which we passed, are little, if any, higher
than Primrose-Hill, London, though it is not a conical, but a long,
barn-roofed range. Near there I saw an enormous native cemetery. It
extended to perhaps fifty acres, the pebble-covered mounds over the
graves dotting the bare desert and the sides of the hills. I have an
impression that there are ancient funeral mounds near there, and that
the burying-place of Aliab is older than the invasion of the Arab
Jaalin. There were fragments of sculptured stones, granite, and blocks
of sandstone, and I noticed one broken memorial slab covered with
Greek characters. Farther on we had to turn aside to avoid wadies and
khors, up which the Nile had flowed. We were able to water the animals
at some of those places. The mules and horses buried their noses in
the flood and drank greedily, and the camels also had a fine,
long-necked thirst. We were ourselves too parched to care about the
impurities of the Nile, and soldiers and officers swallowed great
draughts of the soupy stuff.

Late in the afternoon of the 17th the column turned to the river to
bivouac at Kitaib, a twenty-two miles journey for the day. Too late it
was found that the ration depôt there, from which the column was to
draw fresh supplies, was upon the farther side of a newly-made inlet.
The column had to repack, and turn west to round the creek. We reached
Kitaib No. 2 about six p.m. Part of the battery mules and transport,
however, got leave to remain at the first halting-place, as they stood
in no need of supplies, and I unpacked by myself, bivouacking under a
clump of tall mimosa trees hard by a vast deserted village and a long
grove of date palms. I believe that over a score of men lost the road
that night and ultimately wandered to the river and got to the front
by steamer. There were several cases of heat exhaustion and sunstroke,
but happily few of a serious nature. Two troopers, who floundered
through the marshy land, got taken aboard a gunboat when they were
utterly prostrate. Others, whose horses went lame or had to be killed,
were ordered down to the Nile to secure passage on as best they could.
In the darkness, as I was eating my evening meal by candle-light, two
Lancers shouted and rode up. They had the too common but true story to
tell of having missed the track. I found supper and breakfast for
them, and started them off with their troop at eight o'clock next
morning, the 18th August, for the column left Kitaib at a late hour.
My servants were glad of the soldiers' arrival, for they were terribly
afraid of robbers, the district being infested with marauding natives.
During the night several fugitives from Omdurman passed us going
north. Eighteen Shaggieh, who had escaped in a sail-boat, were but
four days out from Khartoum. They professed to be delighted to get
away. The Khalifa, they said, had ordered every sail-boat to go south
of Khartoum. Taking advantage of a thunderstorm, they headed down
stream and got away. According to them, the dervishes were killing all
the Jaalin who were suspected of trying to escape north, and the
Shaggieh and other northern tribesmen stood in little better plight.
All natives, other than blacks and Baggara, who could get away from
Omdurman were running off, as they believed the fall of the dervish
rule was assured. The Khalifa's son, Osman, whose title was Sheikh
Ed-Din, wanted to make terms. For months the youth had been in
disgrace, but his father had reinstated him in the position of
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces. Osman openly declared that fighting
against the Sirdar and the English was hopeless, and that it was wiser
to try and treat with us. Khalifa Abdullah and his brother Yacoub,
however, would not hear of treating for peace, urging that their own
people in that event would kill them. The only possible course was war
to the death. From an excellent source I learned that the dervishes
were well supplied with guns and ammunition, and that the Khalifa had
about five millions sterling of treasure laid by.

From Kitaib can be seen the dozen pyramids of Meroe, part of the
kingdom of the famous Queen of Sheba. To right and left upon the
opposite bank are catacombs, ruins of old temples, towns and forts of
a bygone civilisation. The country on both sides of the Nile in that
region has spacious alluvial belts, big as the Fayoum and as
susceptible to the arts of the cultivator. Such hills as there are
rise for the most part abruptly from flat land capable of limitless
irrigation. To anticipate somewhat: the region, south of Abu Hamed, up
to and even beyond Khartoum, has all the natural advantages of Lower
Egypt and something more. Berber is but 245 miles from Suakin. The
Nubian kingdom of antiquity, or that of the Queen of Sheba, must have
been of enormous extent, marvellous fertility and great richness.
Ethiopia may yet fulfil the prophecy. From Kitaib we marched about
eighteen miles to Maguia, passing through a forest of mimosa bush, the
track but rarely branching out amongst the halfa-grass upon the more
open country. About three p.m. the column turned in towards a side
stream and settled down near the village of Maguia. The wind rose as
usual at night, yet for all that the bivouac was fairly good, and
there was plenty of grazing. Next day, the 19th, we managed to make an
early start, getting away about 5.30 a.m. The distance to be traversed
was but fourteen or sixteen miles, and the column reached the
halting-place, Magawiya, about two p.m. We made our way over broken,
cracked ground to the river's edge, and there bivouacked under the
shade of a magnificent forest of stately date palms. The ripening
fruit had been extensively plucked by thieving natives, but there was
enough left for our men. It was a most picturesque scene for a camp,
but an unwholesome place for all that. It was given out that the
column was to rest a day at Magawiya, as the place was a wood and food
supply depôt. During the course of the evening the sternwheeler
"Kaibur" came in, and a sick officer, Lieutenant Russell, and about a
score or more of men were sent back upon her to Dakhala, or Atbara
camp. It merits record that a party of Egyptian gunners carried upon a
native bed or angreeb a sick British artilleryman from Maguia to
Magawiya, from bivouac to bivouac. That was something like good
comradeship and _esprit de corps_.

[Illustration: HALT BY THE WAY.]

At nightfall the column was formed up so that the men slept upon the
ground within supporting distance of each other. Sentries and patrols
also were set, but the force was not one, I fancy, that would have
been able to offer a stubborn resistance to a surprise party of
dervishes. On Saturday, the 20th of August, as was anticipated, the
troops remained in camp and enjoyed much needed rest and opportunities
for washing. Several gunboats and steamers passed us during the day
going south, including one upon which were a number of correspondents
who were enjoying their _dolce far niente_ under awnings in a breezy
draught with inexhaustible supplies of filtered and mineral waters. We
saw the Grenadier Guards, the Lincolns, and other battalions pass us,
and steam slowly up stream towards Wady Hamed. On Sunday, the 21st, a
really early start for the first time was effected. We were to march
as far as Abu Kru that day, and encamp near the spot held by Stewart's
handful of men in 1885. Major Williams, R.A., went off with his
battery, the 32nd, at 3.30 a.m., and the 37th battery accompanied him.
Lieutenant H. Grenfell got away at four a.m., and the Lancers at 5.20
a.m. I pushed ahead of the troops in order to have time to revisit
some of the old ground I had been over with the Desert Column in
1884-85. It was odd, that though hundreds still survived who marched
with Sir Herbert Stewart, there were but fifteen persons in the whole
of the Sirdar's army who got through to Metemmeh. Of those still less
went in and left with the force that fought at Abu Klea and Abu Kru.
Of the very numerous body of correspondents there were but two. I
regretted that there were not several score or more of old officers
and men who went through the terrible Bayuda Desert campaign. Most of
them would have sacrificed much to have been in at the death of
Mahdism.

[Illustration: SLATIN PASHA (ON FOOT).]

Metemmeh had been made a slaughter-pen by the dervishes under Mahmoud.
It was truly an awful Golgotha. Dead animals lay about in all
directions in thousands, without and within the long, straggling,
deserted town. I rode up and looked at the remains of the little fort
and the loopholed walls on the south end of Metemmeh, close to which I
had ridden on 21st January 1885, and got hotly fired at for my pains.
Then I walked over the ruins of the Guards' triangular fort at Gubat.
The place was still capable of defence, and the trenches and
rifle-pits were much as we left them on 13th February with General
Buller. As for the graves, they were intact. The big earthwork we all
helped to raise near the river was covered with water, except a corner
of the western parapet. It was, however, partly thrown down, and the
ditch and slopes were overgrown with grass and bushes. Then I rode
away to Abu Kru battle-field and had a look at what remained of the
zereba, the little detached fort I had asked might be built, and the
graves of our dead. Some of these had been rifled. Heaps of dead
animal bones lay about, for we lost many camels that 19th January
1885. The enemy had gathered up and buried all their own dead. So
overgrown was the place that it was barely recognisable. I stood,
however, again where Stewart received his fatal wound, where Cameron,
of the _Standard_, and St Leger Herbert lay with soldier comrades,
and I wandered round to where Lord Charles Beresford worked the
Gardners against the dervishes outside Metemmeh, whilst I found the
range for him through my glasses, by watching the spatter of the
bullets upon the sand. That night my thoughts were full of bygone
scenes and doings in the most heroic campaign of modern history,
Stewart's magnificent ride from Korti to Metemmeh. There came back to
me the pain felt on the receipt of the evil news of Gordon's death,
brought to us by Stuart Wortley, and of the slaughter at Khartoum, all
of which might so easily have been averted but for----

On Monday, 22nd August, the batteries again got away before the
Lancers, starting at 3.30 and four a.m. The day's march was to Agaba,
about twenty-six miles, and the next day's about nineteen to Wad
Habeshi. Wady Hamed, which is nearer Jebel Atshan, was where one of
Gordon's steamers, the "Tal Howeiya," returning with Sir Charles
Wilson's party, was wrecked on 29th January 1885. Making a détour into
the desert on quitting Abu Kru, I left Colonel Martin's column, and
rode on with one native servant to Wady Hamed. As a matter of fact,
the camp was neither at Wad Habeshi nor Wady Hamed, but between the
two. The latter, however, was the official name. But that my man was
very apprehensive of meeting patrolling dervishes, I would have ridden
direct across country, starting from a point opposite Nasri Island,
where the depôt of supplies was. On the pretext of watering the horses
he got me back to the river. The consequence was that I rode over
fifty miles on Monday. However, I managed to reach Wady Hamed before
sunset. On my way in I met the Sirdar, out, as usual, on an inspecting
tour. He was good enough to greet me kindly and direct me to the
correspondents' camp; those of my comrades of the Press who voyaged by
steamer had just arrived. The new camp was an immense place over three
miles long. It was a zerebaed enclosure lying along the margin of the
Nile in a field of halfa-grass broken up with clumps of palms and
mimosa. The country all around was as a vast prairie. Beyond the reach
of the Nile's overflow the sand and loam was bare of vegetation. The
river was studded with scores of verdant islands, and to the south we
could see the peaks and ridges of Shabluka, through which the Nile,
when in flood, surges like a mill race between narrow rocky barriers.



CHAPTER VII.

WITH THE ARMY IN THE FIELD--WAD HAMID TO EL HEJIR.


Wad Hamid was a camp of magnificent distances, restful to the eyes but
distressful to the feet. The soil was rich loam, and at no remote date
had been mostly under cultivation. There were several pretty clumps of
dhoum palms, and a few scraggy mimosa by the river's margin. Of
tree-shade for the troops there was practically none. Much of the
thorny bush had been cut to form a zereba. In fact, there were two
zerebas, the British division having a dividing line between their
quarters and those of the Khedivial force. There was also a semblance
of cleared roadways about the camp, but the ground was too spacious to
be easily made snug and tidy. Wad Hamid camp was quite five miles
nearer to Omdurman than Wad Habeshi. We were within the long stretch
known as the Shabluka or Sixth Cataract. For 15 miles or thereabouts
the Nile pours in deep, strong flood through a narrow valley, which in
places contracts to a gorge or cañon. The channel is studded with
islets and rocks, and at one point the river races through a
wedge-shaped cleft, apparently little more than 100 yards in width.

After my long ride in from Metemmeh I had to let my horse rest for two
days. So until my servants arrived with my spare led horses I had to
go about afoot. My camels and baggage were with the column. It was
more of a hardship tramping from place to place in the hot dusty camp
than roughing it upon the bare ground and living upon scratch and
scrappy meals of biscuit, "bully beef," and sardines, till my men came
in, put up my tent, and cooked my food. The British division was at
the south end of the long rectangular encampment. An interval of a
mile or more separated the divisional headquarters, whilst some of the
battalions had their lines 2 miles apart. Beyond all, another 2 miles
off, was the camel corps bivouacking by the rocks and foothills of the
Shabluka range. Their only shade from the noon-day glare was such as
they could get behind detached black granitic boulders and blocks. Wad
Hamid camp, viewed not too closely, was a pleasing picture set in a
background of dark hills with a bordering of wide tawny river flowing
in front. There were a good many tents in the British lines, but
relatively few in the Khedivial, for there fellaheen and Soudani had
sheltered themselves as usual under palm leaf and grass huts, or
beneath their brown soldier blankets. It was one of the clever
campaigning dodges recently taught the native soldiers by our
officers, to attach loops of twine or tape along the edges of their
spare blankets, so that these coverings could be quickly laced
together and spread over light bamboos or sticks, forming very
comfortable quarters. The Sirdar's headquarters tents were always
distinguishable by the big waving Egyptian flag, a crescent and star
on a red ground, and near it a bigger "drapeau rouge" flaunted the
talismanic lettering--"Intelligence Headquarters." Before
Major-General Gatacre's divisional headquarters flapped Britain's
emblem, a full-sized Union Jack. Major-General A. Hunter's tent had an
Egyptian flag dangling from a native spear, and the Brigade-Commanders
all had their respective colours planted before their quarters.
Colonel H. A. Macdonald, "Fighting Mac," had a characteristic brigade
banner, readily distinguishable. It was an ensign made up of four
squares or blocks of different colours, the colours of the respective
battalions of the command. To descend to particulars, besides the
Sirdar's and the Generals' flags, there were battalion and company
colours, and hospital, artillery, engineer, and various other flags.
In the Khedivial army the battalions were known by numerals from 1 to
18. The Arabic numeral of each native battalion was worn by the men on
their tall fezes and the khaki covers for the head-gear. It was found
necessary to devise a head-covering to shield the men from sunstroke.
That worn over the fez could be so adjusted as to afford shade for the
nape of the neck, and in front a scoop for the eyes, so that the
article became transmogrified into something between a kepi and a
helmet. The British "Tommies'" khaki helmet-covers were ornamented
with coloured cotton patches and regimental badges. Of course the
object of the patches was to enable officers and men to identify
easily their respective commands. The Rifles wore a square dark green
patch, which the Soudan sun bleached to a pea green. The Lancashire
Fusiliers wore a yellow square patch, and the Northumberland Fusiliers
a red diagonal band round the helmet. As for the Grenadier Guards
their insignia was a jaunty red and blue rosette. In Wauchope's
brigade the Lincolns sported a plain square white patch, the Warwicks
a red square, the Seaforths a white plume, nicknamed the "duck's
tuft," and the Camerons a "true blue" square patch.

The rapid thrusting forward of his whole army from Darmali and Dakhala
within a period of ten days was not the least astonishing and
brilliant strategical feat achieved by the Sirdar. In that space of
time troops, stores, and all the impedimenta for an army of 25,000 men
had been moved forward about 150 miles in an enemy's country. No doubt
he knew his foe; he certainly always had them under the closest
observation. For that reason the Sirdar was able to do things, and did
do them, that other Generals would have blundered over. The great
river before the camp, with its flotilla of gunboats, looking like
American river-steamers, the forest of masts, the lofty poles of the
lateen-rigged giassas, and the abundance of commodious barges gave a
broad hint how the transport of so many men and so much material had
been so smartly effected. Provisions, forage, ammunition, all on the
most liberal scale, he had got together. With the troops there were to
be carried supplies for fifteen days, and enough to last as long
again were to be accumulated upon Royan Island at the south end of the
Sixth Cataract. Placing the reserve supplies and base hospitals upon
islands meant that both would be safe from any raiding dervishes.
Beyond Wad Hamid everybody was to move in the lightest possible order.
Officers had to limit their baggage, so that it should not weigh more
than 60 lbs., and the men were to march in the lightest of kits. Camel
transport was cut down, and all animals not absolutely necessary were
to be left behind. For the conveyance of the baggage of each British
battalion 32 camels were allowed. All the men's heavy baggage,
overcoats, knapsacks, kit bags were sent on by river transport in
native craft. A blanket a-piece was what the men had, and that was
carried for them by the baggage camels. Quite enough for any European
to carry in the Soudan in August were his clothes, rifle,
accoutrements, and 100 rounds of ball cartridge. The native battalions
had assigned to each command 39 to 42 camels, as well as two giassas
or nuggars. These carried all the regimental belongings, and also most
of the men's things, for the Khedivial troops never marched with kits,
blankets, or any encumbrances upon them. Clad in comfortable knitted
jerseys, with breeches, putties, and good serviceable high-lows, the
men of the native regiments stride freely along, each bearing only
rifle, bayonet, and ammunition.

The massing of the forces at Wad Hamid was all but complete. Part of
the Rifle Brigade, detained on the river by storms and contrary head
winds, were the only absentees. On the opposite bank of the Nile had
been mustered the mixed body of friendly natives, who, accompanied and
supported by a gunboat, were to clear that side of the dervishes when
the Sirdar advanced. It was known that they would have to deal with,
probably, 1000 Mahdists under Zeki Osman. Our allies included Ababdeh,
Bisharin, Jaalin, Shaggieh, Shukrieh, Aburin, and other tribesmen led
nominally by Abdul Azim, the brave Ababdeh Sheikh. They were armed
with Remington rifles, but carried in addition their own swords and
spears. That they might be better led and prove to be of real value,
Major Stuart-Wortley, with Lieut. Charles Wood as his A.D.C., was sent
across to take the command. Wortley was received with every
demonstration of heartiness by the Sheikhs, who placed themselves and
their followers entirely under that able officer's orders. The
friendlies were most enthusiastic and eagerly asked to be led against
their dervish enemies. As these allies and the Sirdar's forces were to
march by the river's margin when possible, signalling would be nearly
always practicable between them. Telegraphic communication was opened
to Wad Hamid from Dakhala by Captain Manifold, R.E., and his sappers
almost as soon as the troops got into camp. With much hard work the
line had been put upon poles as far south as Nasri. When the army
subsequently advanced, as poles were not readily procurable the bare
iron telegraphic wire was laid upon the ground. In the crisp, hot
atmosphere of the Soudan, as there is little leakage, long distances
can be worked through an unprotected wire laid upon the desert. When
there were rain-storms of course telegraphic communication over such
lines became impossible.

On 23rd August, the day following my arrival at Wad Hamid, the Sirdar
held a great review of his army. At 6 o'clock in the morning the force
was paraded upon the open desert a mile and half inland from the Nile.
Réveille had been at an hour before sunrise. It was a pleasant
morning, for a fresh breeze was blowing, and the air was agreeably
cool. Several of the younger soldiers, however, succumbed to the
effects of the tropical sun during the few hours the troops were kept
employed, and they had to be carried back to camp. Although the
cavalry, with part of the artillery and Maxims, did not parade, there
was a big enough force upon the ground to make an imposing display.
The army was drawn up in line with a front over a mile in length.
Major-General Gatacre's division was upon the left, with the Grenadier
Guards forming his right. The Queen's soldiers were ranged in mass of
companies, column of fours right, whilst the native soldiery were
brigaded in line, Macdonald upon the extreme right, with Collinson's
brigade in reserve. The troops wheeled into column, deployed, changed
front, and engaged in firing exercise. As might have been expected,
there was more celerity and accuracy in changing formation displayed
by the British than in the native brigades. All the men were very keen
at their work, the expectation of being about to engage the enemy
doubtless lending special interest to their field-day. The camp, as
all camps ever were, was full of strange yarns--"shaves" about what
was going on at Omdurman, and the Khalifa's intentions. "Abdullah
would fight? No, he would run away; he was laying down mines in the
Nile to blow up our gunboats. A Tunisian had devised a torpedo, but as
it was being lowered from a dervish boat, the machine exploded, and
the engineer was hoisted with his own petard." Then there were stories
of extraordinary discoveries of precious minerals--gold mines by the
score. Two young officers, who wished some fun with a distinguished
military gentleman not unconnected with South Africa, persisted in
finding diamonds, pieces of rock-crystal, which, with an air of
mystery and importance, they submitted to his contemptuous inspection.
But a Major had the better of the expert on one occasion. He vowed he
had found diamonds, genuine diamonds, upon the open desert, as good as
any in South Africa or anywhere else; that he would be sworn to
forfeit £50 if the expert did not endorse his judgment. He had picked
up in one small spot no less than five. Burning with impatience to see
these precious jewels, the expert begged for just one peep at them.
The Major gratified him with some feigned reluctance; produced a "five
of diamonds," a castaway from some "Tommy's" pack of cards.

On the night of the 23rd of August Wad Hamid camp was swept by a
fierce storm of wind and rain. The temperature dropped 22°, and it
became positively chilly. As we were within the rainy belt, which
extends up to 17° North, visitations of that sort during the summer
were to be expected. The troops bore the discomfort of cold and wet
clothes uncomplainingly, waiting for daybreak, and the tardy sun, to
get dry and warm. Bugle calls were a work of supererogation on the
morning of Wednesday, 24th August, everybody having been astir long
before réveille. It had been given out in general orders--one of those
gracious niceties of military courtesy never exhibited to the
correspondents in these later Soudan campaigns--that the Khedivial
troops were to proceed that day to the south of Shabluka Cataract. The
journey thither was to be made by the army in two stages, and the
British division was to follow on Thursday. Wad Bishari, about
half-way, was the first portion, and there the men were to bivouac one
night. Next day they were to complete the distance, making a détour to
avoid the rough hills of Shabluka, and going into a new camp laid out
at El Hejir. At 5 a.m. Macdonald's and Lewis's brigades paraded, and
under the command of Major-General Hunter, stepped off. So the end at
last began to loom in sight. Major-General Gatacre wished to go part
of the way the same day, in order to reduce the distance to be
marched, but the Sirdar put his veto thereon, observing that if the
"Tommies" could not do a little march of 13 miles, they could not walk
any distance. In the afternoon, at 4 o'clock, the remainder of the
Khedivial division--Maxwell's and Collinson's brigades--set out for
Wad Bishari to join their comrades. The men were in fine spirits as
they left, cheering and singing to the strains of their bands as they
gaily marched away. Some of the Egyptian soldiers were told off to
remain at the worst places of the Cataract to assist in towing the
native craft through the rapids.

The bugles called the men of Lyttelton's brigade to duty at 3 a.m. on
Thursday, the 25th of August. I cannot say that the call awoke them
from slumber, for all night there had been most disturbing noises
coming from the riverside, where native soldiers were reloading
giassas with stores going forward to Royan Island, for that new depôt.
Royan occupies a position at the south gateway of Shabluka. It is a
finely conspicuous island, for upon the north end there is a lofty
barn-roofed jebel or hill. From the summit of Jebel Royan, at an
altitude of 600 feet, can be seen 40 miles away the outlines of
Omdurman and Khartoum--that is in the morning or evening, when the
distorting freaks of the mirage are not in evidence. The steamboat
skippers who had ten-horse power steam sirens, used them, after the
manner of their kind, and made night doubly hideous. At 3 a.m. began
our orchestra in the 2nd British brigade lines. All the camels, horses
and mules had to be watered and fed. The cheerful camels then had to
be loaded, that operation being carried on as usual with a terrible
grunting chorus, all the brutes taking part. The gunboats got off
before daylight. At five o'clock sharp, ere it was full daylight,
Lyttelton's men started, marching off in three parallel columns, each
battalion having its own advance guard. Four Maxims were with the
brigade. Behind the infantry was part of the Egyptian transport
train. The Sirdar inspected the column, and saw them started fairly on
the way to Wad Bishari. Major-General Gatacre, as usual, rode out with
them to the bivouac, and then galloped back to camp. The troops were
in great glee at setting off. The men marched briskly, their officers
tramping beside them. On the whole, the track was tolerable, mostly
compact sand and gravel. In some places, however, it was rough and
full of loose stones, and the sand lay deep and soft in several khors
and wadies that had to be crossed. The worst bit was in the second
day's march into El Hejir, where a détour had to be made to avoid the
Shabluka Hills.

At 5 in the afternoon of the 25th of August the 1st British brigade,
Major-General Wauchope's men, also left for El Hejir _viâ_ Bishari.
The "Rifles" or, rather, half the battalion, marched with them. Owing
to various causes, the "Rifles" were not all assembled with the
British division until the army reached El Hejir. In the end, the
second half of the battalion of that crack corps was transported by
water direct to El Hejir. They had quite a grievous mishap at Wad
Hamid. The upper part of a barge, on which many of the men's kits and
coats were stored, collapsed, and most of the articles fell into the
river and were lost. Wauchope's brigade marched forward in five
parallel columns, with intervals for deploying between each. The men
turned towards the west to get clear of the cultivable belt, for the
track afforded easier going along the margin of the desert. Behind the
brigade, protected by the usual rear-guard, were six Maxims, the
medica corps, a transport column, and a numerous following of native
servants riding on heavily laden donkeys. The battalion bands played
favourite regimental tunes as the men marched away. The pipers of the
Camerons gave the "Earl of Mansfield," whilst, with fifes and drums,
the Seaforths' pipers skirled "Black Donald of Balloch." News was
heliographed into Wad Hamid headquarters before we left that the
gunboats had seized Royan Island and established a post there, the
natives not disputing possession.

By the end of that week, 27th August, Wad Hamid camp was evacuated.
Nasri Island, however, was retained as a depôt, and a small force was
left there. On Friday, the 26th of August, after a great fantasia and
war-dance, Stuart Wortley's column of armed friendlies moved south.
That evening they encountered and drove back a small body of dervish
horsemen. On our side of the Nile, part of the cavalry had been
scouting up to 10 miles south of El Hejir. Captain Haig, with a
squadron of Egyptian horse, fell in with a small body of Baggara under
Sheikh Yunis, and had a brush with them, one or two being wounded on
either side. The Sirdar and headquarters embarked at 9 a.m., 27th
August, on the gunboat "Fatah," to steam through Shabluka. I left Wad
Hamid the same day with one servant, rode through to El Hejir, 22
miles, and arrived in the afternoon, having ridden out of my way to
see the narrower gorges of the Cataract. The spaciousness of the
previous camp was conspicuously absent at El Hejir. In rather thick
bush and on partly overflowed alluvial ground, the lines were drawn
closely together. As the river kept rising, it soon became difficult,
without making a considerable détour, to pass from one part to another
of the ground by the water's margin.



CHAPTER VIII.

EL HEJIR TO UM TERIF--INCIDENTS AND ACCIDENTS.


Your Arab is picturesque but poisonous: a fine specimen of a man,
though his usefulness in the economy of things is not apparent, at
least upon the surface. He dislikes steady, hard work, is a dreamer
with a deeply religious tinge, but all the same cruel and remorseless
in the pursuit of any object. We were well into the region that he had
ruled and ruined: a country capable of easily producing wealth,
charred and laid waste. The indigenous negro, on the other hand, is
not averse to toil,--nay, generally delights in it under normal
conditions,--is simple in his tastes, true in his conduct according to
his lights, and readily turned to better things. Your Arab seems to be
the reverse of all that, and yet he is a delightful person in his way,
though a belated savage. Burned villages, blackened hearths,
destruction on every hand, these were the telltale evidences before
our eyes of what the Khalifa and his hordes had achieved. Behind all
that there were the ruins of a great and long departed civilisation
that the early flood of Arab invasion doubtless did something to
destroy. Once again, as in the Atbara campaign, was the army closely
followed by bands of the faithful wives of the black soldiers. These
women as aforetime pitched their camp ordinarily half a mile or so in
rear of the men's, choosing broken ground and thick bush through which
they could escape if attacked by dervish raiders. In rude huts and
shelters built with their own hands amid the thorny mimosa and dhoum
palms, they washed, ground corn, made bread, cooked food, patched and
mended, and waited upon their uxorious soldier lords. "If handsome
were what handsome does," these negresses would have been beautiful,
but they were very far from it, poor creatures, except as I hope in
the eyes of their husbands. Talk of the cares of a young family, not
even that vexed their stout hearts and merry natures nor made them lag
in marching to war with their spouses. Alas! even the pains and toils
of maternity were fought down by young negro mothers, and I had my
attention called more than once to women with almost new-born babies
in their arms trudging along to keep up with the army. In such cases
the women and men generously did all in their power to lighten the
burden of the new mothers. Their household goods were borne upon other
already overloaded backs, and if a donkey was procurable the mother
and child were set to ride upon its back.

El Hejir camp was fenced about with a stout hedge of cut mimosa.
Besides that there were several smaller zerebas enclosing different
commands and several of the headquarters. There was plenty of halfa
grass for grazing and an abundance of mimosa for firewood for the
men's cooking pots and the steamers' boilers. Roads had been laid out,
and troughs of mud were built, at which the horses and camels were
watered, for the river's bank was unsafe. The site of the camp was not
unattractive. In front the great river was dotted with luxuriant
islands. On the left hand rose Jebel Royan, a Bass-rock-like hill
rising from Royan island around which the Nile flowed like a sea.
Again the Khedivial division had sheltered itself in straw huts,
tukals and under blanket shelters. The British soldier had a few tents
and much uncovered ground at his disposal for bivouac. It may be added
that the health and general spirits of the army were splendid.

At El Hejir the press correspondents, or at any rate those
representing the big dailies, except the _Times_, discovered they had
a grievance. The news agencies shared that feeling with their
colleagues. Even into war the affairs of business life obtrude. It is
not an unmixed evil to have a grievance; trouble and ridicule come of
having too many at the same time. I drafted a letter to Colonel
Wingate on the subject--a sort of "Round Robin" which the majority of
the correspondents signed, after which it was given to that gentleman,
who stood in a sort of god-fatherly position to us. A form of telegram
was also written and handed him for his visé, that it might be
forwarded, though in somewhat slightly altered phraseology, to each of
our journals. These papers explain themselves, and as they have never
seen the light and the incident is as yet one of the unrecorded events
of the campaign, I append them:--

                               "(CABLEGRAM) _Daily Telegraph_, LONDON.

    "Matter-Notoriety, _Times_ has two correspondents here although
    one, Howard, ostensibly represents _New York Herald_, but all his
    messages are addressed _Times_, London, where read. I suggest your
    getting _World_ or other American newspaper, which would give
    advantage additional correspondent. Recollect all telegrams are
    despatched in sections of 200 words. _Times_ therefore gets 400
    words messages. Correspondents have lodged formal complaint.

                                                            "BURLEIGH.
    "El Hejir."



The following is a copy of the letter handed in:--

                                                 "_28th August, 1898_,
                                                       "EL HEJIR CAMP.

    "Sir,--It has been a matter of notoriety for some days that the
    _London Times_ has two correspondents with the Sirdar's army,
    Colonel F. Rhodes and the Hon. Hubert Howard. No doubt it may be
    said that the latter represents the _New York Herald_ to which he
    is nominally accredited. We are, however, well aware that his
    dispatches are forwarded directly to the _Times_ Office where it
    is not over-straining the question to say that they are there read
    and used. Under the rules, all telegraphic messages must be
    delivered in sections of 200 words, each correspondent being only
    permitted to send in rotation that number of words and no more.

    "The fact that the _Times_ has practically two representatives to
    other newspapers' one gives them a manifestly unfair advantage.

    "We need scarcely state, that in a campaign of this importance the
    British public are most keenly interested. Our Editors would have
    sent out, had not the military regulations precluded their doing
    so, more than one representative from each newspaper or agency to
    accompany the army. We respectfully submit that it is our duty to
    claim equal facilities with the _Times_, and we ask you to take
    such action as may be necessary, that our employers shall not be
    placed at any disadvantage.--Yours respectfully,

    "To Colonel Wingate,
    "Chief Intelligence Department."



It was a fine way of spending the Sunday, but really we were all too
busy to bear the troops company at any of the services that day.
Colonel Wingate laid the matter before the Sirdar, who struck with the
justice of our plea summoned us all before him, when we stated our
case anew. He gave his decision, that the _Times_ correspondents twain
should only have the right to send 100 words each by telegram. We
disclaimed having any desire to curtail their letter-writing. That did
not matter. The affair I am glad to say was conducted throughout with
much good feeling, both Colonel Frank Rhodes and Mr Hubert Howard
acknowledging the right of our contention, and the affair gave rise to
no break in friendship. Colonel F. Rhodes acted very promptly and
generously, for before the Sirdar gave his decision he came to us and
offered his individual undertaking, that he would decline to send a
line by telegraph, leaving to Mr Howard the sole right to wire.

On Saturday the 27th August, whilst the deeply laden stern gunboat
"Zafir" with giassas in tow alongside was coming up the river, she
suddenly commenced to sink. The water rushed over her fore-deck, and
the officers, soldiers and crew were unable to beach her on the east
bank before she went down. Indeed there was a scurry to get into the
giassas and cut them loose lest they also should be lost. The vessel
went down about ten miles north of Shendy, subsiding in water 30 feet
deep, and only part of her funnel and upper structure remained
visible. With her there was temporarily lost over 70 tons of stores,
including much ammunition and many bales of clothing. She had been
chosen by Commander Keppel, R.N., as the flag-ship of the flotilla and
was rightly regarded by the "Admiral" as a fine vessel. It appeared
that through over-loading and rough weather water got into the hold,
and within two minutes, or before anything could be done to save her,
she sank. Captain Prince Christian Victor was aboard, he having been
assigned to duty with the "Admiral," for the craft carried a number of
soldiers as well as an ordinary crew. Both the Prince and Commander
Keppel had narrow escapes. Providentially, no lives were lost,
everybody being picked up by the giassas or managing to scramble
ashore. As soon as possible afterwards operations were commenced to
recover part of the cargo. The ship was secured from drifting by a
hawser being passed around her standing gear, and made fast to stout
trees ashore. Then some of the natives dived and several of the Maxims
and boxes of ammunition were salved. As for the craft there was
nothing to be done under the circumstances but to place a guard and
wait until the fall of the Nile enabled her to be unloaded and
refloated. Whilst Commander Keppel and his officers and crew were
making the best of it, the little ex-dervish steamer "El Tahara" hove
in sight with Major-General Rundle and several officers on board. She
lent all the assistance possible and then taking in tow the giassas
with Prince Christian Victor, Commander Keppel and the rest of the
shipwrecked crew, except the guard left behind, the "Tahara" with an
extra head of steam, churned up to El Hejir.

I think there had been an intention at headquarters to make a few
days' stay at El Hejir, and get the army well in hand before going
closer to the enemy. The gunboats began embarking all their ammunition
and commenced putting up their extra bullet proof protecting shields.
But the Nile persisted in rising and again flooding part of our camp,
interposing once more between the British and Egyptian lines a broad
arm of water. So again the army was ordered to "move on." Drills and
sundry other plans for exercises fell through and special precautions
were taken to guard camps and convoys from surprise as the army drew
nearer to Omdurman.

On Sunday, 28th August, at 3.40 a.m., the bugles were sounding in the
Egyptian portion of El Hejir camp. It was nearly an hour later before
réveille went in the British lines and the Lincolns made us think of
our sins and forswear all sleep by playing their awakening air, "Old
Man Barry." By 5 a.m., Major-General Hunter's division of four
brigades, with bands playing, were streaming out of their zereba
openings and taking the broad, well-worn tracks across the sand and
gravel ridges towards Um Terif. Macdonald's brigade was in the van,
and was followed in order by Lewis's, Maxwell's, and Collinson's, with
the baggage of each brigade behind the command. The guns were upon the
right of the division, the steamers covering the left. As for the
cavalry and camelry, spread over a wide front, their duty was to
search for the enemy and make sure the troops should have ample
warning of the approach of any dervishes. The two military attachés,
Major Calderari, Italian, and Captain Von Tiedmann, German, rode on
with the native troops. It was a cool morning and the battalions
headed by their bands playing all the while marched as if going to a
review. The Soudan soldiers' wives turned out again and mustered along
the line of route just beyond the camp confines. As the battalions
passed them, they shouted and gesticulated to their husbands, calling
on them to behave like men and not turn back in battle. Yet probably
over half of these same doughty black soldiers had been dervishes
before they came over to us. "Victory or death," was the cry of these
fiery Amazons to their warrior lovers. He would have been recreant
indeed or a marvellously brave man that would have returned to one of
them a confessed runaway from battle. It was not surprising that the
Sirdar did not object to their presence in the field, and occasionally
saw that they were helped with rations when food was not otherwise
procurable.

The desertion of El Hejir proceeded apace. In the afternoon of Sunday
at four o'clock, when the fierce heat of day had declined,
Major-General Gatacre's division in its turn marched off to Um Terif.
The brigades moved onward in parallel columns, with the artillery in
the interval and the 21st Lancers covering the front, flanks and rear
of the infantry. Tommy was jubilant and carolled, as he tramped,
topical songs and patriotic ditties. He heeded not the boisterous
south wind that ladened the atmosphere with dust till there was
darkness as of a city fog. Battle-day and settling of old scores was
near, and withal the end of the campaign, so he pounded along. It was
a rough tramp by the light of a growing moon. About 9 p.m. they
reached their camping and were assigned their usual position, facing
south, the side nearest the enemy. There was necessarily some delay as
the battalions were being told off to their assigned limits where each
had to pass the night ready to spring to arms. Detachments were
detailed to cut bush and form a zereba, whilst others attended to the
indispensable culinary department.

Each day our cavalry had seen slowly retiring before them a few of the
mounted dervish patrols. Nearing Um Terif, the enemy's scouts became
more numerous and inquisitive. Whilst a company of the Lancashire
Fusiliers stood on guard during the making of the zereba the infantry
had their first encounter with a dervish. From the desert there came a
rush and rattling over the gravel and loose stones, as from a
stampeded horse or mule. It was coming in their direction but neither
sentry nor main body thought of challenging. In an instant a mounted
Baggara dashed past the sentries and ran plump against a corner of the
company bowling over two or three men. Whether it was a deliberate
madcap charge, or the fellow was bolting from the other battalions and
lost his way is never likely to be known. Possibly he did not
anticipate finding British troops three-quarters of a mile from the
river. At any rate he dropped or threw his spear wildly, then,
wheeling about, galloped back into darkness almost before the fact
that he was an enemy had been realised. The men's rifles were
unloaded, so the dervish was not fired upon. And had they been
loaded, under the circumstances even then the officer, as he informed
me, would have hesitated to shoot, lest he should unnecessarily alarm
the whole camp. The spear left behind by the dervish horseman was one
of the lighter barbed-edge kind.

Um Terif camp was not a pleasant location. There was overflowed land
between the troops and the river, and the ground we had to bivouac
upon was rough. On Monday morning, the 29th August, before full dawn,
four squadrons of Egyptian horse and four companies of Tudway's Camel
Corps proceeded on a reconnaissance towards the Kerreri. The
twin-screw gunboat "Melik" also steamed up the river a few miles, but
neither quest resulted in adding much to the information already
possessed as to the Khalifa's intentions and exact whereabouts.
Whether or not we were to have our first battle at Kerreri none knew.
The fact was that during the night there had been a violent
thunderstorm accompanied by wind and rain. Daylight came with a
cessation of rain but the gale blew steadily from the south, raising
quite a sea on the Nile and a fog of sand and dust on land. It was
impossible to see or move any distance with security, and that was no
doubt the cause why the reconnaissances in both instances drew blank.

Formal councils of war were rare events during the campaign. A chat
with his officers, the eliciting of their opinions off-hand and a
watchful pair of eyes in every direction early and late, was enough
for the Sirdar. The delays caused by the storms however were becoming
embarrassing, and it was certain the men's health would suffer if
they were compelled to linger much longer _en route_. Still it was
well to be quite ready before pushing in to attack the Khalifa whose
large army, it was reported, would fight desperately. At a council of
war held on Monday, August 29th, at which all the Generals, including
the Brigadiers, were present, it was decided to remain until the next
day in Um Terif. The flotilla had been unable to concentrate in time,
the strong current and head wind making most of the vessels unduly
late in arriving from El Hejir. A piece of good news came to us from
the friendlies over the river. They were wont to march abreast with
us, moving up the east bank. We could usually see them across the half
mile or more of water that intervened, streaming along in their
conspicuous garments under the mimosa and palms, or treading through
the bush and long grass. On their way to their encampment opposite
they had fallen in with a small band of dervishes who were busily
looting a village. The natives of the place had offended the Khalifa
by absenting themselves from Omdurman, and so were being cruelly
maltreated. Major Stuart-Wortley's Arabs ran forward and opened a
sharp rifle fire upon the raiders, who replied with a few shots and
then bolted. A hot pursuit was instituted and five of the dervish
footmen were caught. The friendlies also had the luck to capture a
dervish sailing boat laden with grain. That evening at sunset, a few
Baggara horsemen and footmen were seen upon the nearest hills watching
the Sirdar's camp.

It was at Um Terif that the army, with all its equipment, was for the
first time got together within the confines of the same encampment.
From there also it set out next day in battle array, ready to
encounter the Khalifa's full strength. In the clear atmosphere of the
early morning and in the late afternoon when the bewildering mirage
and dancing haze had vanished, from any knoll could be seen the large
village of Kerreri. There the Mahdists had built a strong mud-walled
fort by the bank of the Nile. They had besides blocked the road with a
military camp big enough to shelter in huts and tukals several
thousand men. Information brought us by natives, spies and deserters,
was to the effect, that only a small body of dervishes had been left
at Kerreri under Emir Yunis for the purpose of observing the movements
of our army. Kerreri, which the Arabs pronounce with a prolonged Doric
or Northumbrian roll of the r's, as though there were at least a dozen
of them in the word, is upon the margin of a belt of rough gravel,
stone, and low detached hills that extend to the southward, to
Omdurman and beyond. The alluvial strip by the Nile, along which we
had marched so many days, gave place to ridges and hummocks of sand,
gravel, and rock.

So we waited impatiently at Um Terif for the flotilla with the fifteen
days' supplies on board. Meanwhile the axes of an army of soldier
wood-choppers were clanging upon the hard timber, which was being
felled for firewood. The ruin of agriculture had meant the growth of
bush, and there was an abundance of useful mimosa and sunt growing on
the alluvial lands by the river.

I ought to reproach myself, but I don't, for not having written of the
aggravating southern gale with its accompaniment of drifts of horrid
dust and sand as the "terrible khamseen" or sirocco. Travellers' tales
about having to bury yourself in the sand, or at least swathe head and
body in folds of cloth, in order to avoid being choked with grit, I
know. The real thing is bad enough without resorting to poetic or
journalistic licence, though some will do that anyhow. It is
sufficiently trying to grow hot and perspire so freely that the
driving dust, the scavenger drift of chaos and the ages, caught by the
moisture, courses down the features and trickles from the hands in so
many miniature turbid streamlets. During a dust-storm everybody has
the appearance of a toiling hodman. Feminine relations would have wept
had they seen and recognised their soldier lads in that sorry state.
Even the dashing officers and men of the Grenadier Guards ceased to be
objects of admiration, and the War Office would have howled with
exquisite torture at sight of their hair and clothes. Speak of
wrapping clothes around head or body to keep out the dust? It is sheer
nonsense to prate so. Why it is hard enough to gape and gasp and catch
a mouthful of sanded breath, without that added worry. There is
nothing for it, but to grin and bear it and get through with the
swallowing of that proverbial peck of dust in a life-time, as quickly
and quietly as possible.

The fighting gunboats or armed flotilla consisted of the "Sultan,"
Lieutenant Cowan, R.N.; "Sheik," Lieutenant Sparks, R.N.; "Melik,"
Major Gordon, R.E.; "Fatah," Lieutenant Beatty, R.N.; "Nazir,"
Lieutenant Hon. Hood, R.N.; "El Hafir" ("El Teb"), Lieutenant Stavely,
R.N.; "Tamai," Lieutenant Talbot, R.N.; "Metemmeh," Lieutenant
Stevenson, R.E.; and "Abu Klea," Captain Newcombe, R.E. On the loss of
the "Zafir," Commander Keppel, R.N., transferred his flag to the
"Sultan," one of the new twin-screw gunboats.



CHAPTER IX.

ADVANCE TO KERRERI--SKIRMISHING WITH THE ENEMY.


"Death and his brother sleep" can only be staved off; they overcome in
the end. The tired soldiers dropped into profound slumber, although
the night of the 29th August at Um Terif was boisterous and the cruel
enemy near. It was one of the real surprises of the campaign, that the
Mahdists never really harassed us, or ventured to rush our lines under
cover of night, or in the fog of a dust storm. It has often been too
hastily assumed that the dervishes never attacked by night. By the
Nile and in the Eastern Soudan they repeatedly pushed attacks under
cover of darkness, or worried their opponents by persistent
sniping,--as for instance at Tamai, before Suakin and Abu Klea. Then
again, their final and successful assault upon Khartoum was delivered
at dawn. Hicks Pasha's force was hammered early and late. It is all
the more strange, therefore, that they left the Sirdar's army severely
alone, never practising their familiar harassing tactics and seeking
to secure an advantage. Numerous, swift of foot, with spears and
swords, the odds would have been much more in their favour had they
come down like wolves in the night. It is difficult to say exactly
what would have happened, and it is not pleasant to contemplate what
might have befallen. In such a conflict the Sirdar's losses would have
been great. Could it have been that the Khalifa believed some of the
stories set about that our army intended paying him a surprise visit
by night, as we did Mahmoud, and so he kept his men in camp quietly
waiting for us. The utmost precautions were taken by the Sirdar and
his generals to protect the lines. A strong zereba surrounded the
camp; sentries were doubled, and active patrols were on the alert all
night. The gale continued until after sunset, when heavy rain clouds
gathered, obscuring the moonlight. By and by there came on a violent
and protracted thunderstorm, accompanied by an almost continuous
deluge. There was nothing to be done but to lie fast wrapped in great
coat or blanket and await the passing of the hours, wet, chilled,
ruminating on all sorts of queer subjects. I managed to undo a corner
of my packed tent and under it obtained relative warmth, and dryness
in spots.

The persistence of that storm bred despair. It was nearly 8 a.m. on
Tuesday the 30th August, when, having drenched us all to the marrow,
the rain ceased. The sun, although two hours high, was battling with a
fine mist. It was in a perfect downpour of rain at four o'clock in the
morning, that réveille had been sounded. And it was in sludge and
slush camels and mules were fed and loaded, and horses baited and
saddled. By 5.20 a.m. the army was at length on the march out of
camp, our faces set towards a village called Merreh, best indicated
upon the maps as Seg or Sheikh el Taib, the latter being the name of a
low hill. The distance the force was expected to trudge was about
eight miles, but the overflowed land put two miles more on. When
daylight came we could see Abdul Azim's friendlies upon the opposite
side of the Nile. Led by Major Stuart-Wortley, with whom were
Lieutenant R. Wood and Captain Buckle, the camels of their column kept
pace with ours. Closely skirting the east bank that day, Abdul Azim's
warriors had their right supported by one of the gunboats.

With the Sirdar and staff riding at the head of the infantry columns,
the army advanced in the formation in which it had been determined to
attack the enemy at Kerreri. Once more our mounted troops pushed far
ahead, covering a wide stretch of country, the 21st Lancers under
Colonel Martin on the left, the Egyptian cavalry under Colonel
Broadwood and eight companies of the Camel Corps under Major Tudway on
the extreme right. The infantry presented a front of three brigades
marching in échelon. A battery of artillery was attached to each
infantry brigade except Collinson's brigade. Three battalions were
detached from the whole force to guard the baggage and transport which
followed in the rear. In front on the left, or nearest the Nile, was
Wauchope's brigade. The four British battalions thereof marched side
by side in column, the Lincolns upon the right, the Warwicks on the
left, with the Seaforths and Camerons between them. To the right of
Wauchope's brigade was Maxwell's, and next it Lewis's Khedivial
brigades. Behind each of the three leading brigades above named
(reading from left to right) were Lyttelton's, Collinson's, and
Macdonald's commands. Seen upon the desert the army had the appearance
of a huge square with front a mile broad. The day being cloudy, and
cooler than usual for the season, General Gatacre and his brigadiers
voted at a council to extend the march. That course was adopted, the
army keeping on, but with very many brief halts for the brigades to
regain their formation. By the extra tramp the troops were enabled to
pass beyond the broad margin of thick bush out upon the comparatively
open, pebbly, and rocky ground, which sloped to a narrow strip of
soft, wet loam fringing the river. About 1 p.m., when still fully one
mile north of the hill of Sheikh el Taib, the army halted and a camp
was made. Access to the Nile was very difficult, for overflowed, boggy
land interposed. Roads, however, were made with cut bush, and the
animals were led over them to be watered. During the army's march the
Lancers scoured the country far in front. They managed to get into
touch with some dervish patrols whilst scouting. The opposing troopers
looked at each other from relatively open ground, and standing
separated by only a few hundred yards. One Baggara horseman came
within 150 yards of our men. The Lancers, keen to engage with steel,
did not attempt to fire upon their intrusive foemen, but innocently
tried instead to bag them. Several times our troopers advanced to the
charge, but the enemy, when the Lancers sought to put hands upon them,
were gone. That day the Baggara horsemen were met with in far greater
numbers than previously. By instructions, the Lancers rushed one of
the many small villages, or groups of native mud-dwellings and beehive
straw huts that dotted the sparse bush-land a mile or more inland from
the river beyond Sheikh el Taib. Several of the enemy hastened away,
and in one of the huts a man in dervish dress was found awaiting the
troops. He turned out to be a secret agent of Colonel Wingate's
Intelligence Department. The spy in question was a Shaggieh, named
Eshanni, and but thirty hours out from Omdurman. I was led to
understand that he gave much valuable information as to the position
and strength of the Khalifa's force and the state of affairs in
Omdurman. We were told that the Khalifa meant to attack us at or near
Kerreri. There was an old-time prophecy of the Persian Sheikh
Morghani, whose tomb is near Kassala, that the English soldiers would
one day fight at Kerreri. Mahomed Achmed and Abdullah had further
added to the prediction that there they were to be attacked and
defeated by the dervishes under the Khalifa. Kerreri plain, therefore,
had become a sort of holy place of pilgrimage to the Mahdists. It was
called the "death place of all the infidels," and thither at least
once a year repaired the Khalifa and his following to look over the
coming battle-ground and render thanks in anticipation for the
wholesale slaughter of the unbelievers and the triumph of the true
Moslems.

All except those on duty were abed by last post on 30th August at
Sheikh el Taib camp. Lights were ordered out, and the camp for a time
relapsed into darkness and silence. Headquarters and all other tents
had been struck and packed. During the night there was shooting, the
crack of the musketry sounding relatively near, but occasioning little
annoyance. The bullets were badly aimed if directed against the
British quarters. Whether the firing was really meant for "sniping" by
the dervishes, or was only a note of warning to their friends of our
presence, was not easy to decide with any degree of certainty. There
was no big roll of wounded to test the enemy's intent by, and a later
incipient alarm caused in another part of the camp in the small hours
was possibly all a mistake. One thing the dervishes did do. After the
manner of hill-men, they lit beacon fires on the rocky ridges around
us to warn the Khalifa of our whereabouts.

[Illustration: ARTILLERY GOING TOWARDS OMDURMAN.]

That night the camp lines had been drawn still closer than ever, only
260 yards' front being given to each battalion. On the morning of 31st
the troops were early astir. By 5.30 a.m. the main body, following the
mounted troops, had faced to the right, and were marching to the
westward so as to clear the bush and get out upon the open desert
tracks leading to Omdurman. The ground the army passed over was
broken, and there was scrub with several small khors to cross, so the
force proceeded slowly and cautiously. Four of the gunboats steamed up
the river, keeping abreast of our widely spread out cavalry. About six
o'clock the Lancers had again ascended to the top of El Taib, a hill
from which at that hour I was enabled to get a view of the dervish
camp. It appeared to be about ten miles due south. The Mahdists were
disposed in three long dense lines, at almost right angle to the
river. They were partly hidden among the low scrub west of Kerreri
town or village, their right being quite 2000 yards from the Nile,
which showed they had a wholesome respect for the gunboats. Flags and
helios were speedily busy in the hands of our signalmen sending back
information to the Sirdar. Seeing groups of dervishes within range, as
well as bands of Baggara horsemen, the gunboats opened fire from their
15-pounders and Maxims shortly after 7 a.m., driving the enemy's
nearest patrols into hiding or out of range.

In one of the numberless villages passed, there were several mutilated
and charred human bodies, victims of dervish suspicion, greed and
cruelty. Pushing well ahead on our right the Khedivial mounted force
got a chance to send a few volleys into groups of Abd el Baki's
scouts. That Emir commanded the dervish outlying forces. It was still
quite early when after an easy journey of eight miles the infantry
turned aside towards the river. The army was halted at a place called
Sururab, a few miles north of Kerreri. Why it was called Sururab I
know not, nor have I found the name on any map; but that was the
official designation given to the place where the force subsequently
bivouacked. The only reasonable fault to be found with Sururab was
that the river banks were exceedingly difficult of access. Our camps
were getting from bad to worse. That day flocks of huge vultures were
to be seen circling overhead as the army advanced. It may have been
our approach that disturbed them from their carrion feasts in the
devastated villages and the abandoned dervish camps. Omdurman itself
must also have long been a choice feeding place for them.

Once more the Sirdar's army had to spend an uncomfortable night. The
few tents that had been carried so far afield belonged to
headquarters, generals, commanding officers, and correspondents. They
were more of a burden than a comfort, for all canvas had to be struck
by last post, and thereafter neither lights nor loud talking were
permitted. The native troops' low shelter tents made out of their
spare rough blankets were allowed to pass unchallenged. It was another
night to be remembered which the army passed at Sururab. Early in the
evening the clouds gathered, and a series of violent thunderstorms,
accompanied by heavy rain, continued almost without cessation through
the weary, lagging hours. Rolled in their blankets, the soldiers,
wetted through, lay upon the sodden ground. Such of us as could
crawled under sheets of canvas or waterproofs, but these afforded
little protection from the driving sheets of falling water. From
Sirdar to private none escaped a thorough wetting. The enemy, had he
chosen, might have advanced from Kerreri or Omdurman, and been upon us
ere an alarm could have been given. Shortly after sunset everybody had
to be within the zereba. All openings in the hedge were thereafter
stopped up, and no one was allowed outside before réveille. Officers
and men of Gatacre's division had as usual to sleep in their places
lying down in the ranks fully dressed, with their arms beside them,
ready to spring to attention. Sentinels and patrols, watchful and
observant, moved noiselessly about throughout the whole night. True,
there were outside a few of Slatin's most trusted native friends,
chiefly Jaalin, set to listen and raise an outcry if the Khalifa's
dervishes came down upon us under cover of the inky night. But I had
grave doubts whether these native allies would have been of any
service, as the likelihood was that they were huddled under some rock
or tree, shivering in their wraps and sheepskins. Had the Khalifa been
astute or a tactician he would have attacked our camp at Sururab that
night or early next morning. He must have succeeded, at any rate, in
getting close enough to us without our hearing a note of warning to
have placed his army upon a practical equality with ours in point of
value of rifle fire. The Remington at 300 yards is as good as the
Lee-Metford for killing or wounding. His superiority in numbers and
mobility would have been all in his favour. Luckily, it was not to be.
We were again allowed to sleep in such peace as the elements would
permit. The fact remains that the dervishes lost another of the
several excellent chances they had to do us signal hurt.

Réveille went at 3.45 a.m. on 1st September. Little need of it there
was, for the men were astir, trying to keep warm by stamping about. In
the driving rain and slush the army got ready to march forward. The
boats, as usual, were sent on with the surplus stores, whilst the men
carried one day's emergency rations in their haversacks, and two days'
ordinary food was taken upon the camels of each battalion. Once more
the brigades marched in échelon. Gatacre's division was leading as
before on the left, with Wauchope's brigade in front, and Lyttelton's
behind. Steadily, deliberately, the armed tide of men flowed over the
undulating plain, down into shallow khors, swelling through the scrub,
their serried ranks always plainly to be seen. I went forward again
with the cavalry, accompanying the 21st Lancers, who were upon the
left front. The Egyptian troopers and the camelry went to their usual
place upon the right. In a short time we found that the dervish
advanced camp west of Kerreri had been abandoned, the enemy having
fallen back and joined their main force under the Khalifa nearer
Omdurman. Word was sent back to the Sirdar that the track was clear of
the enemy, and so the skirmish before getting into camp, which all the
infantry expected with some degree of confidence and elation, did not
happen. By 10 a.m. the army had wheeled into the lines assigned it in
the southward portion of the scattered village of Kerreri. Once more
both wings rested upon the Nile, Gatacre's division in front (south),
Macdonald's brigade at the north, with Collinson's brigade within and
in reserve. The army encamped in an irregular triangular enclosure, on
one side being the river, our flanks and face being protected by the
gunboats. Our zereba outline was something like a broken-backed
pyramid.

Whilst the infantry were settling down in camp at Kerreri the cavalry
were pushing in the enemy's outposts. The British division cut and
built around their front a good stout thorny zereba. Lyttelton's
brigade and three batteries were placed nearest the river. Upon their
right was Wauchope's brigade, next to it was Maxwell's and Lewis's
brigades, and then to the right, Macdonald's crack command.
Collinson's brigade was held in reserve within the zereba; Colonels
Maxwell, Lewis and Macdonald had their front protected by a double
line of ordinary shelter-trenches dug in the loose sand and gravel.
The British Tommies had no trench. Going forward a mile or so to
rejoin the cavalry I climbed the rugged granitic slopes of Surgham
Hill. Like most of the "jebels," or mounts, in this region, compared
with the spacious wilderness about them they are but toy hills. Few
of them are much over 150 feet high, large as they often loom in the
deceiving light of the Soudan. Many are but 50 feet in height, and
there are regular, peaky, and prettily-shaped little mountain ranges,
the summits of which overtop the plain but five to ten yards. Such
hills children might build in play by the sea-shore. Surgham was quite
a big one, and the signallers soon took possession of it, flagging and
"helioing" back to camp. From its top I was enabled to see Omdurman,
with Khartoum in the distance. The Mahdi's white, cone-shaped tomb,
its dome girt with rings, and ornamented with brazen finials, globe
and crescent, shone not six miles away in the midst of miles of mud
and straw huts. Four arabesque finials rose, one from each corner of
the supporting wall. Before the town was a wall of white tents, the
original camping ground of the Khalifa's levies and reinforcements
drawn from distant garrisons. Midway to Omdurman, or within three
miles of where I stood, was the whole dervish army. Clearly they had
moved out from the city, and were organised as a force prepared for
instant battle. Their tents, camels, and impedimenta had been left
behind. Only a few low shelter-tents marked the lines in which the
Khalifa's army lay in the sparse bush. There were flags and banners by
hundreds, indicating the position of the leaders, chiefs and lesser
emirs. The Khalifa's great black banner, with its Arabic lettering
sewn in the same material, was displayed from a lofty bamboo pole,
planted in the dense central part of the force. To the left of it,
our right, were green and blue flags of the Shereef, or second
Khalifa, and Osman or Sheikh Ed Din, the Khalifa's son and
generalissimo of his army. Osman, we heard, had been reinstated in
parental favour, for he had fallen from grace for advising his father
to make peace with the Sirdar. As in a daisy-pied field, there were
dervish battle flags everywhere among the thick, swart lines that in
rows barred our way to Omdurman. The banners were in all colours and
shades, shapes, and sizes, but only the Khalifa's was black. The force
was apparently drawn up in five bodies or divisions. Abdullah's, in
the centre, must have numbered fully 10,000 men. Counting as carefully
as I could, I estimated the enemy who were to be seen as at least
numbering 30,000, and, perhaps, 35,000 men. Horsemen and camelmen
could be seen moving about their lines, and here and there others
riding, native fashion, on donkey-back. It seemed to be a
well-organised, intelligently-handled enemy we had in front.

Thereafter I rode onward and joined the farthest Lancers' outposts.
Small parties of dervishes, mostly Jaalin and blacks, who were caught
by the troopers, but had perhaps purposely given the Khalifa the slip,
were rounded up and sent back under escort as prisoners. Meanwhile
both the British and Khedivial mounted troops kept pushing on, driving
in the enemy's scouts. By noon there had been a series of attempts on
our side to charge, but the foemen always gave way. The Egyptian
cavalry under Colonel Broadwood and the camelry under Major Tudway,
making a wide détour, got close to the dervish left, and engaged the
enemy occasionally with rifles and Maxims. But the enemy's horse came
out in strength, supported by footmen, and threatened them, so
Broadwood's men had to fall back.

Four of the Sirdar's gunboats, which had meanwhile steamed ahead, were
briskly battering the Mahdist riverside forts. These works, like those
abandoned to us at Shabluka Cataract and Kerreri, were strong,
well-built earthen bastions, with flanking curtains. The central
semicircular portion was pierced with three embrasures for ordnance,
but so badly made as to admit of but a limited area of fire. Each
curtain was loopholed for musketry. There was a deep, wide trench
before the works, the parapet of which was about ten feet high, whilst
the walls of earth were about three yards in thickness. Despite the
skill shown in the construction and placing of the forts, the
gunboats, by bringing their Maxims and quick-firing guns to bear,
passed them unscathed. There were Krupp guns mounted in most of these
works, but not a steamer was hit. Another event of even greater
importance was meanwhile happening. From the first it had been planned
that the Lyddite guns and the 40-pounder Armstrong cannon should be
employed to batter down or breach the Khalifa's walls. The howitzers
were sent on by one of the gunboats to be landed on Tuti Island, which
is opposite Khartoum, for that purpose. But it was found the maps were
wrong, and a better position was selected within suitable range on the
solid land of the east bank. As for the 40-pounders it was found too
inconvenient to tranship such heavy ordnance.

The battery firing the 50-lb. Lyddite shells having found the range,
about 3000 yards, opened fire upon Omdurman. In quick succession rapid
splashes of lurid flame burst in the town, followed by great clouds of
dust and whirling stones. I watched them training the howitzers on the
great wall and the whited sepulchre of the false prophet. With the
third shot they struck the base and anon the top of the Mahdi's tomb,
smashing the structure, and bringing down the uppermost cap of it. The
nature of the bombardment and its success was galling to the dervish
force, as could be seen by the commotion it excited in the city and
their camp. Our cavalry on the left got to skirmishing again with the
enemy's outposts, on which we had closed to within 800 yards. Bodies
of their horsemen came out and drove our advanced scouts in. Then,
three squadrons of the Lancers were led forward by Colonel Martin, and
the enemy once more retired. This, seemingly, was too much for the
Khalifa, so his whole army was set in motion against us. They came on
deliberately, but smartly, their infantry trying to surround and cut
our troopers off. Dismounting part of his men, Colonel Martin
materially delayed the enemy's advance, for the dervishes sent out
lines of black riflemen to deal with the Lancers. A rattling skirmish
at 500 to 800 yards ranges was in a few minutes in full progress. News
was sent back to the Sirdar that the enemy's army were coming on _en
masse_, and step by step Colonel Martin's troops were retired towards
Mount Surgham and the river. Our retreat was pressed, and the regiment
had to mount and trot off behind the shelter of Surgham to avoid the
vigorous advance of the dervishes. Among our mounted troops there were
relatively few losses, although the enemy must have suffered
considerably. I noticed many of them being knocked over by the
Lancers' fire. Before 3 p.m. the Sirdar had all his infantry and guns
in position, awaiting the expected attack within his lines at Kerreri.
A few mud-huts on the south face of the zereba materially added to the
strength of the position. Our cavalry had all to continue retiring,
and ultimately the Lancers went down to the river so as to clear the
front of the army. Surgham Hill was occupied by a few of the
dervishes. From there they must have had an excellent view of our
camp; indeed, they had as good a panoramic peep at us as we had at
them. For some reason the Khalifa thought better of attacking us that
day, and so halted with his main body quite out of range. Towards
sunset his men gradually retired, going back to their former position.
They had left their camp-fires burning, and their chunks of meat and
cakes of rough grain cooking under the supervision of slaves and
followers when they came out against the Lancers. So it happened on
the eve of the coming battle both armies rested quietly in their
respective camps, eating, sleeping, and the devout praying, within a
five miles' march of each other. For supper our men had stringy bully
beef and biscuit or bread. The dervishes had hunks of freshly roasted
mutton, goat and cattle, done on the embers, and bannocks of dhura
meal. Extra precautions were again observed to secure the Sirdar's
army from any night attack.



CHAPTER X.

THE BATTLE OF OMDURMAN--FIRST PHASE OF THE FIGHT.


In this and the succeeding chapter, the account given of the victory
of Omdurman is substantially the same as that which appeared in the
columns of various issues of the _Daily Telegraph_. The narrative,
although hastily prepared, gives an accurate description of the fight,
and copies of it not being now procurable, I venture to make use of
it, adding only here and there lines of new matter. I have reserved to
a later chapter the personal narratives of officers who were in the
action, and who have kindly supplied me with particulars of the part
borne by the gunboats, the cavalry, and Major Stuart-Wortley's
friendlies. With these I have coupled various details drawn from my
own observation. I found that through errors in transmission of the
messages, or mistakes in dealing with them, part of my copy had got
credited to other sources.

                                       OMDURMAN, _2nd September 1898_.

The supreme and greatest victory ever achieved by British arms in the
Soudan has been won by the Sirdar's ever-victorious forces, after one
of the most picturesque battles of the century. At last! After fifteen
vexatious years spent in trying to get here, an Anglo-Egyptian army
has recovered Khartoum and occupied Omdurman. Gordon has been avenged
and justified. The dervishes have been overwhelmingly routed, Mahdism
has been "smashed," whilst the Khalifa's capital of Omdurman has been
stripped of its barbaric halo of sanctity and invulnerability.
Striking and dramatic as has been the manner in which the ending of
the curse of the Soudan has come about, the tale need lose none of its
force by being simply told. The grandeur of the plain story requires
no straining after catchwords. Of those who with Sir Herbert Stewart's
desert column toiled and fought to reach Metemmeh in January 1885,
less than a dozen are with the Sirdar's army, and of these but three,
including the writer, were correspondents. But to the narrative of the
battle which, at a stroke, has broken down the potent savage barriers
of blood and cruelty, and re-opened the heart of the great African
continent to the sweetening influences of civilised government.

Storm and cloud had passed. The moon rose early on the night of 1st
September. It shone brightly over and around our bivouac, south of
Kerreri village, or near Um Mutragan, according to the cartographers.
The north end of our camp lines approached the river just 500 yards
south of the ruined dervish redoubt of Kerreri. Sentinels were posted
along the irregular-shaped triangle, or, shall I call it, broken
semi-circle, within which the army lay. The sentries had a fair range
of view to their front. Men on the lookout also occupied the roofs of
the few native mud-huts at the south-western corner of the camp. Four
Jaalin scouts were sent forward to Surgham Hill to listen, and to
apprise the troops of any movement on the part of the Khalifa's army.
Other friendlies lay about outside, hearkening and watching, to warn
us of any attempt of the enemy to surprise the zereba. The sentries
were bid to shoot at any man rushing singly upon him, and to fire upon
large bodies advancing at the double. Men running in, however, in
pairs, were either to be challenged or allowed to come in without
being fired on. Such was the simple yet ample arrangement. To
anticipate somewhat, it so happened that about midnight there was some
firing, and the four Jaalin "smellers of danger and dervishes" upon
Jebel Surgham came sprinting in, a four-in-hand, and cleared the broad
cut mimosa hedge that was piled before the lines of Gatacre's
division, at a bound. The time they made broke all records.

From the north to the south end along the river the camp was about one
mile in length, and its greatest width about 1200 yards. There were a
few mud-huts within the space enclosed by mimosa and the double line
of shallow shelter-trenches. The cut bushes were piled in front of the
British troops, who were facing Omdurman and the south; the trenches
covered the approach from the west and north where the Khedivial
troops stood on guard. Neither extremity of the lines of defence,
zereba or trench, quite extended to the river. Openings of about
thirty to fifty yards were left. Besides these there were other small
passage-ways left open during daylight, but closed at night. Near the
river facing south the ground was rough, and there were several huts,
so that the security of the camp was not imperilled by the failure to
carry the hedge or trenches to the Nile's brink. Lyttelton's brigade
were placed upon the left south front. Wauchope's men continued the
line to the right. In the south gap were three companies of the 2nd
Battalion Rifle Brigade, their left resting on the river. On their
immediate right were three batteries--the 32nd Field Battery of
English 15-pounders, under Major Williams; two Maxim-Nordenfeldt
mountain batteries, 12½-pounders, respectively under Captains Stewart
and de Rougemont; and six Maxims under Captain Smeaton. Later on these
guns and Maxims during the first stage of the battle--for the action
resolved itself into a double event ere the combat ceased--were
wheeled out until they were firing almost at right angles to the
zereba line. On the right of the guns, in succession, were the
remainder of the Rifles, the Lancashire Fusiliers, the Northumberland
Fusiliers, and the Grenadier Guards. In the interval between General
Lyttelton's brigade and General Wauchope's, which stood next to it,
were two Maxims. Then came the Warwicks, Camerons, Seaforths, and
Lincolns. To the Lincolns' right, where the trenches began and the
line faced nearly west, was Colonel Maxwell's brigade. Between
Wauchope's and Maxwell's brigades were two Maxims, and, I think, for a
time during the first attack made by the dervishes, the two-gun mule
battery of six-centimetre Krupp guns. To complete the tale of the guns
placed for defending the camp, there was Major Lawrie's battery of
Maxim-Nordenfeldts on the right of Maxwell's brigade next Macdonald's,
and on the north side, near the right of the position facing west,
Major Peake's battery of Maxim-Nordenfeldts. These guns had done so
well at the Atbara, that the Sirdar promptly increased his artillery
by adding three batteries of that class. Maxwell's brigade was
composed of three Soudanese and one Egyptian battalion, viz., 8th
Egyptian, and 12th, 13th, and 14th Soudanese. Farther north, to the
right of Colonel Maxwell's men, was Lewis Bey's brigade of Egyptian
troops--the 3rd, 4th, 7th, and 15th Battalions. The 15th Battalion was
a fine lot, mostly reservists. Upon the farthest west and northern
face of the protected camp was. Colonel Macdonald's oft-tried and
famous fighting brigade, made up of the 9th, 10th, and 11th Soudanese,
with the true-as-steel 2nd Egyptians. Within the wall of hedge,
trenches, and armed infantry, in reserve, was another brigade, the 4th
Khedivial, commanded by Major Collinson. It was made up of the 1st,
5th, 17th, and 18th Egyptian battalions. The two last-named were
relatively newly-raised regiments, but were composed of fine
soldierly-looking fellaheen. The divisional brigade and battalion
commanders and staff were:--British division, Major-General Gatacre
commanding; staff: Major Robb, D.A.G.; Captain R. Brooke, A.D.C.;
Lieuts. Cox and Ingle, orderly officers; Surgeon-Colonel MacNamara,
P.M.O. First British Infantry brigade, Brigadier-General A. Wauchope;
staff: Major Doyle Snow, brigade-major; Captain Rennie, A.D.C.;
Surgeon-Lieut.-Colonel Sloggett, P.M.O. Second brigade,
Brigadier-General, Hon. N. G. Lyttelton; staff: Major A Court,
brigade-major; Captain Henderson, A.D.C. Surgeon-General W. Taylor was
the principal medical officer of the British division. Lieut.-Colonel
C. J. Long, R.A., commanded all the artillery. Khedivial
troops--Infantry division, Major-General A. Hunter, commanding; staff:
Surgeon-Colonel Gallwey, P.M.O.; Captain Kincaid, D.A.G.; Lieut.
Smythe, A.D.C. 1st brigade, Brigadier H. A. Macdonald; Major C. Keith
Falconer, brigade-major. 2nd brigade, Brigadier Lewis; 3rd brigade,
Brigadier Maxwell; 4th brigade, Brigadier Collinson.

The battalion commanders of British troops were:--Grenadier Guards,
Lieut.-Colonel Villiers-Hatton; Lancashire Fusiliers, Lieut.-Colonel
Collingwood; Northumberland Fusiliers, Lieut.-Colonel C. G. C. Money;
Rifle Brigade, Colonel Howard; Warwickshires, Lieut.-Colonel Forbes;
Lincolns, Lieut.-Colonel Louth; Camerons, Lieut.-Colonel G. L. C.
Money; Seaforths, Lieut.-Colonel Murray. Those of the Khedivial
battalions were:--Macdonald's brigade, Majors Pink, 2nd Egyptian;
Walter, 9th Soudanese; Nason, 10th Soudanese; Jackson, 11th Soudanese.
Lewis's brigade, Majors Sellem, 3rd Egyptian; Sparkes, 4th Egyptian;
Fatby Bey, 7th Egyptian; and Major Hickman, 15th Egyptian. Maxwell's
brigade, Majors Kalousie, 8th Egyptian; Townsend, 12th Soudanese;
Smith-Dorian, 13th Soudanese; Shekleton, 14th Soudanese. Collinson's
brigade, Captains (O.C.'s) Bainbridge, 1st Egyptian; Abd El Gervad
Borham, 5th Egyptian; Bunbury, 17th Egyptian; and Matchell, 18th
Egyptian.

The troops were ranged two deep in front with a partial second double
line or supports placed twenty yards or so behind them. These assisted
in the fight to pass ammunition to the firing line and carry back the
dead and wounded. Somewhat removed from the zereba and trenches, and
nearer the Nile were the hospitals, the transport, the stores, nearly
3000 camels, and about 500 mules. The Egyptian cavalry and camelry
were picketed at the north of the camp, and the 21st Lancers at the
south end, both being within the lines. All along the river's bank
beside the camp were moored the gunboats, steamers and barges, with a
fleet of a hundred or more native sailing boats, at once a means of
defence and a supply column. The gunboat "Melik" was moored a few
hundred yards south of where the Rifles were posted. Occasionally the
flotilla flashed their search-lights upon Jebel Surgham, and swept the
scrub and desert in front of the troops. The enemy's scouts, however,
were never disclosed in the radii of the electric beams. In fact, the
first notice we had that the dervishes were about to inspect our
environment was the impetuous incoming of our friendlies from Jebel
Surgham and the cracking of snipers' guns in the bush mingled with the
buzzing of bullets overhead. A battalion rose quietly from the ground,
for the troops slept clear of the hedge, and went forward a few paces
to man the zereba. On learning what was actually taking place they
returned to their blankets and to sleep.

For all the row the dervish spies, snipers and others made, the army
was not really disturbed. Once more we had to thank fortune that the
enemy made no vigorous attempt to assail the camp during the night.
True, earlier in the evening a few badly-directed rifle-shots had come
whistling across the zereba. Prowling dervish scouts had even
occasionally crept close enough to draw upon themselves the attention
of our double sentries and alert patrols. A small section volley at
one period of the night was fired at a knot of the enemy's would-be
bush-whackers. The unusual rattle of musketry caused an incipient
alarm in one of the battalions. Tommy, however, behaved well,
collectively, never stirring, but waiting "for orders." The peace of
the night hours was, I repeat, never seriously broken, the
Anglo-Egyptian army enjoying their needed sleep. After midnight things
quieted down and from the dervish camp no sound was carried to us by
the soft south wind. All was absolutely still in that direction. The
noggara or war-drum was a dead thing, beating not to quarters, as we
had heard it during the day when out with the cavalry. Nor was the
deep-bayed booming of the ombeyas, or elephant horns, re-echoing to
rally the tribesmen under their leaders' banners.

It was 3.40 a.m. on 2nd September when the bugles called the 22,000
men of the Sirdar's army from slumber. Quickly the troops were astir,
and the camp full of bustling preparation. It was given out that we
were not to move forward quite as early as usual. But circumstances
alter cases, and very soon loads and saddles were adjusted with extra
care. Everything was made as trim as possible, and belts were buckled
tightly for action. There was a sense and expectancy of coming battle
abroad, and an eager desire permeating all ranks to have it out with
the dervishes then or never. It had come at length to be generally
accepted that the enemy would not bolt nor slip through our fingers,
but would accept the gage of battle which the Sirdar meant shortly to
give him. We were going to march out, attack, and storm the Khalifa
and his great army in their chosen lines and trenches. In a way we
felt half-heartedly grateful to our sportsmanlike enemy for not having
harassed our marches or bivouacs. We were, within the next hour or so,
to have yet more to thank the dervishes and their Khalifa for. Truly
Abdullah was amazingly ignorant of war tactics, or astoundingly
confident in the prowess of his arms. From the reckless, magnificent
manner in which the dervishes comported themselves in the earlier
stages of the fight that ensued, I incline to the belief that the
Khalifa and his men, true to their crass, credulous notions, were
overweeningly confident in themselves. A fatal fault, they underrated
their opponents. His Emirs, Jehadieh, and Baggara had so often proved
themselves invincible in their combats against natives of the Soudan,
that they had come to hold that none would face their battle shock.
There was pride of countless triumphs, and the long enjoyment of
despotic lordship that hardened their wills and thews to win victory
or perish. I failed later to see the old fanaticism that once made
them, though pierced through and through with bayonet or sword, fight
till the last heart-throb ceased. Let me not be misunderstood. Despite
their possible doubts about the Khalifa's divine mission, the dervish
army fought with courage and dash until they were absolutely broken.
Their personal hardihood bravely compared with the days of Tamai and
Abu Klea. It was when the fight was nearly over that there were
evidences of that of which there was so little in the old days, viz.,
that a large remnant would accept life at our hands. Again, as the
sequel showed, the Sirdar's star was in the ascendant.

Everything was in readiness in our camp by 5 a.m. Camels, horses,
mules, and donkeys had been watered and fed, and the men had disposed
of an early breakfast of cocoa or tea, coarse biscuit, and tinned
meat. Infantry and artillery had made sure of their full supply of
ammunition, and the reserve was handy to draw more from. Tommy Atkins
carried 100 rounds of the new hollow-nosed Lee-Metford cartridges.
Behind him were mules loaded with a further twenty rounds for him. The
Khedivial soldiers had 120 rounds of Martini-Henry cartridges. To hark
back: at 4.30 a.m., ere dawn had tinged the east, the Sirdar bade
Colonel Broadwood, commanding the Egyptian cavalry, send out two
squadrons to ascertain what the enemy was about. Thereupon one
squadron rode off to the hills on the west--known locally as South
Kerreri jebels, but marked on most maps as Um Mutragan. Besides being
misnamed, they are plotted in out of place and as if the range trended
east and west. It runs nearly north and south. Kerreri hills were low
and black, like most of the jebels thereabout. They stand fully two
miles west of the Nile. Another squadron, under Captain Hon. E.
Baring, proceeded south to Jebel Surgham, the low hill, about one mile
in front of the British division. I have written about it before.
Surgham was used for heliograph and flag signalling on the 1st, the
previous day, and is the last of the detached hills or ranges lying
near the river on the north towards Omdurman. The squadron going west
soon reached South Kerreri hill, and reported that the enemy were
still in camp. It was early, and not clear daylight, and the distance
to the Khalifa's encampment was greater from South Kerreri hill than
that from Jebel Surgham to where the dervishes lay in the bush and
hollows around Wady Shamba. Captain Baring's party, on the other hand,
met with small patrols of the enemy near Jebel Surgham. Turning the
hill at a few minutes past five o'clock, in the yet slanting daylight,
he at once detected that the Khalifa's army, which had apparently been
largely reinforced during the night, was marching forward to attack
us. Gallopers and orderlies came riding back furiously with the news
for the Sirdar. Sir Herbert Kitchener, Major-General Rundle, and the
whole headquarters staff were already mounted. Colonel Broadwood was
despatched to verify the startling report, and to bring in further
particulars. Meantime the preparations on our side for an advance
were suspended, and guns, Maxims, and infantry moved up and wheeled
into positions upon the firing line. Ominous was that silent march of
six paces to their front made by the British infantry to get close to
the zereba and the clearing for action of Maxims and cannon, and the
examining of the breeches of the Lee-Metfords. For the first time the
magazines were to be used. The Khedivial soldiers swarmed into their
trenches. Anon, the Tommy Atkinses were ordered to lie down behind
their hedge of cut mimosa to rest and wait. From a little distance, no
doubt, our camp looked silent, deserted, and as void of danger as any
other part of the plain. Standing a few yards behind each command were
placed in reserve sometimes two, sometimes three companies, which had
been withdrawn from the battalion on their immediate front. These
reserves were to fill gaps or stiffen the firing line, should it be
too closely pressed. With the companies in reserve were the stretchers
and bearers. A little farther back was the British divisional field
hospital, planted in a congeries of native dirt-huts. The scattered
mud-huts within the lines afforded excellent cover to the sick and
wounded, as well as a degree of protection for the camels, horses,
mules, and donkeys picketed near the middle ground of the camp.

Colonel Broadwood returned swiftly with the news that the whole
dervish army was really in motion, and that if it held upon its
apparent course its right wing would pass about 500 yards to the west
of Jebel Surgham. That hill was within easy shelling distance from
the gunboats, and the solitary instance of prudence that the dervishes
had so far shown was to keep far enough inland to render the
assistance of the flotilla of as little help as possible to us. Some
there were who thought that Jebel Surgham should have been made the
central stronghold of our camp, and that the army ought to have slept
behind it on the previous night. The wisdom of that suggestion was
most doubtful. Where we were the gunboats could more easily cover the
whole position.

It was about 5 a.m. when the 21st Lancers started forward to undertake
their daily task of scouting and covering the left flank of the
Sirdar's army. They reached Jebel Surgham a few minutes later and
relieved Captain Baring's squadron, which at once rode away and joined
the remaining squadrons of Egyptian cavalry on South Kerreri hill,
whither Colonel Broadwood had by that time gone with his troopers.
Every inch of Surgham hill and the yellow sand ridges, gravel mounds,
and shallow khors to the south and west of it had been explored by the
Lancers the day before. Riding straight out from the zereba ere the
faintly-glowing dawn had come, I joined the Lancers on Surgham. A
dismounted squadron occupied part of the southern slopes, a troop or
more were on the higher points and summit keeping sharp eyes on the
enemy. Flag-signallers were preparing for work at the place where the
day before helios had been busy flashing news from gunboats and
cavalry to the headquarters. As I climbed the rugged slopes of Jebel
Surgham leading my horse, I heard a mighty rumbling as of tempestuous
rollers and surf bearing down upon a rock-bound shore. When I had gone
but a few strides farther there burst upon my sight a moving,
undulating plain of men, flecked with banners and glistening steel.
Who should count them? They were compact, not to be numbered. Their
front from east to west extended over three miles, a dense mass
flowing towards us. It was a great, deep-bodied flood, rather than an
avalanche, advancing without flurry, solidly, with presage of power.
The sound of their coming grew each instant louder, and became
articulate. It was not alone the reverberation of the tread of horses
and men's feet I heard and seemed to feel as well as hear, but a
voiced continuous shouting and chanting--the dervish invocation and
battle challenge, "Allah el Allah! Rasool Allah el Mahdi!" they
reiterated in vociferous rhymed rising measure, as they swept over the
intervening ground. Their ranks were well kept, the serried lines
marching with military regularity, with swaying of flags and
brandishing of big-bladed, cruel spears and two-edged swords. Emirs
and chiefs on horseback rode in front and along the lines,
gesticulating and marshalling their commands. Mounted Baggara trotted
about along the inner lines of footmen. There were apparently as
before five great divisions in the dervish army. The Khalifa's corps
was near the right centre, with his son, Sheikh Ed Din's division on
his left. The relative positions of the great chiefs were readily
recognisable by their banners, which were carried in the midst of
their chosen body-guards. Khalifa Abdullah's great black banner,
black-lettered with texts from the Koran and the Mahdi's sayings, was
upheld by his Mulazimin. It flew, spread out, flaunting in the wind,
acclaimed by his followers. The flag was about two yards square, and
was supported on a 20-feet bamboo pole, ornamented at top with a
silver bowl and spandrel, as well as a tassel. The force marching with
it must have numbered 20,000 armed men, besides servants and
followers. His son, Osman, known as Sheikh Ed Din, and the nominal
commander-in-chief of the dervish armies, led into battle a division
of the Jehadieh (riflemen) and spearmen, together 15,000 strong. His
force was ranged under blue, green, yellow, and white banners. With
him was Khalil, the second Khalifa, Osman Azrak, Emir Yunis, Abdel
Baki, and other noted chiefs of the Baggara. Yacoub, the notorious
brother of the Khalifa Abdullah, commanded the big column upon his
relative's right hand. Still farther to their right were the divisions
led by Wad Helu and Wad Melik. The joint forces of these twain
probably numbered 12,000 or 14,000 men. Besides the main army there
was a second line, possibly made up from the Omdurman populace, with a
baggage train of camels and donkeys. I found out subsequently that the
enemy were amply provisioned. Camels and donkeys carried water and
grain, mostly dhura, for the Khalifa's army. The dervishes, as a rule,
had their goatskin wallets filled with grain, onions, and a piece of
roasted meat.

The battle of Omdurman began at 5.30 a.m. with a salvo of six guns
from Major Elmslie's battery on the east Nile bank. They were fired
from the 5-inch howitzers, which sent a half-dozen of 50-lb. Lyddite
shells hurtling around the tomb and the Khalifa's quarters. Like a
spouting volcano, clouds of flame, stones, and dust burst from out the
city. The line of strong forts before the town and upon Tuti island
had been silenced by them and the gunboats the previous day. Although
the dervishes had built stout works, and had plenty of cannon and
ammunition, they made a wretchedly bad stand against the gunboats,
injuring none of them. The overpowering weight as well as the accuracy
of our steamers' fire ended the naval part of the battle almost as
soon as it was begun. Quick-firers and Maxims were trained to bear
into the embrasures of the Khalifa's forts. As a consequence, the
enemy's gunners were only able to fire a few wild rounds at the
vessels. Jealous and suspicious of everyone, Abdullah left his arsenal
full of unemployed batteries, Krupps, and machine guns, and only took
three of either of the latter weapons with him into the field against
us. After the labour too of taking them there, he made but little use
of them. As I learned, the Greeks, some thirty-five, and all
able-bodied men, had to march out of Omdurman and follow the Khalifa
to battle. I by no means, I think, over-estimate the enemy's numbers
when I state that there were 50,000 dervishes of sorts who advanced
against us, sworn to leave not a single soul alive in the Sirdar's
army. Abdullah, professedly sanguine of success, had bade the mollahs
and others attend him at noon prayers in the mosque and Mahdi's tomb,
where he would go to worship immediately after his victory. He had
returned into town, and spent part of the night of 1st and 2nd
September in his own house.

[Illustration: BATTLE OF OMDURMAN--ZEREBA ACTION.]

The gunboats, which had gone on that morning, joined in the renewed
bombardment of Omdurman, begun by Major Elmslie. But it was only for a
short space, for the Sirdar recalled the steamers by signal to assist
in repelling the attack when it was seen the Khalifa meant giving
battle. Three squadrons of Lancers halted on the northern side of
Jebel Surgham. A troop of them pushed on to the sandy ridges
south-west of Surgham hill. Part of them dismounted, and with much
hardihood began firing at about 1000 yards' range at the oncoming
dervishes. It was as if a few men afoot were seeking to interpose to
hold back the invading ocean. Instantly dervish riflemen and horsemen
shot out from the Khalifa's lines and came streaming to engage the
handful of troopers. The skirmishing Lancers desisted, mounted, and
rode back to their main body. Of those of the Lancers who stood it out
longest were the groups upon the top of Surgham and upon its eastern
side. Colonel Martin got his four squadrons together as the dervishes
drew in towards him. The enemy's right was now thrown forward, facing
straight for the angle of the camp where the British division stood.
At a swinging gait came the vast army of Mahdism. I was still near
Surgham and believed that I could discern the Khalifa himself in the
centre of a jostling, excited throng of footmen and horsemen. He was
seated upon a richly caparisoned Arab steed, guarded on all sides by
stalwart natives armed with rifles and swords. A troop of mounted
Emirs in front and a big retinue of Baggara and other chiefs on
horseback riding behind surely proclaimed him to be Abdullah, the
Mahdi's successor. Far before him was borne his terrible black banner.
Around him religious dervishes screamed, gesticulated, and shouted
"Allah's" name, confident that they had come out to see the
annihilation of the invading infidels. Had it not been long foretold
that the victorious battle would be fought at Kerreri, which ever
after should be known among the faithful as "the death-field of the
infidels"? Were not the white stones there already to mark our graves?
I was fortunate to be able to scan the nearest of the dervish columns,
from a distance of but 800 yards. The battle was about to open in
fierce earnest. Away went the Lancers at the gallop, back to the
zereba, but, edging towards the river, to clear our infantry's front
and line of fire. It was around the left of the 2nd battalion of the
Rifle Brigade that the troopers passed in. I took a somewhat shorter,
hasty cut, entering the zereba near where the three batteries stood,
on the British left. Away off upon and under Um Mutragan, the Egyptian
mounted troops, the nine squadrons of cavalry, eight companies of the
Camel Corps, and the horse artillery, all under Colonel Broadwood,
were pluckily endeavouring to tackle the left wing of the Khalifa's
forces. They held on, perhaps, too long; at any rate, until most of
them were in a position of serious danger. As their fight and the more
important general action happened at the same time, I must defer
further description of it for the moment.

It was a magnificent spectacle that rose before the Sirdar's army as
the dervish columns came sweeping into view, filling the landscape
between Surgham and Um Mutragan. In that great multitude were gathered
the fiercest, most sanguinary body of savage warriors the world has
ever held or known. Arabs and blacks, chosen by Abdullah himself,
picked out because of their tried courage, strength, and devotion--the
flower of the fighting Soudan tribes. Under other conditions
Abdullah's army might have matched itself to win against double their
number of any men similarly armed. Fearless of danger, agile yet
strong, each man carried with him into the fight the conviction that
the Khalifa would conquer. A great shout of exultation went up from
the dervish legions when they saw, ranged in the low ground before
them, the Sirdar's, small army, their imagined prey. There was a
mighty waving of banners and flashing of steel when, breaking into a
run, they bent forward to close upon us. The British division rose to
their feet to be ready, and the Khedivial troops closed up their
ranks. There was a murmur of satisfaction from Gatacre's division and
real cries of delight from the black troops on seeing the enemy were
coming to attack. Never was there a grander, more imposing militant
display seen than when the great dervish army rushed to engage,
heedless of life or death. In an instant the Sirdar, who stood near
the right of Wauchope's brigade, passed an order for the three
batteries on the left--Major Williams', Stewart's, de Rougemont's--to
open fire. The guns were laid at 2800 yards, a range the delight of
gunners, and sighted to the west of Surgham, where the black flag and
the largest mass of the enemy were. The hour was 6.35 a.m. Almost at
the first shot the true range was found. Quick as thought thereafter
the eighteen guns on our left began raining fire, iron, and lead upon
the leading and main columns of the enemy. Two batteries to the right
and many of the Maxims added to the fury of the fearful death-dealing
storm bursting over and amongst the dervish ranks. The long 15-pounder
English field cannon hit with the precision of match rifles, and were
discharged as though they had been quick-firing guns. As for the
stinging Maxim-Nordenfeldts, with their big single and bigger double
shells, they bucked and jumped like kicking horses, yet were fired so
fast that the barrels must have been well-nigh red-hot. The air was
torn with hurtling shell at the first awful salvo, when shrapnel burst
in all directions, smiting the dervishes as with Heaven's
thunderbolts, and strewing the ground with maimed and dead. The
leading columns paused as if they had received a shock, or had stopped
to catch breath. Hundreds had been slain in that one discharge, and
the fire was rapidly increasing, not slackening. Disregarding their
dead and wounded, the dervishes closed their ranks as with one accord,
and came on with fresh energy. Their banner-bearers and the Baggara
horsemen pushed to the front, doubtless to further encourage the still
dauntless footmen. Surely there never was wilder courage displayed.
In the face of a fire that mowed down battalions and smashed great
gaps into their columns they flinched not nor turned. Noticing the
enemy's persistency, the Sirdar sent bidding General Lyttelton try
them with long-range volleys from the Lee-Metfords. Major Lord Edward
Cecil took the message, and Lieutenant H. M. Grenfell got the range
from the gunners. The Grenadier Guards, who had the honour of being
the first of our infantry to engage, were ordered to fire section
volleys to their right at the Khalifa's division; the range 2700
yards. Standing up and pointing their rifles over the hedge they
blazed away very steadily at the dervishes. Occasionally they caught
and slew a group, but at that period it was difficult to make out,
even through good field-glasses, whether the infantry fire was really
effective. There was no doubt about what the gunners were doing, for
horses and riders and footmen were bowled over or sank to the ground
as shrapnel and common shell struck their ranks. The artillerymen
invariably trained their weapons to bear upon the front of the densest
of the dervish columns, seeking to pulverise them. As for the
Maxims--and I closely watched the effect of their fire through my
glasses--I am compelled to say that they often failed to settle upon
the swarming foe. At any rate, their effectiveness was not equal to
what might have been expected. Would the Khalifa succeed, in the face
of such an awful cannonade, in reaching the zereba with a corporal's
guard? But after all, it usually takes tons of iron and lead to kill a
man. There was marvellous vitality in the dervish masses. Thousands
were knocked over by the screaming, bursting shells, which made hills
and plain ring with thunderous uproar. But numbers of the apparently
killed were merely wounded, and they speedily rose and truculently
hastened forward anew with their fellow-tribesmen. A diversion that
told momentarily in the enemy's favour occurred. The extreme dervish
right at that moment appeared climbing the slopes of Jebel Surgham.
Emir Melik's wing, hidden from view by that intervening high ground,
had, as it came on, been reinforced by a part of Yacoub's division. By
other accounts Osman Digna, as well, had united forces with Melik.
There suddenly sprang into threatening proximity before us, a force of
at least fifteen odd thousand men, with a wide surf-line of white,
red, and gold lettered banners, less than a mile away. Brandishing
their weapons and shouting "Allah!" down the slopes they ran towards
the zereba. Emirs rode in front, and gaunt, black riflemen sped like
hounds, keeping pace with the horses. The guns of one battery, then
another, and finally all three, upon General Lyttelton's left, were
turned upon them. Maxims also were swung round, and the long-distance
volleys were dropped for shorter ranges. The dervish main columns
which had got shelter in low khors re-appeared, and without pause
joined in the hot rush for our zereba. Our elated foemen evidently
thought they would at last be able to close with us. In their
ignorance they reckoned not with the accuracy and discipline of the
British infantry fire. Nor had they then learned to dread the
terrible bullets of our men's Lee-Metford rifles. Later in the day, as
well as on the following one, I heard many expressions of regret from
wounded and unwounded dervishes that they were so mad as to charge the
white soldiers, whose bullets rarely missed. The light was good, the
hour about 7 a.m., and the ranges shifted rapidly from 1700 yards to
1500 yards, 1200 yards down to 1000 yards. Guns, Maxims, and rifles
were blazing in fullest fury at the enemy, as, in their heroic effort,
they sought to charge home upon us. From wing to wing Gatacre's
division was firing sharply, a blaze of flame, section volleys and
independently. The Grenadier Guardsmen's shooting was noted as
conspicuously steady and deadly effective. Except the two companies of
the Rifles on the left, who, owing to the nature of the ground on
their front, could do little, the British infantry were hotly
occupied. Rifles became too warm to be held, and were in some cases
changed for those of rear-rank men's. In one or two instances the
reserves closed up, to give every soldier an opportunity of being
actually engaged. They took the place of sections in the firing lines,
whilst their comrades fell back and refilled their cartridge pouches.
The Lancers sent forward a dismounted squadron or two which filled the
gap between the zereba and the Nile, whilst the gunboats "Melik" and
"Sultan" moved in and took part in that stage of the battle. And still
the dervishes got nearer, swinging up their left, for their right was
now fairly held by the British fire. Colonels Maxwell's and Lewis's
brigades had to address themselves to the task of checking the
Khalifa's attack. Colonel Long had so disposed the cannon and Maxims
that the guns rendered invaluable help. At that period the main body
of the dervishes moved forward more carefully, taking cover and
evidently watching the issue of Yacoub's and Wad Melik's assaulting
columns.

The army of white flags, led by Yacoub and Wad Melik, exhibited dash,
courage, and persistence. Never was a column of men so hammered and
mutilated and probably so surprised. They were torn and thrown about
as puppets before the hurricane of shell fire, and laid in windrows
like cut grain before the hail of the Lee-Metfords. Twelve hundred
short yards away, Surgham's bare slopes were being literally covered
with corpses and writhing wounded. In sheer blundering brutishness,
the ferocious dervishes tried to stem the storm. Wave followed wave of
men, they surged together, inviting greater disaster, but always
striving to get nearer us. Their front had covered the whole slopes of
Jebel Surgham and their left overlapped part of the Khalifa's right.
Death was reaping a gigantic harvest. Hecatombs of slain were being
spread everywhere in front. The fight was terrible, the slaughter
dreadful. So far we had scarcely suffered loss, only a few of the
enemy's riflemen having paused and thought of firing at us. Muskets
they had discharged in the air, after their manner, when advancing
from their encampment. But that is one of their customs, employed to
work up a proper warlike ardour. Viewed from our side, it had been so
far the least dangerous battle ever soldier bore part in. For five,
ten minutes, less or more--the drama being enacted was too fearful and
fascinating for one to take note of time--Yacoub and his legions still
strove to breast the whirlwind of destruction involving them.
Battered, torn, rent into groups, the survivors at length began to
move off rapidly across our front, to their left. As yet there was no
running away, they were but changing direction and massing at another
point. With, if possible, swifter, deadlier fire they were followed
and driven. Maxims, Lee-Metfords, and Martini-Henrys from Maxwell's
brigade shattered the loose and weakened dervish columns. The few
rounds fired back at us by the enemy from their Krupp gun and rifled
cannon, which were stationed near the Khalifa's banner during the
first part of the action, did no harm. In fact, their shells burst two
or three hundred yards short of the zereba. At first they were
mistaken for badly-aimed shells fired by the gunboats, from which a
few pitched near us, or by the batteries upon our left. For a moment
the Sirdar was wroth at what was fancied to be our gunners' blundering
practice. It was quickly discovered, however, that the particular
shells in question were aimed by the dervishes. Very soon,--whether
settled by our guns, our Maxims, or by infantry volleys, I know
not,--the dervish cannon and their foolish efforts to shell our lines
troubled us no more. We knew afterwards that they had also got one of
their 5-barrelled Nordenfeldts to work for a while. Nobody in our
ranks, I think, was actually aware of the fact at the time, so
indifferent was the aiming and so bad the handling of the gun.

Still, the crucial stage of the first action was not over. The Sheikh
Ed Din had driven the Egyptian cavalry and Camel Corps from Um
Mutragan, inflicting loss upon them and getting temporary possession
of several guns of the horse battery. He was following them up
vigorously, and the Camel Corps, protected by the gunboats' fire, was
seeking shelter near the river and close to the north end of the
zereba, where it luckily succeeded in getting. It was after seven
a.m., and Colonel Broadwood's troopers were trying to shake off
flanking parties of the enemy as they rode to the north, towards our
previous camp. Our batteries were still pounding the Khalifa's main
body, which had got to within 1400 yards of the south-western angle of
the zereba. Wavering, and driven before the murderous tornado of
exploding bombs and pitiless lead, they too swung round and made for
cover beyond range, flying towards the west and slightly to the rear.
Yacoub and Melik followed the black flag in the same direction, and
the dervish left wing edged off to Um Mutragan. They had come, first
of all, direct, as if intending to assault the western angles of the
zereba. Then Yacoub and Melik had led them to the right, so that they
covered Surgham and came on in front of the British division. Blindly
they had stumbled into the impassable fire from the south face of our
lines and ultimately relinquishing the task had hastened, as I have
stated, across our front towards their main body. The guns and Maxims
withal of Wauchope's and Maxwell's infantry, must have weakened the
hope in the Khalifa's breast of closing with us. Although the range
was longer, the central columns had been subjected to almost as
destructive a cannonading as the dervishes on Surgham's slopes got. So
far it had been a gunner's day, and to the artillery in the
preliminary stages, if not--with one exception--in the later, belonged
the full honours of the fight. At length with one mind, banner-bearers
and all, swiftly the dervish columns, remaining intact, faced to the
left, and moved behind the western hills. There was a pause, a respite
for some minutes, which their jehadieh and others left upon the field
of battle profited by to crawl upon their stomachs to within 800 yards
less or more of the zereba, and open a sharp rifle fire upon us.
Volley firing and shell firing dislodged many of them, but others kept
potting away, increasing our casualty returns, particularly in the
1st, or Wauchope's brigade. Just then the battle broke out with
greater fury than ever. What happened in the dervish army may be
guessed. Out of immediate danger and re-formed, the Khalifa and Yacoub
determined upon a second attack. With a rush like a mountain torrent
three columns spouted from shallow ravines, and at a break-neck run
came forward. Part of Wad Melik's men uprose from the west sides of
Surgham, the Khalifa and Yacoub came upon us from the south-west, and
a smaller body from the west. In half delirium and full frenzy on
rushed the dervishes. Our guns, knowing the range to a nicety--for
they were able to see landmarks put down the day before--hurled at
them avalanches of shell. The vivid air blazed and shook, and the
hail of Lee-Metfords cut, like mighty scythes, lanes in the columns
massed ten-deep. Greater resolution and bravery no men ever possessed.
In face of destruction and death they continued their wild race. But
they were thinning or being thinned as they drew nearer. When about
1100 yards away a body of horsemen, two hundred or so, the Khalifa's
own tribesmen, Taaisha Baggara, chiefs and Emirs, setting spurs to
their horses charged direct for the zereba. Cannon and Maxims smashed
them, infantry bullets beat against and pierced through them. At every
stride their numbers diminished, horses and riders being literally
blown over or cut and thrown down. Undaunted a remnant held on to
within two or three hundred yards of Colonel Maxwell's line, where the
last of the gallant foemen tumbled and bit the dust. Partly encouraged
by the self-sacrificing devotion of the horsemen, the footmen
followed. The black flag was carried to within 900 yards of Colonel
Maxwell's left. Learning from their earlier failure, the Khalifa's men
directed their attack upon the Egyptian troops. But the British
division's cross-fire smote them, and the guns and Maxims knocked all
cohesion out of their ranks. Still defiantly they set their standards
and died around them. Then I noted there were again signs of wavering
amongst the main body, who were hanging back. The big black flag was
stuck in a heap of stones, and the more devoted sought to rally there.
Abdullah himself and his chiefs endeavoured to collect the broken
columns. It was attempted in the face of a bombardment that would have
shaken a city, and a fusilade that ought to have mown down every
blade of halfa-grass near. But Maxwell's men seemed not quite to get
the range. The flag and flagstaff were riddled with bullet holes, and
the dead were being piled around. Still, dervish after dervish sprang
to uphold the black banner of Mahdism. A herculean black grasped the
staff in one hand, and leaned negligently against it for what appeared
to be the space of five or ten minutes,--probably less than one
minute,--ere the soldiers managed to give him his final quietus. Then
it was that the remnant of the army of the Khalifa began to melt away.
It was more than human nature could bear. The dense columns had shrunk
to companies, the companies to driblets, which finally fled westward
to the hills, leaving the field white with jibbeh-clad corpses like a
landscape dotted with snowdrifts.

It was about eight o'clock, and the first action was virtually over
and won. Good fortune, as the Sirdar admitted, had in many respects
attended him. With a trifling loss of a few hundred men he had
discomfited and slain 10,000 of the great dervish army. Presumably,
Abdullah had lost the flower of his brave and devoted troops. There
were yet a thousand or more of Jehadieh lying about under cover
potting at the zereba. Many of them shammed being wounded to get
closer to us. Sharp volleys and more shell-fire duly disposed of those
determined snipers. It was from that source, during the critical
stages of the battle when the infantry were stopping the Khalifa's
columns, that our chief casualties occurred. Some of these
sharpshooters crept to within 800 yards of the British lines, and up
to 400 yards from Maxwell's. It was from them that Captain Caldecott
received his death-wound and the Cameron losses came. I could not but
observe the fact, as I walked and rode about behind the firing lines
during the action. Still, the battle of Omdurman has the right to be
considered from the victor's point of view the safest action ever
fought. The Warwick loss in the first action was one officer killed
and two men wounded; the Camerons, one man killed and two officers and
eighteen men wounded--Colonel Money had two horses shot under him, as
at the Atbara; the Seaforths had eighteen men wounded; and the
Lincolns ten men wounded. In General Lyttelton's brigade the Grenadier
Guards had one officer, Captain Bagshot, and four men wounded; the
Northumberland Fusiliers had but one man wounded; the Lancashire
Fusiliers four men wounded; and the Rifles six men wounded.



CHAPTER XI.

THE BATTLE OF OMDURMAN--_Continued._

THE CAVALRY FIGHTS--MACDONALD'S SAVING ACTION.


Before I deal with the second phase of the battle, there is something
more to be said of the first. So far I have but written of the
infantry and the artillery. It is no easy task to give a succinct
account of a whole catalogue of events happening at the same time over
so widespread a field. The battle of Omdurman was full of incident and
of Homeric combats. Whilst we in the zereba were awaiting, ready and
confident of the issue, the oncoming of the enemy, the two regiments
of Egyptian cavalry and the Camel Corps, which had advanced on the
right to Um Mutragan hills,--South Kerreri jebels,--like the 21st
Lancers at El Surgham on the left were opposing the dervish advance.
Their orders were to check the dervish left. The nine squadrons of
troopers with Colonel Broadwood remained on the plain, but the Camel
Corps, seven companies, with four Maxims, and the horse battery went
up the west shoulder of one of the Um Mutragan hills. As the dervishes
were advancing very rapidly, the four Maxims under Captain Franks
were recalled into the zereba before they had fired a shot, or ere
the mounted troops got into action. Three dismounted squadrons of
Egyptian troopers thereupon went forward and temporarily occupied the
position which had been assigned to the Maxims. The Camel Corps were
already afoot, and had lined the crest and slopes of the hill, waiting
to fire as soon as the Mahdists came within range. When the big
columns of the dervishes, led by the Sheikh Ed Din, Khalifa Khalil and
Ali Wad Helu, approached nearer, Major Young's horse battery of six
guns began shelling them at 1500 yards range. The Camel Corps then
opened a sharp fusilade, and within a few minutes a brisk fight was
going on. But the enemy neither halted nor stayed in face of the fire.
It only served to quicken their pace, and they ran forward shooting
rapidly the while. An order was sent to the Camel Corps to retire at
once, as the dervishes were seen to be trying to cut them off by
advancing on both sides of the hill. Before the order carried by
Lieutenant Lord Tullibardine actually reached them, they had suffered
severely and were falling back. A large number of men and camels had
been hit. The cavalry endeavoured to relieve the pressure. Ultimately,
though hotly pressed by the dervishes who got to within a few hundred
yards, the Horse Artillery and the Camel Corps took up a second
position upon a ridge fully half a mile to the rear. From the zereba
we could see that the mounted troops were being hurried, and that the
action taking place was an exceedingly sharp one. In fact, before the
guns and the Camel Corps got into position upon the second ridge, the
dervishes were firing at them from the summit and slopes of Um
Mutragan. Major Young had only fired a round or two from his guns when
the enemy were but 600 yards off. The dervishes were swarming along
the eastern sides of Um Mutragan, running direct for the guns and the
Camel Corps. Colonel Broadwood formed his cavalry up to charge, and
Major Mahan led his regiment of "Gippy" troopers forward. But a
detachment of the Camel Corps under Captain Hopkinson pluckily stood
their ground, covering the retirement of their comrades and the
batteries down the very rough slope. Unfortunately, Captain Hopkinson
was severely wounded, and a native officer and a number of men were
killed. Falling back along the east and north sides of the hill the
force was sorely pressed by the enemy, and a series of brave and
bristling hand-to-hand encounters took place. Near the crest of a
hill, one of the "wheelers" of the horse battery was shot. The traces
could not be cut in time, so the gun had to be abandoned. At the
critical moment another gun collided with it, and was upset beside the
first, so both pieces, with, later on, a third, fell temporarily into
the dervishes' hands. They did nothing with them. Colonel Broadwood,
on finding the enemy pushing so determinedly, as though they had
struck the whole of the Sirdar's army, directed the Camel Corps to
retire to the zereba. Luckily, two of the gunboats, getting sight and
range of the eager dervishes who were hunting the camelmen, began
firing with every piece of armament they could bring to bear. I
assume they saved the situation, for the Camel Corps were hard
pressed, and lost eighty men before they got to the river and into a
safe position under the shelter of the gunboats and Macdonald's
brigade, which was at the north end of the zereba. The myth of a Camel
Corps as a useful fighting unit had been exploded. Meantime, Colonel
Broadwood's troopers rode away to the north, trying to shake off
outflanking parties of dervishes. The Sheikh Ed Din and Khalil
continued to pursue the cavalry with great eagerness and venom.
Several times bodies of 200 and 300 Baggara horsemen threatened to
charge, but Majors Mahan and Le Gallias turning upon these riders sent
them flying back helter-skelter. For five miles the cavalry was, so to
speak, driven from pillar to post by the dervish infantry. When the
pursuit had been pressed four miles, and more, north of the zereba,
Major Mahan succeeded in clearing the flanks, whereupon the dervishes
gave up the chase and sat down to rest. One advantage came of the
hot-headed pursuit; it led two columns of the enemy away, and only a
portion of those dervish commands got back in time to engage in the
assault upon the zereba.

When the Khalifa Abdullah, who escaped being killed, retired with his
shattered army after their futile attack behind the western hills a
little south of Um Mutragan, it was thought that the fighting spirit
had been knocked out of the enemy. There was no assurance that if the
Sirdar and his men followed after the Khalifa the dervishes would risk
a second battle. They had the legs of us, and would presumably use
them to run away, or to harass us if we went after them into the
wilderness. Discreetly and shrewdly the Sirdar decided to march his
army straight into Omdurman, but six miles distant. We were able to
move upon inside lines and over open ground, so that if the Khalifa
meant to race us for the place he would have to fight at a
disadvantage. The command was issued about 8.30 to prepare to march
out of camp for Omdurman. Our wounded, who had been borne from the
field on stretchers, were put upon the floating hospitals. Colonel
Collinson's brigade was told off to guard stores and material to be
left behind for a time. Ammunition was drawn from the reserve stores
afloat, and the supply columns' boxes were refilled, as well as the
battery limbers and the men's pouches. The army was again equipped for
action as though it had not fired a shot. Camels were reloaded, and
all was in readiness for a start. We could see bodies of the enemy
still flaunting their banners, and watching our every movement from
the western hills. Wounded dervishes were crawling and dragging
wearily back from their fated field towards Omdurman. There was the
occasional crack of a rifle as some dervish sniped us, or invited a
shot from the Egyptian battalions. Many of our black soldiers actually
wept with vexation on being withdrawn from the firing line to make
room for guns and Maxims. One man, who declared he had not fired a
shot, was only comforted on being assured that the battle was not
altogether over, that his chance would come later.

I think it was about 9 a.m. when the Sirdar's army, re-formed for
marching, stepped clear of the zereba and the trenches. The order of
advance for the infantry was as before, in échelon of brigades, the
British being on the left and in front. Lyttelton's 2nd brigade was
leading, Wauchope's was behind it. On the right were Maxwell's and
Lewis's brigades. Macdonald was to look after our extreme right rear
flank, whilst Collinson followed in the gap nearer the river.
Lyttelton's brigade was directed to pass to the left, east of Jebel
Surgham, Maxwell's left was to extend to and pass over the hill,
whilst Lewis and Macdonald would sweep part of the valley between
Surgham and South Kerreri. Such was the general direction to be taken,
exposing a front measured on the bias, of fully one mile. Once more
the 21st Lancers trotted out towards Jebel Surgham to make sure there
were no large bodies of the enemy in hiding. Keeping somewhat closer
to the river than previously, and avoiding the main field of battle,
they passed to the east of the hill. Part of their duty was to check,
if possible, any attempt of the enemy to fall back into Omdurman, or
at least delay such an operation. Great numbers of scattered dervishes
were seen, some of whom fired at the troopers. Keeping on until about
half a mile or more south of Surgham, a small party of dervish
cavalry, about thirty, and what was thought to be a few footmen, were
seen hiding in a depression or khor. Colonel Martin determined to push
the party back and interpose his regiment between them and Omdurman. A
few spattering shots came from the khor, as the four squadrons formed
in line to charge. "A" squadron, under Major Finn, was on the
right, next it was "B" squadron, commanded by Major Fowle. On the left
of "B" was "D," or the made-up squadron, led by Captain Eadon, and "C"
squadron, under Captain Doyne, was on the extreme left.

[Illustration: A.

GENERAL VIEW PLAN.

MACDONALD'S FIGHT AND 21ST LANCERS' CHARGE.]

Leading the regiment forward at a gallop from a point 300 yards away,
the Lancers dashed at the enemy, who at once opened a sharp musketry
fire upon our troopers. A few casualties occurred before the dervishes
were reached, but the squadrons closed in and setting the spurs into
their horses rushed headlong for the enemy. In an instant it was seen
that, instead of 200 men, the 21st had been called upon to charge
nearly 1500 fierce Mahdists lying concealed in a narrow, but in places
deep and rugged, khor. In corners the enemy were packed nearly fifteen
deep. Down a three-foot drop went the Lancers. There was a moment or
so of wild work, thrusting of steel, lance, and sword, and rapid
revolver shooting. Somehow the regiment struggled through, and up the
bank on the south side. Nigh a score of lances had been left in
dervish bodies, some broken, others intact. Lieutenant Wormwald made a
point at a fleeing Baggara, but his sabre bent and had to be laid
aside. Captain Fair's sword snapped over dervish steel, and he flung
the hilt in his opponent's face. Major Finn used his revolver, missing
but two out of six shots. Colonel Martin rode clean through without a
weapon in his hand. Then the regiment rallied 200 yards beyond the
slope. Probably 80 dervishes had been cut or knocked down by the
shock. But the few seconds' bloody work had been almost equally
disastrous for the Lancers. Lieutenant R. Grenfell and fifteen men had
been left dead in the khor. It so happened that the squadrons on the
two wings had comparatively easy going and did not strike the densest
groups of the enemy. Squadrons "D" and "B" fared badly, and
particularly Lieutenant Grenfell's troop, of whom ten men fell with
that officer. In their front was a high rough bank of boulders, almost
impassable for a horse. They were cut down and hacked by the enemy.
His brother, Lieutenant H. M. Grenfell, subsequently recovered his
watch, which had been thrust through by a dervish lance point and had
stopped at 8.40 a.m. Young Robert Grenfell was probably struck from
behind with a Mahdist sword blade, and killed instantly as his charger
was endeavouring to scramble up the wall of loose stones and rock.
Melées were taking place to right and left, every trooper having any
difficulty in getting out of the khor being instantly surrounded by
mounted dervishes and footmen. Lieutenant Nesham in leading his troop
was savagely attacked. His helmet was cut off his head, and he was
wounded severely upon the left forearm and right leg. The bridle reins
of his charger were cut, but he piloted the animal safely through. "B"
and "D" squadrons lost respectively nine killed and eleven wounded,
and seven killed and eight wounded. Lieutenant Molyneux, R.H.G., had
his horse knocked over. He called to a trooper not to leave him, and
the man replied, "All right, sir, I won't leave you." Together they
had a busy time. Two dervishes attacked the lieutenant; he shot one,
but the other cut him over the right arm, causing him to drop his
revolver. He then ran for it and got away. Lieutenants Brinton and
Pirie received wounds. Private Ives of "A" squadron picked up a
wounded comrade in the nullah, and got chased and separated from his
regiment. He reached the infantry covered with his comrade's blood.
The latter was killed, but Ives was not seriously hurt.

Lieutenant Montmorency, having got through safely, turned back to look
for his troop-sergeant Carter. Captain Kenna went with him. At the
moment they were not aware that young Grenfell had fallen. Lieutenants
T. Connally and Winston Churchill also turned about to rescue two
non-commissioned officers of their respective troops. They succeeded
in their laudable task. Surgeon-Captain Pinches, whose horse had been
shot under him on the north side of the khor, was saved by the pluck
of his orderly, Private Peddar, who brought him out on his horse.
Meanwhile, Captain Kenna and Lieutenant Montmorency, who were
accompanied by Corporal Swarbrick, saw Lieutenant Grenfell's body and
tried to recover it. They fired at the dervishes with their revolvers,
and drove them back. Dismounting, Montmorency and Kenna tried to lift
the body upon the lieutenant's horse. Unluckily, the animal took
fright and bolted. Swarbrick went after it. Major Wyndham, the second
in command of the Lancers, had his horse shot in the khor. He was one
of the few who escaped after such a calamity. The animal fortunately
carried him across, up, and beyond the slope ere it dropped down
dead. Lieutenant Smith, who was near, offered him a seat, and the
Major grasped the stirrup to mount. Just then--for these events have
taken longer in telling than in happening--Montmorency and Kenna found
the dervishes pressing them hard, both being in instant danger of
being killed. Swarbrick had brought back the horse, and Kenna turned
to Major Wyndham and gave him a seat behind, then leaving Grenfell's
body they rejoined their command. Proceeding about 300 yards to the
south-east from the scene of the charge, Colonel Martin dismounted his
whole regiment, and opened fire upon the dervishes. Getting into
position where his men could fire down the khor, a detachment of
troopers soon drove away the last of the enemy. Thereupon a party
advanced and recovered the bodies of Lieutenant Grenfell and the
others who had fallen in the khor.

[Illustration: B.

THE ZAREBA BEFORE THE BATTLE.]

It was a daring, a great feat of arms for a weakened regiment of 320
men to charge in line through a compact body of 1500 dervish footmen,
packed in a natural earthwork. Perhaps it is even a more remarkable
feat that they were able to cut their way through with only a loss of
22 killed and 50 officers and men wounded and 119 casualties in
horseflesh. Many of the poor beasts only lived long enough to carry
their riders out of the jaws of death. One cannot refuse to admire the
gallant deed, which probably had as good an effect upon the enemy as a
bigger victory of our arms; but the obvious comment will be that made
about the Balaclava charge--equally heroic, and not, I honestly think,
less useful--"C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre." On
searching the ground inside the khor sixty dead dervishes were found
where the central squadrons passed over. A small heap lay around
Lieutenant Grenfell and his troop. Four of our men were found alive,
but died before they could be moved. A sword-cut had cleft young
Grenfell's head and given him a painless death. The bodies were, as
usual, full of sword-cuts and spear-thrusts inflicted by the enemy
before and after the victims had breathed their last.


EGYPTIAN HEROISM.

[Illustration: MACDONALD'S BRIGADE ADVANCING.]

It is a long tale I am telling, but yet the most brilliant and heroic
episode of a day so full of glowing incident remains to be told. About
9.20 a.m. the Sirdar led his troops slowly forward towards Omdurman.
Great as the slaughter had been, thousands of dervishes could be seen
still watching us from the western hills. Behind them they had
re-formed again into compact divisions. The Sirdar's direction, I have
said, was that his troops were to swing clear of the zereba and march
in échelon with the 2nd British brigade leading Moving out a few
hundred yards, Lyttelton's brigade, which, as before, marched in four
parallel columns of battalions, the Guards on the right, swung to the
left. They were making to pass Surgham, leaving it upon their right.
The 1st British brigade, Major-General Wauchope's, was behind, and had
turned to the left to follow the 2nd brigade. Behind, in succession,
were Maxwell's, Lewis's, and Macdonald's Egyptian or Khedivial
brigades. The nature of the ground forced some of them out of their
true relative positions. Macdonald had marched out due west. The
dervishes, like wolves upon the scent for prey, suddenly sprang from
unexpected lairs. With swifter feet and fiercer courage than ever they
dashed for the comparatively isolated brigade of Colonel Macdonald.
Although I was far away at the moment with the 1st or Lyttelton's
brigade, the shouts, the noise of the descending tornado reached me
there. From behind the southern slope of Um Mutragan hills the Khalifa
was charging Macdonald with an intact column of 12,000 men, the
banner-bearers and mounted Emirs again in the forefront. A broad
stream, running from the south and the east, of dervishes who had lain
hidden sprang up and ran to strike in upon the south-east corner of
Macdonald's brigade. Worse still, Sheikhs Ed Din and Khalifa
Khalil, returned from chasing the Egyptian cavalry, were hastening
with their division at full speed to attack him in rear. Scarcely a
soul in the Sirdar's army, from the leader down, but saw the
unexpected singular peril of the situation. I turned to a friend and
said, "Macdonald is in for a terrible time. Will any get out of it?"
Then I rode at a gallop, disregarding the venomous dervishes hanging
about, up the slopes of Surgham, where, spread like a picture, the
scene lay before me. Prompt in execution, the Sirdar rapidly issued
orders for the artillery and Maxims to open fire upon the Khalifa's
big column. Eagerly he watched the batteries coming into action. At
the same moment the remaining brigades were wheeled to face west, and
Major-General Wauchope's was sent back at the double to help the
staunch battalions of Colonel Macdonald, now beset on all sides.
Fortunately Macdonald knew his men thoroughly, for he had had the
training of all of them, the 9th, 10th, 11th Soudanese, and the 2nd
Egyptians under Major Pink. No force could have been in time to save
them had they not fought and saved themselves. Lewis's brigade was
nearest, but it was almost a mile away, and the dervishes were wont to
move so that ordinary troops seemed to stand still. And Lewis, for
reasons of his own, determined to remain where he was.

[Illustration: SIRDAR DIRECTING ADVANCE ON OMDURMAN.]

[Illustration: C.

PLATE I.

MACDONALD'S BRIGADE.

FIRST ATTACK. KHALIFA'S DIVISION.]

Indecision or flurry would have totally wrecked Macdonald's brigade,
but happily their brigadier well knew his business. An order was sent
him which, had it been obeyed, would have ensured inevitable disaster
to the brigade, if not a catastrophe to the army. He was bade to
retire by, possibly, his division commander. Macdonald knew better
than attempt a retrograde movement in the face of so fleet and daring
a foe. It would have spelled annihilation. The sturdy Highlandman
said, "I'll no do it. I'll see them d----d first. We maun just fight."
And meanwhile Major-General A. Hunter was scurrying to hurry up
reinforcements--a wise measure. Other messages which could not reach
Macdonald in time were being sent to him by the Sirdar to try and hold
on, that help was coming. Yes; but the surging dervish columns were
converging upon the brigade upon three sides. Surely it would be
engulfed and swept away was the fear in most minds. And what other
wreck would follow? Ah! that could wait for answer. It was a crucial
moment. A single Khedivial brigade was going to be tested in a way
from which only British squares had emerged victorious. Most
fortunately, Colonel Long, R.A., had sent three batteries to accompany
Colonel Macdonald's brigade, namely, Peake's, Lawrie's, and de
Rougemont's. The guns were the handy and deadly Maxim-Nordenfeldt
(12½-pounders). Macdonald had marched out with the 11th Soudanese on
his left, the 2nd Egyptian, under Major Pink, in the centre, and the
10th Soudanese on the right, all being in line. Behind the 10th, in
column, were the 9th Soudanese. Major Walter commanded the 9th, Major
Nason the 10th, and Major Jackson the 11th Soudanese battalions. Going
forward to meet the Khalifa's force Colonel Macdonald threw his
whole brigade practically into line, disregarding for the moment the
assaulting columns of Sheikh Ed Din, which providentially were a
little behind in the attack. The batteries went to the front in
openings between the battalions and smote the faces of the dervish
columns. Steadily the infantry fired, the blacks in their own pet
fashion independently, the 2nd Egyptians in careful, well-aimed
volleys. Afar we could see and rejoice that the brigade was giving a
magnificent account of itself. The Khalifa's dervishes were being
hurled broadcast to the ground. Major Williams at last with his
15-pounders, our other batteries, and the Maxims were finding the
range and ripping into shreds the solid lines of dervishes. Still the
enemy pressed on, their footmen reaching to within 200 yards of
Macdonald's line. Scores of Emirs and lesser leaders, with spearmen
and swordsmen, fell only a few feet from the guns and the unshaken
Khedivial infantry. It is said one or two threw spears across the
indomitable soldiery, and other dervishes turned the flanks, but were
instantly despatched. A few salvoes and volleys shook the looser
attacking columns of dervishes. The Khalifa's division had at length
received such a surfeit of withering fire that the rear lines began to
hold back, and the desperate rushes of the chiefs and their personal
retainers grew fewer and feebler. But Sheikh Ed Din was at length
within 1000 yards running with his confident legions to encompass and
destroy the 1st Khedivial brigade. Macdonald, as soon as he saw that
he could hold his own against the whole array of the Khalifa's
personally commanded divisions, threw back his right, the 9th, and one
and then another battery. He was now fairly beset on all sides, but
fighting splendidly, doggedly. The dervishes, taking fresh courage,
made redoubled efforts to destroy him. It was by far the finest, the
most heroic struggle of the day. A second battalion, the famous
fighting 11th Soudanese, under Jackson, which lost so heavily at
Atbara, swung round and interposed itself to Khalil's and Sheikh Ed
Din's fierce followers. Furious as was the blast of lead and iron, the
dervishes had all but forged in between the 9th and 11th battalions,
when the 2nd Egyptian, wheeling at the double, filled the gap. Without
hesitation the fellaheen, let it be said, stood their ground, and,
full of confidence, called to encourage each other, and gave shot and
bayonet point to the few more truculent dervishes who, escaping shot
and shell, dashed against their line.

[Illustration: D.

PLATE II.

MACDONALD'S BRIGADE.

SECOND ATTACK. SHEIKH ED DIN'S MEN.]

It was a tough, protracted struggle, but Colonel Macdonald was slowly,
determinedly, freeing himself and winning all along the line. The
Camel Corps came out to his assistance, and formed up some distance
off on the right of the 11th Soudanese. Shells and showers of bullets
from the Maxims on the gunboats drove back the rear lines of Sheikh Ed
Din's men. Three battalions of Wauchope's got up to assist in
completing the rout of the Khalifa. The Lincolns, doubling to the
right, got in line on the left of the Camel Corps, and assisted in
finishing off the retreating bands of the Khalifa's son. I then saw
the dervishes for the first time in all those years of campaigns
turn tail, stoop, and fairly run for their lives to the shelter of
the hills. It was a devil-take-the-hindmost race, and the only one I
ever saw them engage in through half a score of battles. Beyond all
else the double honours of the day had been won by Colonel Macdonald
and his Khedivial brigade, and that without any help that need be
weighed against the glory of his single-handed triumph. He achieved
the victory entirely off his own bat, so to speak, proving himself a
tactician and a soldier as well as what he has long been known to be,
the bravest of the brave. I but repeat the expressions in everybody's
mouth who saw the wonderful way in which he snatched success from what
looked like certain disaster. The army has a hero and a thorough
soldier in Macdonald, and if the public want either they need seek no
farther. I know that the Sirdar and his staff fully recognised the
nature of the service he rendered. A non-combatant general officer who
witnessed the scene declared one might see 500 battles and never such
another able handling of men in presence of an enemy. When the final
rout of the dervishes had been achieved it was about 10 a.m. The
Sirdar wheeled his brigades to the left, into their original position,
and marched them straightway towards Omdurman. Passing slowly over the
battle-field the awful extent of the carnage was made evident. In my
first wires I insisted that our total casualties were about 500, and
the enemy's over 10,000 slain. Macdonald lost about 128 men. I
subsequently ascertained that the total of our killed and wounded was
about 524. The dervish killed certainly numbered over 15,000, and
their wounded probably as many more. Mahdism had been more than
"smashed," it had been all but extirpated. So may all plagues end.

[Illustration: KHALIFA'S CAPTURED STANDARD (SIRDAR EXTREME LEFT).]

On the march the British troops having to swing aside from where the
Khalifa's black flag still stood, it fell into the hands of an
Egyptian brigade, and was conveyed to the Sirdar by Captain Sir Henry
Rawlinson and Major Lord Edward Cecil. It was given to an Egyptian
orderly to carry behind the headquarters staff. Unfortunately, it
attracted the attention of some of our own people on the gunboats who
were unaware it had been captured. Several rounds were fired at the
supposed dervishes following it, and then it was discreetly furled for
a time. By midday the army had arrived at the northern outskirts of
Omdurman, where the troops were halted near the Nile to obtain food
and water. I rode forward and saw that there were thousands of
dervishes in the town, many of them Baggara. The cavalry were sent as
speedily as possible, after watering and feeding the horses, towards
the south side of the town, and the gunboats were ordered up the
river. Several deputations of citizens, Greeks and natives, came out
and saw Slatin Pasha and the Sirdar. It was stated that the people
would surrender, and that there would be no difficulty in occupying
the place. The Khalifa, it was said, was in his house and must yield.
Slatin Pasha, by the way, had gone over the battle-field and
identified many of the slain Emirs. At 4.20 p.m., with two batteries,
several Maxims and Colonel Maxwell's brigade leading, the Sirdar rode
down the great north thoroughfare towards the central part of the
squalid town. The houses, or more accurately huts, were full of
dervishes, hundreds of whom were severely wounded. Women and children
flocked into the streets, raising cries of welcome to us. Of all the
vile, dirty places on earth, Omdurman must rank first. There was no
effort at sanitary observances, and dead animals, camels, horses,
donkeys, dogs, goats, sheep, cattle, in all stages of putrefaction,
lay about the streets and lanes. There were dead men, women, and
children, too, lying in the open.

[Illustration: CHIEF THOROUGHFARE, OMDURMAN.

(MULAZIM WALL, LEFT. OSMAN DIGNA'S HOUSE, RIGHT.)]

[Illustration: EFFECT OF SHELL FIRE UPON WALL (MULAZIM ENCLOSURE).]

We passed the big rectangular stone wall enclosing the Khalifa's
special quarters. Within its area were his Mulazimin or body-guards'
quarters, his granaries, treasuries, arsenal, the Mahdi's tomb, and
the great praying square, misnamed the Mosque. Except the tomb, the
Khalifa's and his sons' houses, the town was void of buildings of any
style or finish. I admit the great stone wall was of good masonry, and
so was the well-finished praying-square wall. The Sirdar and party
were frequently shot at, particularly on nearing the Khalifa's
quarters. Abdullah slipped out with his treasures as the Sirdar
arrived at his gate. It was long after sunset and dark when, with
difficulty, the prison was reached, and Charles Neufeld brought out
of his loathsome den, where he had spent eleven years in chains. He
looked well, notwithstanding his long and irksome captivity, feeling,
as he said, like a man drunk with new wine, on account of his release.
That night I helped to relieve him from his fetters, freeing the limbs
from the heavy bar and chains. Tired, worn out, without water or food,
the Sirdar and his staff, as well as many more of us, were glad to
escape out of Omdurman back to where the British camp was pitched in
the northern outskirts. There I and others lay down and fell asleep on
the bare desert, hoping to wake and find that our servants and
baggage had turned up. Two of my colleagues had fared worse than I
that day. Colonel F. Rhodes, of the _Times_, had been shot in the
shoulder within the zereba early in the fight, and the Hon. Hubert
Howard, of the _New York Herald_, was killed almost under my eyes, in
the paved courtyard of the Khalifa, opposite the Mahdi's tomb. Such is
the hasty record of as exciting and interesting a battle and a day's
campaigning as it ever fell to mortal man to witness. Neither in my
experience nor in my reading can I recall so strange and picturesque a
series of incidents happening within the brief period of twelve
hours.



CHAPTER XII.

STORIES OF THE BATTLE--OMDURMAN.


There are numberless incidents and details remaining untold of the
great battle and the fall of Omdurman. So singular and interesting an
action is almost without parallel. "That villainous gunpowder" of
former days was so sparingly used in the fight by the Sirdar's army
that every part of the battle-field could be plainly seen. In the
first stage the heaviest firing was by the British; the Lee-Metfords
with cordite made little or no smoke. Maxwell's men of the Khedivial
army, with their Martini-Henrys, never fired so fast as to cause any
thick white cloud to shut out the view and hang between them and the
enemy. Lewis's and Macdonald's brigades were never very heavily
engaged whilst the troops remained zerebaed. Perhaps it was the light
south wind which blew the men's rifle smoke behind us at once, but
that was not what I thought. There seemed to be none to blow away. I
recall that in the thick of the battle of Tamai with Davis's square,
and at Abu Klea, the smoke cloud that hung like a curtain before our
eyes was a source of danger. Save for the erratic, occasional whizzing
of the enemy's bullets, the thud of a hit and the dropping, weltering
in his blood, of a man here and there, watched from our firing lines
the combat enlisted and fascinated the attention with barely a
suggestion of danger to the onlooker. Few will ever see again so great
and brave a show. A vast army, with a front of three miles, covering
an undulating plain--warriors mounted and afoot, clad in quaint and
picturesque drapery, with gorgeous barbaric display of banners,
burnished metal, and sheen of steel--came sweeping upon us with the
speed of cavalry. Half-a-dozen batteries smote them, a score of Maxims
and 10,000 rifles unceasingly buffeted them, making great gaps and
rending their ranks in all directions. With magnificent courage,
without pause, the survivors invariably drew together, furiously,
frenziedly running to cross steel with us. Their ardour and mad
devotion won admiration on all sides in our own ranks. Poor, misguided
Jehadieh and hocussed Arabs of the spacious and cruel Soudan! With
such troops disciplined and trained by English officers the policing
of Africa would be an easy affair. Try and try as they did, they could
not moving openly pass through our blasts of fire. Some few there were
who got by subtler means to within 600 yards of the British front and
200 yards from Maxwell's blacks, there to yield their lives.

Among the earliest, if not the first man, wounded in the zereba on 2nd
September was Corporal Mackenzie, of "C" Company Seaforth Highlanders.
About 6.10 a.m. he was hit in the leg by a ricochet. The wound was
dressed, and Mackenzie stuck to his post. At 6.30 a.m., when the
action was almost in full swing, as Private Davis and Corporal Taylor,
R.A.M.C., were carrying a wounded soldier upon a stretcher to the
dressing hospital, Davis was shot through the head and killed, and
Taylor was severely wounded in the shoulder.

Whilst our batteries were hurling death and destruction from the
zereba at the Khalifa's army, Major Elmslie's battery of 50-pounder
howitzers was battering the Mahdi's tomb to pieces and breaching the
great stone wall in Omdurman. The practice with the terrible Lyddite
shells was better than before, and the dervishes, even more clearly
than we, must have seen from the volcanic upheavals when the missiles
struck, that their capital was being wrecked. It must have been
something of a disillusion to many of them to note that the sacred
tomb of their Mahdi was suffering most of all from the infidels' fire.
Several of the gunboats assisted in the bombardment, but their chief
duty was to drive all bodies of the enemy away from the river. Major
Elmslie threw altogether some 410 Lyddite shells into Omdurman. Most
of them detonated, but there were a few that merely flared. It was the
fumes from these that imparted a chrome colour to the surrounding
earth and stonework. Why the Khalifa did not make greater use of his
artillery and musketry became more of a puzzle than ever when we saw
how well provided he was in both respects. He had a battery of
excellent big Krupps that were never fired, besides eight or ten
machine guns. As for rifles, his men must have carried at least 25,000
into action against us. Had they employed these in "sniping" as at
Abu Kru, the Sirdar would have had to march out and attack them.

The victory of Omdurman owed much to the masterly serving of the
artillery. Even in Macdonald's severely contested action, the three
batteries of Maxim-Nordenfeldt 12½-pounders did much to save the
situation. These were Peake's, Lawrie's, and de Rougemont's, with, in
the latter part of the fight, three Krupp guns of the horse artillery.
The Camel Corps also brought up two Maxims to help at the close of the
battle to repulse Sheikh Ed Din. Macdonald handled his guns as
superbly as he did his infantry. At the Atbara against Mahmoud, the
light powerful Maxim-Nordenfeldts had proved that they could be
successfully fought side by side with infantry. Between the battalion
intervals, therefore, the dauntless gunners stood firing point-blank
at the dervish columns. Throughout the battle Major Williams' 32nd
Field Battery, R.A., fired 420 rounds. Three of the Maxim-Nordenfeldt
batteries (all Egyptian) fired 100 rounds per gun, whilst Major
Lawrie's battery, No. 4 Egyptian, also Maxim-Nordenfeldt guns, fired
over that number, or 900 rounds in all. All these batteries were of
six guns each. Captain Smeaton fired from his six Maxims, stationed in
the zereba south-east corner, 54,000 rounds. One of the wants much
felt by the gunners was the need of more shrapnel during the action.
Twice at least the allowance supply was temporarily exhausted. Yet it
is not to be assumed on that account that the reserve ammunition was
difficult to be got at or that the firing lines were insufficiently
fed. The arrangements in these respects were admirable. During the
zereba action, the Grenadier Guards fired the largest number of
rounds. The Camerons fired 34 rounds per man. Five companies of the
Lincolns in the firing line, 32 rounds each man. The Northumberland
Fusiliers fired in all 1200 rounds, and the Lancashire Fusiliers 400
rounds.

Many of our wounded were hit with bullets from elephant guns, brass
cased Mausers, Remingtons, and repeating rifles. The great majority of
the dervishes carried Remingtons, and these, as a rule, were in
passably good condition. Probably they were officers or crack shots
among the Jehadieh and Arabs that fired into the zereba with the small
bore Mausers. Most of their shooting was too high, though the
direction was right enough. When the first phase of the action ceased
at 8.30 a.m., hundreds, if not thousands of wounded dervishes upon the
field rose and moved away. Some of these were seen going back towards
Omdurman, others walked towards the west to rejoin their friends. No
attempt was made on our side to molest them, the order to "cease fire"
having been given. It was either then or a little earlier that the
large body of natives, possibly camp followers, behind the Khalifa's
force, melted away, flowing back to the town. At that time some of our
army camp followers, or servants, went forward from the zereba to pick
up trophies from the field. A party of four went towards a small group
of dead dervishes lying about 300 yards on the left front of Maxwell's
brigade. I noticed them picking up spears and swords. A correspondent
rode out to join them, Mr Bennett Stanford, who was formerly in the
"Royals." In company with another colleague I rode out from the
British lines to join him, curious to see the effect of our fire. At
the moment a dervish arose, apparently unwounded, and spear in hand
charged the servants, who incontinently bolted back to the zereba. My
companion also turned back, but I was yet over 200 yards away, and so
rode forward. One of the men attacked by the dervish was a native
non-commissioned officer. He had followed the others out. Dropping
upon his knee he aimed at the dervish, but his Martini-Henry missed
fire. He fired again and missed, then, the dervish being very near
him, ran for the zereba. Mr Bennett Stanford, who was splendidly
mounted, with a cocked four-barrelled Lancaster pistol aimed
deliberately at the dervish, who turned towards him. Waiting till the
jibbeh-clad warrior was but a score of paces or so off, Mr Stanford
fired, and appeared to miss also, for the dervish without halt rushed
at him, whereupon he easily avoided him, riding off. Then the dervish
turned to the soldier who, encumbered with his rifle, did not run
swiftly. By that time I had drawn up so as to interpose between them,
passing beyond the dervish. I pulled up my rather sorry nag--my best
was for carrying despatches--and took deliberate aim. The dervish
turned upon me as I wished. I fired and believe hit him, and as my
horse was jibbing about fired a second shot from my revolver with less
success, then easily got out of the dervish's reach. He had a heavy
spear and showed no sign of throwing it as I rode away, keeping well
out of his reach. The camp followers by then were all safe, and so was
the native soldier, Mr Dervish having the field very much to himself.
Thereupon an A.D.C., Lieutenant Smyth, came galloping out and riding
hard past, fired at the fellow but missed. Checking his horse
Lieutenant Smyth wheeled it about, and he and the dervish collided.
The man, who by this time appeared somewhat weak, grabbed the
Lieutenant and strove to drive his lance into him. With great
hardihood Lieutenant Smyth fired his revolver in the dervish's face,
killing him instantly. It was a wondrous narrow escape for the
Lieutenant. The instant afterwards I asked him if he had been badly
wounded, but he declared that he was untouched, a statement I could
scarcely credit, and so repeated my question in another form, to
receive a similar answer. In the excitement of the moment he no doubt
did not feel the slight spear wound he actually received upon the arm,
which saved him from the thrust aimed at his body. An examination of
the dead dervish showed he had received four bullet wounds.

The following is a brief and well-balanced account of the charge of
the Lancers furnished me by an officer who was present:--"We moved
along to the left--_i.e._, east of Surgham--following up the enemy on
that flank. Our object was to prevent them retiring into Omdurman or,
at any rate, delay their retreat. A body of dervishes were seen
crouching not far off to the right. Colonel Martin determined to push
the enemy back and interpose between them and the town. The regiment,
of four squadrons, was wheeled into line. When 300 yards off we
started to charge, and were met by a heavy musketry fire from the
enemy. At first it was ill-directed, but very soon casualties occurred
in our ranks from it. Instead of a few dervishes, we tumbled upon over
500 hidden in a fold of the ground. They were in a khor, or nullah,
into which we had to drop, and they lined it twenty deep in places.
Our weight, however, carried us through. The dervishes, when we struck
them, did not break, but "bunched" together, showing no fear of
cavalry. There was half a minute's hacking, cutting, spearing, and
shooting in all directions; then we cleared them, and rallied on the
far side. Halting about 300 yards off, men were dismounted, and we
opened a sharp fire from our carbines on the enemy, driving them to
the westward in ten minutes. The charge was really successful in its
object, as the retirement from that part of the field into Omdurman
was stopped. We left perhaps sixty dervishes on the field in the
charge, and killed about 100 more with our subsequent fire." The
dervish leader who was sitting on a fine black Dongolawi horse was
killed in the melée. A trooper met him in the khor and ran him through
with his spear.

By far the finest feature of that morning of battles was the action
fought by Colonel Macdonald with his brigade. The dervish forces that
sought to crush him numbered fully 20,000 men. To oppose them he had
but four battalions, or in all less than 3000 Soudanese and Egyptian
soldiers. With a tact, coolness, and hardihood I have never seen
equalled, Colonel Macdonald manoeuvred and fought his men. They
responded to his call with confidence and alacrity begotten of long
acquaintance and implicit faith in their leader. He had led several of
the battalions through a score of fierce fights and skirmishes, always
emerging and covering himself and his men with glory, honour and
victory. All of them knew him, they were proud of him, and reposed
implicit confidence in their general. Unmistakably the Khalifa and his
son, the Sheikh Ed Din, thought that their fortunate hour had
come--that, in detail, they would destroy first Macdonald, then one by
one the other Khedivial brigades. What might have been, had father and
son arrived at the same time and distance on both sides of Macdonald,
as they evidently intended, I will not venture to discuss. Happily the
onslaughts of the wild, angry dervishes did not quite synchronise, and
Colonel Macdonald was able to devote virtually his whole firing
strength to the overthrow of the Khalifa's division ere rapidly
turning about first one then another of his battalions to deal with
the Sheikh Ed Din's unbroken columns. The enemy on both sides got very
close in, hundreds of them being killed almost at the feet of the men
of the 1st Khedivial brigade. Dervish spears were thrown into and over
the staunch and unyielding Soudanese and Fellaheen soldiery. Peake's,
Lawrie's, and de Rougemont's batteries stood their ground, side by
side with the infantry, never wavering, firing point-blank upon the
dervish masses. Majors Jackson, Nason, and Walter were, as usual,
proud of the steadiness of their blacks--the 11th, 10th, and 9th
battalions--whilst Major Pink, of the 2nd Egyptian, was elated with
the stout way his soldiers doubled, wheeled, and at a critical moment
rushed to fill up a gap near one of the batteries. The "Gippies"
looked without flinching straight into the eyes of the dervishes, and
fired volleys that would have done credit to a British regiment. The
hulking, physically strong "Fellah" had at last taken the measure of
his enemy, and meant to prove himself the better man of the two. And
he did--delighted with himself and his comrades, calling to them,
chiding the dervishes, and stepping out of the ranks to meet the
onrush of those of the enemy who came near, to stop it with bullet or
bayonet. But chief of all was Macdonald, going hither and thither and
issuing his orders as if on parade, with a sharp snap to each command.
Two armies saw it all, and one at least admired his intrepid valour.
One hundred black-flag Taaisha, the Khalifa's own Baggara tribesmen
and part of his body-guard, charged impetuously. Spurring their horses
to their utmost speed leading the footmen, down they came straight for
the brigade. Cannon, Maxims, and rifles roared, and, bold as the
Taaisha rode, neither horse nor man lived to get within one hundred
yards of our Soudanese and Gippies. Steady as a gladiator, with what
to some of us looked like inevitable disaster staring him in the face,
Colonel Macdonald fought his brigade for all it was worth. He quickly
moved upon the best available ground, formed up, wheeled about, and
stood to die or win. He won practically unaided, for the pinch was all
but over when the Camel Corps, hurrying up, formed upon his right,
after he had faced about to receive the Sheikh Ed Din's onslaught. The
Lincolns, who arrived later on, helped to hasten the flight of the
enemy, whose repulse was assured ere they or any of Wauchope's brigade
were within 1200 yards of Macdonald. Lewis's brigade were not even
able to assist so much, and such outside help as came in time to be of
use was in the first instance from the guns of Major Williams' and
another battery, and the Maxims upon the left near Surgham hurried
forward by the Sirdar himself, as I saw. General Hunter came over to
the headquarters-staff galloping to get assistance, and rode back with
Wauchope's brigade, which doubled for a considerable distance, so
serious was the situation and nervous the tension of that thrilling
ten minutes. Had the brilliant, the splendid deed of arms wrought by
Macdonald been done under the eyes of a sovereign, or in some other
armies, he had surely been created a General on the spot. If the
public are in search of the real hero of the battle of Omdurman there
he is, ready made--one who committed no blunder to be redeemed by
courageous conduct afterwards. He boldly exercised his right of
personal judgment in a moment of extreme peril, and the result amply
justified the soundness of his decision.

It was about 11.50 a.m. when the Sirdar wheeled his army about to
resume the march upon Omdurman. The dervishes who had escaped
slaughter had bent their bodies and run from the fatal field, going
far off behind the western range of hills. Moving slowly and in
échelon, as when we first set out, we passed over part of the
battle-field. Groups of unwounded dervishes, who insisted on fighting
and sniping the troops, had to be dealt with as well as all others who
persisted in being truculent. Like everybody else at the head of the
column, I was shot at repeatedly. All of the enemy, however, who
showed the least disposition to surrender were left unmolested.
Hundreds of dervishes who had been wounded hobbled on in front of our
army. We could see the Khalifa's forces behind the hills watching us
and streaming upon a parallel line towards Omdurman. But the dervishes
were no longer in compact military array or ranged in division under
chiefs. They were mostly scattered in small groups and bands spread
over a very wide area. It was a rabble, and had lost semblance of
being an army with power of concerted action. When Macdonald's fight
was over, the Egyptian cavalry under Colonel Broadwood returned and
formed up near the camelry. They, with the Camel Corps, moved forward
on the right as before during the final advance upon the Khalifa's
capital. Men and horses had done a week of the hardest kind of work,
but both were yet willing and full of spirit. As for the 21st Lancers,
the few mounts remaining fit for work scarcely counted as a cavalry
force. The gunboats and the infantry saw to our left, which was not
difficult, for upon that hand the country was quite bare. About 2 p.m.
the army reached the northern outskirts of Omdurman, the British
division upon the left. Gatacre's men were nearest the Nile, Maxwell
and Lewis being almost opposite one of the main thoroughfares of the
town. A halt for water--the great necessity--food, and rest was
ordered. Parties were instantly detailed to fill water-bottles and
fantasses, iron tanks. The cooks, too, got to work, and fires were
kindled with wood torn from neighbouring huts, and a meal was
prepared. Under the burning sunshine, down upon the loose dirt and
gravel, officers and men sprawled to rest themselves. There was a very
muddy creek or inset near, and thither went thousands, parched with
thirst, to drink, not hesitatingly but gulping down copious draughts
of water, tough and thick as from a clay puddle. I wandered with my
horse a little way into the town, and ultimately down towards the main
stream of the Nile, where the water was cleaner and cooler than by the
halting-place. There were plenty of dervishes to be seen about,
looking from lanes and walls, but they were far from being
particularly aggressive at that part of the town. Indeed, several
large groups of men, Arabs and negroes, came up bearing white rags on
sticks in front of them. I went forward and met parties of them, and
advised them to go into the British lines, where the soldiers would
receive them as friends. Watering my horse, I let him feed on grass by
the river's brink, filled my water-bottle, and then returned by a
circuitous route. The natives were not all inclined to be friendly,
for a few preferred shooting at the stranger. But their practice was
very bad.

Returning to where the troops still lay, I found that a fresh movement
was afoot. Report had been brought that hundreds of lesser sheikhs and
leaders were in the town ready to surrender with their followers if
their lives would be spared. The assurance sought was quickly conveyed
to them. Slatin Pasha, who had been indefatigable on the battle-field,
watching the course of events and locating the commands of the various
important dervish chiefs, had received news that the Khalifa was still
in the town. The Pasha, on passing over the field, had searched around
the black flag and other noted leaders' banners to see who lay there.
In the heaped dead about the Khalifa's flag he had seen Yacoub,
Abdullah's brother, and many more leaders, but the arch head of
Mahdism, the Sheikh Ed Din and Osman Digna were nowhere to be found.
Amongst the dead Emirs identified were Osman Azrak, leader of the
cavalry, Wad el Melik, Ali Wad Helu, Yunis, Ibrahim Khalil, Mahmoud's
brother, el Fadl, Osman Dekem, Zaki Ferar, Abu Senab, Mousa Zacharia,
and Abd el Baki. The Khalifa had come into action riding a horse. As
that did not suit him he changed for a camel and, finding the latter
position too dangerously conspicuous, rode off the field on
donkey-back. Perhaps the most concise summing up of the battle fell
from a "Tommy's" lips: "Them dervishes are good uns, and no mistake.
They came on in thousands on thousands to lay us out, but we shifted
them fast enough."

It was not quite four o'clock, afternoon. Slatin Pasha had got news
from former friends that the fugitives and townspeople would gladly
surrender, so the sooner the Sirdar marched in and took possession the
better. True, the Khalifa with several hundreds of followers, or
mayhap a thousand or more, was yet within the central part of
Omdurman. Most of his Jehadieh, it was urged, would give in at once if
an opportunity were afforded them, and Abdullah could be caught. With
Maxwell's brigade, Major Williams' battery and several Maxims, the
Sirdar and headquarters staff pushed along the wide thoroughfare that
leads from the north past the west end of the great rectangular wall,
towards the Mosque inclosure and Mahdi's tomb. The infantry, guns, and
Maxims preceded but a few paces in front. Vile beyond description was
Omdurman, its dwellings, streets, lanes, and spaces. Beasts pay more
regard to sanitation than dervishes. Pools of slush and stagnant water
abounded. Dead animals in all stages of decomposition lay there in
hundreds and thousands. There were besides littering the place camels,
horses, donkeys, dead and wounded fresh from the battle-field. And
there were many other ghastly sights. Dead and wounded dervishes lay
in pools of blood in the roadway. Several of the dying enemy grimly
saluted the staff as we passed. An Emir who, horribly mauled by a
shell, lay pinned under his dead horse waved his hand and fell back a
corpse. Our guns and Maxims had opened once or twice to turn the armed
fugitives from the town. The compounds and huts were full of wounded
and unwounded dervishes, most of the latter having Remingtons and
waist-belts full of cartridges, besides carrying spears and swords.
In the open thoroughfares there were many bodies of women and children
lying stark and stiff. The majority of these victims were young girls.
Many of the poor creatures had evidently been running towards the
river to try and escape when caught and killed by jealous and cruel
masters or husbands. The scenes were shocking, the smells abominable
and quite overpowering to many who sought to ride in with the General.

There was something like a reception for the Sirdar on his entering
the town. The women and children, mostly slaves, filled the
thoroughfares, and in their peculiar guinea-fowl cackling fashion
cheered the troops. Notables in jibbehs, which they had not yet had
time to turn inside out, as nearly every native did afterwards, came
and salaamed, smote their breasts, and kissed the hands and even the
garments' hem of the Sirdar and his staff. In truly Oriental fashion
they completed the ceremonial of obeisance and fealty by throwing dust
upon their already frowsy enough heads. It was curious to watch the
various recognitions extended to Slatin, and how the latter did not
forget his old friends, who had been kind to him, or his Eastern
manners in exchanging courtesies. When they realised that we were not
cannibals, which they did very quickly, and that the Khalifa and
others must have deceived them, they ran about amongst the troops. It
was with difficulty at times the ranks were kept clear of them. Our
Western leniency surprised them. The Sirdar shook hands with certain
of the notables, including several of the Greeks and Jaalin. One of
the most extraordinary incidents was the appearance of the Khalifa's
own band with drums and horns to play in the 13th Soudanese. Evidently
it was a case of black relations, for they played the battalion, Major
Smith-Dorian's, out as well as into town on the following day.

The people were ordered to carry the good news about that none who
gave up their arms would be killed or hurt, and that there was no
intention on our part to sack the town or injure anybody. What? A
captured city in the Soudan not to be given over to the victorious
troops to do with as they liked! I am sure the natives of both sexes
were amazed. And I cannot say all looked quite satisfied at the
announcement. The crowd in the streets quickly increased; they
evidently believed that we meant them no harm, and that they could do
as they liked. In the bombardment the Lyddite shells had knocked down
a gateway leading into the buildings and square mile of town enclosed
by the great rectangular stone wall built by the Khalifa. For a space
of fifty yards, several big holes had been blown in the structure,
which was fourteen feet high and over four feet in thickness. Some of
these breaches led into the beit-el-mal, or public granary. A few
wretched, hungry slaves ventured to help themselves to the grain,
chiefly dhura, that had partly poured out into the street. No one
interfered with them. Within half an hour all the women and children
in the town apparently, to the number of several thousands, were
running pell-mell to loot the granary. Men also joined in plundering
the Khalifa's storehouse. They ran against our horses, tripped over
each other and fell in their crazy haste to fill sacks, skins, and
nondescript vessels of all sorts--metal, wood and clay--with grain.
Women staggered under burdens that would assure their households of
food for months. It became a saturnalia and jubilee for the long,
half-starved slaves, men and women. By-and-by looting became more
general. The houses of Emirs who had run away or been killed were
entered and plundered by the populace. Donkeys were caught and loaded
with spoils of war, and driven off to huts on the outskirts near where
the troops bivouacked after their long and fatiguing day. During the
earlier part of that night there was much noise and hubbub in Omdurman
with constant firing of rifles. Maxwell's men, however, assisted by
numbers of friendly Jaalin, finally succeeded in enforcing something
like order and peace.

[Illustration: KHALIFA'S HOUSE.]

After the reception near the centre of the town the Sirdar proceeded
with part of Colonel Maxwell's brigade along the west side of the big
wall. Osman Digna's house was passed on the way. We got as far as the
south-west corner into full view of the Mahdi's tomb, which was about
400 yards to the east. In the same direction and equidistant was the
Khalifa's house. Beside us was the Praying Square or Mosque, a space
of bare ground of about ten acres or so in extent. As soon as the
troops got beyond the big wall and in sight of the tomb and Khalifa's
house, a brisk fusilade from Remingtons by the Jehadieh body-guard
protecting Abdullah was opened against us. Fortunately, the big stone
wall was not loopholed on either side. Indeed there appeared to be no
provision for its defenders to fire from it unless they mounted to
the top. The Sirdar and staff fell back, and the guns and Maxims went
forward a little. Maxwell's men then dealt with the enemy, and the
Sirdar, still led by Slatin Pasha, whom the dervishes called
"Saladin," turned back to try and make his way through the breaches in
the north wall. Troops were sent in to clear the compound of
dervishes, most of whom surrendered at once. But exit upon the south
side was barred by interior walls and gates. Then the Sirdar essayed
going along by the river's margin between the wall, the Nile, and the
forts, to turn the south-east angle. A sharp and accurate fire from
the Jehadieh stopped that advance for a time. Gunboats were ordered
forward to drive the dervishes from their cover. The soldiers pushed
farther through the compound, and the gunboats swept the Jehadieh with
Maxims and quick-firing cannon. About 5 p.m., with the shadows rapidly
lengthening, the rough way between the river and the great wall was
partly cleared of the enemy. Thereupon the Sirdar and staff forded a
dirty, wide creek, the crossing being girth high, and trotted a few
hundred yards up stream. With double teams, four guns of the 32nd
Battery, Major Williams', were got across the pool, accompanying the
headquarters.

Entering a gateway through the outer rectangular wall, the force moved
towards the Mahdi's tomb and the Khalifa's chief residence or palace.
The Sirdar and staff reined up before Abdullah's doorway, for the
dervish leader's house was surrounded by an inner wall and various
small buildings. We were in a higgledy-piggledy looking corner,
surrounded by rough shelters or stables for animals, horses and
camels, and the unfinished but covered approaches to the Mahdi's tomb.
The staff sat on horseback facing the doorway and dwelling; I pulled
in opposite beside an angle of the wall. Upon the Sirdar's right were
some corrugated iron roofed sheds, and a little in front the Praying
Square. Behind was the Mahdi's tomb, and at no great distance various
important dervish buildings. Abdullah had so planted himself that he
had easy and private access to all places of public resort as well as
the official quarters.

[Illustration: MAHDI'S TOMB--EFFECT OF LYDDITE SHELLS.]

Slatin Pasha, Colonel Maxwell, and several soldiers, with one or two
others, went in and searched for the Khalifa. A few minutes previously
he had slipped out by a back door with the more important part of his
personal treasures. His harem had been sent away earlier in the day.
Mr Hubert Howard, correspondent of the _New York Herald_ and the
London _Times_, was near the headquarters staff. He came over to where
I was and chatted. To a companion who had joined me he offered some
cigarettes. He said it had been a splendid day, and he had seen much.
Nothing could have been better than the way things turned out, and he
was glad he had been through it from first to last, cavalry charge
included. Then he said he would like to get a photograph or two of the
surroundings and the Khalifa's house. I told him the light was spent
and he could get no good results. He said he would try, and rode
inside the courtyard. A minute or less later, there was the roar and
crash of a shrapnel shell, which burst over our heads in very
dangerous proximity. The iron and bullets struck the walls and rattled
upon the corrugated iron roofs alongside. "That," I said to my
companion and an artillery officer hard by, "was one of our own guns."
The officer, Major Williams, I think, replied he feared indeed that it
was so. A similar opinion was apparently entertained by the Sirdar and
staff, for gallopers were sent to the officer in charge of the two
guns of the 32nd Battery left on the west side of the wall in the main
thoroughfare, to cease firing at once. Before riding up to the
Khalifa's door the Sirdar had hailed the gunboats, and one of them,
the "Sultan," came near enough inshore for us to converse with those
on board and for the commander to receive orders to stop all firing at
Abdullah's quarters. A few seconds after the first shrapnel burst,
another pitched over our heads, aimed apparently like the previous one
at the Khalifa's compound. Indeed, it appeared so later, for those of
our men at the south-west corner of the wall saw a number of armed
Jehadieh who were gathering behind Abdullah's compound. The Maxims
also opened fire on what was probably a body of the enemy covering
Abdullah's retirement, and who, at any rate, were firing at the
troops. Immediately after the second shell exploded the Sirdar and
headquarters rode off, returning by the road we entered, to the main
thoroughfare upon the west side of the enclosing wall. I remained a
few minutes longer, two shells bursting overhead in the interval, and
with my companion retraced our steps, rejoining the headquarters'
following. Mr Hubert Howard was struck upon the side of the head by a
bullet or fragment of a shell and killed instantly. His body was
removed and covered up by Colonel Maxwell and his men.

[Illustration: INTERIOR MAHDI'S TOMB (GRILLE AROUND SARCOPHAGUS).]

[Illustration: KHALIFA'S GALLOWS (CUTTING DOWN HIS LAST VICTIM).]

Arrangements were made for the instant pursuit of the Khalifa, who, I
was told, only left his palace about five o'clock or sometime after we
had penetrated into Omdurman. Notables and dervishes who came in to us
were freely used by the staff to run hither and thither conveying
intimation to all their friends, that the war being over they should
lay down their arms. In that way the news of the collapse of Mahdism
was widely spread, and bands of thirty and forty of the Jehadieh and
even of the Baggara surrendered. The presence of our Soudanese
soldiers facilitated matters, for they saw in them, at any rate,
countrymen. I had no difficulty in persuading several large groups of
dervishes, whom I could see from my horse inside their compounds, to
come out into the lanes or roadway and lay down their rifles. By such
means the headquarters' advance through the town was made possible and
relatively easy. The sun had set and darkness was upon us before the
Sirdar and staff, going at times in single file, reached the common
prison where the Assouan merchant, Charles Neufeld, was confined.
Whilst accompanying a convoy of rifles presented by the Egyptian
Government in 1886 to Sheikh Saleh of the friendly Kabbabish tribe,
Neufeld had been captured by a party of dervishes. Like the other
European prisoners who fell into their hands, he had undergone great
hardships and experienced all the trials of misfortune. Neufeld and
several hundred natives who had incurred the Khalifa's ire or distrust
were found in a pestilential enclosure less than an acre in extent,
surrounded by mud-walls. All of them wore heavy leg chains, and a
few were handcuffed besides. The principal jail deliveries were by
disease and the gallows; the latter were almost daily in use. Three
rough sets of them stood together near the great wall. Limbs of trees
stuck into the ground, with a cross-piece overhead, that was how the
gallows were fashioned. A last victim of the Khalifa was cut down
shortly after the troops entered Omdurman.

[Illustration: NEUFELD ON GUNBOAT "SHEIK"--CUTTING OFF HIS
ANKLE-IRONS.]

Neufeld was found under a mat-covered lean-to built against the
mud-wall. There was no other protection for the prisoners from
sunshine or rain than coarse worn matting spread upon sticks and laid
against the walls. The enclosure was without any sanitary arrangements
whatever. A well had been dug near the middle of the yard and from
there the prisoners drew all the water they used. The Sirdar conversed
with the prisoner, and a fruitless effort was made to find the jailer
and have Neufeld's irons removed. Ultimately, when night had quite
fallen and it was pitch dark, Neufeld was set upon an officer's horse,
and the Sirdar and headquarters bringing him with them rode outside to
where the main body of the army was bivouacking upon the desert, north
of Omdurman. Later on I found means to have Neufeld's irons removed.
He had three sets of leg irons fastened round his ankles; a heavy bar
weighing fourteen pounds, and two thick chains above that. The heavy
rings upon the legs we could not get off without other appliances than
a hammer and iron wedge, so they were left to be removed next day on
the gunboat "Sheik." It was found necessary on that occasion to grip
the rings in a vice and cut them with a cold chisel. We, however, so
freed his limbs that he could walk. Having written a second batch of
despatches by the light of a guttering candle and handed them to the
press censor, we lay down in our clothes to try and sleep--no easy
thing to do when you had to hold the bridle of your hungry horse the
while, and other equally restless Arab steeds were, after their
manner, seeking to eat him or kick him to pieces. We were without food
or water, for in the thrice altered camping grounds our servants had
got lost. In a flurry between dozing and waking we spent the night,
hoping for the morrow. When it came there was daylight but no
breakfast. Indeed, it was not until the afternoon of the 3rd September
that our servants and baggage re-appeared.



CHAPTER XIII.

CLOSE OF CAMPAIGN.--GORDON MEMORIAL SERVICE, KHARTOUM.


[Illustration: KHALIFA'S CHIEF EUNUCH (SURRENDERS IN BRITISH CAMP).]

Although the beginning of a campaign often drags, the ending is
usually abrupt. With the defeat and flight of Abdullah, Mahdism became
a thing of the past. True, there were several minor engagements fought
later against isolated recalcitrant bodies of dervishes who were too
loyal to their old leaders. But these affairs in no way affected the
result achieved upon the battle-field of Omdurman. During the night or
early morning of the 2nd and 3rd of September, Colonel Macdonald's
brigade advanced into the city to help to keep the peace, and to
secure the surrender of all the armed bands of the enemy. Large bodies
of dervishes were still moving about both within and without Omdurman.
I had myself seen many hundreds of natives set out about dusk to
revisit the battle-field in search of plunder, to rescue wounded
friends, and to bury their dead kinsmen. Those who showed a peaceable
disposition were not molested, but all with arms were arrested and
penned under guards in the Praying Square. Many prisoners were secured
on the battle-field, but relatively only a few thousands. On 3rd
September and following days enormous numbers surrendered, coming into
town or being sent in by the cavalry and friendlies. In fact, they
became so numerous that it was found almost impossible to deal with
them. When dervishes of the Jaalin and other tribes that had abandoned
Mahdism came in they were at once told to behave themselves, and were
allowed to go where they liked. The townsfolk and others who wished to
be let alone, turned their jibbehs inside out, at once a renunciation
of the Khalifa and his works as well as a sanitary gain. Some there
were who, averse to over-cleanliness, simply tore the dervish patches
off their dress, thus also resuming their fealty to the Khedive. The
roll of prisoners, however, in spite of convenient blindness in
letting all the lesser men who wished to escape do so, swelled to
about 11,000. In a house to house visitation the more important rebel
sheikhs and Baggara in hiding were caught and kept under arrest with
their followers. All the Greeks and the local chiefs whom Slatin Pasha
knew to be secretly inimical to the dervish rule, were from the first
secured safe permits and absolute liberty. Among them were many of the
Mahdi's relatives, former rulers of tribes, and Emirs once high in
power. Of wounded dervishes over 9000 were treated by the British and
Egyptian Army Medical Staffs, although the doctors' hands were busy
enough for two days with our own sick and wounded.

[Illustration: FRESH BATCH WOUNDED AND UNWOUNDED DERVISH PRISONERS,
OMDURMAN, 4TH SEPT. 1898.]

Within twenty-four hours after the Sirdar's entry Omdurman began to
assume the signs of orderly government. Thousands of the prisoners as
well as the natives were set to work to clean up the place. The
wounded were all carried into temporary hospitals and the dead were
decently interred in Moslem burial-places out upon the desert. Then
the thoroughfares were scrupulously scavengered by gangs of
yesterday's furious foemen, blacks and Baggara. The dead things were
put under ground, and the stagnant pools were drained or filled in.
Within a week it became actually possible to walk without an attack of
violent nausea in Omdurman. Visits were constantly paid to the
battle-field for the double purpose of rescuing any wounded
dervishes there might be and counting the dead. The large number of
the enemy who for days survived shocking wounds, to which a European
would have instantly or speedily succumbed, was appalling. These
wretched creatures had been seen crawling or dragging themselves for
miles to get to the Nile for water or into villages for succour. Food
and water were sent out to them by the Sirdar's orders on the day
after the battle, when it was seen that the natives gave neither heed
nor help to other than their own immediate kinsmen upon the field.
Even in the town rations were distributed to the needy. The gunboats
going up and down the river saw many sorry sights. Wounded dervishes
were lying by hundreds along the river's bank. Some, whose thirst had
maddened them, had drunk copiously, and then swooned and died, their
heads and shoulders covered with water and the rest of their bodies
stretched upon the strand. General Gatacre and Lieut. Wood on riding
to revisit the zereba near Kerreri, met a dervish, part of one of
whose legs had been blown off by a shell. The man was hobbling along,
leaning upon a broken spear handle, making for Omdurman, with his limb
burned and roughly tied up. They gave him food and water and passed on
meeting others. A mile away, the mounted orderly drew the General's
attention to an object upon the ground with the exclamation: "Blest if
it isn't that bloke's foot!" which sure enough was the case. A number
of officers were told off to count the enemy's dead upon the
battle-field. Sections of the ground were assigned to each. The actual
count was 10,800 dead bodies, which did not include all the slain,
for there were those who died in Omdurman, and afar upon the desert.
One of the officers wrote, "I won't enter into details of our day's
work. It suffices to say, that a piece of cotton-wool soaked in
eucalyptus placed in the nostrils and an ample supply of neat brandy
were only just sufficient to keep us on our legs for the six hours
that we were at the job." He and two others had undertaken to make a
sketch in addition to helping to count the slain. Unfortunately, the
sketch was lost.

And all might have been otherwise, for the Sirdar offered before the
battle to treat with the Khalifa. Here is the copy of the letter, as
translated and published, bearing upon the subject.

                                                  "_30th August 1898._
                                                 "Viz., 11 Rabi Akhar,
                                                          "1316 (M.E.)

    "From the Sirdar of the Troops, Soudan,

    "To Abdulla, son of Mohamed El-Taaishi, Head of the Soudan.

    "Bear in your mind that your evil deeds throughout the Soudan,
    particularly your murdering a great number of the Mohammedans
    without cause or excuse, besides oppression and tyranny,
    necessitated the advance of my troops for the destruction of your
    throne, in order to save the country from your devilish doings and
    iniquity. Inasmuch as there are many in your keeping for whose
    blood you are held responsible--innocent, old, and infirm, women
    and children and others--abhorring you and your government, who
    are guilty of nothing; and because we have no desire that they
    should suffer the least harm, we ask you to have them removed from
    the Dem (literally, enclosure) to a place where the shells of guns
    and bullets of rifles shall not reach them. If you do not do so,
    the shells and bullets cannot recognise them and will
    consequently kill them, and afterwards you will be responsible
    before God for their blood.

    "Stand firm you and your helpers only in the field of battle to
    meet the punishment prepared for you by the praised God. But if
    you and your Emirs incline to surrender to prevent blood being
    shed, we shall receive your envoy with due welcome, and be sure
    that we shall treat you with justice and peace.

                                                  "(Sealed) KITCHENER,
                                 "Sirdar of the Troops in the Soudan."

Colonel Maxwell was appointed Commandant of Omdurman, and his brigade
was quartered in the town, detachments occupying the principal
buildings. Among the places so held were the Arsenal, the Khalifa's
and his son the Sheikh Ed Din's houses, the Treasury, Tomb and Mosque
enclosure. The rest of the troops were moved two miles to the north of
the town, where a camp was formed along the river bank. Omdurman was
too abominably dirty to risk keeping a single soldier in the place
other than was absolutely necessary. Not an hour was wasted. The
Sirdar's practice was--abundant work for each day and all plans
prepared ahead for the next. The submission of sheikhs and their
followers had to be received, the pursuit of the Khalifa pressed,
wounded dervishes and prisoners provided for, as well as the thousands
of poor in Omdurman helped in various ways. Then there had to be
arranged-for the disposal of the spoils of war, repatriation for many
of Abdullah's enforced subjects, the formal re-occupation of Khartoum,
and the immediate despatch back to Lower Egypt of the British troops
whose services were no longer required. All this and much more was
done, nor am I aware that anything was neglected, not even the
correspondents, who were evidently too seldom far removed from the
General's thoughts. Hurrying into the town early on Saturday morning,
3rd September, to attend Howard's funeral, I found that within half an
hour after sunrise all the dead dervishes, with the murdered women and
children, had been removed to the native burial-grounds outside
Omdurman. In my rambles in the capital that day I visited the only two
passable dwellings in the place, Abdullah's and his son Osman's. Both
houses had a pretence of tidiness and comfort, particularly the Sheikh
Ed Din's. There were paved courtyards, doors, windows with shutters,
plastered walls, cupboards, benches, and ottomans. In each there were
several rooms furnished in a rude style with articles of European
manufacture. Of glass-ware, crockery, and large mirrors there was an
abundance. The Khalifa's favourite reception-room and a chamber in the
harem were almost covered with big looking-glasses. Angry Jaalin and
others who had forced an entrance on the previous day, or else mayhap
the Lyddite bombs, had smashed the mirrors and most of the domestic
ware into atoms. Spears and swords had been freely used to hack the
furniture and fittings about. A wealth of printed and manuscript books
and papers in Arabic characters were scattered, torn, and thrown into
a shed.

The kitchens, stables and outhouses were odorously barbaric in
squalor. They were in strange contrast to any of the rooms in the
rabbit warren of attached dwelling-places within the Khalifa's private
compound. Around the Mahdi's tomb were great splashes of human blood.
On the previous evening I had seen many dead dervishes lying in that
vicinity. In their credulous faith in Mohamed Achmed they had flocked
there for safety, only to be killed by our fire. Of 120 who were
praying around the tomb when a 50-lb. Lyddite shell burst, but
eighteen escaped alive, and these were sorely wounded. The tomb,
carefully stuccoed over inside and out, was built of stone and
well-burned bricks. The base of the square wall from which the
cone-shaped dome sprang was over six feet thick, the vaulted roof
tapering to about eighteen inches at the apex. Great holes had been
knocked in the north-east side, and the rubbish had tumbled in,
breaking the brass and iron grille round the catafalque. Beneath,
covered by two huge blocks of stone, lay Mohamed Achmed's remains.
Early that day violent hands were laid on the brass rails in the outer
windows and grille. The catafalque was stripped of its black and red
cloth covering, and the wood-work was totally destroyed. All the
yellow lettered panels, with texts from the Koran and the Mahdi's
prayer-book, as well as the blue and yellow scroll work, were smashed
or carried off by relic-hunters. The false prophet was so speedily
discredited that not a dervish amongst the tens of thousands but
regarded these and the subsequent proceedings with complete
indifference. To destroy utterly the legend of Mohamed Achmed's
mission, when the British troops had returned to Cairo the Mahdi's
body was disinterred. It had been roughly embalmed and the features
were said to be recognisable. The common people who saw the remains
almost doubted their senses, for it had been given out that the Mahdi
had merely gone off on a visit to heaven and would shortly return.
That his body was found surprised them, as they thought he had gone
aloft in the flesh, the object of the tomb being to mark the spot
where he took leave of the earth and would return to it. Perhaps it
may be deplored that Mohamed Achmed's remains were broken up, part
being cast into the Nile, whilst the head and other portions of the
body were retained for presentation, it is said, to medical colleges.
There were those who thought that the wisest course would have been to
expose the remains for all to see them who cared to, and then to hand
them over to the natives to bury in one of their cemeteries as if he
had been an ordinary man. But the Soudan is not Europe, nor are its
inhabitants amenable to measures eminently satisfactory to civilised
northern races. The tomb was subsequently levelled to the ground by an
explosion of gun-cotton and the débris was cleared away.

I had a good look over the Khalifa's war arsenal. There were plenty of
cannon, old and new, as well as machine guns, rifles, pistols, and
fowling pieces of all kinds. Musical instruments, war-drums,
elephants' tusks used as horns, coats of chain-mail old and new, and
steel helmets. Most of the latter are quite modern, being part of 600
supplied by a London firm of sword makers--Wilkinson & Co., Pall Mall,
to a former Khedive's body-guard. Somehow these plate and chain
crusader-like head-pieces seem all to have drifted south. There were
hundreds of dervish battle flags, including several duplicate black
silk banners such as the Khalifa carried during the action, and
thousands of native spears, swords, and shields. In short, it would be
easier to tell what was not in that extraordinary storehouse than what
was. Among other articles I saw were: Ivory, powder, percussion caps,
old lead, copper, tin, bronze, cloth, looms, pianos, sewing machines,
agricultural implements, boilers, steam-engines, ostrich feathers,
gum, hippopotamus hides, iron and wooden bedsteads, drums, bugles,
field glasses--Lieutenant Charles Grenfell's, lost at El Teb in the
Eastern Soudan in 1883, were found there--bolts, zinc, rivets, paints,
india-rubber, leather, boots, knapsacks, water-bottles, flags, and
clothes. There were three state coaches--one of them might at a pinch
have served for the Lord Mayor--and an American buggy. They needed a
little retrimming, but there was harness and material enough to have
rigged out the four vehicles in style. In short, the arsenal held the
jettisoned cargo of the whole aforetime Egyptian Soudan, with much
besides drawn from Abyssinia and Central Africa. Truly, the Khalifa
must have been a strange man, with a fine acquisitive instinct
abnormally cultivated.

[Illustration: NEUFELD, WITH ABYSSINIAN WIFE AND CHILDREN; ALSO FELLOW
PRISONER.]

Neufeld, quite contrary to Slatin Pasha's way of speaking, declared to
me that the Khalifa was not at all a bad sort of man, nor an
exceptionally cruel Arab task-master, and certainly not a monster. The
Khalifa, he said, had often come and chatted with him. Abdullah had
vowed to him, that if he were able to have his own way he would make a
close friend of him, and have him always near his person. The Khalifa
asserted he liked white men, admired their knowledge and ability, and
would, were he permitted, have many of them in Khartoum. As everybody
knew, he befriended the Greeks, because he could do that with safety,
for the natives were not so jealous of them as of other white men. The
Taaisha were, he declared, absurdly suspicious of his intercourse with
Neufeld, and were always bringing him tales, to try and get him to
kill all the white men without exception. His countrymen's jealous,
narrow fanaticism annoyed him, but what, he asked, could he do, for he
was very much in their power, and unable to afford to fly in their
faces? Abdullah often spoke thus, according to Neufeld, and, as the
latter also said, frequently that leader of the fanatical dervishes
exhibited keen interest in acquiring information about Europe and its
people. He hoped to make peace some day with the outside world, and be
allowed thereafter to rule the Soudan. All this, I submit, is rather
puzzling, in view of the filthy den the Khalifa kept Neufeld shut up
in, and the manner in which he loaded him with heavy leg-irons. During
his captivity, Neufeld had with him an Abyssinian girl, or rather
woman. She was taken prisoner with him. Thereafter she devotedly
ministered to his wants, fetched water and food, and made, under his
tuition, really eatable bread. Neufeld, who said he met me in 1884-85,
up the Nile, when he was attached to the army, gave me a piece of this
bread, and I found it quite palatable. Yeast is easily made in the
Soudan with sour dough and sugar.

As arsenals mayhap date back to the eras of Tubal Cain and Vulcan, it
was to be expected the Khalifa would also have his modern smithy. He
made his own gunpowder, shells, and bullets, and the metallic cases
for his troops' Remington rifles. The country was laid under
contribution to supply copper for that purpose, and he essayed the
filling of percussion caps with fulminate, not over successfully I
hope. He had his cartridge manufactory, and a very well equipped
engineer shop as well. Yea, the potentate was setting up a Zoo,
wherein I saw three young lions chained to posts by neck collars, as
though those savage beasts were watch-dogs. As for the engineer shop,
with foundry and smithy attached, the Beit el Mauna, it was part of a
cleverly planned square of buildings with a river frontage and a
spacious yard. The designer was one El Osta Abdullah, a former
employee of General Gordon's in Khartoum Arsenal. There were several
steam engines; the principal one driving the main shafting was of 28
horse-power. The fly-wheel was 4 feet in diameter. There were five
lathes, one cat-head lathe--36 inch, three drills, and other tools
including a slotting machine, all in perfect going order. The
machinery had formed part of the dismantled Khartoum Arsenal, and had
been removed into Omdurman to be nearer the watchful eyes of Yacoub,
who superintended the workshops, though destitute of mechanical
knowledge. El Osta was the foreman and had numbers of natives, free
and prisoners, under him. There were plenty of crucibles for iron as
well as brass smelting. The blasts of furnaces and smithy fires were
served from fanners driven by machinery. There were paint shops and
stores, the floors of which were laid in bricks. In truth, the arsenal
was in process of extension. Two more engines for the shop were in
course of completion. The steamers disabled or wrecked in the 1885
campaign had all been recovered and overhauled by the dervishes. They
were sagacious enough to make use of all the skilled labour to be
found amongst the Turkish and Egyptian prisoners who fell into their
hands. Although the Khalifa's river steamers, recaptured by the
Sirdar, could steam fully as well as ever, their hulls and decks were
dreadfully rotten and dilapidated, not a pound of paint nor any fresh
timber having been used upon them in all the intervening years.

"Is that mean, dirty compound, with those squalid mud-huts, facing the
Khalifa's big wall, Osman Digna's house?" I asked. "Yes," said my
native informant, "that is the house of the robber-chief, Osman
Digna." I entered and found within only a few wretched slaves and poor
Hadendowas. Osman, like the Khalifa, had given us the slip, leaving
behind such of his people as he thought of no value, and hurrying away
with all his women and treasure towards the south. They had horses and
camels, and upon the best of them they decamped. Several of the
notorious Osman Digna's tribal retainers were caught. These wretched
Hadendowas were, I was told, glad to be permitted subsequently to
return to their own country. Over 300 Abyssinians were amongst our
prisoners. They had volunteered or been coerced into joining the
dervish ranks. All of them were surprised to find themselves kindly
treated. In due course, those who cared to go--men, women and
children--were provided with free passages back to Abyssinia. The
Sirdar held several receptions, whereat the principal native leaders
and sheikhs attended. Amongst others delighted at the overthrow of the
Khalifa were all the survivors of the old Khedivial army, who had been
abandoned to their fate for years. Of these were the whilom Governor
of Senaar, a native artillery officer who had been with Hicks Pasha,
and Gordon Pasha's native medical attendant.

During the week after the battle the British and Khedivial troops, by
brigades, made triumphal marches into and through Omdurman. Proceeding
from our camp with flags flying and bands playing, they went along the
main thoroughfares to the Tomb and Mosque, returning by a circuitous
route to quarters. The ex-dervishes and other natives flocked in
thousands to see the finely-equipped and well-disciplined battalions
led by the Sirdar. It was an exhibition of power they quite
understood, and one which won from them open praise at the gallant
bearing of our soldiery. The immediate effect was to produce a feeling
of deep respect for the authority of the new order of things.

When it was found that the Khalifa had escaped by the south end of
Omdurman, Colonel Broadwood, with his two regiments of Egyptian
cavalry and the Camel Corps, started in pursuit. Gunboats also
proceeded up the White Nile to head off the fugitives. Unfortunately
as there had been a very general rainfall, the desert routes towards
Kordofan were not absolutely waterless. The cavalry soon found that
they were upon a hot trail; and men, women, and children, who had been
unable to keep pace with the flying Khalifa and Osman Digna, were
picked up. Some of these, no doubt, had purposely given their master
the slip. It was in that way that Abdullah's chief wife, the Sheikh Ed
Din's mother, was caught and brought in by the "friendlies." One poor
woman, just confined, had the babe, a male, taken away by her lord,
whilst she was left to shift for herself. Happily, her life was saved.

As I have said relatively little about the Egyptian cavalry, I will
let one of their officers tell what they did. Colonel Broadwood had
under him a magnificent body of officers, British and Egyptian.
Captain Legge of the 20th Hussars was the brigade-major. The narrative
in question was given to me a few days after the victory.

"The Sirdar's orders on the morning of the battle to Colonel Broadwood
were, to take up successive positions on his (the Sirdar's) right
flank, and to prevent the enemy's left from overlapping too far. The
fear was that the dervishes might attack upon the north or weakest
side of the zereba. After rejoining the infantry towards the end of
the assault made on Macdonald's brigade we were formed into two lines.
Turning our backs to the Nile, that is, facing west, we galloped in
pursuit of the retreating dervishes. For four miles we rode forward
without check. Then we wheeled to the left, towards Omdurman, and
swept the country on the right front of the Sirdar over a width of
four miles. We were shot at repeatedly, and sometimes heavily, by
bands of fugitives, but we never drew rein, using lance and sword upon
all who showed fight. In that draw we made 1000 prisoners, breaking
the Remingtons of those who had rifles and sending our captives under
escort of a squadron to the Sirdar. When close to Omdurman we came
across a large body of dervishes full of 'buck.' Four of our squadrons
went for them. They charged clean through them, wheeled, and charged
back again. That took the sting out of them, though there were still
individual dervishes who would keep trying to charge us. Colonel
Broadwood came up at that juncture with the supports, whereupon the
enemy all bolted for the hills. At 2 p.m. we reported to headquarters,
and, following the infantry, went to water our horses at the Nile. The
same afternoon we passed through part of Omdurman and went out upon
the open desert to the south-west. At 6.30 p.m. Slatin Pasha brought
us orders to start immediately in pursuit of the Khalifa. We went on
as best we could until 8.30 p.m., without food or water. Trying to run
in towards the river to procure both, for a gunboat was to carry our
supplies, we found it was impossible to get within two miles of the
Nile owing to the overflow having turned the margin into boggy land.
Besides, the bushy inaccessible ground was teeming with hostile
dervishes. We had missed our way. Without off-saddling, we bivouacked
where we were, forming square. At 4 a.m. we mounted and rode on,
going until 8.30 a.m., when we got down to the river. There Slatin
Pasha quitted us, returning to Omdurman. We halted for an hour,
watered and fed our poor horses, and had a bite for ourselves. Then we
remounted and rode fifteen miles farther south. We had reached a point
just thirty-five miles south of Omdurman. Our horses had been going
almost continuously for four days previously, the forage was finished,
and the animals exhausted, so we again halted. Supplies had been
ordered forward to that spot, but the overflow prevented us from being
able to get near enough the native boats to draw upon them for stores.
We decided to bivouac there and take our chance of being able somehow
to get at the boats. Next morning we were ordered back into Omdurman.
Slatin Pasha had learned from fugitives and natives that the Khalifa
was still twenty-five miles ahead of us. Abdullah had with him 100
Taaisha Baggara, and had procured fresh camels and horses, so was
'going strong,' too good for us to catch up. The riverside country
people could not credit that we had defeated the Khalifa and taken
Omdurman. On our way back we picked up six of Osman Digna's
Hadendowas. They said Osman was riding with the Khalifa, showing him
the tracks and bypaths, with all of which he was familiar. We heard
that neither Osman nor the Khalifa was wounded, and that Sheikh Ed Din
was likewise untouched."

It has been too readily accepted that the Black, although an
incomparably fine infantry-man, would not make a good trooper. There
are Blacks and Blacks as there are "Browns and Browns." Many of the
negroid races of the Central Soudan are excellent horsemen. The dash
of the Khalifa's mounted men was superb. So it came about that after
Omdurman the Sirdar decided to reinforce the Egyptian cavalry with a
newly raised squadron or two composed entirely of Blacks. Ex-dervishes
of suitable smartness and physique were permitted to join the new
body, the ranks of which were filled in a very short time, for
hundreds eagerly volunteered. The accounts I have since heard of the
1st Black Cavalry are eminently favourable. There can be no doubt
about one thing,--whatever may be said of fellaheen troopers, the
Blacks will charge home.

Another matter that merits a little more detail is the action fought
by Major Stuart Wortley's "friendlies," and the work accomplished by
the flotilla under Commander Keppel, R.N. It was the gunboats that
transported the British infantry from their camps at Dakhala and
Darmali so smartly to Wad Habeshi. Their assistance in that respect
reduced the campaign from one of months to days, and lessened the
risks to the troops. Eight steamers arrived at Dakhala on one
occasion, and the transport department did its duty so well that they
were loaded and despatched back up stream within twenty-four hours.
Royan Island had not only been made a depôt of stores, but a
sanatorium where sick officers and men were sent as a "pick 'em up."
An order from the Sirdar on the 30th of August was wired to Royan, to
find 235 men and 8 officers who were well enough to man the gunboats,
to be in short amateur marines. At that date there were 327 sick upon
the island. Most of them were eager to get to the front, but the
doctors would not certify that any of them were able to bear the
fatigue of marching. There was therefore great rejoicing among the
more convalescent, for they had begun to despair of seeing the fight.
The hospital state showed that there were then at Royan 46 men of the
Warwicks, 69 of the Lincolns, 62 of the Seaforths, 36 of the Camerons,
19 of the Grenadier Guards, 42 of the Northumberland Fusiliers, 42 of
the Lancashire Fusiliers, and 21 of the Rifles. From 25 to 40 men were
marched on board each of the gunboats the same day. Captain Ferguson
of the Northumberland Fusiliers became marine officer on board the
"Sultan," Lieutenant Allardice went to the "Sheik," Lieutenant Seymour
of the Grenadier Guards to the "Melik," Captain Ritchie to the
"Nazir," Lieutenant Arbuthnot to the "El Hafir," and Lieutenant
Jackson and other officers respectively to the "Tamai," "Fatah,"
"Metemmeh," etc.

On the 31st of August the "Melik" kept abreast of the cavalry acting
as a screen. At noon of the same day the "Sultan" and the "Melik" and
"Nazir" were sent to shell the dervish tents and tukals seen to the
east of Kerreri village. The enemy were found in some force, about
3500 strong. Eight or ten shrapnel were fired into their zerebaed
camp. Right in the middle of the tents the first shell burst. The
dervishes struck their camp instantly, and mounted men and footmen ran
to the hills, their flight quickened by the gunboats' Maxims. Their
zereba was burned. South Kerreri village was found unoccupied. The
steamers proceeded a little further up stream, had a look at Tuti
Island, and on the west bank caught sight of a body of dervishes, Emir
Zaccharia's men, who also had a taste of shrapnel and Maxims.

On the 1st of September at 5.30 a.m. the steamers "Sultan," "Melik,"
"Sheik," "Nazir," "Fatah," "Tamai," and "Abu Klea" went again up the
river to destroy the forts and land the 50-pounder Lyddite howitzer
battery on Tuti Island, whence it was to shell Omdurman. Major Stuart
Wortley and part of his force were also to be transferred to that
island to support Major Elmslie's battery and clear off any dervishes.
It was found, as I have already stated, that Tuti was unsuitable as a
position, and the Lyddite guns were landed instead upon the east or
right bank of the river. The "Sultan" opened the attack, firing at the
forts and pitching shells into Omdurman. In a short time the other
gunboats came to her assistance, and the mud forts, of which there
were a dozen or more, were promptly silenced. Several of the dervish
gunners' shells, however, only missed the steamers that were their
target by a very few yards. Happily the embrasures of the forts were
so badly made, that the enemy had but a small angle of fire. It was in
more than one instance impossible for the dervish guns to train except
straight to their front. The flotilla passed down behind Tuti Island,
going by the east bank, and were brought-to below the island. There
the 37th R.A. Battery was landed, and the Lyddite shell fire was
directed against the great wall and the Mahdi's tomb, the range of the
latter being 3200 yards. Many dervishes were seen in and around
Omdurman, and a number were noticed upon the right bank. Two of the
gunboats remained all night to protect the Lyddite battery, using
their electric search-lights to detect any lurking dervishes. The
steamers fired that day several hundred shells and 8000 rounds from
their Maxims. Captain Prince Christian Victor was attached on board
the "Sultan," and Prince Teck, who had a sharp attack of fever and had
temporarily to abandon his squadron in the Egyptian cavalry, saw that
and the next day's battle from one of the other gunboats.

On the 2nd of September the "Melik" ran a little way up stream before
sunrise and then returned. In the first stage of the battle the
"Nazir," "Fatah," "Sheik," "El Hafir" and another protected the south
front of the Sirdar's camp, whilst the "Sultan," "Melik" and "Tamai"
guarded the north end of it. There were over 100 shells were fired
from the "Sultan" at 3000 to 2800 yards ranges. The "Melik" found the
enemy's columns with their quick-firing 15 pounders at under 1500
yards range on one occasion. During the second phase of the battle,
the "Melik" dropped again down stream, and struck Sheikh Ed Din's
column as the enemy advanced to attack Macdonald's brigade, treating
the dervishes to all her artillery. When Omdurman was occupied by the
troops the flotilla again rendered valuable help. After the action the
gunboats were sent, part up the White, part up the Blue Nile, to carry
the good news and break up any dervish camps. The "Sultan," "Melik,"
"Sheik," "Nazir," and "Fatah" proceeded up the White Nile. Commander
Keppel went 115 miles south of Omdurman. He saw but few of the enemy.
The country was much overflowed, the river was nearly 6 miles wide in
several places, the wooded banks and bush being under water.

On the 2nd of September Major Stuart Wortley and his friendlies had a
brisk engagement with Emir Isa Zaccharia. Major Elmslie had begun the
day's battle at 5.30 a.m. with a salvo of his six guns, throwing the
50 lb. Lyddite shells into Omdurman. Wortley's friendlies, later on,
advanced in fine style, in open order, and drove about 800 Jehadieh
out of a village. About 350 were killed, including their leader. The
remainder bolted off towards the Blue Nile, pursued by the Jaalin and
others. At the close of the action Major Wortley, Captain Buckle,
Lieut. C. Wood, and two non-commissioned English officers walked down
towards the point from which Major Elmslie's battery was firing. They
were seen and charged by about twenty-five dervish horsemen. Luckily,
heavy, boggy land intervened, and Lieut. Wood and Major Wortley
dropped the leading horsemen, when some of the Jaalin rallied and came
to their assistance. The rout of the Baggara was completed, the
dervish horsemen leaving eleven dead upon the field.

On Sunday morning, 4th September, the Press were invited by
Headquarters to go over by steamer to Khartoum. We were told that an
official ceremony which we ought not to miss was about to take place.
There were an unusual number of correspondents. The previous
restrictions and military objections to their presence had been made
ridiculous by the widest throwing open of the door to all. The Sirdar
and Headquarters embarked upon the "Melik." We found that
representative detachments from all the commands in the army were
being ferried over in boats and giassas towed by the steamers. From
every British battalion there were present eighty-one officers and
men. The 21st Lancers were represented by ten officers and twenty-four
non-commissioned officers and men. Two officers and seven men were
sent by each battery of artillery, and two officers and five men from
the Maxim batteries. There were also representative sections from the
Khedivial forces. As the steamers drew up alongside the stone-wall
quay before the ruined Government House where General Gordon made his
last stand, the soldiers were seen to be already in position. There
was but little space between the quay wall and the buildings, for the
débris of bricks and stone from the overturned structure nearly
blocked up the former open promenade facing the muddy Blue Nile. The
ruined walls and forts looked picturesque in their deep setting of
dark-green palms, mimosa, and tall orange-trees. Compared with
treeless, brown, arid Omdurman, Khartoum wore an air of romance and
loveliness that well became such historic ground. An odour of blossom
and fruit was wafted from the wild and spacious Mission and Government
House gardens, which even the dervishes had not been able to wreck
totally.

[Illustration: DISTANT VIEW, KHARTOUM (FROM BLUE NILE).]

Two flagstaffs had been erected upon the top of the one-storied wall
fronting the Blue Nile. The Sirdar ranged facing the building and the
flagstaffs. Behind him were the Headquarters Staff, the Generals of
division, and others. To his left, formed up at right angles, were the
representative detachments of the Egyptian army, the 11th Soudanese,
with their red heckles in their fezzes, in the front line. Upon the
Sirdar's right were the detachments of Gatacre's division, each in
its regimental order of seniority. Standing a few paces in front of
the Sirdar, but facing him, upon a mound of earth and bricks, were the
four chaplains attached to the British infantry--Presbyterian, Church
of England, Roman Catholic, and Wesleyan. _En passant_, though it is
an army secret, in nothing was the Sirdar's power and strong will more
manifest than in securing the presence that day in amity of the four
representatives of religion. One of the reverend gentlemen, presumably
on the strength of the superior claims of his orthodoxy, refused to
join in any service in which clergymen of any other denomination bore
a part. The Sirdar sent a peremptory order, without a word of
explanation, for that cleric to embark forthwith and return to Cairo.
Instead, he hastened to Headquarters and made his peace, and had the
order withdrawn. Upon their right was a small body of Royal Engineer
officers, Gordon's own corps. A hundred natives or more had gathered
on the outside, wondering what was going to happen. The Sirdar himself
had been the first to land upon the quay and walk towards the
building, the windows of which Gordon had caused to be filled in to
stop entrance of the dervish bullets from Tuti. There were plenty of
marks of the enemy's musketry fire, as well as the dents of shell and
round shot. The former official entrance was within a littered
courtyard upon the opposite side of the building. It was whilst
descending the interior stairway to meet the dervishes that Gordon was
hacked and slain by the fierce fanatics and his body cast into the
courtyard.

Ten o'clock was the official hour notified for the ceremonial, which
commenced upon a signal from the Sirdar. A British band played a few
bars of "God Save the Queen." Whilst all were saluting, Lieutenant
Stavely, R.N., and Captain J. Watson, A.D.C., standing on the west
side of the wall ran up a brilliant silk Union Jack to the top of
their flagstaff, hauling the halyard taut as the flag flapped smartly
in the breeze. It had barely begun to ascend when Lieutenant Milford
and Effendi Bakr, at the adjacent pole, ran up the Egyptian flag.
Thereupon an Egyptian band played at some length the Khedivial hymn.
At its close the Sirdar called for three cheers for "The Queen," which
were given voluminously, even the natives shouting, though, perhaps,
they didn't quite know why. Three cheers for the Khedive were also
heartily given. Meantime the "Melik's" quick-firing guns were rolling
out a royal salute, and, as usual with them, making things jump aboard
the lightly built craft and smashing glass and crockery in all
directions.

[Illustration: HOISTING FLAGS, KHARTOUM.]

Ere the echo of cannon had died away another ceremony had begun. The
British band played softly the "Dead March in Saul," and every head
was bared in memory of Gordon. His funeral obsequies were at last
taking place upon the spot where he fell. Then the Egyptian band
played their quaint funeral march, and the native men and women,
understanding that, and whom it was played for, raised their
prolonged, shrill, wailing cry. Count Calderai, the Italian Military
Attaché, who stood near the Sirdar, was deeply affected, whilst Count
von Tiedmann, the German Attaché, who appeared in his magnificent
white Cuirassier uniform on the occasion, was even more keenly
impressed, a soldier's tears coursing down his cheeks. But there!
Other eyes were wet, and cheeks too, as well as his, and bronzed
veterans were not ashamed of it either. Sadness and bitter memories!
So the Gordon legend, if you will, shall live as long as the English
name endures. A brief pause, and in gentle voice and manner the Rev.
John M. Sims, Presbyterian Chaplain--Gordon's faith--broke the
silence. In his brief prayer he said: "Our help is in the name of the
Lord who made heaven and earth." Then he observed, "Let us hear God's
word as written for our instruction," reading from Psalm XV. the
following verses: "Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? Who shall
dwell in Thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh
righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth
not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a
reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is
contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth
to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money
to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these
things shall never be moved." "And to God's great name shall be all
the praise and glory, world without end. Amen." When Mr Sims had
concluded, the Rev. A. W. B. Watson, Church of England Chaplain,
recited the Lord's Prayer. Following him the Rev. R. Brindle, Roman
Catholic Chaplain, prayed, saying: "O Almighty God, by whose
providence are all things which come into the lives of men, whether of
suffering which Thou permittest, or of joy and gladness which Thou
givest, look down, we beseech Thee, with eyes of pity and compassion
on this land so loved by that heroic soul whose memory we honour
before Thee this day. Give back to it days of peace. Send to it rulers
animated by his spirit of justice and righteousness. Strengthen them
in the might of Thy power, that they may labour in making perfect the
work to which he devoted and for which he gave his life. And grant to
us, Thy servants, that we may copy his virtues of self-sacrifice and
fortitude, so that when Thou callest we may each be able to answer, 'I
have fought the good fight,'--a blessing which we humbly ask in the
name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen."

When Father Brindle had concluded, the pipers, accompanied by muffled
drums, played the Coronach as a lament. The weird Highland minstrelsy
seemed quite in keeping with the place and solemn scene. Then the
Khedivial band played a hymn tune, "Thy Will be Done," and the sad
ceremony was closed to the boom of minute guns. Generals Rundle,
Gatacre, and Hunter then stepped forward and congratulated the Sirdar
upon the successful completion of his task, and the commanding
officers and others, following their example, did the same. Sir
Herbert acknowledged their greeting, and announced that the men would
be allowed to break off for half an hour or so to go over the ruins
and gardens if they wished. Everybody availed himself of the
opportunity. In a few minutes a throng of officers and men who had
scrambled over the débris filled the roofless rooms and packed the
stairway where Gordon was struck down. I was surprised to find that
even the youngest, most callow soldiers knew their Khartoum and the
story of Gordon's fight and death. So deep and far had the tale
travelled. There were speculations and suggestions as to how the end
exactly came about that were a revelation to me, so full of
information and pregnant of observation were many of the men's
remarks. Throng succeeded throng in the rooms and stairways, whilst
others went to explore the outhouses and the gardens. The passion
flowers and the pomegranates were in bloom, but the oranges and limes
were in fruit. Leaves and buds were plucked by all of us as souvenirs.
Brigade-Major Snow, who was with the Camel Corps in 1884-85 across the
Bayuda desert, produced a tiny bottle of champagne that was to have
been drunk in Khartoum when we got there. He opened it, and shared the
driblet with a few of the old campaigners. By one p.m. we were all
back again in Omdurman, leaving behind two companies of the 11th
Battalion to hold Khartoum for the two flags, the hoisting of which,
side by side, the Egyptians regarded as natural and most proper.



CHAPTER XIV.

KHARTOUM MEMORIAL COLLEGE.--THE OFFICIAL DESPATCHES.


It was decided by the Sirdar, from whom no successful appeal was
possible, that, after the occupation of Khartoum, the war
correspondents had no longer any pretext for remaining in the country.
There were no questions raised by the military to excuse their ruling.
No more was heard about the difficulties of transport, the scarcity of
provisions, and everything being required for the soldiers. Had not
the keen Greek sutlers, as usual, followed the army in shoals,
managing somehow to convey themselves and their goods to the front? We
had not been two days encamped at Omdurman before some of these
traders arrived, and, dumping their sacks and boxes by the wayside,
started selling forthwith. The natives, too, speedily reassured,
brought out and squatted before baskets of dates, onions, and other
comestibles they were anxious to dispose of for English or Egyptian
money. Rightly contemning the Khalifa's coinage as practically
valueless, they refused to accept it in payment, and proffered to sell
all they possessed at the price of old copper. The British troops
made their triumphal entry into Omdurman on the 5th of September, and
several of the correspondents left for England the same day. We who
remained had a sort of Hobson's choice, either to return to Cairo on
the 8th September or to remain in Omdurman out of which we should not
be allowed to stir until all the British troops had gone, when we
should have to leave with the last batch. Which course we should adopt
was with fine humour left to be decided by a majority of ourselves.
For once the Press was practically unanimous and elected to shake the
dust of the Soudan from their feet, and so it came about that the war
correspondents had to fold their tents and go, disposing of their
quadrupeds as best they could. There was no alternative in the case of
the horses between accepting any price for them or shooting them, for,
in the Soudan, there being no grazing, a horse must have a master or
starve. I disposed of a £40 animal for £1 and got but little more for
three others. The camels and stores fetched somewhat better prices.
Our servants we took back to their homes.

Yet for sundry reasons I was anxious to be allowed to remain longer in
the Soudan. There was news of fighting and movement up the Blue Nile.
Emir Ahmed Fadl bringing a force of 3000 dervishes from Gedarif to
assist the Khalifa had been driven back by the gunboat "Sultan." More
important still, rumours had reached us that the French, under
Marchand, were at Fashoda. I knew that the Sirdar intended sending a
force upon the gunboats up the White Nile to Fashoda and Sobat, so I
made both verbal and written requests to the General for permission to
accompany the expedition. That, I was told, could not be granted. We
had full confirmation of the fact that Major Marchand was at Fashoda
brought down to Omdurman on the 7th September by the dervish steamer
"Tewfikieh." I boarded her and had a long chat with the captain (reis)
and members of the crew, all of whom wore jibbehs. The little craft
was an ex-Thames, above-the-bridges, penny steamer with Penn's
oscillating engines. She was one of the boats Gordon sent from
Khartoum in 1884 to meet the Desert Column at Metemmeh. She was, if
possible, more dilapidated-looking than ever. By guarded questioning I
ascertained that the "Tewfikieh" was three days out from Fashoda. She
and the "Safieh," another dervish steamer, had been hotly fired upon
by the French who were occupying the old Egyptian fort with 100
Senegalese or natives of Timbuctoo. A number of local natives,
Shilluks, who had long been hostile to the dervishes, were
co-operating with the strangers. The reis accurately described the
French flag which was flying over the works and the appearance of the
Europeans. I was also able to procure several of the Lebel rifle
bullets that had entered the upper structure of the steamer. The
censor struck out from my telegrams all allusion to the presence of
the French at Fashoda, and I had to wait until I returned to Lower
Egypt to transmit the news to London. I openly held that the Fashoda
affair should be promptly and fully disclosed to the British public,
and I acted upon that conviction.

The "Safieh" remained up the Nile, making fast to the bank about 100
miles north of Fashoda, to await the return of the "Tewfikieh" with
orders from the Khalifa and reinforcements to destroy the French. No
doubt there was an attempt made to carry out an Anglophobe idea of
effecting a friendly alliance with the Mahdists so as to secure to
France the right of access to the Nile and the Bahr el Ghazal. It was
an effort to achieve the impossible, to negotiate a treaty with wild
beasts. Had the dervishes, or even the "Safieh's" people who were
drumming up recruits, been granted a fortnight to do it in the
Marchand expedition would have been totally destroyed. The "Tewfikieh"
arrived in a dust-storm and passed the Sirdar's gunboats unseen, and
it was not until she got to Omdurman that the dervish reis and crew
realised what had happened. With quick wit the skipper acted, for
those who go upon waters are of a catholicity of creed and
good-fellowship very different from ordinary landsmen. He ran his
craft to the bank, landed with one of his crew and paid a visit to
headquarters, where he surrendered himself and his craft. Both were at
once accepted, and during the course of the same day the "Tewfikieh"
again hoisted the Khedivial flag and was employed in towing and ferry
work. The captain and crew stood by their ship working her, and though
dressed as dervishes were on the flotilla muster-roll for wages and
rations. The like befell the other dervish steamers that came into
the Sirdar's hands. For two days there was a sale of the loot
captured by the army. Arms, drums, flags, and nearly all the smaller
articles found in the arsenal were auctioned. Some £4000 or more of
ivory and other merchandise were put aside. On the first day big
prices were paid by officers and men for trophies, but the following
day spears and swords were sold for trifling sums. The money derived
from the sale was set aside for distribution as prize money. All the
battalions, batteries, and corps had, however, free gifts of guns,
flags, or other trophies for souvenirs. On the afternoon of the 8th
September the correspondents and their belongings proceeded on the
horribly frowsy, rat-overrun, dervish steamer "Bordein" to Dakhala,
the railhead. The steamer was packed upon and below deck with British
soldiers, about 50 of whom were sick, whilst several were wounded.
Stowed almost like cattle, sitting, squatting, lying anywhere, anyhow,
without shade or shelter, we underwent two days of it on board. It was
found necessary to tie up occasionally for wood (fuel), and at night
the steamer was always moored to the bank. These occasions provided
the needed opportunity to prepare and partake of meals, and find space
to sleep upon the shore. But it was war-time, and extra roughing-it is
always an accompaniment of the game in uncivilised countries. Within a
week, thanks to the desert railway and the post-boats, we were back
enjoying the delicious flesh-pots of Egypt, first on board Messrs
Cook's magnificent Nile steamers, and thereafter in Shepheard's hotel,
Cairo.

On the way down I saw something and heard more of the excellent
base-hospital established at Abadia, of which Lieut.-Col. Clery,
R.A.M.C., was in charge. Landing stages had been erected for receiving
the sick and wounded, and wells were dug from which, owing to
infiltration, clear water was drawn for use in the hospital. All
water, however, used for food or drink was in addition filtered and
boiled. The percentage of recovery by patients was eminently
satisfactory. Major Battersby, R.A.M.C, had a Röntgen Ray apparatus
which was employed in twenty-two cases to locate bullets and
fractures. In connection with the treatment of the sick and wounded,
it is to be regretted that earlier and greater use was not made of the
National Aid Society's offer to provide steamers properly fitted for
carrying invalids. A railway journey in Egypt or the Soudan is, at the
best, a painful experience for even those who are well. From Assouan
to Cairo every invalided soldier could and should have been
transported by water, on just such a craft as the hospital,
"Mayflower," which the Society promptly and admirably equipped the
moment the authorities gave their consent. As early as June 1898
Lieut.-Col. Young, on behalf of the Red Cross Society, wrote
intimating a desire to assist, entirely at their own expense, in the
expedition. This application met with a refusal, and it was not until
the 1st of August 1898 that the Foreign Office replied to a subsequent
appeal that the Sirdar would gladly accept their proffer. Had the
matter been settled in June, instead of August, there could have been
three hospital ships plying, enough to transport every sick soldier
by water. By the 6th of September the "Mayflower" was ready with a
crew and a complement of nurses. The army provided their own medical
staff, the Society running the steamer and supplying the cuisine,
which was under the direction of a French "chef." The "Mayflower" was
able to convey, in most comfortable quarters, with every possible
attention to their needs, seventy-two sick and wounded soldiers.
Pjamas, socks, shirts and other necessaries were given free to every
patient. The steamer did good service, making at least three round
trips to bring down patients.

The wounds received in battle had scarce been dressed before the
Sirdar was seeking to give effect to his schemes for the well-being of
the Soudanese. Means were taken for the speedy connecting by telegraph
of Suakin and Berber, Suakin, Kassala, Gedarif, Khartoum. The wire
from Dakhala to Nasri was brought on to Omdurman a few days after the
victory. Arrangements were further made to bridge the Atbara and carry
forward the Wady Halfa-Abu Hamed-Dakhala line along the east bank to a
point upon the Blue Nile opposite Khartoum. That railway will be
completed in 1899, and there will be through train service from Wady
Halfa to the junction of the two Niles. With the suitable steamers
already in hand, there should be, all the year round, water
communication up the Blue Nile for hundreds of miles, and upon the
White Nile, with a few porterages, to the Great Equatorial Lakes, and
west through the Bahr el Ghazal country. So much was for commerce, for
material benefaction, but there was besides recognition of what was
due to higher needs. I knew the Sirdar had long entertained the idea
of fitly commemorating General Gordon's glorious self-abnegation in
striving to help the natives, single-handed, fighting unto death
ignorance and fanaticism. A scheme that would provide for the
education of the youth of the Soudan, conveying to them the stores of
knowledge taught in the colleges of civilised countries, was what he
aimed at. The desired institution should be founded in Khartoum, which
was to become a centre of light and guidance for the new nation being
born to rule Central Africa. As the Mussulman is nothing if not
fanatical whenever religious questions are introduced, it was to be a
foundation solely devoted to teaching exact knowledge without any
"ism."

I had the opportunity afforded me of several conversations with the
Sirdar upon the subject so dear to him, "a Gordon Memorial College in
Khartoum." The substance of these interviews I cabled fully to the
_Daily Telegraph_, which, with most other journals, warmly advocated
the carrying out of the scheme. It was certain that Gordon and
Khartoum would remain objects of interest to our race, and that public
sentiment demanded the erection of some proper memorial of the sad
past. Nothing better than the founding of a People's College could be
thought of. Lamentable ignorance of the world and all therein was and
yet is the direct curse of the land. The natives have had no
opportunity of learning anything beyond the parrot-smattering of the
Koran, the one book of Moslem schools. The rudimentary knowledge
common to British schoolboys transcends all the learning of the wise
in the Soudan. The people, Arabs and blacks, are docile and capable of
readily learning everything taught in the ordinary scholastic
curriculum at home. With a minimum annual income of £1500 a year,
teachers and apparatus could, it was said, be provided, although in
addition five or six thousand pounds sterling would be required for
preliminary outlay. The land and part of the necessary buildings, the
Sirdar intimated, would probably be presented as a gift by the
Egyptian Government. It would be futile, as all knew, trying to
succeed with a staff of native teachers. Tribal relations and other
causes stood in the way, and unless the college was to be doomed to
failure it would have to be launched and conducted by virile European
professors. Much if not all of the food required for the staff and
scholars could be purchased cheaply or might be raised in the college
grounds by the pupils themselves. Technical training would be taught
hand in hand with the ordinary courses. These were the outlines of the
Sirdar's communications, who, by the way, at that date was already
being known as Lord Kitchener of Khartoum. It having been noticed that
certain dignitaries and others were, through the press, ruining the
scheme by attempts to foist upon it theological and medical schools, a
complete answer was found for their statements by a near relative of
Gordon Pasha. In the course of conversation he referred to what I knew
to be the facts, that the British and Egyptian army doctors wherever
stationed in the Soudan, or from Assouan south, were wont to give
medicines and professional services to the civil population free of
charge. General Gordon, I was authorised to state, was no
narrow-spirited Christian, for he always put the need of giving
education before attempts at proselytising. It is not generally known
amongst strait-laced sectarians or churchmen that Gordon Pasha, at his
own expense, built a mosque for the devout Mohammedans whom he ruled,
and that his name, as worthy to be remembered in Moslem annals, is
inscribed upon the walls of the Mosque at Mecca. That General Gordon
was a staunch Christian goes without saying, but he was no churl who
could not esteem and respect the faith of his fellow-men. But the case
is well summed up in Lord Kitchener's subsequent letter to the press.

The Sirdar wrote:--

    "SIR,--I trust that it will not be thought that I am trespassing
    too much upon the goodwill of the British public, or that I am
    exceeding the duties of a soldier, if I call your attention to an
    issue of very grave importance arising immediately out of the
    recent campaign in the Soudan. That region now lies in the pathway
    of our Empire, and a numerous population has become practically
    dependent upon men of our race.

    "A responsible task is henceforth laid upon us, and those who have
    conquered are called upon to civilise. In fact, the work
    interrupted since the death of Gordon must now be resumed.

    "It is with this conviction that I venture to lay before you a
    proposal which, if it met with the approval and support of the
    British public and of the English-speaking race, would prove of
    inestimable benefit to the Soudan and to Africa. The area of the
    Soudan comprises a population of upwards of three million persons,
    of whom it may be said that they are wholly uneducated. The
    dangers arising from that fact are too obvious and have been too
    painfully felt during many years past for me to dwell upon them.
    In the course of time, no doubt, an education of some sort, and
    administered by some hands, will be set on foot. But if Khartoum
    could be made forthwith the centre of an education supported by
    British funds and organised from Britain, there would be secured
    to this country indisputably the first place in Africa as a
    civilising power, and an effect would be created which would be
    felt for good throughout the central regions of that continent. I
    accordingly propose that at Khartoum there should be founded and
    maintained with British money a college bearing the name of the
    Gordon Memorial College, to be a pledge that the memory of Gordon
    is still alive among us, and that his aspirations are at length to
    be realised.

    "Certain questions will naturally arise as to whom exactly we
    should educate, and as to the nature of the education to be given.
    Our system would need to be gradually built up. We should begin by
    teaching the sons of the leading men, the heads of villages, and
    the heads of districts. They belong to a race very capable of
    learning and ready to learn. The teaching, in its early stages,
    would be devoted to purely elementary subjects, such as reading,
    writing, geography, and the English language. Later, and after
    these preliminary stages had been passed, a more advanced course
    would be instituted, including a training in technical subjects
    specially adapted to the requirements of those who inhabit the
    Valley of the Upper Nile. The principal teachers in the college
    would be British and the supervision of the arrangements would be
    vested in the Governor-General of the Soudan. I need not add that
    there would be no interference with the religion of the people.

    "The fund required for the establishment of such a college is
    £100,000. Of this, £10,000 would be appropriated to the initial
    outlay, while the remaining £90,000 would be invested, and the
    revenue thence derived would go to the maintenance of the college
    and the support of the staff of teachers. It would be clearly
    impossible at first to require payment from the pupils, but as the
    college developed and the standard of its teaching rose, it would
    be fair to demand fees in respect of this higher education, which
    would thus support itself, and render the college independent of
    any further call upon the public. It is for the provision of this
    sum of £100,000 that I now desire to appeal, on behalf of a race
    dependent upon our mercy, in the name of Gordon, and in the cause
    of that civilisation which is the life of the Empire of Britain.

    "I am authorised to state that Her Majesty the Queen has been
    graciously pleased to become the patron of the movement. His Royal
    Highness the Prince of Wales has graciously consented to become
    vice-patron.

    "I may state that a general council of the leading men of the
    country is in course of formation. Lord Hillingdon has kindly
    consented to accept the post of hon. treasurer. The Hon. George
    Peel has accepted to act as hon. secretary, and all communications
    should be addressed to him at 67, Lombard Street, London, E.C.
    Subscriptions should be paid to the Sirdar's Fund for the 'Gordon
    Memorial College' at Khartoum, Messrs Glyn, Mills, Currie, & Co.,
    67, Lombard Street, London, E.C.

    "Enclosed herewith is a letter from the Marquis of Salisbury, in
    which he states that this scheme represents the only policy by
    which the civilising mission of this country can effectively be
    accomplished. His lordship adds that it is only to the rich men of
    this country that it is possible for me to look, yet I should be
    glad for this appeal to find its way to all classes of our people.

    "I further enclose a letter from the Baroness Burdett-Coutts,
    whose devotion to the cause of Africa has been not the least of
    her magnificent services. I forward, besides, an important
    telegram from the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, and letters of great
    weight from the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and the Lord Provost of
    Glasgow. I would venture to address myself to the other great
    municipalities of the Kingdom.

    "Above all, it is in the hands of the Press of this country that I
    place this cause. I look with confidence to your support in the
    discharge of this high obligation.--I have the honour to remain,
    yours faithfully,

                                     "(Signed) KITCHENER OF KHARTOUM."

Lords Salisbury and Rosebery, and many more distinguished personages,
followed the example of the Sovereign and the Prince of Wales and
became supporters of the proposed institution. In the Metropolis as
well as in all the chief towns of the Kingdom the matter was taken up
enthusiastically. An influential committee was formed. The
subscriptions were showered in from home and abroad, wherever the
English tongue was spoken and Gordon had been known. In less than a
month the £100,000, and considerably more, were subscribed, and the
establishment of the Memorial College assured.

Lieut.-Colonel C. S. B. Parsons, R.A., Governor of Kassala and the Red
Sea littoral, to whom I have previously referred when we were
advancing against Omdurman, was menacing the dervish outpost of
Gedarif. Later on, when Ahmed Fadl was marching to reinforce his
master the Khalifa, Colonel Parsons was leading his Egyptians,
Abyssinian irregulars, and friendlies from Kassala up the head waters
or khor of the Atbara, far to the southward, and thence to a tributary
of the Blue Nile where the enemy had long had a garrison. The fifteen
years' campaign against Mahdism was nigh over, but not quite
concluded, with the victory of Omdurman. On receiving the check from
the gunboats, Fadl and his dervishes retreated up the Blue Nile to
where they had come from, their own country upon the borders of
Abyssinia. News seems to have reached them of Colonel Parsons'
advance, and it became a race for Gedarif. The Egyptians had a good
start, and managed to reach and capture the place and occupy the two
forts, one on either side of the river, or, what it is more
frequently, the khor, before the dervishes got back. Fadl was a man
of mettle and resolutely assaulted the town and forts of which he had
so long been governor. A desperate action ensued, but Fadl was beaten
off with a loss of 700, it is said, in killed and wounded. The
casualties in Colonel Parsons' force were about 100. But the
dervishes, though severely beaten, soon returned to attack the forts.
With increased numbers they sat down before the place and began to
harass sorely the Egyptian troops, cutting their communications with
Kassala, whence by wire to Massowah over the Italian lines and up the
Red Sea to Egypt the Sirdar was able to keep in touch with Colonel
Parsons. They endeavoured again, on several occasions, to storm one or
other of the forts, which were about half a mile apart, but happily
they were invariably repulsed. Still they persisted in their tactics
of worrying, evidently determined to recapture the place. At last
matters grew so serious that Major-General Rundle was sent with a
brigade of infantry and several batteries to deal with Ahmed Fadl's
dervishes. Advancing up the Blue Nile in gunboats, the Egyptian force
cleared the banks of all the many wandering armed bands of the enemy.
Through the aid of the wily Abyssinian scouts, information was sent to
and received from Colonel Parsons and a plan arranged for catching
Fadl and his men between two attacking columns. Seventeen hundred men
of the Omdurman force attacked the dervishes on one side, whilst
Colonel Parsons' garrison assailed them from the other. The enemy were
completely routed and scattered in all directions. Hundreds of
dervishes were slain, and ultimately many who escaped were so closely
pressed by friendlies and Abyssinians that they surrendered. A
thousand fugitive Baggara or so vainly tried to make their way up the
Blue Nile, in order to retire to their former country in Kordofan.
They were caught crossing far up stream, near Rosaires, by Colonel
Lewis, vigorously attacked, defeated, and finally scattered. Thus the
last dervish army in the field was destroyed, and the country
reclaimed to the side of peace, order, and civilised government.

The following are the official despatches of Lieutenant-General Sir
Francis Grenfell, who commanded the British troops in Egypt, and of
the Sirdar, relating to the battle of Omdurman:--

    THE OFFICIAL DESPATCHES.

                            Headquarters, Cairo, _September 16, 1898_.

    SIR,--1. I have the honour to forward a despatch from
    Major-General Sir H. Kitchener, K.C.B., Sirdar, describing the
    later phases of the Soudan Campaign, and the final action on 2nd
    September.

    2. The Sirdar, in this despatch, recounts in brief, simple terms
    the events of the closing phase of one of the most successful
    campaigns ever conducted by a British General against a savage
    foe, resulting in the capture of Omdurman, the destruction of the
    dervish power in the Soudan, and the reopening of the waterway to
    the Equatorial Provinces.

    3. The concentration of the army on the Atbara was carried out to
    the hour, and the arrangements for the transport of the force to
    the vicinity of the battle-field were made by the Sirdar and his
    staff with consummate ability. All difficulties were foreseen and
    provided for, and, from the start of the campaign to its close at
    Omdurman, operations have been conducted with a precision and
    completeness which have been beyond all praise; while the skill
    shown in the advance was equalled by the ability with which the
    army was commanded in the field.

    The Sirdar's admirable disposition of the force, the accurate fire
    of the artillery and Maxims, and the steady fire discipline of the
    infantry, assisted by the gunboats, enabled him to destroy his
    enemy at long range before the bulk of the British and Egyptian
    force came under any severe rifle fire, and to this cause may be
    attributed the comparatively small list of casualties. Never were
    greater results achieved at such a trifling cost.

    4. The heavy loss in killed and wounded in the 21st Lancers is to
    be deeply regretted. But the charge itself, against an
    overwhelming force of sword and spear men over difficult ground,
    and under unfavourable conditions, was worthy of the best
    traditions of British cavalry.

    5. As regards the force employed, I can say with truth that never,
    in the course of my service, have I seen a finer body of troops
    than the British contingent of cavalry, artillery, engineers, and
    infantry placed at the disposal of the Sirdar, as regards
    physique, smartness, and soldierlike bearing. The appearance of
    the men speaks well for the present recruiting department, and was
    a source of pride to every Englishman who saw them.

    6. While thoroughly endorsing the Sirdar's recommendations, I
    desire to call attention to the good work done by Major-General
    Henderson, C.B., and staff at Alexandria, who conducted the
    disembarkation of the force, and by my own staff at Cairo.

    On Colonel H. Cooper, Assistant Adjutant-General, and
    Lieut.-Colonel L. A. Hope, Deputy-Assistant Adjutant-General, fell
    the brunt of the work in the despatch of the British Division to
    the front.

    I also desire to acknowledge the services of Brevet-Colonel A. O.
    Green, Commanding Royal Engineer; Surgeon-General H. S. Muir,
    M.D., Principal Medical Officer; Lieut.-Colonel F. O. Leggett,
    Army Ordnance Department; Colonel F. Treffry, Army Pay Department;
    Veterinary-Captain Blenkinsop, and the junior officers of the
    various departments.

    Major Williams, my C.R.A., was indefatigable in organising the
    mule transport for the 32nd and 37th Field Batteries.

    7. I have received the greatest assistance from the Egyptian
    Railway Administration in the movements of the troops both going
    south and returning.

    Thanks to the admirable system organised by Iskander Bey Fahmy,
    the traffic manager, all the services were rapidly and punctually
    carried out.

    8. I am sending this despatch home by my _Aide-de-camp_,
    Lieutenant H. Grenfell, 1st Life Guards, who acted as Orderly
    Officer to Brigadier-General Honourable N. G. Lyttelton, C.B.,
    commanding Second British Brigade in the Soudan.--I have, &c.,

                                 FRANCIS GRENFELL, Lieutenant-General,
                                                  Commanding in Egypt.

The despatch from Major-General Sir Herbert Kitchener, Sirdar, to
Lieutenant-General Sir Francis Grenfell, commanding in Egypt, was as
follows:--

                                        Omdurman, _September 5, 1898_.

    SIR,--It having been decided that an expeditionary force of
    British and Egyptian troops should be sent against the Khalifa's
    army in Omdurman, I have the honour to inform you that the
    following troops were concentrated at the North End of the Sixth
    Cataract, in close proximity to which an advanced supply depôt had
    been previously formed at Nasri Island.

    BRITISH TROOPS.--21st Lancers; 32nd Field Battery, Royal
    Artillery; 37th Howitzer Battery, Royal Artillery; 2 40-prs.,
    Royal Artillery. Infantry Division:--1st Brigade: 1st Battalion
    Warwickshire Regiment, 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, 1st
    Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, 1st Battalion Cameron Highlanders,
    6 Maxims, Detachment Royal Engineers. 2nd Brigade: 1st Battalion
    Grenadier Guards, 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, 2nd
    Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade, 4
    Maxims, Detachment Royal Engineers.

    EGYPTIAN TROOPS.--9 Squadrons, Cavalry; 1 Battery, Horse
    Artillery; 4 Field Batteries; 10 Maxims; 8 Companies, Camel Corps.
    1st Brigade: 2nd Egyptian Battalion; 9th, 10th, and 11th
    Soudanese Battalions. 2nd Brigade: 8th Egyptian Battalion; 12th,
    13th, and 14th Soudanese Battalions. 3rd Brigade: 3rd, 4th, 7th,
    and 15th Egyptian Battalions. 4th Brigade: 1st, 5th, 17th, and
    18th Egyptian Battalions. Camel Transport.

    On 24th August the troops began moving by successive divisions to
    Jebel Royan, where a depôt of supplies and a British communication
    hospital of two hundred beds were established.

    On 28th August, the army marched to Wadi el Abid, and on the
    following day proceeded to Sayal, from whence I despatched a
    letter to the Khalifa, warning him to remove his women and
    children, as I intended to bombard Omdurman unless he surrendered.

    Next day the army marched to Sururab, and on September 1 reached
    the village of Egeiga, two miles south of the Kerreri hills, and
    within six miles of Omdurman. Patrols of the enemy's horsemen were
    frequently seen during the march falling back before our cavalry,
    and their outposts being driven in beyond Egeiga, our advanced
    scouts came in full view of Omdurman, from which large bodies of
    the enemy were seen streaming out and marching north.

    At noon, from the slopes of Jebel Surgham, I saw the entire
    dervish army some three miles off advancing towards us, the
    Khalifa's black flag surrounded by his Mulazimin (body-guard)
    being plainly discernible. I estimated their numbers at 35,000
    men, though, from subsequent investigation, this figure was
    probably under-estimated, their actual strength being between
    forty and fifty thousand. From information received, I gather that
    it was the Khalifa's intention to have met us with this force at
    Kerreri, but our rapid advance surprised him.

    The troops were at once disposed around the village of Egeiga,
    which formed an excellent position with a clear field of fire in
    every direction, and shelter-trenches and zerebas were prepared.

    At 2 p.m. our vedettes reported that the enemy had halted, and
    later on it was observed that they were preparing bivouacs and
    lighting fires. Information was received that the Khalifa
    contemplated a night attack on our position, and preparations to
    repel this were made, at the same time the Egeiga villagers were
    sent out to obtain information in the direction of the enemy's
    camp with the idea that we intended a night attack, and, this
    coming to the Khalifa's knowledge, he decided to remain in his
    position; consequently, we passed an undisturbed night in the
    zereba.

    Meanwhile the gunboats, under Commander Keppel, which had shelled
    the dervish advanced camp near Kerreri on 31st August, proceeded
    at daylight on 1st September, towing the Howitzer Battery to the
    right bank, whence, in conjunction with the Irregulars under Major
    Stuart Wortley, their advance south was continued. After two forts
    had been destroyed and the villages gallantly cleared by the
    Irregulars, the Howitzers were landed in a good position on the
    right bank, from whence an effective fire was opened on Omdurman,
    and, after a few rounds, the conspicuous dome over the Mahdi's
    tomb was partially demolished, whilst the gunboats, steaming past
    the town, also effectually bombarded the forts, which replied with
    a heavy, but ill-directed fire.

    At dawn on the following morning (2nd September), our mounted
    patrols reported the enemy advancing to attack, and by 6.30 a.m.
    the Egyptian Cavalry, which had been driven in, took up a position
    with the Horse Artillery, Camel Corps, and four Maxims on the
    Kerreri ridge on our right flank.

    At 6.40 a.m. the shouts of the advancing dervish army became
    audible, and a few minutes later their flags appeared over the
    rising ground, forming a semi-circle round our left and front
    faces. The guns of the 32nd Field Battery opened fire at 6.45 a.m.
    at a range of two thousand eight hundred yards, and the dervishes,
    continuing to advance rapidly, delivered their attack with all
    their accustomed dash and intrepidity. In a short time the troops
    and Maxims on the left and front were hotly engaged, whilst the
    enemy's riflemen, taking up positions on the slopes of Jebel
    Surgham, brought a long-range fire to bear on the zereba, causing
    some casualties, and their spearmen, continually reinforced from
    the rear, made attempt after attempt to reach our lines.

    Shortly after 8.0 a.m. the enemy's main attack was repulsed. At
    this period a large and compact body of dervishes was observed
    attempting to march round our right, and advancing with great
    rapidity they soon became engaged with our mounted troops on the
    Kerreri ridge. One of the gunboats which had been disposed to
    protect the river flanks at once proceeded down stream to afford
    assistance to the somewhat hardly-pressed mounted troops, and
    coming within close range of the dervishes inflicted heavy loss on
    them, upwards of 450 men being killed in a comparatively
    circumscribed area. The Artillery and Maxims on the left face of
    the zereba also co-operated, and the enemy was forced to retire
    again under cover of the hills.

    All attacks on our position having failed, and the enemy having
    retired out of range, I sent out the 21st Lancers to clear the
    ground on our left front and head off any retreating dervishes
    from the direction of Omdurman. After crossing the slopes of Jebel
    Surgham they came upon a body of dervishes concealed in a
    depression of the ground; these they gallantly charged, but
    finding, too late to withdraw, that a much larger body of the
    enemy lay hidden, the charge was pressed home through them, and,
    after rallying on the other side, they rode back, driving off the
    dervishes, and remaining in possession of the ground. Considerable
    loss was inflicted on the enemy; but I regret to say that here
    fell Lieutenant R. Grenfell (12th Lancers) and twenty men.

    Meanwhile I had ordered the army to follow in échelon of brigades
    from the left. At 9.30 a.m. the front brigades having reached the
    sand ridge running from the west end of Jebel Surgham towards the
    river, a halt was ordered to enable the rear brigades to get into
    position, and I then received information that the Khalifa was
    still present in force on the left slopes of Surgham; a change of
    front half-right of the three leading brigades was, therefore,
    ordered, and it was during this movement that Macdonald's brigade
    became hotly engaged, whilst taking up position on the right of
    the échelon.

    Learning from General Hunter, who was with Macdonald's brigade,
    that he might require support, I despatched Wauchope's brigade to
    reinforce him, and ordered the remaining brigades to make a
    further change half-right.

    No sooner had Macdonald repelled the dervish onslaught than the
    force, which had retired behind the Kerreri hills, emerged again
    into the plain and rapidly advanced to attack him, necessitating a
    further complete change of front of his brigade to the right. This
    movement was admirably executed, and now, supported by a portion
    of Wauchope's brigade on the right and by Lewis's brigade
    enfilading the attack on the left, he completely crushed this
    second most determined dervish charge.

    Meantime Maxwell's and Lyttelton's brigades had been pushed on
    over the slopes of Jebel Surgham, and driving before them the
    dervish forces under the Khalifa's son, Osman Sheikh ed Din, they
    established themselves in a position which cut off the retreat on
    Omdurman of the bulk of the dervish army, who were soon seen
    streaming in a disorganised mass towards the high hills many miles
    to the west, closely pursued by the mounted troops, who cleared
    the right front and flanks of all hesitating and detached parties
    of the enemy.

    The battle was now practically over, and Lyttelton's and Maxwell's
    brigades marched down to Khor Shambat, in the direction of
    Omdurman, which was reached at 12.30 p.m., and here the troops
    rested and watered. The remainder of Hunter's division and
    Wauchope's brigade reached the same place at 3 p.m.

    At 2 p.m. I advanced with Maxwell's brigade and the 32nd Field
    Battery through the suburbs of Omdurman to the great wall of the
    Khalifa's enclosure, and, leaving two guns and three battalions to
    guard the approaches, the 13th Soudanese Battalion and four guns
    (32nd Field Battery) were pushed down by the north side of the
    wall to the river, and, accompanied by three gunboats which had
    been previously ordered to be ready for this movement, these
    troops penetrated the breaches in the wall made by the howitzers,
    marched south along the line of forts, and turning in at the main
    gateway found a straight road leading to the Khalifa's house and
    Mahdi's tomb; these were speedily occupied, the Khalifa having
    quitted the town only a short time before our entry, after a vain
    effort to collect his men for further resistance.

    The gunboats continued up the river clearing the streets of
    dervishes, and, having returned to the remainder of the brigade
    left at the corner of the wall, these were pushed forward, and
    occupied all the main portions of the town. Guards were at once
    mounted over the principal buildings and Khalifa's stores, and
    after visiting the prison and releasing the European prisoners,
    the troops bivouacked at 7 p.m. around the town, after a long and
    trying day, throughout which all ranks displayed qualities of high
    courage, discipline, and endurance.

    The gunboats and Egyptian Cavalry and Camel Corps at once started
    in pursuit south; but owing to the exhausted condition of the
    animals and the flooded state of the country, which prevented them
    from communicating with the gunboat carrying their forage and
    rations, they were reluctantly obliged to abandon the pursuit
    after following up the flying Khalifa for 30 miles through marshy
    ground. The gunboats continued south for 90 miles, but were unable
    to come in touch with the Khalifa, who left the river and fled
    westward towards Kordofan, followed by the armed friendly tribes
    who took up the pursuit on the return of the mounted troops.

    Large stores of ammunition, powder, some sixty guns of various
    sorts, besides vast quantities of rifles, swords, spears, banners,
    drums, and other war materials, were captured on the battle-field
    and in Omdurman.

    The result of this battle is the practical annihilation of the
    Khalifa's army, the consequent extinction of Mahdism in the
    Soudan, and the submission of the whole country formerly ruled
    under Egyptian authority. This has re-opened vast territories to
    the benefits of peace, civilisation, and good government.

    On 4th September the British and Egyptian flags were hoisted with
    due ceremony on the walls of the ruined Palace of Khartoum, close
    to the spot where General Gordon fell, and this event is looked
    upon by the rejoicing populations as marking the commencement of a
    new era of peace and prosperity for their unfortunate country.

    It would be impossible for any Commander to have been more ably
    seconded than I was by the General Officers serving under me.
    Major-Generals Hunter, Rundle, and Gatacre have displayed the
    highest qualities as daring and skilful leaders, as well as being
    endowed with administrative capabilities of a high order. It is in
    the hands of such officers that the Service may rest assured their
    best interests will, under all circumstances, be honourably
    upheld, and while expressing to them my sincere thanks for their
    cordial co-operation with me, I have every confidence in most
    highly recommending the names of these General Officers for the
    favourable consideration of Her Majesty's Government.

    The manner in which the Brigadiers handled their respective
    brigades, their thorough knowledge of their profession, and their
    proved skill in the field, mark them out, one and all, as fitted
    for higher rank, and I have great pleasure in submitting their
    names for favourable consideration:--Brigadier-Generals N. G.
    Lyttelton and A. G. Wauchope; Lieutenant-Colonels J. G. Maxwell,
    H. A. Macdonald, D. F. Lewis and J. Collinson.

    Macdonald's brigade was highly tested, bearing the brunt of two
    severe attacks delivered at very short intervals from different
    directions, and I am sure it must be a source of the greatest
    satisfaction to Colonel Macdonald, as it is to myself and the
    whole army, that the very great care he has for long devoted to
    the training of his brigade has proved so effectual, enabling his
    men to behave with the greatest steadiness under most trying
    circumstances, and repelling most successfully two determined
    dervish onslaughts.

    I should also mention under this category the excellent services
    performed by Colonel R. H. Martin, commanding 21st Lancers; by
    Lieut.-Colonel Long, commanding the combined British and Egyptian
    Artillery; and by Lieut.-Colonel R. G. Broadwood, commanding the
    Egyptian Cavalry; as well as by Major R. J. Tudway, commanding the
    Camel Corps. I consider that these various arms could not have
    been more efficiently commanded than they were throughout the
    recent operations. The best result was, I believe, attained, and
    it is due to the skilful handling of their respective commands
    that the dervish defeat was so complete.

    The Medical Department was administered with ability and skill by
    Surgeon-General Taylor, Principal Medical Officer, who was well
    assisted by Colonel M'Namara, whilst the medical organisation of
    the Egyptian Army fully maintained its previous excellent
    reputation under the direction of Lieut.-Colonel Gallwey and his
    staff. The general medical arrangements were all that could have
    been desired, and I believe the minimum of pain and maximum of
    comfort procurable on active service in this country was attained
    by the unremitting energy, untiring zeal, and devotion to their
    duty of the entire medical staff.

    Owing to the long line of communications by rail, river, and
    desert, the work of maintaining a thoroughly efficient supply and
    transport system, both by land and water, was arduous in the
    extreme, and that a large British and Egyptian force was brought
    up to within striking distance of Khartoum, amply supplied with
    all its requirements, reflects the greatest credit on the supply
    and transport system. I wish to cordially thank the officers of
    the Supply, Transport and Railway Departments for the satisfactory
    results which have attended their labours.

    I consider that the excellent ration which was always provided
    kept the men strong and healthy and fit to endure all the
    hardships of an arduous campaign, enabling them, at a critical
    moment, to support the exceptional fatigue of continuous marching
    and fighting for some fourteen hours during the height of a Soudan
    summer.

    The Intelligence Department were, as usual, thoroughly efficient,
    and their forecasts of the intentions and actions of the enemy
    were accurate. Colonel Wingate and Slatin Pacha worked
    indefatigably, and, with their staff, deserve a prominent place
    amongst those to whom the success of the operations is due.

    The excellent service performed by the gunboats under Commander
    Keppel and his subordinate officers of the Royal Navy is deserving
    of special mention. These gunboats have been for a long time past
    almost constantly under fire; they have made bold reconnaissances
    past the enemy's forts and rifle pits, and on the 1st and 2nd
    September, in conjunction with the Irregular levies under Major
    Stuart Wortley, and the Howitzer Battery, they materially aided in
    the capture of all the forts on both banks of the Nile, and in
    making the fortifications of Omdurman untenable. In bringing to
    notice the readiness of resource, daring, and ability of Commander
    Keppel and his officers, I wish also to add my appreciation of the
    services rendered by Engineer E. Bond, Royal Navy, and the
    engineering staff, as well as of the detachments of the Royal
    Marine Artillery and the gun crews, who have gained the hearty
    praise of their commanders.

    The Rev. R. Brindle, the Rev. J. M. Simms, the Rev. A. W. B.
    Watson, and the Rev. O. S. Watkins won the esteem of all by their
    untiring devotion to their sacred duties and by their unfailing
    and cheerful kindness to the sick and wounded at all times.

    To all my personal staff my thanks are specially due for the great
    assistance they at all times rendered me.

    In conclusion, I have great pleasure in expressing my
    appreciation of the services rendered by the detachments of the
    Royal Engineers, Army Ordnance Corps, and Telegraph and Postal
    Departments.

The names of a large number of officers, non-commissioned officers,
and men who had been brought to the Sirdar's notice for good service
were appended to the despatch.

Two other documents call for notice, the Queen's message and the
Sirdar's general order to his army after the victory.

    "From the Queen to the Sirdar, Khartoum.--I congratulate you and
    all your brave troops under fire on the brilliant success which
    you have achieved. I am grieved for the losses which have been
    sustained, but trust the wounded are doing well.--VICTORIA."

    "The Sirdar congratulates all the troops upon their excellent
    behaviour during the general action to-day, resulting in the total
    defeat of the Khalifa's forces and worthily avenging Gordon. The
    Sirdar regrets the loss that has occurred, and, while warmly
    thanking the troops, wishes to place on record his admiration for
    their courage, discipline, and endurance.

                                           "(Signed) H. M. L. RUNDLE."

Long lists of honours and promotions were subsequently published in
the _Gazette_. Of these, the more prominent officers who received such
recognition of their distinguished services were as follows: The
Sirdar was raised to the peerage as Lord Kitchener of Khartoum. In
addition thereto the dignity G.C.B. was conferred upon the Sirdar, and
Sir Francis Grenfell. Major-Generals W. F. Gatacre, A. Hunter, and H.
M. L. Rundle were created K.C.B.'s, and the dignity of Companion of
the Bath was granted to Surgeon-General William Taylor, Colonel V.
Hatton, Colonel L. C. Money, Colonel T. E. Verner, Colonel W. H.
M'Namara, R.A.M.C., Lieut.-Col. R. A. Hope, Lieut.-Col. Collingwood,
Lieut.-Col. D. F. Lewis, Lieut.-Col. J. Collinson, Lieut.-Col. W. E.
G. Forbes, Lieut.-Col. M. Q. Jones, Lieut.-Col. F. R. South,
Lieut.-Col. R. H. Martin, Lieut.-Col. W. G. C. Wyndham, and Commander
C. R. Keppel, R. N. Colonel F. R. Wingate was made a Knight Commander
of the Order of St Michael and St George, and a like dignity was
conferred upon Colonel R. Slatin Pasha. Distinguished Service Orders
were granted to the Rev. R. Brindle, Lieut.-Col. C. V. F. Townshend,
Lieut.-Col. G. A. Hughes, Lieut.-Col. C. J. Blomfield, Lieut.-Col. F.
Lloyd, Major E. J. M. Stuart Wortley, Major E. M. Wilson, R.A.M.C.,
Major G. Cockburn, Major Hon. C. Lambton, Major N. E. Young, Major C.
E. Laurie, and Major F. J. Maxse, Captain C. C. Fleming, R.A.M.C.,
Lieutenant G. C. M. Hall, Lieutenant F. Hubbard. The Khedive conferred
the Medjidieh and Osmanlieh orders on a large number of officers.
Others, whose names did not appear in the order list, figured in that
of army promotions. Victoria Crosses were given to Captain P. A.
Kenna, 21st Lancers, Lieutenant R. H. L. J. de Montmorency, 21st
Lancers, Private Thomas Byrne, 21st Lancers (for turning back in the
charge and rescuing Lieutenant Molyneux), Captain N. M. Smyth, 2nd
Dragoon Guards.

Lieut.-Col. H. A. Macdonald, C.B., D.S.O., was made an extra A.D.C. to
the Queen.

The Sirdar on his return to Lower Egypt met with an enthusiastic
reception. Lord Cromer, Sir Francis Grenfell and all the notables in
Cairo met him and the troops turned out to escort him to his
residence. He was entertained in Cairo at a grand banquet. When he
visited England even a heartier and grander welcome was extended to
the victor of Omdurman and the destroyer of Mahdism. The public
acclaimed him, and honours and dignities were showered upon him ere he
returned to resume his self-imposed task of reconstructing the Soudan.

Colonel Hector A. Macdonald alone seems as yet to have had extended to
him scant military recognition of his invaluable services. The post of
A.D.C. to Her Majesty is a coveted dignity, but a mere honorary
office, carrying neither pay nor emolument. Indeed it is the other
way, for the accessories required to bedeck the person will cost at
least £25. But the fact cannot be forgotten, or cried down, that
Colonel Macdonald saved the situation. He fought a single-handed
battle against tremendous odds and won. First he faced the Khalifa and
fought him to a finish, and then faced about and served Sheikh Ed
Din's unbeaten dervishes in much the same fashion. For reasons that
could be given, and which reflect no discredit upon the other
brigadier, Colonel Lewis' force was not moved promptly up to
Macdonald's support. Honour lists and promotion lists still keep
cropping up, and possibly the military authorities are yet
deliberating what is the right thing to do in Macdonald's case. In the
Scotch press, and particularly in that of the Far North, there has
been much adverse comment on the ungenerous treatment accorded their
countryman. The Highlanders, as is their nature, write and speak
passionately of the matter, and pertinently ask if the authorities
wish no more Highland recruits. From the paper of his own district,
the Dingwall _North Star_, I quote the following lines:--

    "In glen and clachan, England's tardy debt
    The clansmen's pride will adequately pay:
    Round Nor'land hearths when lamplit nights are long,
    Thy fame shall ever live in many a tale and song."

The battle of Omdurman was not the only occasion in which Colonel
Macdonald has exhibited magnificent tactical skill combined with
soldierly dash and undaunted courage. It is not so long since the
Atbara was fought, and in half a score of engagements before that he
quitted himself equally well. He was deservedly promoted from the
ranks, and to Field-Marshal Lord Roberts is due the credit of having
discovered and properly appreciated the gallant Highlandman. His
record is one for any man to be proud of, for to his own hand he owes
his present distinguished position. I again quote from the _North
Star_:--

    "Colonel Macdonald was born at Rootfield, in the parish of
    Urquhart, in the county of Ross and Cromarty, and on the property
    of Mr Mackenzie of Allangrange. He began life as a stable-boy with
    Bailie Robertson, of the National Hotel, Dingwall, when tenant of
    the farm of Kinkell, Conon Bridge. At the age of seventeen he went
    to Inverness and became an apprentice draper with Mr William
    Mackay, late of the Clan Tartan Warehouse. In this capacity he
    served two years, but finding mercantile life distasteful to him,
    he enlisted in the 92nd Regiment. Here his qualities procured
    for him rapid promotion. He successively and successfully
    discharged the duties of drill-instructor, pay-sergeant, and other
    non-commissioned offices, and held the rank of colour-sergeant at
    the commencement of the Afghan campaign, wherein he repeatedly so
    greatly distinguished himself.

    "Macdonald's first engagement with an enemy was at Jagi Thanni. On
    that occasion General Roberts, escorted by the 9th Lancers and 5th
    Punjaub Cavalry, advanced from Ali Kheyl to Kushi, and, while
    passing by Jagi Thanni, he was attacked by about 2000 Mangals and
    Machalgah Ghilzais, who there lay in ambush. Fortunately, early
    intimation of the Mangals' hostile intentions reached Fort
    Karatiga, a mile or two off, and a party of 45 men of the 3rd
    Sikhs, under Jemander Shere Mahomed Khan, was at once sent out to
    reconnoitre, and, as firing was soon afterwards heard in the
    direction the party had gone, Colour-Sergeant Macdonald promptly
    turned out with 18 men of his own regiment, and overtaking the
    Sikhs, he took over command of the whole, and, gallantly leading
    his little force across a difficult river and up a steep hill, he
    boldly attacked and dislodged the enemy from a strong position on
    the crest, but not before four of the Sikhs were killed, and
    Deputy-Surgeon-General Townsend, who rode near General Roberts,
    severely wounded. The enemy's loss here was about 30 killed.
    Macdonald's brilliant services on this occasion averted something
    like a disaster. In a Divisional Order, Roberts wrote:--'The above
    non-commissioned officer and a native officer, with a handful of
    soldiers, drove before them a large body of Mangals, who had
    assembled to stop the road, ... the great coolness, judgment, and
    gallantry with which they behaved.' In his despatch, dated Cabul,
    15th October, and published in the _Gazette_, General Roberts
    further said:--'Meanwhile, a warm engagement had for some time
    been carried on in the direction of Karatiga, and presently large
    numbers of the enemy were seen retreating before a small
    detachment of the 92nd Highlanders and 3rd Sikhs, which had been
    sent out from Karatiga, and which was, with excellent judgment and
    boldness, led up a steep spur commanding the defile. The energy
    and skill with which this party was handled reflected the highest
    credit on Colour-Sergeant Hector Macdonald, 92nd Highlanders, and
    Jemander Shere Mahomed, 3rd Sikhs. But for their excellent
    services on this occasion, it might probably have been impossible
    to carry out the programme of our march.' In the same _Gazette_
    was published another despatch from Sir F. Roberts, dated Cabul,
    20th October, in which he says:--'Colour-Sergeant H. Macdonald, a
    non-commissioned officer, whose excellent and skilful management
    of a small detachment when opposed to immensely superior numbers
    in the Hazardarakht defile was mentioned in my despatch of the
    16th instant, here again distinguished himself.' This refers to
    his conduct at Charasiab, at the close of which action our brave
    countryman was sent for by Roberts, who publicly complimented and
    thanked him personally for 'the ability and intelligence with
    which he handled the party under his command' at the battle.
    Macdonald's commission was conferred on the recommendation of
    General Roberts, that distinguished officer having witnessed
    repeated proofs of his valour and capacity."

In 1885 Colonel Macdonald joined the then reorganised Egyptian
Constabulary and received rapid promotion. From these, on other
changes being made, he passed into the Khedivial army, drilling and
training new Soudanese levies. So thorough a soldier is too valuable
to be longer left in the Soudan now that peace is assured.

[Illustration: COL. H. MACDONALD AT OMDURMAN, WITH OFFICER AND
NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICER OF 1ST BRIGADE.]



CHAPTER XV.

THE FASHODA AFFAIR.--A RED BRITISH LINE THROUGH AFRICA.


France is following in the footsteps of Spain. A fatality dogs her
schemes of empire and colonisation. In truth she has no colonies--they
are but military possessions. She has set her face, alone and in
conjunction with others, in America, Asia, and Africa to hoop our
enterprises in with bands of iron. Failure attended her policy across
the Atlantic, in India, in Burmah, and but the other day at Fashoda.
Her object in that last instance was to connect her possessions in
West and East Africa, so that the red British lines which are steadily
extending from North and South Africa should never be joined. France
is the largest holder of territory upon the Dark Continent, and she
probably regarded that fact as the best justification for her subtle
move, through the Marchand and Abyssinian Missions, to add still more
to her dominions. She had been permitted to hoop us about at Bathurst
and Sierra Leone upon the West Coast and has all but completed the
same process round Ashantee and the Niger countries, not to speak of
elsewhere. Madagascar she had grabbed without a shadow of excuse, but
time and South African civilisation will make it a bigger Cuba.
Already her failures at government in that vast African island are
grievous. Less than five years ago, to use a phrase I have employed
elsewhere, property and life were ridiculously safe in that country.
But then the Hovas and Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony ruled the land.
Other changes predicted have come about there. The one native who
showed honesty and courage in successfully opposing them at Tamatave
the French subsequently executed. The Queen and Prime Minister were
banished. Speaking English, the chief foreign language spoken, has
been tabooed. Natives who are heard using it, or suspected of
employing our mother tongue, are thrust into prison and kept there,
_pour encourager les autres_, until they promise to discontinue
speaking it. Association of natives with English or Americans renders
them marked persons. The Protestant missions are regarded as centres
of treason and enmity to French authority. Quickly, as foretold, has
come about their reward(?) for non-interference politically in the
early days of French intrigue. Had they insisted, with the British
Government of a bygone day, in saving the island for the Malagasy,
they would have succeeded. Our commerce has also had to suffer, for
the French _instruct_ the natives that they must only buy articles of
French manufacture. The native who purchases British or American goods
soon discovers, from the severe handling he receives through the local
officials, that he has made a serious mistake. Robbery and
lawlessness are rife, and in many places neither life nor property is
safe beyond rifle-shot of the French garrisons. The facts are
notorious and are in possession of the Foreign Office in Downing
Street.

It had leaked out a day or two after the battle that the Sirdar
intended accompanying the expedition to Fashoda. The troops ordered to
proceed up the Nile with him were paraded outside Omdurman on the
morning of the 8th of September. These were 600 men of the 11th
Soudanese under Major Jackson, 600 men of the 13th Soudanese under
Major Smith Dorrian, 100 men of the Cameron Highlanders under Captain
the Hon. A. D. Murray, and Captain Peake's battery of 12½-pounder
Maxim-Nordenfeldt guns. At the same time the force that was to be sent
across to reoccupy and assist in rebuilding the ruined Government
buildings in Khartoum also turned out for inspection. Nothing was left
to chance. Care was taken that only those fit and well should proceed
on the gunboats and barges to Fashoda. Provision was made that the
work of reconstruction should go on in his absence, and that Khartoum
and Omdurman should be left in a proper state of defence. A great air
of official mystification and secrecy prevailed respecting everything
that happened at that time. Particulars were difficult to glean of the
actual condition of affairs up the Blue and White Niles. Even the
plans for the removal of the military headquarters and the
re-establishment of the central authority in Khartoum were sealed
against us. As the telegraph service was in the Sirdar's hands, much
of the pains bestowed to keep news from us was surely unnecessary.
But the Sirdar has a way of bestowing confidences on no one--simply
issuing orders when the occasion arrives.

Since my return to England a reference to the correspondence disclosed
in the official despatches or Fashoda Blue-book proves the correctness
of the information that reached me even at that early stage. From the
summary of the documents which appeared in the _Daily Telegraph_ of
10th October, we learn that "before the battle of Omdurman Lord
Salisbury had given instructions to the Sirdar through Lord Cromer,"
as follows:--

    "It is desirable that you should be placed in possession of the
    views of Her Majesty's Government in respect to the line of action
    to be followed in the event of Khartoum being occupied at an early
    date by the forces now operating in the Soudan under the command
    of Sir Herbert Kitchener.

    "Her Majesty's Government do not contemplate that after the
    occupation of Khartoum any further military operations on a large
    scale, or involving any considerable expense, will be undertaken
    for the occupation of the provinces to the south. But the Sirdar
    is authorised to send two flotillas, one up the White and the
    other up the Blue Nile.

    "You are authorised to settle the composition of these two forces
    in consultation with the Sirdar.

    "Sir Herbert Kitchener should in person command the White Nile
    flotilla as far as Fashoda, and may take with him a small body of
    British troops, should you concur with him in thinking such a
    course desirable.

    "The officer in command of the Blue Nile flotilla is authorised to
    go as far as the foot of the cataract, which is believed to
    commence about Rosaires. He is not to land troops with a view to
    marching beyond the point on the river navigable for steamers.
    Should he, before reaching Rosaires, encounter any Abyssinian
    outposts, he is to halt, report the circumstance, and wait for
    further instructions.

    "In dealing with any French or Abyssinian authorities who may be
    encountered, nothing should be said or done which would in any way
    imply a recognition on behalf of Her Majesty's Government of a
    title to possession on behalf of France or Abyssinia to any
    portion of the Nile Valley."

Although everybody engaged in the Fashoda expedition was repeatedly
warned not to disclose anything about it, and to forget all they had
seen or heard, I was enabled very shortly after the event to wire, day
by day, the whole story of the enterprise. It was General Grant, who,
during the Civil War in the United States of America, terribly vexed
at the newspaper correspondents, on one occasion vowed he would send
them all away and not have a press-man in his army. "Then, General,"
said the American journalist addressed, "may I ask what are you going
to do without soldiers, every man of them can speak and write?"
General Grant saw the absurdity of the position and smiled, and there
was an end of the matter. It was, perhaps, a choice of one of two
evils, either accepting and making the best of the situation to allow
the trained journalists to remain, or to prepare to meet a tremendous
inundation of wild letter-writing from all ranks that would find its
way into the public press and do incalculable harm. "Other times,
other manners," and those modern generals discredit themselves who
fail to recognise at the close of the nineteenth century that the
schoolmaster and the press must be reckoned with.

The information given me by the reis of the "Tewfikieh" proved
accurate in almost every detail. I confess that, at the time, knowing
the Arab indifference to exactness in dates, I did not credit his
assertion that Marchand had reached Fashoda six weeks before the
dervishes attacked him. Floating down stream in a small steam launch,
aluminum row-boats, and other craft, the Frenchmen arrived off Fashoda
on the 10th of July. In 1892-93 the French Government had begun
sending military or quasi-scientific missions from the west and east
African coasts to obtain treaties and pre-emption claims to territory
in the interior. That the French flag should wave from sea to sea was
their confessed desire. Their incentive was to forestall and annoy
Great Britain and render worthless the blood and treasure our country
might spend in smashing the dervishes. Major Marchand set out from the
west coast or French Congo in 1896, with a small body of Europeans and
about 500 Senegalese troops. With indomitable zeal and courage he
pushed east, reaching the vast basin lands of the Bahr el Ghazal after
sore hardships and the loss of many of his men, chiefly from sickness.
The spirit that animated the leader and his followers may be gathered
from the following lines which were written some time ago by a
non-commissioned officer of Senegalese Rifles to his relatives.

    "We have no rest, not even for a single day, as a moment's delay
    might render all our exertions useless. All that we shall have
    done will be wasted if the English or others occupy our route when
    we want to pass. When you read this letter we shall either be on
    the Nile or our bones will be slowly whitening in the Egyptian
    brushwood under a torrid sun. I verily believe that if we are
    destroyed I shall retain regret for our failure in another world."

Fashoda is 444 miles by river south of Omdurman. It is situated upon
the west bank, on a low headland which at high Nile becomes an island.
Before the Mahdist rising, Fashoda was a fortified Egyptian station
with a garrison of 1000 men, and a native population of nearly 4000.
The place was enclosed within a ditch and a sun-dried brick wall. From
its position it commanded the passage of the Nile, which was less than
half a mile in width. The dervishes allowed the place to fall into
ruins, only maintaining a very small garrison--less than 100 men--to
raid for grain to supply Omdurman with, and to collect revenue from
the native boats. Like the rest of the Soudan, the Shilluk country, in
which Fashoda is situated, had suffered terribly and been sadly
depopulated. The country of the Shilluk negroes used to extend for
several hundred miles northward down the left bank of the Nile from
the Bahr el Ghazal. It was but a strip, ten miles or so in width,
their nearest neighbours, with whom they were usually at war, being
the Baggara Arabs. Like so many other riverain tracts susceptible of
cultivation, it once teemed with people, the villages along the banks
appearing to be one continuous row of dwellings. Helped by the
Shilluks, Major Marchand had no difficulty in capturing Fashoda. The
old fortification was built upon the only accessible strip of dry
land, at high Nile, available for miles along the bank in that
vicinity. Seen from the river, the works consisted of a rectangular
mud-wall about 200 yards in length, protected by horse-shoe bastions
at the corners. The Khalifa being as usual in need of supplies sent
out a small foraging expedition many weeks before our arrival on the
scene. Starting in the steamers "Safieh" and "Tewfikieh," they
collected grain and cattle, shipping them down to Omdurman. Learning
that Europeans had been seen at Fashoda, part of the force proceeded
there, and engaged the French, attacking them by land and water. The
date was the 25th of August. Behaving with great steadiness, and
helped by Shilluks, after a stiff fight the dervishes were driven off,
after losing a number of men, by Marchand's little garrison. "If they
had had cannon," said the dervish skipper to me, "they fired so well
that they would have sunk our steamers." The dervish captains then ran
their boats down stream to collect their followers and return to
assault the position. About 100 miles north the "Safieh" stopped to
collect the raiders, who numbered about a thousand with four brass
guns.

At six o'clock on the morning of the 10th September, the Sirdar set
out from Omdurman with his expeditionary force. The troops were
embarked upon the gunboats "Sultan," "Sheik," "Fatah," and barges
towed by these vessels. Colonel Wingate, Major Lord Edward Cecil,
Captain J. K. Watson, A.D.C., and other officers, accompanied the
General on the stern-wheel steamer "Dal," which had for armament
several Maxims. A Union Jack, as well as an Egyptian flag, was hoisted
on the boat. Abundance of ammunition and two months' provisions for
the force were carried on the steamers and tows. The steamers went
along very leisurely, going only by daylight. In the afternoon, or
towards sunset, the flotilla made fast to some suitable bank. The
troops then formed a sort of camp, and parties went out with saws and
axes to cut timber for fuel for the boilers. The hard gummy mimosa and
sunt, when there is not too much sap in it, burns fiercely with a glow
almost equal to ordinary coal. South of Omdurman, the river still
being in full flood, the Nile had overspread the low banks for miles.
There were places where it resembled a lake, two to six miles wide,
dotted with islands. Landing was not always easily effected, for the
banks were frequently marshy. There was plenty of good sizable wood to
be had all along the river, the only difficulty being to reach and cut
it. More than once, in order to "fill up" the vessels for next day's
steaming, the Camerons and Soudanese soldiers laboured far into the
night, hewing and carrying timber for fuel by candle-light and the
electric beam. Nearing Fashoda the Nile in places ran through channels
but 400 yards in width. The water was deep and relatively clear, with
a current of but two miles or less an hour. Unfortunately, it rained
heavily nearly every night, and the troops quartered upon the barges
got drenched to the skin, the water pouring, in so many shower-baths,
through the cracked boarded coverings. It is a peculiarity of most
tropical climates, that Jupiter Pluvius does most of his work between
the hours of sunset and sunrise. The natives met with as a rule were
disposed to be friendly. Those with whom the men talked would not
quite credit the statement that the Khalifa had been defeated, his
army destroyed, and that he had run away. On Saturday the 17th
September, the gunboat "Abu Klea" caught up with and joined the
flotilla.

During the same night, dervish deserters, blacks, and Arabs came in.
They stated that a short way further up there was a camp of the enemy.
On Sunday morning, 18th September, when near Kaka, some 65 miles north
of Fashoda, the dervish steamer "Safieh" was sighted, lying at the
east bank close by the enemy's camp. The "Sultan" forged ahead and
began shelling the enemy with all her guns, using the Maxims as well.
With great alacrity the dervishes on shore replied, if indeed they did
not fire first. A few shots also came from the "Safieh." With their
rifled guns from behind screens of bushes the enemy bravely stood up,
making excellent practice at the gunboats. The "Sultan" had several
very narrow escapes, shells passing close over her bows and stern.
When the other gunboats got up, what with cannon, quick-firing guns,
and Maxims brought to bear upon the dervish camp, it was speedily
wrecked and torn. The enemy bolted into the bush, leaving over 200
dead and wounded behind, including several Baggara and the chief Emir.
A few shells from the "Sultan" had hulled and shattered the "Safieh,"
so the victory was complete. Detachments were landed from the gunboats
and the dervishes driven still further afield. Their camp was looted
and burned, and the "Safieh" and several nuggars temporarily repaired
and sent down to Omdurman. It was found that the patch put upon the
"Safieh's" boiler by chief-engineer Benbow in 1885 was intact. That
steamer went to rescue Sir Charles Wilson's party who were wrecked on
their return from Khartoum. Near Shabluka she was attacked by a
dervish fort and hulled. Lord Charles Beresford, who was in command,
stuck to the vessel after the boiler blew up, and during the night it
was repaired. On Sunday, 18th September, the Sirdar despatched a
Shilluk runner to go by land with a letter to Major Marchand telling
him of the approach of the Egyptian flotilla. Next morning a reply was
brought out to the "Dal" when it was within sight of Fashoda by an
officer in a row-boat flying the French flag, that the garrison would
receive him as a friendly visitor. Major Marchand furthermore declared
that by treaty the territory belonged to France and he had
communicated the fact to his Government, sending his despatches
through Abyssinia. Precise details of what had been done were
included.

It was 10 a.m. of the 19th September when the expedition reached
Fashoda and saw the French flag flying over the fort. A Senegalese
sentry was walking beneath the tricolor, and a row of these black
riflemen's heads peeped from the walls and trenches. All of them had
evidently been turned out under arms. Apparently there were about 300
people--not more--in the fortification. Steaming close in without
being hailed, the vessels hove to opposite the works. A row-boat
manned by Senegalese pushed from the shore and made for the "Dal."
From the stern staff drooped the French flag, and by the tiller sat
Major Marchand and an officer, M. Germain. The Major was dressed in a
suit of white ducks. Below the medium height, of spare habit, with
something like Dundreary side whiskers, he looked elderly and worn,
almost twice his years, for he is still a young man. As he stepped
aboard the steamer, he was received at the side. He and his companion
shook hands with the Sirdar and the other members of the headquarters
staff. A relatively brief conference ensued, at which the Sirdar
stated the object of his mission and his official instructions to
recover the lost provinces for Egypt. He intended, he said, to occupy
and hold them. Major Marchand intimated that he had established a
prior claim for his Government, and had entered into treaties with the
local rulers securing rights for France to the country along the Nile
south and through the Bahr el Ghazal. He had established posts at
Meshra er Rek and elsewhere in that region. Without express orders to
the contrary from his Government, he would not abandon the old
Egyptian fort, nor concede an inch of the territory he had acquired.
The Sirdar said he meant to land, and although he would avoid a
collision if possible with the Major and his party, yet he would not
be dissuaded from carrying out his orders because it might be
unpleasant. Would, he asked, the Major oppose him with force; his
means were inadequate to do so with any hope of success. Major
Marchand replied, "No," he was not in a position to justify any
attempt to contend with arms against the strong flotilla and land army
that could be brought against him by the Sirdar. Still, he would
neither yield nor withdraw without the order of his Government. The
Sirdar stated he was not adverse to letting the two Governments
settle the matter, meantime they as soldiers could remain on amicable
terms. In the course of an hour or so he would land his troops and
occupy a position as near the fort as possible. Major Marchand
protested, but said that he, under the circumstances, would have to
accept the situation.

Refreshments are always in order on board a ship where the Royal Navy
is in command. Over a friendly glass of champagne Marchand and the
Sirdar chatted on topics of general interest. The Major intimated that
he was rather short of ammunition and stores. He had sent his steam
launch south to try and bring up supplies and reinforcements from his
other stations. The doctor was anxious to obtain the assistance and
advice of some of the British medical staff as to the best treatment
of beri-beri or sleeplessness sickness, which had appeared among them.
Several of the mission had succumbed to that weird disease. It is not
unknown in the United Kingdom, a case having recently occurred at
Richmond Asylum, Dublin. After spending about half an hour on board,
Major Marchand and M. Germain, accompanied by Colonel Wingate and
Commander Keppel, went ashore together in the row-boat. Landing at the
fort, the party were received by the garrison with military honours.
The two British officers were shown every courtesy, and escorted over
the works, which had been considerably strengthened. A morass or small
lagoon cut the fortification off in rear from the mainland. It was a
position which could not easily have been carried by assault, but was
indefensible against cannon. The Senegalese Tirailleurs forming the
garrison were paraded for their inspection. There appeared to be about
120 of them, all stalwart, soldierly fellows, beside whom the
Frenchmen looked shrunken and diminutive. In addition to the
Senegalese, or rather natives of Timbuctoo, for such they were, about
150 Shilluks and nondescript natives made up the remainder of the
garrison. Including Major Marchand there were nine Europeans, or five
commissioned and four non-commissioned officers. Of four others who
had succumbed on the way, two died of beri-beri, one was killed by a
fall from a tree, and a third by a crocodile. The Nile in that
vicinity was found to be teeming with animal life. Not only crocodiles
but hippopotami were seen by those on board the flotilla.

Eventually the five steamers crept as close inshore towards the north
end of the fort as the shallow overflown land admitted. Colonel
Wingate and Commander Keppel having returned on board, all the troops
were ordered to disembark. The steamers were made fast to the banks,
and planks were placed ashore. They were of little use, for officers
and men had to flounder and wade through the shallows before they
reached firm ground 300 yards from the bank. Four of the guns of
Peake's battery were also landed. The force having been formed up was
marched a short distance to the south. It was halted behind and
exactly covering the French position from the land side, the flanks
overlapping and enclosing the old line of Egyptian works. A tall
flag-pole which was brought ashore was set up on a ruined bastion in
line with the French tricolor and about 300 yards behind it. Then the
Sirdar and staff came and stood around the pole. An instant later, the
order having been given, the Egyptian flag was hoisted to the top, and
the Soudanese bands played a few bars of the Khedivial anthem. Ere the
music ceased, the Sirdar, setting the example, called for three cheers
for His Highness the Khedive. The British flag, the Union Jack, was
meanwhile flying inshore from the "Dal." None of the French officers
attended the ceremony, but the Senegalese and the natives watched the
proceedings with great interest. In fact, as many of the soldiers of
the 11th and 13th Soudanese battalions were Shilluks, there had been
numerous greetings and interchanges of courtesy between them. The
worthy old Lieutenant Ali Gaffoon, a Shilluk, who had been in his
youth a sheikh and soldier, and who had fought in Mexico for
Maximilian, and since entered the Khedive's service, soon had crowds
of his countrymen and countrywomen flocking to see him. Immediately
after the flag was hoisted, Major Jackson was appointed commandant of
the Fashoda district, and left with a garrison of the 11th Soudanese
battalion and four guns of Captain Peake's battery. A large quantity
of stores of various kinds was landed for their use. Meanwhile E
Company of the Cameron Highlanders and the rest of the troops returned
on board ship. The bands and pipers again played as the troops marched
away, the Highlandmen stepping off to the tune of the "Cameron Men." E
Company of the Camerons numbered exactly 100 rank and file under five
officers: Captain Hon. A. Murray, Lieutenants Hoare, Cameron,
Alderson, and Surgeon-Captain Luther.

The fraternisation of the Soudanese soldiers and the Shilluks became
thorough. An informal reception of the natives, sheikhs, and headmen,
some of whom were attended by their wives, was held by the Sirdar
ashore and afterwards on board the "Dal." It was observed that,
although hundreds of natives were seen, they were only brought forward
in batches of less than a dozen to be presented. Besides, a
considerable interval always elapsed before the arrival of the
succeeding groups. Ali Gaffoon and his countrymen-comrades in the
ranks, with pardonable tribal pride, were adverse to bringing their
relatives and friends forward until the natives put on some clothes.
For that purpose they had borrowed or got together about a dozen Arab
dresses of kinds, wherewith to cover the bodies and limbs of the
unsophisticated Shilluks. The national costume for men is a state of
nudity, but they occasionally sprinkle their bodies with red or grey
ashes. The women usually wear scant leather or thong aprons. When the
Sirdar ascertained the true cause of the delay, time pressing, he
intimated he would waive for the nonce their putting on of ceremonial
attire. "Let them all come as they are," and they did. They evinced
the liveliest interest and pleasure in all they saw and heard in camp
and aboard ship. The chiefs declared they had signed no treaty with
the French nor conceded any of their country. All of them asserted
that they were subjects of the Khedive, to whom they renewed their
allegiance forthwith. The French mission had been short of food and
they had helped them only by giving supplies. Incidentally it may be
stated that the Shilluk country is exceedingly fertile. At one time it
was the most densely populated region of the Soudan for its acreage,
containing a population of over 2,000,000 souls, living under an
ancient dynasty of kings. From 1884 the Shilluks repeatedly warred
with the dervishes. In 1894 they rose again and fought for a long time
before their Queen was slain and they were put down. On that occasion
the Mahdists behaved with more than usual ferocity, putting thousands
to the sword. Strange to say, great numbers of Shilluks, like other
Soudan blacks, fought against us under the Khalifa's banners. The
moment, however, they were captured, with great readiness they
enlisted in the Khedivial army. Latterly so many deserters and
prisoners brought by their friends offered themselves as soldiers,
that only the smartest and strongest were chosen.

That afternoon the "Dal" and two of the gunboats left Fashoda and
steamed away up the Nile towards Sobat. Before leaving, the Sirdar
sent a formal written document to Major Marchand, protesting against
any usurpation by another Power of the rights of Great Britain and
Egypt to the Nile Valley. He stated that he would refuse to recognise
in any way French authority in the country. There was found to be
large quantities of grass weed and sudd in the Nile at no great
distance from Fashoda. In several places the clear channels were less
than 150 yards wide. As the steamers made southing, the river became
narrower and the obstacles to navigation more serious--floating
islands of weeds and banked sudd blocking the fairway, leaving it but
50 yards or less in width. It is about 62 miles from Fashoda to the
Sobat river, that Abyssinian tributary to the Nile. There was formerly
an Egyptian station and fort on the neck of land at the junction of
the two rivers. Other stations were also held by Khedivial troops
further up the river in the old days before the Mahdi's rebellion. It
was on the 20th September, the date as officially given, that the
flotilla reached Sobat. The place was overgrown with bush, as compared
with what had formerly been the case. Only a few natives were seen
upon the mainland and islands, and they were friendly disposed. The
Sobat, though but 150 yards or so wide, is 30 feet deep when in flood.
Its yellow stream runs at two knots an hour, the current driving far
into the wider and slacker waters of the Nile, which is about
three-quarters of a mile wide at that point. The banks were
accessible, and a landing of the troops was much more easily effected
than had been the case at Fashoda. As soon as the soldiers and the two
remaining guns of Captain Peake's battery were got ashore, the
Egyptian flag was formally hoisted and greeted. It was the Sirdar who
directed the whole proceedings. The ceremonial observance attending
the re-occupation was precisely similar to that which had taken place
at Fashoda. Major Smith Dorian was placed in command of the post and
district. Three companies of the 13th Soudanese were left as a
garrison together with the two Maxim-Nordenfeldt guns. A gunboat was
also detailed to proceed a little way up the Sobat and the Bahr el
Ghazal.

Next morning the vessels having been filled up with fuel, the Sirdar,
with the Camerons and the remainder of the troops not detached for
garrison duty, steamed away back towards Omdurman. No news had
penetrated to that remote region about the overthrow of the dervishes
and very little was known about the passing mission under Major
Marchand. The same day, 21st September, Fashoda was reached, and a
short stay was made. All was quiet and the two flags were flying just
as the Sirdar had left them. But the place had been transformed all
the same. A military camp had arisen that looked like a village.
Tukals and shelters covered the clearing behind the French lines.
Trenches also had been dug and Marchand's party were completely hemmed
in from the landward side as well as by water, the gunboats
controlling the river. The Shilluks had all gone over and put
themselves under Major Jackson and the Khedivial flag. A sort of
bazaar had been started and the country was already making for peace.
There was universal rejoicing at the downfall of the Khalifa. A
determination was expressed of promptly dealing with him or Osman
Digna, should either of them pass that way. The new twin-screw
gunboats "Sultan" and "Sheik" had nine days' rations for troops put
aboard. They were then detached, being ordered to remain behind for
patrol duty. Their instructions were to keep the river and banks clear
of all armed bands of dervishes, and, if necessary, afford assistance
to the posts at Sobat and Fashoda. They were also bidden to prevent
the transport of war material, or conveyance of reinforcements, except
by accredited Khedivial officers. The Sirdar in a note informed Major
Marchand that he had prohibited the transport of all war material upon
the Nile. Thereafter the Sirdar resumed the journey downstream. The
long and fertile island of Abba--it extends for 20 miles--was passed
without seeing anything of the fugitive Khalifa and his followers. It
was to Abba island the Mahdi went, and it was there the rebellion
first broke out. Subsequently it was ascertained that Abdullah and
Osman Digna with their retainers sought shelter in the heavy woods
opposite Abba island, and they were stated to be in hiding there at
the end of December 1898. The Sirdar and headquarters got back to
Omdurman on the 25th of September.

Popular feeling ran very high at home when it was ascertained that,
despite repeated notification, the French had tried to grasp the
fruits of the British victory over the dervishes. A Liberal statesman
had, years before, declared, that any attempt on the part of France to
occupy the Upper Nile valley lands would be regarded as an unfriendly
act by this country. Conservative statesmen had endorsed that official
pronouncement; yet, in face of these declarations, the thing had been
done with every evidence of a fine contempt for British feeling and
self-respect. The enemies of England in Egypt and elsewhere were
sniggering. Our diplomatic and military chiefs were making unusual
efforts to keep the Marchand affair a profound secret. At every stage
down the Nile from Omdurman to Cairo, the Camerons and all who had
been to Fashoda and Sobat were officially warned to keep the matter a
profound secret. The case I thought was too serious to be left hidden
in the breasts of a few where the issues involved were so tremendous.
So I openly set myself to learning what had happened, and wiring every
scrap of information for publication. Several officers were sent down
from Omdurman with special despatches. Long before they arrived even
in Cairo, cypher messages extending to many folios had been forwarded
day after day direct from Khartoum to Downing Street.

The Sirdar reached Cairo on the 6th of October and left for England on
the 21st of the same month. By that time much had happened. The
official despatches had been published in a Parliamentary paper and
there were ominous preparations for war in both France and Great
Britain. Fleets were being got ready for sea and feverish activity
prevailed in Gallic and British arsenals. The insistence of the
Parisian Ministers in seeking to have other questions discussed side
by side with the demand for the evacuation of Fashoda and their
dilatory tactics but increased the feeling of irritation in the United
Kingdom. Statesmen seemed to be undecided and diplomacy, as usual,
revolving in a circle. Happily, this country was never better prepared
for war, and that in the end, as has so often been the case, proved
the best advocate for peace. It would be uncharitable to emphasise the
fact of the French Government slipping away from one after another of
the positions they had taken up in reference to the whole question.
That being Frenchmen they felt acutely the false moves they had made
goes without saying. Whilst war was impending and the French
Government seemed bent upon driving our Government to that point, the
anti-British Pashas and the Gallic set in Egypt were jubilant. The
Turkish Pashas and Beys were openly chuckling and romancing about
unheard-of things. It is in Egypt, as it is in Armenia and was in the
Balkans: the Turk is the enemy of good government and freedom for the
people. A check to British policy and rule meant to them a possible
return of the old corrupt days when they did as they liked, treating
fellaheen and negroes as slaves. Had Great Britain in this instance
yielded a jot of her just rights to the intriguing and bellicose
spirit of French officialism Egypt would have been made an impossible
place for our countrymen to remain in. Being in Cairo and Alexandria
at the time I was privately assured by scores of my countrymen, men in
business and in public offices, that they would be obliged to quit
Egypt if France succeeded in her pretensions to the Nile Valley. Petty
annoyances, tyranny, all manner of injustice and even violence would
be resorted to, to force them to leave and to drive British interests
to the wall.

I avail myself again of the excellent synopsis of the official
despatches dealing with the Fashoda incident, which appeared in the
_Daily Telegraph_. The Parliamentary papers in question were issued on
the 9th of October last. The official papers opened with a despatch
from Sir Edmund Monson to the Foreign Secretary, bearing date December
10, 1897. Therein the British Ambassador says:--

    "The despatches which I have recently addressed to your lordship
    respecting the reports of the massacre of the Marchand Expedition,
    and the comments made in connection with this rumoured disaster by
    the French Press, will have already shown your lordship how
    necessary it has become to remind the French Government of the
    views held by that of Her Majesty as to their sphere of influence
    in the Upper Nile Valley; and it has been with great satisfaction
    that I have found myself so promptly authorised to make a
    communication upon the subject to M. Hanotaux. Made in the way in
    which it has been suggested by your lordship, I see no reason why
    this communication should prejudice the chances of our coming to a
    satisfactory arrangement upon the question with which we are
    dealing in connection with the situation in West Africa."

Sir Edmund Monson enclosed in the despatch a copy of a note he had
addressed to M. Hanotaux, at that period French Minister of Foreign
Affairs, as follows:--

    "The other point to which it is necessary to advert is the
    proposed recognition of the French claim to the northern and
    eastern shores of Lake Chad. If other questions are adjusted, Her
    Majesty's Government will make no difficulty about this condition.
    But in doing so they cannot forget that the possession of this
    territory may in the future open up a road to the Nile; and they
    must not be understood to admit that any other European Power than
    Great Britain has any claim to occupy any part of the Valley of
    the Nile. The views of the British Government upon this matter
    were plainly stated in Parliament by Sir Edward Grey some years
    ago during the Administration of the Earl of Rosebery, and were
    formally communicated to the French Government at the time. Her
    Majesty's present Government entirely adhere to the language that
    was on this occasion employed by their predecessors."

To this M. Hanotaux replied:--

    "In any case the French Government cannot, under present
    circumstances, refrain from repeating the reservations which it
    has never failed to express every time that questions relating to
    the Valley of the Nile have been brought forward. Thus, in
    particular, the declarations of Sir Edward Grey, to which the
    British Government has referred, gave rise to an immediate protest
    by our representative in London, the terms of which he repeated
    and developed in the further conversations which he had at the
    Foreign Office on the subject. I myself had occasion, in the
    sitting of the Senate on April 5, 1895, to make, in the name of
    the Government, declarations to which I consider that I am all the
    more justified in referring from the fact that they have called
    forth no reply from the British Government."

The speech to which M. Hanotaux refers is published at length in an
appendix, and, so far from being a reply to Sir Edward Grey, it gives
the French position completely away.

    "I now come, gentlemen," he said, "to the question of the Upper
    Nile. I will explain the situation to the Senate in a few words;
    for I think it will be useful to complete the explanations which
    M. de Lamarzelle has already given on this subject. Between the
    country of the lakes and the point of Wady Halfa, on the Nile,
    extends a vast region, measuring twenty degrees of latitude, or
    2000 kilometres, that is, more than the breadth of Western Europe
    from Gibraltar to Dunkirk. In this region there is at this moment,
    perhaps, not a single European; in any case, there does not exist
    any power derived, by any title, from a European authority. It is
    the country of the Mahdi! Now, gentlemen, it is the future of this
    country which fills with an uneasiness, which we may describe as
    at least premature, the minds of a certain number of persons
    interested in Africa. The Egyptians who occupied this vast domain
    for a considerable time have moved to the north. Emin Pasha
    himself was compelled to withdraw. The rights of the Sultan and
    the Khedive alone continue to exist over the regions of the Soudan
    and of Equatorial Africa."

That is to say, after the Mahdi, who was the _de facto_ ruler, the
authority over the whole basin of the Upper Nile reverted to the
Khedive and the Sultan as his suzerain, which is exactly the position
taken up by Lord Salisbury in his despatch of September 9, 1898.

Major Marchand has had various titles conferred upon him, and in the
penultimate despatch contained in the papers he is described by Lord
Salisbury as "a French explorer who is on the Upper Nile in a
difficult position." To M. Delcassé, however, is reserved the honour
of giving him an official designation. On September 7 the French
Foreign Minister, in an interview with Sir E. Monson, after handsomely
complimenting the British Government on the victory of Omdurman,
expressed his anxiety about a possible meeting of the Sirdar and M.
Marchand.

    "Should he (M. Marchand) be met with, his Excellency said that he
    had received instructions to be most careful to abstain from all
    action which might cause local difficulties, and that he had been
    enjoined to consider himself as an 'emissary of civilisation'
    without any authority whatever to decide upon questions of right,
    which must properly form the subject of discussion between Her
    Majesty's Government and that of the French Republic.

    "M. Delcassé therefore begged me to inform your lordship of this
    fact, and expressed the hope that the commander of Her Majesty's
    naval forces on the river might be instructed to take no steps
    which might lead to a local conflict with regard to such questions
    of right."

It may be remarked, in passing, that this view of the position of the
emissary of civilisation does not tally with that which M. Marchand
subsequently gave to the Sirdar, to whom he stated "that he had
received precise orders for the occupation of the country and the
hoisting of the French flag over the Government buildings at Fashoda,
and added that, without the orders of his Government, which, however,
he expected, would not be delayed, it was impossible for him to retire
from the place."

The instructions given by Lord Salisbury, through Lord Cromer, to the
Sirdar, have been given elsewhere in this chapter.

On September 11 our Ambassador informed M. Delcassé of the advance of
the Sirdar up the Nile, and on the 18th the French Foreign Minister
stated further:--

    "As a matter of fact, there is no Marchand Mission. In 1892 and
    1893 M. Liotard was sent to the Upper Ubanghi as Commissioner,
    with instructions to secure French interests in the north-east. M.
    Marchand had been appointed one of his subordinates, and received
    all his orders from M. Liotard. There could be no doubt that for a
    long time past the whole region of the Bahr-el-Ghazal had been out
    of the influence of Egypt."

Sir E. Monson left M. Delcassé in no doubt as to the view Her
Majesty's Government took of the situation. Of the interview referred
to, he reports to Lord Salisbury as follows, under date September
22:--

    "Although his Excellency made two or three allusions to the
    reasons for which, in his opinion, the French might consider that
    the region in question was open to their advance, he himself
    volunteered the suggestion that discussion between us would be
    inopportune.

    "In this I, of course, concurred, reminding him of the terms of
    your lordship's telegram of the 9th inst.; but I told him, as
    emphatically as I could, that I looked upon the situation at
    Fashoda, if M. Marchand had occupied that town, as very serious,
    inasmuch as Her Majesty's Government would certainly not acquiesce
    in his remaining there, nor would they consent to relinquishing
    the claims of Egypt to the restoration of all the country latterly
    subject to the Khalifa, which had heretofore been a portion of
    her territory. I felt it to be my duty, I said, to speak with
    extreme frankness, and to assure him that on this point no
    compromise would be possible.

    "M. Delcassé listened to me with grave attention, but his reply
    was chiefly to the effect that if the two Governments discussed
    the matter with calmness and a sincere desire to avoid a conflict,
    there could be no doubt of our arriving at a peaceable and
    satisfactory solution. France does not desire a quarrel. In saying
    this he could speak with absolute certainty. All his colleagues in
    the Government are, like himself, anxious for good relations with
    England. If this anxiety is reciprocated on the other side of the
    Channel (and the tone of the English Press inspires him with
    doubts of this) there can be no danger.

    "I replied that Her Majesty's Government have no desire to pick a
    quarrel with France, but that nothing could be gained by my
    concealing from him the gravity of the situation as I regarded it,
    or the fixed determination of Her Majesty's Government to
    vindicate claims of the absolute justice of which they hold that
    there can be no question. I, of course, avoided the use of any
    expression which might sound like a menace, but short of this I
    did my best to make my declaration of the impossibility of the
    French being allowed to remain at Fashoda as clear and distinct as
    could be expressed in words."

On 25th September, the day the expedition returned from Fashoda to
Omdurman, Mr Rennell Rodd, who during the absence of Lord Cromer in
Europe was in charge of affairs in Egypt, telegraphed to Lord
Salisbury the following despatch, which had been received from the
Sirdar:--

    "I found at Fashoda, whence I have just returned, M. Marchand with
    8 officers and 120 men. The French flag had been hoisted over the
    old Government buildings in which they were located. I sent a
    letter announcing my approach on the day before my arrival at
    Fashoda. On the following morning, September 19, a reply was
    brought to me from M. Marchand by a small rowing-boat carrying the
    French flag. It stated that he had arrived at Fashoda on July 10,
    having been instructed by his Government to occupy the
    Bahr-el-Ghazal up to the confluence of the Bahr-el-Jebel, and also
    the Shilluk country on the left bank of the White Nile as far as
    Fashoda. It went on to say that he had concluded a treaty with the
    Shilluk chiefs by which they placed the country under the
    protection of France, and that he had sent this treaty to his
    Government for ratification by way of Abyssinia, as well as by the
    Bahr-el-Ghazal. He described his fight with the dervishes on
    August 25, and stated that, in anticipation of a second and more
    serious attack, he had sent his steamer south for reinforcements,
    but that our arrival had prevented a further attack.

    "When we arrived at Fashoda, M. Marchand and M. Germain came on
    board our steamer, and I at once informed them that the presence
    of a French party at Fashoda and in the Nile valley must be
    considered as a direct infringement of the rights of Egypt and of
    the British Government, and I protested in the strongest terms
    against the occupation of Fashoda by M. Marchand and his party,
    and the hoisting of the French flag in the dominions of his
    Highness the Khedive. M. Marchand stated, in reply, that he had
    received precise orders for the occupation of the country and the
    hoisting of the French flag over the Government buildings at
    Fashoda, and added that, without the orders of his Government,
    which, however, he expected would not be delayed, it was
    impossible for him to retire from the place. I then inquired of
    him whether, in view of the fact that I was accompanied by a
    superior force, he was prepared to resist the hoisting of the
    Egyptian flag at Fashoda. He hesitated, and replied that he could
    not resist. The Egyptian flag was then hoisted, about 500 yards
    south of the French flag, on a ruined bastion of the old Egyptian
    fortifications, commanding the only road which leads into the
    interior from the French position. The latter is entirely
    surrounded to the north by impassable marshes.

    "Before leaving for the south I handed to M. Marchand a formal
    written protest on the part of the Governments of Great Britain
    and Egypt against any occupation of any part of the Nile valley
    by France, as being an infringement of the rights of those
    Governments. I added that I could not recognise the occupation by
    France of any part of the Nile valley.

    "I left at Fashoda a garrison of one Soudanese battalion, four
    guns, and a gunboat under Major Jackson, whom I appointed
    Commandant of the Fashoda district, and I proceeded to Sobat,
    where the flag was hoisted and a post established on September 20.
    We did not see or hear anything of the Abyssinians on the Sobat,
    but were informed that their nearest post was about 350 miles up
    that river. The Bahr-el-Jebel being entirely blocked by floating
    weed, I gave orders for a gunboat to patrol up the Bahr-el-Ghazal
    in the direction of Meshra-er-Rek. As we passed Fashoda on the
    return journey north, I sent M. Marchand a letter stating that all
    transport of war material on the Nile was absolutely prohibited,
    as the country was under military law. The chief of the Shilluk
    tribe, accompanied by a large number of followers, has come into
    Major Jackson's camp. He entirely denies having made any treaty
    with the French, and the entire tribe express the greatest delight
    at returning to allegiance to us.

    "M. Marchand is in want of ammunition and supplies, and any that
    may be sent to him must take months to arrive at their
    destination. He is cut off from the interior, and is quite
    inadequately provided with water transport. Moreover, he has no
    following in the country, and nothing could have saved his
    expedition from being annihilated by the dervishes if we had been
    a fortnight later in crushing the Khalifa."

The gist of this despatch was communicated to the French Government,
accompanied by a notification that the Sirdar's "language and
proceedings" had the complete approval of Lord Salisbury. M. Delcassé
was evidently at his wits' end to escape from an _impasse_ which was
chiefly of his own creation.

In an interview with Sir E. Monson on September 27 he wished to put
off a final decision till he had received the despatches which M.
Marchand had forwarded in duplicate by way of the French Congo and
Abyssinia respectively.

    "To gain time, M. Delcassé," writes our Ambassador, "wished that I
    should request your lordship to consent to a telegram being sent
    by the French agent at Cairo to Khartoum, to be forwarded from
    thence up the Nile to Fashoda. The telegram would contain
    instructions to M. Marchand to send at once one of the French
    officers serving on his mission to Cairo with a copy of his
    above-mentioned report, so that the French Government might learn
    its contents as soon as possible. They were, of course, ready to
    bear all the expense.

    "Stress was laid by M. Delcassé upon the great desire entertained
    at Paris to prevent any serious difficulty from arising; at the
    same time, he felt convinced, especially in view of the conduct of
    the Sirdar at Fashoda, acting as he undoubtedly was under
    instructions, that Her Majesty's Government were as anxious as the
    French Government to avoid a conflict.

    "I told M. Delcassé in reply that I must conclude from the
    language which he had held that the French Government had decided
    that they would not recall M. Marchand before receiving his
    report, and I asked if I was right in this conclusion. I pointed
    out to his Excellency that M. Marchand himself is stated to be
    desirous of retiring from his position, which appeared to be a
    disagreeable one. Such being the case, I must urgently press him
    to tell me whether he refused at once to recall M. Marchand.

    "After considering his reply for some few minutes, his Excellency
    said that he himself was ready to discuss the question in the most
    conciliatory spirit, but I must not ask him for the impossible.

    "I pointed out that your lordship's telegram of the 9th inst.,
    which I had communicated to him at the time, had made him aware
    that Her Majesty's Government considered that there could be no
    discussion upon such questions as the right of Egypt to Fashoda."

To this Lord Salisbury replied next day:

    "Her Majesty's Government cannot decline to assist in forwarding a
    message from the French Agent in Egypt to a French explorer who
    is on the Upper Nile in a difficult position, and your Excellency
    is authorised to inform M. Delcassé that Her Majesty's Acting
    Agent at Cairo will be instructed to transmit to Omdurman
    immediately any such message, and at the same time to request Sir
    H. Kitchener to forward it thence to its destination by any
    opportunity which may be available.

    "Her Majesty's Government do not desire to be made acquainted with
    the purport of the message. But you must explain that they are
    unable to accept any responsibility for the results to the safety
    or health of the explorer which the delay in quitting his present
    situation may bring about."

The official papers closed with the following laconic despatch from
Lord Salisbury to Sir E. Monson, bearing date 3rd October.

    "I request your Excellency to inform the French Minister for
    Foreign Affairs that, in accordance with his wish, his message for
    M. Marchand has been transmitted to Khartoum, and will be
    forwarded thence to its destination. In order to avoid any
    misunderstanding, you should state to M. Delcassé that the fact of
    Her Majesty's Government having complied with his Excellency's
    request in regard to the transmission of the message does not
    imply the slightest modification of the views previously expressed
    by them. You should add that, whether in times of Egyptian or
    Dervish dominion, the region in which M. Marchand was found has
    never been without an owner, and that, in the view of Her
    Majesty's Government, his expedition into it with an escort of 100
    Senegalese troops has no political effect, nor can any political
    significance be attached to it."

In the appendix were given past speeches and despatches by M. Decrais,
M. Hanotaux, Lord Kimberley, Sir E. Grey, etc.

The rest can be quickly told. Military and naval preparations for war
in both countries were redoubled and the public tone was bellicose.
Consols were affected and war appeared almost inevitable. It was
an occasion for union among all who rightly set patriotism above
party. Lord Rosebery, Late Premier, with splendid grace and
disinterestedness, in a speech, 13th October, voiced the sentiment of
the masses and classes. His lordship said:--

    "Behind the policy of the British Government in this matter there
    is the untiring and united strength of the nation itself.
    (Cheers.) It is the policy of the last Government deliberately
    adopted and sustained by the present Government. (Cheers.) That is
    only a matter of form, but it is the policy of the nation itself,
    and no Government that attempted to recede from or palter with
    that policy would last a week. (Loud cheers.) I am perfectly
    certain that no idea or intention of any weakening on this point
    or this question has entered the head of Her Majesty's present
    advisers."

Messages were transmitted up the Nile to Major Marchand at Fashoda. In
response thereto he sent Captain Baratier down with despatches. That
officer arrived with Slatin Pasha in Cairo on the 20th October. His
despatches were wired to Paris, for which Baratier himself started
next day. It happened that the Sirdar, who also left for England on
that date, was a fellow-traveller with him. Another hitch occurred,
the French Government stating that Marchand's report made no allusion
to the meeting with the Sirdar at Fashoda. That they would have to
wait for before giving an answer. Marchand, it was alleged, had not
had time to bring his report down to date, when Baratier left him.
They had not long to wait, for suddenly the announcement was sprung
that Major Marchand, acting on his own volition, had left Fashoda and
was coming down by Khedivial transport, to Cairo. He arrived in that
city on the evening of 3rd November, and got a deservedly hearty
reception from the English as well as the French community. Prominent
officials, civil and military, were there to greet the brave and hardy
explorer. His companion, Captain Baratier, who had been to Paris and
had hastened back intending to return to Fashoda, met the Major next
day in Cairo. But on the very day that Major Marchand reached Cairo,
the French Government had issued an official note stating it had been
decided to evacuate Fashoda, as the position had been reported
untenable. So saying "No, no, they would ne'er consent," they
consented.

At the Mansion House banquet given to the Sirdar, on 4th November,
Lord Salisbury said:--

    "I received from the French Ambassador this afternoon the
    information that the French Government had come to the conclusion
    that the (Fashoda) occupation was of no sort of value to the
    French Republic, and they thought that under those circumstances,
    to persist in an occupation which only cost them money and did
    harm, merely because some of their advisers thought they would be
    an unwelcome neighbour, would not show the wisdom with which the
    French Republic has uniformly been guided. They have done what I
    believe every Government would have done in the same
    position--they have resolved that the occupation must cease. A
    formal intimation to that effect was made to me this afternoon,
    and it has been conveyed to the French authorities at Cairo. I do
    not wish to be misunderstood as saying that all causes of
    controversy are by this removed between the French Government and
    ourselves. It is probably not so, and it may be that we shall have
    many discussions in the future, but a cause of controversy of a
    singularly acute and somewhat dangerous character has been
    removed, and we cannot but congratulate ourselves upon it."

In the same connection it is of interest to learn what Major Marchand
had to say. The full text of his speech made at a banquet given to him
and Captain Baratier by the French Club at Cairo on the 7th October
appeared in the Press. In the presence of the Acting French Diplomatic
Agent and others, Major Marchand said:--

    "Monsieur le Ministre de France, Monsieur le Président,
    Messieurs--There are two reasons why you will not expect a speech
    from me. In the first place I am only a soldier and no orator; and
    then one cannot be talkative on a day of reflection, a day which
    brings to me personally a great sorrow, the official abandonment
    of Fashoda. Fashoda! it was only a point--it is true that it
    synthetised everything. But if we lose the point we abandon
    nothing of our thesis. To reflect is not to despair--on the
    contrary. The experiences of this world teach us that the sum of
    our sorrows is not greater than that of our joys. The more the
    black period may be prolonged the more quickly will approach the
    dawn of proud aspirations at length realised. And the granite
    Sphinx which near at hand dreams on the desert sands, the Sphinx
    which saw the passage of Bonaparte, which saw Lesseps and his
    work, has not yet uttered its last word, has not murmured the
    supreme sentence. The more fiercely evil fortune may pursue us the
    more should we call to our aid the great hopes which swell the
    heart and fortify the will. The French colony in Cairo, moreover,
    has shown more than ten times over already that it knows no
    discouragement. I should like, my dear and valiant compatriots, to
    give you some small recompense. Listen! When, nearly three years
    ago, the Congo-Nile mission left France, it was not in order to
    make a more or less famous journey of exploration. No, its aim was
    far higher. You have already guessed it. Why, then, proclaim it
    here? We desired (here the speaker paused a moment) to carry
    across French Africa to the French in Egypt a hand-grip from the
    French of France. The road was long, sometimes hard; we have
    reached our destination, however, since I have the honour to greet
    you here to-day. Do you not see a symbol in this? Fortune, which
    detests broad and easy paths, is perhaps at this moment on her
    way, bringing you the succour so patiently looked for. We must
    never despair, and who can say that the Sphinx may not be about to
    smile? It is for this that I have come to tell you that if we are
    few to-day we shall be many to-morrow--who forget nothing, who
    abandon nothing. It is with this thought that I drink to your
    health, gentlemen, the health of the French colony in Egypt. To
    the Greater France!"

It is easy to feel great sympathy with so gallant and hardy a soldier,
who, having successfully accomplished the perilous mission entrusted
to him by his Government, found support denied him and his work
fruitless. Major Marchand and Captain Baratier again availed
themselves of the Egyptian military transport to return to their
comrades. At half-past 8 a.m., 11th December, the French hauled down
their flag at Fashoda, and left for the Sobat river. They were
intending to make their way up that stream to the nearest Abyssinian
post, and thereafter, striking through Menelik's country, hoped to
arrive on the East African coast at Djibutil. Their sick comrades they
entrusted to the Egyptian military authorities to send home by the
Nile through Lower Egypt. The invalided Frenchmen and Senegalese in
question reached Cairo at the end of the year.

Perhaps it was only to be expected that the French press and
politicians would display increased virulence against this country
over the Fashoda settlement. But their persistence in that course, and
the fact of their present extraordinary naval expenditure, can only
mean getting ready for war against Great Britain. This may lead our
people to consider whether it would not be cheapest and wisest to
settle the quarrel off-hand. True, delay makes for peace, but a peace
that is to be a struggle to overtop one another in armaments may be
more costly in every sense than sharp and decisive warfare. The chief
cause of the soreness in France against us is our presence in Egypt.
Yet the French have no such vital interest there as this country has.
To many of our colonies and dependencies the shortest way lies through
Egypt. Again, the French form quite a minority in numbers and wealth
among the foreign communities in Egypt. Since 1882, the year of
occupation, Great Britain has been careful to avoid interference with
the privileges and rights of all foreigners. In what community
controlled by France through sixteen years would it have been allowed
that an alien language should be maintained in use in public places.
No official step has been taken to diminish the use of French in
street nomenclature, or public conveyances, or public departments in
Egypt until last year. Arabic is the language of the people, and
English is the language of commerce in the country. A sensible change
in the direction indicated is at last evident, even in Cairo and
Alexandria. Shops and warehouses are displaying Anglo-Saxon signs, and
the natives are discarding French and are speaking English as the one
foreign language necessary to acquire.

There has been talk among our neighbours of emulating the Sirdar's
enterprise and founding French colleges at Khartoum and Fashoda. But
urged by less disinterested motives they may find it necessary instead
to devote their funds to the cultivation of the Gallic tongue in Lower
and Upper Egypt, rather than in the Soudan. In the year 1897, in
Tantah, the third largest town in the Delta, there were 130 scholars
learning French and but 40 studying English. In 1898 there were 98 at
the English classes and but a moiety at the French. The scholastic
year 1899, according to the officials of the Public Instruction
Department, will see a farther and even more serious decline in the
study of the French language. The French officials themselves are
painfully aware that the Gallic speech, for colloquial intercourse
between educated natives and Europeans, is doomed if matters continue
as at present. In Assouan, where during 1897 much the same state of
things prevailed as at Tantah; in 1898 there were 118 scholars
learning English and but three at the French classes.

Until quite recently, it was wont to be the case in Lower Egypt that
there were always two pupils learning French to one devoting attention
to acquiring English. In Upper Egypt of late years the difference had
not been so marked, the proportion of French and English students
being about equal. These figures refer to primary classes in Upper
Egypt, and to secondary, as well as primary, classes in Cairo and
Alexandria. As a matter of fact, the results of the examinations did
not follow in quite the same proportion in the Delta. About three
pupils have passed in French to two in English. Shortly after the
battle of Omdurman, applications had to be made for entrance into the
school classes for English and French tuition. In a great number of
schools, in both Upper and Lower Egypt, especially in the stronghold
of the French tongue--the Delta--not a single application was made by
candidates for entrance to the second primaries, in which French
teaching begins. That means to say that there will a dearth and
practically a cessation of French teaching in 1899 in the primary
schools, and subsequently, or in 1900, the year of the Exposition
Universelle at Paris, a total discontinuance of it in the secondary
schools. Taking the secondary schools examinations throughout the
whole of Lower Egypt by themselves, I learn that in 1898, although
there were a larger proportion of candidates for French certificates
of proficiency, yet the numbers that actually passed in each language
were about the same. The Examining Commissioners are Egyptian,
English, and French.

It is in Egypt as in certain other countries. The great ambition of
every lad is to get into the Government service, and failing that to
become a lawyer. Law schools are therefore well attended. Heretofore
budding lawyers have been taught in French classes only. An
English-speaking law section was started in 1898. The natives are
quick to appreciate any change which is to their advantage. Pupils in
the secondary schools have now opened to them careers which have
heretofore been closed. There is in truth a silent, but certain to be
effective, educational and social revolution begun in Egypt. No more
will every whim and caprice of those who seek to obstruct the advance
of the Egyptians be tolerated. In 1899 for the first time examining
educational centres will be established at Assouan and Suakin. All
those south of Assiut will be for English students only, for French
will be quite dropped. Not only will there be a college at Khartoum
but one at Kassala, where English as well as Arabic will be taught. In
a new and thorough manner has the regeneration of Egypt and the Soudan
been undertaken. The dream of a red English through-traffic line from
Cairo to Cape Town will have a speedy realisation. Possibly within
eighteen months the railway will be carried to the Sobat. Certainly
before 1899 is ended there will be through communication with
Khartoum. Mr Cecil Rhodes is busy with his South African lines, which
by that time should be up to the Zambesi, and within three years after
there will possibly be open rail and water communication from the
Mediterranean to Cape Town. But before then the telegraph wire will
bind North and South Africa together, and to the United Kingdom.



POSTSCRIPT.


This volume was written and in the printer's hands when an article by
a Mr E. N. Bennett appeared in the columns of _The Contemporary
Review_, entitled "After Omdurman." That gentleman made a series of
grave charges reflecting upon the Anglo-Egyptian arms, not only during
the Khartoum Expedition, but also on their conduct in Egypt and the
Soudan since 1882. In the _Daily Telegraph_ and elsewhere I have
deservedly stigmatised Mr Bennett's allegations as untrue, stupid, and
wantonly mischievous.

In the pages of _The Khartoum Campaign, 1898_, can be read the
detailed version of events which happened in the field "before" as
well as "after" Omdurman. I venture to think that abundant refutation
will be found in the Work of most of Mr Bennett's scandalous
assertions. Although it may seem to lend further temporary importance
to what that gentleman has written, as his accusations were made
public under the cover of a respectable magazine, perhaps a few words
more may not be out of place.

Mr Bennett's article was seemingly framed on the specious pretext of,
under a discussion of the principles of international law, questions
of belligerency, Geneva Convention rules, and so forth, to base
thereon a claim for the treatment of dervishes as combatants entitled
to all the amenities of civilised warfare. Several pages of his
composition are given up to treating upon that matter. For instance,
he says--"Moreover, it is worth remembering that the dervishes were
not 'savages' in the sense in which the word is applied to the
followers of a Lobengula or a Samory. On the contrary, they satisfied
all the requirements for recognition as an armed force." Now, that is
an aspersion upon Lobengula and Samory in particular. For unredeemed
devilishness, the dervishes have had no equals. The fact is, that the
Mahdists made it a constant practice to ruthlessly slaughter all
prisoners in battle, wounded or unwounded; to enslave, torture, or
murder their enemies, active or passive; to loot and to burn; to slay
children and debauch women. To set up a pretext that such monsters are
entitled to the grace and consideration of the most humane laws, is to
beggar commonsense and yap intolerable humbug. Yet British
self-respect was such, Mr Bennett to the contrary notwithstanding,
that the dervishes were treated as men, and not as wild beasts.

Started upon his false pursuit, Mr Bennett proceeds from error to
error, abounding in reckless misstatements, atrocious imputations, and
scattering charges void of truth. As briefly as possible, I will deal
with his accusations. One of his first deliverances is as
follows:--"It is, of course, an open secret that in all our Soudan
battles the enemy's wounded have been killed. The practice has, ever
since the days of Tel-el-Kebir, become traditional in Soudanese
warfare. After the battle of Atbara, it was announced that 3000
dervishes had been killed. There was practically no mention of the
wounded.... How, then, was it that no wounded were accounted for at
the Atbara?" Again he writes:--"But I cannot help thinking that if the
killing of the wounded had been sternly repressed at Tel-el-Kebir and
during the earlier Soudan campaigns, our dervish enemies would have
learned to expect civilised treatment," etc. Gaining courage, probably
from his own audacity, Mr Bennett had the hardihood to virtually
declare that the cruelties permitted by British officers made the
dervishes what they were.

Now, I went through the 1882 war in Egypt as well as most of the
campaigns in the Soudan. I am therefore in a better position than he
to declare, that his allegations are a perversion of the truth. It was
neither the practice at Tel-el-Kebir nor subsequent thereto for
British led troops to kill wounded men. The insinuation that they did
so, or connived at such slaughter, is a stupid or a malicious
falsehood. In every battle within the period referred to, large
numbers of wounded and unwounded prisoners were taken, and invariably
great lenience was shown. Surgical treatment also was, whenever
possible, always promptly rendered. Indeed, they were in countless
cases treated as tenderly as our own wounded. This further: in action
there are no soldiers less prone to needless blood-spilling, or men
readier to forgive and forget, than "Tommy Atkins." Official returns
exist setting at rest the fiction about Tel-el-Kebir and the Soudan
battles. At Tel-el-Kebir many thousand prisoners were made, and in
other engagements our hands were always full of dervish wounded. At
El Teb, Tamai, Abu Klea, Abu Kru, Gemaizeh, Atbara, and elsewhere,
wounded dervishes fell into our hands, and received every attention
from the medical staff. And in some of these actions our troops were
themselves in sore straits. Several hundred dervishes were picked up
within and without the Atbara dem, including the leader Mahmoud and
his two cousins. Be it remembered, our troops only remained there a
few hours, marching back to the Nile.

Still further abominable charges Mr Bennett lays at the door of his
countrymen who command British and Khedivial troops. The Sirdar
himself is included in his rigmarole of accusations. But whether
dealing with particulars or the general course of events, Mr Bennett
discloses that he has scarcely a nodding acquaintanceship with truth.
He has said:--"This wholesale slaughter was not confined to Arab
servants," _i.e._, killing wounded dervishes. "The Soudanese seemed to
revel in the work, and continually drove their bayonets through men
who were absolutely unconscious.... This unsoldierly work was not even
left to the exclusive control of the black troops; our British
soldiers took part in it."

On whatever ground Mr Bennett may seek to support these assertions,
they are unwarranted and untruthful libels. There was no wholesale
slaughter of wounded dervishes, nor was there anything done in the
least justifying or providing a decent pretext for that ferocious
accusation. Very many thousands of dervish wounded fell into our hands
that day and later. Officers have written to the press, denying these
charges and the rest of Mr Bennett's tale of monstrosity. The Sirdar
himself has confirmed by a personal cablegram my refutation of them.
Here is another of Mr Bennett's suggestions of evil-doing, by innuendo
and assertion:--"It was stated that orders had been given to kill the
wounded." And, "If the Sirdar really believes that the destruction of
the wounded was a military necessity," etc. Can colossal crassness go
further? There is not and never was a scintilla of truth for the
charge of wholesale slaughtering of wounded dervishes, nor that the
Sirdar ever issued such an order, or that any reputable person ever
received it, or ever had it hinted to him. The accusation is an
unmitigated untruth, and absolutely at variance with all that was said
and done by the Sirdar before and during the course of the battle and
the pursuit. I certainly never heard of the matter until Mr Bennett
made the accusation, and I cannot trace its authorship beyond himself.
From the Sirdar down, contradictions of the charge have deservedly
been slapped in Mr Bennett's face.

But it is almost sheer waste of words to follow and refute line by
line the article "After Omdurman." Other of Mr Bennett's accusations
were: that the 21st Lancers, on the way to the front, robbed
hen-roosts and stricken villagers; that once in Omdurman the Soudanese
troops abandoned discipline, looted, ravished, and murdered the whole
night long; that on land and water our cannon and Maxims were
deliberately turned upon unarmed flying inhabitants, massacring,
without pity, men, women, and children. An these charges had been
true, I should have hastened to denounce the culprits, whoever they
were, in the interests of humanity and country. Happily, Mr Bennett's
tale is utterly without foundation, whatever reflection that casts
upon his condition. The Lancers passed through nothing but deserted
villages, where there were neither natives nor roosts to rob, even had
they been so disposed. As for the Soudanese troops, their discipline
throughout was perfect; there was no looting, no ravishing nor murder
done by them or any other divisions of the soldiery. Nor did our
gunners on shore or afloat ever fire upon unarmed people. Let it be
recalled that those whom Mr Bennett so flippantly accuses are
honourable gentlemen and fellow-countrymen. Three things in this
connection are worthy of special note. When the first dervish attack
upon our zereba was repulsed and Wad Melik's dead, dying and shamming
warriors carpeted the north slopes of Jebel Surgham and the plain in
front. "Cease fire" was sounded. Thereafter the dervishes arose from
the ground in hundreds and thousands and walked off, without awakening
a renewal of our fire from cannon, Maxims, or rifles. At the entry
into Omdurman the artillery and gunboats were ordered to be careful
how they fired, and grave risks were incurred by the Sirdar and staff
in personally counselling to friend and foe a cessation of fighting.

Inaccuracy and sensationalism Mr Bennett is welcome to, and to the
sort of notoriety it has brought him. Cheap maudlin sentiment may
profess a pity for those "dervish homes ruined" by the successes of
British arms. The dervishes in their day had no homes. Nay, they made
honest profession that their mission was to destroy other people's,
and do without carking domesticity, as that detracted from the merit
of preparation for paradise. As I have elsewhere said, one of the
"fads" of the day is to hold that liberalism of mind is always
characterised by being a friend to every country and race but your
own. Exact truth is as illusive to discovery by that as other
pernicious methods. That there may have been one or two instances of
cruelty practised on the battle-field is possible. Something of the
kind always takes place in warfare as in everyday life. But only the
amateur would magnify a few instances into a catalogue of charges.
Alas! you cannot eliminate from armies, any more than from ordinary
communities, the foolish, insane, and criminal.

                                                           THE AUTHOR.

LONDON, _February 1899_.


THE END.


NEILL AND COMPANY, LTD., PRINTERS, EDINBURGH.



_FOURTH IMPRESSION NOW READY._

SIRDAR AND KHALIFA;

OR THE

RE-CONQUEST OF THE SOUDAN.

BY

BENNET BURLEIGH.

WITH PORTRAITS, NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS, MAPS, AND PLAN OF BATTLE.

DEMY 8vo, 12s.


THE DAILY NEWS says:--"Picturesque, spirited, and trustworthy
narrative.... The book comprises a summary of the military situation,
and a glance at the probable course of the renewed operations which
are now on the point of commencing."

THE PALL MALL GAZETTE says:--"Nothing could be more timely. It is
unnecessary at this time of day to speak of Mr Burleigh's familiar
style ... always to the point, clear, and vigorous; or of his
matter--the matter of an experienced, shrewd, and fearless war
correspondent. The book is just the book for the occasion, and will
make the tale that is coming directly more real to many of us. Mr
Burleigh gives a few useful introductory chapters dealing with
previous events, and a very interesting account of a trip to Kassala,
'our new possession'; but in the main it is the story of the Atbara
Campaign. The book makes good reading, entirely apart from its timely
instructiveness."

THE ST JAMES'S GAZETTE says:--"Its real value to the judicious reader
lies in the fact that it is a faithful record by a highly skilled
observer of the day-by-day life of an Anglo-Egyptian Army engaged in
desert warfare. The country itself--river and wilderness--the rival
leaders, the soldiery, their appearance, arms, and uniform, their
eating and drinking, their lying down and their rising up, their
marching and the final rush of battle--these are all here before us in
a living picture, making the book in reality an invaluable 'vade
mecum' for those who wish to realise just what it is that our men are
doing to-day between the Atbara and Omdurman."

THE WESTMINSTER GAZETTE says:--"The book is profoundly interesting.
Readers familiar with the author's letters in _The Daily Telegraph_ do
not need to be told that he is a master of vivid and picturesque
narrative. Mr Burleigh has been an eye-witness during the course of
all the campaigns in the Soudan in which British troops have been
employed, and therefore writes out of full knowledge and experience."

THE MORNING POST says:--"Many chapters are devoted to the Atbara
Campaign and the incidents connected with it, the storming of
Mahmoud's entrenched Camp on the 7th of April last, and interviews
with that Emir after he was taken prisoner. Mr Burleigh's book, it
will be sufficient to say, should prove very useful to all who follow
the progress of the Force now advancing on Omdurman. In a
supplementary chapter will be found official despatches, and the work
is provided with a map of the Soudan, and plans of the Battle of the
Atbara and of the Island of Meroe, showing positions before the
battle. The illustrations are numerous. Among them is a frontispiece
portrait of the Sirdar."

THE DAILY CHRONICLE says:--"We are given a connected and very
comprehensible account of all the operations up to the destruction of
Mahmoud's host and the Sirdar's triumphant return to Berber.... The
description of the main battle itself is very vivid and complete."

THE SCOTSMAN says:--"Mr Bennet Burleigh's new volume, 'Sirdar and
Khalifa,' comes just in the nick of time. Its object is to recount the
story of the reconquest of the Soudan up to the Battle of Atbara.... A
very readable book."

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says:--"Readers of _The Daily Telegraph_ will not
be chary of accepting our estimate of the value of this book when we
remind them that its author is Mr Bennet Burleigh, who has acted
throughout the numerous campaigns which have been waged in the Soudan
as the War Correspondent of this journal, and gained himself a
well-merited reputation for his pluck in the face of the enemy, his
endurance of hardship and fatigue, his excellence of judgment, and his
graphic descriptions of the shock of battle.... It only remains to say
that this book is well illustrated, handsomely printed, and is in
every way a worthy record of a brief but memorable campaign."





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