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Title: The Egyptian campaigns, 1882 to 1885
Author: Royle, Charles, 1882-1936
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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    1882 TO 1885.



    Late of the Royal Navy,
    Barrister-at-Law, Judge of the Egyptian Court of Appeal.





In the new and revised Edition of "THE EGYPTIAN CAMPAIGNS," the history
of the military operations in Egypt has been brought down to the present
time, so as to include all the recent fighting in the Soudan. This has
been accompanied by a slight alteration in the title of the Book, as
well as by the elimination of such details contained in the original
work as are no longer of general interest. The space thus gained has
been utilized for the purpose of bringing before the reader the chief
events of a military character which have occurred in the interval which
has elapsed since the Book first appeared.

It has been the object of the Author to make the work in its present
form a complete narrative of the rise and fall of the Arabist and
Mahdist movements, as well as a history of England's intervention in
Egypt, this last a subject on which many persons entertain somewhat
vague and indistinct ideas.

  C. R.

    December, 1899.


     CHAP.                                             PAGE.

      I. EGYPTIAN FINANCE                                  1

     II. ISMAIL PASHA                                      7

    III. THE MILITARY MOVEMENT                            12

     IV. TRIUMPH OF THE ARMY                              17

      V. FOREIGN INTERVENTION                             23

     VI. CRITICAL POSITION                                32

    VII. THE RIOTS AT ALEXANDRIA                          44

   VIII. THE ALEXANDRIA BOMBARDMENT                       60

     IX. OBSERVATIONS ON THE BOMBARDMENT                  75

      X. THE DAY AFTER THE BOMBARDMENT                    85


    XII. EVENTS ON SHORE                                  98

   XIII. THE SITUATION                                   106

    XIV. MILITARY OPERATIONS                             114

     XV. THE CONFERENCE                                  120

    XVI. THE PORTE AND THE POWERS                        127

   XVII. WOLSELEY'S MOVE TO THE CANAL                    131

  XVIII. DE LESSEPS AND THE CANAL                        137

    XIX. SEIZURE OF THE SUEZ CANAL                       144

     XX. TEL-EL-MAHUTA TO MAHSAMEH                       153

    XXI. KASSASSIN                                       159

   XXII. TEL-EL-KEBIR                                    168

               REBELLION                                 180

   XXIV. ENGLAND AND THE PORTE                           193


   XXVI. THE SOUDAN AND THE MAHDI                        210

  XXVII. ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE FUTURE                     220


   XXIX. THE DESTRUCTION OF HICKS' ARMY                  243


   XXXI. BAKER'S DEFEAT AT EL TEB                        259

  XXXII. GORDON'S MISSION                                267

 XXXIII. SOUAKIM EXPEDITION                              272

  XXXIV. GRAHAM'S VICTORY AT EL TEB                      277

   XXXV. GRAHAM'S VICTORY AT TAMAAI                      290

  XXXVI. THE GORDON RELIEF EXPEDITION                    309

 XXXVII. PROGRESS TO DONGOLA                             315

XXXVIII. ADVANCE TO KORTI                                325

  XXXIX. STEWART'S DESERT MARCH                          333

     XL. THE BATTLE OF ABU KLEA                          341

    XLI. THE ADVANCE ON METAMMEH                         347

   XLII. GORDON'S JOURNALS                               355

  XLIII. WILSON'S VOYAGE TO KHARTOUM                     361

   XLIV. THE FALL OF KHARTOUM                            371

    XLV. THE RETREAT FROM GUBAT                          386

   XLVI. THE NILE COLUMN                                 393

               CAMPAIGN                                  401

 XLVIII. THE SOUAKIM EXPEDITION OF 1885                  408

   XLIX. THE ATTACK ON McNEILL'S ZERIBA                  416

               EASTERN SOUDAN                            430

     LI. EVACUATION                                      437

    LII. CONTINUATION                                    443

   LIII. THE MAHDIST INVASION                            447

               OCCUPATION                                453

     LV. THE EASTERN SOUDAN                              459

    LVI. THE NILE FRONTIER                               466


  LVIII. THE EASTERN SOUDAN AGAIN                        486

    LIX. IN LOWER EGYPT                                  494

     LX. THE DONGOLA EXPEDITION                          501

    LXI. THE RECONQUEST OF DONGOLA                       512

   LXII. THE ADVANCE TO BERBER                           519

  LXIII. ON THE RIVER--KASSALA                           524

   LXIV. FROM THE NILE TO THE ATBARA                     530

    LXV. THE BATTLE OF THE ATBARA                        541

   LXVI. THE ADVANCE ON OMDURMAN                         551

  LXVII. THE BATTLE OF OMDURMAN                          559

 LXVIII. THE CAPTURE OF OMDURMAN                         574

   LXIX. FASHODA                                         584

    LXX. DESTRUCTION OF THE KHALIFA                      590

                         CONCLUSION                      595




Towards the close of the year 1875, Ismail Pasha, then Khedive of Egypt,
had about got to the end of his resources. His liabilities on loans,
contracted either in his own name or in that of his Government, amounted
to £55,332,609; in addition to this there was a "Floating Debt" of
£21,334,960--and £1,000,000--due for the expenses of the war with
Abyssinia. The Treasury Bills were being daily protested, the salaries
of the Government officials were in arrear, and everything pointed to
impending bankruptcy.

This was the situation when Ismail sold to the British Government the
shares in the Suez Canal Company which he had inherited from his
predecessor, Said Pasha.[1]

By the transaction, which was due to the genius of the late Lord
Beaconsfield, England made an excellent investment of capital. She also
acquired an important interest in the great maritime highway to India,
and indirectly in Egypt herself.

Attentive observers regarded what had taken place as only a prelude to a
more intimate connection of England with Egyptian affairs, and the
financial mission of Mr. Cave, an important Treasury official,
undertaken about the same period, naturally strengthened this
impression, notwithstanding Lord Derby's declaration that sending the
mission to Egypt "was not to be taken to imply any desire on the part of
Her Majesty's Government to interfere in the internal affairs of that

There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of the Foreign Secretary in
the matter. The policy of Lord Beaconsfield's Cabinet, as well as that
of Mr. Gladstone, which succeeded it, was originally one of
non-intervention, and it was only the force of circumstances which led
to its modification. England's first wish was that no Power should
interfere in Egypt; her second, that in the event of interference
becoming necessary, England should not be left out in the cold. When
this is borne in mind, the attitude which Her Majesty's Ministers from
time to time assumed in regard to Egyptian affairs becomes comparatively

In confirmation of the preceding, the reader will observe that, although
one of the causes which eventually led to England's action in the valley
of the Nile was her mixing herself up with questions of Egyptian
finance, all attempts to induce her to move in this direction met for a
long time with failure.

When Mr. Cave's report, and, later on, that of Messrs. Goschen and
Joubert, revealed the embarrassed condition of the country, and the
necessity for the adoption of the financial scheme set forth in the
Decrees of May and November, 1876, Her Majesty's Government declined to
take any part in the arrangement. They even refused to nominate the
Englishmen who were to fill the various posts created by the Decrees.

The French, Italian and Austrian members of the Commission of the Public
Debt were nominated by their respective Governments as early as May,
1876, but their British colleague up to the end of the year remained
unappointed. France, on the other hand, throughout the whole of the
negotiations, appears to have been singularly ready to come to the
front, and when in December, 1876, the Duke Decazes, the French Minister
of Foreign Affairs, was asked to nominate one of the Controllers of
Finance, he declared "that he felt no difficulty whatever on the
subject." Lord Derby, however, persisted in his policy of abstention,
and eventually the Khedive was under the necessity of himself appointing
the Englishmen required.

At last the financial scheme came into operation, and, combined with
other reforms, for some time seemed likely to secure to Egypt and her
creditors a fair share of the blessings intended. This, however, was not
destined to last. As early as June, 1877, it became evident that the
revenues set apart to meet the Interest and Sinking Fund of the Public
Debt were insufficient. In fact, the estimates on which the Decrees were
founded proved simply fallacious--a deficit of no less than £820,000
appeared in the revenues assigned to the service of the Unified Debt,
and of £200,000 on those set apart for the Privileged Debt. Moreover,
there was strong reason to suppose that considerable portions of the
receipts were being secretly diverted from their legitimate channel by
Ismail and his agents.

At the same period serious difficulty arose in satisfying the judgments
obtained against the Government in the newly-established Mixed
Tribunals. These courts, having been instituted by treaties with the
Powers, partook largely of an international character, and when the
European creditors, on issuing execution, found that it was resisted by
force, they sought the aid of their respective Consuls-General.

The Honourable H. C. Vivian, then British Consul-General in Cairo, a
diplomatist who took a prominent part in this stage of Egypt's history,
had, as England's representative, to remonstrate with the Khedive. The
advice which Mr. Vivian gave, that the amounts of these judgments should
be paid, was excellent, but, under the circumstances, about as practical
as if he had counselled His Highness to take steps to secure an annual
high Nile.

Early in 1878, when things were going from bad to worse, Mr. Vivian
wrote that the whole government of the country was thrown out of gear by
financial mismanagement, and that affairs were becoming so entangled as
to challenge the interference of foreign Governments. This very sensible
opinion was backed up by M. Waddington, who had become French Minister
of Foreign Affairs, and who, addressing Lord Derby on the financial and
political situation, made the significant observation that if England
and France did not exert themselves at once, the matter would slip out
of their hands. This suggestion, pointing obviously to the probable
intervention of other Powers, was not without effect, and the British
Foreign Secretary in reply went a little further than he had yet done,
and stated that "Her Majesty's Government would be happy to co-operate
with that of France in any useful measure not inconsistent with the
Khedive's independent administration of Egypt."

This was followed by Mr. Vivian pressing upon the Khedive the necessity
for "a thorough and exhaustive inquiry into the finances of the

This constituted a fresh departure in the policy of England with regard
to the Egyptian question, and, as will be seen, ultimately led to that
complete interference in Egyptian affairs which the British Cabinet had
so much desired to avoid.

Of course, Ismail had to yield, and the famous Commission of Inquiry
instituted by the Decree of 30th March, 1878, assembled in Cairo under
the presidency of Mr. (afterwards Sir C.) Rivers Wilson, and revealed
the most startling facts relating to the finances of Egypt. The
Commission had no easy task before it, and it only attained its object
through the dogged resolution of its chairman, backed by the moral
support of the representatives of the Powers.

At the outset, the late Cherif Pasha, the Khedive's Minister of Foreign
Affairs and of Justice, refused point-blank to obey the Decree, and
submit to be personally examined by the Commission.

As Cherif was a statesman who will be frequently referred to in the
following pages, it may be opportune to briefly describe him. He was
then about sixty years of age, and, like most of those who have held the
highest posts in Egypt, of Circassian origin. He was amongst the
favoured individuals who had been sent to France by Mehemet Ali to be
educated. He gradually passed through nearly every post in the State
with that facility which is so frequently seen in Egypt, where a man is
one day a station-master on the railway, the next a Judge in the
Tribunals, and eventually a Master of Ceremonies, or a Cabinet Minister.

Cherif had pleasing manners, spoke French fluently, and was in every
respect a gentleman. A Mahomedan by religion, he was, from an early
period in Ismail's reign, a prominent character in Egyptian history. He
soon became a rival of Nubar Pasha (referred to further on), and he and
Nubar alternated as the Khedive's Prime Ministers for many years.

Of a naturally indolent character, Cherif always represented the
_laissez aller_ side of Egyptian politics. With an excellent temper, and
a supremely apathetic disposition, he was always willing to accept
almost any proposition, provided it did not entail upon him any personal
exertion, or interfere with his favourite pastime, a game of billiards.

Cherif's notion in refusing to appear before the Commission was of a
two-fold character. Educated with Oriental ideas, and accustomed to
regard Europeans with suspicion, it is not unlikely that he resented the
appointment of the Commission as an unwarrantable intrusion on the part
of the Western Powers.

"Here," thought he, "were a number of people coming to make disagreeable
inquiries, and to ask indiscreet questions. Others might answer them;
he, for his part, could not, and for two reasons: first, because he
couldn't if he would; and second, because he wouldn't if he could. Was
he, at his time of life, to be asked to give reasons for all he had
done? It was ridiculous; all the world knew that he had no reasons."[2]

Probably, also, Cherif had his own motives for not wishing to afford too
much information. Though enjoying a deservedly high reputation for
honesty, he belonged to what must be regarded as the "privileged class"
in the country. For years this class had benefited by certain partial
immunities from taxation, and these advantages the work of the
Commission threatened to do away with. Further, Cherif's love of ease
and comfort, and absence of energy, indisposed him to give himself
unnecessary trouble about anything in particular. Be this as it may,
Cherif, though expressing his readiness to reply in writing to any
communications which the Commission might address to him, declined to do

The Decree, however, provided that every functionary of State should be
bound to appear before the Commission. This might have placed a less
astute Minister in a dilemma. Cherif at once evaded the difficulty by
resigning office, rightly calculating on again returning to power when
the Commission should have become a thing of the past. Riaz Pasha, then
second Vice-President of the Commission, succeeded Cherif as Minister,
and the inquiry proceeded without him.[3]

It will not have escaped notice that in authorizing Rivers Wilson, who
held a high post in the Office of the National Debt, to sit on the
Commission, and in granting him leave of absence for the purpose, the
British Government had allowed itself to advance one stage further in
its Egyptian policy. The significance of the event was only partially
disguised by Lord Derby's cautious intimation that "the employé of the
British Government was not to be considered as invested with any
official character."

In April of the same year, whilst the Commission was still sitting, it
became evident that there would be a deficit of £1,200,000 in the amount
required to pay the May coupon of the Unified Debt. Further influences
were brought to bear, and Mr. Vivian was instructed to join the French
Consul-General in urging upon the Khedive the necessity of finding the
requisite funds at whatever cost to himself. Ismail pointed out that
this could only be done by ruinous sacrifices, which he promised should
nevertheless be made if it was insisted on. The representatives of
England and France remained firm, and the bondholders got their money.
By what means this was accomplished it is needless to inquire. Rumours
of frightful pressure being put on the unfortunate fellaheen, of forced
loans and other desperate expedients, were prevalent in Cairo, and were
probably only too well founded. It is said that even the jewellery of
the ladies of Ismail's harem was requisitioned in order to make up the
sum required.

Meanwhile the inquiry proceeded.

It would require too much space to give at length the details of the
report which the Commission presented. Suffice it to say that it showed
confusion and irregularity everywhere. Taxes were collected in the most
arbitrary and oppressive manner, and at the most unfavourable periods of
the year. The land tenures were so arranged that the wealthier
proprietors evaded a great portion of the land tax, and the _corvée_, or
system of forced labour, was applied in a way which was ruinous to the
country. Further, the Khedive and his family had amassed, at the expense
of the State, colossal properties, amounting, in fact, to as much as
one-fifth of the whole cultivable land of Egypt, and this property the
Commission declared ought to be given up. On every side the most
flagrant abuses were shown to prevail. In conclusion, it was found that
the arrangements made by the Financial Decrees of 1876 could not
possibly be adhered to, and that a fresh liquidation was inevitable.

Ismail, after every effort to make better terms for himself, yielded to
Rivers Wilson's requisitions, and accepted the conclusions of the
Commission. He acquiesced with as good grace as he could in making over
to the State the landed property of himself and family. He went even
further, and in August, 1878, approved the formation of a Cabinet under
the presidency of Nubar Pasha, with Rivers Wilson as Minister of
Finance and M. de Blignières (the French member of the Commission of the
Public Debt) as Minister of Public Works. At the same time, as if to
show Europe that he had seriously entered on the path of reform, the
Khedive proclaimed his intention to renounce personal rule and become a
Constitutional sovereign, governing only through his Council of



Any history of Egyptian affairs at the time of the events referred to in
the present chapter would be incomplete without a sketch of Ismail Pasha
himself. He was then forty-six years of age, short in stature, and
heavily and squarely built. He was corpulent in figure, of dark
complexion, and wore a reddish brown beard closely clipped. With one eye
startlingly bright and the other habitually almost closed, he gave one
the idea of a man of more than ordinary intelligence.

Speaking French fluently, and possessed of a peculiarly fascinating
manner, Ismail exercised an almost mesmeric influence on those who came
in contact with him. His business capacity was unbounded, and not the
smallest detail, from the purchase of a coal cargo to the sale of a
year's crop of sugar, was carried out without his personal direction. He
was entitled to the denomination of Merchant Prince more than any one
who ever bore the title, combining the two characters profitably for a
long time, but in attempting to add to them that of a financier also he
ended by wrecking his country.

The three great passions of Ismail were, his ambition to render Egypt
independent of the Porte, his desire to accumulate landed property, and
his mania for building palaces. His prodigality was unbounded, and as a
result the indebtedness of Egypt was raised in fifteen years from
£3,292,000, at which his predecessor left it, to over £90,000,000 at the
time now referred to.

To do Ismail justice, it must be admitted that a large part of this
money was spent in the construction of railways, canals, and other
improvements, and in beautifying Cairo, which it was his aim to convert
into a sort of Oriental Paris. But after allowing for all this, and for
the two millions sterling spent in the _fêtes_ which attended the
opening of the Suez Canal, there is still a large balance left
unaccounted for.

One of the great defects of Ismail's character was his absolute
insincerity. When his reckless administration had brought his country to
the brink of ruin, he instituted the system of financial control set
forth in the Decrees of 1876. It must not be supposed that he ever meant
that the system should be carried into effect, or at most that it should
be more than a temporary expedient. When he promulgated reforms and
enlisted a number of Europeans in his service, did he intend that the
reforms should become realities, or that the European officials should
exercise the functions nominally intrusted to them? Not for an instant.
All that he desired was to throw dust in the eyes of Europe. For a while
he succeeded, but it was not to last. After a time it dawned on the
Powers that they were being played with, and from that moment Ismail's
downfall was assured.

In nominally transforming himself into a Constitutional ruler, Ismail
was only following out his habitual policy. The change, at any rate,
looked well on paper. It would, he expected, possess a further
advantage--Ismail, by his personal rule, had brought Egypt to the brink
of ruin, and by posing as a Constitutional Sovereign, he hoped to
transfer his responsibility to his ministers.

The nomination of Rivers Wilson to the post of Egyptian Minister of
Finance was so unprecedented an event that it required all the care of
the Marquis of Salisbury, who had now succeeded Lord Derby, to attenuate
its political importance. To save appearances it was arranged that Her
Majesty's Ministers should do nothing more than give their consent to
the appointment.

As a consequence of the installation of Constitutional government, with
European Ministers in the Cabinet, the English and French Controllers
were deemed unnecessary, and the Dual Control was declared suspended. On
the adoption of the new order of things, a hint was given to the Khedive
that Her Majesty's Government relied on his steady support being given
to the new Cabinet, and that the position of himself and his Dynasty
might become seriously compromised in the event of a contrary course
being adopted.

It would have been well for the Khedive had he taken the advice given.
Unfortunately, he was too much steeped in Eastern intrigue, and too fond
of the authority which he had nominally surrendered, to bend to the new
order of things.[4]

The earliest symptom of this was the military outbreak which took place
in Cairo on the 18th February, 1879, when 400 officers and 2,000
discharged soldiers mobbed Nubar Pasha and the European members of his
Cabinet at the Ministry of Finance. The ostensible grievance was the
non-payment of their salaries; the real one was the reduction in the
army, a measure which had been forced on the Khedive by his new
advisers. Both Nubar and Wilson were actually assaulted, and the cry of
"Death to the Christians" was raised. What further events might have
taken place it is hard to say, but, all at once, Ismail personally
appeared on the scene, and as if by magic order was restored.

Everything tended to show that Ismail himself had arranged this little
comedy; but be this as it may, he speedily took advantage of it to
inform the Consuls-General that the new state of things was a failure,
and that he could no longer retain his position without either power or
authority. Finally he declared that unless a change were made he would
not be answerable for the consequences. This was followed by the
resignation of his Prime Minister, Nubar, and the despatch of British
and French vessels of war to Alexandria.

The progress made in the direction of British interference in Egyptian
affairs will not fail to strike the reader.

Ismail's motive in bringing about the military disturbance of the 18th
February was to demonstrate, in the same manner as Arabi Pasha did later
on, that he was the only real power in the country. In doing this,
however, he played a dangerous game, and one which shortly after cost
him his vice-regal throne.

For the moment, a _modus vivendi_ was found in the appointment of his
son Prince Tewfik (afterwards Khedive) as Prime Minister, _vice_ Nubar,
and the Western Powers accepted the solution, at the same time giving
Ismail another warning, namely, that any further disturbance would be
regarded as the result of his action, and the consequences to him would
be very serious.

The financial difficulties of the country now became so grave, that a
Decree suspending payment of the interest of the Debt was issued at the
end of March, by the advice of the Ministers. Then Ismail all at once
turned round and declared that the measure was unnecessary, and proposed
a financial scheme of his own. How far this could be reconciled with his
declaration that he was a Constitutional ruler is not clear. This event
was followed by the arbitrary dismissal of his Ministers and the
formation of a purely native Cabinet under Cherif Pasha. So secretly had
the change been brought about, that the former Ministers only discovered
it when, on going to their offices, they found their places already
occupied by their successors.

This veritable _coup d'état_ placed the English and French
representatives in a position of some difficulty. On the one hand, the
right of the Khedive to change his Ministers, even under the reformed
regime, could not be contested; on the other, the change was of so
radical a nature, and so much opposed to the moral obligations which he
had contracted with the Western Powers, that it could hardly be
permitted. The two Consuls-General therefore waited on the Khedive, and
plainly told him that the precipitate dismissal of Ministers whose
services he had solicited from the Governments of England and France
constituted an act of grave discourtesy, and warned him of the necessity
of adopting the course which they recommended to him. Ismail had by this
time become so used to warnings of this character, that the intimation
produced but little effect. On the contrary, he at once ordered the army
to be increased to 60,000 men, and followed this up by a Decree of the
22nd April, 1879, reducing the interest of the Debt, and otherwise
modifying the arrangements made by the Financial Decrees of 1876.

It was scarcely to be expected that Ismail's action, conceived in
defiance of all Europe, would be tolerated, but it might, nevertheless,
but for another circumstance, namely, the continued non-payment of the
sums due on the judgments of the Tribunals. Both England and France
addressed strong representations to the Porte on the subject. Though
anxious that Ismail should be taken to task, neither Power was prepared
to go so far as to demand his deposition. At length the hands of both
were forced by a statesman who had more will and less hesitation,
namely, Prince Bismarck. He plainly intimated that if England and France
did not demand Ismail's removal, Germany would. This decided the matter,
and the two Powers, seeing the danger of the matter being taken out of
their hands, summoned up sufficient resolution to apply to the Sultan
for the removal of the man who had so long trifled with them.

Meanwhile intrigues of all kinds had been going on at Constantinople.
Ismail was privately sounded on the subject, and was given his choice,
either to abdicate or to be deposed. He was reluctant to come to any
decision, and in this he was strengthened by the information which he
received from his agent, Ibraim Pasha, at Constantinople. The latter,
from time to time, misled his unfortunate principal. When things looked
at their very worst, Ibraim repeatedly assured Ismail that if only
sufficient money were transmitted to Stamboul, everything would yet be
made right. Animated by this hope, the deluded Khedive sent fabulous
sums to the Sultan, up to the moment when the latter threw him over. It
is not, therefore, to be wondered at, that, when the storm actually
burst, and the news of his deposition arrived, he was simply
thunderstruck. At four in the morning of the 25th June, 1879, the
English and French Consuls-General sought out Cherif Pasha, and made him
accompany them to the Palace, and after some difficulty succeeded in
finding Ismail. They then communicated to him despatches from
Constantinople, and insisted on his abdication as the only means of
saving his Dynasty. Ismail at first refused point-blank, but later on,
he qualified his refusal by stating that he would only yield to a formal
order from the Porte itself.

The _dénouement_ was not far off, for, only a few hours later, a
telegram arrived, addressed to "Ismail Pasha, late Khedive of Egypt,"
informing him that the Sultan had deposed him, and nominated his son
Tewfik in his place.

There was nothing for the fallen ruler to do but to bow to the
inevitable, although he did not acquiesce with good grace. He showed
himself most _exigeant_ as to the conditions on which he would consent
to leave Egypt. He wished for a large sum in ready money. He wanted
Smyrna selected as his place of residence. He wished to take with him
all his followers, including a harem of at least three hundred women. He
also demanded that an Egyptian steamer should be placed at his disposal.
In fact, he asked so many things that the Consuls-General were at their
wits' end to know what to do. The great object was to get rid of him at
any price, and he was, in effect, told that he could have almost
anything he wanted if he would only go at once.

Eventually the parties came to terms, Ismail was given the money he
demanded, he was allowed to choose Naples in place of Smyrna as a
residence, and at the end of the month, accompanied by seventy ladies of
his harem, he quitted Alexandria in the Khedivial yacht "_Maharoussa_"
under a royal salute from the batteries and ships of war.[5]



No sooner was Egypt rid of Ismail Pasha, than the Firman of investiture
of Tewfik was solemnly read at the Citadel in Cairo with great state and

The Powers having insisted on the restoration of the Control, Major
Baring (afterwards Lord Cromer) and M. de Blignières were appointed
Controllers-General by the English and French Governments respectively,
on the 4th September. Riaz Pasha, on the 23rd, became Prime Minister.

Riaz is a statesman who has played an important part in Egypt for many
years, and is therefore deserving of a passing notice. He is of
Circassian family and of Hebrew extraction, possesses a strong will,
tenacious perseverance, and business-like habits, and he has always been
remarkable for his independence. Riaz is a master of detail, and has all
the ins and outs of Egyptian administration at his fingers' ends, and he
was, therefore, all the more fitted for taking public affairs in hand at
this period. His experience as President of the Council of Ministers in
past times rendered his services especially valuable. Gifted with
natural foresight, he was shrewd enough to see that, when the Control
was re-established, England and France seriously intended to take
Egyptian affairs in hand, and he accepted the situation accordingly.
This led him to work cordially with the Controllers, with the happy
result that, during the two years that his Ministry lasted, Egypt
attained an unprecedented degree of prosperity.

In April, 1880, what was styled the Commission of Liquidation was
appointed, and under its advice the Public Debt was subjected to various
modifications, and other financial changes were made, including a
reduction of taxation and other reforms.

How long this pleasant state of things would have lasted it is
impossible to say, had not trouble arisen in another direction, and the
military revolt under Arabi supervened and upset all previous

In order to understand the nature and causes of this movement, it is
necessary to know something of the Egyptian military organization at the
time referred to. The army, which had achieved such great things under
Mehemet Ali, had gradually declined under his successors, and when
Ismail came to power was represented by a total force of 10,000 fighting
men. Ismail raised the number to 45,000, but the Firman of Tewfik's
investiture limiting the number to 18,000, the force had to be reduced
to that number. The soldiers were all brought into the ranks by the
system of conscription. Those recruited from the Soudan were men
possessed of considerable endurance and warlike qualities, but those
taken from the other districts, that is, the ordinary fellah or
agricultural class, had no taste for war. This is not to be wondered at
when the character and habits of the latter are considered. The Egyptian
fellah is a type in himself. Possessed of no national pride or patriotic
aspirations, he cares nothing about politics, and still less for
fighting. All that he asks is to be let alone, to till in peace and
quietness his little plot of land on the banks of his beloved Nile. Do
not vex him too much with forced labour, or tax him beyond his means,
and he remains peaceful and fairly law-abiding from the moment of his
birth till the day comes for him to be carried out to the little
cemetery, the white tombs of which brighten the borders of the desert.

In the preceding observations the Egyptian soldier is spoken of as he
was at the period under consideration. What he is capable of becoming,
when placed under English officers, and properly trained under humane
and just treatment, subsequent events will show.

Amongst the soldiers at the time of the occurrence of Arabi's outbreak
there was a fair amount of subordination, and but little jealousy
prevailed. Amongst the officers, however, the state of things was
entirely different. The majority of them were of Egyptian or fellah
origin, whilst the others were of Turkish or Circassian extraction. The
latter, as belonging to the same race as the reigning family, naturally
constituted the dominant caste; when there was a campaign in the Soudan,
or any other unpleasant duty to be taken in hand, the fellah officers
were selected for it. When, on the other hand, it was a question of
taking duty in Cairo or Alexandria, the Circassians were employed.
Naturally, a good deal of jealousy was thus created, though, as long as
Ismail was in power, it was not openly manifested, and discipline was
maintained, except where it answered that ruler's purpose (as in the
case of the demonstration against Nubar and Rivers Wilson) that it
should be otherwise. With the young and inexperienced Tewfik, however,
things were different--a spirit of insubordination developed itself, and
the two sets of officers entered upon a struggle for the mastery.

Among the prominent fellah officers was a certain Ali Fehmi, who was a
favourite of the Khedive, and in command of the Guards at the Palace. In
this capacity he was frequently called on to convey orders to Osman
Pasha Rifki, the Minister of War. Osman was a Circassian, and felt hurt
at receiving orders from a fellah officer. By what means the change was
effected is uncertain, but eventually Ali fell into disfavour, and
became one of a group of discontented officers belonging to the same
class. There were two others, Abdel-el-Al, and Ahmed Arabi,
subsequently known as Arabi Pasha. These three, afterwards known as "The
Colonels," were joined by Mahmoud Sami Pasha, a politician, and, thus
associated, they formed the leaders of what began to be known as "The
National Party."

As Arabi forms one of the chief actors in the events which followed,
some details relating to him may not be out of place here.

In person, Arabi was a big, burly specimen of the fellah type--his
features were large and prominent, and his face, though stern, had a
good-natured expression. He was born about the year 1840, in the
Province of Charkieh, in Lower Egypt. His father was a fellah possessing
a few acres of land, and working it himself. Arabi was one of four sons,
and he got such education as could be afforded by the village school. In
due time he was drafted by conscription into the army, and became an
officer. At Said Pasha's death he was a captain, and one of the officers
of the Guard at the Palace at Cairo. He was once rather boisterous under
the Palace windows, and Ismail Pasha, exclaiming that he was more noisy
than the big drum, and less useful, ordered him to be removed and to
receive punishment.

This was his first grievance against Ismail, and it induced Arabi to
join a secret society of native officers. The objects which this society
proposed to itself were the abolition of the invidious favouritism shown
to Circassian officers, and the deposition of Ismail, the sovereign.

War broke out between Egypt and Abyssinia; Arabi was in charge of the
transports at Massowah, and a charge of corruption being made against
him, he fell into disgrace. This fact strengthened his dislike to
Ismail, and, with time lying idle on his hands, he took to attending
lectures at the religious university, known as the Mosque El Azhar, in
Cairo, where he acquired a certain degree of eloquence superior to that
of most persons in his position. After a time, Ismail, always working to
increase the army, allowed him to join a regiment, and he resumed his
connection with the secret society, and soon became the head of it.

One of its members informed the Khedive of the aims and intentions of
the society, upon which Ismail sent for some of the chiefs, and Arabi
and his confederates waited on him. They went as his enemies in fear
and trembling, and left as his friends; seventy native officers were, in
one day, made lieutenant-colonels, including Arabi and his companions.
Arabi, in addition, received the high honour of having one of the
Khedivial slaves as his wife.

When the question of the deposition of Ismail came to the front, Arabi
took a formal oath to defend him with his life, but this did not prevent
him, forty-eight hours after, going to do obeisance to Tewfik as the new
Khedive of Egypt. The latter let it be known that there was a tacit
amnesty for the past, and made Arabi a full colonel.

Of Arabi's mental gifts it is impossible to form a high estimate.
Ignorant of any language but his own, his forte seemed to be the
enunciating of any number of quotations from the Koran, quite regardless
of their relevancy. He had, however, original ideas at times, and must
be credited, at all events, with the quality of sincerity. To Europeans
and European influences he was strongly opposed. On one occasion he
presided at a meeting of natives assembled for the purpose of founding a
free school at Zag-a-zig. He pointed out the changes which European
civilization had wrought in Egypt, and observed that, "before the native
was brought in contact with Europe, he was content to ride on a donkey,
to wear a blue gown, and to drink water, whereas now he must drive in a
carriage, wear a Stambouli coat, and drink champagne. Europeans," he
said, "are ahead of us, but why? Is it because they are stronger,
better, or more enduring than we? No; it is only because they are better
taught. Let us, then, be educated, and the boasted supremacy of the
Christians will disappear." The result of this appeal was a large
subscription, and the school was established.

Mahmoud Sami Pasha, unlike his associates, was not a fellah, but of
Turkish descent. He was a man of consummate cunning, and of great
personal ambition; basing his calculations on the power of the military
movement, and not believing in the disposition of the English and French
to resist it, he proposed to use the simple-minded Arabi and his friends
as a means of bringing himself into power.

The crisis was brought about by agitators among the fellaheen officers,
who objected to a proposed reduction of the army; petitions on the
subject were presented, not only to the Minister of War, but to the
Khedive himself, setting forth all their grievances, and demanding that
an Egyptian should be appointed Minister of War. Osman Rifki, the actual
Minister of War, could not brook this, and at a Cabinet Council, at
which Mahmoud Sami was present, it was decided to put the three
ringleaders, Ali Fehmi, Abdel-el-Al, and Arabi, under arrest.

According to Arabi, a steamer was in readiness to take the prisoners
away, and iron boxes were prepared in which they were to be placed and
dropped into the Nile, but of this there is no proof beyond his
statement. Mahmoud Sami took care to warn "the Colonels" of what was
going to happen, and it was arranged that if they did not by a certain
time return from Kasr-el-Nil Barracks, to which they were summoned, the
soldiers of their respective regiments should march down and liberate

It turned out exactly as provided for. On arriving at the barracks on
the 1st February, 1881, "the Colonels" found themselves before a
court-martial, but hardly had the proceedings begun before a turbulent
crowd of soldiery broke in, upset the tables and chairs, ill-treated the
members of the court, and carried off the prisoners in triumph to the
Palace. Here the three colonels interviewed the Khedive, and demanded
the substitution of Mahmoud Sami for Osman Rifki as Minister of War, an
increase of the army to 18,000 men, and the establishment of a new
system of promotion, which should exclude favouritism to the Circassian

Tewfik having no force wherewith to resist, yielded all that was asked
of him, and there the matter for the time ended.



Matters progressed for some time pretty quietly after the events
referred to in the previous chapter, but in July, 1881, two incidents
occurred which were followed by important results.

A native artilleryman was run over and killed in the streets of
Alexandria. His comrades bore the dead body to the Palace and forced an
entrance in defiance of the orders of their officers. They were tried,
and the ringleaders were condemned to severe sentences. Next, nineteen
Circassian officers brought charges against the colonel of their
regiment, Abdel-el-Al, already mentioned. The charges were inquired into
and found to be unfounded, whereupon the nineteen officers were removed
from the active list of the army, but were restored subsequently by
order of the Khedive.

These measures gave great umbrage to "the Colonels," who believed that
the order was given with a view to encourage the insubordination of the
officers towards them; and a letter was written by "the Colonels" to the
Minister of War, contrasting the leniency shown towards the nineteen
officers with the severity towards the soldiers in the case of the

The Khedive by this time had become completely dissatisfied with his new
Minister of War, and alarmed at the bearing of "the Colonels." He
determined to see if energetic measures would not be successful, and
appointed his brother-in-law, Daoud Pasha, a Circassian, to the Ministry
of War, in the place of Mahmoud Sami. Measures were at the same time
taken for getting the disaffected regiments out of Cairo.

These steps were viewed with the greatest possible dissatisfaction by
Arabi and his colleagues. Not only so, but they began to entertain
considerable fear for their own personal safety. A story had got abroad
that the Khedive had obtained a secret "Fetwah," or Decree, from the
Sheikh-el-Islam, condemning them to death for high treason. There was no
foundation for the story, but it was currently believed. Under these
circumstances, all the chief officers signed a declaration of loyalty to
the Khedive and his Government. Their next step was to organize the
demonstration of the 9th September, 1881.

The immediate origin of the disturbance was the order given by the
Minister of War for the removal from Cairo to Alexandria of the regiment
of which Arabi was the Colonel.

On the 9th September the Minister of War received a communication from
Arabi, informing him that the troops in Cairo were going at half-past
three in the afternoon to the Palace of Abdin to obtain from the Khedive
the dismissal of the Ministry, the convocation of the National Assembly,
and the increase of the army to 18,000 men.

When the terms of Arabi's communication were laid before the Khedive at
his palace at Koobah, none of the Ministers were present. In the absence
of the British Consul-General, Tewfik consulted the British Controller,
Mr. (afterwards Sir Auckland) Colvin, who invited the Khedive to take
the initiative himself.

Two regiments were said to be faithful. Colvin advised the Khedive to
summon them to Abdin Square with all the military police available, to
place himself at their head, and when Arabi arrived to arrest him.

Colvin accompanied the Khedive to the Abdin Barracks, where the first
regiment of the Guard turned out and made the warmest protestations of
loyalty. The same thing occurred with the soldiers at the Citadel,
though it was ascertained that the troops there had, previously to the
Khedive's arrival, been signalling to Arabi's regiment at Abbassieh. The
Khedive then announced his intention of driving to the Abbassieh
Barracks, some three miles distant. It was already past the time fixed
for the demonstration, and Colvin urged him instead to proceed at once
to Abdin, taking with him the Citadel regiment. Tewfik, however,
wavered. Either he desired to assure himself of the support of more of
his soldiers, or more probably he desired to put off the critical moment
as long as possible. He persisted in driving to Abbassieh. It was a long
drive, and when he arrived there he found that Arabi had marched with
his regiment to Cairo. The opportunity sought of anticipating his
movements was, therefore, lost. The carriages were turned round, and on
entering Cairo took a long _détour_, and arrived at Abdin Palace by a
side door. The Khedive at first desired to enter the Palace, but, on
Colvin's entreaty, consented to come out into the square. They went
together, followed by half-a-dozen native and European officers. The
place was filled with soldiers, some 4,000 in number, with thirty guns
placed in position.

The Khedive advanced firmly towards a little group of officers and men
(some of whom were mounted) in the centre. Colvin said to him, "When
Arabi presents himself, tell him to give up his sword and follow you.
Then go the round of the regiments, address each separately, and give
them the 'order to disperse.'" The soldiers all this time were standing
in easy attitudes, chatting, laughing, rolling up cigarettes, and eating
pistachio nuts, looking, in fact, as little like desperate mutineers as
could well be imagined. They apparently were there in obedience only to
orders, and, without being either loyal or disloyal, might almost be
regarded as disinterested spectators.

Arabi approached on horseback: the Khedive called out to him to
dismount. He did so, and came forward on foot with several others, and a
guard with fixed bayonets, and saluted. As he advanced, Colvin said to
the Khedive, "Now is your moment, give the word!" He replied, "We are
between four fires. We shall be killed." Colvin said, "Have courage!"
Tewfik again wavered, he turned for counsel to a native officer at his
side, and repeated, "What can I do? We are between four fires." He then
told Arabi to sheathe his sword. Arabi did so at once, his hand
trembling so with nervousness that he could scarcely get the weapon back
into its scabbard. The moment was lost. Instead of following Colvin's
advice, and arresting Arabi on the spot, a step which would at once have
put an end to the whole disturbance, the Khedive then walked towards him
and commenced to parley.

He demanded what was the meaning of the demonstration. Arabi replied by
enumerating his demands, adding that the army had come there on behalf
of the people to enforce them, and would not retire until they were
conceded. The Khedive addressed Colvin, and said, "You hear what he
says?" Colvin answered that it was not befitting for the sovereign to
discuss questions of this kind with colonels, and suggested his retiring
to the Palace, leaving others to speak to the military leaders. The
Khedive did so, and Colvin remained for about an hour, explaining to
them the gravity of the situation for themselves, and urging them to
withdraw the troops whilst there was yet time.

At this moment Mr. (afterwards Sir Charles) Cookson, Acting British
Consul-General, arrived, and Colvin left the continuation of the
negotiations to Her Majesty's representative. The latter pointed out to
Arabi the risk which he and those with him incurred by the menacing
attitude they had assumed. He told him that if they persisted in
assuming the government of the country, the army must be prepared to
meet the united forces of the Sublime Porte and of the European Powers,
both of whom were too much interested in the welfare and tranquillity of
Egypt to allow the country to descend through a military government to
anarchy. Arabi answered that the army was there to secure the liberties
of the Egyptian people. Cookson replied that the Khedive and Europe
could not recognize a mere military revolt as the expression of the will
of the people, and added that even now, if the troops were withdrawn,
any representations presented in the proper manner would be attended to,
and he would guarantee Arabi's personal safety and that of his

Arabi, though civil, firmly refused to take the course proposed. He
insisted on the adoption of the three points demanded. Cookson then
communicated the result of the interview to the Khedive, adding that he
was convinced that the only concession to which any real importance was
attached was the dismissal of the Ministry. His Highness, after a
conference with Riaz Pasha, consented to this, on the understanding that
the other points demanded should be in suspense until the Porte could be
communicated with.

Arabi accepted these terms, insisting only that no member of the
Khedive's family should be included in the new Cabinet, and that the
Minister of War should not be a Circassian. On these conditions Arabi
promised to withdraw the troops. This, however, was not effected until
an order had been signed announcing the dismissal of the Ministry and
the nomination of Cherif Pasha as the new Premier.

After this, Arabi entered the Palace and made his submission to the
Khedive, and the soldiers, with their bands playing and amid loud cheers
for the "Effendina" (Sovereign), retired to their barracks. By eight
o'clock all was over, and Cairo, which had been much excited, had
relapsed into its ordinary tranquillity.

With regard to the outbreak--the third, it will be remarked, of its
kind--it was on a larger scale than any previously organized, and was,
as events showed, correspondingly more successful. The rebellious troops
were, indeed, quieted, as on former occasions, but only by concessions
which went far to place the whole government of the country under
irregular military control.

With regard to the attitude assumed by the Khedive on the occasion,
considerable allowance must be made. Tewfik in the life-time of his
father had never, or at all events until the latest period of Ismail's
reign, been allowed to come to the front. He was, therefore, the less
fitted for dealing with a crisis of so formidable a character as that
of the 9th September. Born of one of Ismail's female slaves in the year
1853, Tewfik was never a favourite with his father, and when his
brothers were sent to Europe to be educated, he himself was kept in
Cairo and lived in quiet obscurity. Whilst they were made much of, both
at home and abroad, Tewfik remained quietly cultivating his farm at

The difference in developing the character and dispositions of the
Princes was natural enough, and yet the late ruler of Egypt was in many
respects in no way inferior to the other members of his family. He
possessed a remarkable degree of intelligence, and although a strict
Mahomedan he was the husband of only one wife, to whom he was devotedly
attached. Determined to avoid, in bringing up his children, the error
perpetrated towards himself, he sent his sons to Europe to be educated.
In appearance he somewhat resembled his father, being short and inclined
to stoutness.

Unlike Ismail, however, Tewfik was wanting in energy and determination.
With either Ismail, or his grandfather, Mehemet Ali, the demonstration
of the 9th September would have been impossible. With Ismail--supposing
such an event could have taken place--the end would not have been far
off. The fate of Ismail Pasha Saddyk, Minister of Finance, known as the
"Mofettish," sufficiently shows the means by which Arabi would have been
disposed of.[7]

With Mehemet Ali the procedure would have been yet more summary. The
report of a pistol would have been heard, and Arabi would have rolled
lifeless on the square of Abdin. A volley of musketry would have
dispersed his followers, and the incident would have been closed.

Tewfik, with his genial kindly disposition, was not the man to adopt
either of the above expedients, and, as has been seen, Arabi triumphed.



Difficulty was at first experienced in getting Cherif Pasha to undertake
the formation of a Ministry. His idea was that it was inconsistent with
a due regard for his own reputation for him to pose before the world as
the accomplice of the mutinous soldiery, and at one time, after an
interview with Arabi, Cherif positively declined. Meanwhile, meetings of
the officers were held in which the most violent appeared to have the
upper hand, and the belief that they had nothing to fear from Turkish
intervention emboldened them to reject an ultimatum of Cherif, which was
that, on condition of his undertaking the government, and guaranteeing
the safety of the leaders, they should withdraw their regiments to
certain posts assigned to them.

Public opinion, more particularly amongst the Europeans, became much
alarmed, and the Khedive declared himself ready to yield everything in
order to save public security.

On the 13th September, however, things took an unexpected turn for the
better. Arabi, at the suggestion of Mahmoud Sami, who hoped to render
Cherif impossible, and to get himself nominated in his place, summoned
to Cairo the members of the Chamber of Notables. Cherif had acquired a
good deal of popularity among the class to which the Notables belonged,
and at their first meeting he found arguments to induce them to adopt a
tone hostile to Arabi and his friends, whom they told to attend to the
army, and mind their own business. The Notables went even further, and
signed an address to Cherif entreating him to form a Ministry, and
giving their personal guarantee that if he consented, the army should
yield absolute submission to his orders. Arabi, it will be remembered,
had all along professed to act on behalf of the Egyptian people, and the
attitude of the Notables was a severe check to him, or rather to Mahmoud
Sami, who was pulling the wires. This last individual, seeing that the
Notables were playing into the hand of Cherif, at once declared himself
the partisan of the latter and of the Chamber, and as a consequence Sami
was reappointed Minister of War in the Cabinet which Cherif was
eventually persuaded to form.

On the 14th of September the new Ministry was gazetted, and steps were
taken for the dispersal of the disaffected regiments in the provinces.
On the 6th of October Arabi and his regiment left Cairo for the military
station of El Ouady, in the Delta. Before he left he was received by the
Khedive, whom he assured of his respect and entire devotion. When one
remembers how often Arabi had gone through this ceremony, one can hardly
help thinking that Tewfik must, by this time, have begun to get a little
tired of it. Before leaving, Arabi made speeches to the troops, in
which he exhorted them "to remain united, and to draw even more tightly,
if possible, those bonds of fraternity of which they had already given
such striking examples." Finally, after pointing out--it must be
presumed by way of a joke--that obedience in a soldier was the first of
virtues, he declared that as long as he possessed a drop of blood, or a
living breath, both should belong to his beloved sovereign.

Meanwhile the elections for the Chamber of Notables, which had been
convoked by the Khedive for the 23rd of December, were proceeding. The
Chamber was called together under an old law of Ismail's time, made in
1866, under which the Notables possessed but very limited functions.
They were, in fact, simply a consultative body, with power only to
discuss such matters as might be brought before them by the advisers of
the Government.

There is no doubt that, apart from the military movement, there was a
widespread feeling of discontent in the country at this time. Ismail's
merciless exactions, and the pressure of foreign money-lenders, had
given rise to a desire to limit the power of the Khedive, and, above
all, to abolish the Anglo-French Control, which was considered as ruling
the country simply for the benefit of the foreign bondholders. The
Control was further hated by the large landowners, because the law of
liquidation (with which the Controllers in the minds of the people were
associated) had in a measure sacrificed their claims for compensation in
respect of the cancelling of a forced loan known as the "Moukabeleh,"
and it was still more detested by the Pashas and native officials,
because it interfered with the reckless squandering of public money, and
the many opportunities for corruption by which they had so long

In addition to this, there was a great deal of irritation at the
increasing number of highly paid European officials which the reformed
regime inaugurated in the latter days of Ismail involved. The people
began to suspect that what was occurring was only part of a plan for
handing the country over to Europeans. The examples lately set by
England with regard to Cyprus, and by France in Tunis, were, it must be
owned, but little calculated to inspire confidence in the political
morality of either of these two Powers.

The prevailing irritation was kept alive by the native press, which
began to indulge in the most violent abuse of Europeans. The army, too,
continued to show signs of insubordination in many ways. To add to the
difficulties of the situation, the colonels of the regiments which had
been expressly sent away into the provinces had acquired the
inconvenient habit of coming back to the capital, and joining in the
many intrigues on foot.

Next followed a demand by the Minister of War for an augmentation of the
War Budget, in order to increase the army to the maximum allowed by the
Sultan's Firman.

Under these circumstances the Chamber of Notables assembled on the 25th
of December, 1881.

The earliest trouble arose from the demand of the Notables that the law
under which they were assembled should be modified so as to give them
power to vote the Budget so far as it related to such of the revenues as
were not assigned to the Public Debt.

The claim of the Chamber, though plausible enough at first sight, was
really, if granted, calculated to infringe all the international
arrangements for the Debt. It was obvious that if the Chamber had the
power and chose to vote an extravagant Budget so far as related to the
_unassigned_ revenues, the administration of the country could not be
carried on, national bankruptcy might ensue, and the collection of the
assigned revenues would become impossible.

The Chamber, however, not only refused to give way on the question of
the Budget, but it demanded that the law should be further amended by
giving the Notables other privileges, namely, the right to control the
acts of public functionaries, to initiate legislation, and to hold the
Ministers responsible to the Chamber. By getting the Notables to make
these demands, which he knew could not be accepted, Mahmoud Sami's
object was to bring about a crisis which could only end in the downfall
of Cherif's Cabinet. He had already persuaded Cherif to make Arabi
Sub-Minister of War, under the pretext of securing him on the side of
the Ministry, and so neutralizing the influence which the army was
exercising over the Chamber. In reality the appointment only afforded
Mahmoud Sami and Arabi increased facilities for intriguing against
Cherif. The result was soon seen.

The amendments to the law giving the Chamber increased power were
inadmissible on many grounds. Were there no other objection, there was
the insurmountable one that the Sultan had already refused a
Constitution to other parts of his dominions, and would certainly oppose
its being granted to Egypt. To put it shortly, the amendments after
being submitted to the English and French Governments were declared

This at once brought about a crisis, and the Chamber, on the 2nd
February, sent a deputation to the Khedive to require him to summon a
new Ministry.

At this period it was reported to the English and French Governments
that activity was being displayed in putting all the coast
fortifications in an efficient state, and that the strength of the army
was being augmented under the provisions of the new War Budget.

These circumstances, taken in conjunction with the political events
above recorded, led the English and French Governments to conclude that
if the Khedive was to be maintained in power, the time was coming for
them to think about doing something in Egypt. On the 20th of January,
1882, Sir Edward Malet wrote that "armed intervention had become
necessary if the refusal to allow the Chamber to vote the Budget was to
be agreed to, and yet it was impossible to do otherwise, as the measure
only formed part of a complete scheme of revolution." As far back as
December, 1881, M. Gambetta, then at the head of the French Ministry,
had suggested that England and France should take "joint action in Egypt
to strengthen the authority of the Khedive, and to cut short intrigues
at Constantinople, as well as to make the Porte feel that any undue
interference on its part would not be tolerated."

This proposal shortly after resulted in the famous Joint Note
communicated by the English and the French representatives to the
Khedive in Cairo, on the 8th January, 1882. The document was to the
effect that the English and French Governments considered the
maintenance of His Highness upon the throne in the terms laid down by
the Sultan's Firmans, and officially recognized by the two Governments,
as alone able to guarantee for the present and the future good order and
prosperity in Egypt, in which England and France were equally
interested. It continued to say that "the two Governments, being closely
associated in the resolve to guard by their united efforts against all
cause of complication, internal or external, which might menace the
order of things established in Egypt, did not doubt that the assurance
publicly given of their intention in this respect would tend to divert
the dangers to which the Government of the Khedive might be exposed, and
which would certainly find England and France united to oppose them."

The parentage of the Joint Note is attributable to the French
Government, which, up to this time, seemed bent on retaining the lead
which it had from the first taken in regard to Egyptian affairs. The
wording of the document had been altered more than once to suit the late
Lord Granville, then Foreign Secretary, who appears to have been not
quite sure how far he was getting out of his depth in regard to Egyptian

It was under the influence of some such misgiving that Lord Lyons, the
British Ambassador in Paris, was instructed on the 6th January, 1882, in
communicating to the French Government England's assent to the Note, to
make the reservation that she must not be considered as thereby
committing herself to _any particular mode of action_, if action should
be found necessary. In reply, M. Gambetta, by a despatch dated the
following day, stated that he observed with pleasure "that the only
reservation of the Government of the Queen was as to the _mode of
action_ to be employed, and that this was a reservation in which he

When one sees how, later on, when action became necessary, the attitude
of the two countries became reversed, the extreme reluctance of the
English Government to move at this time seems curious enough, especially
when it is contrasted with the continued readiness of France to come
forward in the interval. The explanation is that M. Gambetta, with his
clear statesman-like intellect, foreseeing that some sort of
intervention would become necessary, was determined that it should be
limited to that of England and France to the exclusion of Turkey, and so
long as he remained in power boldly shaped his policy with that object.
The English Government, on the other hand, had throughout no real
settled policy with regard to Egypt. Their first idea was to have no
intervention at all; they hoped that things would mend of themselves.
When they found that this was not likely to be the case, the idea of a
Turkish intervention found favour. France, however, was resolutely
opposed to this, and to allow the latter Power to take isolated action,
as indeed she appeared disposed to do if thwarted, was open to serious
objections. To avoid such a catastrophe the English Government found
themselves under the necessity of following, for the time being, the
masterly lead of M. Gambetta. However this may have been, England, by
taking part in the Joint Note, assumed a definite position relative to
Egypt, and, throwing off all hesitation as to "interference with the
internal affairs of the country," pledged herself jointly with France to
support the Khedive against all enemies from within or without.

The first to take offence at the Joint Note was naturally enough the
Sultan, who caused Lord Granville to be informed that the Porte
considered that sending the Khedive any such communication except
through itself was highly improper. The Sultan added that, "To protect
the immunities granted to Egypt, and to preserve the order and
prosperity of that province, was the sincere wish and interest of the
Porte, whose efforts had till then always been directed to that end, and
that there were no circumstances in Egypt which could serve as a motive
for any foreign assurances of the kind made." Finally, the Turkish
Ambassador requested that the two Powers would give an explanation of
what they meant. At the same time the Sultan sent a Circular to the
other Powers, protesting against the action of England and France.

Lord Granville now began to doubt whether he had not gone a little too
far, and drafted an answer to the Porte of an apologetic character. The
tone of the proposed reply was somewhat of the kind that a schoolboy
taken to task for an act of impertinence towards his master might be
expected to give. Substantially, it was that the two Powers did not
mean anything at all.

The despatch, as originally drafted, began by disclaiming any doubt
whatever as to the sovereignty of the Sultan over Egypt. It proceeded to
declare that there was no change in the policy of Her Majesty's
Government, which was as anxious as ever for the continuance of the
sovereignty of the Porte, and for the maintenance of the liberties and
administrative independence secured to Egypt by the Sultan's Firmans.
Having paid the Porte these little compliments, the despatch disclaimed
all ambitious views with regard to the country (of which, by the way,
the Sultan had been careful never to accuse the two Powers), but said
that they could never be indifferent to events which might plunge Egypt
into anarchy, and that it was only with a view to warding off such a
catastrophe that Her Majesty's Government thought it advisable, in
conjunction with the French Government, to forward a declaration showing
the accord of the two in carrying out the policy described. The despatch
finally pointed out that the form of the Note was not a new one, and
that similar declarations had been on special occasions made to the
Khedive without calling forth any remonstrance from the Porte.

Gambetta, however, viewed the matter in a different spirit. Having once
gone forward he was not disposed to draw back. He had, moreover, the
interests of the large body of French bondholders to protect. He at
first objected that no explanation of the Joint Note at all was
necessary, and that any attempt to explain it would only tend to
encourage the military party. Seeing, however, that Lord Granville was
determined to send some reply, Gambetta insisted on certain
modifications in the despatch. Amongst them he suggested that the
assertion of the Porte, that there were no circumstances that could
justify the steps taken by England and France, should be answered, and
proposed that it should be pointed out, first, that the authority of the
Khedive had been modified and diminished; second, that the Chamber of
Notables had arrogated to itself the right of interfering with matters
expressly exempted from its jurisdiction by the Khedive's Decree; and
third, that the Chamber had aimed at setting aside arrangements to which
Egypt was bound by international engagements with England and France.

Lord Granville once more yielded to what he had begun to recognize as
the superior mind of the French statesman, and Gambetta's amendments
were agreed to.

It was not until the 2nd February, however, that the reply to the
Porte's remonstrance was actually sent off.

In the meantime the Gambetta Ministry had fallen, and from this moment
dates a marked change in the attitude of the French Republic with regard
to Egypt. M. de Freycinet, the successor to Gambetta, though agreeing to
the amended reply to the Porte, cautiously inquired what meaning was to
be attached to the reservation as to "taking action" made by Her
Majesty's Government in assenting to the original Note.

Lord Granville, no longer under the influence of Gambetta, and
apparently anxious to recede as far as possible from the somewhat bold
position which he had been induced to adopt, answered, contrary to the
plain words in which the reservation had been expressed, that Her
Majesty's Government reserved to themselves the right to determine, not
merely the _particular mode of action_ to be adopted in Egypt, but
whether any action at all was necessary.

De Freycinet, who, it must be admitted, was equally glad to back out,
then plainly declared that he was disinclined to any armed intervention
in Egypt, whether by France and England together, or by either
separately. This announcement must have been a surprise to the British
Government, which, after being led by France into sending the Joint
Note, now began to discover that in the event of its becoming necessary
to take any steps to carry it into effect, England could no longer count
on her as an ally.

Under these circumstances, and feeling that the time when action would
have to be taken might not be far off, Lord Granville addressed a
Circular to the other Powers, requesting them to enter upon an exchange
of views as to the best mode of dealing with the Egyptian Question.

The effect of the Joint Note upon the Porte has been stated. It only
remains to consider its effect upon the Khedive and the Notables. The
Khedive received the assurances of protection given by England and
France gratefully enough. It was not so, however, with his Ministers,
who, on the Note being communicated on the 8th January, wanted, like the
Sultan, to know what it meant. Sir Edward Malet, in reply, assured them
that the Note was merely intended to convey to the Khedive the
assurance of the friendship of the Powers, and that in point of fact it
did not really mean much.

It is obvious that to produce any good effect on the Chamber and the
National Party it was necessary that the Note should have been backed by
the display of force, and this unfortunately was just what was wanting.
In short, England and France launched their threat without being
prepared to follow it up by immediate action. It created great
indignation on the part of the military leaders and in the Chamber;
Arabi declared point-blank that any intervention on the part of England
and France was inadmissible. Later on, when it was seen that the two
Powers were not really to act, but, on the contrary, were busy doing all
they could to attenuate the step they had taken, the feeling of
indignation gave way to one of contempt, very natural under the

Amongst those who misled the chiefs of the National Party none were so
conspicuous as two Englishmen, namely, the late Sir William Gregory, an
ex-Colonial Governor, and Mr. Wilfred S. Blunt. Both these gentlemen
had, whilst spending some months in Egypt, conceived a violent sympathy
for the National movement. They had witnessed during their stay in the
country numerous instances of misrule and oppression, and they regarded
Arabi and his friends as the leaders of a genuine popular effort to
secure political liberty and good government.

In addition to the assurances which they received from Sir William
Gregory and Mr. Blunt, the leaders of the National Party were led to
believe, and as has been seen not without reason, that England and
France were not really agreed to do anything, much less to take any
decisive step in the way of intervention; that the two Powers were
jealous of each other, and that the Joint Note might be safely
disregarded. The Arabists further clung to the hope that even were
France and England allied, the other Powers would prevent their
interference, and the protests which four of them, namely, Germany,
Austria, Russia, and Italy, made at the time against any foreign
interference in Egypt without their consent, certainly tended to confirm
this view.

This was the condition of affairs on the 2nd February, when, as already
stated, the deputation from the Chamber requested the Khedive to summon
a new Ministry. Tewfik had by this time become thoroughly alarmed. The
tonic effect produced by the Joint Note had quite gone off, and he was
beginning to doubt how far he could rely on support from England and
France. He realized that by placing himself under the tutelage of the
Western Powers he was injuring himself with the Porte, and he had daily
proofs afforded him of his growing unpopularity with his subjects. Under
these circumstances he saw nothing for it but to yield. At the
suggestion of the Chamber, the intriguer Mahmoud Sami was directed to
form a new Ministry, which he lost no time in doing, in conjunction with
his confederate Arabi, who now filled the important post of Minister of



Although the Ministry of Mahmoud Sami was forced upon the Khedive, the
position of the latter was at the time so hopeless that one must not be
surprised at his endeavouring to make the best of it and put a good face
upon the matter. Accordingly, on the 4th of February, 1882, Tewfik, in
true Oriental style, wrote to his new Premier that, in accepting the
task of forming a Cabinet, he had given a fresh proof of his devotion
and patriotism, and the letter ended by approving of the programme which
the new Premier had drawn up.

The programme in question referred to the arrangements for the Public
Debt, including the Control. It spoke of the necessity for judicial and
other reforms, and then passed on to the burning question of the Chamber
of Notables, and stated that the first act of the Ministry would be to
obtain sanction for the proposed law for the Chamber. This law, it was
stated, would respect all rights and obligations, whether private or
international, and would wisely determine the responsibility of
Ministers towards the Chamber as well as the discussion of laws.

Mahmoud Sami's programme elicited from the English and French
Controllers a memorandum, in which they very sensibly observed that it
mattered very little whether or not the intention of attacking the
Control was asserted, as by the very force of circumstances it became
ineffectual when the Controllers found themselves no longer in the
presence of the Khedive and of Ministers freely appointed by him, but of
a Chamber and an army. It added that the Chamber, under the influence of
certain military chiefs, did not hesitate to claim rights incompatible
with the social condition of the country; it had gone so far as to
compel the Khedive to change the Ministry which had his confidence, and,
under pressure of certain officers, to impose on him the late Minister
of War as Prime Minister, and concluded with the significant words: "The
Khedive's power no longer exists."

After this it is not surprising that the Controllers resigned office.
Sir Auckland Colvin was requested by the British Government to remain at
his post and maintain "an attitude of passive observation." His French
colleague was replaced by M. Brédif. There is no doubt that the
Controllers' view of the situation was only too just. With Arabi as
Minister of War, and his co-conspirator, Mahmoud Sami, President of the
Council the country was simply under a military dictatorship.

Meanwhile, the reserves of the Artillery were called in and distributed
amongst the coast fortifications, recruiting in the provinces was being
actively carried on, ninety Krupp guns were ordered from Europe, and
Arabi was created a Pasha by the Sultan.

The National Party had now become complete masters of the situation.
Notwithstanding this, a collision might for some little time have been
averted but for an incident which occurred shortly after.

The differences between the Circassians and the native-born Egyptians in
the army have been already touched upon. One peculiarity of the Arab
race is a revengeful disposition. Arabi and his friends had, as already
stated, met with rough usage at the hands of the Circassian party. Hence
it followed that the first idea of the former on getting into power was
to avenge themselves on their old enemies. This was carried out by the
wholesale arrest of fifty Circassian officers, and of Osman Pasha Rifki,
former Minister of War, on a charge of conspiracy to assassinate Arabi.
It was also alleged that the plot comprised the deposition of the
Khedive and the restoration of Ismail Pasha.

The prisoners were tried in secret by a court martial appointed by the
military leaders, and, of course, found guilty. They were, it is said,
subjected to torture to induce them to confess, and persons of
respectability testified that they heard at night shrieks of pain coming
from the place where the prisoners were confined. The sentence passed on
forty of them, including Osman, was that of exile for life to the
remotest limits of the Soudan. This was equivalent to a sentence of
death as regards most of the prisoners.

It was necessary that the sentences should be confirmed by Decree of the
Khedive, and he consulted Sir Edward Malet as to the course to be taken.
The story of the plot was, there is reason to believe, purely imaginary.

With some little hesitation, and after conferring with the diplomatic
agents of the Powers, the Khedive boldly determined to exercise his
prerogative without reference to his Ministers, and signed a Decree
commuting the sentences to simple banishment from Egypt, without loss of
rank and honours.

This was a defiance of Mahmoud Sami, to which he was not disposed to
submit. On the 10th May, the Khedive summoned the Consuls-General, and
informed them that the President of the Council had insisted that this
Decree should be changed by condemning the prisoners to be struck off
the strength of the army, and had threatened that his refusal would be
followed by a general massacre of foreigners. The significance of this
threat coming from Mahmoud Sami, the Minister who was in power when just
a month later--namely, on the 11th June--a massacre of foreigners _did_
take place in Alexandria, will probably be remarked.

The Chamber of Notables had ceased to sit on the 26th March, when the
session closed; but Mahmoud Sami now announced that since the Khedive
and his Ministers could not agree, and as it was impossible for the
Ministry to resign, they had determined themselves to convoke the
Chamber, and to lay the case before it, and that he did not intend to
hold any further communication with the Khedive until the difference
between them had been decided by the Chamber. He added that in the
meantime the Ministry would answer for the public safety.

The alarm in Cairo now began to be general. It was open warfare between
the Khedive, and his Ministry supported by the army. The National Party
made no secret of their intention to depose the Khedive as soon as the
Chamber assembled.

The Notables, when the day for assembly arrived, began to show a
disinclination to support the National Party. They had commenced to
realize that they had already gone further than they had intended, and
also that they were being merely used as tools by Arabi and his

At first they refused to meet at all, on the ground that they had not
been convoked by the Khedive, but only by the Ministry. They were,
however, induced to assemble, and on the 13th May they met at the house
of Sultan Pasha, the President of the Chamber. Here Mahmoud Sami read an
indictment against the Khedive, charging him principally with not
governing through his Ministers, and with compromising the liberties of
Egypt. On the 14th the Ministers were so little sure of the support of
the Notables, that Mahmoud Sami and Arabi went to the Palace, and, in
the names of themselves and their colleagues, offered to resign if the
Khedive would guarantee public order. His Highness answered, that such a
condition was a most unusual one, and that it would be the business of
the Ministry to see that public order was not troubled; he added that
the only persons likely to cause trouble were Arabi and his associates.
On the 15th, the English and French Consuls-General gave notice to Arabi
that if there was a disturbance of public order, he would find Europe
and Turkey, as well as England and France, against him, but that if, on
the other hand, he remained loyal to the Khedive, his acts and person
would be favourably regarded.

Arabi, in reply, stated that he would guarantee order only as long as he
remained Minister, except that in the event of a fleet arriving he could
not answer for the public safety. The same day the two Consuls-General
announced to the Khedive that an Anglo-French fleet was hourly expected
at Alexandria. This was followed by the Ministers going in a body to the
Palace and making a complete submission to the Khedive.

A reconciliation of the Khedive with his Ministers was accepted by the
former only on the earnest representations of the Notables and the
Consuls-General, in order that tranquillity might not be disturbed, the
idea was to keep the Ministry in office as a temporary measure, in order
that there might be some one to treat with when the fleets should

Notwithstanding the improved aspect of affairs, the alarm in Cairo
continued, and crowds of people daily left the city. To allay the panic,
Mahmoud Sami and Arabi declared that they would guarantee the
preservation of order on the arrival of the fleets.

On the 19th and 20th of May the much-talked-of "fleets" arrived at
Alexandria. They consisted only of the British ironclad _Invincible_
with two gunboats, and the French ironclad _La Gallisonière_, also
accompanied by two gun-vessels. The remainder of the allied squadron was
left at Suda Bay, in the island of Crete.

The despatch of the English and French ships to Alexandria by two
Powers, each professing to be "disinclined to armed intervention in
Egypt," was so important a step that it may be interesting to go back a
little to consider the means by which it was brought about. Lord
Granville, immediately after the Abdin demonstration of the 9th
September, had intimated to the French Government as his idea of a
remedy for the military insubordination prevailing the sending of a
Turkish General to Egypt. M. Barthélemy St. Hilaire, Minister for
Foreign Affairs, objected that this might lead to further steps, and
possibly to the permanent occupation of the country by Turkish troops.
The French Minister expressed himself in favour of a "joint military
control," consisting of an English and a French General, to restore
discipline in the Egyptian Army. Nothing was done to carry out either

In March, 1882, when the struggle between the Khedive and the Chamber
was at its height, Lord Granville suggested that England and France
should send two "technical advisers" to assist the representatives of
the two Powers in settling the details of the financial matters then
pending. The proposal was so ludicrously absurd under existing
circumstances, that it says much for the politeness of the French
Minister that he took the trouble to give a serious reply. He objected
that the measure would give offence to the other Powers, as an attempt
on the part of England and France to effect a separate settlement of
Egyptian affairs, and also that it would tend to lower the
Consuls-General in their own eyes and in those of the Egyptians.

Again baffled, Lord Granville, in April, 1882, could think of nothing
better than that the Sultan should be asked "to send a General with full
powers to restore discipline in the Egyptian Army, with the
understanding that he was not to exercise those powers in any way
without the concurrence of an English and a French General, who would be
associated with him."

This proposal also fell through, the French Government objecting that
the sending of a Turkish General at all would tend sooner or later to
the sending of Turkish troops, which was not desirable.

The despatch of a Turkish Commissioner of some kind continued to be
talked about, when, on the 7th May, 1882, Sir Edward Malet wrote to the
Foreign Office that the Khedive's Ministers would certainly resist by
force the arrival of any Commissioner from Turkey. After this, Lord
Granville was for a time forced to abandon his favourite hobby of
Turkish intervention. Sir Edward Malet's despatch contained the
following significant passage:--

    "I believe that some complication of an acute nature must
    supervene before any satisfactory solution of the Egyptian
    question can be attained, and that it would be wiser to hasten
    it than to endeavour to retard it, because the longer
    misgovernment lasts the more difficult it is to remedy the evils
    which it has caused."

This very sensible opinion had its effect, for, on the 11th May, Lord
Granville was so far able to make up his mind as to say that the English
Government were willing to send two ironclads to Alexandria to protect
European residents. This announcement, however, was only made after the
idea had been suggested by the French Minister. Even at this period,
Lord Granville could not help referring regretfully to his original idea
of sending the three Generals (an expedient about as hopeful as sending
three flower-pots with water to extinguish a fire), and in reply to M.
de Freycinet, his Lordship said that he could still think of nothing

The French Government, in agreeing to the despatch of the Anglo-French
fleet, appeared resolved to abandon the cautious attitude which it had
assumed on M. de Freycinet taking office. The French Premier, on the
11th May, informed the Chamber of Deputies that in its Egyptian policy
the Ministry had two objects, first, to preserve "the preponderating
influence of France in Egypt"; and, second, to maintain the independence
of Egypt, as established by the Firmans; and added that the means which
would be employed to carry out this policy would be an intimate alliance
with England.

M. de Freycinet, on the 12th May, informed Her Majesty's Ambassador in
Paris, that as the Khedive had been acting under the advice of England
and France, the French Government considered it the bounden duty of the
two Powers to support His Highness _as far as circumstances would
allow_, and that France would co-operate loyally and without _arrière
pensée_ with England in that sense. M. de Freycinet, with some sense of
humour, added that sending the three Generals would be inopportune.

On the 13th the English Government notified their concurrence in the
views of France with regard to the Khedive, and welcomed the
co-operation of the French Government. Lord Granville, at the same time,
expressed the readiness of himself and his colleagues to defer to the
objections raised to the mission of the three Generals.

It now became known that the Notables were assembling in Cairo, and that
the Ministry of Mahmoud Sami was about to propose the deposition of the
Khedive. It was also reported that Mahmoud Sami proposed to declare
himself "Governor-General of Egypt by the national will."

These alarming reports caused the preparations for the departure of the
ships to be hastened, and, at the same time, with a view to keep the
ground clear, the two Western Powers sent an intimation to the Porte
desiring it to abstain for the moment from all intervention in Egypt.

The instructions to the British Admiral were as follows:--

    "Communicate with the British Consul-General on arrival at
    Alexandria, and in concert with him propose to co-operate with
    naval forces of France to support the Khedive and protect
    British subjects and Europeans, _landing a force, if required_,
    for latter object, such force not to leave protection of ships'
    guns without instructions from home."

The French Admiral's instructions were somewhat different, and tend to
show that the two Powers were not completely agreed as to the means to
be employed to support Tewfik. His instructions were in these words:--

    "On arrival at Alexandria communicate with the Consul-General,
    who will, if necessary, indicate to you what you will have to do
    to give a _moral_ support to the Khedive. You will abstain,
    until you have contrary instructions, from any material act of
    war, unless you are attacked or have to protect the safety of

The British and French Consuls-General, on the arrival of the fleets,
advised the Khedive to take advantage of the favourable opportunity to
dismiss the existing Ministry, and to form a new Cabinet under Cherif
Pasha, or any other person inspiring confidence. Negotiations were
simultaneously opened with Arabi in order to induce him, with the other
rebel leaders, to retire from the country, in return for which they were
to be guaranteed their property, rank, and pay.

None of these plans succeeded. The Khedive recognized the futility of
dismissing a Ministry that insisted on remaining in power. Mahmoud Sami
replied that the Ministry would not retire so long as the squadrons were
kept at Alexandria, and Arabi declared that he must refuse either to
retire from his position, or to leave the country.

On the 25th May, the representatives of England and France handed to
Mahmoud Sami, as President of the Council of Ministers, an ultimatum in
the form of a Dual Note, demanding the retirement of Arabi from the
country, the withdrawal of "the Colonels" into the interior, and the
resignation of Sami's Ministry. The Note added that the two Governments
would, if necessary, insist on the fulfilment of these conditions.

The Ministers, on receipt of the "Dual Note," waited on the Khedive to
ask his opinion as to the answer that should be given, and His Highness
distinctly told them that he accepted its conditions. They urged a
reference to the Porte, on which the Khedive told them that it was an
internal question, and that it was strange that they, who had complained
that he had failed to uphold the privileges of Egypt, should suggest
such a course. On the 26th the Ministers resigned, alleging as a reason
that the Khedive, in accepting the conditions of England and France, had
acquiesced in foreign interference in Egypt.

The Khedive promptly accepted the resignation of the Ministry, and sent
for Cherif Pasha to form a new Cabinet. Cherif refused on the ground
that no Government was possible while the military chiefs remained.

On the 27th an event occurred in Alexandria which tended to bring
matters still more to a crisis. The officers of the regiments and the
police force in that city held a secret meeting, and telegraphed to the
Khedive direct that they would not accept the resignation of Arabi, and
gave the Khedive twelve hours to reply, after which the officers
declared that they would not be responsible for public tranquillity.

On receipt of this message, the Khedive summoned to his presence the
chief personages of State, the principal members of the Chamber, and the
head officers of the Cairo garrison, and placed the situation before

Toulba Pasha, one of Arabi's strongest supporters, interrupted the
Khedive in his speech, and stated that the army absolutely rejected the
Dual Note, and awaited the decision of the Porte, which was the only
authority they recognized. On the same day Arabi, at the head of a
hundred officers, met the chief persons of Cairo and the Notables, and
demanded the deposition of the Khedive, threatening death to the
recalcitrant. Nevertheless almost all present, excepting the officers,
persisted in supporting their sovereign. Arabi and the officers demanded
of the Khedive a decree reinstating Arabi as Minister of War. Amongst
those present, Sultan Pasha and some of the Notables warned the Khedive
of what had taken place, and told him his life was not safe unless he
reinstated Arabi. The Khedive consulted the English and French
Consuls-General, who advised him not to comply.

In the afternoon of the same day, a deputation consisting of the Coptic
Patriarch, the Chief Rabbi, the Notables, and others, waited on the
Khedive, begging him to reinstate Arabi, adding, that though he might be
ready to sacrifice his own life, he ought not to sacrifice theirs, and
that Arabi had threatened them all with death if they did not obtain the
Khedive's assent to his reappointment. In his perplexity, the Khedive,
in order to prevent bloodshed, yielded, and issued a memorandum stating
that at the repeated requests of the population, and with the desire of
maintaining order and the tranquillity of the country, he reinstated

Although one may be disposed to blame Tewfik for his conduct on this
occasion, it must be owned that his position at the moment was a
critical one. The despatch of the fleets on which he had been led to
rely had turned out a ridiculous fiasco. Instead of ten vessels, there
were only two accompanied by four gunboats, and no troops for landing.
The lamentable weakness of the demonstration only excited the ridicule
of the military party. It was beyond doubt that the guard at the Palace
had been doubled, and that orders had been given to the sentries not to
allow Tewfik to leave the Palace unless the deputation received a
favourable reply, and to fire on him if he insisted on going out. All
the outlets of the Palace were carefully watched, and a mob was
collected for the purpose of rushing into the Palace and ill-treating
him, if the prayer of the deputation were refused. It was also announced
that there was to be a military demonstration at five in the afternoon,
and that it was the intention of the army to depose the Khedive. Under
these circumstances, and seeing how little material aid he had from
England and France, it is not surprising that he yielded.

One of the first acts of Arabi on resuming office was to publish a
declaration that now he had been reinstated, he guaranteed the security
of the life and property of all the inhabitants of Egypt irrespective of
nationality or religion. This assurance was not made before it was

For several days past a feeling of uneasiness had prevailed, especially
in Alexandria; when the military and police in that city made their
demand for Arabi's reinstatement, Mr. Cookson, the British Consul, asked
the Governor, Omar Pasha Loutfi, if he could answer for the safety of
Europeans. He replied that he had exhausted every effort to calm the
officers and soldiers, but had entirely failed, and that he could not
answer for their conduct, although he saw no reason to apprehend any

In the prevailing state of things, the Consul thought it his duty to
confer with Admiral Seymour as to the best means of protecting British
subjects in case of a general attack upon Europeans, and was informed
that the Admiral was not prepared to land any force, although he would
protect the embarkation of women and children and others who might seek
refuge on board ships in the harbour. The Admiral sent an officer with
the Consul, and a spot for embarkation was selected.

This arrangement was communicated to the British residents at a meeting
held at the Consulate the same day (the 28th).

The European population now became seriously alarmed, and on the 29th a
memorial was drawn up by the British residents, calling upon Her
Majesty's Government to provide efficient means for the protection of
their lives. It pointed out that--

    "During the twenty-four hours, from the 26th to the 27th,
    Alexandria was in continual danger of being stormed by the
    soldiery, who, it was reported, actually had cartridges served
    out to them to be used against Europeans." "There was," it said,
    "every reason to believe that the perils which had come without
    warning would recur again, and against them," it continued,
    "Europeans were absolutely defenceless. They had not even the
    means of flight, as in order to reach the ships in harbour they
    would have to run the gauntlet through the streets. The small
    squadron in port could only silence the forts, and when these
    forts were disabled, then would commence a period of great
    danger for Europeans, who would be at the mercy of soldiers
    exasperated by defeat, whilst the English Admiral could not risk
    his men ashore, as his whole available force for those
    operations did not exceed 300 men." The memorial concluded by
    stating that "every day's delay increased the dangerous temper
    of the soldiery and their growing defiance of discipline."

Mr. Cookson at once telegraphed the contents of the memorial to the
Foreign Office, where it was carefully placed amongst the archives.

The history of events has now been brought down to the 29th May, on
which date Admiral Seymour reported that the Egyptians were raising
earthworks opposite his flagship, the _Invincible_, then lying in the
inner harbour at Alexandria, and suggested that his squadron should be
strengthened by the despatch of three of the ships of war which had been
left at Suda Bay.

In a later telegram he added that when the earthworks were armed, the
position of the unarmoured vessels of his squadron would be untenable,
if fired on without warning. In reply, the Admiral was directed to
arrange with the French Admiral to dispose the ironclads so as to
silence the batteries if they opened fire.

On the 30th May, the British ironclad _Monarch_, and two gun-vessels,
the _Cygnet_ and the _Coquette_, as well as three French vessels of
war--the _Alma_, the _Thétis_ and the _Hirondelle_--were ordered from
Suda Bay to Alexandria, where they arrived between the 2nd and 5th June.

The rest of the British Squadron in Suda Bay were directed to cruise off
the coast of Egypt, and to communicate with Alexandria for orders from
time to time.

Arabi, on being applied to on the subject of the earthworks, answered
that repairs only were being effected, and refused to order them to be
discontinued. It was useless to remonstrate with the Khedive, whose
orders that all warlike preparations should be stopped had already been
disregarded. The Sultan was therefore appealed to, and he sent an order
to Arabi to desist from further armament. Arabi gave the necessary
instructions, and the new works, on which two guns were already mounted,
were discontinued.

The Khedive, on his part, applied to the Sultan, and requested that an
Imperial Commissioner should be sent to Egypt. On the 3rd June it was
known that Dervish Pasha, a Marshal of the Ottoman Empire, had left
Constantinople for Alexandria as special Envoy from the Sultan, and his
arrival was awaited with anxiety by both the Khedive and the Arabists.

The following observations, taken from one of the highest authorities on
Egyptian matters,[8] throw a light on Dervish Pasha's mission.

    "The Sultan's aim naturally was not to reinforce, but to
    counteract Anglo-French influence in Egypt. By accepting his
    intervention England and France confessed themselves worsted,
    and opened the door for a host of intrigues. His Majesty was not
    slow to take advantage of the opportunity and tried to play a
    complicated double game. Dervish Pasha, the First Commissioner,
    was instructed to support the Khedive, and if possible
    intimidate the leaders of the military party, while Ahmet Essad,
    the Second Commissioner, was instructed to conciliate Arabi and
    his friends, and assure them that they had in the Sultan a sure
    friend and ally. The Third Commissioner's duty was to act as a
    spy on his two colleagues, and he in his turn was closely
    watched by a secretary, who sent secret reports direct to

On Dervish's arrival in Cairo, on the 7th of June, he was greeted by the
acclamations of a mob of the lowest class of natives, who shouted before
his carriage the praises of Arabi, and denounced the Christians.

    "Dervish was known before his arrival to be accessible to
    Egyptian arguments, and there can be no doubt that they were
    boldly asked for and liberally given. Upon his arrival he showed
    marked favour to the Arabi party. Then he had a long interview
    with the Khedive, and then his conduct suddenly became very
    satisfactory to the Palace. Mahmoud Sami had arranged that the
    petitions from all the provinces should be brought to the
    Commissioner by deputation. Dervish received them graciously,
    placed the petitions in a pile on the divan, begged the
    deputation to consider all grievances settled by his arrival,
    and dismissed them. The Ministers came next. Mahmoud Sami
    entered with effusion, and introduced his colleagues. Dervish
    remained seated, continued his conversation with his secretary,
    and then made a casual remark to Sami on the beautiful situation
    of the Palace of Ghezireh. The Ministers looked dumfounded, but
    Dervish, continuing his conversation, begged his secretary to
    repeat to him the story of the massacre of the Mamelukes by
    Mehemet Ali at the Citadel,[9] which he could see from the
    window where he sat. When the suggestive story was completed,
    the Envoy, with one of his pleasantest smiles, remarked to
    Arabi, 'The one man who escaped was a lucky dog,' and with a
    remark on the weather dismissed them."[10]

After this slap in the face the Ministers left, feeling that there was
no alternative between complete submission to the Khedive and absolute
defiance of the Sultan.

Before two days elapsed, events occurred at Alexandria which
demonstrated that Arabi was the only power in Egypt, and brought Dervish
to his feet as a suppliant.

What those events were, will be recorded in the next chapter.



For some days previous to Sunday, the 11th June, 1882, the demeanour of
the natives towards the European population of Alexandria had been
growing more and more unfriendly; and there were many indications that
some disturbance, the precise nature of which no one was able to
discover, was impending.

The forenoon of the 11th passed off quietly enough and without any
unaccustomed incident, and the European population attended the churches
and places of worship as usual.

Between two and three in the afternoon the tranquillity of the town was
disturbed by shouts and yells from some two thousand natives, who were
suddenly seen swarming up the Rue des Soeurs, the Rue Mahmoudieh, and
the adjacent streets, crying, "Death to the Christians!" Others came
soon after from the Attarin and the Ras-el-Tin quarters; and the riot,
which appears to have broken out in three places almost at the same
time, became general.

The crowd rushed on, striking with their "naboots" all the Europeans
whom they could meet, knocking them down and trampling them under foot.
Shots were fired; the soldiers and police interfered; but, in most
instances, only with the object of making the butchery more complete.
Many Europeans, flying for refuge to the police stations, were there
slaughtered in cold blood. Shops and houses were broken into and
pillaged, and for four and a half hours, until the soldiers arrived on
the scene, the usually quiet and prosperous city of Alexandria
experienced a fair share of the horrors of war.

The signal for the massacre was a feigned Arab funeral procession, in
which natives marched wearing green turbans, and which passed between 10
a.m. and noon through the main streets of Alexandria.[11]

The next thing which occurred was a disturbance which broke out about 1
p.m. between Europeans and natives in the neighbourhood of a
coffee-house called the "Café Crystal," in the Rue des Soeurs.

Of the precise origin of the riot it is difficult to speak with
certainty. It has been stated that it originated in a dispute between a
Maltese and a native coachman or donkey-boy, in which the Maltese, being
beaten with a stick, retaliated with his knife, and, according to one
account, killed his adversary. Another version is that two natives
attempted to break into the shop of a Maltese with whom they had
previously quarrelled, and were violently resisted by the owner. Both
accounts are involved in doubt, and the better opinion is that whatever
may have been the origin of the alleged quarrel, it was only a pretext
for what was to ensue. Anyhow, about the time last mentioned, Mr.
Cookson, the British Consul, was summoned by the local police to assist
in quelling a disturbance between Maltese and natives in the quarter of
the Caracol Labban, a police-station in the Rue des Soeurs. He found
there the Governor and Sub-Prefect of Police, and, after waiting more
than an hour, under the impression that they had succeeded in calming
the excitement, Mr. Cookson returned to the Consulate. This was not,
however, until he had been struck by one of the stones which were flying

About 3 p.m. he found a messenger, purporting to come from the Governor,
to summon him with all the other Consuls to a meeting at the same
Caracol as before.

There is good reason to believe that no such request was ever made by
Omar Pasha Loutfi, and that the messages sent were part of a
preconceived scheme to decoy the Consuls into the streets, where they
would be in the power of the mob. It is a singular thing that there were
considerable intervals of time between the delivery of the messages, not
warranted by the positions of the different Consulates, as if the
intention was for the Consuls to arrive separately. Mr. Cookson,
accompanied only by a janissary in uniform, drove immediately towards
the Caracol. He found marks of recent conflict in the streets and groups
of excited natives moving about. On approaching within about ninety
yards of the Caracol, at a place where four roads met, he was first
assailed with stones and then felled to the ground with a blow from a
"naboot." When the Consul recovered consciousness, he was lying in the
street surrounded by a crowd, one or two members of which, including a
native officer, were trying to protect him, whilst others were striking
at him. Fortunately he was able to escape with his life to the Caracol,
where he remained till about 4 p.m., when he was brought by a circuitous
route to the Consulate.[12]

It has been stated that the inaction of the police at the different
Caracols was due to the fact that the day previous all the officers and
sub-officers in charge had been convoked, and told that the men were to
remain at their posts under any circumstances, without interfering even
in the event of an outbreak happening.

Almost at the same time and place, the other members of the Consular
body, as they arrived on the scene, were similarly attacked.

All this time the Governor was at the door of the Caracol, giving orders
to the mustaphazin (military police) to disperse the mob, though his
orders were never executed. In fact, the mustaphazin were quite beyond
his control, and at times openly cursed and reviled him when he tried to
interfere on behalf of the Europeans.

Whilst the fighting went on, the Arabs, the police, and the soldiers
occupied their time in breaking open and plundering the shops and houses
on the line of route, tearing down doors and shutters, and using the
materials as well as the legs of tables and chairs as weapons of

The rioting gradually extended up the Rue des Soeurs, towards the
Place Mehemet Ali (the great square), the Europeans here and there
firing at times from the terraces and balconies of the houses, and the
soldiers and the mob replying with firearms and stones.

At an early period of the fray, one of the mustaphazin was killed by a
shot from a house, and his body being taken to an adjoining Caracol, his
comrades became so exasperated, that they butchered every European who
sought refuge there.

In the streets, the conduct of the mustaphazin was almost equally bad.
When they did interfere, they did so in a half-hearted, indifferent
manner. In the great majority of cases, where they did not join in the
killing themselves, they encouraged their countrymen to do so. There is
reason to believe that the mustaphazin did a large proportion of the
killing, as they were armed with sword-bayonets. The natives, on the
other hand, had in most cases only heavy sticks, with which they stunned
and bruised their victims.

A considerable number of Bedouins were observed amongst the mob, which
emerged from the Rue des Soeurs by the side streets leading into the
adjoining quarters. The Bedouins were armed with their long guns, with
which they shot down passing Europeans. One of a group of Bedouins,
stationed opposite the European hospital to intercept the fugitives, was
seen to shoot a man who was running past, and crouching down, in the
hope of escaping observation.

About 4 p.m. a second mob came down from a different part of the town
known as the Attarin quarter, and similar fighting went on, the natives
attacking every European who came in their path. Amongst other victims
was a little boy five years old, apparently a Maltese, who was killed
with a naboot in front of the Austrian Post Office.

At half-past five, the portion of the Rue des Soeurs where the
disturbance began was almost deserted, the ground being strewn with
_débris_ of wood and glass, and the windows shattered, many of them by
bullets. Further up, and opposite the Lazarist College, in the same
street, but nearer the Place Mehemet Ali, the crowd from the Attarin
quarter mingled with the other mob were continuing the work of
destruction. They hunted down every European they saw; one they fell
upon and killed with sticks and pieces of wood at the very door of the
college itself. All this while the mustaphazin, some thirty or forty in
number, in front of the college, were observed firing off their rifles
without any apparent motive. The street at this part was now filled with
rioters. A number of Europeans found refuge at the college, the doors of
which were bolted and barred by the inmates. From the terrace above
these were able to look down on the work of destruction.

About 5.30 a European in black clothes, and apparently of good social
position, covered with blood and with his trousers torn to rags, was
seen running backwards and forwards, as if distracted. Just as he
reached the corner of the Rue des Soeurs, a point guarded by two
mustaphazin, a band of natives armed with sticks emerged from the
street, rushed at once on him and beat him on the head. The two
mustaphazin not only did not prevent the Arabs from ill-treating their
victim, but, on the contrary, were seen to seize the wretched man by the
arm, and laughing, thrust him into the midst of the band which was
assailing him. Whether he subsequently escaped or not is unknown. One of
these mustaphazin being remonstrated with, candidly replied, "We are
ordered to do it."

In one spot in the Rue des Soeurs the bodies of three Europeans were
found lying in a heap. One had a bullet-hole in the head, another was
stabbed through the chest, and another with his skull fractured was
lying on his face with his shoes and stockings stripped off.

The mob now turned their attention to indiscriminate pillage. The shops
in the square itself were broken into and the kiosks wrecked. Next,
crowds of looters were observed going back in the direction of Gabari,
laden with goods from the neighbouring shops. These the mustaphazin
allowed to pass without opposition; indeed, several of their own number
were themselves carrying the stolen goods. Soldiers were seen to take
from Europeans, whose lives they spared, their watches and such
valuables as they had about them.

In the Strada Nuova both police and soldiers were observed encouraging
the mob to break open shops, and each time this was done the police and
soldiers entered first, and had the first choice.

In another quarter two native policemen were observed attacking even a
native, who was carrying gold articles and a quantity of money, when a
mounted soldier appeared on the scene, and he and the policemen shared
the plunder between them, leaving the thief to go empty away. In their
selection of objects of plunder the mob were far from particular. One
soldier was seen walking down the street with a glass chandelier on his
head. Another was seen riding down the street on a toy horse. The
tobacco shops suffered more severely than any others; wherever one of
these was seen, it was invariably broken into and the contents
distributed among the crowd. Wearing apparel, also, was in great
request, and one of the native officers was observed sitting on the
pavement exchanging the trousers he was wearing for a new pair stolen
from a neighbouring shop. In the few cases where a native had not
succeeded in obtaining any plunder for himself, he invariably turned to
one of his more fortunate comrades and helped himself to his stock. One
man who was carrying off some dozens of slippers was stopped by no less
than three of his fellow-countrymen, who made him wait whilst they
selected those which fitted them best.

Whilst this was occurring similar scenes of violence were being
perpetrated in another part of the town, namely, in the streets leading
from the Place Mehemet Ali to the Marina and to Ras-el-Tin.

On that Sunday a considerable number of Europeans had been to visit the
ships in the harbour. On their return, between 4 and 5 p.m., they found
the Marina Street, Frank Street, and the adjoining thoroughfares in the
possession of a mob armed with naboots. What happened may be learned
from the case of an English missionary, Mr. H. P. Ribton, one of the
victims. Ribton, accompanied by his little daughter and two friends,
was amongst those who had been afloat in the afternoon. On landing from
the ships they found the city gate, leading from the Marina into the
town, closed; but they were allowed to pass through by a door in the
police-office. The shops were shut, and the streets were filled with
soldiers. Ribton and party were in the rear of some other Europeans who
had landed with them. Suddenly the police called out in Arabic, "Quick!
quick!" and all the Europeans commenced running. In a moment or two
those in front wheeled round, crying that the mob were coming. Mr.
Ribton and his friends turned at the same time, but the police with
fixed bayonets drove them back, and in an instant they found themselves
face to face with the mob, who had already overwhelmed the Europeans in

The mob consisted of the lowest class of Arabs in the city; they were
armed, like the rest, with clubs, with which they beat their victims to
death. As soon as the latter fell the Arabs dragged them out to the back
streets, stripped their bodies and flung them into the sea.

The missionary and his two male companions in vain attempted to shield
his daughter from the blows. Though Ribton himself was twice felled to
the ground he again staggered to his feet, attempting to save his
daughter. The third time he fell he rose no more, and when afterwards
his body was found his head was so battered as to be unrecognizable.[13]
Ribton's two friends were killed by his side. His daughter was seized by
a native soldier, who, throwing her across his shoulders, carried her
off to the Arab quarter. Here she was rescued by a friendly Sheikh, who
had heard her screams, and who kept her in his house till nightfall,
when he sent her home disguised in native clothes.

Some of the most atrocious acts of violence were perpetrated in
immediate proximity to the Zaptieh, where is situated the Prefecture of
Police. Here soldiers and mob, mixed together, pursued the Europeans who
were passing on their way to the Marina in the hope of escaping to the
ships. Whenever a European appeared in sight the mob cried out in
Arabic, "Oh, Moslems! Kill him! Kill the Christian!"

The master of a Greek merchant ship was forced by the police to descend
from his carriage, and bayoneted on the spot. A French subject, who was
being pursued by the mob, applied to a soldier for protection. The
latter responded by taking deliberate aim at him with his rifle and
bringing him to the ground. A mustaphazin was seen holding a young man
from behind, whilst a soldier shot him dead; his body was then
maltreated and thrown into the sea.

A man on guard at the Zaptieh, or chief police office, was seen to shoot
down a European who was running away from the mob, who speedily battered
him to death.

Some officers of H.M.S. _Superb_, Lieutenants Saule and Dyrssen, Dr.
Joyce and Mr. Pibworth, engineer, about 6 p.m., seeing the mob rushing
towards them, attempted to obtain shelter at the Caracol Midan. The man
on duty refused to admit them. They then ran to the Danish Consulate
close by, where they were offered an asylum by the Consul. As their ship
was going to sea at 7 p.m., the officers were unwilling to stop, and,
taking advantage of a carriage which had been secured, they proceeded
towards the Marina by Frank Street. When about half-way down they found
themselves in the centre of the mob, who, howling and shouting, seized
the horses' heads and commenced striking the officers with their sticks;
several brandished knives, and one of them stabbed Mr. Pibworth,
wounding him mortally, and attempted to stab the others. They then
jumped from the carriage and managed to run through the crowd, receiving
several blows in doing so. Mr. Pibworth was removed to the police
station, where he died half-an-hour afterwards. A fireman of the S.S.
_Tanjore_, who was in a carriage with five of his companions, also on
his way to the harbour, was stopped about 4 p.m. by the mob in the open
piece of ground near the Zaptieh, and ordered to alight. They were then
surrounded and beaten by the natives, some of the party receiving wounds
from the swords of the mustaphazin drawn up there. The party tried their
best to escape, but the fireman was dragged by the arm into the Zaptieh.
Two minutes later he saw one of his companions brought in by a soldier.
Almost at the same moment the guard on duty at the gate drew his sword
and struck the man twice, splitting his skull with the first stroke, and
severing his head from his body with the second. The fireman was
detained for three hours, and, according to his statement, all who were
brought in during that time were slaughtered.

Witnesses living near the Zaptieh spoke of the cries and groans which
came from the building at this period, and another witness has stated
that from a window opposite he counted no less than thirteen bodies of
Europeans being dragged out and taken down a side street towards the

The rioting in the Rue des Soeurs, near the Caracol, was at its height
at 4.30 p.m., and that in Frank Street about 5.30 or 6, when the two
mobs of rioters marched on until they united in the great square or
Place Mehemet Ali.

The brutality of the mob extended even to the Arab children. One of them
was seen to go up to the dead body of a European and fire off a toy-gun
at his head, and the shoe-blacking boys in the Place Mehemet Ali were
observed to beat out the brains of the wounded who lay groaning on the

Whilst this was going on, the troops, to the number of about 7,000,
remained at the different barracks under arms, waiting instructions to
act. The Governor, about four in the afternoon, had asked the Military
Commandant of the town to place at his disposal a battalion of the
regiment at Ras-el-Tin; but the messenger returned, saying the colonel
required an order in writing before he could move. The Governor then
sent the written order demanded, and also despatched an order to the
colonel of the regiment at Rosetta Gate to send a battalion of his
troops into the town without delay. He also, to prevent the disorder
spreading to the Place Mehemet Ali and the Place de l'Eglise, ordered a
company of mustaphazin to each of those places.

The mustaphazin, this time, obeyed, but the soldiers still remained
drawn up at the barracks. In spite of the Governor's request, they
refused to march without an order from the Minister of War. Much
valuable time was thus wasted.

Now came Arabi's opportunity. Arabi, it will be remembered, had, a few
days before, been treated by Dervish Pasha as an ignoble rebel against
the Sultan, and made to feel his inferiority. When the news of the riot
was telegraphed to Cairo the great Envoy himself was sent to fetch
Arabi, and had, almost on his knees, to beg him to intervene. Arabi
consented, and the desired despatch was sent by telegraph from Cairo,
and a little after 6 p.m. the soldiers began to march. As they advanced,
the mob gradually fell back, and then dispersed as if by magic; and the
tramping, shouting, and yelling suddenly ceased, and there was silence
in the streets save for the groans of the wounded.

The behaviour of the troops was strictly in accordance with discipline.
They had their orders to put an end to the disturbance, and they did so.
One of them being asked if the massacre was finished, naively replied,
"Yes; the order has come to cease striking."

In the course of the afternoon, hundreds of Europeans rushed for
protection to the different Consulates, where they remained with the
gates closed and guarded. Every moment increased the number of
fugitives. The British Consulate was literally crammed with officers,
civilians, ladies and children.

Telephonic communication was open with Admiral Seymour on board the
_Helicon_. The Admiral had himself been on shore that afternoon, and
narrowly escaped the rioters. His movements at this critical moment were
marked by great indecision. His first idea appears to have been to land
an armed force for the protection of the Europeans, for at 5.32 p.m. the
_Helicon_ made the general signal to the fleet, "Prepare to land armed
boats." This order, however, was annulled five minutes later. The
captains of the English men-of-war were then signalled to assemble on
board the Flag-ship, when, after consultation, it was decided, as the
only course open, to send boats round to the Eastern Harbour under cover
of the guns of H.M.S. _Superb_, to be in readiness to embark those who
had taken refuge in the Consulate; and boats were sent to the Arsenal
and other landing-places to bring off the officers who remained on

It had been arranged that the _Superb_ was to take up a position off the
Eastern Harbour, near the European quarter, and to have a force of
seamen and marines ready for immediate service on shore, sending her
boats as near as possible to the beach, with a view to the removal from
the town of all the women and children whom they might be able to find.
The landing party, to be used only in case of need, was, on a signal
being made, to clear the streets leading to the English Consulate.

Between 8 and 9 p.m. the Governor, to whom the arrangements were
communicated, begged that the boats might not be sent, as their
appearance would, in his opinion, excite the troops beyond control. He
also stated that the disturbance had now been suppressed, and that he
could guarantee the safety of everybody. Under these circumstances, it
was decided that the instructions to the _Superb_ should be
countermanded. This, however, appears not to have been communicated to
that vessel.

The night passed off badly enough at the Consulate, which was crowded
with terrified fugitives. There were, however, no serious alarms until
about 11.30, when an event happened which might have brought about a

One of the _Superb's_ armed boats, mistaking a bright light on the shore
for the signal arranged in the event of the boats being required to
land, answered the supposed signal with a blue light, and thus disclosed
her position near the shore, hitherto concealed by the darkness. In an
instant the bugles sounded the alarm, there was a call to arms all over
the town, and a rush made by the troops towards the beach, showing that
the Governor's fears were well founded, and that had the boats touched
the shore, the troops, already much excited, would have been quite
beyond the control of their officers. There was not a moment to be lost.
A peremptory order was sent from the Consulate to the officer in charge
of the boats to withdraw out of sight, and the soldiers, seeing no signs
of a landing, retired to their posts.

The rest of the night passed quietly and without incident. The
population mostly remained indoors, and detachments of soldiers with
fixed bayonets guarded the various Consulates and stationed themselves
at the corners of all the principal streets. But for these
circumstances, and for the broken _débris_ from the wrecked shops and
houses, there was little to indicate that anything unusual had taken

There are no means of arriving accurately at the numbers killed on the
11th June, but they have been estimated, by competent persons, at one
hundred and fifty Europeans, besides natives.[15] Many of the latter are
known to have been carried off to the houses at nightfall and then
secretly buried. The European doctors who visited the hospitals on the
following day found forty-nine bodies--forty-four of which were
Europeans. Thirty-seven were so battered as to be unrecognizable.
Seventy-one persons were also found wounded; of these, thirty-six were
Europeans, two Turks, and thirty-three natives. Of those killed or
wounded, some had received stabs on their bodies, but the majority had
their injuries inflicted by naboots. One witness speaks to having seen
several cartloads of bodies thrown, at night, into the sea near the
Western Harbour, and it is quite possible that many were so disposed of.
In a fluctuating population, such as that of Alexandria, it is obvious
that many persons might disappear and never be inquired for.

The Governor, on the 12th, visited the sacked and looted quarters of the
town, and took note of the houses injured. He also arrested and
imprisoned between two and three hundred natives who had taken part in
the riot of the previous day.

On the same day, the women and children, who had taken refuge at the
British Consulate, embarked under an escort provided by the Governor.
Thousands of other Europeans of all nationalities also went afloat, and
during the whole day the streets were blocked with fugitives. At first
these were cursed and spat upon by the natives as they passed, but later
on they were allowed to go by unmolested.

In Cairo a meeting was held at which the Khedive, Dervish Pasha, the
Ministers, and the Consuls-General were present. This was to obtain a
reply to a demand of the Consular body that measures should be taken to
insure the safety of Europeans. Arabi promptly undertook to stop all
inflammatory preaching, and to obey all orders given him by the Khedive.
The Khedive engaged himself to issue orders immediately with the object
of restoring public tranquillity. Dervish Pasha, on his part, consented
to accept joint responsibility with Arabi for the execution of the
orders of the Khedive.

It was then decided to increase the number of patrols and to reinforce
the police stations by troops. Yacoub Pasha Sami, Under-Secretary of
War, was sent from Cairo with two regiments of infantry and some
artillery. Guards with their arms were placed at the corners of the
streets, and at night they lay down on the ground in the Place Mehemet
Ali and other open spaces. In the course of the day a proclamation was
issued by the Consular body to the Europeans, pointing out that the
disorder had been suppressed by the army, and that its chiefs guaranteed
public tranquillity. It further called upon the European population to
remain in their dwellings, and to abstain from carrying firearms. The
effect of the proclamation in reassuring the inhabitants was simply nil,
and many persons who might otherwise have remained on shore betook
themselves to the ships.

On the 13th the Khedive and Dervish Pasha arrived from Cairo. Their
reception was anything but enthusiastic.

Alexandria remained quiet, the streets being still patrolled by soldiers
night and day. The general flight of Europeans continued. The number
seeking refuge on board the ironclads was so great that the ships would
have been useless in the event of their having to act. Three hundred
were on board the _Invincible_, the same number on board the _Monarch_,
and all the smaller men-of-war were similarly crowded. On the Admiral's
representation, merchant-steamers were chartered by the British
Government, and employed to take the refugees to Malta; one of the
Poste-Khedive steamers was, subsequently, taken up as a temporary
refuge, and some hundreds of persons were placed on board. Other
steamers were thronged with passengers leaving for Cyprus,
Constantinople, and other places; fabulous prices were charged the
fugitives by the boatmen who took them off to the various vessels.

A Commission of Inquiry was next instituted by the Egyptian Government,
with a view to discover the authors of the events of the 11th June. The
President of the Commission, oddly enough, was Omar Pasha Loutfi,
Governor of Alexandria, the official who was responsible for the
maintenance of order on the day in question, and who was therefore
himself, to some extent, on his trial. The Commission assembled, and
evidence was taken from the wounded and others. An English barrister
attended as the delegate of the British Consulate. Before the inquiry
had proceeded far it developed into mutual recriminations, and a pretext
was afforded to the Egyptian Government for bringing counter charges
against Europeans. Eventually such determined opposition was raised by
the Egyptian members to the institution of a satisfactory inquiry that
the British delegate had to be withdrawn, and the Commission collapsed.

On the 20th of June a new Ministry under Ragheb Pasha, an old and infirm
statesman, was formed. In this, as before, Arabi figured as Minister of
War. The men forming the Cabinet were not such, however, as to inspire
confidence. Many of them were pronounced Arabists, and the rest were
about fair specimens of the usual Egyptian Minister.

Arabi, who had come to Alexandria at this time, now made a point of
showing himself a good deal in public, driving out every evening,
sometimes in the same carriage with the Khedive, and always attended by
a cavalry escort. On these occasions great crowds of natives assembled,
and showed unmistakably the interest they took in the _de facto_ ruler
of Egypt.

That Arabi and the Sultan were in accord at this time is unquestionable.
But if any doubt existed it was removed by the fact that on the 25th
June the Sultan decorated with the Grand Cordon of the Medjidieh the man
who had plunged his country into anarchy. The Order was presented by the
Khedive personally, who (Arabi declares) expressed his satisfaction and
gratitude for his faithful services and attention to duty.

The attitude of Tewfik, on this as on other occasions, appears at first
sight inexplicable. It is only to be accounted for on the hypothesis
that His Highness, having just reason to doubt how far he could
calculate on the sincerity of England and France, or on receiving help
from them, was unwilling to cut himself altogether adrift from the
National Party.

It is due to Arabi to say that during the period which elapsed between
the day of the massacre and the subsequent bombardment perfect order was
maintained in Alexandria. It was not so in the interior, however, and on
the 26th June it was reported that ten Greeks and three Jews were
massacred at Benha, an important town in the Delta. In other provincial
towns, Europeans were openly insulted by the natives, and soon began to
join the fugitives to Europe. At Rosetta and Damietta, things grew so
threatening that even the European lighthouse-keepers had to be
withdrawn, and their duties confided to natives.

At Alexandria, the British Consul, disabled by the wounds which he
received on the 11th June, had to leave for Europe. The Vice-Consul,
incapacitated by age, and suffering from the shock brought about by
recent events, had also to depart. Most of the Consular clerks and
employés likewise found it necessary to quit their posts, and Sir Edward
Malet, overtaken at a critical moment by severe illness, had to betake
himself to Europe. In this emergency, Mr. Cartwright was called upon to
discharge the duties of Consul-General, assisted by the knowledge and
local experience of Sir Auckland Colvin.

On the 29th June, Mr. Cartwright wrote to Lord Granville as follows:--

    "The exodus of Europeans and the preparations for flight, after
    seeming temporarily to have abated, continue with increased
    vigour. The hotels are closing; the shipping agents have
    transferred their offices to the neighbourhood of the port; and
    the banks which still remain open are preparing to transfer
    their staff to the ships. It is impossible to describe the
    collapse and ruin which have overtaken the country.... A large
    number of respectable natives are leaving. The departure of
    Turkish families is taking larger proportions, while 200
    destitute Jews and Rayahs have been sent away at the expense of
    the Government itself."

Thrown out of employment by the exodus of Europeans, the greatest
distress prevailed, and it was estimated that nearly 30,000 persons were
left destitute in Alexandria alone.

Thus matters went on, until the measures taken by the Government in
adding to the armament of the forts led to actual hostilities. On the
part of the Europeans, a sort of stunned feeling prevailed; there was,
with a few exceptions, absolute panic. On the side of the natives, there
was a vague feeling of disquietude. They realized that they had
irretrievably committed themselves, and imagined that the day of
retribution was drawing nigh.

Ships of war continued to arrive from all parts, until a squadron of
twenty-six vessels belonging to the navies of England, France, Italy,
Austria, Russia, the United States, Spain, Greece, and Turkey, lay off

Meanwhile, the crowd of fugitives continued to embark. The French and
Greek Governments sent transports to remove their subjects _en masse_,
and ships laden with British refugees left for Malta as fast as the
vessels could fill up. Europeans arrived from Cairo and the interior,
and the trains were thronged with passengers, many of whom rode on the
roofs and steps of the railway carriages. As many as 4,000 arrived on
one day, the 15th.

Alexandria, at this period, presented a curious spectacle. Beyond the
business of transporting the fugitives, there was nothing else done. The
shops were shut, and the doors barred and padlocked. The banks were
occupied in putting up iron shutters, and blocking up their windows. The
few business firms which remained hired steamers in the harbour and
removed their books and effects on board, so as to be ready for any
eventuality. The streets in the European quarter presented a deserted
appearance, the Arab soldiers being almost the only persons seen about.

In Cairo things were but little better, the whole of the foreign
population had taken flight, together with most of the well-to-do

The events of the 11th June created a profound sensation in England.
That a large number of unoffending Europeans, living in a civilized or
quasi-civilized country, should have been without provocation suddenly
attacked and slaughtered, was bad enough. But that this should have
occurred at a moment when eight British ships of war, and nine others
belonging to other Powers, were there, for the avowed purpose of
protecting European life and property, was worse still.

The opportunity was not lost upon the Opposition. Indignation meetings
were held throughout the United Kingdom, in which the conduct of Mr.
Gladstone's Administration was denounced in the strongest terms. Lord
Salisbury, as the leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords, was
particularly vehement in his condemnation of a policy which had resulted
in British subjects being "butchered under the very guns of the fleet,
which had never budged an inch to save them."

On board the vessels of the British fleet, a similar feeling of
indignation prevailed. When the bodies of the officer and seamen
massacred were on the 13th June taken out to sea for burial, officers
and men alike clamoured for revenge. It was felt that an insult had been
offered to the British flag, which ought to be avenged.

Public feeling at home became fully aroused, and Her Majesty's
Government caused it to be intimated that it was their intention to
demand reparation for the loss of life and property which had occurred.
To strengthen the Mediterranean fleet, the Channel Squadron, consisting
of the _Minotaur_, _Achilles_, _Agincourt_, _Northumberland_ and
_Sultan_, was despatched to Malta on the 15th, and placed under the
temporary command of Admiral Seymour. More energetic measures still were
in contemplation, but it was deemed unwise to decide upon them until the
great body of Europeans should have had time to clear out of Egypt.



On the 1st of July, 1882, matters had become so threatening that the
Consular archives and such of the staff as remained were removed on
board a Peninsular and Oriental steamer, chartered as a place of refuge
for the British subjects whose duties compelled them to remain in Egypt.

The same day Admiral Seymour telegraphed that there were upwards of
10,000 men in the forts and barracks of Alexandria, and that Arabi hoped
to get the allied fleets into a trap by sinking stone barges at the
harbour mouth.

On the 3rd, Seymour received the following instructions:--

    "Prevent any attempt to bar channel into port. If work is
    resumed on earthworks or fresh guns mounted, inform Military
    Commander that you have orders to prevent it; and if not
    immediately discontinued destroy earthworks and silence
    batteries if they open fire."

On the 4th, Dervish Pasha made a final attempt to get rid of Arabi and
his party by diplomacy. The Turkish Envoy invited the Minister of War to
go to Constantinople "to live with the Sultan and other friends." Arabi,
to his credit, refused to desert his followers, and replied that the
people would not suffer him to leave, and that as they were attached to
him he could not abandon them.

The same day a telegram was sent to the Admiral as follows:--

    "Acquaint Military Governor that any attempt to bar the channel
    will be considered as a hostile act, which will be treated
    accordingly. Concert with Consul-General as to notice to
    Europeans if occasion arises. Before taking any hostile step,
    invite co-operation of French Admiral; but you are not to
    postpone acting on your instructions because French decline to

The Admiral replied:--

    "Two additional guns placed in Pharos Castle last night. Parapet
    facing sea-wall was also strengthened. Consul-General would
    prefer I postponed operations until Thursday morning to allow
    time for people to quit Cairo. No change in the works bearing on
    the harbour. French Admiral has asked for orders."

Seymour had now taken steps for strengthening the fleet, by ordering the
ironclad _Sultan_ from Malta. He had also received intelligence that two
battalions had been ordered to Cyprus from Malta in ships of the Channel
Squadron. He had, moreover, in concert with the Acting Consul-General,
succeeded in getting nearly the whole of the European residents out of
the country. It only remained to see how far, in the event of action
becoming necessary, he could count on the support of the Power which had
joined England in presenting the celebrated Joint Note.

On the question being put to M. de Freycinet by Lord Lyons, the French
Foreign Minister replied that his Government had decided "not to
instruct Admiral Conrad to associate himself with the English Admiral in
stopping by force the erection of batteries or the placing of guns at
Alexandria." The reasons given were, that such a step would be an act of
war, which could not be resorted to without the consent of the
Legislature, and that if the Government applied to the Chamber for
sanction, they did not feel sure of obtaining it.

On the 6th, the French Ambassador called on Lord Granville and informed
him, that in the event of a bombardment taking place, the French ships
would go to Port Saïd.

On the same day, Admiral Seymour, finding that the warlike preparations
on shore were continuing, wrote to the Military Commandant of
Alexandria, that unless such proceedings were discontinued, it would
become his duty to open fire on the works in course of construction.

The following reply was received:--

            "_To the Admiral of the British Fleet._


    "I had the honour to receive your letter of the 6th July, in
    which you state that you had been informed that two guns had
    been mounted and that other works are going on on the
    sea-shore, and in reply I assure you that these assertions are
    unfounded, and that this information is like the intimation
    given to you about the blocking up of the entrance to the
    harbour, of the falseness of which you were convinced. I rely
    on your feelings of humanity, and beg you to accept my

        "(Signed) TOULBA,
            "Commandant of Forces."

The Khedive during this period retained great self-possession. He
realized perfectly the difficulties of his position, and sent for Sir
Auckland Colvin, to whom he explained that should a bombardment be
resolved upon he was determined to remain faithful to Egypt. He could
not, he said, desert those who had stood by him during the crisis, nor
could he, merely to secure his personal safety, abandon Egypt when
attacked by a foreign Power. In the event of a bombardment taking place,
His Highness announced his intention of retiring to a palace on the
Mahmoudieh Canal, and added that the more rapidly the affair was
conducted, the less danger there would be for himself personally.

On the 9th, Admiral Seymour telegraphed to the Admiralty that "there was
no doubt about the armament. Guns were being mounted in Fort Silsileh.
He should give foreign consuls notice at daylight to-morrow, and
commence action twenty-four hours after, unless forts on the isthmus and
those commanding the entrance to the harbour were surrendered."

The information upon which Seymour proposed to act was partly a
declaration made by Lieutenant Dorrien, of the _Invincible_, and which
(omitting immaterial parts) was as follows:--

    "On the morning of the 9th day of July, 1882, at about 7.30
    a.m., I drove through the Rosetta Gate, and ... reached the old
    quarantine station, where I ... proceeded on foot to the fort
    marked on Admiralty Chart 'Tabia-el-Silsileh,' and when within
    fifty yards of the said fort I observed inside two working
    parties of Arabs about 200 strong, under the superintendence of
    soldiers, parbuckling two smooth-bore guns--apparently
    32-pounders--towards their respective carriages and slides,
    which were facing in the direction of the harbour, and which
    seemed to have been lately placed ready for their reception."

On the 10th, the Admiralty telegraphed to the Admiral directing him to
substitute for the word "surrendered" the words "temporarily surrendered
for the purposes of disarmament."

The same day, the Admiral sent his ultimatum to the Military Commandant,
in the terms following:--

    "I have the honour to inform your Excellency that as hostile
    preparations, evidently directed against the squadron under my
    command, were in progress during yesterday at Forts Pharos and
    Silsileh, I shall carry out the intention expressed to you in my
    letter of the 6th instant, at sunrise to-morrow, the 11th
    instant, unless previous to that hour you shall have temporarily
    surrendered to me, for the purpose of disarming, the batteries
    on the isthmus of Ras-el-Tin and the southern shore of the
    harbour of Alexandria."

The actual danger to Admiral Seymour's ships from the Egyptian
preparations was at this time simply nil, and even were it otherwise he
had only to make a slight change in the position of his vessels to place
them completely out of harm's way. At the same time, the bombardment
which he threatened, had, after the events of the 11th of June, become,
in a certain sense, a necessity, if only to restore European prestige in
Egypt: moreover, it formed the first step towards shattering the power
of Arabi and his army, which was now, to a great extent, concentrated in

In hurrying on the bombardment, the Admiral was probably influenced not
a little by the desire to allay the growing impatience of the officers
and men under his command. Ever since the murder of an officer and two
men of the fleet, on the day of the riot, a good deal of dissatisfaction
was expressed at the continued inaction of the naval force, not only by
the seamen, but by the officers as well.

It was foreseen that the arrival of British troops was only a question
of days, and the bluejackets naturally desired that, as what had taken
place was an insult to the fleet, to the fleet should be given the work
of avenging it. They were unwilling, as they put it, that they should be
employed merely "to carry Sir Garnet Wolseley's baggage on shore."

The Admiral himself, whilst sharing these sentiments, may not
unnaturally have had in his mind the fact that the Channel Squadron,
under Admiral Dowell, was on its way to share in the honours of the day.

On the receipt of Admiral Seymour's ultimatum, a Cabinet Council was
held at Ras-el-Tin, presided over by the Khedive in person. It was
decided to send a deputation to the Admiral, to inform him that no new
guns were being mounted in the forts, and to tell him that he was at
liberty to send one of his officers, if he desired to test the truth of
this statement. The deputation came back with the answer that the
Admiral insisted on the disarmament of the forts.

The Council again met in the afternoon, and decided that the Silsileh
Fort and Fort Pharos, and the guns placed in them on the _Eastern_
Harbour, could not constitute any threat towards the vessels which were
in the _Western_ Harbour, and that the President of the Council should
write to the Admiral in the terms of the despatch mentioned below. It
was at the same time resolved that in the event of the Admiral
persisting in opening fire, the forts should not answer until the fifth
shot, when they were to reply.

            "_Alexandria, July 10th, 1882._


    "As I had the honour to promise in the conversation I had with
    you this morning, I have submitted to His Highness the Khedive,
    in a meeting of the Ministers and principal dignitaries of the
    State, the conditions contained in the letter you were good
    enough to address this morning to the Commandant of the place,
    according to the terms of which you will put into execution
    to-morrow, the 11th instant, at daybreak, the intentions
    expressed in your letter of the 6th instant to the Commandant
    of the place, if before that time the batteries on the isthmus
    of Ras-el-Tin and the southern shore of the port of Alexandria
    are not temporarily surrendered to you, to be disarmed.

    "I regret to announce to you that the Government of His
    Highness does not consider this proposition as acceptable. It
    does not in the least desire to alter its good relations with
    Great Britain, but it cannot perceive that it has taken any
    measures which can be regarded as a menace to the English fleet
    by works, by the mounting of new guns, or by other military

    "Nevertheless, as a proof of our spirit of conciliation, and of
    our desire, to a certain extent, to accede to your demands, we
    are disposed to dismount three guns in the batteries you have
    mentioned, either separated or together.

    "If in spite of this offer you persist in opening fire, the
    Government reserves its freedom of action and leaves with you
    the responsibility of this act of aggression."[17]

The previous day the Acting British Consul-General visited the Khedive
and urged his removal to Ramleh, a suburb about four miles to the east
of Alexandria. On the 10th Sir Auckland Colvin called to say farewell to
His Highness, and used every argument to induce him to embark in one of
the British vessels, but in vain. Tewfik remained firm, and announced
his intention of standing by his country.

At seven in the evening all the Consuls-General were warned to withdraw
their subjects. The acting British Consul-General and Sir Auckland
Colvin embarked on board the _Monarch_, and the few remaining British
residents betook themselves to the P. & O. s.s. _Tanjore_.[18]

In the course of the day all the merchant vessels in the harbour left,
and these were followed by the foreign men-of-war. One by one the latter
steamed slowly out, and as they passed the British flag-ship her band
struck up the different national airs. The last ship to leave was the
Austrian frigate _Landon_, and when darkness closed in, the English
ships of war were alone in the harbour of Alexandria.

At 9.20 p.m. the Admiral, in the _Invincible_, with the _Monarch_ in
company, weighed anchor, and steamed to a position outside the harbour.
All lights were extinguished, and perfect silence was maintained as the
ships cautiously felt their way through the water. At 10.10 both vessels
came to an anchor off Mex, where their consort, the _Penelope_, was
already lying.

In the meantime, all the ships, including the larger ironclads _Sultan_,
_ Superb_, _Temeraire_, _Alexandra_, and _Inflexible_, which were lying
in the offing, had struck their upper masts, sent down top-gallant and
royal yards, and got everything ready for action. In this state they
remained for the night.

In order to give the reader an idea of the comparative strength of the
opposing forces, it is necessary, in the first place, to give a short
description of the fortifications of Alexandria and their armaments.

Alexandria is situated on a strip of land between the Mediterranean and
Lake Mareotis; a considerable portion of the town stands on a
promontory, which, jutting out from the rest towards the north-west, is
bounded on the north-east by the new or Eastern Harbour, and on the
south-west by the old or Western Harbour.

The fortifications, which were intended to protect the city from an
attack, not only by sea, but also from the direction of Lake Mareotis,
are said to have been planned in Paris, and executed under the direction
of French engineers. The whole of the works were originally well built,
but had fallen much out of repair.

The material used was a soft limestone but little calculated to
withstand modern artillery. The parapets were of sand, covered with a
thin coating of cement. The scarps and counterscarps were reveted with
stonework. The rifled guns, without exception, fired through embrasures,
and nearly all the smooth-bore guns fired over parapets.

The buildings were none of them bomb-proof; nor, except in the case of
Fort Pharos, were there any casemated or covered batteries. The forts on
the sea face of Alexandria may be summed up as follows:--

West of Alexandria--Forts Marabout, Adjemi, and Marza-el-Kanat.

South-west of Alexandria--Citadel of Mex, Old Fort of Mex, and Mex

South of Alexandria--Forts Kamaria, Omuk Kubebe, Saleh Aga, and a small
battery between the two last named works.

North of Alexandria--Lighthouse or Ras-el-Tin Fort, Lines of Ras-el-Tin
(including the Hospital Battery), Fort Adda, Fort Pharos, and Fort

Of the above, Fort Adjemi took no part in the subsequent bombardment.

The British squadron consisted of the ironclads _Alexandra_, _Superb_,
_Sultan_, _Temeraire_, _Inflexible_, _Monarch_, _Invincible_, and
Penelope, the torpedo-vessel _Hecla_, the despatch boat _Helicon_, the
gun-vessels _Condor_ and _Bittern_, and the gunboats _Beacon_, _Cygnet_,
and _Decoy_. The battleships, with the exception of the _Invincible_ and
_Penelope_, were the most powerful then in the British navy. Their size
and armament may be briefly summarized:--

The _Alexandra_, Captain C. F. Hotham, 9,490 tons, 8,610 h.p., 674 men,
2 11-inch 25-ton and 10 10-inch 18-ton guns.

The _Superb_, Captain Thomas Le Hunt-Ward, 9,170 tons, 6,580 h.p., 620
men, 8 18-ton and 4 12-1/2-ton guns.

The _Sultan_, Captain W. J. Hunt Grubbe, 9,290 tons, 7,720 h.p., 620
men, 8 18-ton and 4 12-1/2-ton guns.

The _Temeraire_, Captain H. F. Nicholson, 8,450 tons, 7,520 h.p., 530
men, 4 25-ton and 4 18-ton guns.

The _Inflexible_, Captain John Fisher, 11,407 tons, 8,010 h.p., 440 men,
4 80-ton guns (in two turrets).

The _Monarch_, Captain Henry Fairfax, 8,320 tons, 7,840 h.p., 530 men, 4
25-ton, 2 9-inch 12-ton and 1 7-inch 6-1/2-ton guns.

The _Invincible_, Captain R. H. Molyneux, 6,010 tons, 4,830 h.p., 480
men, 10 9-inch 12-ton and 4 64-pounder guns.

The _Penelope_, Captain St. G. D. A. Irvine, 4,390 tons, 4,700 h.p., 230
men, 8 8-inch 9-ton and 3 40-pounder guns.

The _Hecla_, torpedo vessel, 6,400 tons, 1,760 h.p., 251 men, and 6

The _Helicon_, despatch vessel, 1,000 tons, carrying 2 20-pounder guns.

The _Condor_ and _Bittern_, gun-vessels, 805 tons, 100 men, 1 7-inch and
2 40-pounder guns each.

The _Beacon_, gunboat, 603 tons, 80 men, 1 7-inch and 1 64-pounder gun.

The _Cygnet_ and _Decoy_, gunboats, 455 and 430 tons, 60 men, 2
64-pounder and 2 20-pounder guns each.

In addition to the armament above given, the eight ironclads each
carried from six to eight 20-pounder rifled breech-loading guns, and,
with the exception of the _Penelope_, from eight to twelve machine guns.

There were also 880 supernumerary seamen and marines on board the fleet,
making the total force 5,728 men.

The relative strength of the opposing forces may be seen from the
following tables:--

The ordnance _mounted_ in the forts was as follows:--

  Fort or Battery. | R. Guns. | S. B. Guns. | Mortars. | Total.
  Fort Silsileh    |     2    |       3     |     1    |    6
   "  Pharos       |     8    |      37     |     4    |   49
   "  Adda         |     5    |      14     |     5    |   24
  Ras-el-Tin Lines |     9    |      30     |    10    |   49
  Lighthouse Fort, |          |             |          |
    or Ras-el-Tin  |     6    |      28     |     3    |   37
  Fort Saleh Aga   |    ...   |      12     |    ...   |   12
  Battery          |    ...   |       4     |    ...   |    4
  Fort Omuk Kubebe |     2    |      16     |     2    |   20
   "  Kamaria      |    ...   |       5     |     1    |    6
  Mex Sea Lines    |    ...   |      24     |    ...   |   24
   "  Fort         |     5    |       9     |     5    |   19
  Fort Marabout    |     3    |       8     |    ...   |   11
       TOTAL       |    40    |     190     |    31    |  261

The guns on board the ironclads are shewn in the following table:--

                                    RIFLED GUNS.
    SHIPS.   | in. | in. | in. | in. | in. | in. | in. | pr. | pr. | Total.
             | 16  | 12  | 11  | 10  |  9  |  8  |  7  | 64  | 40  |
  Alexandra  |     |     |  2  | 10  |     |     |     |     |     |   12
  Inflexible |  4  |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |    4
  Superb     |     |     | 16  |     |     |     |     |     | 16  |
  Sultan     |     |     |     |  8  |  4  |     |     |     |     |   12
  Temeraire  |     |     |  4  |  4  |     |     |     |     |     |    8
  Invincible |     |     |     |     | 10  |     |     |  4  |     |   14
  Monarch    |     |  4  |     |     |  2  |     |  1  |     |     |    7
  Penelope   |     |     |     |     |     |  8  |     |     |  3  |   11
      TOTAL  |  4  |  4  |  6  | 38  | 16  |  8  |  1  |  4  |  3  |   84

This does not include the six to eight 20-pounder guns and eight to
twelve machine guns carried by each vessel.

Admiral Seymour's plan for the bombardment comprised two separate
attacks: one by the _Sultan_, _Superb_, _Alexandra_, _Inflexible_, and
_Temeraire_ from outside the breakwater, the other by the _Invincible_,
_Monarch_, and _Penelope_ inside the reefs.

The three first-mentioned vessels, supported by the fire from the after
turret of the _Inflexible_, which was anchored off the Corvette Pass,
were directed to destroy the batteries on the Ras-el-Tin peninsula, and
then to move to the eastward and attack Forts Pharos and Silsileh. The
_Invincible_, _Monarch_, and _Penelope_, aided by the fire from the
_Inflexible's_ forward turret and by the _Temeraire_, which took up a
position off the Boghas Pass, were ordered to open fire on the guns in
the Mex Lines. The gun-vessels and gunboats were directed to remain
outside until a favourable opportunity should offer for moving in to the
attack on Mex.

At 7 a.m. the Admiral, whose flag was flying from the _Invincible_,
signalled to the _Alexandra_ to fire a shell into the recently armed
works on Ras-el-Tin, known as the Hospital Battery, and followed this by
a general signal to the fleet, "Attack the enemy's batteries." Upon this
immediate action began between all the ships, in the positions assigned
to them, and the whole of the forts commanding the entrance to the

A steady cannonade was maintained both by the attacking and defending
forces, and for the next few hours the roar of the guns and the shrieks
of passing shot and shell were alone audible. The spectacle as seen from
the offing was imposing in the extreme. On the one side were the most
powerful ships of modern times, all in fighting trim, with upper masts
and yards struck, some slowly steaming ahead, others at anchor, but all
pouring deadly broadsides into the Egyptian batteries. On the other were
the forts, standing out bright and clear in the sunshine, vomiting forth
volleys of fire and smoke in the direction of the attacking squadron.

The weather was fine and the sea smooth, both of which circumstances
were to the advantage of the attacking force. On the other hand, the
wind and sun were in the enemy's favour, and the smoke, which rose like
a thick wall, at times prevented those on board the ships seeing the
result of their fire.

At 9.40 the _Sultan_, _Superb_, and _Alexandra_, of the outside
squadron, which had previously been under way and turning in succession
at a range of about 1,500 yards, came to an anchor off the Lighthouse
Fort. The batteries had proved stronger than had been anticipated, and
the Egyptian gunners were making very good practice. The firing of the
ships at the same time was less effective than could be wished. Under
these circumstances, and to obtain the exact range, the three ships
adopted a stationary position, and from this moment their fire steadily

A little after 10 o'clock the harem buildings of Ras-el-Tin Palace were
set on fire and partly destroyed by a shell.

At 10.30 the _Alexandra_ had one of her heavy guns dismounted and
rendered unserviceable. Shortly after the _Inflexible_ weighed anchor
and joined the _Sultan_, _Superb_, and _Alexandra_, and by 12.30 p.m.
the combined fire of the four ships had nearly silenced all the guns in
the Ras-el-Tin Forts. It should be mentioned that, in addition to
helping these three vessels, the _Inflexible_ had at the same time been
engaging the Mex Forts, and doing great execution with her 80-ton guns.

The remaining vessel of the outside squadron, the _Temeraire_, was
meanwhile supporting the attack of the inside squadron on the Mex
batteries at a range of from 3,500 to 4,000 yards, and making great
havoc with her guns. Unfortunately, in taking up her position, she had
got too close to the shoal water of the Boghas Pass, and in swinging
round had grounded on the reef. The gunboat _Condor_ promptly went to
the assistance of the huge ironclad, and eventually the ship was got off
without injury.

Although the batteries at Ras-el-Tin had, as above stated, practically
ceased firing, some heavy guns in Fort Adda still kept up a desultory

At 12.30 p.m. the _Sultan_ signalled to the _Inflexible_, whose work was
now finished both at Ras-el-Tin and Mex, "Adda and Pharos are the only
ones not silenced, all our filled shell are expended, and if you are
going that way, one or two shells from your heavy guns would do much
good, if you don't mind." At 12.35 the _Sultan_ added, "Please silence
Adda as well." The _Inflexible_ then stood across to Fort Adda, and at
12.40 opened fire. Shortly after, the _Temeraire_ was signalled, "Assist
_Inflexible_ in destroying Pharos and Silsileh." The _Temeraire_ then
weighed and steamed over to the position indicated, and assisted in
shelling both forts.

About 1.30 p.m. a lucky shell from the _Superb_, whose practice was very
good, blew up the magazine of Fort Adda. The explosion was terrific, and
huge pieces of _débris_ were thrown into the air, whilst a dense cloud
of smoke for some seconds hid the works from view. The fort at once
ceased firing, and when the smoke cleared away it was seen that the
garrison had retreated from the blackened ruins.

As early as 1.30, the ships were beginning to run short of ammunition,
and the _Sultan_ signalled to the _Alexandra_, "How many filled shell
have you?" and received the answer "Twenty." At one o'clock the
_Alexandra_ signalled that she had only thirty common shell left, and
was answered by the _Sultan_ that she had none at all, and that the
_Alexandra_ had better use common shell as the _Sultan_ was doing.

At 1.35, with the exception of the Hospital Fort, where one rifled gun
continued firing, all the batteries from Fort Adda westward being
silenced, the _Superb_ signalled the fact to the _Sultan_, and suggested
getting under way. The _Sultan_ replied in the affirmative, adding, "Can
you touch up Pharos? _Temeraire_ now on her way to assist _Inflexible_
at Pharos. I have no shell filled, nor has _Alexandra_." The _Superb_
accordingly proceeded towards Fort Pharos and opened fire.

At 2.0 the _Sultan_ signalled to the _Inflexible_, which was engaging
the Hospital Battery and Fort Pharos, "Proceed to Pharillon" (Silsileh).

At 2.55 a shot from the Hospital Battery struck the _Inflexible_ aloft,
carrying away the slings of the mainyard.

At 5 the Hospital Battery fired its last shot.

At 5.10 the _Inflexible_ proceeded across to engage Fort Silsileh, all
the other forts from Ras-el-Tin eastward having been silenced.

At 5.15 the general signal, "Cease firing," was made, followed at 6.5
by, "Anchor in same position as last night."

While the off-shore squadron was thus occupied, the other division of
the fleet under the Admiral's immediate command was not idle. The
_Invincible_ at anchor, with the _Monarch_ and _Penelope_ under weigh
inside the reefs, assisted by the _Inflexible_ and _Temeraire_, in the
Corvette and Boghas Channels, were engaging from a distance of 1,300 to
1,500 yards the batteries and lines of Mex, also the Forts of
Marza-el-Kanat and Omuk Kubebe at various ranges. The enemy replied
briskly both from rifled and smooth bore guns. At 8.45 one of the
_Monarch's_ shells exploded the powder magazine at Marza-el-Kanat. At
8.27 the Admiral signalled to her, "Close nearer the forts, keeping as
close to them as possible." By 9 a.m. the enemy's guns, except four at
Fort Mex, were silenced. These four nevertheless gave considerable
trouble to the ships, for it was difficult to hit upon their exact
position, placed as they were almost on a level with the water, and only
dimly and occasionally seen through the smoke.

About an hour before this Lord Charles Beresford, in the _Condor_,
stationed as repeating ship, saw that the 10-inch rifled guns in Fort
Marabout were playing with great accuracy, at a range of 4,200 yards,
upon the ships engaged off Fort Mex, the shots falling only from 10 to
30 yards short. Steaming within range of his 7-inch gun, he chose with
great skill a position, 1,200 yards off, upon which the enemy's guns
could not be brought to bear, and engaged the fort single-handed for two
hours. The _Condor's_ excellent practice soon checked the fire from Fort
Marabout, and elicited from the Admiral, who sent the other gunboats to
his aid, the signal, "Well done, _Condor_." It is satisfactory to be
able to add that during this operation no casualties occurred on any of
the vessels engaged.[19]

At 10.35 the flag-ship signalled to the _Monarch_, "Steam close in to
the batteries we have silenced and drop a few shells into them at close
range." This was followed by, "Go as close to forts as water will
permit." The _Monarch_ then steamed in shore and poured in a tremendous
fire from all her guns. At 11.30, there being no return fire, she, as
well as the _Invincible_, ceased firing.

At 11.40, the gunboats having returned from Marabout, the _Monarch_,
which remained under way, was signalled to support them in an attempt to
destroy the Mex works, but ordered not to fire unless fired upon. All
the gunboats were at the same time signalled to close in to the
batteries, and, remaining under way, to destroy their rifled guns. The
_Condor_, ten minutes after, signalled that she had only twenty-one
shells for each gun left, and received the order to cease firing. The
gunboats, supported by the _Monarch_, continued to fire on the works.

At 11.58, the _Monarch_ observing soldiers running back into the
batteries, permission was given her to reopen fire.

Permission was also given to the _Penelope_ to fire at the rifled guns
in the batteries with her 40-pounders. At 12.20 p.m. the _Monarch_
ceased firing, signalling that she had driven about 200 soldiers out of
the works. At 12.50 p.m. the _Penelope_ was ordered to get under way,
and taking advantage of her light draught, to try to dismount the guns
at Mex. She then weighed and proceeded in towards Mex Fort, firing at
intervals. At 1.10 the windmills in the neighbourhood of the forts were
seen to be full of soldiers, and the _Monarch_ was ordered to open fire
on them with her light guns.

About 2 p.m. the Admiral, seeing that the gunners of the western battery
of Mex had abandoned their guns, and that the supports had probably
retired also, landed a party, under cover of the gun-vessels and
gunboats, who destroyed with gun-cotton two 10-inch rifled guns, and
spiked six smooth-bore guns in the right hand battery. The party
returned without a casualty beyond the loss of one of their boats, which
got capsized on the rocks, on an alarm (happily unfounded) being raised
that some soldiers were approaching to attack the little force.

At 3.25 the _Penelope_ signalled to the Admiral that Fort Kamaria had
its guns manned, though, from her inshore position, the ship's guns
would not bear on them. The Admiral, in consequence, directed the
_Penelope_ to change her position and open fire on the fort. About the
same time soldiers were observed transporting light guns into one of the
Mex batteries, and the _Monarch_ was signalled to attack again. Both
vessels promptly responded, and, steaming into position, poured in a
devastating fire on the points indicated. At 5.30, there being no reply
from the enemy, the inside squadron ceased firing. This concluded the
operations of the day.

The casualties on board the ships were but slight, amounting only to
five killed and twenty-eight wounded--a fact to be attributed partly to
the protection afforded by the armour plating of the ships principally
engaged, and partly to the inaccurate fire of the enemy's batteries.[20]

A courageous act was reported from the _Alexandra_. In the course of the
bombardment a lighted shell from one of the Egyptian batteries fell on
the main deck of the vessel. Mr. Israel Harding, gunner, rushed for the
missile all burning as it was, and immersed it in a bucket of water.[21]

The Egyptians, it must be allowed, were overmatched both in the size and
number of the guns brought into action, but the way in which they
responded to the heavy fire was marvellous. When the _Inflexible's_
1,700 lb. projectiles struck the scarp of the Lighthouse Fort
immediately underneath an embrasure they threw up a cloud of dust and
fragments of stone as high as the Lighthouse itself. To the looker-on,
it seemed impossible to live under such a fire, yet after a few minutes
the dust would clear away, and the gun's crew would pluckily send
another shell back at their huge opponent.

The Egyptian forces were under the immediate command of Toulba Pasha.
From the best sources of information accessible, it is gathered that the
defences contained no less than 2,000 artillerymen, and of infantry and
civilian volunteers there was no lack.

The disposition of these troops has not been accurately ascertained, but
it is known that Mex was commanded by an adjutant-major, who had with
him one captain, three lieutenants, and 150 men. Of this small number
one lieutenant was mortally wounded, 50 men were killed, and 48 wounded.

Fort Omuk Kubebe, as already mentioned, was subjected to the
_Inflexible's_ fire during the forenoon. Its garrison consisted of 75
artillerymen, aided by a considerable number of native volunteers.
Eighteen of these were wounded. In all, along the southern or inside
line, from Saleh Aga to Marabout, 65 men were killed, and from 150 to
200 wounded.

In the northern line of defences at Ras-el-Tin, and also in Fort Adda,
at least 50 men are believed to have been killed and 150 wounded, but
the record is very vague. Stray pieces of shell are reported by the
chief of police to have killed and wounded between 150 and 200 citizens,
but this statement must be accepted for what it is worth.[22]

It is only fair to the other side to give the Egyptian narrative of the
bombardment. The account published in the Arab paper _El Taif_, in
Cairo, was as follows:

    "WAR NEWS.--On Tuesday, 25 Shaban, 1299, at twelve o'clock in
    the morning (July 11th, 7 a.m.). The English opened fire on the
    forts of Alexandria, and we returned the fire. At 10 a.m. an
    ironclad foundered off Fort Adda. At noon two vessels were sunk
    between Fort Pharos and Fort Adjemi. At 1.30 p.m. a wooden
    man-of-war of eight guns was sunk.

    "At 5 p.m. the large ironclad was struck by a shell from Fort
    Pharos, the battery was injured, and a white flag was
    immediately hoisted by her as a signal to cease firing at her,
    whereupon the firing ceased on both sides, having lasted for
    ten hours without cessation. Some of the walls of the forts
    were destroyed, but they were repaired during the night. The
    shots and shells discharged from the two sides amounted to
    about 6,000, and this is the first time that so large a number
    of missiles has been discharged in so short a time.

    "At 11 a.m. on Wednesday the English ships again opened fire
    and were replied to by the forts, but after a short time the
    firing ceased on both sides, and a deputation came from Admiral
    Seymour and made propositions to Toulba Pasha, which he could
    not accept.

              *       *       *       *       *

    "No soldiers ever stood so firmly to their posts under a heavy
    fire as did the Egyptians under the fire of twenty-eight ships
    during ten hours.

              *       *       *       *       *

    "At 9 a.m. on Thursday an English man-of-war was seen to put a
    small screw in place of the larger one which she had been
    using, and it was then known that her screw had been carried
    away by a shot from the forts. On examining other ships it was
    observed that eight had been severely battered on their sides,
    and that one had lost her funnel."



The bombardment of the forts of Alexandria was an occurrence of such
importance, and so rare are bombardments in recent naval annals, that a
few general observations will probably not be without interest.

The most obvious mode of attack on fortifications would be for the ships
to form in line ahead and steam past the batteries, each ship delivering
her fire in succession as her guns would bear. Having thus passed the
line of defence, the ships would turn and repeat the process with the
other broadside. By manoeuvring in this manner, the forts (which have
the advantage of a fixed gun-carriage), would labour under the
disadvantage of having a moving target to fire at. On this principle for
two and a-half hours the bombardment of the forts from Ras-el-Tin to
Pharos was conducted by the _Sultan_, _Superb_, and _Alexandra_. From
the fact that at 9.40 a.m. this mode of attack was changed for one which
consisted in the systematic concentration of fire on individual forts,
from ships more or less stationary, it may be concluded that the former
plan was found faulty.

It is submitted that the best principle in practice is the consecutive
silencing of individual batteries, and not a general, and so to speak
collective, bombardment. In support of this principle it may be
mentioned that from the time of the adoption of the second plan the fire
of the ships improved very much in accuracy. This also had the further
advantage of being accompanied by a simultaneous diminution in the
accuracy of the fire of the enemy: as is shown by the circumstance that
the majority of the hits received by the _Sultan_, _Superb_, and
_Alexandra_ were sustained before 9.40--the time when these vessels
came to an anchor and adopted the concentration principle.

That the fire of the ships would improve as soon as the vessels became
stationary is intelligible enough, and is accounted for by the exact
range being then attainable, but that the enemy should have made worse
practice against a fixed than against a moving target appears a little
difficult to understand. The naval officers engaged have, with some
sense of humour, suggested that the vessels in manoeuvring from time
to time steamed across the line of the Egyptian fire and so got struck.
The explanation, however, is probably to be found in the increased state
of demoralization of the artillerymen as soon as the ships anchored and
made more accurate practice.

In the inshore squadron the flag-ship _Invincible_ was anchored for the
most part 1,300 yards from Mex, and was kept broadside to the wind on
one side, and to the batteries on the other, by a kedge carried out to
windward. The _Monarch_ and _Penelope_ remained under way, passing and
repassing the forts. The _Penelope_ adopted the plan of steaming out
three-quarters of a mile towards the reef, and then drifting towards the
shore broadside on until within about 700 yards, whilst the _Monarch_
kept more way on, moving in a line parallel with the shore. The fire
from these two ships was throughout less effective than that from the
_Invincible_, which was at anchor.

The range at which the fleet generally engaged seems to have been
needlessly great. The outside squadron could have got to within 1,000
yards of the Lighthouse Fort and 800 yards abreast of the Ras-el-Tin
lines, to within 500 yards of Fort Adda and 200 yards of Fort Pharos,
whilst the inshore division could easily have got within 400 yards of
all the batteries in the neighbourhood of Mex. It can hardly be doubted
that the boldness of this move would have been rewarded by the more
speedy and extensive dismounting of the guns, which was confessedly the
chief object of the attack, and would have allowed the machine guns in
the vessels' tops to be used with greater effect.

It must be remembered that the target in each case was the muzzle of a
gun, a mere pin's head at the distance at which the ships were engaged,
and that a successful hit meant either good luck or phenomenally good
shooting. This hammering away at long range was tolerably successful,
but the length of the action was a disappointment to those who expected
short work to be made of the Egyptians, while, as has been seen, it
drained the stock of ammunition to a dangerously low ebb.

The enormous disproportion between the damage sustained by the ships and
batteries respectively may be accounted for, partly by the inferior
construction of the works, and partly also by the inferior practice of
the gunners by whom they were manned. There were other faults in the
defence. For example: the batteries were so placed as to be unable,
except at Fort Pharos, to support one another; there was no bomb-proof
cover; there was too small a stock of ammunition in readiness; and the
men who should have been employed as reliefs for manning the rifled guns
wasted their efforts with the smooth bores, which were practically

With regard to the fire of the fleet generally, a variety of opinions
has been expressed. One authority states that, with the exception of the
_Inflexible_ and _Temeraire_, the English gunners did not greatly
distinguish themselves. Many of the shells of the _Monarch_,
_Inflexible_, and _Superb_ fell short.[23] The fire also was said to
have been too slow, thus giving the enemy's artillerists time to recover
themselves. The fire of the _Inflexible_ was stated to have been
particularly disappointing in this respect. That of the _Alexandra_ was
much more rapid than that of the others, as her much greater expenditure
of ammunition shows.

A naval officer of experience has expressed the opinion that,
considering the nature of the works attacked, an old line-of-battle
ship, with her numerous though much smaller guns, would have been more
effective than the modern ships which took part in the bombardment. If
one considers the great size and weight of the majority of the
projectiles used, as well as the capacity of the shell and the
consequent amount of their bursting charges, one can hardly fail to be
astonished at the small effect produced on the sand parapets, especially
when it is remembered that the latter were in many cases, according to
modern theory, too weak to afford any real protection. It is a fact, and
one on which too much stress cannot be laid, that in only one instance
was any one of the parapets pierced by a shell from the fleet, and that
Fort Mex was the only battery which could not have been sufficiently
repaired during the night to resume the action on the following day. One
remarkable feature of the fire from the fleet was the enormous number of
shells which failed to explode, and this has never been satisfactorily
accounted for.

The expenditure of ammunition by the squadron appears from the following

  (A) Common.
  (B) Palliser.
  (C) Shrapnel.
  (D) Segment.
  (E) Empty Shell.
  (F) Shot.
  (G) Case.
  (H) TOTAL.[24]
  (I) Martini-Henry.
  (J) Nordenfeldt.
  (K) Gatling.
  (L) Rockets.

    SHIP.    | (A)|(B)| (C)|(D)|(E)|(F)|(G)|| (H) ||  (I) |  (J) | (K) |(L)
  Alexandra  | 379| 23|   1|   |   |  4|   || 407 ||      | 4000 |  340|
  Superb     | 257| 83|  25| 34|   | 12|   || 411 ||      | 1161 |  880|
  Sultan     | 247| 24|   3| 44| 10| 10|   || 338 ||      | 1800 | 2000|
  Penelope   | 241|   |  45| 32|   | 62|   || 380 || 5000 | 1672 |     |
  Monarch    | 227|  5| 129|   |   |  6|   || 367 || 1800 | 3440 | 2680| 21
  Temeraire  | 139| 70|  13|  6|   |   |   || 228 ||      |  160 |     |
  Invincible | 221|   |  25|   |  2|  2|   || 250 || 2000 | 2000 | 1000|
  Inflexible | 139| 21|  11| 37|   |   |   || 208 ||      | 2000 |     |
  Beacon     |  21|   |    |  1| 61| 18|   || 101 ||  320 |      |     |  3
  Condor     | 162|   |   8|   | 31|   |   || 201 || 1000 |      |  200| 13
  Bittern    |  66|  7|   1|   |   | 12| 3 ||  89 ||      |      |     |
  Cygnet     |  72|   |    |   | 71|   |   || 143 ||      |      |     |
  Decoy      |  69|   |    |   |   |   |   ||  69 ||   40 |      |     |
  Helicon    |   6|   |    |   |   |   |   ||   6 ||      |      |     |
    TOTAL    |2246|233| 261|154|175|126| 3 ||3198 ||10,160|16,233| 7100| 37

The hits received by the fleet were as follows:--

_Alexandra._ Twenty-four shot and shell penetrated the ship above the
armour-plating. Several shot and shell struck the armour; of these, some
made indentations on the plates from five inches to one inch in depth.
The foremost funnel was struck in three places. The total number of hits
was about sixty.

_Sultan._ Number of hits, twenty-seven, of which two struck the armour,
denting two plates, and starting one. One shot went through the after
funnel. The holes made in the side were as follows:--One sixteen inches
by twelve inches; another fifteen inches in diameter; and a third
fourteen inches in diameter. A hole sixteen inches by ten was made
through the mainmast.

_Superb._ Fourteen hits, of which seven were on the hull, and seven on
the upper works and spars. A 10-inch shell struck the port side, and,
bursting, tore a hole in the side ten feet by four feet, within three
feet of the water-line. The armour-plating on the port side was struck
by two shells, of which one indented the armour three inches, and the
other burst, starting a plate, and breaking fourteen rivet-heads. Some
of the rigging was shot away, and a hole twelve inches in diameter was
made in the foremast. Two other holes in the side were as follows:--One
ten inches in diameter, four feet above the water-line; the other twelve
inches in diameter (made by a 10-inch shot), five feet above the

_Penelope._ Eight hits, of which three were on the armour, making little
or no indentation. Of the others, one passed through the after embrasure
on the starboard side; another hit the starboard quarter gallery; the
third struck a 9-pounder gun, carried off the sight and damaged the
carriage; the fourth hit the mainyard, port side; and the fifth struck
the muzzle of one of the 8-inch guns, then broke up and destroyed the
transom plate of the carriage. The gun and carriage were put out of

_Invincible._ Eleven hits, six of which passed through the side. A large
dent was made in the armour by a shot which also started a plate.

_Inflexible._ About six hits altogether. One shot struck the unarmoured
part of the hull, and, penetrating, damaged the bollards and did other
injury. Other shots damaged the upper-works, but the armour-plating was
not struck.

The _Monarch_, _Temeraire_, _Hecla_, and gunboats received no hits at

With regard to the effects of the bombardment on the various forts, it
is proposed to give a short account, taking them in the same order in
which they were first presented to the reader.[25]

1. _Fort Marabout._--A small store was burnt. There were several hits on
the scarp, but none of the guns were in any way injured.

2. _Fort Adjemi._--Uninjured.

3. _Marza-el-Kanat._--No injury was done to the fort, but a store of
gun-cotton was exploded.

4. The citadel of Mex had several breaches made in the works, but no
guns were dismounted.

5. _Old Fort of Mex._--Parapets were uninjured, but the buildings in the
rear were almost swept away. A small store in front of magazine was
levelled to the ground. The large store was riddled with shot, but the
magazine was untouched. The barracks were much damaged. The fort was
found to contain many fragments of shell, and the loss of life among the
defenders was probably considerable. The damage to the guns was as
follows:--A 10-inch Armstrong gun was struck in the second coil by a
shell which cut a groove of an oval shape in the metal; the coil was
shaken out of place and cracked, but the gun was left serviceable. A
9-inch Armstrong gun was struck by a shell, and received an oval graze
1·25 inch in depth. In the right portion of the battery, a 10-inch S.B.
and two 8-inch Armstrong guns were struck by shrapnel bullets, and the
fifth gun from the left, an 8-inch Armstrong, was struck on the coil by
a shell. The blow dismounted gun, carriage and slide. The metal of the
gun was ripped off for eighteen inches, and the trunnion ring was also
started by the force of the blow. The remaining guns (36-pounders) were

_Left Flank Battery._--Left gun(10-inch S.B.). This gun was hit on the
right of the carriage by a splinter, the gun was uninjured. No.3 gun
(10-inch S.B.).--This was hit by a shell on the muzzle, gun uninjured.

6. The Mex Lines, armed with S.B. guns, were not fought, and the works
escaped injury.

7. _Fort Kamaria_ was not much injured. A 10-inch S.B. gun was
dismounted by a shell.

    In view of the tremendous fire to which Fort Mex was subjected,
    and the comparatively short range at which all the ships except
    the _Temeraire_ engaged it, it is almost impossible to believe
    that not a single gun here was disabled or dismounted during the
    action proper. The 8-inch gun which was dismounted was bowled
    over by the _Penelope_ long after the fort had ceased firing,
    and from a distance stated to be about 300 yards. The successful
    shot was the thirtieth of this series, and was aimed by the
    gunnery lieutenant.

    "This fort was the only one which could not have resumed action
    on the following day, in consequence of the injury done by the
    landing-party by exploding gun-cotton and spiking the

8. _Omuk Kubebe._--The effects of the bombardment were considerable,
though they were due less to the number of hits than to the size and
weight of the 16-inch shells which caused most of the injuries. The
effect of three of these shells from the _Inflexible_ was worthy of
note. One shell having burst on the top of the scarp made an almost
practicable breach. Two others, within a few feet of each other, hit the
parapet, 24 feet thick, and almost pierced it. They appear to have
struck the exterior slope, and having cut a trough in the parapet about
11 feet in width, burst after penetrating 17 feet, and formed craters 16
feet in diameter, and 5 feet and 4 feet 6 inches in depth, respectively.
With regard to the ordnance, the only damage was the destruction of a
36-pounder S.B. gun.

9. _Saleh Aga._--One 10-inch and one 6·5 S.B. gun were dismounted, and
one of the 6·5-inch S.B. guns was destroyed, though not dismounted.

10. The adjoining battery received only slight injuries.

11. _Lighthouse Fort, or Fort Ras-el-Tin._--The barracks to the north of
the fort were riddled with shell, and in many parts left in ruins. The
parapets on the west side were so scored with shell that it was
difficult to estimate the number of hits, but at no point had they been
pierced. The scarp also suffered severely, both at the bastions and on
the curtain; and the right face of the bastion was much marked by
shrapnel bullets. On the west front the parapet showed about
twenty-three hits, and the scarp twenty-four; two stores were burnt, and
the rifled-shell store was riddled with shell. The Lighthouse itself was
hit by several shells, and the buildings round its base were reduced to
ruins. Right gun (9-inch).--This gun was sent back to the end of the
slide, and breaking the ties was tilted up on its breech with the
muzzle in the air. Left gun (9-inch).--This was struck by two shells,
and gun and carriage were both destroyed. The former was hit on the
trunnion ring, which had been partially carried away, the carriage was
in pieces, and the brackets were torn off and broken. The gun was thrown
about twelve feet to the rear and crushed several of the gunners, ten
bodies having been found beneath it. In the left bastion, a 10-inch
Armstrong gun was hit on the muzzle, but the tube was not damaged. The
sockets of the levers were broken by use, the tackle shot away, and the
shot-crane broken and useless. A 9-inch gun was run back and tilted up
on the breech in the same manner as the 9-inch gun in the right bastion.
An 8-inch gun was struck in reverse by shells. The gun and carriage were
capsized on the left side, but uninjured. One truck of the slide was cut
away. The Lighthouse Fort suffered more severely than either Pharos or
Adda, since there was not one of the rifled guns which could bear on the
fleet left fit for service.

12. _The Lines of Ras-el-Tin._--(Left or Harem Battery.) The effects of
the bombardment on the fort were small, but the loss of life must have
been considerable, as many shells burst in it. The rear face of the
tower was in ruins. Right gun (8-inch Armstrong).--A 9-inch Palliser
shell struck the lower side of the gun and burst on the breast of the
carriage with the following results: the gun beyond being indented for a
distance of 8 inches in length was uninjured, but had been thrown about
10 feet from its original position. Both brackets of the carriage were
torn away. The entire carriage was a wreck. Centre gun (8-inch
Armstrong).--The right-front truck of the carriage was broken, and the
gun was struck by a splinter on the chase. The gun and the carriage,
however, suffered no serious injury, though the left bracket of the
latter was pierced by a splinter. The centre battery in the interior was
almost uninjured, though the parapet was deeply scored in all directions
by shells. The embrasure of the left gun (9-inch) was choked up by the
ruins of the cheeks, whilst the revetment on each side of the neck was
swept away. The condition of the guns was as follows:--10-inch Armstrong
gun.--The right-front truck of the carriage was carried away, and the
buffers of the slide were much damaged by the recoil of the gun. 9-inch
Armstrong gun.--The gun and carriage were uninjured except that the
lever of the elevating gear was bent, and the holdfast was rising off
the pin. 9-inch left gun.--This was hit on the left trunnion by a shell
which tore off the cap square, and also by a second shell, on the right
bracket six inches in the rear of the trunnion. The gun and carriage
were, however, practically uninjured. This battery in the early reports
of the bombardment was miscalled the Moncrieff Battery, but there was in
it no gun mounted on that system. The Moncrieff gun, 180 yards to the
westward, was hit on the left side by a splinter of a shell, and a bolt
in the rear of the left bracket was also cut out by a Nordenfeldt
bullet. Beyond this it was unhurt, and remained perfectly serviceable.

_The Hospital Battery._--The effects of the bombardment here were
overwhelming. The entire gun portions were so entirely destroyed that
it was difficult to discover where the original crest had been.
The injuries to the guns were as follows:--Right gun (7-inch
Armstrong).--The cheeks of the embrasure were driven in on the gun, and
the trucks were jammed, otherwise the gun and carriage were uninjured.
The former was, however, scored with forty-nine hits from a 10-inch
shrapnel shell, the greatest depth of any hit being 5 inches. Left gun
(7-inch Armstrong).--A shell burst under the front racer on the left
side of this gun, tore it up and bent it into a vertical plane, twisting
the truck and forcing it off the racer. The slide was also jammed by the
ruins of the revetment. The gun-carriage and slide were otherwise
uninjured, and were left fit for service.[27]

13. _Fort Adda._--The barracks and stores, especially on the east side
of the fort, were very much injured, but the batteries were not
materially damaged. The only shell which entered, that on the southern
half of the western side, blew up the magazine. The loss of life from
the explosion was probably very great, and the entire space between the
magazine and the gate was covered with stones, timber, and broken shell.
The injury to the guns was as follows:--A 10-inch S.B. gun was
dismounted by a shell which threw the gun and carriage to a distance of
about 15 feet from the slide. Another 10-inch S.B. gun was similarly
dismounted, whilst a third was struck on the left side of the platform
by a shell which had previously cut off the cascabel of the second gun
to the left; the beams of the platform were completely shattered, and
the gun with its carriage was overturned and wrecked.

14. _Fort Pharos._--The west tower and front were breached in many
places; the minaret was partly knocked down, and the whole of the west
front of the keep, with its two turrets, were in ruins. The south-east
corners of the fort were also much shattered by the shells which passed
over the west front. The stores and barracks suffered severely, and the
destruction of so much masonry must have added considerably to the moral
effect of the fire of the ships. With regard to the sea front, the
parapet was hit in several places (seven in all), but only in three
cases did a shell enter the battery. The corners of the traverse to the
right of the 8-inch Armstrong guns were carried away by two shells; a
third shell pierced the sole of the embrasure of the 10-inch Armstrong
gun, and threw the large granite block which formed the sill on to the
platform of the gun, so the gun might be said to be out of action. Of
the S.B. guns, one heavy 10-inch on the west tower was dismounted, by a
16-inch shell from the _Inflexible_, one 10-inch gun on the west front
was capsized and put out of action, and it is not unlikely that another,
with its carriage, fell into the crater formed by a shell.

On the rear face, a 36-pounder, having been hit on the cascabel by a
chance shell, was thrown completely over the parapet, and left standing
on its muzzle at a distance of 30 feet from its original position.
Another gun was also unserviceable, owing to the partial destruction of
its carriage by a shell. But it was in the casemates below that the fire
of the ships inflicted the greatest injury. The front wall of the
casemates, which is faced with masonry two feet in thickness, was in
many places torn away under the stress of fire, leaving only six feet of
rubble as a protection to the guns. Through the latter the heavy shells
pierced with ease. The results were as follows:--Under west tower,
casemate penetrated, gun not disabled. In casemates Nos. 1 to 12, just
one half of the guns were disabled. Of the casemates on the right sea
front, No. 17 was the only one in which there was no gun hit. The loss
of life in the casemates must have been out of all proportion to the
effect produced by the feeble guns (six 5-inch S.B.) mounted within.

On the scarp of casemates Nos. 1 to 12 there were about 13 hits, of
which seven pierced the wall.

15. _Fort Silsileh._--The fire does not appear to have in any way
injured the guns or stores of this fort, though fragments of at least
two shells lay around the rifled guns.

The total number of guns dismounted was, four M.L.R. guns, sixteen S.B.
guns, and one mortar.

The forts at Alexandria generally were badly knocked about, but the more
modern parapets were not seriously injured. If the bombardment were
directed against the forts in their defensive capacity, it must be
pronounced a failure. If its object were the dismounting of the rifled
guns, it must be conceded that such results as attended the work of
either the inside squadron (where only one gun of this type was
seriously affected), or even of the outside squadron (where less than
half of the guns were permanently disabled), do not justify the verdict
of success.

In the wider sense, however, of having driven the Egyptian gunners from
their batteries and having silenced the forts, the fleet was
unquestionably victorious.



The following day, the 12th July, when it was proposed to renew the
bombardment, there was dull gloomy weather off Alexandria, with a haze
hanging over the city. There had been a strong breeze from the sea
during the previous night, and it was still blowing fresh from the
N.N.W., causing the ironclads forming the outside squadron to roll

The gunboat _Beacon_ at daylight collected the bodies of the men
belonging to the fleet, killed the previous day, and buried them at sea.

The _Humber_ storeship appeared in sight, and working parties were sent
to her for ammunition.

At 9 a.m. the _Inflexible_ and _Temeraire_ were sent to reconnoitre the
batteries from Eunostos Point on Ras-el-Tin, to Fort Pharos.

At 10.15 the _Temeraire_ reported that the Hospital Battery was
prepared, that two large rifled guns were ready with guns' crews about
them, and that numbers of men under arms were in the barracks and
covered way. The _Inflexible_ at the same time signalled that a large
body of men, armed with rifles, was in the rear of the Hospital
earthworks. In reply, the _Sultan_ signalled to the _Inflexible_ and
_Temeraire_, "Close, and open fire with shell." At 10.40 the two ships,
having taken up position, fired twelve shells, to which there was no
reply, and the men were observed leaving the batteries.

At 10.48 flags of truce were displayed at the Lighthouse Battery and at
Fort Adda. At the same time, a boat bearing a white flag came out
towards the _Inflexible_. This being noticed, the vessels were ordered
to cease firing. The boat then returned to the shore without

At 11 the Admiral signalled to the _Penelope_ and _Sultan_, "Weather
having moderated, Admiral intends to attack Marabout and Adjemi;
approach with _Sultan_, _Alexandra_, _Temeraire_, and _Superb_. I will
send gunboat to summon enemy to surrender."

At 11.10 the _Bittern_ was sent with a flag of truce to communicate with
the Egyptian authorities.

At 11.30 the squadron was reinforced by the arrival of the ironclad
_Achilles_, belonging to the Channel Fleet.

At 2.50 p.m. the _Bittern_ returned, and signalled, "Negotiations have
failed, have informed authorities you will engage batteries at 3.30
precisely." At 3.40 the _Bittern_ hauled down her flag of truce, and it
was reported that the flag of truce at Ras-el-Tin was also taken down,
though this was subsequently found not to have been the case.

At 3.50, the Egyptian flag at Marabout having been hauled down, the
vessels there were recalled, and the Admiral signalled to the _Sultan_,
"Engage batteries off Pharos and Ras-el-Tin with your squadron." At the
same time the _Invincible_ fired a shot into the Mex Forts, but got no

At 4.40 a general signal was made to the ships to "take up position for
engaging batteries, anchoring as convenient;" and at 5 the _Alexandra_,
_Temeraire_, _Achilles_, _Superb_, and _Sultan_ weighed anchor, and
proceeded in line towards Fort Pharos. None of the ships, however,
opened fire, as the flag of truce at Ras-el-Tin was seen to be still

At 5.40 the _Helicon_ was sent into harbour with a flag of truce. The
instructions of the officer in command were to inform the authorities
that if they wished to treat with the Admiral they could do so by
returning in the _Helicon_, and that if they did not do so, no more
flags of truce would be respected.

At 5.50 the signal was made for the squadron to anchor for the night.

The _Helicon_, pursuant to orders, steamed up the harbour and lay off
the Arsenal wall, whilst the officer in command went on board the
Khedive's yacht _Maharoussa_, expecting to find some one to treat with,
but not a person was on board. After waiting half an hour, he signalled
that he had been unable to find any of the authorities to communicate
with, and returned at 8.20 p.m.

As early as four in the afternoon a part of the town had been observed
to be on fire, and the conflagration soon after was seen to spread

During the night the fires on shore continued to extend, and it became
evident that it was the richest part of Alexandria, the European
quarter, which was in flames.

The spectacle as viewed from the ships was grand, but awful in
character. The sky on the land side was lighted up with a fierce red
glare, and columns of smoke covered the city and surrounding country.

The Admiral's first idea was to send a landing-party to save the town.
He, however, hesitated on account of the risk to his men. Eventually, to
discover the state of things on shore, he landed a party of fifteen men
from the _Invincible_. The streets were found completely deserted, and
all was silent save for the roar and crackle of the flames and the sound
of falling beams and walls. The party returned at three a.m. on the

Daylight revealed the town still wrapped in flames, and an immense cloud
of smoke hung over its whole extent.

At 5.40 a.m. the _Invincible_, _Monarch_, and _Penelope_ left their
anchorage off Mex, and steamed into the outer harbour, with the _Beacon_
and _Bittern_ in company. At 5.50 the _Helicon_, which had again gone in
to pick up refugees, embarked and brought 170 of them for distribution
amongst the ships outside. They were of all classes and nationalities,
and included several women and children. They had passed through the
streets unmolested, and reported Alexandria deserted, and that all the
troops had left the previous day, after setting fire to the town. It
was believed that part of the soldiers had gone to Rosetta, and part to
Damanhour. The _Helicon_ reported that there were a great many more
refugees, women and children, inside the mole waiting for an opportunity
to come off.

In the meantime the Admiral held a consultation with some of the
captains and officers under his command as to what was best to be done.
On the one hand, there was the certainty that unless some step should be
taken, a great part, if not the whole, of Alexandria would be destroyed.
On the other, it was uncertain how far Arabi's troops had retired, and
one report was that they were massed to the number of 9,000 outside the
town, no further off than Moharrem Bey Gate. The number of men that
could be landed without disabling the ships was not large. The Admiral
found it difficult to decide. Already he must have begun to realize the
error he had committed in opening fire with such precipitation. The
Channel Fleet (of which, as already stated, the _Achilles_ had arrived)
were known to be on their way from Malta, as well as the _Orontes_,
troop-ship, with troops from Gibraltar. The _Tamar_, too, with 1,000
marines, was at Malta. The ships of the Channel Fleet alone could have
furnished a contingent of 1,800 men in addition to those whom Admiral
Seymour could have disembarked from his own squadron.

The bombardment, so long delayed, might well have been retarded for the
short period necessary to enable the reinforcements to arrive. What had
occurred was not altogether unforeseen. Arabi had, before the
bombardment, declared that if the ships opened fire he would burn the
European quarter; and the fulfilment of his threat would have not only
gratified his thirst for revenge, but would have also covered the
retreat of his forces.

At last a landing was resolved on, and at 8.35 a.m. the general signal
was made, "Prepare to land marines," followed ten minutes later by the
order, "Prepare to land brigade of seamen." The _Helicon_, _Bittern_ and
_Beacon_ were despatched to the outside squadron to bring in as many men
as possible, whilst the _Condor_ and _Cygnet_ were told off to take the
seamen and marines from the inshore vessels. At 9.5 the _Alexandra_ was
detached to reconnoitre off Rosetta Gate, and the remaining vessels of
the outside squadron were directed to take stations for bombarding, in
case the landing should be resisted.

At 10.30 the landing-party left the ships. The force consisted of four
hundred men, including all the marines of the squadron; it was led by
Commander Hammill, of the _Monarch_, and had with it a Gatling gun.

The _Invincible_, at the same time, sent ashore and spiked the guns at
Fort Saleh Aga, and the other vessels landed men to destroy the guns in
the Lighthouse Fort at Ras-el-Tin.

Whilst Commander Hammill's force was disembarking, large bodies of
soldiers were seen moving towards Fort Silsileh, apparently accompanied
by field-pieces, and the _Sultan_, _Temeraire_, and _Achilles_ were
ordered to watch that point, and to bombard if necessary.

In the intervals between carrying out the above-mentioned operations,
the larger ships were engaged in recruiting their exhausted stock of
ammunition from the store-ship _Humber_. In this matter a most
unexpected difficulty arose. Through some unpardonable blunder the ship
had been despatched from Malta without a single filled common shell on
board, and actually without powder to fill the empty shells she had
brought with her. Further than this, she had brought no fuzes, and as
the vessels of war had no reserves of powder, they would, had
hostilities been resumed, have been speedily reduced to a state of
comparative impotence.

In the course of the day, anxiety being felt for the safety of the
Khedive, the _Condor_ was sent to cruise off the Palace at Ramleh.

Further parties of men were landed in the town, making the total force
disembarked about 800 men. They took with them a day's provisions,
Gatling guns, and ammunition.

At 3.25 p.m. the _Temeraire_ signalled that great activity was observed
about Ramleh Palace, and that Dervish Pasha was supposed to be there.

At 4.43 the _Temeraire_, having reported that Fort Pharos did not appear
to be entirely deserted, had permission given her to send a party to
spike the guns there.

At 5 the _Bittern_ was directed to take a guard of fifty marines to the
Palace of Ras-el-Tin, for the protection of the Khedive, who was
expected from Ramleh.

What had been taking place on shore in the meantime is reserved for
another chapter.



After the preceding narrative of events from a naval point of view, it
may be convenient to relate what was taking place at the time in
Alexandria itself.

During the whole of the night preceding the 11th July, the native
population had been leaving the town in crowds, some in carts and others
on foot, the women crying and uttering loud lamentations. Towards
daylight the movement slackened. From three a.m. troops were marching
through on their way to Ras-el-Tin; at five the last detachment passed.

The morning dawned on the city without a cloud in the heavens. There was
a gentle breeze from the north-west, all was quiet as the early sun
gilded the tops of the domes and minarets of the various mosques, and
lighted up the acacia trees of the Place Mehemet Ali and the Place de
l'Eglise. In the streets the soldiers, who had passed the night on the
door-steps of the houses, on the marble benches of the square, or on the
ground, slowly roused themselves, and, yawning, looked about them in a
somnolent way. The streets were being watered as usual, the "bowabs," or
door-keepers, were tranquilly smoking their cigarettes at the
house-doors, and the Arab women were going about selling milk as if
nothing unusual were about to happen. With the exception of these few
indications of life, the streets were deserted. The military posts were
relieved at six o'clock, as usual each soldier carrying a linen pouch
full of cartridges.

The clock of the church of St. Catherine struck seven, and before the
sound had died away, the thundering boom of the first gun from the fleet
startled the city, and the few civilians who were about sought refuge in
their dwellings. The Egyptian soldiers remained at their posts.

Then came a solemn silence which lasted some minutes, after which the
bombardment, with all its horrors, began. The English ships were seen in
the distance vomiting volumes of fire and smoke, whilst the forts in
their turn thundered forth a reply. The scene was of the grandest
description, and a few seconds later the shrieks of the projectiles as
they flew overhead mingled with the boom of the cannon, which echoed
and re-echoed on all sides. The report from the huge 80-ton guns of the
_Inflexible_ was easily distinguishable above the general roar.

At a little before eight a shell fell in the Arab quarter, behind the
Ramleh railway station, causing a panic, which forced many of the
inhabitants into the forts close by.

Arabi, who had from an early hour stationed himself at the Ministry of
Marine in the Arsenal, finding the missiles from the fleet falling
thickly there, left with Toulba Pasha and an escort of cavalry, and at
eight o'clock drove to the fortifications behind Fort Kom-el-Dyk, where
he remained till four p.m.

By nine o'clock the streets were totally deserted except by the
soldiers. The cannonade slackened, and sounds of rejoicing came from
some of the native cafés, where it was reported that two ironclads were
sunk and five were disabled.

At about the same time a shell fell on the terrace of a house alongside
the Palace Menasce in the Rosetta Road, and another burst over the
German Consulate. The discharges averaged about two per minute. The
soldiers now commenced to send patrols to the houses of such Europeans
as were ashore, to prevent any attempt at signalling to the English

The number of Europeans ashore at this period amounted to about 1,500.
Of these some 100 were at the College of the Frères, a great number in
the Greek Church, and in the Greek and European Hospitals. The German
Hospital at Moharrem Bey also sheltered a large number of nurses,
invalids, and refugees. The Anglo-Egyptian Bank, in the Rue Cherif
Pasha, was held by a determined party of about twenty (subsequently
increased to eighty-two). The Danish Consul-General had fortified the
Danish Consulate, where a large number of people, including many women
and children, found a refuge.

There were other Europeans, mostly of the poorest class, hidden away in
their dwellings in various parts of the town, and to all these the
movements of the patrols naturally occasioned serious disquietude.

Early in the forenoon, an Egyptian officer mounted the roof of the
Crédit Lyonnais Bank, and commenced cutting away the telephone wires.
Shortly afterwards a gang of native boys in the same street began
pulling down all the wires they could reach, raising at the same time
the wildest shouts.

At nine, a shell fell in some stables in the Rue Copt, and for a quarter
of an hour the neighbourhood was enveloped in a cloud of dust. At ten, a
shell fell in the Franciscan Convent, where a number of persons were
assembled, but, as it did not burst, did no injury beyond destroying one
or two of the walls.

Shortly afterwards a shell fell into a house in the Rue Cherif Pasha,
making a large hole. Another pierced the wall of the Jewish Synagogue.
Another hit the Zaptieh, and a fourth struck a house in Frank Street. As
the missiles fell, the soldiers sought shelter in the doorways of the
houses, but did not entirely desert their posts.

At eleven o'clock, the natives spread a report that only three ironclads
remained afloat, and great rejoicings took place in the Arab cafés.

Half-an-hour later, an officer and a detachment of soldiers stationed
themselves opposite the Anglo-Egyptian Bank, and insisted on mounting to
the roof to satisfy themselves that there was no signalling going on.
They also went to the central Telephone Office and to the Telegraph
Offices and cut the wires. At the office of the Eastern Telegraph
Company, they found one of the employés, a French subject, who had
refused to go afloat, and murdered him on the spot.

At this period, isolated firing from a westerly direction was all that
was heard; otherwise the silence of death prevailed throughout the town.

At half-past twelve, two shells, one following the other in quick
succession, struck the Khedivial Schools, in the Rosetta Road, and,
bursting, destroyed the south-western angle of the building.

Soon after the cannonading commenced, a number of empty carts and drays
was seen going towards the Marina. During the forenoon, these began to
return laden with dead artillerymen. The first load passed up soon after
ten in the morning, the bodies being stripped and tied in with ropes. A
little later, the wounded began to arrive in great numbers, some in
carriages and some in carts, many of the men showing ghastly wounds.
Crowds of women followed them, uttering cries of distress and

At one p.m. a crowd of native children carrying a green flag passed down
the Rue Cherif Pasha beating petroleum tins and calling on God and the
Prophet. During the day many of the houses in which Europeans were seen
on the terraces or roofs, watching the bombardment, were surrounded by
soldiers, who, under the pretext that the inmates were signalling to the
fleet, forced them to descend and accompany them to the police-stations.
Eight or ten Europeans were dragged from their dwellings and set upon in
the streets by the mob. As soon as they fell into the power of the
latter, they were forced along by soldiers towards the Moharrem Bey
Gate, and struck with the butt ends of rifles, and received blows from
naboots. As they passed along they were subjected to every species of
ill-usage. On their arrival, covered with blood and in a wretched
condition, fresh troubles awaited them. They were cast indiscriminately
into cells with natives, and endured the vilest usage.

A mob of natives in the course of the day broke into the German
Hospital, where there were many European refugees as well as the
patients. The inmates ran for the cellars, where the invalids had
already been placed for safety. The Secretary of the German Consulate
was the last to flee, and as a final effort he fired a shot from his
revolver. The effect on the crowd was magical. They drew back, and
contented themselves with demanding that the flag which was flying over
the hospital, and which they imagined was being used for signalling to
the fleet, should be given up to them. This was acceded to, and they
then dispersed.

The Danish Consulate was surrounded by soldiers and a mob of Arabs, who
required the Consul to haul down the flag flying over the house. This he
courageously refused to do, and whilst the dispute was at its height,
three Arabs were killed by shells almost at his door, and the rest fled.

At three, the fire of the ships, which had in the meantime slackened,
was resumed with great vigour. One shell burst at Moharrem Bey Gate, and
killed two officers and six men of the police.

According to Arabi's statement, he received during the day several
messages from the Khedive, congratulating him on the behaviour of the
troops. Shortly after four o'clock Arabi left the town in a carriage
with an escort of soldiers, taking the route by the Rosetta Gate.

About this time the _Inflexible_ and _Temeraire_ were observed to
approach Fort Pharos and reopen fire on the batteries there, and a great
number of their shells were seen to strike the rocks, raising clouds of
_débris_, and bounding in repeated ricochets over the face of the water.
Towards five o'clock the picturesque mosque in the fort fell, burying in
its ruins a number of the wounded who had taken refuge behind the walls.
The two ships at the same time pitched a few shells at Fort Silsileh.
The firing continued, at intervals, until past five o'clock, when it
ceased altogether.

As soon as the cannonade was over, the exodus of natives from the town
recommenced, and the streets were again filled. The desire of all was to
escape from the town as soon as possible. Along the banks of the
Mahmoudieh Canal, and the line of the railway to Cairo, was one vast
stream of fugitives, which only ceased as night fell.

Then a great stillness came over Alexandria.

The night was calm. The gas was not lighted, and the city, plunged in
darkness, resembled a vast necropolis. The only sounds heard from time
to time were the plaintive howlings of forsaken dogs. A few fugitives
ventured into the streets, and encountered only the sentries and

On the morning of the 12th, the movement of the natives recommenced. All
those who had remained in the Ras-el-Tin and other quarters endeavoured
to get out of the town with their luggage and effects. It was rumoured
that the bombardment was to recommence, and the terror of the people was
indescribable. The trains from Moharrem Bey Station were thronged with
fugitives, who not only rode inside, but on the roof, the steps, and
even the buffers of the carriages.

In the Place Mehemet Ali a regiment of infantry were scattered about,
the men, with arms piled, seated or lying on the ground, tranquilly
smoking their cigarettes. A few of the bowabs were seen going to the
bazaars and returning to the houses with small stores of meat and other
provisions. Amongst the Europeans, the greatest anxiety prevailed, and
every one was asking when the disembarkation would begin. The soldiers
on duty became more and more threatening, and the supplies of
provisions began to run short. Gangs of disorderly natives from time to
time appeared and made violent demonstrations in front of such houses as
were known to shelter Europeans.

From early morning, bands of natives ran through the streets with
soldiers at their head, looking for any Europeans who might be
concealed. At a little before eleven the cannonade recommenced, and a
dozen reports were heard coming from the westward. There was then a
silence, and all wondered what next would happen.

As soon as the cannonade ceased, the troops at Moharrem Bey and Rosetta
Gates precipitated themselves into the streets, calling on the natives
to flee, as the dogs of Christians were going to disembark and massacre
the Mussulmans. The news soon after spread that the convicts in the
Arsenal had been let loose, and were going to pillage and fire the town.

An hour later, part of the garrison left the town by the Rosetta Gate,
taking the road to Ramleh. The first of them marched in fours in fairly
good order, and were followed by 1,500 more who passed in gradually
increasing disorder, until they became confused with the rabble of
fugitives who crowded the roads.

At one o'clock the soldiers in the street received the order to eat
their midday meal, and, each opening his haversack, set to work with an
appetite indicating hours of abstinence. When the men had finished their
repast, mounted mustaphazin and officers, amongst whom was Soleyman
Sami, appeared, and gave hurried orders to the soldiers at the various
posts. It appears that these orders were for them to abandon the town,
and retire outside. The military at once formed at certain given points,
such as the Place Mehemet Ali, the Place de l'Eglise, and the Place de
la Mosque d'Attarin, and shortly after the evacuation commenced the
greater part of the soldiers proceeded to the Mahmoudieh Canal.[29] Then
arose a general cry of "Death to the Christians!" People were heard
hammering at the doors and windows of the houses. This was followed by
the sound of falling shutters, and the crash of broken glass. Infuriated
crowds appeared on the scene, armed with heavy sticks, with which they
carried on the work of destroying and plundering the shops and
dwellings. The soldiers, too, broke from the ranks and joined in the
looting, and with the butt-ends of their rifles assisted in forcing open
doors and windows.

Continuous lines of soldiers and civilians staggered past laden with
plunder. In a short time the streets were literally blocked by the mob.

The order was given to the natives to quit the town, and from two p.m. a
constant stream of fugitives flowed out of the Rosetta and Moharrem Bey
Gates. When outside the town, they were met by Bedouins, who, in many
cases, fought with them for the spoil. One eye-witness stated that a
common handkerchief changed hands in this way no less than three times
whilst he was looking on. Not only furniture, looking-glasses, and such
things, were carried off, but horses and carriages as well. The
soldiers, in many instances, undressed themselves and wrapped round
their bodies all sorts of rich stuffs, such as silks and satins. Some
brought gilt chairs and sofas with them, but, finding the articles too
cumbersome, broke them to pieces, and tore off the velvet coverings,
leaving the remainder in the road.

The large open space between the water-works and the European cemeteries
was crowded by a huge mob of pillagers, fighting and struggling amongst
themselves for the plunder. Those who could get away with their spoils
took them either by the road to Ramleh, or by that leading to the
Mahmoudieh Canal.

The wildest disorder prevailed, and amongst the fugitives were Turkish
women and children of good position from the different harems. On
arriving at the gates of the town the women were attacked by the mob and
outraged. The marauders, in their haste to get possession of the
jewellery which the women were wearing, even cut their ears and wrists,
and to silence their cries stunned them with blows from their sticks.
Soon afterwards several soldiers were seen returning to the town,
apparently to share in the pillage, and struggling to force their way
through the gates against the stream of pillagers and fugitives going
the other way. Many of those coming out encumbered with heavy loads were
upset in the _mélée_, and several of the soldiers, finding it impossible
to re-enter the town, contented themselves with joining the Bedouins in
seizing the loot of the fugitives.

About four p.m. volumes of smoke, accompanied by the crackling of
flames, were observed in the neighbourhood of the British Consulate.
These indications increased every instant, and as the sun went down the
whole sky became lighted up with a lurid glare. This was accompanied by
the shouts and cries of Europeans, who were either burned out or dragged
from their dwellings by natives, who, with sticks and knives in their
hands, spared few whom they met. A small number found refuge in the
houses as yet untouched by the fire and guarded by Europeans, but most
of the rest fell victims. Amongst those who humanely opened their doors
to the fugitives was the Danish Consul, who sheltered no less than 150.

It was a night to be remembered. From the terraces of the houses the
flames were observed extending in the direction of the Rue Cherif Pasha.
The French Consulate, the Okella Nuova, and other parts of the Place
Mehemet Ali, were already wrapped in flames.

During the night nothing was heard but the crackling of the flames,
mingled with the cries of the incendiaries and the occasional fall of a
heavy building. The volumes of smoke filled the air with the most
nauseating vapours. In some cases, cotton soaked in petroleum and set on
fire was thrown into the houses, whilst in others tins of paraffin were
poured over the furniture and ignited. Where ingress to the dwellings
could not be obtained, bedding soaked with petroleum was piled up on the
outside and fired. On every side the smell of petroleum was

The night passed without slumber for those on shore, and on the morning
of the 13th Alexandria presented the appearance of a vast bonfire. The
Europeans who remained on shore saw the flames gradually closing in on
them. The pillagers and assassins had disappeared, but the atmosphere
had become unbearable. There was further a fear that the Arabs, seeing
that no force was being landed, might return to complete the work of

All hope of a disembarkation appeared as remote as ever. Two of the
ironclads had indeed been seen to approach Fort Pharos and send their
boats ashore, and for a moment it was thought help was coming. The idea
was a vain one. The landing was only for the purpose of spiking the
Egyptian cannon, and this having been accomplished, the ships steamed

The courageous garrison of the Anglo-Egyptian Bank, seeing there was no
help to be expected, resolved to make a sortie, and early in the morning
they all sallied forth together, the women and children were put in the
middle of the troop, and thus they marched towards the Marina. On their
way they were joined by others in the same condition as themselves. They
passed, without encountering any opposition, over masses of burning and
smouldering ruins. They broke open the gates at the Marina, and seizing
some native boats rowed out to H.M.S. _Helicon_.

The Danish Consul and his party still held out, but the situation
becoming worse and worse, at three in the afternoon, they, too, quitted
their stronghold, and having secured the attendance of a European police
officer, marched to the shore, having more than once to go out of their
course to avoid the falling houses. On reaching the Custom-House Quay,
they met the landing party under Commander Hammill. The fugitives passed
the night in safety on board an Egyptian steamer in the harbour, and
were next day taken off to the vessels outside.



On the day of the bombardment the Khedive was at his Palace at Ramleh,
abandoned by all but a few faithful followers.

His Highness was kept badly posted up as to the progress of the
bombardment, and amongst those who came and went with despatches were a
number of spies, who, from time to time, went off to Arabi to inform him
of what was passing at the Palace.

At 8.30 a.m. an aide-de-camp arrived with the news that a considerable
number of the Egyptian gunners were killed, and that several guns had
been dismounted. On the part of the commandant he begged the Khedive to
order reinforcements to be sent. The greatest excitement reigned. There
were no artillerymen available, so the Minister of War was directed to
despatch a force of infantry.

In the course of the forenoon news was brought that the forts were
offering a stout resistance, and that serious damage was being inflicted
on the English fleet. But later, in the afternoon, it became known that
the forts were destroyed, and incapable of offering further opposition.

No further accounts arriving, the Khedive sent for Arabi, about seven
o'clock in the evening. Arabi came from Alexandria, where he had been
during the bombardment, and on his arrival told the Khedive that the
forts were destroyed, and that it was no longer possible to defend them.
"We must," he added, "either have recourse to other measures, or else
come to terms with the Admiral." After some consultation, and more or
less vehement discussion, it was decided that Toulba Pasha should be
sent to the Admiral to confer.

On the morning of the 12th July about 500 Bedouin Arabs appeared before
the Palace with the intention (as they said) of assuring the Khedive of
their fidelity, and with offers of assistance in case of need; but after
a slight demonstration of loyalty they retired.

Shortly after mid-day Toulba returned and announced that the Admiral had
said that, unless he was allowed peaceably to land his men at three
points on the coast, he would recommence the bombardment at two o'clock.

To this demand Toulba said he had objected, as it gave him no time to
obtain instructions, but that the Admiral had refused to allow further
delay. A hurried consultation took place, and it was decided to send
Toulba Pasha to the Admiral to tell him that Egypt had no power to
authorize the landing of foreign troops on her shores without the
consent of the Porte.

Toulba proceeded as far as the Arsenal, and, it being after two o'clock,
the time fixed for recommencing the bombardment, he became alarmed at
the signs of pillage and destruction he saw around him and refused to go
any farther.

Shortly after his departure the Ramleh Palace was surrounded by cavalry
and infantry, about 400 men in all; the first thought was of the loyal
Bedouins, who had been there in the morning and declared their fidelity;
but it was soon discovered that Arabi's people had distributed £2,000
amongst these and other loyalists to secure their absence; that the
force was a hostile one, and that the Khedive was left helpless with his
handful of attendants. Panic spread in the Palace, and the numerous
domestics were beside themselves with fear. The Khedive showed complete
calmness and self-possession, and, sending to the commander of the
troops, inquired what he wanted. He replied that his orders were to
guard the Palace.

The Khedive then sent Sultan Pasha to Arabi to ask the meaning of this
proceeding. Arabi was at Rosetta Gate when Sultan Pasha arrived with the
message from the Khedive.

After some time Toulba Pasha reappeared at the Palace with some of the
Ministers, who endeavoured to explain that the surrounding of the Palace
was a mistake, and that the officer in command should be punished. The
situation remained unchanged until seven o'clock, when it was observed
that the cavalry were preparing to depart--orders, it appeared, having
been given that all troops should follow Arabi. One officer, however,
remained behind with about 250 men.

A General Council was called at the Palace, and it was determined to
inform Admiral Seymour of the situation, and, if possible, get the
Khedive within reach of the fleet. This state of uncertainty and anxiety
continued till the next morning, when the officer left in charge of the
250 men came to His Highness and declared himself to be loyal to the
Khedive. The Khedive made him a firm and impressive speech. The other
officers of his company were called up, and all swore loyalty and
devotion, and kissed His Highness's hand. A distribution of decorations
followed, and confidence was restored.

Zohrab Bey[30] was then sent to inform the Admiral that the Khedive
wished to return to Ras-el-Tin, and at once returned with the news that
the Admiral had sent a guard to assist him.

Tewfik then started for Ras-el-Tin Palace, and in driving into the town
had to make a _détour_ so as to enter by the Moharrem Bey Gate. He was
escorted by sixty or seventy cavalry, and preceded by a group of
outriders carrying white flags on the points of their sabres. He had to
pass _en route_ numerous bands of pillagers and incendiaries, and on
reaching the Palace was received by Admiral Seymour and a force of

In the meantime Commander Hammill's party of 250 bluejackets and 150
marines had landed without opposition. They reached the Palace of
Ras-el-Tin at 10 30 a.m., seized the western end of the Peninsula,
occupied the Arsenal, and threw out a line of sentries north and south
extending from shore to shore. At 12.30 p.m. a small party of marines
and a Gatling's crew from the _Monarch_ pushed on towards the town and
guarded the streets in the immediate neighbourhood, making prisoners of
natives who were seen looting inside the gates, and firing upon those
more remote. In Frank Street they found every shop looted and burnt. The
looters retreated before them, and dropped their plunder.[31]

The streets were strewn with the most miscellaneous articles--broken
clock-cases, empty jewel-boxes, and fragments of all kinds. Every now
and then the party had to run up a side street to avoid the fall of a
house or wall. Bodies of Europeans, stripped and mutilated, were seen in
the Place Mehemet Ali, in an advanced state of putrefaction.[32]

The work of incendiarism was still going on, and even the women were
seen setting fire to houses with petroleum. The fires had occasioned
enormous damage in the European quarter, where not a street was passable
for any distance, all being more or less blocked by the smoking ruins of
the fallen houses. Walls were still tumbling down, and the hot air was
opaque with lime-dust and smoke.

The scenes on every side were appalling. The parts of Alexandria which
were found to have been destroyed, or which were destroyed in the next
two days, included not only the Grand Square, or Place Mehemet Ali, but
all the streets leading from it to the sea, the Rue Cherif Pasha and the
Rue Tewfik Pasha, with the adjoining streets. In the square itself the
kiosques were destroyed; the statue of Mehemet Ali on horseback in the
centre alone remained untouched. One side of the Place de l'Eglise, one
side of the Rue de la Mosque d'Attarin, a portion of the Boulevards de
Ramleh and de Rosette, and the whole of the northern portion of the Rue
de la Bourse, were also consumed. In addition to these, most of the
houses in the following thoroughfares were destroyed: Rue Osman Pasha,
Rue de l'Attarin, Rue des Soeurs, Rue de l'Enchere, and Rue du
Prophete Daniel. The French and Austrian post offices were burned,
together with the Hôtel d'Europe and the Messageries Hôtel;[33] also the
English, French, Greek, Portuguese, and Brazilian Consulates, the Mont
de Piété, and one police-station.

Such of the European dwellings as were not burnt were looted from top to
bottom; articles of furniture not easily removed were wantonly injured
or destroyed. Several of the native houses and shops also suffered in
the general looting carried on. Almost the only European dwellings
untouched were the few in which Europeans were known to have remained.

The English Church was struck by a shell, but not otherwise injured; the
German, the Coptic, the Catholic, and the Israelitish churches were also
uninjured, except that the last-named received one shell. The theatres,
the banks, and the tribunals escaped injury.[34]

It must be borne in mind that all this destruction was the work, not of
the ships, but of the native population. The aim of the vessels,
directed solely on the forts, had been so true that the damage done to
the town by the half-dozen or so shells which struck it was
insignificant, and, with the exception of the harem buildings at
Ras-el-Tin, the British missiles did not create a single conflagration.

At the same time it is difficult to hold Admiral Seymour quite blameless
in the matter. So great was the demoralization of the Egyptians that had
the Admiral, on his own initiative, landed but a few hundred of the
5,880 men on board his ships on the morning of the 12th, they could
easily have occupied the town and averted the catastrophe.

Curiously enough, after the mischief was done, the Admiralty on the 13th
sent a telegram directly authorizing "a landing of seamen and marines
for police purposes, to restore order."

During the afternoon and evening the marines of the _Superb_,
_Inflexible_, _Temeraire_, _Achilles_, and _Sultan_ were added to the
forces on shore. Captain Fisher, of the _Inflexible_, took command of
the whole force, and the patrolling of the city was begun. A company of
Royal Marine artillerymen, armed as infantry, marched through the
European and the Arab quarters of Alexandria. They shot some natives
caught in the act of setting fire to houses, and also three of the
native police, who were pillaging a house after having maltreated the
Berberine door-keeper.

The _Inflexible_, _Temeraire_, and _Achilles_ were stationed off Ramleh
to command the land approaches to Alexandria from the southward and

On the 14th the _Penelope_, with Admiral Hoskins, left for Port Saïd.

Of the events of the 14th, Admiral Seymour says, "Employed during the
whole of the day landing as many men as we could spare from the
squadron, and by evening we had occupied the most important positions."

Alexandria being a walled town, the distribution of the force at Captain
Fisher's disposal had to be governed by this fact, and was practically
as follows:--At the Ramleh station were marines from the _Monarch_. At
the Rosetta Gate were marines from the _Temeraire_. At the Moharrem Bey
Gate were marines from the _Alexandra_. At Fort Kom-el-Dyk Gate were
marines from the _Sultan_. At Pompey's Pillar Gate were marines from the
_Superb_. At the Gabari Caracol Gate were marines from the _Achilles_.
At the Gabari railway station were marines and bluejackets from the
_Alexandra_. At the Zaptieh and Arsenal were marines from the
_Invincible_. As the streets were gradually explored the bodies of many
Europeans were discovered; others were found floating in the harbour.
The corpses found in the streets were buried as quickly as possible.
During this time the town was still being fired and looted in places.

On the 15th the _Minotaur_ arrived with Admiral Dowell, in command of
the Channel Squadron, and a brigade of seamen and marines from her was
at once disembarked. Fort Napoleon was occupied by gunners from the
fleet. Fort Kom-el-Dyk, which it was reported had been mined, was also
occupied by bluejackets. A party of men from the _Alexandra_ destroyed
the guns at Fort Silsileh with gun-cotton.[35]

The German, American, and Greek ships of war landed men to assist in
restoring order. Lord Charles Beresford was appointed Chief of Police,
and persons found pillaging or setting fire to houses were brought
before him and summarily dealt with. Those guilty of pillaging were
flogged, and incendiaries were sentenced to be shot. The American
marines rendered much service in promptly disposing of incendiaries, and
in blowing up houses with gunpowder to check the conflagration.

In consequence of a rumour that Arabi intended to attack the town, a
large number of bluejackets and marines, with Gatling guns, were landed,
each ship reinforcing its detachment on shore.

As a fact, Arabi was busy entrenching himself at Kafr Dowar, and had no
more thought of attacking the British forces than they had of making an
onslaught on him. This, however, was not known to the British Admiral,
who at eleven p.m. telegraphed to the Admiralty as follows:--"Arabi
Pasha reported to be advancing on Alexandria. I have telegraphed to Port
Saïd to intercept ships from Cyprus, and ordered them to call here on
their way back."

On the 15th the Khedive summoned Arabi to Alexandria, which was a little
like "calling up spirits from the vasty deep;" and Arabi telegraphed
from Kafr Dowar, by way of response, that "His Highness would be glad to
hear that recruits were coming in to assist him to fight the English."

At the Khedive's suggestion the Admiral, on the 16th, despatched two
ships to command Aboukir in case Arabi should attempt to cut the dyke
there and let in the sea.

The same day it was found necessary to re-embark the Greek marines who
had been landed to restore order, without, however, being very
successful. The Americans and the others, excepting the Germans,
likewise re-embarked. The Germans remained on shore some days later, and
were most useful.

On the 16th fresh fires broke out in the town, and a party of Bedouins,
150 strong, appeared at Gabari Gate, bent upon looting. They succeeded
in capturing a donkey, when they were fired on by a midshipman of the
_Alexandra_ and twelve seamen, and two of their number were killed.

On the 17th further reinforcements arrived. The _Tamar_ arrived with
1,000 marines from Cyprus. The _Agincourt_ and _Northumberland_
(ironclads) arrived from Port Saïd with the 38th (South Staffordshire)
Regiment, 860 strong, and a battalion of the 60th Rifles, 1,700 in all.
The _Salamis_, with General Sir Archibald Alison and staff, also
arrived, and the General assumed the command of the land forces, now
numbering 3,686 men.

On the same day, Commander Maude, of the _Temeraire_, rode out to within
300 yards of Arabi's position at Kafr Dowar. At Millaha Junction,
Commander Maude found several human bodies lying about in various stages
of decomposition. There were signs of loot in all directions, and the
bodies were evidently those of looters who had in their turn been robbed
by the soldiers.

The rebel camp was reported to consist of 6,000 men, with six batteries
of rifled guns, one battery of Gatlings, and 300 marine artillery,
besides Bedouins. They were intrenching themselves behind earthworks on
the line of railway.

The Khedive now announced that Arabi had been suspended from his
functions as Minister of War. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in
communicating to the Admiral the dismissal of Arabi, stated that "the
publication of the Decree was deferred for fear of seeing reproduced in
Cairo and other towns the disorder which had taken place in Alexandria."

On the 18th, the troopship _Orontes_ arrived from Malta, but through
some unaccountable blundering of the authorities, she came without a
single soldier.

By this time order was beginning to be re-established in Alexandria; the
fires, too, had either burnt themselves out or been extinguished. The
Egyptian Post Office was reopened in the town, and the work of clearing
the streets was proceeded with rapidly. For this purpose many natives
and others out of employment were utilized.

The first day's work in street-clearing was marked by the first public
execution. A negro, who had been caught setting fire to some houses,
was, after a court-martial, tied to a tree in the Place Mehemet Ali, and
shot by a party of sailors. The people too began to return to the town.
These, however, required to be watched, as they were almost to a man
Arabists, and ready to resume the work of incendiarism and plunder on
the first opportunity. Looters were still to be found lurking in odd
corners, notably in the Minet-el-Bassel quarter, where there were stores
containing sugar and grain.

The sanitary condition of the town now began to give rise to
apprehension. Disagreeable odours, indicating the presence of dead
bodies, were perceived proceeding from many of the houses. These were,
no doubt, the victims of the pillagers, left to lie where they fell.

On the 18th the land defence of the city was definitely assumed by the
army, assisted at the Rosetta Gate by marines from the ships, and
elsewhere by the bluejackets with their Gatling guns.

At this period it was found that the supply of provisions in Alexandria
was running short, and steps had to be considered for stopping the
return of the European fugitives.



On the 19th July, Dervish Pasha, the Sultan's Envoy, whose pacifying
mission to Egypt had so signally failed, left Alexandria for

On the 20th a proclamation was issued by Admiral Seymour, with the
permission of the Khedive. It announced that "Orders had been given to
officers commanding patrols to shoot any person taken in the act of
incendiarism; that any person taken in the act of pillage would be sent
to the Zaptieh to be tried and punished; that any person taken a second
time for the same offence would be shot; and that no person would be
allowed to enter or leave the town after sunset."

On the 23rd three natives and one Greek were shot for incendiarism.

It may be interesting to know how things were going on in the interior.
Omar Pasha Loutfi, Governor of Alexandria, returning from Cairo,
reported that he had seen Europeans massacred, and their houses
pillaged, at Damanhour, Tantah, and Mehalleh. The Governor also stated
that he had seen a European and his wife murdered at the Tookh Station,
half-an-hour distant by rail from Cairo.

According to an inquiry made by the Prefect of Police at Tantah, the
number of Europeans murdered, and subsequently buried, in that town,
amounted to fifty-one, and there were about an equal number massacred
and thrown into the canal. At Kafr Zayat, six persons were killed. Ten
Greeks and three Jews were murdered at Benha. Disturbances also occurred
at Zag-a-zig, but no persons were killed there, although one was
wounded. At Galioub, a family was taken out of the railway train, put
under the carriages, and crushed by the wheels. The inspector of the
"Cadastre" at Mehalleh Kebir reported that fifteen Europeans were killed
there. At Kafr Dowar also some Europeans were massacred. The exact
number is not known. Five Europeans were killed at Mehalla-Abou-Ali.

In Cairo, Omar Loutfi found that the greatest excitement and panic
prevailed. The Prefects of Menoufieh and Garbieh, and the Mudir (or
Governor) of Galioubieh, were imprisoned in the Citadel for obeying the

A general Council had been summoned at the Ministry of the Interior to
consider the question of continuing the military preparations. It was
attended by about a hundred Pashas, Ulemas, and merchants. After a
number of violent speeches against the Khedive, the Coptic Patriarch
remarked that the assembly had as yet heard only one side of the
question, viz., that of Arabi, and that before coming to any decision it
was necessary to hear the Khedive's side as well. The views of the
Coptic Patriarch were adopted by the majority of the assembly, which
proceeded to nominate a delegation.

The delegation consisted of Ali Pasha Moubarek (a former Minister) and
five others, who were directed to proceed to Alexandria to see the
Khedive, and ask His Highness what truth there was in the charges of the
Arabists; they were also directed to ascertain whether all the Ministers
were really in prison, as had been stated.

As regards the rebel military preparations, Mahmoud Pasha Sami had been
appointed Commander-in-Chief of the army corps stationed in the
neighbourhood of the Suez Canal. Arabi demanded that one-sixth of the
male population of every province should be sent to Kafr Dowar. All old
soldiers of every description were called upon to serve again, and
horses and provisions were everywhere requisitioned for the army.

"Arabi's chief strength," wrote Mr. Cartwright, the Acting British
Consul-General, "lay in his unscrupulous and barbarous mode of warfare."
At the moment, there was such a terrible dread among the officials at
the Palace of what might happen to their property in Cairo and
elsewhere, that the Khedive's action was paralyzed, and His Highness was
deterred from denouncing Arabi as a rebel by his unwillingness to incur
the consequences of Arabi's retaliation. At an interview with the
Khedive, Mr. Cartwright endeavoured to represent to him the moral effect
which such a denunciation would produce, and the encouragement it would
afford to those who remained faithful to His Highness.

On the 22nd the Khedive published a Decree dismissing Arabi from his
post of Minister of War, and proclaiming him a rebel. Omar Loutfi was
appointed in his place. The reasons for Arabi's dismissal as set forth
in the Decree were the insufficient resistance offered to the British
Fleet, the loss of 400 guns, allowing the English to land without
resistance, the retreat to Kafr Dowar, and his disobedience in not
coming to the Khedive when summoned.

Considering the relations existing between the Khedive and the British
forces at this time, the Decree, issued at a period when Tewfik was no
longer under any sort of coercion, is as curious a specimen of an
Oriental document as generally comes to light. The proclamation itself
may be regarded as a reply to one issued by Arabi against the Khedive,
and transmitted to the Governors of the various provinces in Egypt.

On the 26th, Arabi telegraphed to the Sultan protesting his fidelity to
the Khalifate, and saying, "That being provoked into a war, he was in
possession of all that was necessary to overcome his enemies, thanks to
the Divine assistance." He added, "That he did not believe that, as the
enemies of his country and religion asserted, he would find Ottoman
troops on his path, which would place him under the cruel necessity of
treating as enemies his brethren in the faith."

Ali Pasha Moubarek succeeded in reaching Alexandria. He reported that at
Kafr Dowar large numbers of soldiers were flocking to Arabi from the
villages, arms were being distributed to all comers, and a total force
of 30,000 men had been got together. Raouf Pasha, however, who came from
the camp a few days later, gave the number of Arabi's men as only
15,000, and related that much sickness prevailed amongst them.

On the 3rd August the official journal of Cairo published the decision
of a great National Council of the week before, to the effect that--

    "In consequence of the occupation of Alexandria by foreign
    troops, of the presence of the English squadron in Egyptian
    waters, and finally of the attitude taken up by Arabi Pasha for
    the purpose of repulsing the enemy, Arabi Pasha was to be upheld
    as Minister of War and Marine, intrusted with the general
    command of the Egyptian army, and full authority in all that
    concerned military operations, and that the orders of the
    Khedive and his Ministers would be null and void."

The document bore the signatures of the three Princes Ibrahim, Ahmed,
and Kamil (cousins of the Khedive), of the Sheikh of the El Azhar
Mosque, of the Grand Cadi of Egypt, of the Coptic Patriarch, of the
Grand Cadi of Cairo, besides those of the Ulemas and Judges, and in fact
all the notabilities left in Cairo.

On the 19th July, at the request of the Foreign Office, additional
troops were ordered to Malta and Cyprus to bring up the forces there to
15,000 men; and the next day the British Cabinet had so far realized the
gravity of the situation as to decide on the despatch of an English
expedition to Egypt, with or without the consent of the Powers.

The vote of credit for the expedition, £2,300,000, was asked in
Parliament on the 24th July, Mr. Gladstone carefully explaining that the
country "_was not at war_."

The Scots Guards sailed for Alexandria on the 30th July, the head of a
column of ships and regiments which from that time until the occupation
of the Suez Canal on the 20th August never ceased to stream towards its
ultimate point of destination.

The force was originally fixed at 21,200 men, composed as
follows:--Cavalry, 2,400; infantry, 13,400; artillery, 1,700; hospital
and other non-combatant services, 3,700, with a reserve of 3,100, to
sail at a later period. The entire force was to be under the command of
General Sir Garnet Wolseley, G.C.B., with General Sir John Adye, K.C.B.,
as second in command, and Lieutenant-Generals G. H. Willis, C.B., and
Sir E. B. Hamley as divisional commanders.

One hundred men of the 24th Middlesex (Post Office) Volunteers were
chosen to accompany the forces and take charge of the postal
arrangements during the campaign.[36]

Sir Garnet Wolseley's instructions were to take command of the army
ordered for service in Egypt in support of the authority of the Khedive
to suppress a military revolt in that country. He was told that Her
Majesty's Government did not wish to fetter his discretion as to the
particular military operations which might be necessary, but that the
main object of the expedition was to re-establish the power of the
Khedive. He was empowered, after successful operations against Arabi and
those in arms against the Khedive, to enter into any military convention
which the circumstances might warrant, but to make no arrangements
involving a political settlement.

In despatching the British expedition, Mr. Gladstone's Government made a
final plunge in the direction which they had from the first wished to
avoid. No one can say that their intervention came too soon.

The Khedive on the 19th had sent for Sir Auckland Colvin, who was the
right-hand man of the Acting British Consul-General, and begged him to
urge Her Majesty's Government to take further action without delay. He
pointed out that it was most necessary, as Arabi's power had become so
great as to spread terror and consternation in the minds of all the
natives. His possession of the country, and especially of Cairo, His
Highness added, left at his mercy the families and property of all who
remained loyal to the Khedive. His Highness concluded by saying he
should be glad to receive an intimation as to the steps which were
contemplated. Those steps, as has been seen, culminated in the despatch
of the British expedition.

The means by which the British Government was gradually induced to adopt
a resolute attitude in regard to Egypt, and the degrees by which it
arrived at a decision, will appear later on.

The general feeling of uneasiness at Alexandria was augmented by Omar
Loutfi's report. It was further known that Arabi's forces were daily
increasing, and scouts ascertained that his outposts had been advanced
in the direction of the town. Repeated rumours of intended attacks from
time to time prevailed, and scarcely a night passed without an alarm of
one kind or another.

The British authorities now began to employ themselves seriously in
looking to the defences of the town, and on the 20th Major Ardagh and
the engineers proceeded to repair the drawbridges, to mend the walls at
Kom-el-Dyk, to mount guns at Rosetta Gate, to secure the railway
station, and to place Gatlings in position. Three 9-pounder rifled guns
were mounted in Fort Kom-el-Dyk, as part of the permanent defences of
the city, and manned by bluejackets from the fleet.

On the 19th, a brisk wind fanned the embers of some of the ruins into
flames, which occupied the fire brigade several hours to subdue.

The water supply of Alexandria at this time began to be a source of
anxiety. The supply to the town comes from the Mahmoudieh Canal, which
joins the Rosetta branch of the Nile at Atfeh, forty-five miles distant.
The canal itself adjoins the position taken by Arabi at Kafr Dowar.
Throughout the bombardment, and subsequently, the town had been
abundantly supplied by the efforts of Mr. J. E. Cornish, the manager.
When, previous to the bombardment, all his countrymen, and the great
mass of Europeans, sought safety afloat, he refused to desert his post.
He contrived an elaborate system of defence for the water-works. It
comprised an arrangement for throwing jets of steam at any possible band
of assailants, as well as a line of dynamite bombs, capable of being
exploded by means of electricity. The upper part of the engine house was
also converted into a kind of arsenal, into which he and his men could
retire as a last resort, and where rifles and ammunition were in
readiness. During the bombardment, the works happily escaped injury.
Subsequently, from the roof of the engine house, Mr. Cornish and his
companions (nine Europeans in all) watched the progress of the
bombardment, until the shot and shell which whistled overhead from the
vessels firing at Fort Pharos compelled them to descend. Meanwhile, the
pumps were kept going as in ordinary times. When, on the afternoon of
the 12th, the mob of rioters left the town, the majority of them passed
a few yards from the works, and indulged in curses and execrations at
the "Christian dogs" within. With humane forethought, two large jars of
water were placed in front of the gate and kept supplied from within.
Thousands of thirsty natives, coming from the dust and smoke of the
town, stopped to drink, and, after cursing the manager heartily, passed
on. To whatever cause it may be attributed, no attack was made on the
works, and their courageous director survived to receive the
congratulations of the Khedive and of his own countrymen.[37]

Arabi's position at Kafr Dowar placed the water supply of Alexandria at
his mercy, and he was not long in taking advantage of the circumstance.
On the 21st July, the water in the Mahmoudieh Canal was observed to be
rapidly falling. Arabi had made a dam, at a point called Kinje Osman,
between Kafr Dowar and Alexandria, by which all further flow from the
Nile was stopped. Assuming that his operations were limited to this, the
great quantity of water in the Alexandria end of the canal insured a
supply for about twelve days. It was rumoured, however, that he had
broken the banks of the canal on the Alexandria side. This would, of
course, have soon cut off the supply altogether, and have caused much
suffering among the population, beside forcing the troops to rely on the
distilled water from the ships. In view of the emergency, Admiral
Seymour appointed a Commission to sit every day to consider the measures
to be adopted. Steps were taken to stop all the steam-engines and
"Sakeah" (or water-wheels) taking water from the canal for irrigation
purposes, arrangements were made for clearing out and filling the old
Roman water-cisterns, and H.M.S. _Supply_ was ordered from Malta with
the necessary apparatus for distilling water in large quantities.

On the 21st, Arabi caused salt water to be let into the Mahmoudieh
Canal, by cutting the dam separating it from Lake Mareotis, thereby
considerably aggravating the difficulty of the water supply.

A rumour was started that the Khedive's Palace at Ramleh had been looted
by the English soldiery. Major Ardagh was instructed to hold a searching
inquiry, the result of which was that the report was found to be utterly
without foundation. The soldiers, individually, were searched, and no
loot was discovered. The Palace had, indeed, been looted to a large
extent, as might have been expected from the fact that, from the time of
its evacuation till the 24th, it was wholly unguarded.[38]



On the 21st July Sir Archibald Alison moved two regiments of infantry
and a squadron of mounted men out to Ramleh in the direction of Arabi's
intrenchments. They went as far as Water-Works Hill, a commanding
position from which a good view of the Egyptian lines at Kafr Dowar
could be obtained.

On the morning of the 22nd a force of 250 men of the Rifles was pushed
forward beyond Millaha Junction, on the Cairo Railway, to blow up the
line. They met Arabi's cavalry and exchanged shots with them. The
Egyptians fled, leaving two dead on the field. Having finished the work
intrusted to them, the Rifles then withdrew. A strong patrol was the
same day sent to Ramleh.

On the 24th, the troopship _Malabar_ having arrived the previous day
from Gibraltar and Malta with the 46th (Duke of Cornwall's Light
Infantry) Regiment, a wing of the 35th, and a Battery of Artillery, in
all 1,108 men, Sir Archibald Alison, at 3 a.m., sent mounted infantry to
the position intended to be occupied in front of the Ramleh Barracks.
The General followed by the train of the Alexandria and Ramleh Railway
with the 60th Rifles, two 7-pounder naval guns, and some sappers. On
arriving he found the ridge running from the Palace to the Mahmoudieh
Canal occupied by the mounted infantry, and at once took possession of
the water-works tower on the ridge, a strongly defensible building, and
established outposts at the railway bridge, and at the front of the
canal bend. Shortly after the British troops were in position a small
force of Arabi's cavalry, followed by infantry, advanced towards the
railway bridge, across the canal, within 400 yards of the Rifles. After
exchanging shots for some time, the cavalry retired rapidly on the
Mahmoudieh Canal. The enemy's advance then became more decided. A
considerable force of cavalry with two horse-artillery guns pushed on
rapidly, the guns coming briskly into action. The infantry followed, and
the movements of a considerable body of troops were observed on the
high ground behind. A fight ensued which lasted about an hour, several
of the enemy being observed to drop. The attack, however, was not pushed
home, and the firing gradually ceased. There were no casualties on the
English side.

Ramleh was from this day occupied and held by the British forces. The
work of fortifying it was begun at once, and prosecuted with vigour, for
the force opposed to the English far outnumbered the latter at all
times, and the need of the moment was to hold on until the army corps
under General Wolseley could be collected and transported to Alexandria.

It may be here mentioned that Ramleh is not a village or town, but a
species of summer resort for the European residents of Alexandria, who
have built houses and villas upon the sandy neck of land lying between
Lakes Mareotis and Aboukir on the one hand, and the Mediterranean on the
other. The houses are distributed over a length of some miles, and are
mostly surrounded by high walled inclosures, with, in many cases,
luxuriant gardens. Between these scattered country villas the sand lay
everywhere ankle-deep. There was an occasional pretence of a road, but,
generally speaking, communication between any two points was in the
straightest possible line, and over the sand. To supply the needed
transit to and from the city, a private company has constructed the
Alexandria and Ramleh Railway, which has no connection, material or
otherwise, with the Government lines. An incidental advantage due to the
military occupation of Ramleh was the protection enjoyed by the Ramleh
Railway, and by the owners of property in this quarter.

The water-works at Ramleh contain the pumping engines which deliver the
fresh water for distribution from the Mahmoudieh Canal to the tower and
reservoir just behind them on higher ground. These two points, the
water-works and the tower, were the centre of the defence. A strong
detachment was always maintained at the former, whilst the head-quarters
were established at the latter. An elevation immediately in rear of the
tower was strengthened, a trench dug, and a number of guns, viz., five
breech-loading 40 pounders and two 12-pounders, were mounted on the 26th
by seamen from the fleet. A magazine was also sunk, and working parties
ran a shelter trench along the crest of the rising ground, and this was
gradually converted into a musketry parapet four and a half feet high.
In this work places were arranged for the guns, the platforms being of
railway sleepers and the parapets reveted with sand-bags and timber.
Small musketry redoubts were thrown up upon the flanks of the position.
To the east and west were intrenched infantry camps. Two 9-pounders of
the Naval Detachment were mounted in the adjoining earthwork. The
extreme eastern picket was placed in a fortified house, a mile and a
half distant. Its object was to serve as a feeler in the direction of
Aboukir. The Egyptians could advance from Kinje Osman either by the road
on the canal bank or by the railway embankment. The outpost on the
former line was called "Dead Horse Picket;" on the latter no regular
picket was maintained beyond the iron railway bridge over the Mahmoudieh
Canal, although vedettes were thrown out in the direction of Millaha

As a barrier against a movement along the southern branch of the railway
(that coming from the Gabari Station), a strong force was established at
the Villa Antoniadis on the canal. Inside the entrance to the villa
garden was a semi-circular breastwork facing the villa, and reaching
across the gateway. Two B.L.R. 40-pounder guns were permanently mounted.
These commanded the approach along the railway embankment. Other
stockades were built across the road to protect the rear, and temporary
bridges were built across the canal. The walls of a deserted Arab
village on the other side were loopholed and otherwise defended.

The general defence profited by the presence of the Mahmoudieh Canal,
with its high banks, and by the railway embankment, which stretched from
the Antoniadis garden towards Ramleh. For night-work an electric light
was placed on the roof of a house at Fleming Station, on the Ramleh
Railway, so as to illuminate the approaches from Aboukir and Kafr Dowar.

An ingenious device for reconnoitring was at this time adopted, in
fitting out an armour-clad train in which to make reconnaissances
towards Arabi's lines. One of the Government locomotives was armed under
the direction of Captain Fisher, of the _Inflexible_, with a 40-pounder
gun, and fitted with boiler plates, iron rails, and bags of cotton to
protect the vital parts. This, accompanied by two or three open
carriages filled with bluejackets, rendered considerable service. It was
frequently brought into action, and whilst able to considerably harass
the enemy's forces at Kafr Dowar, never sustained any injury in return.

At this time, Mr. Dudley de Chair, midshipman of the _Alexandra_, was
captured and taken to Arabi's lines. He had been ordered to proceed with
despatches from Alexandria to the British post at Ramleh, following the
line of rail. Unfortunately, he went by the wrong line and found himself
at Mandara, some miles beyond his destination, where, meeting some
natives, he inquired his way, and they undertook to direct him to the
British lines, but taking advantage of his ignorance of the locality,
they led him to an Arab outpost, where he was made prisoner.[39]

On the 31st July, some Bedouins, who had been pillaging the neighbouring
houses, attacked the night pickets at Ramleh with considerable energy,
but were beaten off. In one of these skirmishes, what was taken to be
the figure of a Bedouin was seen under the palm trees. A whole volley
was fired at the supposed enemy, which proved to be only a pump. When
examined closely the next morning the pump was found not to have
received a single bullet.

On the following night, the Bedouins returned and attacked a picket of
the 60th Rifles, posted at the extreme limit of the British position on
the Mahmoudieh Canal. The picket, uncertain of the strength of the
attacking force, fired a single volley and fell back on the
pumping-station, a mile distant. Reinforcements were sent, and the
position was reoccupied.[40]

On the 5th August, the first serious engagement of the campaign took
place, when Sir Archibald Alison, being desirous of ascertaining the
enemy's true position and strength, made a reconnaissance towards Kinje
Osman. A half battalion of the Duke of Cornwall's Regiment and a half
battalion of the 38th (South Staffordshire) Regiment, 800 in all, with
one 9-pounder gun and the mounted infantry, numbering 80, were told off
to advance along the east bank of the Mahmoudieh Canal.[41] Six
companies of the 60th Rifles, about 500 strong, with one 9-pounder gun,
formed the centre, and were to advance along the west bank. These
constituted the left attack. They were to follow the line of the canal
till they reached a house in a grove of trees towards the point where
the Cairo Railway approaches nearest to the canal. Along the line of
rail a battalion of marines, 1,000 in number, was to come up by train to
Millaha Junction, preceded by the armoured train carrying one
40-pounder, two 9-pounder guns, a Nordenfeldt, and two Gatlings, this
formed the right attack. The train was to stop at Millaha Junction. The
marines were ordered to descend there and advance by the railway line,
accompanied by the two 9-pounders and covered by the fire of the
40-pounder from the train.

The ground beyond Millaha Junction between the canal and railway was
occupied by native houses and gardens, and traversed in all directions
by small irrigating canals or ditches. Here were the Egyptian outposts,
the point of attack. It was a place admitting of very thorough defence,
and it gained in practical value by the fact that the attack was divided
by the Mahmoudieh Canal into two parts, which could only pass from one
side to the other with great difficulty and at considerable risk. An
enemy on the alert might have routed the extreme left column before any
assistance could have been rendered by the right.

The left column commenced its advance from the Ramleh out-picket station
at 4.45 p.m., moving by both banks of the canal. It soon came into
action with the enemy, who were strongly posted in a group of palm trees
on the eastern side, and a strong defensible house and gardens on the
western side, of the canal. The Egyptian fire was very inaccurate, most
of their bullets passing harmlessly overhead. Both positions were
carried, though not without the loss of Lieutenant Howard Vyse, of the
Rifles, who was killed.

The enemy then took up another position half a mile in the rear of the
first upon the east bank of the canal, amongst high crops and houses,
and behind the irregular banks of the canal. From this position also
they were driven back.

General Alison accompanied the right column himself. The marines and
9-pounder guns, dragged by bluejackets, were placed to the west and
under cover of the railway embankment, and moved forward as rapidly as
possible, and quite out of sight of the enemy engaged with the left
column, with a view to cutting off their retreat. After a time this
movement was perceived, and the enemy opened fire with artillery on the
right column. General Alison pushed on as rapidly as possible to the
spot where the railway approaches nearest to the Mahmoudieh Canal. He
then opened fire with musketry from the railway embankment upon the
enemy lining the banks of the canal. The two 9-pounders were dragged on
to the embankment and came into action against the enemy's guns, the
40-pounder from the train firing overhead against the point where the
enemy were beginning to appear. Fixing his right upon both sides of the
embankment, Alison then threw forward two companies to carry a house
near the canal, and followed up this movement by throwing some four
companies still more to his left on the banks of and across the canal.
The left column, it appears, had orders to seize a certain white house
on the canal, but its commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Thackwell, of the
38th, mistook the first white house reached for the one intended. In
consequence, the left of the marines was uncovered and the substantial
benefits of the fight lost. Had the two wings joined many prisoners
would have been secured, and two guns, if not more, been captured.
Signals were made to the left wing to advance, but the smoke of the
battle and the failing light prevented their being understood. As it
was, Sir Archibald succeeded in taking up a position forming a diagonal
line across both the canal and the railway, the enemy falling back
slowly before him. The fire of their 7-pounder and 9-pounder guns was
soon got under by the fire of the English bluejackets. Desirous of
inducing the Egyptians to develop their full power before withdrawing,
the General held his position for about three-quarters of an hour, until
dusk was drawing on. The order to retire was then given. The movement
was carried out with the most perfect regularity and precision by the
marine battalion under Colonel Tuson, and the men fell back by alternate
companies with the regularity of a field-day. Every attempt of the enemy
to advance was crushed by the excellent practice of the 40-pounder and
9-pounder naval guns under Commander Henderson. The right column was
quickly _entrained_ at the junction, and slowly steamed back to
Alexandria; at the same time the left column withdrew along the banks of
the canal to the Ramleh lines unmolested.

The British loss in the engagement was one officer and three men killed
and twenty-seven men wounded. The Egyptian loss was given by a deserter
who, four days later, made his way from Arabi's camp to Alexandria, as
three officers and seventy-six men killed, and a large number wounded.
According to the prisoners' statements, which had to be received with
some caution, the Egyptian force engaged was 2,000 strong.

The Egyptians next erected earthworks at Mandara, between Ramleh and
Aboukir. They, however, overlooked the fact that the place was
accessible from the sea, and the _Superb_ having been sent round,
shelled them out without difficulty.



It is now necessary to go back a little, to consider the diplomatic
steps taken by the Powers in view of the crisis in Egypt.

On receiving the news of the bombardment, the Sublime Porte was so
impressed with the gravity of the situation that a Council sat
continuously for twenty-four hours at the Palace, and separated without
arriving at any conclusion.

On the 15th July, however, the Sultan's advisers had so far recovered
themselves that the Turkish Ambassador was instructed to protest, and to
demand of the English Government the withdrawal of the forces landed in

In reply Lord Dufferin stated that the bombardment was an act of
self-defence, and that the seamen and marines were landed for the
purpose of restoring order, and with no view to a permanent occupation.
"They were, and continued to be, necessary for the defence of the
Khedive," said his Lordship, "in the absence of all steps by the Sultan
to maintain his own authority and that of His Highness." Lord Dufferin
concluded by observing that "Her Majesty's Government were desirous to
maintain the Sovereignty of the Sultan over Egypt, but that if His
Majesty took no steps to vindicate his authority, and objected to the
provisional measures taken by England and the other Powers, it would be
difficult to find arguments for the continuance of the existing
arrangement." In order to understand what were "the provisional
measures" referred to, it is necessary to consider the proceedings of
the Constantinople Conference, which had in the meantime assembled.

When, in May, France and England had at length agreed to send their
vessels of war to Alexandria, it was at Lord Granville's suggestion
proposed that if it was found advisable that troops should be landed,
Turkish troops should be called for, but France objected and the
proposal dropped.

When the Khedive and his Ministry became reconciled the Porte addressed
a circular to its representatives abroad, arguing that the Egyptian
Ministry having submitted to the Khedive, the crisis no longer existed,
and the naval demonstration was unnecessary. Lord Dufferin was
instructed to calm the apprehensions of the Sultan as to the character
and objects of the naval demonstration. He succeeded so well that Said
Pasha stated that His Majesty was willing to discuss with the Western
Powers any arrangements that they might suggest for the maintenance of
the _status quo_ in Egypt, upon the understanding that the presence of
the fleets should be restricted to the shortest possible period.

When Admiral Seymour complained of earthworks being thrown up alongside
his ships, the French Government on the 30th May proposed an immediate
Conference on Egyptian affairs. This proposal was accepted by Lord
Granville, and invitations to the Conference were issued the same day.

Considerable delay ensued in regard to the meeting of the Conference,
owing to the opposition of Turkey, which refused to join, and persisted
in maintaining that the mission of Dervish Pasha having effected a
satisfactory settlement, there was really nothing left to discuss.

Eventually the Conference met on the 23rd June at Constantinople,
without the participation of the Porte.

The Powers were represented by the different Ambassadors at
Constantinople, and Lord Granville, in the apparent desire to tie the
hands of the British Government as much as possible, irrespective of
future eventualities, succeeded in getting all the Powers represented to
sign a self-denying protocol, by which each engaged "not to seek, in any
arrangement which might be made in consequence of the concerted action
for the regulation of the affairs of Egypt, any territorial advantage,
nor any concession of any exclusive privilege, nor any commercial
advantage other than those which any other nation might equally obtain."

On the 27th June, the position of Admiral Seymour with regard to the
forts in course of being armed by Arabi being explained to the
Conference, it was agreed that so long as the Conference lasted the
Powers should abstain from isolated action in Egypt, with the
reservation of _force majeure_, such as the necessity for protecting the
lives of their subjects.

On the 30th the Conference met again, when the critical situation in
Egypt was dwelt upon, and the English representative explained that
under the words _force majeure_ he should include any sudden change or
catastrophe which menaced British interests.

Notwithstanding the pressure put upon the Sultan at this time to induce
him to send a force to Egypt, he still hesitated. His anxiety seemed to
be to avoid doing anything himself, and at the same time to prevent
intervention by any one else. He reminded the English Ambassador that at
his request the Porte had ordered the Egyptians to discontinue the
fortifications at Alexandria, and in return asked that the warlike
preparations of the British fleet should be stopped.

On the 6th of July, the Conference met again and agreed on the terms of
an "Identic Note" to be addressed to the Porte, fixing the conditions on
which the Porte should be invited to send Turkish troops to Egypt as a
provisional measure to restore order.

On the 8th the Sultan's Minister of Foreign Affairs begged the English
Ambassador from considerations of humanity to enjoin Admiral Seymour not
to do anything precipitate at Alexandria. Lord Dufferin curtly replied
that "the Egyptian authorities had the matter completely in their own
hands. They had only to do what was required of them, and not a shot
would be fired." Lord Dufferin added the question, "Why was the Sultan
not there with his troops to keep them in order?"

On the 9th the Porte was so far alarmed at what was going on at
Alexandria as to send a despatch to Musurus Pasha, in London, pointing
out that Admiral Seymour's statements respecting the Alexandria
armaments were denied by the Egyptian authorities, and begging that the
British Admiral might be directed to adopt a line of action more in
conformity with the peaceful and conciliatory feelings which animated
the Ottoman Government and the Court of St. James.

On the 10th Lord Dufferin intimated to the Porte that it was the
intention of Admiral Seymour to open fire upon the batteries of
Alexandria unless there was a temporary surrender of the forts for the
purpose of disarmament. The Sultan replied that he would send a
categorical answer on the following day. At the same time he requested
that the bombardment might be delayed.

Said Pasha called on Lord Dufferin in the middle of the night (2 a.m. on
the morning of the 11th), urging him to send a telegram to the British
Government to order the bombardment to be arrested. The British
Ambassador transmitted the message. It arrived too late. The bombardment
had already taken place. As Lord Dufferin, in a letter to Said Pasha in
the course of the following day, observed, "When such grave issues were
at stake, it was unwise to run things so fine."

On the 12th the Sultan's Minister informed his Lordship that the
bombardment having added to the gravity of the situation, he was not in
a position to make any communication, but that the Council were still
deliberating as to the course to be pursued. This was the Council
referred to at the beginning of the present chapter, which sat for
twenty-four hours, and decided nothing.

On the 15th Said Pasha asked if an intimation to the Powers of the
Sultan's intention to go to Egypt would be well received. Lord Dufferin
said in reply that at one time he was certainly of that opinion, and
that even then it might not be too late, provided His Majesty would
authorize a Commissioner to enter the Conference.

On the same day all the Powers represented at the Conference presented
the Identic Note to the Porte, inviting it to send troops to Egypt to
assist the Khedive to re-establish order.

The Sultan, on receiving the Note, observed that if the Imperial
Government had not up to the present decided on its own initiative to
send troops, it was because it was convinced that measures of force
could be dispensed with. He also announced that his Government now
consented to take part in the Conference.

On the 16th July Lord Lyons was instructed to inform M. de Freycinet
that, in view of the uncertainty which prevailed as to the movements of
Arabi and his forces, Her Majesty's Government had telegraphed to the
British Admiral at Port Saïd, authorizing him to concert with the French
Admiral for the protection of the Suez Canal, and to act in the event of
sudden danger. In reply, the French Minister stated that the French
Admiral would be instructed to concert measures with the English Admiral
for the protection of the Canal, but that the French Government could
not, without the sanction of the Chambers, authorize him to act.

On the 17th appearances became still more threatening. The Admiralty
received a despatch from Admiral Hoskins reporting the arrival at Port
Saïd of Ali Pasha Fehmi,[42] whom Arabi had nominated Governor-General
of the Suez Canal. This was followed by another, announcing that Arabi
had called upon all Mussulmans to rise. Lord Granville thereupon urged
the French Government to give their Admiral full discretion by telegraph
in view of any emergency. In reply, M. de Freycinet informed the British
Minister that he regretted very much to be unable to comply.

On the 19th the news from Egypt assumed a yet more serious character,
and Lord Dufferin was instructed to inform the Sultan that after the
delay which had occurred he could only hope to recover the confidence of
Her Majesty's Government by the immediate issue of a Proclamation in
favour of the Khedive, and denouncing Arabi as a rebel.

Whatever might have been the Sultan's views with regard to Arabi, he was
not at the time disposed to comply with the Ambassador's request.
Accordingly, His Majesty said that the issue of such a Proclamation as
was suggested might not be a bad thing, and then turned the conversation
to some other subject.

The same day news came of the blocking of the Mahmoudieh Canal, of the
issue of proclamations against the Khedive by Arabi, and of the military
preparations being made by him.

At a meeting of the Conference, the English and French Ambassadors
presented proposals relative to the measures to be adopted _for the
protection_ of the _Suez Canal_, and asked the Conference to designate
the Powers who should be charged, in case of need, to take the measures
specially necessary for the purpose. The four other representatives
reserved to themselves the right of referring the matter to their
respective Governments.

On the 20th July Her Majesty's Government ordered the despatch of the
expedition to Egypt.

On the 21st the Austrian Government declined to join in giving to other
Powers the _mandat_ proposed for the defence of the Canal.

On the 22nd Lord Granville made the following proposal to the French

1. Unless the Porte sends an acceptance of a kind immediately available,
the English and French representatives should be instructed to say to
the other Ambassadors that England and France can no longer rely upon
Turkish intervention; and as they consider immediate action necessary to
_prevent further loss of life and continuance of anarchy_, they intend,
unless the Conference has any other plan, to devise with a third Power,
if possible, military means for procuring a solution.

2. To ask Italy to be that third Power.

3. To consult immediately upon the division of labour.

4. The Suez Canal may be included in the general scheme of allied

M. de Freycinet, in reply, cautiously stated that the French Government
understood that the measures to be taken by them for the protection of
the Canal would not extend to any expedition into the interior of the
country, but would be limited to naval operations, and to the occupation
of certain points on the Canal itself; _and that although they would not
object to an expedition by England into the interior of Egypt_, they
could not themselves take part in any such expedition. He added that
before giving an official answer he must bring the matter before the
Council of Ministers.

The German Chargé d'Affaires stated to Lord Dufferin and the French
Ambassador, in very positive terms, that the northern Governments would
never agree to a mandate, that it would be better for England to go
forward at once by herself, and that every one admitted that the reserve
made under the term _force majeure_ would cover anything that she might
be obliged to do in Egypt.

On the 23rd July the Sultan determined to allow Said Pasha and Assim
Pasha to represent him at the Conference. At the meeting, the following
day, the two Ottoman delegates took their seats, and the other delegates
having given the Turkish representatives to understand that a formal
answer was expected to the Identic Note of the 15th July, the Turkish
Minister declared that "he accepted in principle the despatch of Ottoman
troops to Egypt."

This statement, made at the eleventh hour, was not without its effect on
the different great Powers. As a fact, with the exception of England,
and possibly France, none of them desired to meddle either directly or
indirectly in Egyptian matters, and they were glad of the pretext to let
England settle Egypt alone.

The Austrian Government notified that, "in case the Sultan refused to
send his troops to Egypt, Austria would be even less disposed to join in
asking other Governments to act as European _mandataires_, for the
general maintenance of order, than to do so for the protection of the
Suez Canal."

On the 24th July Italy was invited to co-operate with England and France
in the steps to be taken for the protection of the Canal. The Italian
Minister, M. Mancini, thanked Her Majesty's Government for the proof of
confidence and friendship afforded by their invitation to her, but
thought that at the moment when Turkey had accepted all the conditions
of a Note to which England and Italy were parties, it would be a
contradiction for those two Powers to enter into engagements as to
another form of intervention.

On the 25th M. de Freycinet, being pressed for a formal answer to the
proposal made for the joint military intervention, answered that for the
moment the French Government could not go beyond the projected
co-operation for the protection of the Suez Canal.

On the 24th a Bill was brought into the Chamber of Deputies to enable
the French Government to carry into effect arrangements with England for
a joint protection of the Canal. The amount asked for was 9,410,000
francs. The result was a most stormy debate, which was adjourned amid
much excitement.



On the 26th July Said Pasha formally announced that the Sublime Porte,
resolved to give effect to its incontestable Sovereign rights over
Egypt, had decided to send immediately a sufficient number of troops.
This was communicated to the Conference at its sitting the same day.

Said Pasha admitted, on being pressed, that the despatch of the troops
could only be the result of an understanding arrived at between the
Powers. The British and French Ambassadors then made the following
declaration:--"France and England have communicated to the Conference
their views, which have also been communicated to the different
Cabinets, and their proposals having encountered no objections, the two
Powers are at present agreed that in the present state of affairs they
are ready, if necessity arises, to employ themselves _in the protection
of the Suez Canal_, either alone, or with the addition of any Power
which is willing to assist."

At a meeting on the 27th, the representatives of the Porte communicated
a declaration to the effect that having again informed the members of
the Conference that the Imperial Government was on the point of sending
troops to Egypt, the Government earnestly hoped that, in face of this
determination, the existing foreign occupation of that country would be
abandoned as soon as the Ottoman troops should arrive at Alexandria.

In reply, Lord Dufferin was instructed to say that Her Majesty's
Government could neither withdraw their troops, nor relax their
preparations; adding that the arrival and co-operation of Turkish forces
in Egypt would be accepted by England, provided the character in which
they came was satisfactorily defined beforehand.

At this period, it must be borne in mind that the British expeditionary
forces had already started, and the Ministry of Mr. Gladstone had now no
desire to have the Turkish troops, for which they had previously
professed so much anxiety. It was, however, necessary to keep up
appearances, and to find from time to time plausible pretexts to prevent
the Sultan from carrying out his determination.

In effecting the desired object Lord Dufferin, as will be seen, found
means to throw such difficulties in the way as to prevent the despatch
of a Turkish army to Egypt.

The views of Germany were also at the same time communicated to Lord
Granville, and were stated to him as being that the Sultan had the first
claim to exercise the proposed protection. In the event of his being
unwilling or unable to do so, the Powers interested in the Canal would
be justified in acting themselves. If those Powers had the intention of
protecting their own interests in the Canal, Germany could not take upon
herself any responsibility for the measures to be taken for this
purpose. Finally Austria, Russia, and Italy adopted the same view as

On the 28th the adjourned debate on the vote of 9,410,000 francs for the
despatch of French troops to Egypt for the protection of the Canal took
place in the French Chamber of Deputies. The force, it was explained,
was to be 8,000 men and two gunboats. The Ministers pointed out that all
that was intended was to occupy one or two points of the Canal. France
would be charged with the surveillance of the Canal between Port Saïd
and Ismailia, and England of the part between Ismailia and Suez.

The vote was violently opposed, and in the end rejected by a majority of
341 against the Government. The debate was wound up by a remarkable
speech from M. Clemenceau, who said,--"Messieurs, la conclusion de ce
qui se passe en ce moment est celle-ci, l'Europe est couverte de
soldats, tout le monde attend, toutes les Puissances se réservent leur
liberté pour l'avenir; réservez la liberté d'action de la France."

Lord Granville, seeing that all hope of French co-operation was gone,
intimated to M. de Freycinet that, although Her Majesty's Government
accepted the co-operation of Turkey, it would nevertheless proceed with
its own measures. "That then," said the French Minister, "is
_intervention à deux_."

On the 1st August Lord Dufferin informed the Turkish Minister, in reply
to his request that the British expedition should be countermanded, that
it was useless for him to base any of his calculations on the
supposition either that the troops would be countermanded, or that the
British _corps d'armée_ would leave Egypt until order had been
completely re-established.

The Minister said with reference to the Proclamation against Arabi, that
he thought it would be advisable to defer it until after the Turkish
troops were landed.

Lord Dufferin answered that if the Proclamation was not previously
issued, no Turkish troops would be allowed to land in Egypt. The
Ambassador said, "If the Sultan desired to co-operate with England it
was necessary he should first clearly define the attitude he intended to
assume towards Arabi and the rebellious faction."

On the same day the Ottoman plenipotentiaries delivered to the other
members of the Conference the reasons for the Porte not issuing the
desired Proclamation declaring Arabi a rebel. The principal passage was
as follows:--"It is, therefore, quite natural to suppose that a
Proclamation which would accuse a subject of His Imperial Majesty the
Sultan, who, at a moment when he showed fidelity and devotion to his
sovereign, was the object of distinctions, would derive its force from
the immediate presence of the material factor, the absence of which at
the time of its publication would render its provisions barren."

Orders were sent to the English Admiral that, until the Porte should
have entered into an agreement with Her Majesty's Government for the
issue of a Proclamation by the Sultan in support of Tewfik Pasha, and
denouncing Arabi as a rebel, and should have signed a Military
Convention for the co-operation of the Turkish troops, no Turkish
troops could be allowed to land in Egypt.

On the 5th Lord Dufferin formally notified this to the Ottoman
delegates, and Said Pasha intimated that he fully understood the grave
nature of the communication.

On the 2nd two large Turkish transports started at night from
Constantinople for Salonica with stores, provisions, and details of
troops. Two other steamers left the same night, one for Smyrna, the
other for the Dardanelles. On the 3rd other transports, with soldiers on
board, left also at night, and two more transports commenced taking on
board stores, ammunition, &c. On the 5th two transports with men and
stores left the Golden Horn for Suda Bay, in Crete. A third was to leave
the same evening. It became known that Dervish Pasha was to command the
force, taking four other generals with him. They were to leave in the
_Izzedin_ for Salonica. The fleet was to rendezvous either at Rhodes or
Suda Bay.

In consequence of the foregoing, Admiral Seymour was instructed, if any
vessel with Turkish troops appeared at Port Saïd, Alexandria, or
elsewhere, to request the officer in command, with the utmost courtesy,
to proceed to Crete or some other place, and apply to the Turkish
Government for further instructions, as Seymour was precluded from
inviting them to land in Egypt. He was further instructed to prevent
their landing if they declined to comply with his advice.

On the 7th the Ottoman delegates made the following declaration to the
Conference: "The Sublime Porte accepts the invitation for a military
intervention in Egypt made to it by the Identic Note of the 15th July,
as well as the clauses and conditions contained therein."

On the 8th Said Pasha informed Lord Dufferin that the Sublime Porte was
disposed to issue the Proclamation against Arabi, and that he, the
Minister, was authorized to negotiate the Military Convention.

He also stated that, by reason of the importance of the events in Egypt,
the Ottoman troops would leave on the 10th.

Lord Dufferin, on the 9th August, informed the Sultan's Government that
before any other step was taken the British Government adhered to the
necessity for the issue of a properly-worded Proclamation. On the 9th
the draft of the proposed Proclamation was sent to Lord Dufferin for

On the 15th Sir Garnet Wolseley arrived at Alexandria.

At the meeting of the Conference on the 14th of August, the
representatives of the Powers having expressed their opinion that the
moment had come to suspend the labours of the Conference, the Ottoman
delegates, apparently still anxious to be on the opposition side, stated
that they did not share in this opinion, and reserved the right of
informing the others of the date of the next meeting.

On the 16th August, Lord Dufferin was informed, with reference to the
negotiations for the Military Convention, that Her Majesty's Government
would have no objection to a part of the Turkish troops being landed at
Damietta or Rosetta, should the Turkish Government desire it.

On the next day the Turkish Government, instead of accepting at once the
Military Convention, began to make efforts to get it laid before the
Conference. These failed, however, thanks to Lord Dufferin, who
contended that the engagement was one between England and Turkey alone.

The foregoing brings the narrative of events down to the eve of Sir
Garnet Wolseley's sailing for the Canal.



On the 7th August the Khedive issued a Proclamation against Arabi and
the rebels generally.

The same day the Khedive addressed a letter to the President of the
Council of Ministers, announcing his intention to indemnify the
sufferers by the recent events.

At this period the European population was flocking back to Alexandria
in such numbers that Mr. Cartwright, the British Consul-General, deemed
it necessary to make strong representations on the subject to the
representatives in Egypt of the several Powers. A system of examination
of passports was now established, and people of suspicious character, or
who were unable to show that they had some employment, or other means
of subsistence, were forced by the authorities to re-embark.

Alexandria was now fast filling with British troops, and fresh
detachments were disembarking daily. On the 10th August, Sir John Adye,
Chief of the Staff, arrived at Alexandria with the Duke of Connaught.
The whole of the Brigade of Guards arrived two days later, and
astonished the people by their size and martial appearance as they
marched through the town to Ramleh. The Duke of Connaught rode at their
head. Egypt in the present generation had never seen such soldiers
before, and loud were the expressions of admiration on all sides. The
stalwart pipers particularly impressed the natives.

The brigade consisted of the 2nd battalions of the Grenadier and
Coldstream Guards, and the 1st battalion of the Scots Guards. The force
was encamped on a piece of desert land at Ramleh, near the sea, between
the stations of Bulkeley and Fleming on the Ramleh Railway.

Sir Garnet Wolseley reached Egypt on the 15th in the _Calabria_. He had
made the voyage by sea on account of his health.

Major-General Sir Evelyn Wood arrived the same day. Transports were
coming in rapidly, and everything pointed to an immediate advance upon
Kinje Osman and Kafr Dowar. The following is a list of the principal
officers in the expeditionary force:--

General-Commanding-in-Chief: Sir Garnet J. Wolseley.

Chief of the Staff: General Sir John Adye.

Officer Commanding Royal Artillery: Brigadier-General W. H. Goodenough.

Officer Commanding Royal Engineers: Brigadier-General C. B. P. N. H.

Command of Base and Lines of Communication: Major-General W. Earle.

1st Division: Lieutenant-General G. H. S. Willis.

1st Brigade: Major-General H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught.

2nd Brigade: Major-General G. Graham.

2nd Division: Lieutenant-General Sir E. B. Hamley.

3rd Brigade: Major-General Sir Archibald Alison.

4th Brigade: Major-General Sir H. Evelyn Wood.

Garrison of Alexandria: Major-General G. B. Harman. Cavalry Division:
Major-General Drury-Lowe.

Sir Garnet Wolseley lost but little time after landing. He made a hasty
inspection of the position at Ramleh, and gave his orders.

On the 18th August the Guards Division, the Household Cavalry, the 60th
Rifles, and the 46th Regiment marched in from Ramleh and commenced
embarking, the troops of the Second Division taking their places at
Ramleh. The Manchester Regiment landed and took over police duty in the
town, relieving the Berkshire Regiment, which joined General Wood's
Division at Ramleh.

At 11.15 a.m. the greater part of the British force was embarking. The
troops selected were the First Division under General Willis. Several
transports the same day steamed out of harbour and anchored off the
Boghaz Pass. The following day, the 19th, the transports, escorted by
the ironclads _Alexandra_, _Inflexible_, _Minotaur_, _Superb_, and
_Temeraire_, steamed away in a stately procession to the eastward. Both
Sir Garnet Wolseley and Admiral Seymour accompanied the force.

It was given out that Aboukir was to be the place of attack, and at 3.30
p.m., on arriving off the bay, the ships, with the exception of the
_Alexandra_, _Euphrates_, _Rhosina_, and _Nerissa_, which pushed on to
Port Saïd, anchored in regular lines according to a prearranged plan,
the men-of-war being nearest the shore. The ironclads struck their
topmasts, and made other preparations for an attack. Every facility had
been given to newspaper correspondents to obtain such details as might
prudently be made public without exciting too much suspicion of a _ruse
de guerre_. It succeeded perfectly. Not only the Europeans, but the
enemy, were completely deceived. The gunners in the forts at Aboukir
stood to their guns, expecting every moment the fleet would open fire.
After dark the troopships moved off to the east, followed later on by
the men-of-war. When day broke the whole fleet had disappeared.

As rapidly as possible the fleet steamed for Port Saïd. The transports
_Rhosina_ and _Nerissa_ had singularly bad luck, the last two breaking
down _en route_. The delay was not serious, for their escort the
_Alexandra_ towed the _Nerissa_ at the rate of twelve knots an hour,
whilst the _Euphrates_ helped the _Rhosina_.

The next morning the whole fleet arrived at Port Saïd, when they found
the entire Maritime Canal in the hands of the British Navy.

It may now be convenient to refer to what had in the meantime been
taking place on the Canal.

On the 9th July, Mr. J. E. Wallis, the British Consul at Port Saïd,
received instructions to warn British subjects to embark. Next morning a
large number of Europeans took refuge in vessels in the harbour. A
report was spread of troops being ordered from Damietta, and some alarm
prevailing, the Governor issued a circular assuring everybody that there
was no danger.

On the 11th, whilst the bombardment was going on at Alexandria, the Port
Saïd refugees remained on board ship. The town was quiet and orderly.
The British despatch vessel _Iris_ acted as guardship during this
period. The Egyptian corvette _Sakha_ had arrived from Alexandria a day
or two previous to the bombardment. Her captain was an Arabist of the
most pronounced type. Immediately after her arrival telegraphic
information reached the authorities and the Canal Company's officials
that the _Sakha_ had a considerable quantity of dynamite on board,
intended to be used against vessels entering the Canal. The _Iris_,
which had taken up a berth inside the harbour, shifted berth, and her
commander, Captain Seymour, moored his ship opposite the _Sakha_, the
better to watch her movements. A great noise was observed on board the
Egyptian vessel at night, the men moving up and down as if transporting
heavy cases. The next morning Captain Seymour called on her captain, and
on inquiring the reason of the commotion, was informed that the men were
"practising." Captain Seymour replied that, considering the troubled
state of the country, practising at such an unusual hour was calculated
to create an alarm on shore, and expressed a hope that it would be
discontinued. "I am the only master on board my own ship," was the
Egyptian Commander's reply. "In that case," Captain Seymour replied, "I
shall be under the painful necessity of either seizing your ship or of
sinking her." From that moment no further night exercise was indulged
in, and hostilities were avoided, though both ships remained with their
guns pointed at each other. The commander of the _Iris_ took the further
precaution of placing a torpedo in a position which would enable him to
blow up the Egyptian vessel at any moment. After this, nothing of
importance occurred for some days.

The naval force at Port Saïd was strengthened by the arrival of the
_Penelope_--the flagship of Admiral Hoskins--and the _Monarch_,
_Agincourt_, and _Achilles_.

On the 13th July the British Government notified that British merchant
ships might go through the Canal if clear. On the 14th British gunboats
commenced to convoy vessels. On the 15th the French Government
authorized their gunboats to be employed on similar service. This was
followed by the like arrangements on the part of Germany and Italy.

The English ironclad _Orion_, Captain R. O. B. Fitz-Roy, arrived from
Alexandria, _en route_ to Ismailia, on the 26th, and at once attempted
to enter the Canal. Several objections were made by the Canal Company to
her doing so. More than once she got under way, and was stopped under
various pretexts. The last objection was that the _Coquette_ being
already in Lake Timsah, there was no room for another vessel of war.
Eventually, having embarked 142 officers and men from the _Agincourt_,
the _Orion_ entered the Canal, ostensibly bound for Suez, and at 3 p.m.
on the 27th she reached Lake Timsah. Captain Fitz-Roy took his ship out
of the hands of the pilot, and anchored her about 800 yards from the
town of Ismailia.

On the 28th the Governor and Sub-Governor of Port Saïd, fearing that
their lives were in danger from the military party, took refuge on board
the P. and O. s.s. _Poonah_. The town of Port Saïd was, in consequence,
left completely in the hands of the supporters of Arabi. Nevertheless,
though considerable anxiety prevailed, no outbreak took place.

On the 29th the German gunboat _Move_ was ordered to take part in the
patrolling of the Canal.

On the 31st July Admiral Hoskins telegraphed that the French Admiral at
Port Saïd was ordered to suspend action, and the French ironclad
_Thétis_ was to leave Ismailia. Rigid neutrality was to be observed.

On the 3rd August Admiral Hoskins was directed for the present to
confine his operations on the Suez Canal to maintaining the _status
quo_, and not to land except for the protection of British subjects, or
in the event of any attempt being made to block the Canal, as to which
he was allowed discretion. This reservation, he was informed, was only
temporary, and was contingent upon future military requirements.

On the 5th the ships of war off Port Saïd comprised the _Penelope_,
_Agincourt_, _Monarch_, and _Northumberland_ armoured ships, the
_Tourmaline_ and _Carysfort_ sloops, and the _Ready_ and Beacon
gun-vessels. The _Don_ and _Dee_, river gunboats, arrived a day or two

What had been taking place at Suez was reported in a letter from Mr.
West, the British Consul, to Lord Granville, from which the following
are extracts:--

    "The whole of the British residents, with one or two exceptions,
    had taken refuge afloat, and were living in discomfort on board
    boats, barges, and lighters in the open roadstead. Her Majesty's
    ship _Euryalus_ arrived on the 29th.

    "Admiral Sir William Hewett, who, on the 2nd August, had under
    his command in the Suez Roads the following ships of Her
    Majesty's fleet, viz., the _Euryalus_, _Eclipse_, _Ruby_,
    _Dragon_, _Mosquito_, and _Beacon_, then decided to act, and I
    went on shore with a Proclamation to be delivered to the Acting
    Governor, informing him that the place had been occupied by
    British forces, which occupation was effected without
    opposition or resistance on the part of the native soldiers.
    The town was then occupied by the marines and bluejackets,
    about 500 men in all. The few native soldiers in the place got
    away in the train that was about to leave Suez with more
    fugitives. The Governor's dwelling and public offices were
    guarded by marines; the Victoria Hospital, and commanding
    positions in the environs of Suez, were also held by the
    British forces."

To return to Ismailia, where, as above stated, the _Orion_ had arrived
on the 27th July. The place was found perfectly tranquil, but the
telegraph being in the hands of Arabi's people, Captain Fitz-Roy could
get no news or telegrams. The _Coquette_ was anchored, by Captain
Fitz-Roy's orders, off the lock-gates of the Fresh Water Canal, with
orders to report everything going in and coming out. By this means
information was obtained that Arabi was receiving daily several
boat-loads of coal. On the 29th H.M.S. _Carysfort_ arrived from Port
Saïd. Lake Timsah was patrolled at night by a steam-launch with an armed
crew, which moved about twice in every watch. The _Orion's_ electric
light was also used during the first and middle watches of the night,
and turned on the Arab guardhouse outside Ismailia.

On the 2nd August Egyptian troops, estimated at about 800, arrived at
Nefiché Junction, and encamped outside the railway station. From the
6th, torpedo and picket-boats were employed to keep up communication
with Suez and Port Saïd. The guns of the different vessels were cleared
for action every night, and the marines and small-arms men kept in
readiness to land.

On the 16th the Egyptian force at Nefiché was largely reinforced.
Several refugees came off to the ships.

On the 19th, with a view to assist in the contemplated landing, the
compass-bearing and distance of the camp at Nefiché were taken during
the day from the masthead of the _Carysfort_, and one of the _Orion's_
25-ton guns was laid accordingly. To secure sufficient elevation to
carry the projectile over the intervening sand-hills, the vessel's port
boilers were emptied and shot removed, so as to give the ship a strong
list to starboard. The same night the crews of the vessels were mustered
at 8 o'clock in working dress, with ammunition and provisions all ready
for landing.

The foregoing narrative brings the history of events down to the eve of
the British forces taking possession of the Canal.



The history having now been brought to the period when the Suez Canal
was occupied by the British forces, it may be interesting to refer to
the attitude assumed by M. Ferdinand de Lesseps, the President of the
Canal Company, and to show how his communications with the rebel leaders
led the latter to postpone until too late the steps resolved on for the
destruction of the Canal.

De Lesseps from the first opposed any interference with the Canal by the
British forces. The earliest indication of his views was afforded
immediately before the Alexandria bombardment. When that operation was
impending, Admiral Seymour warned British ships not to enter the Canal
in case of hostilities. In consequence of this warning eleven ships were
stopped at Port Saïd and Suez on the 10th July. M. Victor de Lesseps,
the Company's agent at Ismailia, thereupon protested against what he
termed "this violation of the neutrality of the Canal."

On the same day, M. de Lesseps, then in Paris, communicated to the
British Ambassador there, and to all the other representatives of the
Powers, a copy of the telegraphic instructions which had on the 8th July
been sent to the agent of the Company at Ismailia. Their effect was that
any action or warlike demonstration in the Canal was forbidden, and that
"its neutrality had been proclaimed by the Firman of Concession, and had
been recognized and acted upon during the two last wars between France
and Germany and Russia and Turkey."

A very slight examination of the question will suffice to show that the
Canal had absolutely nothing of the neutral character so persistently
claimed for it by M. de Lesseps at this time and during the subsequent

Its claim to neutrality was based solely on a clause in the Concession,
in which the Canal was declared by the Sultan to be "a neutral highway
for the ships of all nations." This clause, inserted apparently to
indicate the peaceful and industrial character of the enterprise, was an
expression of intention no doubt binding upon the parties to the
Concession, but upon no one else. This, it is obvious, was a totally
different matter from construing it, as De Lesseps sought to do, as
laying down for the rest of the world a law under which, for all time
and all circumstances, the Canal should be considered as outside the
range of belligerent operations. No one can contend that the ruler of a
country, by a mere _à priori_ declaration of his own, can confer the
quality of neutrality upon any particular part of his territory
irrespective of future eventualities. This is a matter where the rights
of other States come in. Whether a country is or is not neutral is a
matter which, on war breaking out, has to be determined by the
application of certain well-known principles of International Law, and
does not depend upon the mere declaration of the ruler, unless followed
by a strict observance of neutrality.

Assuming that, as was practically the case, England was at war with the
_de facto_ ruler of Egypt, which was Arabi, any declaration that the
Sultan might choose to make that this or that portion of Egyptian
territory should be considered as neutral, and therefore exempt from
warlike operations, would clearly be illusory.

The most that could be done towards the so-called neutralization of the
Canal was subsequently effected in December, 1888, when, by an
agreement between Egypt and the principal Powers, it was arranged that
(subject to certain reservations made by Great Britain) no hostilities
on the part of any of the contracting Powers should take place in the
Canal, nor, in the event of the territorial Power being itself a
belligerent, should the ships of that Power attack, or be attacked, in
the Canal, nor were the entrances to the Canal to be blockaded. This, it
will be seen, is "neutralization" only in a limited and vague sense of
the term, the employment of which was carefully avoided in the

The precedents invoked by M. de Lesseps from the Franco-German and the
Russo-Turkish wars, in reality, were worth nothing. When France and
Germany were at war, Egypt was at peace, and her neutrality had to be
respected, neither Turkey nor Egypt being in any way mixed up with the
dispute. As regards the Russo-Turkish war, it is incontestable that if
Russia, in the exercise of her undoubted rights as a belligerent, had
seized on the Canal as a piece of Ottoman territory, no other Power
would have had reason to complain. Whether by doing so Russia would have
made an enemy of England, and so have caused her to take part against
her, was another matter; and, influenced probably by considerations of
this kind, Russia was induced to abstain. This, however, in no way
affects the principle involved.

But, apart from the general reasoning above mentioned, there were
certain special circumstances affecting the matter which made the case
of De Lesseps still weaker, and rendered the ordinary rules regarding
neutrality inapplicable. By the terms of the Concession, although the
Canal itself was to be the property of the Company for a term of years,
the land through which it ran remained none the less Egyptian territory,
and by Article 9 it was expressly declared that the Government should
have the same right of acting for the maintenance of public security and
the enforcement of the law within the limits of the Company's property
as might be exercised at any other point of the Khedive's dominions.
Arabi at this time was a rebel, and his forces were occupying positions
in the immediate neighbourhood of the Canal. This gave the Khedive an
undoubted right to act against him, whether on the Canal or elsewhere.
To assert that the ruler of Egypt was not at liberty to suppress a
revolt in his own dominions would be too startling a proposition for
even M. de Lesseps to bring forward. Whether the Khedive interfered by
himself or by his agent, who in this case was Sir Garnet Wolseley, comes
to exactly the same thing. What took place was a simple matter of
police, and if, in the course of suppressing Arabi, certain points on
the Canal had to be occupied, the case came expressly within the terms
of Article 9. This being so, of what had De Lesseps to complain, and
where does the question of neutrality arise?

Regarded, then, from any point of view, the fallacy of the claim to
neutrality advanced on behalf of the Canal is so clear that it is
difficult to imagine how it could ever have been seriously put forward.

Here, too, it may be remarked that not only was the Canal not a
"neutral" concern, but it never possessed any of the "international" or
"universal" character claimed for it. It was, in fact, no more
"international" or "universal" than a tramway or a dry goods store, to
which the citizens of all nations could have access on payment for the
accommodation or goods supplied. Viewed in this light, the pretensions
of the President of the Company appear simply ridiculous, and in any
less distinguished individual would only have excited ridicule.

The question of neutrality having now been dealt with, it only remains
to relate the steps taken by the President of the Canal Company.

According to his published memoirs:--

    "On his arrival in Egypt with his son Victor, on the 19th July,
    he found that everything had been prepared by the French and
    English Commanders for the joint occupation of Port Saïd, with a
    view to protect the population. De Lesseps hastened to the
    French Admiral's flagship, and was informed by that officer that
    he had been asked by two of the French residents to land troops
    for their protection. After some difficulty De Lesseps prevailed
    on the French Commander to confide to him the petition, which
    was signed by two names he knew very well. As the document was
    legalized by the French Consul, he went straight to his house
    and got that official to summon the two petitioners. They were
    soon found, and De Lesseps rated them soundly for what he called
    their stupidity. He told them that now he was at Port Saïd they
    might sleep without fear; that he would be responsible for the
    safety of everyone; and then, taking the petition, he tore it up
    in their faces, threw the pieces on the floor, and told the men
    who had signed it that as it was withdrawn they might go home.
    They did so, and De Lesseps, returning to the French Admiral,
    informed him that the petition no longer existed, and that,
    therefore, he had no reason for landing. The French Admiral not
    having yet been informed by his Government of their
    determination not to co-operate with the English, De Lesseps
    found it no easy matter to persuade him to alter his decision
    with regard to the projected landing. The fact that the French
    fleet had withdrawn from Alexandria when it was bombarded by the
    English aided De Lesseps in prevailing on the French Commander
    to abstain. When at last he had attained that object, it was De
    Lesseps himself who informed the English Commander of the fact."

According to the official journal of the Canal Company ("Le Canal de
Suez"), which, however, must not always be regarded as an accurate
record of events, De Lesseps found both the native and European
population of Port Saïd much disturbed at the idea of the projected
landing, and he called a meeting of the native Notables and Sheikhs to
reassure them.

After these incidents he received from Arabi a telegram, of which the
following is a translation:--

    "Thank you for what you have done to prevent the landing of
    foreign troops at Port Saïd, and for your efforts to restore
    tranquillity of mind to the natives and the Europeans."

De Lesseps then went through the Canal to Suez, returning again as far
as Ismailia, from which place, on the 26th, he sent a telegram to M.
Charles de Lesseps, the Company's agent in Paris, to the effect

    "The English Admiral having declared to me that he would not
    disembark without being preceded by the French Navy, and a
    disembarkation being possibly ruin to Port Saïd, I have had to
    reassure the numerous Arab population, without whom we should be
    forced to suspend our works. In the presence of the Ulemas and
    Notables, I have sworn that not a Frenchman shall disembark
    whilst I am here, and that I will guarantee public tranquillity
    and the neutrality of our Universal Canal. The Government of my
    country will not disavow me."

This was followed by another telegram, of which the following is a
translation, to the same person:--

            _"Ismailia, 29th July, 1882._

    "To disembark at Ismailia, where there is not a solitary
    Egyptian soldier, is to determine to take possession of our
    Canal. The only persons here are a chief of native police and
    some agents. The inhabitants are our employés, their families,
    and some refugees. The invaders will find us unarmed at the
    head of our _personnel_ to bar their passage with 'protests.'"

And by yet another, on the 4th August:--

    "The English Admiral at Port Saïd writes me that he has decided
    to take, in spite of my protests, such measures as he judges
    necessary to occupy the Canal. I have decided to oppose any
    warlike operation on the Canal."

On the same day, M. de Lesseps went on board H.M.S. _Orion_ at Ismailia.
He was in evening dress, and wore his Order of the Star of India, and
was attended by his son Victor and M. de Rouville, the Canal Company's
agent. He demanded the intentions of the English towards the Canal, and
protested energetically and with much excitement against any landing as
"a violation of international rights."

On the day following, M. de Lesseps telegraphed to Paris as follows:--

    "The English Admiral having announced the occupation of
    Ismailia, I went yesterday on board the _Orion_ with Victor. We
    have signified verbally our resolution to resist, to prevent
    serious disorder and interruption in navigation of the Canal. We
    have obtained a declaration that a landing should only take
    place on our demand."

In consequence of this last telegram, Admiral Hoskins was desired to
report on the statement that he had promised only to land a force on the
Canal upon being asked by De Lesseps. The Admiral replied that the
statement was "quite unwarranted."

The Council of the Canal Company assembled on the 5th August, and passed
resolutions supporting their President, and declaring that "the Company
could not lend itself to the violation of a neutrality which was the
guarantee of the commerce of all nations."

On the 15th the Khedive issued a Proclamation declaring that the
Commander-in-Chief of the British forces was authorized to occupy all
points on the Isthmus necessary for the operations against the rebels.

On the 19th Admiral Hoskins gave orders that no ship or boat was to
enter the Canal, and announced that he was prepared to resort to force
to prevent any attempt to contravene these orders. M. de Lesseps replied
that he protested against "this act of violence and spoliation."

On the 20th August Lord Lyons telegraphed Lord Granville as follows,
omitting irrelevant passages:--

    "We communicated to M. Charles de Lesseps last night a
    memorandum in the terms of your Lordship's despatch to us of the
    14th instant; and we requested, at the same time, that the
    transports should pay dues at Ismailia, and that the regular
    traffic through the Suez Canal should be suspended during the
    short period necessary for the passage of these vessels. M.
    Charles de Lesseps declined to express any opinion of his own,
    but it was plain to us that he did not expect that the wishes of
    Her Majesty's Government would be acceded to by his father."

As the sequel showed, M. de Lesseps' acquiescence was not deemed by the
English Government essential to the carrying out of the operations
decided on.

M. de Lesseps, ever since his arrival in Egypt, had continued to assure
Arabi that if he let the Canal alone the English would also respect it.
His theory was, "Le Canal est la grande route ouverte à tous les
pavilions. Y toucher amenerait contre nous l'Europe, le monde entier."
Towards the end of July, M. de Lesseps, having learned that the blocking
of the Canal had been decided at the Egyptian camp, telegraphed to Arabi
to do nothing to it, adding the words, "_Jamais les Anglais n'y
pénétreraient, jamais, jamais!_" Nevertheless, secret orders were given
to Mahmoud Pasha Fehmi to prepare everything for the military occupation
of the Canal jointly with Mahmoud Choukri Bey, another engineer of the
National Party. This was on the evening of the 17th August.

On the 20th, after a simulated attack by the British on the lines of
Kafr Dowar, intended to cover the expedition to Port Saïd, Arabi's
look-outs signalled the movement of the English fleet in the direction
of the Canal.

The day following, M. de Lesseps having been informed of the presence of
thirty-two English ships of war and transports in the waters of Port
Saïd, sent to Arabi a telegram, the substance of which was as follows:--

"Make no attempt to intercept _my_ Canal. I am there. Not a single
English soldier shall disembark without being accompanied by a French
soldier. I answer for everything." On receipt of this message, a Council
of War was held, which, with the exception of Arabi, who still
hesitated, unanimously decided to act. The answer to M. de Lesseps was
as follows:--"Sincere thanks, assurances consolatory, but not sufficient
under existing circumstances. The defence of Egypt requires the
temporary destruction of the Canal." Fortunately the despatch ordering
the destruction of the Canal was sent by a roundabout route by way of
Cairo, and when men and material were ready to carry out the work, the
English were already in occupation, in spite of M. de Lesseps' positive
declarations. The fifteen hours' delay caused by M. de Lesseps'
communication prevented the execution of the orders of the Council.



The seizure and temporary occupation of the Suez Canal by the British
forces became an absolute necessity from the moment that Sir Garnet
Wolseley determined to make Ismailia the base of his operations.

Once decided on, the evolution was performed on the night of the
19th-20th of August in a quiet, practical, and business-like manner,
reflecting the highest credit on the British Navy.

The work at Port Saïd was carried out by the _Monarch_ and the _Iris_,
the first-named vessel being so moored off the town that her forward
turret guns commanded the main street leading to the quay, whilst the
_Iris_ was to seaward of the _Monarch_, in a position whence she could
shell the beach and the Arab town. The ironclad _Northumberland_ lay
anchored in the offing off Fort Ghemil, the object being to check an
exodus of the coal labourers from Port Saïd, and to create an impression
that the fort was to be attacked. At 11 on the night of the 19th the
ships' companies of the _Monarch_ and _Iris_ were called on deck and
warned that they would be landed at 3 a.m.

At exactly 3.30 on the 20th the landing began amidst the strictest
silence. So quietly was the operation carried out that those on board
the French ironclad _La Gallissonière_, moored close astern of the
_Monarch_, and to the same buoy, knew nothing of what was going on.

The landing party comprised two companies of seamen and one of marines
from the _Monarch_, and a small naval brigade and a company of marines
from the _Iris_, with two Gatling guns.

The plan of operations, shortly stated, was to surround the barracks in
which the Government soldiers were quartered, and then to establish a
line of sentries across the narrow neck of land which separates the
European from the native town, and to bar escape from the former. In a
few minutes the work was completed. The soldiers, who were nearly all
asleep, were ordered to surrender, and 160 of them fell in and laid down
their arms. They were then permitted to return to their barracks, two
officers only being detained in custody. The seamen were then posted
right across from Lake Menzaleh to the sea, and some temporary
earthworks were thrown up across the neck of land already referred to.

Upon Captain Seymour, of the _Iris_, devolved the delicate duty of
securing the Canal Company's offices at Port Saïd, and of preventing any
information being telegraphed through it to the Company's other

After Captain Seymour had occupied the office of the principal transit
agent of the Canal Company, a midshipman, not more than fifteen years of
age, was told off with a party of bluejackets to take possession of the
Company's telegraph apparatus. The Company's employés stood aghast with
solemn faces. Such an act of desecration had never been even dreamt of.
Presently the Company's Telegraph Agent arrived, full of dignity and
importance, and, apparently unconscious of what had taken place, walked
towards his office. He was stopped at the entrance by the small
midshipman, who said with a very good French accent, "On ne passe pas."
The Frenchman (all the important posts in the Company are filled by
Frenchmen) looked at the diminutive object in front of him with
dignified astonishment, and demanded, "Qui êtes-vous? Que voulez-vous
ici?" "Je suis ici pour empêcher le monde d'entrer," answered the
midshipman. The Frenchman, quite bewildered, looked round, and from the
long faces of his colleagues was able to guess the truth. His anger and
humiliation at first prevented his uttering a word. It was not so much
that his office had been seized, but that such an important mission
should have been confided to so small a midshipman. This was the
bitterest sting of all. Had he been suppressed by a troop of soldiers
with fixed bayonets, his dignity at least would have been saved, though
the result might have been the same. "Ces sacrés Anglais veulent se
moquer de nous en nous envoyant un gamin comme cela," was his remark to
his brother officials.

Resistance was, however, in vain, and the Company's staff had to submit
to the inevitable.[44]

Of course the vital point to be seized was Ismailia, a task which the
presence of the Egyptian force at the railway junction at Nefiché, just
outside the town, rendered especially perilous.

The force landed by Captain Fitz-Roy, of the _Orion_, consisted of 565
officers and men belonging to that vessel, the _Northumberland_,
_Carysfort_, and _Coquette_, with two Gatlings and a 7-pounder gun. The
men disembarked in absolute silence at 3 a.m. on the 20th. The silence
was so perfect that the Egyptian guard at the Lock Gates was surrounded
before the attacking force was discovered. The guard, however, fired
their rifles, and so did the sailors. The guard at the Governor's house
laid down their arms, and no further resistance was experienced in the
town. The railway and telegraph stations, the Canal lock bridge, and the
Governor's house (with the Governor) were all taken possession of and

There was some slight skirmishing in making the further advance, and in
the Arab town some of the enemy were killed. The ships in Lake Timsah at
3.40 a.m. fired five rounds of shell each on the guardhouses in the Arab
town. By 4 a.m. the whole place was occupied. By intercepted telegrams
it was ascertained that the enemy were arranging to send a large force
to Nefiché to attack Ismailia and the ships, and Captain Fitz-Roy
determined, if possible, to dislodge the enemy from Nefiché, and to
destroy their camp and any of the trains running. The _Orion_ and
_Carysfort_ therefore commenced a slow bombardment at 11 a.m., at a
distance of 4,200 yards. By noon the enemy's camp was destroyed, and the
troops were retreating towards Cairo. The bombardment was then stopped
for a time, but at 4 p.m., as another train was arriving laden with
troops, firing was resumed, one shot wrecking the train, overturning the
trucks and scattering the soldiers right and left. The fortunate shot
was fired from the _Orion_ at an unseen enemy, from bearings taken from
the masthead of the _Carysfort_.

This concluded the fighting until 10 p.m., after which shells were fired
at Nefiché at intervals of half an hour until daylight, to prevent the
railway being cleared, and check troops coming from the west by train.
At 10.30 General Graham arrived with the advance guard of the army,
reinforced the different positions, and took over the military command.

Throughout the operations there was only one European injured. The
brother-in-law of the Dutch Consul happened to be walking in the
neighbourhood of the lock, and not stopping when challenged, was
unfortunately shot in the arm, and subsequently died.[45]

The account given by M. Victor de Lesseps, the Canal Company's local
agent, in his official report of the operations at Ismailia, differs
somewhat from the foregoing. It is nevertheless not devoid of interest,
and for this reason a translation of some of the more important passages
is given below.

    "During the night of the 19th to 20th all the European
    population, the _personnel_ of the Company, and the principal
    Egyptian functionaries, were assembled at the house of M.
    Poilpré, Chief Agent of the Domain, at one of the gayest of
    balls, enlivened by the presence of the officers of the Spanish
    and Austrian ships of war. At two in the morning, every one went
    home, and commenced to sleep, when, towards 3 o'clock, in the
    middle of a very dark night, the streets resounded with warlike
    cries, mingled with the sound of musketry and of the rolling of
    gun-carriages dragged at a walking pace.

    "It is the English sailors who disembark without having warned
    the inhabitants that they might be exposed to be killed in the
    streets. On what are they firing?--on whom?--no enemy is before
    them. The camp of the Egyptians is at Nefiché, three kilometres
    from Ismailia. There are in the town only some soldiers of
    police, very peaceable people, inhabiting Ismailia for a long
    time, and who have never dreamed of anything but maintaining

    "Shortly after the embarkation, the cannon thunders. It is the
    _Orion_--it is the _Carysfort_--which are sending their shells
    on to Nefiché, or in the desert.

    "The musketry fire continues in the streets of Ismailia. At
    daybreak it ceases in the town, after having happily made only
    one victim.

    "It is a European, a Dutchman, M. Bröens, who, not answering
    clearly to the challenge of a seaman, received a rifle bullet,
    which, traversing his body, broke his left arm. M. Bröens lies
    between life and death. The doctors regard his condition as

    "The English sailors direct their steps towards our Arab
    village, inhabited by our native workmen with their families,
    and where they find no enemies to reply. Nevertheless, they
    fire on the women and children,[46] who flee into the desert;
    heartrending cries from the terrified population reach even us.
    Some Police Agents are made prisoners without any of them
    having tried to defend themselves.

    "One of them is killed from behind, whilst trying to escape
    with his family.

    "Towards eight in the morning the musketry fire ceased. The
    cannon thunders still, and will thunder until the morning of
    the 21st.

    "On landing, the English have cut our telegraph wires to Suez
    and Port Saïd. Captain Fitz-Roy occupies the Port Office, and
    our boats are seized. Ismailia is blocked, and we know nothing
    of what is passing on the rest of the line.

    "In the afternoon we think of putting the families of our
    _personnel_ in safety. For 300 seamen only occupy the town, and
    during the night the Egyptians of Nefiché may attack. It is
    prudent to make the women and children sleep on the lake. As to
    the _personnel_ and M. Ferdinand de Lesseps, they have decided
    not to quit the town.

    "The families betake themselves to the landing-place. Captain
    Fitz-Roy opposes their departure.[47] I then write him a
    letter. M. Fitz-Roy answers me verbally at seven in the
    evening, when the night commences, that the families are free,
    but that M. de Lesseps and all his _personnel_ shall pass the
    night in the town, for he expects to be attacked. There will be
    a battle in Ismailia, and he wishes that M. de Lesseps and all
    his _personnel_ should be there. 'I am the master, now,' says

    "These odious words were quite gratuitous, since M. de Lesseps
    and all the _personnel_, chiefs and employés, had declared that
    they would not go out of the town, and there had never been a
    question except as regards their families.

    "A part of the families preferred to return to town; the other
    part was enabled to embark in the boats sent by the ironclad
    Spanish frigate _Carmen_, and by the Austrian gunboat

    "The night, happily, passed without any incident; the silence
    was broken only by the shells thrown by the _Carysfort_ and
    _Orion_ on Nefiché. At daylight Ismailia woke up in the midst
    of several thousands of English soldiers of the army. The Lake
    is full of transports and ships of war.

    "We learn then that in the night of the 19th to the 20th the
    English have disembarked at Port Saïd, but peaceably, and that
    Admiral Hoskins has taken possession of our offices, from
    whence M. Desavary, Principal Transit Agent at Port Saïd, had
    been expelled. Ships of war and transports entered the Canal
    without pilots, and without paying their dues.[48]

    "During the 20th and 21st the movement without pilots of the
    English vessels of war gave rise to complete confusion. The
    greater part got ashore, and several were obliged to disembark
    their troops on the bank before arriving at Ismailia, being
    incapable of extricating themselves by their own resources.
    Admiral Seymour has been forced to recognize this, and the
    hurry that he was in on the 21st to hand back the working to us
    is the proof of it.[49]

    "It is desirable to add that the British naval authorities
    tried to obtain the services of several of our pilots behind
    the backs of their superiors, and that all the pilots, without
    exception, refused to move without the order of the Company.

    "During all this crisis no _défaillance_ has been produced in
    all the _personnel_ from Port Saïd to Suez. The Company may
    well be proud of it."

The substance of M. Victor de Lesseps' account of the occupation of
Ismailia being telegraphed to the _Standard_ newspaper, the Lords of the
Admiralty thought the matter of sufficient importance to be noticed, and
on the 1st September communicated to the Foreign Office as follows:--

    "From these reports[50] we are able to give the following
    account of the occurrences of that day: Ismailia was garrisoned
    by rebel troops; guards were placed at the lock, the Governor's
    house, and the Arab town. The lock was surrounded by a party
    under Commander Kane, R.N. The guard fired and wounded that
    officer slightly. Their fire was returned, and it is believed
    that it was here that a brother of one of the employés of the
    Canal was unfortunately wounded, who died on the 29th ultimo in
    the British hospital. The guard at the Governor's house laid
    down their arms. The Arab town was occupied by Captain
    Stephenson; the guard retreated and were fired upon, and two men
    killed. A few rounds of shell were also fired from the ships at
    the guardhouses in the Arab town.

    "Sir Beauchamp Seymour also reports that he saw on the 21st
    ultimo many women on board the Spanish ship _Carmen_; that he
    was told by the Captains that they took refuge on board of her
    and the Austrian ship _Albatross_ on the 20th. It appears that
    Captain Fitz-Roy permitted two large Canal boats to be used for
    their embarkation, although he did not consider it consistent
    with his duty to allow Canal officers to leave Ismailia."

In the southern half of the Canal from Lake Timsah to Suez, the events
of the day were on a smaller scale, but none the less interesting. It
will be remembered that Suez had been by this time in the possession of
the British navy for nearly three weeks, and the advanced guard of the
Indian Contingent and the first battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders,
under Lieutenant-Colonel Stockwell, had arrived from Aden.

Rear-Admiral Sir William Hewett, Commander-in-Chief of the naval forces
in the East Indies, had charge of the operations at Suez. According to
his reports, in the afternoon of the 17th August, the rebels were seen
intrenching themselves in front of the British position, and movements
of Bedouins on the left flank also called for attention. Under these
circumstances, it was decided by the Admiral not to send any of the
Highlanders away without previously reconnoitring the neighbourhood.

On the night of the 18th, Hewett caused the telegraph wires to be cut
between Suez and the first Canal station, and on Saturday morning
notices were issued that from that date, the 19th instant, until the
prohibition was formally removed, no ships or boats would be allowed to
pass into the Canal from the Suez side without special permission. The
damage to the wire on the above occasion was soon repaired, but on the
following night he caused the poles which conveyed the line across the
creek close to the Company's offices to be cut down, and placed a guard
over them to prevent their being restored.

On the 20th, at daylight, 400 Highlanders, under Colonel Stockwell, were
disembarked from the transport _Bancoora_, and marched eight miles in
the direction of Chalouf to make a feint attack in front. At the same
time the gun-vessels _Sea Gull_ and _Mosquito_, with 200 more of the
Highlanders, were also despatched to Chalouf by the Maritime Canal. The
party under Colonel Stockwell returned about 4 p.m. without having come
in touch with the enemy.

The gun-vessels, meanwhile, had been more successful. The first that
they had seen of the enemy along the Canal was a cavalry patrol, about
three miles from Chalouf. On the gun-vessels approaching this latter
place, some 800 infantry were discovered behind the railway embankment,
which thus formed a natural intrenchment. The ships at once opened fire
from their tops, to which the enemy replied, but made bad practice. This
was followed by the prompt disembarkation of the 200 Highlanders, who,
crossing the intervening Fresh-water Canal in boats, or by swimming,
climbed up the intrenchment and carried the works with a rush, the
enemy, scattered and broken, retreating across the plain. The
gun-vessels then returned to Suez.

With the exception of the Serapeum portion between Lake Timsah and the
Bitter Lakes, where no annoyance or interruption of traffic was
expected, the whole of the Maritime Canal was in possession of the
British Navy by nightfall of August the 20th. On the following day the
_Tourmaline_ and the _Don_ moored permanently at Kantara, where a
caravan road to Syria crosses the Canal, and there established a
strongly defended post; while the gunboats in the southern half
completed the link which perfected the chain from Port Saïd to Suez.

Having seized the Canal, the British prepared to protect it. Between
Ismailia and Suez this was effected by the _Mosquito_ and _Sea Gull_,
which patrolled it constantly, no force being permanently landed. In the
northern half the _Tourmaline_ and _Don_ held Kantara and the stations
adjoining on either side. Strong detachments of sailors from the fleet
at Port Saïd, with Gatlings, were landed at the other stations.
Breastworks were thrown up and regular camps established each night. At
Port Saïd a camp was pitched between the European and Arab towns, where
never less than 500 bluejackets and marines were kept. Intrenchments
were thrown up across the Isthmus from Lake Menzaleh to the
Mediterranean, and field-pieces mounted. In the Canal itself steam
launches, &c., with armed crews were used as patrols, and the fast
Thorneycroft torpedo launches of the _Iris_ and _Hecla_ were employed as
despatch boats.

Sunday, August 20th, was a busy day at Port Saïd. The whole of the
immense fleet of men-of-war and transports, as well as Sir Beauchamp
Seymour in the _Helicon_, arrived early in the forenoon. As was
expected, the Canal Company would accept no dues and would provide no
pilots. There was some little delay until the way was clear. During this
interval, to provide against possible trouble, 300 of the York and
Lancaster Regiment were put on board the gun-vessel _Falcon_, and a
similar number of the West Kent Regiment was embarked on board the
gun-vessel _Beacon_, to form the advance. These vessels arrived at
Ismailia in the evening of the same day.

Early in the afternoon the _Nerissa_ led the transport fleet into the
Canal, followed by the _Rhosina_, the troop-ship _Euphrates_, and the
rest, including the _Penelope_, Admiral Hoskins' flagship. Slowly the
stately procession passed through the Canal to Ismailia, which the
vessels one by one reached either that night or early the next morning.
Although the ships were unprovided with pilots, they were so skilfully
navigated by their own officers, that very little difficulty arose,
almost the only exception being the grounding of the _Catalonia_,[51]
with the West Kent Regiment on board. She grounded at a distance of
seven miles from Lake Timsah, and caused a temporary block; but did not
for long interrupt the passage of the other vessels.

M. Ferdinand de Lesseps, from the steps of the Empress's Chalet at the
entrance to Lake Timsah, watched the long line of British vessels of war
and transports arriving from the Canal.[52] So little space was there
that the vessels as they entered the Lake were moored abreast of each
other, bow and stern. The _Penelope_ was one of the first to take up her

In M. de Lesseps' memoirs, already referred to, it is stated that he had
refused to give pilots to the British vessels, under pretext that they
were violating the neutrality of the Canal, and that it was doubtful
whether he would in the end have consented to give the pilots if he had
not perceived that the English were determined to use the Canal at the
risk of a vessel or two being stranded. He knew how detrimental the
blocking of the Canal would be to his enterprise, so he made a bargain
with the English Commander, and on receiving a cheque on the Bank of
England for £100,000 as compensation for the damage done, he placed
the whole administration of the Canal at the disposal of the British.
Being powerless to prevent the violation of the Canal's neutrality, he
thus preserved intact the pecuniary interests of the Company.

It is scarcely necessary to say that the whole of the above statement is
"fallacious," as was pointed out by Sir Beauchamp Seymour (then Lord
Alcester) in a letter which he wrote to the _Times_ as soon as the
matter was noticed by the British Press.

At 9 a.m. on the 21st Sir Garnet Wolseley arrived in the despatch vessel
_Salamis_, and issued the following Proclamation by order of the


    "The General in command of the British forces wishes to make
    known that the object of Her Majesty's Government in sending
    troops to this country is to re-establish the authority of the
    Khedive. The army is therefore only fighting against those who
    are in arms against His Highness. All peaceable inhabitants
    will be treated with kindness, and no violence will be offered
    to them. Their religion, mosques, families, and property will
    be respected. Any supplies which may be required will be paid
    for, and the inhabitants are invited to bring them. The General
    in command will be glad to receive visits from the Chiefs who
    are willing to assist in repressing the rebellion against the
    Khedive, the lawful Ruler of Egypt appointed by the Sultan.

            "G. J. WOLSELEY, General,
        "Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in Egypt."



The country between Ismailia and the Delta is so monotonous that a few
words only are necessary to give a notion of its character. It is a
desert of sand, across which run the Fresh Water Canal and the railway
side by side. To the northward of these the ground is, as a rule,
somewhat higher, sloping in a southerly direction across the Canal. From
these elevations occasional peeps can be obtained of the blue waters of
Lake Timsah, and of the violet-tinted hills of Geb-el-Attakeh in the
distance. The surface is occasionally varied by low hummocks and mounds,
and is dotted at intervals by tufts of scrub, called "camel grass." The
soil is a deep light shifting sand near Ismailia, but it gradually
increases in firmness towards the westward; and at Tel-el-Kebir,
especially on the upper crests of the hills, is a fairly compact
wind-swept gravel, over which progress is comparatively easy.

The sky is here rarely cloudy, so that the sun beats down with full
force during the day, whilst at night the air becomes cool and almost
chilly, even in summer. Shelter is needed against the sun in day-time,
and at night a blanket is indispensable, both on account of the low
temperature and of the dews.

By reason of the absence of rain and the dry temperature, stores of all
kinds could be freely piled up uncovered in the open air without fear of
injury. The Fresh Water Canal, joining the Nile just below Cairo,
furnished the necessary water, of fair quality when once the mud held in
suspension was got rid of. The Egyptian flies, the worst of their
species, however, made life almost unendurable. They disappeared with
the sun, only to be relieved by countless hosts of mosquitoes.

No time was lost after the landing of the troops at Ismailia, the
advance commencing the day following the occupation. At 11 a.m. General
Graham started from the town with 800 men and a small naval contingent,
and marched across the heavy sand, arriving in position at Nefiché at
1.30 p.m.

The Egyptian camp was found completely deserted, the enemy having
retired to the westward along the Fresh Water Canal. A few tents were
left behind, and about thirty railway trucks full of provisions and
ammunition. The remains of the wrecked train which had been struck by
the _Orion's_ shell were also lying about. The locomotive, however,
which was badly wanted, was gone, and the telegraph wires were cut. The
entire force under Graham bivouacked here, and the position was at once
placed in an efficient state of defence. Shelter trenches were thrown
up, and guns were placed in position.

Later in the day a reconnaissance was made to the westward, and the
presence of the enemy was discerned about four miles distant.

The troops had carried with them two days' rations, and it was necessary
to accumulate a small stock of stores before continuing the advance. In
consequence, the next two days were devoted to preparations.

Transports continued to arrive daily in Lake Timsah, and landing went on
rapidly. On the 22nd, twenty-six transports, besides vessels of war,
were moored off Ismailia. At 4 p.m. all the bluejackets from the fleet
re-embarked, except three Gatling guns' crews and a torpedo party, who
had advanced with Graham to Nefiché.[53]

On the 23rd there was increased activity in Ismailia, several transports
arriving from Suez with portions of the Indian Contingent. The Khedive's
Palace was converted into a hospital. Lines of rails were laid down from
the landing-place to the station, and stores were disembarked in great
quantities and moved up to the front.

On the following day commenced a series of engagements, which, with some
intervals, continued until the dispersal of the Egyptian Army at

At 4 a.m. on the 24th, Wolseley made an advance with the object of
seizing a position on the Fresh Water Canal and railway which would
insure the water supply. His force consisted of three squadrons of
cavalry, two guns (R.H.A.), and 1,000 infantry (York and Lancaster
Regiment and Marines). Following the line of railway, they arrived at
7.30 a.m. on the north side of the Canal, at a point about midway
between El Magfar and the village of Tel-el-Mahuta. At this point the
enemy had constructed his first dam across the Canal, and after some
skirmishing, in which the Household Cavalry made a successful charge,
the dam was taken possession of.

From this point the enemy could be seen in force about a mile-and-a-half
further on, holding a line extending across the Canal, at a distance of
2,000 yards from the British front. At Mahuta also a large embankment
was seen blocking the railway, and a second dam had been constructed
across the Canal. The smoke of locomotives constantly reaching Mahuta
indicated that reinforcements were arriving at that point from the
direction of Tel-el-Kebir.

Nevertheless, Wolseley, at the risk of being outnumbered--the enemy's
force amounting in all to about 7,000 men--decided to hold his ground
till evening, by which time the reinforcements sent for to Nefiché and
Ismailia would arrive.

The enemy began with a heavy artillery fire from twelve guns, and their
infantry advanced to within 1,000 yards of the British line, meeting
with a steady and well-directed fire from the York and Lancaster
Regiment, which held the captured dam. From 10 to 11 o'clock the enemy
continued to develop his attack on the centre and right of Wolseley's
position. The Egyptian guns were served well, but, fortunately, the
shells used were fitted with percussion fuzes, which sank so deeply into
the sand before bursting that few splinters flew upwards. The fire was
returned by the two guns of the Royal Horse Artillery (which had taken
up a position on a sandy hillock near the railway embankment), and the
practice from which was very good. In the meantime, the cavalry, under
General Drury-Lowe, manoeuvred on the right of the position to check
the enemy's advance on that side; but the horses, just landed after a
long sea voyage, and fatigued by their march across a desert deep in
sand, were in no condition to charge.

This was the situation at noon, when two Gatling guns, with a party of
sailors belonging to H.M.S. _Orion_, arrived and took up a position for
action. The manner in which the sailors brought their guns into
position excited general admiration.

At 1 p.m. the 2nd battalion of the Duke of Cornwall's Regiment arrived
from Nefiché.

The artillery fire of the enemy was now directed more on the right,
until about 3.30 p.m. General Lowe, with the cavalry, moved forward, and
caused the enemy partially to withdraw his attack in that direction.

At 5.15 p.m. the enemy again advanced, his left pushing forward four
guns, some cavalry and infantry, but not coming within effective
infantry or Gatling fire.

Reinforcements now began to come up rapidly--Colonel Sir Baker Russell
with 350 of the 4th and 7th Dragoon Guards, and at 6 p.m. the Brigade of
Guards, under the Duke of Connaught, arrived on the scene. It was by
this time too late to begin an offensive movement; the troops were tired
by their exertions during the early part of the day, and the Brigade of
Guards, which had moved from Ismailia at 1.30 p.m., had suffered much
from the heat of the desert march. Shortly after sunset the entire force
bivouacked on the field which they had so tenaciously held all day, and
the enemy withdrew to his position at Mahuta.

The events of the day may be shortly described as a successful attempt
to seize the dam,[54] and the retaining of the position, gained in the
face of greatly superior numbers. It is therefore to be regretted that
Sir Garnet Wolseley should have thought it necessary to refer to the
matter in somewhat bombastic language in his official despatch, in which
he expresses himself as follows: "Although I had but three squadrons of
cavalry, two guns, and about 1,000 infantry, I felt it would not be in
consonance with the traditions of Her Majesty's Army that we should
retire, even temporarily, before Egyptian troops, no matter what their
numbers might be."

Had Sir Garnet only been well acquainted with military history, he might
have recollected one of the events connected with the British Expedition
to Egypt in 1807. In the course of that disastrous campaign 1,000
British infantry, under Colonel Stewart, had to retire before a force,
composed of Egyptian and Albanian troops, at El Hamad, on the Nile, and
further, were all either killed, wounded, or taken prisoners.[55]

During the night of the 24th August further reinforcements from Ismailia
continued to arrive, and the attack on the intrenched post of
Tel-el-Mahuta commenced soon after daybreak on the 25th.

As the British force advanced, the infantry in echelon, the Brigade of
Guards leading and the cavalry on the right, the enemy was observed
abandoning his earthworks at Mahuta, and falling back along the railway
line to Mahsameh. His railway trains were all seen moving off in the
same direction. At 6.25 a.m. the British artillery came into action with
the Egyptian infantry and guns posted on the Canal bank to the west of

As it was of importance to capture some of the enemy's locomotives, the
cavalry and eight guns were pushed forward with all speed to cut off the
retreating trains. The enemy offered considerable resistance in the
neighbourhood of Mahsameh, but nothing could stop the advance of the
mounted troops, and Mahsameh, with its extensive camp, was soon in their
possession. Seven Krupp guns, great quantities of ammunition, two trains
of railway waggons loaded with provisions, and vast supplies of various
kinds were captured. The Egyptian soldiers fled along the railway and
Canal banks, throwing away their arms and equipment, and showing every
sign of demoralization.

The Canal had been filled with dead bodies, and the banks were still
strewn with them, probably with the idea of making the water
undrinkable. It was here that one of the English artillerymen, having
offered to fetch water for a wounded Egyptian, was shot dead by the
latter whilst doing so.

The stock of provisions captured was a most welcome addition to the
stores in hand, and in particular the grain left on the ground in large
quantities was invaluable, for the horses had been for several days on
an extremely short allowance of forage.

It will be remarked that the operations of the day hardly attained to
the dignity of an engagement, the Egyptians offering practically no
resistance, but falling back on Tel-el-Kebir, where a large camp had
been established north of the railway, and where extensive intrenchments
were begun along the crest of a range of hills running north and

The losses on the side of the British were small--only five killed and
twenty-five wounded; but the cases of sunstroke were numerous, the 4th
Dragoons having sixteen and the York and Lancaster Regiment twenty-five
men disabled from this cause.

On August 26th a small force of the Dragoons occupied the lock on the
Fresh Water Canal at Kassassin without opposition. This was a most
important step, because the possession of the lock gave Sir Garnet
Wolseley control of the water in the upper reach of the Canal--no small
advantage to an army worked like his on strictly temperance principles.
That it could have been accomplished so easily is an indication of the
ignorance or carelessness of the enemy. Later in the day the Duke of
Cornwall's Light Infantry, the 84th York and Lancaster Regiment, as well
as two guns of the Royal Horse Artillery, were marched to the lock,
where they established themselves, the cavalry withdrawing to Mahsameh.
A house on the left bank of the Canal was occupied by General Graham and
his staff, who remained in charge of the advanced guard. As it was known
that the enemy was not far off, the cavalry scouted by day and night,
and strong outposts were established.



The British force had now outrun its Commissariat, and for two days the
men had lived from hand to mouth. To secure the water supply it had
become necessary to push forward a force into the Desert nearly twenty
miles from the base of operations at Ismailia. The question arose how
the troops were to be supplied with food, and the want of a proper
organization for the transport of provisions began to be severely felt.
The men, weakened by prolonged exertion under a terrible sun, were
forced to live for two or three days on biscuits and muddy water,
flavoured only with the dead bodies of Egyptian men and horses. The
English horses also were short of forage and showed signs of fatigue and
exhaustion. The question of supply became an anxious one. Mules were not
forthcoming, the railway had been cut, and no rolling stock was
available, and the British force was for days almost without food.

On the third day, owing to the vigorous efforts of the navy, some stores
were forwarded to the front by the Fresh Water Canal, but the prospects
were, to say the least, gloomy. The men were compelled to live on
pigeons, water-melons, &c., looted out of the neighbouring village. On
the 27th, however, a foraging party was conducted into the country by
the transport officer, and some fourteen head of cattle were driven in,
besides some sheep and turkeys. The General ordered them all to be paid
for, and this rule was observed on subsequent occasions.

On the 28th the Egyptians made an effort to regain their lost ground by
a serious attack upon the advanced force under General Graham, at

The position occupied by the British was not the most favourable for
defence. The troops were astride the Canal, and although a bridge
existed, the separation of the right and left wings was partial in any
case, and complete if the force had either to advance or retire.
However, on the right of the position the Desert rose to a ridge some
100 to 160 feet high, which with a force like Graham's, too weak to
occupy it, might easily conceal the movements of an outflanking force.

About 9.30 a.m. the Egyptian cavalry appeared in force on the left front
on the north side of the Fresh Water Canal. Graham's troops, consisting
of 57 cavalry, 70 mounted infantry, 1,728 infantry, and 40 artillery,
with two 13-pounder guns, were at once posted under cover, fronting to
the north and west, the cavalry being thrown out on the flanks to
observe the enemy's movements. About 11 a.m. it was reported that a
large force of cavalry, infantry and artillery was being moved round
towards the British right behind the ridge already referred to. At noon,
the Egyptians opened fire from two heavy guns on the left front of
Graham's position. The range being at least 4,000 yards, the shot all
fell short. After a time the fire slackened, and about 3 p.m. the enemy
were reported to be retiring.

Graham's men, who had been suffering very much from their long exposure
to the sun without food, were then ordered back to their camps.

The matter, however, was not destined to end here, for at 4.30 the enemy
advanced his infantry in great force, displaying a line of skirmishers
at least a mile in length, with which he sought to overlap the left of
Graham's front. This movement was supported by a heavy and well-directed
artillery fire, which searched the camp and wounded a sick officer in
the building occupied as a hospital.

The dispositions to meet the attack were as follows:--On the left the
Marine Artillery were directed to take up a position on the south bank
of the Canal, whence they could check the enemy's advance by a flank
fire. In the centre was the Duke of Cornwall's Regiment, extended in
fighting line, about 800 yards to the right rear of the Marine
Artillery, and the York and Lancaster extended the fighting line of the
Duke of Cornwall's with two and a half companies, keeping the remainder
in support and reserve.

The position of the infantry was an irregular echelon, the right thrown
back. A troop of the 7th Dragoon Guards was kept on this flank, and the
two 13-pounders, now reinforced by two others, took up a position on the
ridge, and promptly replied to the Egyptian cannonade. Unfortunately,
these guns had only the ammunition contained in their limbers and had
soon to cease firing for want of a further supply, though they did good
service while it lasted. The reason of the ammunition failing was the
heaviness of the road from the base to the front. Efforts were made to
get up a proper supply, but the waggons stuck in the sand and so arrived

The Mounted Infantry and a dismounted detachment of the 4th Dragoon
Guards occupied a portion of the gap between the Marine Artillery and
the Duke of Cornwall's Regiment, and although the attacking force made
persistent efforts to break through at this point, it failed owing to
the steady fire of the Marine Artillery and the little band of Dragoons
and Mounted Infantry.

The enemy made repeated attempts to overcome this resistance, putting a
number of men across the Canal; and three times their guns were kept
from advancing by the horses and men being shot when trying to press

Feeling secure on his left, Graham turned his attention to the right
flank of his position. On the first notice of the attack (4.30 p.m.) he
had sent a message to General Drury-Lowe by heliograph, and by a mounted
officer to Mahsameh, three or four miles distant, requesting him to move
up the Cavalry Brigade to cover the right flank, and also to send
forward the Marine Light Infantry as a reinforcement.

At 5 p.m. Graham sent a further order for the cavalry to advance under
cover of the ridge on the right, fall upon the left flank of the enemy's
skirmishers and roll up his line. The particulars of the cavalry attack
made in pursuance of this order are given later on.

Reinforcements for the enemy being observed arriving by train, still
further to protect his exposed right, Graham sent a reserve company of
the York and Lancaster in that direction. Near the same point a Krupp
gun, taken from the enemy at Mahsameh and mounted on a railway truck,
was brought into action, and worked by a detachment of Marine Artillery.
This gun was admirably served and did great execution among the
attacking force.

Although fired upon by as many as four guns at a time, not a man of the
gun detachment was hit, and the gun continued to fire on to the last,
expending ninety-three rounds. The immunity enjoyed by the gun's crew
was doubtless due to the constant shifting of the gun backwards and
forwards on the line of rails. The gun itself was protected by a
breastwork of sandbags.

At 6.45 p.m. a general advance was ordered, with the object of closing
on the enemy's infantry about the time that Graham reckoned Drury-Lowe's
cavalry charge would be taking place.

The advance was made very steadily, the British infantry firing volleys
by companies, the reserves following in rear of the railway embankment.
The Marine Light Infantry had now come on to the ground on the right and
joined in the advance, which was continued for from two to three miles,
the enemy falling back and only once attempting to make a stand. This
was on the British left, but here the Egyptians broke at the first
volley of the Marines.

At 8.45 p.m. Graham heard of the cavalry charge from an officer of the
1st Life Guards, who had lost his way. Graham's force had now been
marching forward for an hour and a half in the moonlight, and his men
had had narrow escapes in mistaking detached bodies of the enemy for
British troops. Fearing some mistake might be made, and seeing no
further chance of co-operation with the cavalry, Graham ordered the
troops back to camp.

To describe the movements of the cavalry under General Drury-Lowe.
According to that officer's report, the aide-de-camp despatched by
Graham reported at 5.30 that the enemy was advancing in force, and the
brigade was at once turned out. It consisted of the Household Cavalry,
the Dragoon Guards, and four guns of the Royal Horse Artillery. As the
troops advanced, the sound of heavy firing was heard, and, _en route_, a
galloper from General Graham arrived, and stated that the General
desired to say that "he was only just able to hold his own, and that he
wished the cavalry to attack the left of the enemy's skirmishers."

The sun had now set, and a bright moon was shining. The light, however,
was not good, and the force had to be guided by the flash of the guns
and musketry.

General Drury-Lowe made a wide circuit, so as to turn the enemy's left,
and the brigade arrived close to this portion of their line without
being noticed.

As the cavalry advanced, it was received by a fire of shells and
musketry, which, being aimed too high, was practically harmless. When
within 500 or 600 yards of the enemy, the guns of the Horse Artillery,
then in the rear of the Household Cavalry and Dragoons, were unmasked by
the retirement of the first line, and brought into action. After a few
rounds had been fired, Sir Baker Russell led a charge of the Household
Cavalry against the enemy's infantry, which had commenced to advance.
Moving steadily towards the flash of the rifles, the charge was
gallantly led and executed. The British cavalry carried all before them.
The enemy's infantry was completely scattered, and, according to the
official report, the cavalry swept through a battery of nine guns. In
daylight these must have been captured, but, unfortunately, their exact
position could not be found afterwards, and it is supposed that they
were subsequently removed during the night.

This moonlight charge was the most dramatic, as it was one of the most
dashing, episodes of the campaign. Whether the charge, brilliant as it
was, occurring so late in the engagement, had any real effect upon the
fortunes of the day may well be doubted. The general opinion of military
men appears to be that its importance has been much exaggerated. The
non-capture of the Egyptian guns is especially to be regretted, and has
indeed led to the expression of a serious doubt as to their existence.

The message referred to by General Drury-Lowe, to the effect that
General Graham wished to say that "he was only just able to hold his
own," was, it appears, not sent by the General, but was merely the
appreciation of the person who brought the message. There is no doubt,
however, that it correctly represented the situation at the time.

The British loss was a total of killed or dangerously wounded, 11;
wounded, 67. The enemy's loss is unknown, but was believed to have been
heavy, the ground being thickly strewn with their killed, more
especially in the spot where the cavalry charge took place. The burying
parties next morning found that many of the bodies had been shockingly
mutilated during the night. The circumcised had all been left untouched.
The persons committing these outrages followed a fixed plan, which they
applied to the uncircumcised corpses of both armies. They lopped off the
feet, hands, and other members, and deeply gashed the abdomen and the
upper part of the forehead. General Graham's estimate of the Egyptian
forces engaged was 1,000 cavalry, 8,000 infantry, and 12 guns.

It may be remarked that, small as was the British force employed, the
results of the engagement were of the greatest importance. It showed, in
the first place, that Arabi felt himself strong enough to attack and act
on the offensive, with a view to regain the prestige which his troops
had lost in the previous encounters. In the second place, it showed that
the campaign was likely to be something more than a parade across the
desert, and that the enemy was willing to come within range and hold his
own for hours together. It showed also that he would not stand an attack
at close quarters, and that, unless in greatly superior numbers, he
might be expected to give way if resolutely assailed.

The British left being well supported by the Canal and its banks, the
most obvious move on the part of the attack was to double up their right
and force them into the Canal, cutting off communication with their
rear. The Egyptians had no commander capable of realizing the importance
of this object, and, in consequence, the main attack was made in front,
the strongest part of the British position, and the flanking movement
was only half-hearted and unsuccessful.

With this fight ended the first part of the campaign. There was then
necessarily a pause in the military operations. A further advance was
beset with many difficulties. The railway was damaged in many places,
and blocked in others. There were no locomotives to haul the trucks
containing stores from the base to the front, and the army transport had
in great measure broken down. The draught animals were few and in poor
condition; pack-mules in sufficient numbers were lacking, and camels
were almost entirely wanting. The strong regulation carts, suitable for
use on European roads, were so heavy as to stick hopelessly in the sand.
A waggon designed for two horses required not less than six to move it
under existing conditions. The navy, it is true, was doing its best to
make up for the defects of the army transport. The boat service on the
Canal had been definitely organized under Commander Moore, of the
_Orion_, and rendered most valuable service in getting provisions and
stores to the front.

Notwithstanding all that the boats could do, it became doubtful whether
even the few troops at the front could be maintained, and every effort
had to be made to keep them supplied with the food requisite to enable
them to exist. The men bore their privations and discomforts cheerfully
until the arrival of locomotives from Suez made it possible to supply
the army properly. The water, too, was the reverse of good, the only
supply practically being from the Canal, and this at times was simply

In addition to this discomfort, there was always the possibility of the
railway or Canal being intercepted by marauding parties of the enemy.
Either of these contingencies would have seriously imperilled the troops
at the front.

In the meantime, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, composed of Highlanders,
under the command of Sir Edward Hamley arrived at Ismailia from

Three more transports with Indian troops also turned up, making the
total number of transports in Lake Timsah no less than 93, besides
men-of-war. The 3rd Brigade was not landed at once, but remained on
board the troopships, pending the solution of the transport problem.

The state of affairs at this period appears from a telegram from Sir
Garnet Wolseley to the Secretary of State for War, and which was as

            "_Ismailia, September 1, 1882._

    "In reply to your inquiry of 29th ultimo, circumstances have
    forced me ahead of transport, but it is rapidly becoming
    efficient. The necessity of securing a sufficient supply of
    fresh water in the Canal rendered it imperative to push on as
    quickly as possible. My successes on the 24th and 25th, and
    retreat of the enemy, have enabled me to seize (the) two
    important positions on the Canal of El Magfar and Kassassin
    Lock, the latter about twenty miles from this place. I am,
    therefore, in a more forward and favourable position generally
    than I had anticipated, and am only now waiting till my
    transport arrangements are more complete to enable me to make a
    further movement.

    "In the absence of roads, I had always calculated on partially
    using the Canal and railway in sending supplies to the front,
    but the enemy having blocked the former by two large dams, and
    the latter by an embankment, and the partial removal of rails,
    it has been necessary to get these obstructions removed. I have
    one engine on the line, and expect a second from Suez to-night,
    and am preparing the land transport companies, some of which
    are now landing, to supplement the other means above indicated.

    "A supply of mules has arrived at Cyprus. I expect 400 more
    from Malta and Italy to-morrow; and the large supply collected
    at Smyrna and Beyrout at last released by the Ottoman
    Government are on their way. In a desert country, like this
    part of Egypt, it takes time to organize the lines of

By the 2nd September the whole of the Indian Contingent, except the 6th
Bengal Cavalry, had reached Suez, and many of its troops had gone to the

Except for an occasional reconnaissance, bringing about an interchange
of shots and one real attack, the period now entered upon was one merely
of preparation for a further advance. With this object, stores first,
and then men, were gradually being accumulated at Kassassin.

On the 9th September the Egyptian leaders apparently began to realize
the fact that Sir Garnet Wolseley's force was daily increasing in size
and importance, and that if any attempt was to be made to crush him
there was no time to be lost. Accordingly an attack was made that day on

On this occasion Arabi himself was on the ground, though the attacking
forces were commanded by Ali Pasha Fehmi. The Egyptian force turned out
in great strength, comprising seventeen battalions of infantry, several
squadrons of cavalry, thirty guns, and some thousands of Bedouins.

The Egyptian attack was meant to be from two sides: on the west by an
advance of the garrison of Tel-el-Kebir, and on the north by a body,
variously estimated at from 1,500 to 5,000 men, from Salahieh.

There is very little doubt that the British force came very near being
surprised. Early in the morning Colonel Pennington, of the 13th Bengal
Lancers, going out to the westward to post vedettes, found the Egyptians
advancing in force. Although he had but fifty men with him he dismounted
them behind a ridge, and opened fire on the advancing enemy, and when
hard pushed charged some squadrons of cavalry, killing ten men and
capturing five horses. Warning of the impending danger was thus given to
the camp, enabling a line of battle to be formed.

By 7 a.m. Arabi had succeeded in posting most of his guns on an eminence
described in Wolseley's despatches as "Ninth Hill," 2,000 yards to the
British right front, whilst his infantry deployed for attack, with the
right resting on the Canal, and then advanced to within 1,200 yards. A
few of his troops got south of the Canal, with a view to a flank

No sooner were the Egyptian guns posted than they opened fire. The
practice was very accurate, shot after shot falling admirably into the
British camp and lines. The shells, however, burst so rarely as to
neutralize the excellence of the aim.

The British artillery batteries and the guns on the railway replied
vigorously with shell and shrapnel. The 25-pounders did excellent work
on the enemy's right on both sides of the Canal, sending their
projectiles over the heads of the British infantry until the advance was
begun. The Horse Artillery batteries shot down the men working two of
the guns, and these were seized by the infantry as they advanced; two
others were captured by the Marines in their forward march. Their
battalion, in regular formation for attack, came upon a battery of four
guns which was playing briskly upon the Marines at a distance of 1,400
yards. Without returning the fire they kept on their way until within
400 yards, when they began firing volleys by half companies, still
continuing the march. This steady work proved too severe for the
Egyptian gunners, who broke and ran, leaving two of the four guns

The infantry also engaged, holding its ground for an hour and a half, no
forward movement being permitted until it was ascertained that no danger
was to be apprehended from the direction of Salahieh.

At 8.30 it was deemed prudent to assume the offensive, and the line was
ordered to advance, the right being always kept in reserve. The 46th
(Duke of Cornwall's), 84th (York and Lancaster), and 50th (West Kent)
Regiments, which had been stationed on the south bank of the Canal to
check any flank movement of the enemy, were ordered to retire across the
Canal bridge, and, crossing the plain in front of the camp, to form up
with the rest. The infantry, with the four batteries of artillery on its
right, moved forward about 1,000 yards and re-engaged the enemy, who by
this time had retired.

To prevent any attempt to overlap the right of the position, the 46th
was advanced in this direction over the hills. The attack in this
quarter, however, resolved itself into nothing. At 9.30 the general
advance was resumed amid a smart musketry fire, and the enemy broke and
retired with precipitation upon Tel-el-Kebir. The cavalry and Royal
Horse Artillery ran them very close, the fortifications being approached
as near as 6,000 yards.



On the 9th September, Sir Garnet Wolseley, who had been to the front
during the engagement of that day and had made a reconnaissance towards
the enemy's lines at Tel-el-Kebir, established his head-quarters at

The same day the Highland Brigade, under Sir Archibald Alison, commenced
its march from Ismailia to the front. The Guards were also brought up.
The 10th, 11th, and 12th were occupied in bringing forward troops and
stores, and in making preparations for a general advance.

At 2 p.m. on the 12th, the army was concentrated at Kassassin, the Royal
Irish Fusiliers being the last battalion to arrive.

To remain behind and guard the line of communication, 800 of the
Manchester Regiment and 500 of the Native Infantry were left at
Ismailia. At Nefiché, Mahuta, and Mahsameh, small detachments were also
stationed, whilst at Kassassin 200 of the West Kent Regiment and two
companies of the Royal Engineers were told off to form a garrison for
the time being. This left available for the forward movement 11,000
infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 60 guns.

Tel-el-Kebir, properly written "El-Tel-el-Kebir," "The Great Hill," is
the name of a peaceful Arab village on the south side of the railway
leading from Ismailia to Cairo, and on the banks of the Fresh Water
Canal. On the opposite side of the railway and Canal stands the "hill,"
an elevation of considerable height, near which Arabi had for some weeks
past been intrenching his forces.

Tel-el-Kebir had for many years past been used as a military station and
camp, and it was here that Arabi had been exiled with his mutinous
regiment in the autumn of 1881.

[Illustration: LINES OF TEL-EL-KEBIR.]

The position selected by the Egyptians for a final stand was by nature
the strongest it was possible to find in that flat section of
country.[57] Near the station of Tel-el-Kebir there is a general and
gradual rise of the ground towards the west, culminating in a range of
hills that stretch from a point on the railway about a mile and a half
east of the station, northward to Salahieh. Roughly parallel to the
Fresh Water Canal is a second series of hills intersecting the first
about two miles distant from the railway. Viewed from the railway, this
east and west range appears as a moderate hill. Its real character,
however, is that of a table-land sloping away to the northward with a
rather steep descent towards the south. The ground is generally even,
and barren almost to desolation, the soil consisting of sand and rock,
producing only a small scrub. The Egyptian intrenchments were laid out
along the crests of these hills, the lines running north and south,
starting from the railway and canal (see plan), and running in a
northerly direction for over two miles beyond the intersection, making a
total frontage to the eastward of nearly four miles. The plan included a
dry ditch from eight to twelve feet wide, and from five to nine feet
deep, in front of a breastwork from four to six feet high with a
"banquette" in rear. The trace was broken by occasional salients, where
were placed well-designed redoubts, possessing a wide command on either

In the rear were frequent shelter trenches. Passages through the parapet
were provided for field-pieces and vehicles in various places, and were
guarded by traverses and breastworks. The revetment differed mainly in
the care which had been bestowed upon it, and consisted mostly of reeds,
grass, &c. The interior slopes were the only ones thus treated.

The southern portion of the defences was practically completed at the
time of the battle. Here the revetment was neatly finished. Work was in
progress on the northern and western lines, their extremities being
scarcely more than laid out. The extent of these defensive works, which
was enormous in comparison with the number of troops at Arabi's
disposal, would seem to imply an inordinate reliance upon mere ditches
and breastworks to keep out an enemy however vigorous. It led as a
necessary consequence to the excessive spreading out of the defenders,
and the fatal weakening of the force which could be gathered at any
given point. Had the same amount of labour been expended in several
concentric lines, it would have resulted in a position of great
strength, permitting the retiring, if necessary, from one line to the
next, and an almost indefinite prolongation of the fight.

The batteries were along the front, and were thus distributed. At the
southern end of the line there were two well-built redoubts, mounting
each three guns, on either bank of the Canal. Connecting the two, and
stopping the flow of water in the Fresh Water Canal, was a stout dam. On
each side of the railway was one gun, in a small earthwork.

In front of the lines running north and south, and distant about 1,100
yards, was a formidable outwork standing on rising ground. This was a
polygonal redoubt, and mounted six guns. In the rear of this redoubt and
on the lines was a 4-gun battery, behind which was a look-out and
telegraph station, the wire running back to Arabi's head-quarters near
the railway station, and in the midst of a large camp. The diminished
size of the ditch from this point northwards is very noticeable. The
attack was evidently hoped for at and near the railway.

Following the lines in a northerly direction, the next battery was at
the intersection of the two lines of intrenchments. This was the most
elaborately finished of all the redoubts, and mounted five guns. Still
further in the same direction was another formidable battery of five
guns.[58] Beyond this there were two other incomplete redoubts, further
still to the northward, but this part of the line was hardly begun.

As regards the east and west line, intersecting the lines running north
and south, its object was to afford a defence in the event of the enemy
succeeding in breaking through those lines at the northern end, their
weakest part.[59]

To the eastward of the lines and in the direction of Kassassin was a
tolerably level desert with smooth sand and pebble.

The information, received from spies and prisoners, was to the effect
that the enemy's force at Tel-el-Kebir consisted of from 60 to 70 guns,
twenty-four battalions of infantry (18,000 men), and three regiments of
cavalry, together with about 6,000 Bedouins, besides a force of 5,000
men with 24 guns at Salahieh,[60] all under the immediate command of
Arabi himself.

The general character of the ground lying between the two armies was
that of gently undulating, pebbly slopes, rising gradually to an open
plateau from ninety to a hundred feet above the valley through which the
railway and canal ran. To have marched over this plateau upon the
enemy's position by daylight, the British troops would have had to
advance over a glacis-like slope, absolutely without cover, in full view
of the enemy, and under the fire of his artillery, for about five miles.
Such an operation would have entailed heavy loss from an enemy with men
and guns protected by intrenchments from any artillery fire which the
attacking force could have brought to bear upon them. To have turned the
Egyptian position, either by the right or left, was an operation which
would have entailed a wide turning movement, and, therefore, a long,
difficult and fatiguing march, and moreover would not have accomplished
the object Wolseley had in view, namely, that of grappling with the
enemy at such close quarters that he would be unable to shake himself
free, except by a general fight of all his army. The object was to make
the battle a final one, whereas a wide turning movement would probably
only have forced Arabi to retreat upon the cultivated country in his
rear, where, the land being irrigated and cut up in every direction by
deep canals, it would have been difficult for a regular army to follow
him. Influenced by these considerations, and also by the information
that the enemy did not push his outposts far beyond his works at night,
Wolseley determined upon the difficult operation of a night march, to be
followed by an attack on the Egyptian position before daylight.

As soon as it was dark on the evening of the 12th September, the camp at
Kassassin was struck, and all the tents and baggage were stacked
alongside the railway. The camp fires were left burning. The troops then
moved into position near a spot described as "Ninth Hill." There they
formed in order of battle and bivouacked--no fires were allowed, even
smoking was prohibited, and all were ordered to maintain the utmost

The formation of the troops was as follows:--

On the right, the 1st Division, commanded by Lieutenant-General Willis,
and consisting of two brigades, viz., the 2nd, under Major-General
Graham, in front, and the 1st, or Guards Brigade, under the Duke of
Connaught, in the rear; on the left, the 2nd Division, commanded by
Lieutenant-General Sir Edward Hamley, and consisting of two brigades,
viz., the 3rd, or Highland Brigade, under Major-General Sir Archibald
Alison, in front, and the 4th, under Lieutenant-Colonel Ashburnham, in
the rear. Between the two Divisions was placed the Artillery Brigade
under Brigadier-General Goodenough. On the extreme right was the Cavalry
Division under Major-General Drury-Lowe, and on the extreme left, under
Major-General Sir Herbert Macpherson, were the Indian Contingent and the
Naval Brigade.

At 1.30 on the morning of the 13th, the order was given for the advance
of the 1st and 2nd Divisions simultaneously, and the celebrated march on
Tel-el-Kebir began. The Indian Contingent and the Naval Brigade did not
move until an hour later, to avoid giving the alarm to the enemy, by the
passing of the force through the numerous villages in the cultivated
land south of the Canal.

The night was dark, and it was very difficult to maintain the desired
formation. More than once the advancing lines, guided only by the light
of the stars, formed somewhat of a crescent shape, and there was danger
of the advancing force mistaking their comrades for parties of the
enemy. Several halts had to be made, as well for the purpose of resting
the men as for that of correcting the formation. The final halt was made
at 3 a.m., and lasted nearly an hour. Daybreak was the time fixed for
the arrival at the enemy's lines, and it would have been as undesirable
to have reached them too early as too late.

There were practically three separate but nearly simultaneous infantry
attacks, by the 1st Division under General Willis; by the 2nd Division
under General Hamley, and away on the extreme left, south of the Canal,
by the Indian Contingent, under General Macpherson. In point of time,
General Hamley's was somewhat earlier than the others, and General
Macpherson's the last of the three.

The action began at early dawn. Willis's leading brigade,[62] commanded
by General Graham, was about 900 yards from the intrenchments. Partly
owing to the difficulty of keeping a proper alignment during the night
march, partly to the fact that the line of march was oblique to the line
of the earthworks, and partly to the confusion created by an Egyptian
scout who galloped into the lines, Willis was obliged to form again
under fire, changing front forward on the left company, before
assaulting. Adopting the regular attack formation at 300 yards
distance, his men fired a volley, after which they rushed up to 150
yards distance, fired a second volley, and then reached the ditch.[63]
Here the fighting line was joined by the supports (the 1st Battalion of
the Grenadiers, the Scots and Coldstreams), a last volley delivered, the
ditch jumped, and amid the cheers of the soldiers the works cleared at
the point of the bayonet.

As soon as the brigade reached the parapet, the Egyptians broke and ran,
some stopping occasionally to fire back on their pursuers, who chased
them until the artillery had got inside the works and had begun shelling
the fugitives.

This brigade struck the trenches not 100 yards from the point aimed at.
It was longer exposed to the Egyptian fire than were the Highlanders,
whose attack had begun a few minutes before and had fully aroused the
whole line of the defence, which had been sleeping on their arms behind
the parapets.

To the Highland Brigade,[64] under General Alison, fell the task of
carrying the lines to the left. The first shots were fired at them at
4.55 a.m. from an Egyptian picket posted about 150 yards in front of the
intrenchments, then visible 300 yards distant from the Highlanders.
Immediately afterwards the enemy opened with artillery and then with
musketry. Without returning this fire, the brigade advanced steadily for
about 100 yards further, when the fire became a perfect blaze. At 150
yards bayonets were ordered to be fixed, and the bugle sounded the
advance, when with a yell the Scotchmen charged in the dim light through
the smoke, carrying the lines in splendid style in the face of
determined opposition. So stoutly was the position defended that in many
places the assailants, after mounting the parapets, were forced back
into the trenches below, only, however, to return and renew the assault.
The left battalion, composed of the Highland Light Infantry, struck the
battery already described as situated at the intersection of the two
lines of intrenchments. This redoubt had a high scarp, which held the
centre companies for some moments till the flank companies got round it
and took it. The enemy did not run far, but halted about 60 yards in
the rear of the works and delivered a heavy cross fire. The rest of the
brigade pushed steadily on, driving the enemy before it and capturing
three batteries of field guns. The advance was continued, and Arabi's
head-quarters and the Canal bridge were seized at 6.45 a.m. The Highland
Light Infantry, which had suffered severely, soon after joined the rest
of the brigade. The gallant Highlanders' attack was made entirely with
the bayonet, not a shot being fired until the men were within the
enemy's lines.

In the centre, between the two infantry attacks, marched the seven
batteries of artillery, under General Goodenough--and after the capture
of the enemy's works did good service and inflicted considerable loss
upon the enemy, in some instances firing canister at short ranges.

On the extreme left the Indian Contingent[65] and the Naval Brigade,
under General Macpherson, advanced steadily and in silence, the Seaforth
Highlanders leading, until an advanced battery of the enemy was reached.
From this the Egyptian artillery had opened fire down the line of the
Canal, although it was still too dark for them to see the approaching
troops clearly, whilst the infantry lost no time in opening a heavy
fusillade. The Highlanders deployed for attack, and then gallantly
stormed the battery with a rush at the point of the bayonet. The
Egyptians retreated upon some villages close by, where they were pursued
by a squadron of the Bengal Cavalry across the cultivated ground.[66]

The Indian Contingent scarcely lost a man--a happy circumstance, due to
the excellent arrangements made by General Macpherson, and to the fact
that, starting one hour later than the 1st and 2nd Divisions, the
resistance of the enemy was so shaken by the earlier attacks north of
the Canal, that they soon gave way before the impetuous onslaught of the
Seaforth Highlanders.

On the extreme right the Cavalry Division,[67] under General
Drury-Lowe, was designedly late in arriving, being fully two miles
distant when the first shot was fired at the Highlanders. Hearing the
sound, the division quickened its pace, reaching the intrenchments in
time to permit its two horse batteries to take in reverse and enfilade
the lines north of General Graham's assault, while the cavalry took up
the pursuit of the runaways, most of whom threw away their arms, and,
begging for mercy, were left unmolested. To have made them prisoners
would have taken up too much time, the cavalry being required for the
more important work of pushing on to Cairo. The whole Division, Cavalry
and Horse Artillery, united shortly after near the bridge over the
Canal, prior to advancing towards the capital.

The British losses in the engagement were:--

Total--Nine officers and 48 non-commissioned officers and men killed, 27
officers and 353 non-commissioned officers and men wounded, 22
non-commissioned officers and men missing. Grand total of casualties,
all ranks, 459.

The officers killed were as follows:--

2nd Battalion Connaught Rangers (attached to 2nd Battalion Royal Irish
Regiment)--Captain C. N. Jones. Royal Marine Light Infantry--Major H. H.
Strong, Captain C. J. Wardell. 1st Battalion Royal Highlanders--
Lieutenant Graham Stirling, Lieutenant J. G. McNeill. 1st Battalion
Gordon Highlanders--Lieutenant H. G. Brooks. 2nd Battalion Highland
Light Infantry--Major Colville, Lieutenant D. S. Kays, Lieutenant L.

Such is the general outline of the battle of Tel-el-Kebir.

The Egyptians had been sleeping in their trenches when the attack was
made, and although in one sense surprised, were nevertheless quite

Probably they never expected a night attack.[69] At the same time there
is no doubt that they knew the British army was in their immediate
vicinity and might come on at any moment, and took precautions

The best proof of this is the blaze of fire with which both the 2nd
Brigade and the Highland Brigade were received. Prisoners taken
afterwards stated that the striking of the tents at sunset was observed,
and that pickets were on the watch ever since. Anyhow, the English
forces, before they closed with the enemy, were subjected to a perfect
hail of bullets.

Sir Edward Hamley, relating the attack of the 2nd Division, writes as

    "Yet a minute or two elapsed after the Egyptian bugle was blown,
    and then the whole extent of intrenchment in our front, hitherto
    unseen and unknown, poured forth a stream of rifle-fire.

    "The Egyptian infantry," writes one witness, "clustered thickly
    in the parapets of the redoubts, and fired down the slopes into
    the trenches. Hundreds of them, lying down, plied the heads of
    the advancing brigades with fire."

A curious circumstance occurred with regard to the polygonal redoubt
already described as standing 1,100 yards in advance of the lines. This
was missed by the attacking forces, who must have passed within 200
yards of the work. It is partly accounted for, however, by the
prevailing darkness, and partly by the fact that the gunners in the
redoubt, either asleep or unprepared, let the Highland Brigade march
past them to the lines without firing a shot. It was only when day broke
that the Egyptian artillerymen called attention to the existence of the
redoubt by aiming their guns and firing at the spot where Sir Garnet
Wolseley and his staff were assembled. This was too much, and the
British artillery had to be sent for. After being under case and
shrapnel fire for a short time, what was left of the garrison threw down
arms and formed a stream of fugitives who, with ghastly wounds, poured
out from the redoubt, and scattered over the country.[70]

The missing of this redoubt was one of the lucky incidents of the fight.
Had the advancing column been aware of its existence they must have
paused to take it before storming the lines. In attacking the redoubt
the position of the advancing force would have been at once revealed to
the enemy, and the fire which was reserved for some minutes later would
have at once opened.

The Egyptian guns were 8-centimetre and 6-centimetre Krupp steel B.L.R.
of the old pattern (1868), mounted on field-carriages. The small-arms
were all Remington breechloaders. The supply of ammunition was
practically inexhaustible. At intervals of every three or four yards
were found open boxes, each containing 1,050 cartridges.

The trenches, after the battle, were found to be filled with dead,
mostly bayoneted, and the ground in rear as far as the railway station
was dotted with the bodies of those shot down in retreat. The British
cavalry, sweeping around the northern end of the intrenchments, cut down
the fugitives by scores, until it became evident that the rout was
complete. Most of the bodies were observed to be lying on their backs,
as if the men had stopped to have a parting shot at their pursuers.

The Egyptian loss in killed was not far from 2,000. There was no return
of their wounded, the army organization having disappeared; but 534 were
treated at Tel-el-Kebir, during the four days succeeding the battle,
twenty-seven capital operations being performed. Of the wounded, 202
were soon able to go to their homes, whilst the remainder were sent to
Cairo in charge of Egyptian surgeons. The British medical authorities
did all in their power to alleviate the sufferings of these poor
creatures, and furnished tins of meat, bottles of brandy, and skins of
water to those being conveyed away in the railway trucks. The greater
number, who were slightly wounded, managed to get to the neighbouring
villages, and therefore are not counted in the figures above given.[71]
It is stated--and the statement appears credible--that very few superior
officers were killed or wounded; and Arabi and his second in command
were undoubtedly the first to escape. Arabi himself mounted his horse
and rode rapidly towards Belbeis. There appears to be no doubt that
proper leaders, in every sense of the word, were wanting in the Egyptian
army. It has been both humorously and truthfully remarked that each
officer knew that _he_ would run, but hoped his _neighbour_ would stay.

The Egyptian soldiers, on the other hand, displayed real courage, as the
struggles in the trenches and their heavy loss in killed abundantly
prove. The black regiments, composed of negroes from the Soudan, were
especially noticeable for their pluck, fighting bravely hand to hand
with their assailants. It has been well observed that more intelligence
and less downright cowardice on the part of their officers might have
converted these men into a formidable army.

In the previous encounters between the English and the Egyptians, the
artillery and cavalry had borne the brunt of the fighting, and had
carried off the honours, but the battle of Tel-el-Kebir was almost
entirely an infantry action. The tactics employed, a direct assault
without flank movements of any kind, were of the simplest description.
The object, to get to close quarters with the enemy, and to crush him,
was accomplished.

After the attack, Arabi's army ceased to exist. In scattered groups it
might be found all over Egypt, but as an organization it may be said to
have been annihilated.

In view of the complete success of Sir Garnet Wolseley's tactics,
comment is superfluous. It has been said by competent critics that the
mode of attack adopted was rash to the degree of imprudence; that no
commander would dare to employ such tactics against a European foe, and
that a night march of nine miles could only be followed by an immediate
and successful assault under circumstances so exceptional as to be
providential. He has been blamed for having left his camp with his
forces so early in the evening on the 12th, and having halted half-way
from Tel-el-Kebir, and then only after midnight having set out again, a
manoeuvre which might have endangered the whole result of the
movement, and which, perhaps, may account for the surprise of the
enemy's position not being so successful as it might have been.

Again, it has been said that besides a front attack, there should also
have been a flank one, in conformity with ordinary military tactics.

In reply to these and other criticisms, it may be sufficient to observe
that the English Commander-in-Chief formed a just appreciation of his
enemy, had a strong conviction as to the proper manner of engaging him,
and had unbounded confidence in the officers and men under his own
command. What Sir Garnet Wolseley would have done had the enemy been of
a different character is another question, the consideration of which
does not come within the scope of the present work. The means adopted
were exactly adjusted to the end to be attained, and the justification
(if any were needed) for the risks run lies in the success which
attended them.



When the Egyptian regiments, mingled together in one wild and disorderly
mass, once commenced their retreat, no chance of rallying was for a
moment given them. The cannon in the redoubts were turned against their
former occupants, and the guns of the Royal Horse Artillery rained
shrapnel shell on the fugitives. The cavalry, sweeping round from the
north and charging in amongst them, completed the rout. The Egyptians
threw down their arms and scattered themselves across the country. Arabi
himself, with a few of his chief officers, caught the train at Belbeis
and got to Cairo the same day, where it is said he began preparations
for the destruction of the city.[72]

No time was lost in reaping the fruits of the morning's work. Advances
were at once ordered in two directions, the one along the railway to the
important railway centre of Zag-a-zig, whence a double line of railway
proceeds to Cairo _viâ_ Benha, and a single line _viâ_ Belbeis; the
other road was along the Ismailieh, or Sweet Water Canal, to Cairo.

The enemy were pursued to Zag-a-zig by the Indian Contingent, the
leading detachment of which reached that place a little after 4 p.m.,
and by the Cavalry Division to Belbeis, which was occupied in the

The seizure of Zag-a-zig was effected in the dashing manner peculiar to
all the incidents of the day, and shows what may be done by a few bold
men. The squadron of the 6th Bengal Cavalry left with the Indian
Contingent led the way, and when within about five miles of the town
broke into a gallop. The horses being somewhat fatigued by the hard work
of the preceding twenty hours, were not in a condition to keep together,
and, as a consequence, the best got to the front and the others dropped
to the rear. The advanced part of the squadron was composed of Major R.
M. Jennings, Lieutenant Burn-Murdoch, R.E., and not above half-a-dozen
troopers. These pushed right into the railway station, where were five
trains filled with soldiers, and seven locomotives. At the sight of this
handful of men, the engine-drivers either surrendered or ran away,
except one, who began opening the throttle valve of his engine and was
shot by Lieutenant Burn-Murdoch, while the Egyptian soldiers, hundreds
in number, and too demoralized to think of resistance, threw away their
arms, left the cars, and ran off as rapidly as possible.

By nine p.m. the entire force under General Macpherson had reached
Zag-a-zig, not a man having fallen out by the way.

The Cavalry Division was ordered to push on with all possible speed to
Cairo, Wolseley being most anxious to save the city from the fate which
befell Alexandria. The division, making an early start from Belbeis on
the 14th, and striking across the intervening desert, reached Cairo at
4.45 p.m.

The sun was setting as the cavalry arrived at the suburb of Abbassieh.
The men had been in the saddle since daybreak, at which time they had
left Belbeis. The men and horses were thoroughly exhausted after their
long march under a blazing sun. But suffering from hunger, parched with
thirst, and covered with dust as they were, they yet remained equal to
the fulfilment of their task.[73]

The garrison of Cairo was divided into two parts; one from 6,000 to
7,000 strong at Abbassieh; the other, of from 3,000 to 4,000 men, at the
Citadel of Mehemet Ali, situated on a lofty eminence in the city, and
strongly fortified. The former, on being summoned by Colonel Stewart,
attached to General Drury-Lowe's force, to surrender unconditionally, at
once complied. Captain Watson, R.E., was immediately sent on with two
squadrons of the 4th Dragoon Guards, and a detachment of the Mounted
Infantry, to demand a surrender of the Citadel. No guides were
available, but two Egyptian officers, taken prisoners at Abbassieh,
were made to show the way, orderlies being told off to shoot them at
once in case of treachery. The route taken was round by the Tombs of the
Khalifs, outside the walls of Cairo. The city was entered, without
opposition, by the gate at the foot of the hill on which the Citadel
stands; by this means only a few hundred yards of the native quarter had
to be traversed.

It was now dark, such of the inhabitants as were met were perfectly
tranquil, and only looked with curiosity at Captain Watson's party.
Arrived at the entrance to the Citadel, the Egyptian officer in command
was sent for, and he at once agreed to give up possession of the place.
The small British force marched in and took up position in fours between
the outer and inner gates. The Egyptian infantry, nearly 4,000 in
number, with their arms, paraded by regiments in front of the great
Mosque of Mehemet Ali, inside the inner gate. They were then ordered to
lay down their arms and march down to the Kasr-el-Nil Barracks. This
they proceeded to do quite quietly, and as they marched out they passed
within a few yards of the English force, whose numbers were concealed by
the darkness.

As soon as the Egyptian troops had all left the Citadel, the various
gates were handed over to Captain Watson's force. The gates were then
closed and guards posted. It was now ten o'clock. The troopers were
literally dead-beat. But there yet remained the task of taking
possession of the fort on the Mokattam Hill, which was occupied by
Egyptian troops, and which commanded the Citadel. Watson, anxious to
save his men as much as possible, sent one of the Egyptian officers who
had acted as a guide, and told him to order the garrison to march down
towards Kasr-el-Nil Barracks, and there pile their arms. The officer
returned in a couple of hours with the keys of the fort, and informed
Watson that his orders had been carried out.

In the dungeons of the Citadel many unfortunate wretches were found in
confinement. Some of them were convicts, but several were political
prisoners. They cried out in piteous terms to be set free. Some actually
managed to break loose, and fled with their chains clanking round their
ankles. They were, however, retaken, and assured that as soon as it was
light their cases should be inquired into, and such as were not convicts
should be set free. A sentry was posted over the gate, with orders to
shoot any one attempting to escape. One man did make the attempt, and
was shot.

It only remains to refer to the combination of courage, energy, and tact
displayed by Captain Watson in thus, with a handful of men, taking
possession of the strongest fortified work in Cairo, held by a force
more than a hundred times that of his own. It should be added that the
Egyptian officer who gave up the keys of the Mokattam Fort subsequently
put in a claim for the war medal!

The Citadel being secured, the next step was to send a message to Arabi
Pasha, through the Prefect of Police of the city, calling upon him to
surrender, which he did unconditionally, accompanied by Toulba Pasha.

The vigour shown by General Drury-Lowe in his march on Cairo, and the
inestimable results of that movement, together make it one of the most
brilliant achievements of the whole campaign.

By the successful attack on Tel-el-Kebir, Sir Garnet Wolseley, at one
blow, crushed the armed rebellion against the authority of the Khedive.

By General Drury-Lowe's successful march, the most beautiful of Oriental
cities was saved from destruction, and its European inhabitants from

So well had Sir Garnet Wolseley matured his plans before entering on the
campaign, that he had predicted his arrival in Cairo on the 16th
September. As a fact, he arrived a day earlier, that is to say, on the
morning of the 15th, when the railway brought him and the Guards to
Cairo at the same time.

Arabis' account of Tel-el-Kebir and the subsequent events is as

    "Before our trenches, &c., were completed, the British forces
    attacked us suddenly at sunrise, the firing lasting for some
    time, when suddenly in our rear appeared a division of cavalry
    and artillery, which caused the flight of the Egyptian troops on
    Wednesday, the 13th September.

    "After the flight of the troops I left for Belbeis, the English
    artillery following close behind me. When I arrived there I met
    Ali Pasha El Roby, with whom I went to Insbuz, and thence by
    train to Cairo.

    "In Cairo we found a Council at the Ministry of War, all the
    Princes being present. After a long discussion, all being
    confident that England had no intention of annexing Egypt, it
    was decided to offer no more resistance, more especially as
    England was renowned for dealing always towards others with
    equity and humanity; and we were confident that if the
    necessary inquiries were instituted, and the feeling of the
    people generally understood, England would do her utmost to put
    a stop to all injustice and give back freedom to them.

    "For this purpose I sent a telegram on the 14th September to
    the Commander of the Abbassieh troops, ordering him to hoist a
    flag of truce, and to proceed and meet the commander of the
    British troops, informing him at the same time that the war was
    altogether at an end, it being understood that the intention of
    the British Government was to preserve the country from

    "The English troops arrived in Cairo at sunset, and were met by
    Riza Pasha and Ibrahim Bey Fawzi, the Prefect of Police. At
    1.30 a.m. Ibrahim Bey Fawzi came and informed me that General
    Lowe desired to have an interview with me at Abbassieh. The
    same day the officer in charge at Kafr Dowar (Toulba Pasha)
    came up to Cairo and was summoned with myself to this
    interview. We thereupon went to General Lowe. When Toulba Pasha
    met General Lowe he asked us whether we were willing to give
    ourselves up as prisoners to the English Government. We
    thereupon took off our swords and delivered them to General
    Lowe, who was acting on behalf of the Commander-in-Chief,
    telling him at the same time that we only gave ourselves up to
    the English Government because we were confident England would
    deal with us justly, and for the safety and peace of our
    country we had abandoned all idea of resistance, and had
    surrendered ourselves, being confident that England had no wish
    to annex the country. The General agreed with this statement,
    and we remained with him three days, and then were sent to
    Abdin, and were treated kindly and well."

In the following telegram to Abdel-el-Al, in command at Damietta, the
defeat at Tel-el-Kebir was thus described by Yacoub Pasha, the Under
Secretary of State for War, who had been with Arabi in the insurgent

    "At half-past ten (Turkish time) the enemy attacked the line of
    intrenchments, and firing commenced on both sides. We caused a
    large number of the enemy to perish beside the intrenchments. I
    found a train about to leave Tel-el-Kebir, and got in with a few
    wounded. I know nothing after that, except that on leaving
    Tel-el-Kebir I saw that a train had been smashed."

The manner in which the news of the fight reached the agricultural
population may be gathered from the following extract from the work of
one of the native historians of the British occupation of Egypt:--

    "The peasants were relating to each other one morning the news
    of a great victory by which the land forces of the invading
    foreigner had received a blow, when suddenly a peasant rode into
    the village on a cavalry horse, without his coat, belt, or arms,
    and announced that the English were coming! He related how he
    had been in the camp of Tel-el-Kebir, how he and his comrades
    had been aroused before daybreak by a dreadful fire of musketry
    and artillery, and how, before they had time to prepare
    themselves for defence, the nimble foreigners came scampering
    over the intrenchments and right into the very heart of the
    camp. Satan must have aided them, for there was no possibility
    of resistance, and even Arabi fled! By this time, he thought,
    the English must be in Cairo, for they were nimble, cunning dogs
    and sons of dogs, and nobody could resist them."

The submission of the Egyptian army in Cairo was speedily followed by
surrenders in other places--Kafr Dowar, Aboukir, and Rosetta yielded
without a struggle. Fort Ghemil, near Port Saïd, was occupied on the
21st September by the British.

Damietta was the last to hold out. A British force, consisting of the
Berkshire, Shropshire, South Staffordshire, and Sussex Regiments, under
Sir Evelyn Wood, was despatched against it on the 22nd September, after
negotiations with the Commandant Abdel-el-Al had failed. A portion of
the fleet under Admiral Dowell was ordered to co-operate. However, on
the 23rd, Abdel-el-Al, hearing of these preparations, capitulated with
all his forces.

The surrender of the Egyptian army at Kafr Dowar was an event of
importance. But to render what follows intelligible, as well as for the
sake of completeness, it is necessary to preface the history of that
event with an account of occurrences at Alexandria subsequent to the
departure of Sir Garnet Wolseley for the Canal.

On the 21st August, the Khedive relieved Ragheb Pasha and his colleagues
of their duties, and named Cherif Pasha President of the Council of
Ministers. With him was associated Riaz Pasha, who had in the meantime
returned from Europe.

After the departure of Wolseley for Port Saïd and Ismailia, General
Hamley took the local command, and the fresh transports constantly
arriving at Alexandria were very welcome to reinforce the garrison,
which had been considerably weakened by the departure of the main body
of the army. Only two ships of war were left in harbour, the
_Invincible_ and _Inconstant_, which latter vessel had lately arrived
from England.

The military operations dwindled into insignificance. Both sides
confined themselves to strengthening their positions and to making small
reconnaissances. Round Mex the Bedouins kept the troops well on the
alert, and several minor skirmishes took place. About August 20th, the
defences of Ramleh were strengthened by the mounting of three additional
guns. Two were taken from the Hospital battery at Ras-el-Tin, and the
third was found unmounted near Mex Fort.

On the 31st of August a party of bluejackets from the _Minotaur_ landed
at night and demolished, by gun-cotton, a house near the British
advanced posts on the Mahmoudieh Canal, which afforded cover to the
enemy. Some native houses opposite the Villa Antoniades, which had been
used by the Bedouins as a place whence to take shots at our posts there,
had for the same reason to be destroyed.

On the 1st September, Generals Hamley and Alison and the Highland
Brigade sailed for Port Saïd and Ismailia, General Sir Evelyn Wood being
left in command.

Anxious to make the rebel leader believe that the chief attack would be
on Kafr Dowar, and to prevent him from sending away his troops to
strengthen other positions, the British troops contrived daily to harass
the Egyptian lines. Generally the reconnaissances took place at dusk, as
the Egyptians seemed to prefer withdrawing their troops under the cover
of the darkness. Grown wary by experience, they refused to be drawn out
in force, but limited themselves to a brisk artillery fire.

It was at this time that an attempt was made to cut the dyke at Mex, in
order to flood Lake Mareotis, the level of which at this season was some
feet lower than that of the sea. Although it was reckoned that it would
take some weeks in this way to raise the water of the lake to its proper
level, the stratagem was not devoid of merit. One of its objects was to
enable steam launches with guns to harass the flank of the enemy's
position at Kafr Dowar.

Early in September, Mahmoud Fehmi, already referred to as having been
made prisoner by Sir Garnet Wolseley's force, was brought to Alexandria,
and, in return for a promise to spare his life, furnished full details
of Arabi's plans and position.

On the 13th September, Alexandria received the news of the victory of
Tel-el-Kebir with the wildest delight. Early in the morning it was known
that the fight had begun, and great excitement was manifested by all
classes. About eleven in the forenoon, when the facts were published,
this feeling increased perceptibly. All business was suspended.
Processions of Europeans were formed, and, preceded by bands of music,
paraded amid the ruins of the town. Hats and helmets were thrown into
the air, and cheers and cries of "Viva Inghilterra!" resounded on all
sides. The bands played "God Save the Queen" and the Khedivial Hymn by
turns. Crowds rushed for the English soldiers on guard at the Tribunals,
and embraced them frantically. Sir Edward Malet, the English
Consul-General, called to congratulate the Khedive, who also received a
congratulatory message from the Queen. Never before had the English been
so popular in Alexandria. It took some days before the excitement cooled
down and things resumed their ordinary course.

Kafr Dowar was given up to Sir Evelyn Wood on the 16th September. Yacoub
Sami, Arabi's sub-Minister of War, represented him on this occasion.
Some 6,000 men in all laid down their arms. There were 700 captured
horses, 50 field-guns with their equipments, and 15,000 Remington
rifles. The captured men were allowed to disband, and the officers were
lodged as prisoners in the Palace at Ramleh.

General Wood and his staff went out by rail, preceded, as a measure of
precaution, by the armour-clad train. The 49th Regiment had been
previously sent forward as an escort. Arrived at the bridge crossing the
Mahmoudieh Canal, the party proceeded on horseback to Fort Aslam, as the
most advanced of the earthworks of Kafr Dowar was called. This formed a
part of three long lines of redoubts, flanked on both sides by swampy
and impassable ground, and running at right angles across the railway
and Canal. These defences were supplemented by shelter-trenches and
rifle-pits. The position was one of great strength, and if held by good
soldiers could only have been taken, if at all, at a great sacrifice of
life. Each line of redoubts had a ditch of 15 feet in width in front of
it. The distance between the first and second lines was 4,000 metres,
and between the second and third 5,000 metres. Fort Aslam was the
strongest of the redoubts, and was pierced with embrasures for guns. The
passage for the railway trains was blocked by a large mass of masonry,
which Sir Evelyn Wood at once caused to be blown up with dynamite. Fort
Aslam was capable of being easily defended by 250 good soldiers. The
garrison, however, had disappeared, leaving only a dozen or so of
officers, including Yacoub Sami, who came forward to meet the English
Commander. In the fort, which appeared to have suffered but slightly,
were found 150 horses, besides quantities of arms and ammunition
abandoned by the soldiers. Amongst the cannon were some mounted Krupp
guns. Between the first and second lines the remains of one camp for
about 2,500 men were found, and between the second and third lines, of
another camp for the rest of the army. On all sides were found horses
and mules, mixed pell-mell with carriages, still loaded with silks,
clothes, calico, &c., from the shops and houses pillaged in Alexandria.

The third line of defence, that situated at Kinje Osman, the nearest
point to Kafr Dowar, was inferior to other parts of the defence, being
provided only with two insignificant bastions, armed with old cannons
and a long line of rifle-pits extending across the railway. Behind it,
in the camp of Kafr Dowar, stood 6,000 soldiers, armed with Remington
rifles, waiting to surrender to the British army. There were also
several batteries of artillery and two squadrons of cavalry. The men
were anything but warlike in appearance. Many of them had already thrown
away their uniforms, and the greater part wore only the dress of the
ordinary fellah.

The natives met with along the line showed not the slightest sign of
hostility. On the contrary, they tried to conceal their evident
uneasiness at the sight of the British force by assuming a pleased air,
and waving white rags as a substitute for flags of truce. At Kafr Dowar
itself, crowds of Arabs, mostly refugees from Alexandria, were
congregated. Many of these were pillagers and incendiaries of the worst
class, and strict orders had to be given to prevent their returning to
the scene of their former exploits.

Yacoub Sami, on giving up his sword to General Wood, assured him that no
one had been throughout more loyal to the Khedive than he, Yacoub Sami,
had been; and as for Arabi, he was simply a scoundrel and a monster who
had refused to listen to Yacoub's loyal counsels.

One of the first questions put by General Wood was as to what had become
of a Lieutenant named Paolucci, who had deserted some weeks before from
the Italian ironclad _Castelfidardo_ to join Arabi. This officer, in his
endeavour to reach the rebels' lines, had the misfortune to fall into
the hands of Bedouins, who used him in the most brutal manner.
Eventually, after five days' wandering, he succeeded in finding his way
to the camp at Kafr Dowar, but in a pitiable condition. He was destitute
of every rag of clothing, and so exhausted as to be barely able to stand
on his legs. Arabi, on hearing him say that his wish was to serve the
cause of liberty, allowed him to be removed to the camp ambulance, where
he remained till the surrender. In reply to General Wood, M. Paolucci
himself was produced. He was now dressed in an Egyptian officer's
uniform much too large for him, and was still suffering acutely. The
General, without making any observation, handed M. Paolucci over to two
marines, with instructions to conduct him to the Italian Consul at
Alexandria.[75] M. Ninet, who had been in the enemy's lines ever since
the bombardment and subsequent destruction of Alexandria, had, it was
ascertained, left for Cairo on receipt of the news of the taking of

General Wood at once gave orders for clearing the railway. Civilians
were requisitioned for the work, and so well was this carried out that
the following day, which was fixed for the surrender of the arms, the
trains were running freely between Kafr Dowar and Alexandria.

Two British battalions were despatched on the 17th, to encamp at Kafr
Dowar, and to take delivery of the Egyptian arms. The army which was to
surrender had then practically disappeared. The rifles were piled, the
officers were in charge, but their men, they said, "had gone off to the

General Wood received the same day the submission of about 1,000 men
from Aboukir and 4,000 from Mex. On the 17th, the Khedive signed a
Decree disbanding the Egyptian army.

One of the most remarkable features of the campaign was the rapidity
with which it was conducted. From the firing of the first gun at the
bombardment on the 11th July until the occupation of Cairo, but
sixty-six days elapsed, the campaign proper occupying only twenty-five
in all. It served also to illustrate the power of moving large bodies of
troops by sea with a rapidity and certainty of concentration impossible
on land.

The difference between the power of steam and sails in connection with
military operations may be seen from the following examples:--

On the 19th May, 1798, Napoleon sailed for Egypt from Toulon with
favouring winds; nevertheless, it was not until the 10th June (according
to some reports the 15th) that he reached even his first port of call,
Malta, thus occupying no less than twenty-three days on this short
voyage, and it was not till the 1st July that he arrived off Alexandria.

In 1800, when Indian troops were despatched to assist in expelling the
French from Egypt, the first detachment sailed from Bombay on the 28th
December, but did not get to Suez till the end of April, 1801, and the
remainder, following some days later, only arrived at Kosseir, on the
Red Sea, _en route_ to Keneh, on the Nile, on the 8th June, nearly six
months later. As a contrast to the above, the head of the column of
British transports left England on the 30th July, 1882, and arrived at
Alexandria on the 10th August, thus completing the voyage in only eleven

Much has been made of the rapidity of the French invasion of Egypt, but,
after all, Napoleon only entered Cairo on the 23rd July, that is,
sixty-five days after leaving France, whereas Wolseley left England on
the 2nd August, made the long sea-voyage by way of Gibraltar, and
arrived in Cairo forty-five days after, viz., on the 15th September.

With regard to Tel-el-Kebir, the shortness of the time occupied in
storming the intrenchments has been made use of, more especially by
foreign critics, to lessen the credit of the victory. Without pretending
that the battle was more than, comparatively speaking, a small affair,
exceedingly well-managed, the number of casualties relatively to the
number of the attacking force shows that there was a real resistance,
and that the fighting on both sides was more serious than is generally

The news of the victory of Tel-el-Kebir, the capture of Cairo, and the
close of the war, produced a profound sensation in Europe. In England
the greatest enthusiasm was manifested, and to the events of the
campaign was given an importance perhaps in excess of their actual

On the Continent, however, the opposite was the case. The very journals
which only a week before had declared that, in undertaking to subdue
Arabi, England had assumed a task the difficulties of which she had
scarcely calculated, now went to the other extreme, and described
Tel-el-Kebir as a mere military promenade. In the "Débats," M. Gabriel
Channes wrote that the fears that an Egyptian campaign would prove
hazardous were groundless. The only difficulties which the English army
had to encounter were due to the vast amount of baggage it had to
transport, owing to the men carrying nothing but their arms. According
to the same article an army less burdened would have beaten Arabi and
reached Cairo in a few days; and if the campaign had lasted some weeks,
this was only due to the slowness of the attack. The "Avenir Militaire"
maintained that Sir Garnet Wolseley did not shorten the campaign by
transferring his base to Ismailia, and that the qualities of the English
troops were not exposed to a very severe ordeal. "The attack on
Tel-el-Kebir," it added, "against troops ill on the watch, succeeded
with a promptitude which rendered a portion of those qualities useless."
Many of the Continental journals went further, and unable in any other
way to explain the dashing fight which in twenty minutes placed all
Egypt at England's feet, boldly asserted that the victory was bought and
paid for by English gold. They even named the exact sum, viz.,
£E32,000. It was, perhaps, unfortunate that the late Professor
Palmer's ill-fated expedition into the Sinaitic Desert to secure the
neutrality of the Bedouins, at a price of £5,000, should have given an
apparent colour to these reports.[78]

One author,[79] whose writings, however, are not always to be accepted
as accurate, states that Sultan Pasha (already referred to as the
President of the Chamber of Notables) was attached to Wolseley's force
with the object of securing by large bribes the fidelity of the Bedouins
in the district between Ismailia and Zag-a-zig. According to the same
authority, the Bedouins received from £3 to £2 a head, and much of the
money found its way into the pockets of officers of the Egyptian army
from the rank of Lieutenant to that of Colonel.

The events of Tel-el-Kebir are thus referred to by the same writer:--

    "On the 12th September, Arabi learned towards twelve o'clock,
    from a Bedouin Sheikh, that the English would attack _en masse_
    the lines of Tel-el-Kebir towards two o'clock in the morning on
    the 13th, throwing themselves on Belbeis to open the road to
    Cairo. It was then necessary to guard this point, formerly
    fortified by the French. Arabi consequently telegraphed to
    Toulba Pasha at Kafr Dowar to send at once one of his best
    battalions, the last, or nearly the last, which remained to him,
    with orders to be in line of battle at Tel-el-Kebir at daybreak
    on the 13th. At one a.m. the train brought this detachment,
    which only arrived at Zag-a-zig long after everything was
    finished. The battalion then returned on its steps in company
    with the fugitives from the battlefield.

    "At Tel-el-Kebir, during the night, between two and three a.m.,
    at the first rifle shots, the Bedouins, _en masse_, threw
    themselves on the Egyptian lines, shouting like demons, and
    causing the wildest confusion. The native troops knew not who
    was with them or against them. Whole regiments ran like hares
    without striking a blow (_sic_), and the English, astonished to
    encounter so little resistance, massacred the fugitives as if
    at a shooting-party; 3,000 trained men belonging to the
    infantry, all that the army of the East possessed, faced the
    enemy, and with the last vestiges of the artillery, fired
    valiantly as long as they were able. More than half of them

    "It is confidently asserted that several of the Egyptian
    officers, hindered in their flight by the gold which they had
    in their pockets, seeking to lighten themselves, were arrested
    and pillaged by the soldiers of one of the black regiments. As
    to the Bedouins, their treason was so well arranged by
    agreement with Sultan Pasha, that they, with the speed of the
    wind, quitted their cantonments without molestation."

In considering M. Ninet's narrative, it must be remembered that he was,
from first to last, an avowed ally of the Arabist party, and also that
his sentiments towards England had always been of the most unfriendly
character. That, under these circumstances, he should seek to explain
Sir Garnet Wolseley's success by suggesting treachery and corruption is
not altogether unnatural.

It is quite possible that, as regards the corruption of the Bedouins,
Sultan Pasha, as an Egyptian official, may have acted in the manner
described. But that, as suggested by the Continental Press, English gold
was employed by Sir Garnet Wolseley to secure his victory is too
ridiculous for serious consideration. Had it been the desire of the
British Government to purchase Tel-el-Kebir in the manner stated, it is
incredible that by the expenditure of a little additional capital an
entirely bloodless victory should not have been obtained.

Further than this, Arabi himself, in all the explanations which he gave
of the war, never once hinted at the means alleged by his apologists as
having brought about his defeat. The story of the Egyptian officers
being so heavily weighted with gold as to be unable to make good their
retreat reads more like an Oriental fable than anything else.

The conclusion is that gold had as much to do with the taking of
Tel-el-Kebir as the blasts of Joshua's trumpets had to do with bringing
down the walls of Jericho.



As already stated, on the 18th August Sir Garnet Wolseley started from
Alexandria with the British force, and two days later Port Saïd,
Ismailia, and Kantara were occupied.

Notwithstanding this, the negotiations with the Porte for the despatch
of the Turkish troops were being, outwardly at least, pressed on by Lord
Dufferin. The Turkish Ministers continued to make objections to the
terms of the proposed Military Convention referred to in Chapter XV.

Meanwhile the export of mules, purchased in Asia Minor for the use of
the British force, was stopped, and the drivers were imprisoned. The
unfriendly conduct of the Turkish Government in delaying the removal of
this prohibition led to remonstrances on the part of Lord Dufferin. It
was not until the 23rd August that the Sultan ordered that the mules
and drivers were to be allowed to be embarked.

He, at the same time, sent Lord Dufferin a personal message urging that
Alexandria should be the port of disembarkation for the Turkish troops.
After an interview with the Turkish Ministers, Lord Dufferin agreed to
submit the Sultan's request to the British Government, and the Sultan's
Ministers finally accepted all the other clauses of the Military
Convention, with certain amendments. When, however, the issue of the
Proclamation against Arabi was demanded, the Ministers changed round,
and proposed to throw aside the Proclamation which had been agreed upon,
by which Arabi was declared to be a rebel, and to issue a mere appeal to
his loyalty. Lord Dufferin, assuming an air of surprise at this breach
of faith, refused indignantly to listen to any such suggestion, and
informed the Ministers that he would not sign the Convention until the
Proclamation had been officially communicated.

On the 24th Lord Dufferin was instructed that Her Majesty's Government
could not accept the amendments made in the Convention. Again the
Turkish Ministers sought out Lord Dufferin with messages from the
Sultan, pressing that the landing might be at Alexandria, and assuring
the Ambassador that the Proclamation should be communicated the moment
that the heads of the Convention were agreed to.

Things began to look as if they were in a way to be arranged, when it
was discovered, on the 25th, that the instructions given for the
despatch of the mules and the release of the drivers had been cancelled
by an order from the Palace. Lord Dufferin was at once instructed that
if this information was correct it was no longer possible for him to
continue the negotiations.

On the 27th the Turkish Ministers accepted Aboukir as the place of
disembarkation, and promised that before the Convention was signed they
would communicate the Proclamation officially, and order its publication
in Egypt. Lord Dufferin was instructed that he might sign the Convention
on the preliminary condition that the mules and drivers should be
released, and a promise given by the Porte to assist in sending them to
Egypt, and that the Proclamation should be issued at once.

On the 29th Lord Dufferin reported that he had settled the text of the
Convention with the Sultan's Ministers.

The 30th passed without any further communication from the Porte; but in
the middle of the night Said Pasha called upon Lord Dufferin at
Therapia, with a further message from the Sultan, urging that the troops
should go to Aboukir _viâ_ Alexandria; and in the morning the Pasha came
again with the Sultan's private secretary, and stated that His Majesty
was ready to take any step to remove Lord Granville's misgivings if he
were only allowed to land his troops at Alexandria. He was willing to
reduce their number from that originally proposed to 2,000, or even
1,000. Baker Pasha might go second in command, and take with him as many
English officers as he pleased, and the Turkish troops should be as much
under English control as they were in the Crimea.

The extraordinary anxiety of the Sultan to show his troops in Egypt at
this period is to be accounted for on the supposition that he foresaw
the impending collapse of the Arabi revolt, and was desirous that it
should not be accomplished without his appearing, at all events, to have
taken part in its suppression. The presence of but a single Turkish
battalion in Alexandria would have sufficed to enable him to claim the
credit of overthrowing Arabi and his followers. It was, however, not to
be. The Sultan's views were now diametrically at variance with those of
the British Cabinet. Sir Garnet Wolseley was, at this time, well to the
front, and there was little doubt that he would soon bring the war to a
close. Under these circumstances, the presence of a Turkish force in
Egypt would only be a source of embarrassment. Accordingly it was
necessary to finesse and to play off upon the Porte its own tricks of
delay and dissimulation. Lord Dufferin was therefore instructed to
inform the Porte that Her Majesty's Government were willing to meet its
proposals, and to receive 2,000, or even 3,000 troops; but that, in view
of the strong objections to Alexandria, it would be preferable that the
landing should take place in the Suez Canal.

On the 3rd September the Turkish Ministers were willing that the troops
should go to Port Saïd, promising at the same time that the Proclamation
should be issued immediately.

On the 24th August Lord Granville had authorized the Ambassador to
conclude the Convention as soon as the Proclamation should be published,
the words "such point or points on the Canal as may be previously
arranged with the British Commander-in-Chief" being substituted for

On Lord Dufferin proceeding to the Porte on the 6th September to sign
the Convention, he found that the Proclamation had that morning appeared
in the newspapers in a changed form. Lord Dufferin thereupon declined to
sign. Said Pasha said that the publication, as it stood, was an act of
heedlessness, and he undertook that a correction should be published in
the official journal. A further discussion ensued as to the form of the
stipulation respecting the landing of the Turkish troops in the Canal,
Said Pasha objecting to the words proposed by Lord Granville, and
pressing for the mention of Port Saïd.

Lord Dufferin accepted, _ad referendum_, an amended paragraph to the
effect that the Turkish forces should proceed to Port Saïd, and from
thence to whatever point or points might be agreed upon between the two
Commanders-in-Chief. The British Government, however, insisted that the
clause should state that the Turkish troops would "enter the Canal at
Port Saïd and proceed from thence," whilst the Sultan wished to
substitute the word "débarqueront" for "se rendront à Port Saïd."

On the 10th September the Ottoman Plenipotentiaries, who seemed
unconscious that they were being played with all the time, came to the
Embassy with copies of the Conventions and Memorandum for signature.
They were authorized to accept the words "se rendront à Port Saïd." Lord
Dufferin, however, having in the meantime been informed of the views of
Her Majesty's Government, stated that he could not accept them. His
Lordship would agree to the retention of the words on the understanding
that a paragraph should be inserted in the Memorandum, explaining the
meaning of the words to be that the troops should "direct their course
to Port Saïd in order to enter the Canal."

It was now the eve of Tel-el-Kebir, and Lord Dufferin suddenly
discovered that it was necessary to suspend negotiations on account of
the arrest by the Turkish authorities of a number of porters who had
been engaged at Sir Garnet Wolseley's request for service in Egypt. The
men were released the same day with a promise that such proceedings
should not be repeated. The signature of the Convention, as further
amended, was authorized by telegram from Lord Granville, on the 13th,
on the condition that the Proclamation should be issued with the
amendment required by Her Majesty's Government.

On the 13th the battle of Tel-el-Kebir took place. On the 15th Lord
Granville instructed Lord Dufferin, that, in view of the defeat and
submission of the Egyptian insurgents, the British Government
contemplated shortly commencing the withdrawal of the British troops
from Egypt, and presumed that, the emergency having passed, the Sultan
would not consider it necessary to send troops; and on the 18th his
Lordship was authorized to convey to the Sultan, in the most courteous
terms, the permission given to his Lordship to drop the negotiation of
the Military Convention. He was at the same time to express to His
Majesty that the British Government conceived this step to be most
consistent with the dignity of the two countries, and that it was not
intended or calculated to alter the good and friendly relations between

The Sultan now began to realize how completely befooled he had been. It
was necessary, however, to put a good face on the matter. The Turkish
Foreign Minister accordingly answered by expressing the deep
satisfaction of the Sultan and his Government at the sentiments
expressed on behalf of the British Government. He declared that the wish
of Turkey was to maintain unaltered the old friendship between the two
countries. Finally, the Minister asked, a little anxiously, what date
had been fixed on for the evacuation by the British troops.

This last question was met by Lord Dufferin reminding the Sultan of the
sacrifices made by England in order to restore order in Egypt; and
stating that whilst those sacrifices had given England power, that power
had thrown upon her great responsibility; that the Egyptian army being
disbanded, until the Khedive had organized the means of securely
maintaining his authority it was impossible for England to withdraw her
troops, although she had already greatly diminished their number, and
had no wish to keep any in Egypt longer than was justified by the
circumstances. With regard to the overtures for a closer alliance, Lord
Dufferin pointed out that the Sultan would remember that the like offer
had been made by him on several occasions, without any practical
results, owing to the apparent change of His Majesty's views. His
Lordship concluded by giving the Porte a little lecture, pointing out
that offers of friendship were unsatisfactory without some tangible
proof of the willingness of the Ottoman Government to adopt that line of
conduct which could alone render their friendship acceptable to English
public opinion; and suggested that that proof might be given by
inaugurating those internal reforms which were indispensable to the
existence of the Empire and to the maintenance of a really good
understanding with England.

No better way can be found of concluding the present chapter than by
giving an extract from his Lordship's despatch of the 18th September,
1882, to Lord Granville, which runs as follows:--

    "In fact, I can only reiterate that from first to last I have
    used every means at my disposal to induce the Turkish Government
    to move quickly and to settle the matter out of hand. I told
    them at the commencement that I had your Lordship's instructions
    to press forward the Convention with all despatch; that your
    private letters, as well as your public despatches, evinced your
    desire to see that instrument executed; that in asking me to
    telegraph to your Lordship these repeated references, they were
    playing into our hands, and that their conduct was so obviously
    contrary to their interests, that Europe had begun to misjudge
    the situation. While ruining my reputation as an honest man,
    they were enhancing it as a diplomatist, for it had begun to be
    believed that the delay in signing the Convention could not
    possibly result from their own incomprehensible
    shortsightedness, but must have been artificially created by the
    Machiavellian astuteness of the English Ambassador."



On the 25th September the Khedive was able to return to Cairo, where a
great portion of Sir Garnet Wolseley's forces had assembled. He entered
the Capital at 3.30 in the afternoon, and was received with great
apparent enthusiasm. His Highness drove from the railway station in an
open carriage with the Duke of Connaught, Sir Garnet Wolseley, and Sir
Edward Malet. The streets through which he passed were lined the whole
way by soldiers of the British army.

Next followed a series of complimentary banquets and a distribution of
honours and rewards to the officers of the British forces. The Order of
the First Class of the Osmanieh was conferred by the Sultan upon Sir
Beauchamp Seymour and Sir Garnet Wolseley.[80] Other officers also
received decorations dealt out with a liberal hand. Later on, an
Egyptian medal, in the shape of a bronze star, was struck, and presented
by the Khedive to the whole of the British forces who took part in the
campaign. By the British Government both Sir Garnet Wolseley and Sir
Beauchamp Seymour were created Peers of the United Kingdom, and a sum of
£20,000 was voted by Parliament for each of them. An English war medal
for Egypt was also issued to the forces engaged.

With the exception of a small force left at Alexandria, Port Saïd, and
Ismailia, the whole of the British army was concentrated in Cairo, to be
reviewed by the Khedive, in the square in front of the Palace of Abdin.
The review, which was preceded by a march through the native quarter of
the city, took place on the very spot where Arabi and his mutinous
troops had defied the Khedive just a twelvemonth before.

The British soldiers, in spite of the hardships of the campaign,
presented an imposing appearance, the Indian regiments especially
attracting attention.

As soon as the effervescence which followed the restoration had a little
subsided, the Egyptian Government and its English advisers began to take
thought for the morrow. A decision was arrived at to reduce the British
forces to 12,000 men, which henceforth constituted the Army of
Occupation. The Egyptian army having been disbanded, and there being no
other native force available to maintain order, it became absolutely
necessary, apart from any political considerations, to retain this
number of Sir Garnet Wolseley's soldiers.

In announcing their intentions, the British Government informed the
Egyptian Ministry that England was prepared to defray all expenditure
incurred in the suppression of the rebellion, the date of the conclusion
of which was fixed at the 30th September. It was also intimated that
from that date Egypt would be expected to repay all extraordinary
expenses which the retention of the Queen's troops in Egypt would entail
on the Exchequer of the United Kingdom. The contribution for the 12,000
men to be retained was fixed at £4 a month per man, making a maximum
monthly charge of £48,000. The Egyptian Government was at the same time
informed that it was desired to withdraw the troops from Egypt as soon
as circumstances would permit, and that such withdrawal would be
effected from time to time as the security of the country would allow.

Pursuant to the intention above indicated, arrangements were at once
made for a considerable reduction in the strength of the Army of
Occupation. The Indian Contingent embarked, and Sir Garnet Wolseley, as
well as a great portion of the army under his command, left for England,
Major-General Sir Archibald Alison assuming the command.

The importance attached by Her Majesty's Government to Egyptian affairs
at this time was shown by the appointment, early in November, of Lord
Dufferin to proceed thither on a special mission. His Lordship, who had
filled successively the posts of Under-Secretary of State for India,
Governor-General of Canada, Ambassador at St. Petersburg, and Ambassador
at Constantinople, was undoubtedly the most capable man at the disposal
of the British Government, and his mission was everywhere hailed with
satisfaction as preliminary to a satisfactory settlement of the affairs
of that country.

Lord Dufferin's instructions were "to advise the Government of the
Khedive in the arrangements which would have to be made for
re-establishing His Highness's authority and providing for the future
well-being of all classes of the population."

Lord Dufferin arrived at Alexandria on the 7th November, and was
received with all the honours due to his rank. He left for Cairo the
same day, the Khedive placing a palace at his disposal.

It is greatly to Lord Dufferin's credit that one of the first matters to
which he directed his attention was a question of humanity, viz., the
lot of the many unfortunates whom the late events had relegated to
Egyptian prisons.

It was not to be expected that the Khedivial party should triumph
without seeking to wreak vengeance on the heads of their conquered
adversaries. Consequently arrests were made wholesale, and the Egyptian
prisons were overcrowded. The object of the Khedive's advisers seemed to
be to make what in sporting language would be called a "big bag." Of
the leaders of the Rebellion, as already stated, Mahmoud Fehmi had been
captured at Kassassin, and Arabi and Toulba had surrendered at
Abbassieh. In addition to these, Mahmoud Sami had been arrested by the
police in Cairo. Yacoub Sami had given himself up at Kafr Dowar, and
Abdel-el-Al at Damietta. Besides these, there were about 1,200 other
political prisoners in the various gaols of Upper and Lower Egypt. These
individuals comprised all classes of the population, sheikhs from the
mosques, officers and privates of the army, members of the civil
service, police officials, merchants and land-owners.

The charges against many of these people were of the vaguest character,
such as "stirring up public feeling against the Khedive," "assisting the
rebels," &c.; some of them were absolutely ludicrous, and comprised such
offences as "dressing up dogs to imitate Sir Garnet Wolseley, and then
shooting at them."

There was reason to believe that a considerable number of the persons
arrested were denounced by their neighbours to gratify private malice or
revenge. Many others were arrested simply as a matter of precaution, or
because they were adherents of Halim or Ismail Pasha.

As may be supposed, the prisoners necessarily suffered considerable
hardships from overcrowding. But besides this, instances of ill-usage,
and occasionally of torture, were brought to the notice of the British
authorities. To remedy these evils inspectors were appointed to visit
the prisons, and the agents of the British Government made strong
representations to the Egyptian authorities to obtain a speedy gaol

Their remonstrances took effect. A Decree was issued amnestying all
sub-lieutenants, lieutenants, and captains in the army (except those who
took part in the demonstrations of the 1st February and the 9th
September, 1881), those who were under arms on the 11th July, and those
who voluntarily enrolled themselves since that date, such persons being,
nevertheless, degraded and deprived of their rank and pensions.

Special Commissions were also instituted at Cairo, Alexandria, and
Tantah, for the purpose of investigating charges against political
offenders. The most important of these were Arabi and the other rebel

The trial of the ringleaders of the rebellion was naturally one of the
first things to be taken in hand after the suppression of the rebellion
itself. As was only to be expected under the circumstances, the Khedive
and his advisers were in favour of treating Arabi and his associates
with the utmost severity. In this the Government met with general

Public opinion in Egypt, especially amongst Europeans, was from the
first naturally hostile to Arabi. Those who had suffered by the
rebellion were not likely to be over-lenient in their views towards the
rebels, and the local European press clamoured loudly for their condign

Opinion in Europe was divided on the question. In France and Italy,
especially, it became the fashion to extol Arabi as a sort of African
Garibaldi, whose only fault was his want of success. The same view
prevailed to some extent in England also, thanks to the agitation got up
by Sir William Gregory, Mr. Wilfred Blunt, and others. Even amongst
those who did not believe in either Arabi or the movement of which he
was the head, there was a suspicion that he was not more guilty than the
Sultan and the Khedive, and a feeling that it would be unjust to punish
him whilst they were allowed to go free.

The Egyptian Government, in dealing with the rebels, had not, however,
altogether a free hand. Sir Garnet Wolseley, in August, had proposed
that prisoners taken in the course of the military operations in Egypt
should be handed over to the Khedive. This was approved by the British
Government, but subject to the important condition that none of the
prisoners should be put to death without the previous consent of the
British authorities. This condition the Egyptian Government accepted.

The necessity of some means being found of speedily proceeding with the
trial of Arabi was more than once pressed by Sir Edward Malet upon the
Khedive. Public feeling in Egypt among the natives was much excited, and
all manner of absurd stories were told about Arabi and his relations
with the British Government. These circulated freely in the bazaars, and
were readily believed by the more ignorant and fanatical of the

Early in October, two English barristers, Mr. A. M. Broadley and the
Honourable Mark Napier, arrived in Cairo to conduct the defence of the
rebel leaders. The Egyptian Government objected that, by the code under
which the proposed court martial was to be convened, prisoners were not
allowed counsel. Sir Edward Malet, however, insisted, and the Egyptian
authorities yielded the point. Next, the Government put every difficulty
in the way. At first they refused permission to Mr. Broadley and his
colleague to see their clients, and then they were told that they could
not be permitted to be present at the preliminary investigation. Thanks
to the firmness of Sir Edward Malet, who was determined that Arabi
should have a fair trial, these troubles were surmounted, and an
agreement as to the procedure to be adopted was come to by Borelli Bey,
a French advocate who acted for the Egyptian Government, and Arabi's
legal advisers.

The _Acte d'Accusation_, or indictment, was to the following effect:--

1. Arabi, Toulba, Mahmoud Sami, Mahmoud Fehmi, and Omar Ráhmi[81] were
charged with having abused the flag of truce on the 12th of July, by
withdrawing the troops and pillaging and burning Alexandria, whilst the
flag was flying.

2. Arabi, Toulba, Mahmoud Sami, Mahmoud Fehmi, Omar Ráhmi, and Ali Fehmi
were charged with having incited the Egyptians to arm against the
Government of the Khedive.[82]

3. All six prisoners were charged with having incited the people to
civil war, and with having committed acts of destruction, massacre, and
pillage on Egyptian territory.

4. Arabi, Mahmoud Fehmi, Toulba, and Mahmoud Sami were charged with
having continued the war after they had heard that peace was

The Counsel for the accused first appeared before the Commission
appointed to conduct the preliminary inquiry on the 31st October. In the
meantime, the Commission had collected a mass of hearsay evidence, none
of it on oath, and consisting mainly of letters and memoranda and of
depositions taken, according to the Egyptian procedure, _ex parte_ in
the absence of the prisoners and their Counsel. It is noteworthy that
the President of the Commission, Ismail Pasha Eyoub, had been himself a
prominent member of the Council of National Defence, and had actually
been with Arabi in the camp at Kafr Dowar.

The contention of Mr. Broadley was that, from first to last, the Sublime
Porte approved the action of his clients, also that the Khedive for a
long period prior to the commencement of hostilities wavered
systematically between the two parties, and that after the arrival of
Dervish Pasha he acquiesced at three Cabinet Councils in the early
phases of resistance to the English (an assertion in great measure borne
out by the ambiguous terms of the subsequent Proclamations). In addition
to the foregoing, Mr. Broadley relied on the fact that Arabi, rightly or
wrongly, really headed a great National movement, that he received the
moral and material support of nearly the whole of Egypt, and that he was
only deserted when he failed to secure success. It must be admitted that
the documents in the possession of the accused went a long way to bear
out these contentions.

It soon became evident that the principal part of the charges against
Arabi and his associates could not be sustained, and Sir Charles Wilson
(formerly Consul-General in Anatolia), who attended the proceedings as
delegate of the British Government, reported to Lord Dufferin as

    "The only direct evidence incriminating Arabi was that of
    Suleiman Sami,[84] who stated that Arabi had not only ordered
    him to burn Alexandria, but to kill the Khedive. The evidence of
    this man was open to grave suspicion. He was arrested at Crete
    and brought to Alexandria, where he was received by the Governor
    and the Préfet de Police, one of whom accompanied him some
    distance in the train. Immediately on his arrival at Cairo he
    was brought before an extraordinary sitting of the Commission,
    which lasted till between eight and nine p.m. No notice was sent
    to me of the prisoner's arrival, or of the intention of the
    Commission to examine him, though I live close to the building
    in which the Commission sits. The next morning, when Suleiman
    Sami's examination was continued, he was confronted with two
    other prisoners, who at once contradicted his statements on
    important points. His bearing before the Commission produced an
    unfavourable impression, as he was the only prisoner who showed
    want of dignity, and weakness when questioned. He was also so
    deeply implicated himself in the burning and looting of
    Alexandria, that it was only natural he should try to
    incriminate others. As regards the specific charges against
    Arabi Pasha it appeared to me--

    "1. That if there were any abuse of the white flag on the 12th
    July, a fact in itself not easy to prove, it was through
    ignorance and not through design. I may mention that white
    flags were flying on the Aboukir forts throughout the whole of
    the military operations.

    "2. That there was no evidence to connect Arabi with the
    massacre at Alexandria on the 11th June, and that it is
    doubtful whether a deliberate massacre of Europeans was ever
    intended. That the massacres at Tantah and other places after
    the bombardment were caused by the low-class refugees from
    Alexandria, and that they ceased as soon as the troops were
    sent down. That, after the first excitement had passed, order
    was preserved, and that there are instances of orders having
    been sent by Arabi to the Governors of towns, &c., to preserve
    order and protect Europeans.

    "3. That the evidence which connects Arabi Pasha with the
    burning of Alexandria is conflicting, and that there is no
    sufficient proof that he ordered the town to be destroyed. The
    portion of the town actually burned by the troops seems to have
    been small. The fire appears to have broken out about four p.m.
    on the 12th, and the troops evacuated the town on the same
    evening. It then became the duty of the Civil Governor to
    preserve order, as far as he could, until the English
    occupation of the 14th. It is difficult to say where Arabi's
    responsibility ended and that of the Civil Governor commenced.
    It is also probable that some of the fires were lighted by the
    Bedouins, who had assembled contrary to the wish of Arabi, and
    had entered the town on the 12th, and possibly also by British

    "It is certain, however, that the houses in the Place Mehemet
    Ali were burned by Suleiman Sami and his regiment. Suleiman
    Sami asserted that he acted under orders from Arabi. On this
    point he was contradicted by Arabi and others, and some
    prisoners stated that Arabi sent messengers to prevent the
    burning of the houses. It must be remembered that no evidence
    was taken for the defence, and that no witnesses were

Under these circumstances it became necessary to consider what was best
to be done. On the 18th November Lord Dufferin wrote to Lord Granville
as follows:--

    "I have the honour to inform your Lordship that I saw the
    Khedive to-day, and gave His Highness to understand that I
    thought it very unlikely that sufficient proof would be
    forthcoming to authorize the execution of Arabi and the
    political prisoners, and I suggested the alternative of
    deportation. I was glad to find that His Highness was prepared,
    if required, to accept this result, provided Arabi and his
    family were removed from the country _en bloc_, and his
    property forfeited; in which event the Egyptian Government would
    allow a maintenance for his women and children, who, the Khedive
    observed, ought not to be punished for another's fault."

Towards the latter part of November all parties interested became more
or less disposed to accept a reasonable compromise, somewhat on the
lines indicated in Lord Dufferin's letter.

The English Government was aware of the block caused in Egyptian affairs
and in the projected reforms by the trial, the proceedings of which Mr.
Broadley spoke of extending over some months.

The Egyptian Government, after being informed of the inconclusive
character of the evidence, and being given to understand that no capital
punishment would be allowed, lost all heart in the business, and only
longed to get the rebels out of the country. Mr. Broadley, on behalf of
the accused, was equally willing to accept a compromise. With a tribunal
such as that before which he was to plead, he felt that his chances of
success were small. He might, indeed, drag on the proceedings for an
indefinite period, but in the end the solution would probably be less
satisfactory to his clients than would result from a well-considered
arrangement "out of court."

The details of the compromise arrived at were that all charges except
that of simple rebellion were to be withdrawn, and that as regards this
the prisoners should plead guilty. A sentence of death was to be
recorded on this plea, but a Decree should be signed commuting the
sentence to exile from Egypt. The prisoners were to forfeit their rank
and property, and to give their _parole_ to proceed to any British
possession indicated, and to remain there until permitted to leave.

Only a very few persons in Cairo were informed on the evening of 3rd
December that Arabi and his confederates were to be brought before the
Court-martial the following morning.

The proceedings were exceedingly simple, everything having been arranged
beforehand. A room had been fitted up as a Court House in the old Daïra
Sanieh, where Arabi was confined, and the proceedings were public. At
nine o'clock on the 4th, Raouf Pasha, the President, and the other
members of the Court-martial, took their seats. General Sir Archibald
Alison sat at a desk to the right of the President, and Sir Charles
Wilson on the left. Arabi was on Sir Charles Wilson's left, his Counsel
sitting just beneath him. He wore a dark greatcoat with a white
cachemire scarf round his neck. He looked somewhat thinner than he was
previous to the bombardment of the forts of Alexandria. He had grown a
short beard, which was partly grey.

The report of the Commission of Inquiry to the Court-martial was then
handed in. The following is a translation of this document:--

    "We have the honour to inform you that, having terminated the
    inquiry concerning Arabi, the Commission considers that there
    are grounds for sending him before the Court-martial charged
    with the crime of rebellion as provided for by Article 92 of the
    Ottoman Military Code, and Article 59 of the Ottoman Penal Code.
    It therefore sends the said Ahmed Arabi before the Court for
    trial charged with the said crime. We send you at the same time
    the complete _dossier_ containing the results of our inquiry
    into this affair."

The President of the Court asked the prisoner if he acknowledged himself
guilty of rebellion against His Highness the Khedive in the following
terms:--"Arabi Pasha, you are charged before this Court, after due
inquiry by the Commission of Inquiry, with the crime of rebellion
against His Highness the Khedive. Are you guilty, or are you not guilty,
of the crime with which you stand charged?" Mr. Broadley then handed in
a paper to the effect that, acting under the advice of his Counsel,
Arabi pleaded guilty to the charge.

The Court then rose, the President remarking that judgment would be
delivered that afternoon at three p.m.

At the time named the Court was densely crowded, several ladies being
present, and there was a gathering of natives outside the prison. The
President, first of all, handed in an official document condemning Arabi
to death, which was read, and of which the following is a translation:--

"Considering that Ahmed Arabi Pasha has pleaded guilty to the crime of
rebellion, a crime provided for by Article 92 of the Ottoman Military
Code and Article 59 of the Ottoman Penal Code. Considering that in
consequence of this plea, no other course is open to the Court but to
apply Article 92 of the Ottoman Military Code and Article 59 of the
Ottoman Penal Code, already quoted, which punish with death the crime of
rebellion. For these reasons, the Court unanimously condemns Ahmed Arabi
to death for the crime of rebellion against His Highness the Khedive, in
accordance with the terms of Articles 92 of the Ottoman Military Code
and 59 of the Ottoman Penal Code. This sentence is to be submitted for
the sanction of His Highness the Khedive."

Immediately afterwards the Decree commuting the sentence to exile for
life was read.

Arabi saluted the Court and sat down, and the Members of the Court
prepared to retire, the sitting having lasted only six minutes. At this
moment, Mrs. Napier, wife of the junior Counsel for Arabi, had brought
into Court a bouquet of white roses for the accused, which, immediately
after the reading of the Decree, was presented to Arabi in open Court.
This was a little too much for the audience, who had restrained their
feelings during the reading of the Decree, and loud hisses arose. After
this manifestation the crowd gradually dispersed.

On the 7th December, Mahmoud Sami, Abdel-el-Al, Toulba, and Ali Fehmi
were arraigned before the Court-martial on the charge of rebellion, and
on being called on to plead, they all pleaded guilty. The prisoners were
again brought up in the afternoon for sentence to be passed on them.
They were all sentenced to death, and immediately after the Khedive's
Decree commuting their sentence to banishment for life was read.

On the 10th December the same formality was gone through with regard to
Yacoub Sami and Mahmoud Fehmi.

A day or two later Ceylon was announced as the prisoners' place of
exile, and on the 26th December the seven principal rebels left Cairo by
special train at 11 p.m. for Suez, there to join the British steamship
_Mareotis_. They were accompanied by a guard of thirty men of the 60th
Rifles, and a suite of sixty persons, male and female. Morice Bey, an
English officer in the Egyptian service, was appointed to take charge of
the exiles. The satisfaction of Arabi, who had all along suspected
treachery, at finding that he was to make the voyage in a British
steamer, and accompanied by British soldiers, with an Englishman in
charge, was unbounded, and he more than once expressed his

It was, of course, impossible, after the lenient sentences passed on
Arabi and the other leaders of the National Party, to attempt to inflict
capital punishment on any of those who simply followed their lead.

On the 29th December a Decree was issued exiling a large number of the
chief prisoners remaining for various periods to Massowah, Souakim, and
other places. Others were released either with or without bail, on their
undertaking to live quietly on their country estates.

The result of the trial of the rebel leaders produced, at first, a
feeling of stupefaction on the European colony in Egypt. When the nature
of the judicial farce which had been enacted began to be understood, the
sentiment above mentioned gave place to one of profound indignation
against the Egyptian Government and its advisers. In passing upon Arabi
and his associates a sentence which was regarded as merely nominal, it
was said a premium was put upon rebellion, massacre, and pillage.

Such was the view universally entertained. Amongst the foreign
population, England lost in one day all the popularity she had gained at
Tel-el-Kebir. "On ne plaisante pas avec la justice," remarked an eminent
foreign advocate to the writer. With the natives the worst impression
was created. The idea of a compact having been made by England with
Arabi was strengthened and confirmed. With many the belief in Arabi's
Divine mission was raised to a certainty. The action of England was by a
great class of the population attributed to fear. It was given out that
Arabi was never really going to Ceylon, and that if he did he would
return to raise an overwhelming army and expel the unbelievers. The most
moderate charged England with having bribed Arabi, or, at the very
least, with having held out, as a reward for his surrender, the promise
of immunity for his past misdeeds.

However much the result of the trial of the rebel leaders may be
deplored, it was, perhaps, the best solution of the question. After a
painstaking examination Sir Charles Wilson came to the conclusion that
there was no evidence forthcoming on which Arabi could be convicted of
complicity with the riots of June 11th; neither was the evidence adduced
as to Arabi's complicity with regard to the incendiarism of Alexandria
of a satisfactory nature, and it did not appear possible to connect him
with the other massacres. The only evidence against Arabi was of a
negative character; that he could have prevented the massacres and other
atrocities appears to be freely admitted by his best friends, but this
was not sufficient ground for hanging him.

Such being the state of the case, it became necessary to consider what
steps should be taken to rid the country of Arabi and his accomplices.
The preliminary proceedings had already occupied upwards of two months,
fifty-two days alone having been spent in the examination of the
witnesses for the prosecution; the defence would probably have required
as much time; thus it would have been at least three months before a
verdict could have been arrived at. This delay was intolerable, the
current business of the Ministries and Administrations was seriously
interfered with in consequence of the great attention being paid to
these rebels. Even the consideration of the Alexandria Indemnity
Question was in abeyance.

It was determined that if Arabi could be induced to plead guilty of
rebellion, an easy way out of the difficulty could be found. As has been
stated, he was accordingly arraigned on the charge of simple rebellion,
and pleaded guilty. The trial, it is true, was generally looked upon as
a farce, and it appeared to be so, but in the face of so many
complications, it was about the only course to be adopted.



Scarcely had the Arabi revolt been suppressed, than troubles which had
arisen in another quarter called for attention. Towards the end of
October, 1882, Abdel Kader Pasha, Governor-General of the Soudan,
telegraphed from Khartoum that the troops which he had sent against the
Mahdi had been cut off, and that a force of 10,000 men should be sent as
a reinforcement, otherwise he would be unable to defend the town. He
stated that, without a large force at his disposal, the insurrection
would spread through all parts of the Soudan, in which case the
pacification of the country would require an army of at least four times
the number asked for.


The Soudan is a vast tract of Africa, stretching from Egypt on the north
to the Nyanza Lakes on the south, and from the Red Sea on the east to
the farthest boundary of Darfur on the west. Khartoum, at the junction
of the Blue and White Niles, is about equally distant from the northern
boundary of Egypt (the Mediterranean) and from the southern limit of the
Khedive's Equatorial dominions, Lake Victoria Nyanza, and Uganda. From
Khartoum to the ports of Souakim and Massowah, on the Red Sea, the
eastern limit of the Soudan, the distance is about 480 miles, and to the
westward limit, which is the most indefinite of all, but is generally
fixed at the western boundary of Darfur, it is nearly 800 miles. This
country is as large as India. It extends 1,600 miles in one direction
and 1,300 in another. There were at this time neither railways, canals,
nor, except the Nile at some periods of the year, navigable rivers, and
the only roads were camel tracks.

The sovereignty of the Soudan was first seized by Egypt in the year
1819, when Mehemet Ali, hearing of the anarchy prevailing there, and
wishing to introduce the benefits of a regular government and of
civilization, and at the same time to occupy his troops, ordered his son
Ismail, with a large army of regulars and irregulars, to invade the
country. Ismail reached Khartoum, and for a time governed the Soudan,
but he and all his followers were burnt alive by a native ruler, who
first made them drunk at his own table and then burned the house over
their heads. For this a terrible vengeance was taken, and Egyptian
sovereignty was established over Sennar and Kordofan.

In 1856 the Viceroy, Said Pasha, visited the Soudan, and almost decided
to abandon the country, but desisted in deference to the representation
of the sheikhs and notables, who laid great stress upon the anarchy
which would result from such an abandonment. He decreed reforms, most of
which appear to have been punctually neglected. One Governor-General
succeeded another, their chief duties being border-warfare with
Abyssinia and the suppression of the rebellions which periodically broke
out. In 1866 Massowah and Souakim were given to Egypt by the Sultan of
Turkey. In 1870 Sir Samuel Baker set out to conquer the Equatorial
Provinces, returning in 1873. Colonel Gordon, afterwards Gordon Pasha,
was appointed Governor-General of the Equatorial Provinces in the
following year.

When, by authority of Ismail Pasha, Gordon became absolute ruler of the
Soudan, he established a system of just and equitable government, which
led, after his departure, to the revolt against the misgovernment of
Egyptian officials. Gordon had warned the Khedive, before his
appointment, that he would render it impossible for the Turks to govern
the Soudan again. He was as good as his word. By treating the people
justly, by listening to their grievances, and mercilessly punishing all
those who defied the law, he accustomed the Soudanese to a higher
standard of government than any which had prevailed in those regions

After Gordon's departure a horde of Turks were once more let loose to
harry the Soudanese. All his old officials were marked men, and his
policy was reversed. Ilias, one of the greatest slave-owners of Obeid,
was allowed to return to Khartoum; and this man, in concert with
Zubehr, the king of the slave dealers (afterwards interned at
Gibraltar), took advantage of the wide-spread discontent occasioned by
mis-government to foment the rebellion which, under the Mahdi's
leadership, assumed such serious proportions.

The chief causes of the rebellion were: the venality and oppression of
the officials; the suppression of the slave-trade, and military
weakness. Of the first it is unnecessary to say much. The same kind of
oppression that goes on in Turkey prevailed in the Soudan, though,
perhaps, not to the same extent. Here, as there, all over the country
there was a class of small officials on salaries of from £2 to £4 a
month, who had the responsible duty of collecting the taxes. The
officials were mostly Bashi-Bazouks, irregular soldiers of Turkish
descent. As there could be but little supervision over such an immense
area, these men had it much their own way and squeezed the people to
their hearts' content. There were instances where a Bashi-Bazouk on his
salary maintained twelve horses, twenty servants, and a number of women,
and this in places where the payment for water for his cattle alone
would have cost more than three times his salary. It was no uncommon
thing for a peasant to have to pay his taxes to the collector four or
five times over without the Treasury being any the richer.

That the suppression of the slave trade, or rather the difficulties
thrown in its way, was also a potent cause is evident from the list of
the tribes who followed the Mahdi. Many, if not the majority, of these
tribes were Baggara, or owners of cattle. These tribes were all of Arab
descent, and from time immemorial had been inveterate slave-hunters. The
Gallabahs were, also, to a man, against the Government, slave-trading
being both their principal and by far most profitable business.

As to the military weakness, there can be no doubt that the Arabi revolt
also had its effect on the Soudan population. Telegrams were actually
sent them by Arabi, ordering them not to recognize the authority of the
Khedive. At the same time all the available troops were withdrawn, and
the revolt followed almost as a matter of course.

Mahomet Ahmed, the Mahdi, was a native of the province of Dongola. His
father was Abdullahi, by trade a carpenter. In 1852 this man left and
went to Shendy, a town on the Nile south of Berber. As a boy, Mahomet
Ahmed was apprenticed to his uncle, a boatman, residing at Shakabeh, an
island opposite Sennar. Having one day received a beating from his
uncle, he ran away to Khartoum and joined the free school of a fakir,
the head of a sect of dervishes, who lived at a village close by. This
school was attached to the tomb of the patron saint of Khartoum, who was
greatly revered by the inhabitants of that town and district. Here
Mahomet Ahmed remained for some time, studying religion, but did not
make much progress in the more worldly accomplishments of reading and
writing. After a time he left and went to Berber, where he joined
another free school. This school was also attached to a shrine much
venerated by the natives. Here Mahomet Ahmed remained six months,
completing his religious education. Thence he went to a village south of
Kana, on the White Nile, where, in 1870, he became a disciple of another
fakir, who subsequently ordained him fakir, and he then left to take up
his home in the island of Abba, near Kana. Here he began by making a
subterranean excavation into which he made a practice of retiring to
repeat for hours one of the many names of the Deity, and accompanied
this by fasting, incense-burning, and prayers. His fame and sanctity by
degrees spread far and wide, and Mahomet Ahmed became wealthy, collected
disciples, and married several wives, all of whom he was careful to
select from among the daughters of the most influential Baggara sheikhs
and other notables. To keep within the lawful number (four) he was in
the habit of divorcing the surplus and taking them on again according to
his fancy. About the end of May, 1881, he began to write to his brother
fakirs, and to teach that he was the "Mahdi" foretold by Mahomet, and
that he had a Divine mission to reform Islam, to establish a universal
equality, a universal law, a universal religion, and a community of
goods; also that all who did not believe in him would be destroyed, were
they Christian, Mahommedan, or Pagan. Among others he wrote to Mahomet
Saleh, a very learned and influential fakir of Dongola, directing him to
collect his dervishes, followers, and friends, and to join him at Abba.
This sheikh, instead of complying with his request, informed the
Government, declaring the man to be mad.

In the beginning of Ramadan, 1298 (2nd July, 1881), the Governor-General
of the Soudan, Reouf Pasha, heard that on the island of Abba, on the
White Nile, in the Fashoda district, there was a certain religious
sheikh, Mahomet Ahmed, who had publicly declared that he was the Mahdi;
further, that this sheikh had been for some time very busy in extending
his influence among the tribes by means of emissaries and letters. Reouf
became somewhat alarmed, fearing the consequences which might result
from such teaching among the credulous and superstitious people of the
Soudan, and sent a party of notables and learned men, with a Government
official and a small military escort, to interview Mahomet Ahmed, and
request him to give up agitating and come to Khartoum. Mahomet declined
to do either, and boldly declared that he was the Mahdi, by which name
he will be hereinafter referred to.

On the failure of his first attempt, the Pasha, on the 11th August,
despatched by steamer an expedition of 200 regular soldiers, with orders
to use force, if necessary, in bringing the pretender to reason. At 3
a.m. on the following day the party reached Abba, where a discussion
arose between two of the officers, each of whom claimed to be in
command. Before the difficulty could be settled, the Mahdi and his
followers turned out, some 4,000 strong, attacked the force and drove
them back to the river, killing no less than 120 of their number. The
rest of the expedition succeeded in reaching their steamer, and returned
to Khartoum. After this further failure, Reouf Pasha organized a new
expedition. The officer in command was Mahomet Pasha Said, from the
regular army. Not finding the Mahdi at Abba, the Pasha followed him
leisurely on to Talka. On arriving there it was discovered that the
Mahdi had retreated into the hills of Jeb el Nuba, and the Pasha,
deeming it useless to follow him further, withdrew to Kordofan, and the
enterprise was abandoned.

In December, 1881, the Governor of Fashoda heard that the chief of the
Tajalle (a district of the Jeb el Nuba), who was friendly to the
Government, had driven out the Mahdi, and that the latter had taken
refuge in the mountains of Gheddeer. The Governor decided to follow up
this advantage and attack the Mahdi in his new position. Taking with him
a force of 400 men, the Governor left Fashoda on the 4th December. On
the morning of the 9th he reached Gheddeer after marching all night. The
troops, fatigued by the march, following their usual custom, on nearing
the wells broke their ranks and rushed to the water. At this moment they
were attacked by the Mahdists and nearly all killed, including the

The Mahdi, seeing that he could defy the Government with impunity, was
encouraged to believe in his mission, and the various sects of dervishes
throughout the country began to think that Mahomet Ahmed might really be
the true Mahdi. The Mahdi himself, though he did not venture to leave
the shelter of the Gheddeer hills, occupied himself in fomenting the
rebellion by his emissaries and adherents.

On the 4th March, 1882, Abdel Kader Pasha was appointed Governor-General
of the Soudan, in place of Reouf Pasha.

During the interval between the departure of Reouf and the arrival of
his successor, Giegler Pasha, a German, acted as the latter's deputy.
This official formed a new expedition of 3,500 men, starting from three
points, namely, from Khartoum, Kordofan, and Sennar. By the 22nd of
April the entire force, Nubir Yussef Pasha, a Berberine, being in
command, was concentrated at Kaha, for the purpose of attacking
Gheddeer, where, as was above stated, the Mahdi had taken refuge.

In consequence of these movements, the garrisons all over the country
were left very weak, and at Sennar there were but 100 soldiers
remaining. Amr-el-Makashef, a prominent agent of the Mahdi, collecting a
force of disaffected natives and dervishes, attacked and burnt a part of
the town, killed most of the small garrison, and besieged the remainder
in the Government House. Fortunately, Saleh Aga, an irregular officer
sent by Giegler Pasha, arrived on the 13th with 300 men, and after a
hard fight defeated Amr-el-Makashef and compelled him to raise the

On the 15th of April Giegler Pasha started south from Khartoum by
steamer with 300 irregulars. On reaching the neighbourhood of
Mesalamieh, on the Blue Nile, he learned that a notable sheikh, called
Ahmed Saha, was raising men for the Mahdi at a village close by. He sent
a detachment of fifty of his men to attack the place, with the result
that the expedition was repulsed and most of the men killed. Giegler
then telegraphed for reinforcements of six companies of regulars from
Galabat, on the Abyssinian frontier, and while awaiting their arrival,
having received some small reinforcements, renewed his attack on Ahmed
Saha, but was once more defeated, with a further loss of 200 men.

On the 5th of May, however, Giegler was joined by the six companies of
regulars from Galabat, and no less than 2,500 of the great Shukuri
tribe, headed by their emir, Awad-el-Kerim, and a number of chiefs, clad
in coats of mail and steel helmets, as in the days of the Crusaders, and
riding thoroughbred Arab horses. This was a grateful sight for Giegler,
as the emir was a personal friend of his own, and had, moreover, taken
sides with the Government. Encouraged by this accession of strength, the
Pasha renewed the attack on the 6th--this time with success--and Ahmed
Saha was defeated with great slaughter.

After the victory the troops were directed on Sennar, where, on the 24th
of May, they joined hands with the forces of Saleh Agha. Giegler at once
attacked the rebels at a village in the neighbourhood of the town, and
succeeded in driving them into the river, with a loss of 800 men.
Giegler then returned to Khartoum in triumph, leaving Saleh Agha in
command. On the 3rd June the latter, with four companies of regulars,
attacked Amr-el-Makashef at Tegu, whither he had retired after
his defeat. The rebels were again defeated and dispersed, and
Amr-el-Makashef fled across the White Nile by the ford of Aboo Zed and
joined the Mahdi.

Shortly after these events the rebels again collected--it is said to the
number of 10,000 (probably an exaggeration)--at a place called Eddi
Binat, on the White Nile. Abdel Kader (who had by this time taken up his
command) got together a body of troops from Duem, Kana, and Marabieh, on
the White Nile, and despatched them, under the command of Zeyd Bey,
against the rebels. About October 5th these troops reached the
neighbourhood of Eddi Binat, where they were attacked by Sedi Habbi and
his men. The Egyptians formed a hollow square, three sides of regulars
and the fourth of Aburoff Arabs. The regulars repulsed the attack, but
some 40 or 50 rebels got in on the fourth side, and the result was a
defeat, with the loss of 800 men. Although successful, Sedi Habbi was
unable to follow up his victory, owing to his heavy losses.

This disaster was followed by an almost unbroken series of defeats for
the Egyptian forces at Shaha Fozia, Shatt, and other places.

In April, as already stated, the Gheddeer field force of 3,500 men was
concentrated at Kaha, under Nubir Yussef Pasha. His original intention
was to march at once to attack the Mahdi at Gheddeer. Finding, however,
that the direct route was difficult and water scarce, he brought his
force to Fashoda on the 22nd of April. Here they halted till the 20th of
May, thereby allowing themselves to be overtaken by the rainy season,
which much increased the difficulty of advancing through the marshy and
thickly wooded country which lay between them and their destination. On
the 7th of June the force came in contact with the enemy. The Egyptian
troops formed a square, which was assailed by the Mahdi's followers. It
was broken, and the whole force annihilated.

The situation throughout the Soudan was now very critical, but
fortunately the Mahdi, instead of following up his success and marching
on Obeid or Khartoum, remained at Gheddeer, thus giving Abdel Kader, who
had by this time taken charge at Khartoum, a chance of organizing new
means of resistance.

Abdel Kader, by drawing upon the garrisons at a distance from the scene
of operations, by forming battalions of black slaves, and other like
measures, managed, though with the greatest difficulty, to get together
a fairly respectable force. This, as soon as it was somewhat organized,
was applied in strengthening the various garrisons at the more exposed
places, and in preparing for eventualities in general.

For a short time the Government forces had a fair share of good fortune,
and in various engagements, of no great importance, came off victorious
over the Mahdists. This, however, did not last long. On the 17th of July
a force sent to attack the Hamar Arabs, on the Darfur frontier, had,
although victorious, to be recalled to Obeid to strengthen the garrison,
news having come in that the Mahdi had broken up his camp at Gheddeer
and was marching to attack that important town. The Mahdi reached Obeid
on the 3rd of September with an enormous force, and at once summoned the
garrison of about 6,000 soldiers to surrender. Many of the inhabitants
flocked to his standard, believing the defence to be hopeless; but the
garrison resolved to hold out, and intrenched themselves in the
Government buildings. Here they were attacked on the morning of the
14th, the assault lasting from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Though repulsed, the
attack was renewed on each of the two succeeding days, with the same
result. Eventually the Mahdi, after having sustained heavy losses,
withdrew, and devoted his energies to the blockade of both Obeid and

The success of the Government troops at Obeid was, however, doomed to be
followed by disasters in other directions. When Obeid and Bara were
known to be in peril, a relief expedition of two regular battalions[86]
and some Bashi-Bazouks started on the 24th of September from Duem, on
the White Nile, for Bara. After two days' march they were attacked, but
defeated the enemy with heavy loss. On the 6th October the expedition
reached a place called Kan, where there was a well, situated in the
midst of a thick forest. The soldiers, after making a weak "zeriba," or
breastwork of bushes, rushed, according to their custom, to the well for
water. They were at once attacked, and over a thousand of them killed,
the remainder escaping to Bara. On the 9th Bara was attacked, but the
enemy were repulsed, and the same thing happened the following day;
after which the assault was not renewed.

The Mahdi then, to prevent assistance being sent to Obeid, despatched
emissaries to cross the White Nile, to stir up the embers of rebellion
and secure more adherents to his cause.

The foregoing brings the narrative down to the time of Abdel Kader's
pressing demand for reinforcements. At this period the relief expedition
had been all but annihilated. Obeid was held by 3,500 men and Bara by
2,000. Both garrisons were short of food and in a depressed condition.
Many of the officers and men had deserted to the enemy. The Mahdi, with
the bulk of his forces, had encamped round Bara, and Amr-el-Makashef was
at the same time operating on the Nile.

The latest reports from Darfur were six months old, and the Governor
reported that the province was disaffected, and that he could not
maintain order without the aid of additional troops.



The attitude of the European Powers towards the English occupation of
Egypt was, at the opening of the year 1883, one of acquiescence tempered
by expediency.

On the 3rd of January, 1883, Lord Granville issued a Circular Note to
the Powers on the Egyptian question. In it he recalled the fact that
events had compelled Her Majesty's Government to undertake the task of
repressing the Egyptian rebellion, a task which England would have
willingly shared with other Powers. His Lordship added that, although
for the present a British force remained in Egypt for the preservation
of public tranquillity, the British Government wished to withdraw its
troops as soon as a system capable of protecting the authority of the
Khedive should be organized. In the meantime, they considered it a duty
to give the Khedive advice, with the object of securing that the order
of things to be established should be of a satisfactory character and
possess the elements of stability and progress.

Lord Granville further declared that the danger which threatened the
Suez Canal during Arabi's revolt, its occupation by British troops in
the name of the Khedive, its employment as a base of operations against
the rebels, as well as the attitude of the Canal Company at a critical
moment in the campaign, constituted strong reasons for seeking an
international settlement of this question in order to avoid similar
dangers in the future. Her Majesty's Government thought that free
navigation on the Canal, and its protection against damage and
obstruction resulting from military operations, were questions of
general interest. His Lordship, in consequence, proposed to the Powers
to come to a common understanding to insure the freedom of passage
through the Canal for every description of vessel, under all
circumstances, with this reserve in the event of war, that the ships of
war belonging to one of the belligerent nations which might be in the
Canal while hostilities were proceeding could disembark neither troops
nor warlike munitions.

As regards financial arrangements, Her Majesty's Government thought it
possible to arrange for greater economy and greater simplicity in the
administration by modifications which would not in any way diminish the
guarantees of the creditors. His Lordship hoped that he would soon be
able to submit definite proposals on this subject to the Powers. The
Government relied on the co-operation of the Powers to place foreigners
on the same footing as natives as regards taxation.

The public papers contain no reply or acknowledgment of the
communication on the part of the French Government.

The first of the other Powers to express any opinion on the despatch was
Austria. Sir Henry Elliot called on Count Kalnoky on the 16th of January
to ask what impression had been made upon him by the document; and his
reply was to the effect that, though he could not be expected to
pronounce upon it off-hand, he would repeat assurances already given
that his Government continued to be animated by the most sincere wish
not to embarrass Her Majesty's Government in the reorganization of the
administration of Egypt. A week later the Austrian Foreign Minister had
another interview with the British Ambassador, and the conversation left
on Sir Henry Elliot's mind the impression that Count Kalnoky would make
no observations upon the Circular except with reference to the proposal
to subject Europeans to the same taxation as natives. He admitted the
justice of this proposal, and Sir Henry believed he would not object to
it; but it was, he said, a subject that required full examination before
it was decided. The suggestions of Her Majesty's Government about the
Suez Canal appeared quite to satisfy him.

On the 25th, Count Herbert Bismarck, the German _chargé d'affaires_ in
London, called on Lord Granville, and stated that his Government
accepted generally the arrangement regarding Egypt and the Suez Canal
proposed in the despatch, and was prepared to await the further
information promised respecting the internal reorganization of Egypt. He
went on to say that the German Government would continue to preserve the
same friendly attitude towards Her Majesty's Government in regard to
Egyptian affairs which they had maintained during the summer.

On the 24th January, Count Hatzfeldt informed Lord Ampthill that he was
about to instruct Count Herbert Bismarck to inform Lord Granville that
the German Government accepted and agreed in principle to the policy
laid down in the Circular of the 3rd respecting the reorganization of

The Italian Government took much longer time before giving any answer.
It was not till the 7th February that Count Nigra called on Lord
Granville to state their opinion. It was to the effect that they wished
to reserve any detailed expression of their views till the English
proposals were communicated in a more definite shape; but he was able to
say at once that they concurred generally in those proposals.

The Russian reply was yet later and very indefinite. Sir Edward Thornton
asked M. de Giers on the 7th February what he had to say, and the reply
was that the Imperial Government considered the views expressed in the
circular despatch as "generally satisfactory," and "they had not for the
present any objection to make to them."

The minor Powers were addressed in a Circular dated the 24th January,
and enclosing Lord Granville's despatch of the 3rd. The respective
Foreign Ministers were informed that, as their Governments were
interested in the condition of Egypt, and in the questions relating to
the Suez Canal, Her Majesty's Government had thought that it might be
agreeable to them "to have cognizance of the communication which has
been made by Great Britain on these subjects to the Porte and the other
Powers represented in the recent Conference at Constantinople."

The Spanish Government were somewhat effusive in their thanks. The
Minister for Foreign Affairs promised to lose no time in expressing the
opinion of his colleagues, and in the meantime desired to say how much
gratified was King Alfonso's Government at the courtesy and
consideration shown towards Spain.

The Portuguese Government simply expressed their thanks.

In a despatch to Mr. Wyndham, requesting him to lay the Circular before
the Porte, Lord Granville wrote as follows:--

    "Having regard to the exceptional position occupied by Turkey in
    relation to this important question, and to the special
    interests of His Majesty the Sultan which are involved in its
    solution, Her Majesty's Government desire, in the first place,
    to address the Sublime Porte separately on the subject: and they
    conceive that they could hardly adopt a more convenient and
    satisfactory mode of placing their views before the Sultan than
    by communicating to His Majesty a copy of the Circular which
    they propose to address to the Powers, and which resumes all
    that they have to state on the subject at the present time. You
    will accordingly deliver a copy of this despatch and of its
    inclosure to the Porte, and, in doing so, you will express the
    hope of Her Majesty's Government that His Majesty the Sultan
    will recognize the friendly sentiments which have prompted them
    to submit separately to the appreciation of the Porte their
    proposals with reference to Egypt, and that these proposals will
    commend themselves to the favourable opinion of His Majesty, as
    the result of the most anxious consideration on the part of Her
    Majesty's Government, and as embodying a system of
    reorganization in Egypt which, in their opinion, is best
    calculated to insure the stability of its institutions, the
    prosperity and happiness of its people, and the peace of Europe
    in the East, and of the Ottoman Dominions."

On the 17th October Said Pasha had proposed to Lord Dufferin to open
negotiations with regard to Egypt with a view to the maintenance of what
he termed the _status quo ante_, and expressed the gratitude of the
Turkish Government for the assurance of England's intention not to leave
the English troops long in Egypt.

Lord Dufferin was instructed to say in reply that as the affairs of
Egypt had advanced only partially towards their final settlement, any
negotiation would be premature.

On the 23rd December Musurus Pasha asked Lord Granville for a reply as
to the period of the occupation by the British troops. Lord Granville
answered that he could not fix the exact date, but hoped to be in a
short time able to make a communication to the Porte on the whole
Egyptian question. The communication was the Circular Note of the 3rd
January, 1883.

On the 25th January, Mr. Wyndham asked the Turkish Minister for Foreign
Affairs if he could tell him what impression the proposals of Her
Majesty's Government with regard to Egypt had made upon the Ottoman
Government. Aarifi Pasha said that the different points presented had
been examined by the Ministers, but that they had not yet come to a
final decision as to what answer they should return.

One of the first results of the new position adopted by England in Egypt
was the abolition of the Dual Control.

As has been already shown, the institution had rendered great services
to Egypt, and tended to protect the humbler classes of natives from
exaction and injustice. That it should have been so successful in its
mission was due to the high character and administrative ability of the
gentlemen selected for the duties of Controller-General. Major
Baring[87] found a capable successor in Sir Auckland Colvin, and both in
turn worked in the utmost harmony with their French colleague, M. de
Blignières, afterwards succeeded by M. Brédif, who displayed the same
courtesy in his relations with his English colleague.

The objections to the Control were summarized in a Note addressed by the
Egyptian Government to the two Western Powers on the 7th November, 1882.
But apart from any other objection to the Control, there was also a fear
that circumstances might occur which would render that institution a
danger to the maintenance of cordial relations between England and
France. Its maintenance, moreover, was obviously incompatible with the
exclusive predominance of England in Egypt.

Lord Dufferin, on the 28th December, was accordingly instructed to
reply, on behalf of England, "that Her Majesty's Government were not
prepared, in opposition to the wishes of the Egyptian Government, and in
face of the many objections which had been raised to the continuance of
the Control, to insist on the maintenance of an arrangement which, in
its last form, was only provisionally accorded. They thought, however,
that for the present it would not be wise on the part of the Egyptian
Government to deprive themselves of all European assistance in securing
the good administration of the finances, on which must depend the
prosperity and credit of the country, and its power to fulfil its
international engagements without undue pressure on the Egyptian people.
Her Majesty's Government would recommend that, in place of the Control,
His Highness the Khedive should appoint a single European financial
adviser. This officer would attend Cabinet Councils, exercise powers of
inquiry, and give advice on financial questions, but without authority
to interfere in the direct administration of the country."

The despatch continued that "Her Majesty's Government were aware of the
great value which the French Government had attached in the past to the
Dual Control. They did not deny the practical advantages which for a
time attended the system--advantages which were owing to the common wish
of this country and of France to promote the prosperity of Egypt; but
they were convinced that this feeling on the part of France would not
extend to thinking it possible that an arrangement of a temporary
character should be continued after two of the three parties to it had
become desirous to be freed from the obligation for reasons which they
considered to be of grave importance."

It was scarcely to be expected that France would accept the arrangement,
at all events, without a struggle, and M. Raindre, the French
Consul-General in Cairo, was instructed to deny the right of the
Egyptian Government to annul the existing arrangement. This in no way
altered the programme of Cherif Pasha, who, assured of the support of
England, proceeded with the measure; and on the 18th of January, 1883, a
Decree was issued, stating that the dispositions of the various Decrees
relating to the Control were repealed. The next day the Decree was
published in the "Moniteur Egyptien," and the Control became a thing of
the past.

On the Decree appearing in print, the French Consul-General addressed a
despatch to Cherif Pasha, in which the former stated that his Government
declined to recognize the right of the Egyptian Government to upset an
arrangement which he maintained was part of an agreement between the
French and the Egyptian Governments, and which, he said, formed an
essential security for French interests. The despatch concluded with a
formal reservation of the rights of the French Government.

The abolition of the Control excited a burst of indignation from the
French Press; the action of the Egyptian Government was loudly
condemned, and there the matter ended.

M. Brédif, the French Controller, obtained leave of absence; and on the
5th February, Sir Auckland Colvin, who, in the meantime, had resigned
his post as English Controller, was appointed to the post of "Financial
Adviser," created as a substitute for the defunct Control.

One of the first measures which had to be considered by Lord Dufferin
was the reorganization of the Egyptian army. The rebellion and the
measures taken in consequence had left Egypt absolutely without any army
either to defend her frontiers or to maintain order in the interior. If,
as was then contemplated, the British forces were ever to be withdrawn,
it was necessary to provide others to take their place.

Lord Dufferin, in a despatch to the Foreign Office on the 18th November,
1882, combated the oft-repeated statement that Egypt required no army.
According to him "this was a mistake, for although an efficient
gendarmerie might be able in ordinary times to prevent the Bedouins
causing trouble along the desert border and the banks of the Suez Canal,
it was essential that these unruly Arab communities should know that the
Government held in reserve a military force capable of checking any
serious attempt on their part to disturb the peace of the country;
otherwise they would not hesitate to break through the necessarily
sparse and feeble frontier guards in the hope of plundering Cairo." Lord
Dufferin estimated that the strength of the army ought not to exceed
from 5,000 to 6,000 men.

On the question of officering the new force, he observed that the
officering of the native army had always been its weak point. The fellah
subaltern, captain, or colonel had seldom been able to acquire the
prestige or authority necessary for maintaining discipline during peace
and for effective leading in the presence of the enemy. To meet the
difficulty, Lord Dufferin approved a proposal which he found under
consideration for introducing into the Egyptian army a certain
proportion of British officers. It was also suggested that an English
General should be appointed to the chief command.

Both schemes were approved, a number of officers were selected from the
English army to fill certain grades in the Egyptian forces, and on the
13th December, Sir Evelyn Wood left England to take the command with the
title of "Sirdar" (Commander-in-Chief).

The reorganization of the gendarmerie and police was at the same time
proceeded with. In a despatch, dated the 1st January, 1883, Lord
Dufferin said on the subject of the gendarmerie that, "in consequence of
the proximity of the desert and the necessity of controlling the wild
Arab tribes which infest its borders, it was desirable that this arm of
the service should be in a great measure a mounted force, and impressed
with a semi-military character. At the same time, for economical and
other reasons, it should be also trained to discharge the civil duties
of a rural police. Under certain aspects, therefore, it would possess
the characteristics and qualifications of mounted infantry, and under
others those of simple constabulary."

The administration of the gendarmerie, to the number of 4,400 men, was
to be placed under the Minister of the Interior, and its chief was to
be General Baker, with the title of Inspector-General. Lord Dufferin in
the same despatch dealt with the question of the reorganization of the
Urban Police, and whilst pointing out the errors committed in the past,
showed how they might be avoided in the future.

Lord Dufferin next took in hand the question of the reform of Egyptian
institutions generally. On the 6th of February, his Lordship made his
report in the form of a lengthy despatch to Lord Granville, in which he
dealt with the occupation of Egypt, and the responsibilities thereby
devolving on England; the establishment of a Legislative Council, and a
Chamber of Notables elected by the people; the Tribunals, canalization
and irrigation, the cadastral survey of Egypt, the indebtedness of the
fellah, the assessment of the land revenue, agricultural taxes, national
education and the Soudan, as to which last his Lordship observed that
some persons were inclined to advise Egypt to withdraw altogether from
the Soudan and her other acquisitions in that region; but she could
hardly be expected to acquiesce in such a policy. Possessing the lower
ranges of the Nile, she was naturally inclined to claim dominion along
its entire course; and when it was remembered that the territories in
question, if properly developed, were capable of producing inexhaustible
supplies of sugar and cotton, we could not be surprised at her
unwillingness to abandon them. Unhappily, Egyptian administration in the
Soudan had been almost uniformly unfortunate. The success of the present
Mahdi in raising the tribes and in extending his influence over great
tracts of country, was a sufficient proof of the Government's inability
either to reconcile the inhabitants to its rule, or to maintain order.
The consequences had been most disastrous. Within a year and a half the
Egyptians lost something like 9,000 men, while it was estimated that
40,000 of their opponents had perished. His Lordship stated that, in the
expectation that the fresh efforts then about to be made would result in
the restoration of tranquillity, a plan should be carefully considered
for the future administration of the country. Hitherto, it had caused a
continual drain on the resources of the Egyptian Exchequer. The first
step necessary was the construction of a railway from Souakim to Berber,
or what, perhaps, would be still more advisable, to Shendy, on the
Nile. The completion of this enterprise would at once change all the
elements of the problem. Instead of being a burden on the Egyptian
Exchequer, these Equatorial provinces ought to become, with anything
like good management, a source of wealth to the Government.

Lord Dufferin then referred to the slave trade, the International
Tribunals, the right of Egypt to make commercial conventions, and the
exemption of Europeans from taxation. He then gave a retrospect of
reforms accomplished and made observations on the Egyptian Budget and
the Public Debt.

The report concluded as follows:--

    "Having thus given a _résumé_ of the steps already taken towards
    the reorganization of Egypt, and of the further measures in
    progress or in contemplation, it remains for me to consider how
    far we can depend upon the continued, steady, and frictionless
    operation of the machinery we shall have set up. A great part of
    what we are about to inaugurate will be of necessity tentative
    and experimental. This is especially true as regards the
    indigenous Courts of Justice and the new political institutions,
    both of which will have to be worked by persons, the majority of
    whom will be without experience or instruction. Had I been
    commissioned to place affairs in Egypt on the footing of an
    Indian subject State, the outlook would have been different. The
    masterful hand of a Resident would have quickly bent everything
    to his will, and in the space of five years we should have
    greatly added to the material wealth and well-being of the
    country by the extension of its cultivated area and the
    consequent expansion of its revenue; by the partial, if not the
    total, abolition of the _corvée_ and slavery; the establishment
    of justice, and other beneficent reforms. But the Egyptians
    would have justly considered these advantages as dearly
    purchased at the expense of their domestic independence.
    Moreover, Her Majesty's Government and the public opinion of
    England have pronounced against such an alternative. But though
    it be our fixed determination that the new _régime_ shall not
    surcharge us with the responsibility of permanently
    administering the country, whether directly or indirectly, it is
    absolutely necessary to prevent the fabric we have raised from
    tumbling to the ground the moment our sustaining hand is
    withdrawn. Such a catastrophe would be the signal for the return
    of confusion to this country and renewed discord in Europe. At
    the present moment we are labouring in the interests of the
    world at large. The desideratum of every one is an Egypt
    peaceful, prosperous, and contented, able to pay its debts,
    capable of maintaining order along the Canal, and offering no
    excuse in the troubled condition of its affairs for interference
    from outside. France, Turkey, every European Power, must be as
    anxious as ourselves for the attainment of these results, nor
    can they be jealous of the means we take to secure them.

    "The very fact of our having endowed the country with
    representative institutions is a proof of our
    disinterestedness. It is the last thing we should have done had
    we desired to retain its Government in leading-strings; for
    however irresistible may be the control of a protecting Power
    when brought to bear upon a feeble autocracy, its imperative
    character disappears in the presence of a popular Assembly. The
    behests of 'the Agent' are at once confronted by the _non
    possumus_ of 'the Minister.' But before such a guarantee for
    Egypt's independence can be said to exist, the administrative
    system of which it is the leading characteristic must have time
    to consolidate, in order to resist disintegrating influences
    from within and without, and to acquire the use and knowledge
    of its own capacities. If the multiform and balanced
    organization we have contrived is to have a chance of success
    it must be allowed to operate _in vacuo_. Above all, the
    persons who have staked their future on its existence must have
    some guarantee that it will endure. How can we expect men born
    under a ruthless despotism to embark on the duties of an
    Opposition--which is the vital spark of constitutional
    government--to criticise, condemn, and countervail the powers
    that be, if to-morrow the ark of the Constitution to which they
    trusted is to break into fragments beneath their feet? Amidst
    the applause of the liberal world a Parliament was called into
    existence at Constantinople; a few months later it disappeared,
    and its champion and fugleman is now languishing in the
    dungeons of Taif. Unless they are convinced that we intend to
    shield and foster the system we have established it will be in
    vain to expect the timid politicians of the East to identify
    themselves with its existence. But even this will not be
    enough. We must also provide that the tasks intrusted to the
    new political apparatus do not overtax its untried strength.
    The situation of the country is too critical, the problems
    immediately pressing on the attention of its rulers are too
    vital to be tampered with, even in the interests of political
    philosophy. Various circumstances have combined to render the
    actual condition of the Egyptian fellah extremely precarious.
    His relations with his European creditors are becoming
    dangerously strained. The agriculture of the country is rapidly
    deteriorating, the soil having become exhausted by overcropping
    and other causes. The labour of the _corvée_ is no longer equal
    to the cleansing of the canals. As a consequence the desert is
    encroaching on the cultivated land, and, unless some remedy be
    quickly found, the finances of the country will be compromised.

    "With such an accumulation of difficulties, native
    statesmanship, even though supplemented by the new-born
    institutions, will hardly be able to cope unless assisted for a
    time by our sympathy and guidance. Under these circumstances, I
    would venture to submit that we can hardly consider the work of
    reorganization complete, or the responsibilities imposed upon
    us by circumstances adequately discharged, until we have seen
    Egypt shake herself from the initial embarrassments which I
    have enumerated. This point of departure once attained we can
    bid her God-speed with a clear conscience, and may fairly claim
    the approbation of Europe for having completed a labour which
    every one desired to see accomplished, though no one was
    willing to undertake it but ourselves. Even then the stability
    of our handiwork will not be assured unless it is clearly
    understood by all concerned that no subversive influence will
    intervene between England and the Egypt she has recreated."

The projects of Lord Dufferin were theoretically complete, and, taken
together, formed a constitution which, on paper, was nearly perfect. An
army duly subordinate to the Executive was to form the ultimate
guarantee for order. An efficient police, carrying out the decrees of
independent and unbribed tribunals, was to offer complete security for
personal rights and liberty. A Khedive checked by a Council of
Ministers, which in turn was to be checked by a Legislative Council of
twenty-six, while all three were to learn from an assembly of forty-six
Notables what were the real wishes of the Egyptian people, was a
triumph of constitutional mechanics. A financial Councillor at once the
servant and the monitor of the Khedive, and always ready when requested
to bring the light of Western science to bear upon the lax ideas of
Oriental finance, lent to the whole structure of government a rigidity
and stability which could not be too greatly admired. In short, looking
at the whole ingenious apparatus, one could not but feel that nothing
was wanted to make it perfect except an Egyptian nation. The machine was
beautifully constructed and finished, but one looked in vain for the
motive power. In 1883 the Egypt of Lord Dufferin existed only in
imagination. For the most part it was a dream, and far off in the haze
of a remote future. The Constitution was excellent as a model, but where
did the strength reside that alone could make it work? One might search
through all its parts, from the Khedive to the policeman, without
finding a single trace of the vital force that was to work the whole. It
had no organic connection with the people of Egypt; it had not sprung
out of their wants or their aptitudes; it did not express their history
or embody their aspirations. The Ministers were responsible to the
Khedive, and the army was to obey him. On what was the authority to rest
which was to enable him to cope with intrigues in his Cabinet or
conspiracy among his troops? There could at that time be only one
answer, viz., the presence of the British Army of Occupation, and this
was the very institution which the project was intended to supersede.

The British forces in Egypt on the 31st of December, 1882, had been
reduced to 12,000 men.

At the opening of Parliament on the 15th February, 1883, Egyptian
affairs were referred to in the Queen's Speech in the following
terms:--"I continue to maintain relations of friendship with all the
Powers; order is now re-established in Egypt, and the British troops
will be withdrawn as promptly as may be permitted by a prudent
examination of the country."

The repeated declarations by the British Government of their intention
to withdraw the Army of Occupation excited the utmost alarm amongst the
European inhabitants of Egypt. These last, driven from their homes by
the events to a great extent brought about by England's intervention in
1882, had now, trusting to the protection of the British force, returned
to the country and resumed their former avocations. Upon this class the
Ministerial utterances produced the worst possible effect. Owing to the
feeling of uncertainty which in consequence prevailed, all large
operations were at a standstill. No one was disposed to lay out his
money in a country which might at any moment be handed back to the care
of a native administration, and at Alexandria miles of blackened ruins
still marked the results of British interference.

Whether the feeling of alarm was justified or not, there is no doubt
that at this time the sentiments of the natives were not friendly
towards Europeans. In the provinces Europeans were openly insulted and
threatened by the natives, and in many of the villages acts of
brigandage were of frequent occurrence.

The repeated Ministerial declarations of an impending withdrawal from
Egypt not only created anxiety amongst the European population, and to a
great extent paralyzed commerce and prevented the inflow of capital, but
they exercised a most injurious effect upon the reforms which the
British Government professed such anxiety to push forward. On every side
the same story was told. The natives, daily given to understand that the
rule of the English was shortly coming to an end, opposed a passive
obstructiveness, in those cases where they did not offer active
opposition, to the intended changes. "What is the use of your making all
these alterations," reasoned the Egyptian official, "if they are not to
last?" That they _could_ last after the departure of the English was an
idea which never appeared worthy of a moment's consideration by him.

This was the condition of things when, early in the month of March, a
petition in English, French, Italian, and Greek was drawn up and
addressed to Lord Dufferin. The document pointed out that whilst
recognizing that it was by the British forces that the disturbances of
1882 had been suppressed, the state of affairs in Egypt was such as to
show that the permanent retention of a European force was the only means
by which order could be maintained, and the security of the European
population assured. The petition bore 2,600 signatures, mostly of
influential persons of all nationalities. It was presented to Lord
Dufferin by a deputation, and by him transmitted to the Foreign Office.
From that date nothing more was heard of it, and it was probably placed
in the same pigeon-hole as the memorial for protection sent by the
British residents just previous to the riots of the 11th June.

On the 29th April, Lieutenant-General F. C. A. Stephenson was appointed
to the command of the Army of Occupation, in succession to Sir Archibald

Lord Dufferin left the carrying out of his scheme of Egyptian reform in
the able hands of Sir Evelyn Baring, and returned to Constantinople on
the 3rd May.[88]



The situation in the Soudan at the period referred to at the close of
Chapter XXVI. was, it must be confessed, critical enough, and it is not
surprising that, on the 7th November, 1882, Lord Granville caused the
Khedive to be informed that the British Government were unwilling to
take any responsibility in regard to it. Left to their own resources,
the Egyptian Government had no alternative but to re-enlist about 10,000
of Arabi's old officers and men for service in the South.

Early in November the collection of these soldiers and their
concentration at the Barrage, near Cairo, began. Most of them had to be
brought in chains, and desertions were frequent. They were transported
by detachments to Berber, viâ Souakim, their arms and ammunition being
sent separately. Altogether, 9,500 were collected and despatched.

Most of these troops were deplorably ignorant of all notions of drill,
and were little more than an armed mob. Their officers were no better.
Many of them had been engaged in the recent operations in Lower Egypt,
which did not tend to increase their military spirit. Others looked on
service in the Soudan as a sentence of death, and deemed that the
Khedive's purpose in sending them was to get rid of them. Considering,
also, the superstitious notions which many of them had of the power and
invincibility of the Mahdi, and of the valour of his savage followers,
it can hardly be supposed that the new levies were such as to inspire
confidence, or that to advance with such a rabble was to court anything
else but defeat.

The first thing to be done was to try to teach them something. They
were, for this purpose, isolated from the town in a camp on the western
bank of the Nile. Here Abdel Kader devoted himself personally to giving
them instruction in drill, teaching them to fire and lecturing their

Meanwhile, on the 11th November, the Mahdi sent Amr-el-Makashef to
attack Duem, on the west bank of the White Nile. After some delay, the
Mahdist forces arrived before the town. The garrison telegraphed for
assistance, and a battalion of the newly arrived levies was sent to
their relief, but, owing to a dispute amongst the native officers in
command, it effected nothing, and Duem was left to take its chance.

After this failure, it is not surprising that Abdel Kader telegraphed to
the Egyptian Government, requesting that some European officers might be
placed at his disposal, and on 16th December, Colonel Stewart and two
other British officers arrived at Khartoum. They found that place quiet,
but Obeid and Bara were still unrelieved, and Abdel Kader was standing
out for seven additional battalions before he would advance to their

At the end of December, news was received that Bara was still holding
out, though greatly in want of provisions, and that the Mahdi was
marching in that direction with the bulk of his forces; also, that a
second Mahdi had appeared on the scene, but had been promptly hung by
order of the first.

Abdel Kader, on 11th January, 1883, left Khartoum to take command of the
troops operating between the White and Blue Niles. His intention was to
clear the province of Sennar. As the force advanced, the country was
found deserted, the inhabitants having gone to join the Mahdi. At Abut
he determined to await the arrival of another battalion before advancing

Whilst halting at this spot it became necessary to despatch the 1st
battalion of the 2nd Regiment of the Line from Khartoum to suppress
troubles which had arisen amongst the Hassaniyeh nomads on the White
Nile. The troops left in two steamers. When near the village where
operations were to commence, one steamer ran aground. The other went on,
landed three companies and opened fire on the rebels. At this moment a
handful of the latter falling on two of the companies which had not yet
formed up was the signal for a general flight of the troops to the
river, with heavy loss, including the Bimbashi (or Major) in command,
who was killed by his own men in the confusion. When the other steamer
arrived a council of war was held, and it was decided to make no further
attack upon the enemy, although they were only 400 strong. On the 26th,
another Bimbashi arrived to replace the one who had been killed. He took
the field at once, and ordered an advance on the village before
daybreak. The other officers remonstrated, saying that, if they marched
in the dark through an unknown country, they would all be killed, and
on the Bimbashi remaining firm, five of them went at once on the sick
list. The advance was made in square formation, preceded by a guard and
scouts, up to a narrow strip of forest, which lay between the Egyptian
force and the village. Two companies were ordered into the forest to
reconnoitre the road, but the officers refused to advance, saying that
they and their men would certainly be killed. Some of the soldiers at
this time, firing off their rifles contrary to orders, gave the alarm to
the rebels, who advanced through the wood, and the Egyptian force fled
back to their boats.

The above episode gives a fair idea of the fighting capacity of the
Egyptian officers and men, and the truth of the matter seems at this
period to have dawned upon the authorities at Cairo; for on the 23rd of
January a telegram from the Khedive to Hussein Pasha Serri, the senior
military officer in charge at Khartoum, ordered all operations to be
suspended, and all the troops to be concentrated there, pending the
arrival of English staff officers from Cairo.

The orders of the Khedive were communicated to Abdel Kader, who,
nevertheless, declined to obey. The reason he gave was that, by the
withdrawal of the troops, the rebellion would be allowed to extend in
the eastern provinces, and that if the expedition did not leave promptly
for Kordofan, that province, as well as Darfur, would be lost to Egypt.
It is quite possible, also, that Abdel Kader, who was undoubtedly an
able leader, was disinclined to allow the work to be taken out of his
hands. In any case, he did not for a moment relax his efforts. On the
27th he defeated the rebels at Maatuk, with a loss of 600 killed and
wounded; directed a successful engagement at Baatuk; and on February 1st
reached Kawa, where he was joined by three battalions ordered up from
Shawal and Karash. He then left for Khartoum, after giving directions
for the disposal of the force in his absence.

On the 11th of February a messenger brought the news to Khartoum that
Bara had surrendered to the Mahdi on the 5th January. Four days later
intelligence was received of the capitulation of El Obeid on January
17th. According to the details received from this last place, it would
appear that on the 16th or 17th negotiations were opened, and a meeting
of delegates on either side was appointed for the next day. On this
becoming known, many of the troops at once left and joined the rebels,
who made an attack in force on the following day. The Bey in command
ordered the soldiers to resist, but they refused and went over to the
enemy; the artillery fired in the air, and the commandant, taking this
as a sign of collusion with the rebels, made an unconditional surrender.
The capture of these two strongholds placed the whole of Kordofan in the
hands of the Mahdi, who also obtained possession of 5,500 prisoners, 600
Remington rifles and five guns.

On the 13th February Abdel Kader rejoined his troops and proceeded
towards Sennar with three battalions and about 600 Bashi-Bazouks. The
Mahdi, on his approach, advanced from Sennar to meet him with a force
estimated at from 10,000 to 12,000 men. These, under the command of
Amr-el-Makashef, attacked the Egyptians on the 24th, but after a fight
lasting three hours were repulsed with a loss stated at 2,000 in killed
alone. After this success, Sennar was occupied without resistance, and
communications were re-established between that place and Khartoum.

On the 20th February, Al-ed Din Pasha, a Turkish cavalry officer, who
was sent to supersede Abdel Kader, arrived at Khartoum, and was on the
26th March proclaimed Governor-General of the Soudan.

It now becomes necessary to go back a little to the period of the
appointment of the European officers applied for by Abdel Kader.

In January, 1883, Colonel W. Hicks, subsequently known as Hicks Pasha,
was appointed by the Khedive Chief of the Staff of the Army of the
Soudan, with the local rank of Major-General. Though not named
Commander-in-Chief till the August following, it was intended that he
should direct and be responsible for all the operations, whilst
nominally holding a subordinate post.

Hicks was a retired officer of the Indian army, which he had entered in
1849. He had taken part in the suppression of the Indian Mutiny, under
Lord Clyde, and had accompanied Lord Napier's expedition to Abyssinia,
being present at the taking of Magdala. In 1882, when holding the
retired rank of Colonel, he went to Egypt, and joined the Egyptian
service in the following year. Though a popular and attractive officer,
he is said to have had little or no experience in handling troops in the
field. His appointment was made by the Egyptian, without reference to
the English, Government. With him were associated the following British
officers, all nominated in the same manner, viz.: Colonels Colborne and
De Cöetlogon, Majors Farquhar and Martin, and Captains Warner, Massey,
and Forrestier-Walker.

Hicks and his staff left Cairo on the 7th of February for Souakim, and
started thence for Berber by the desert route on the 11th. The caravan,
which consisted of 145 camels, besides horses, and was accompanied by
350 Bashi-Bazouks and over 100 Egyptian soldiers, reached Berber on the
1st of March. Here the news of the fall of Bara and Obeid was received.

Hicks proceeded to Khartoum on the 4th of March, and the next few weeks
were spent in the necessary training of his men.

On April 6th, Hicks and Colborne, bringing reinforcements, joined the
Egyptian force encamped at Kawa, to lead it against a body of about
6,000 Mahdists, reported to be assembling at Marabieh and Abu Djumal, on
the White Nile, south of Khartoum. On the 21st, Hicks started to
reconnoitre the enemy, and on the 23rd the Egyptian army, numbering
about 5,000 men with four Nordenfeldt guns, under the nominal command of
Suleiman Pasha,[89] marched against the enemy. On the 25th, Hicks
rejoined the camp with the intelligence that the rebels had left
Geb-el-Ain and were moving to attack the "Turks," as the Egyptian force
was termed, on their march from Kawa.

On the following day the enemy threatened an attack, but, finding the
Egyptians on the alert, retired. Two days' more marching brought the
force close to the village of Marabieh. On the 28th, when about an hour
from this place, Colonel Farquhar, who had been scouting in company with
four Bashi-Bazouks, raced in to report the enemy's advance. So rapid was
this that in a quarter of an hour they were seen coming on in a cloud,
consisting of both cavalry and spearmen, led by their chiefs carrying
gaily-coloured banners. They emerged in thousands through openings in a
wood in front. Fortunately Hicks had his men formed in a solid square
and ready to receive the attack. As usual, all baggage, camels, and camp
followers were in the centre. Along each face bristled a thousand rifles
and at each corner were placed Nordenfeldt guns and rocket tubes.
"Crows' feet," or little iron spikes joined four together, were thrown
out so as to make the ground difficult for bare-footed men or unshod
horses. As the enemy came on they spread out towards the flanks, as if
with the intention of attacking the angles of the square. A couple of
rockets were discharged from the Egyptian force, but the missiles burst
amongst Hicks' own men. This was followed by the fire of the howitzers,
and no sooner had the first few shells fallen amongst the advancing
horsemen than they broke and moved off the field.

The infantry still came on boldly, sweeping with an inward curve right
and left, the extreme flanks converging towards the opposing corners of
the position. File firing commenced from the front of the Egyptian
force, which was directly assailed. The men were formed in ranks four
deep, and used their Remingtons with deadly effect. Nevertheless, though
shot down in numbers many of the enemy continued their onward rush, and
succeeded in getting close enough to the square to throw their spears
into it. Encouraged by the presence of their English officers, the
Egyptians stood their ground and poured volley after volley into the
attacking force, whilst the Nordenfeldts, when got to work, did much

After half an hour's fighting, in which Amr-el-Makashef, who was in
command, and other chiefs were killed, the force was entirely broken up
and fled in confusion. A few of the rebels continued to come up singly
after the rest had retired, and brandished their spears in defiance. One
after another these courageous fanatics were knocked over, and when the
smoke had rolled away the ground was seen strewn with corpses, most of
them within 400 yards of the square.

When victory was assured, the enthusiasm of the soldiers knew no bounds,
and unaccustomed to find themselves on the winning side, they indulged
in the wildest demonstrations, whilst the Egyptian officers rushed to
shake hands with their English comrades.

The number of Amr-el-Makashef's forces engaged was estimated at from
4,000 to 5,000 (though they may have been less), and their losses at
500. The Egyptian loss was merely nominal, only two men being killed and
five wounded. This may be accounted for by the fact that, so far as
appears, the enemy were unprovided with firearms, and that no
hand-to-hand fight took place.

After Suleiman's men had rested sufficiently, there being no indications
of the attack being renewed, the bugles sounded the advance, and the
troops were again on the march. Halting every night, a few days only
witnessed their arrival at Geb-el-Ain, whence after a short stay Hicks
and the whole force returned to Khartoum, leaving only a few men to
garrison Kawa and Duem.

Hicks, as has been seen, began well, and the immediate result of his
victory was that the province of Sennar, the capital of which had been
threatened, was entirely pacified, whilst the population of Khartoum was

The rebel chiefs in great numbers came in, made their submission, and
returned to peaceful occupations.

The reconquest of Kordofan was now decided on by the Egyptian
Government, the annihilation of the Mahdi having become a matter of
vital importance from the fact of his emissaries being discovered
engaged in fomenting a revolt in Khartoum itself.

On the 13th of May, Hicks telegraphed to Cairo requesting that he might
be put in undisputed command of the troops, as otherwise he could not be
responsible for the proposed expedition. He was fully alive to the
difficulties of the task before him. A council of war was held at
Khartoum on the 6th of June, when the measures to be adopted in the
coming Kordofan campaign were discussed, and it was unanimously decided
to ask for reinforcements from Cairo, the available force at Hicks'
disposal being quite inadequate for the undertaking. Hicks' application
was for 6,000 men, who, he begged, should be sent in time to enable him
to commence operations as soon as the rainy season should be over.

The Egyptian Government, on the 11th of June, decided to despatch 3,000
men as reinforcements; 600 of these were Bashi-Bazouks, and 1,800 were
old soldiers who had been rejected by General Baker as unfit for the
reorganized army.

Hicks was evidently at this time in doubt as to how far he was to
exercise real authority over the expedition, and asked that distinct
orders should be sent that all directions he might give during the
campaign should be obeyed. On the 23rd of July Hicks telegraphed his
resignation in the following terms:--

    "I have to-day sent to the War Office my resignation of my
    appointment with the Soudan army. I have done so with regret,
    but I cannot undertake another campaign under the same
    circumstances as the last. Suleiman Pasha tells me that he does
    not understand from the telegram of the President of the
    Council, dated the 14th July, that he is bound to carry out my
    views with regard to the order or mode of advance or attack of
    the army now preparing for Kordofan, unless he approves of them.
    In fact, he says he should be acting contrary to instructions if
    he carried out my views, and did not agree with them. As my
    views and his were so opposed in the last campaign, and would be
    more so in the Kordofan campaign, I can only resign. Within the
    last few days, on two important occasions my views have been

On the 31st of July Hicks withdrew his resignation and was appointed to
the chief command, Suleiman being recalled and nominated governor of the
Red Sea Provinces.

Great efforts had to be made to supply the means of transport for the
Kordofan column, and Al-ed Din Pasha himself had to go off to the
country east of the Blue Nile for camels, at least 5,000 of which were
required. Early in August he returned, having succeeded in getting
together some 4,000.

The Mahdi seems, at this time, to have also been giving his attention to
the question of transport. According to one report he had sent some
Dervishes to the Kabbabish tribes to requisition camels. At first the
tribesmen thought of refusing to obey this order, but on second thoughts
they resolved to dissemble. The sheikh accordingly wrote to say, "Send
your men down and we will give you camels." When, however, the
emissaries of the Mahdi came to fetch them they were greeted in the
following logical manner, "Your master is a lost man. If he is the
Prophet he can have no need of camels. If he is not we are not bound to
give him any," and in order that there might be no mistake as to their
views, the Kabbabishes promptly fell upon the Dervishes and killed them.

In the months of July and August the reinforcements from Cairo began to
arrive, and as they came up were concentrated with the rest of the
force at Omdurman, opposite Khartoum where a regular camp had been

On the 9th of September, 1883, Hicks' army marched out from the camp at
Omdurman on its way to Duem, 110 miles distant. The force then consisted
of 10,000 men (including camel-men and camp followers) with four Krupp
field guns, ten mountain guns, and six Nordenfeldts. The undermentioned
Europeans accompanied the force, which Hicks subsequently joined at
Duem:--Colonel Farquhar, chief of the staff; Majors Seckendorff, Warner,
Massy, and Evans; Captains Herlth and Matyuga; Lieutenant Morris Brody;
Surgeon-General Georges Bey and Surgeon-Major Rosenberg; Mr. O'Donovan,
correspondent of the "Daily News," and Mr. Vizetelly, artist of the

On the march to Duem no hostility was encountered. Most of the natives
had fled at the approach of the troops. The heat was intense, the
thermometer ranging from 105 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade.
Four men and 200 camels died on the way. The expedition reached Duem on
the 20th, where it was met by Al-ed Din Pasha.

Hicks on the 6th of September had telegraphed to Cairo that he was
starting for Kordofan; he added that he expected to encounter great
difficulties in supplying his force with water. Kordofan, it may be
observed, is the driest province in the Soudan. The wells contained but
little water except immediately after the rains, and even then they were
insufficient for a large force with camels, horses, &c.

His original plan was to march to Bara and Obeid by the northern and
more direct route. By this road the distance would be about 136 miles.
Posts were to have been established along the line to keep up
communication with the river at Duem, where a depôt was to have been
formed. Both Bara and Obeid were to have been retaken and garrisoned.
The former, being thirty-five miles to the north of the latter, and
situated in a fertile country, was to have been first attacked. Here it
was proposed the army should remain for a few days to rest and replenish
its stores.

On Hicks joining the army at Duem, these arrangements had to be entirely
changed. According to Al-ed Din Pasha, the information he had obtained
led him to believe that the best supply of water would be found on the
southern route by Shatt, Norabi, and the Khor-Abu-Hable to Rahad, some
forty-five miles east of Obeid. The distance by this route, however, was
fully 250 miles, being more than 100 miles greater than by the northern
road--a very grave objection. It had been all along known that on
striking the Khor-Abu-Hable, which is a torrent taking its rise in
Ghebel-Kulfan, a mountain some fifty miles south of Obeid, the army
could follow its course for 100 miles, thus making sure of an ample
supply of water for that distance. But the difficulty consisted in
reaching Norabi, ninety miles distant from Duem, and it was this
consideration which had induced Hicks to reject this route. Now Al-ed
Din represented that water could be found between the two places, and
the question of water supply being paramount, Hicks was induced to
change his decision and proceed by the southern route, notwithstanding
the increased distance.

On the 24th of September an advance party of 2,400 infantry, one
squadron of Bashi-Bazouks, two Krupp and four mountain guns, seized the
wells at the village of Shatt, sixteen miles distant. Here the first
post was established.

On the 27th, Hicks telegraphed to the Minister of War from Shatt that
the main body of the army would march forward that day, and added, "The
difficulty of getting over the increased distance is nothing when the
facilities for obtaining water on the march by this route are taken into

On the same day the army marched forth to its fate. Taking a
south-westerly direction, on the 30th it encamped at Zeraiga, a village
thirty miles south-west of Duem. The heat continued to be overpowering,
and the camels were dying in numbers. During the march a difference of
opinion arose between Hicks and Al-ed Din, the latter, in view of the
change of route, wishing to give up the proposed series of posts
connecting the army with its base. Hicks, on the other hand, was most
unwilling, for obvious reasons, to take any such step. In a despatch,
without date, in the General's writing, purporting to be written from a
spot twenty-eight miles from Serakna, Hicks thus expresses himself:--

    "The army has arrived within twenty-eight miles of Serakna,
    which place is twenty-two miles from Norabi. We have depended
    upon pools of rainwater for supply, which we have fortunately
    found. A reconnaissance made to-day insures us water as far as
    Serakna, guides' information is vague. I regret that I have to
    abandon my intention of establishing military posts and line of
    communication with base at Duem. Al-ed Din assures me that the
    Arabs will close in on my route after the army has passed in
    sufficient force to prevent posts forwarding supplies. Besides,
    the pools of rain-water, the only supply, will dry up. Water not
    to be obtained by digging wells. I have no information regarding
    water between Serakna and Norabi, nor reliable information of
    the supply there. This causes me great anxiety."

The determination to abandon the posts was not come to without a council
of war being summoned; and Hicks on the 3rd of October, on the army
reaching a place near Serakna, wrote a report (the last communication
ever received from him) giving the opinions of the members of the
council in favour of abandoning the series of posts which he had wished
to establish, and the reasons which induced him, against his better
judgment, to bow to their decision.

After this the army appears to have arrived on the 7th of October at
Sanga Hamferid, forty-five miles south-west of Duem. A letter from Mr.
O'Donovan from that position, and dated the 10th of October, says, "We
have halted for the past three days owing to the uncertainty of the
water supply in front. Here we are entirely dependent on surface pools.
A reconnaissance of thirty miles forward yesterday by Colonel Farquhar
ascertained that the pools were barely sufficient for a rapid march to
the village of Serakna, now deserted, where there are a few wells. The
enemy is still retiring and sweeping the country bare of cattle."



Then came a long period of silence, and great anxiety began to be felt.
From its outset Hicks' army had been beset with spies, who informed the
Mahdi of every movement. Hicks, on the other hand, had to trust to
treacherous guides, and possibly false reports. It was, moreover, no
secret that there was dissension in the Egyptian force, for Al-ed Din
Pasha was jealous at not having been intrusted with the chief command,
and some of the Egyptian officers were suspected of treachery.[90] Here,
then, were all the elements of failure.

[Illustration: ROUTE OF HICKS' ARMY.]

Military critics had from the first condemned the decision forced upon
Hicks to give up the proposed series of posts connecting the army with
its base. Sir Samuel Baker, a high authority on the Soudan, as well as
General Stone, an American officer of experience, formerly chief of the
staff, stated that the force despatched was wholly inadequate, and that
they anticipated nothing but disaster. As week after week passed on
without intelligence, the public anxiety increased. Daily telegrams were
sent by the Government to Khartoum, demanding news, and a steamer was
despatched from there to patrol the White Nile, but in vain. Attempts to
send messengers to communicate with the army failed. One messenger, who
had been captured by the rebels, was put alive into an ant-hill, and
this naturally tended to discourage others who might have been induced
to make the attempt.

At last three soldiers returned to Khartoum from Duem, and reported that
Hicks had been attacked by from 25,000 to 30,000 Mahdists at a place
three leagues from Obeid, had repulsed the attack, inflicting a loss of
8,000 men on the enemy, had laid siege to Obeid, and captured it on the
4th of November, the Egyptian losses being nil.

Doubts were entertained as to the accuracy of this information. The
absence of any loss on the Egyptian side in operations of such magnitude
was felt to be improbable. Further, it was recognized that on the date
at which Hicks was stated to have entered Obeid he must, according to
his calculated rate of progress, have been at least a week's march from
that town. The report received no sort of confirmation, official or
otherwise, and was soon generally disbelieved.

On the 18th November the French Consul-General received a short telegram
from his agent at Khartoum, stating that, according to information from
a private source, Hicks' army was surrounded and in want of provisions.

On the 19th two messengers arrived at Duem with letters. According to
their statements, a fight had taken place between Egyptian troops and a
great number of rebels at a place called Kaz. During the first two days'
fighting the Dervishes suffered great loss. The Mahdi, seeing this,
advanced with his regular troops from Obeid, all well armed. The
fighting continued from the 2nd to 5th November, when Hicks' whole army
was destroyed, all being killed but about fifty men.

This news was confirmed by other persons, including a Copt, who,
disguised as a Dervish, arrived at Khartoum from Kordofan on the 21st
November. He asserted that he was an eye-witness of the fight, in which,
according to him, the Egyptian troops, with the exception of 200, were
totally destroyed. The later accounts received contained more details;
but as these are in many respects conflicting, it is proposed to give a
short summary of one or two of the different narratives, omitting only
such portions as would be mere repetition.

According to a camel-driver, who followed in the service of Kenaui Bey,
the army, after leaving Duem, met the rebels, with whom some skirmishes
took place, and arrived at Rahad without serious fighting. There was a
lake at Rahad, from which they got a supply of water, and then started
for Alouba. On this march the rebels attacked in great numbers, but were
defeated. The army passed the night at Alouba. The next day (2nd of
November), after three hours' marching through a forest, a large force
of rebels suddenly appeared, and the Egyptians halted and formed square.
Fighting went on all that day, and after an engagement, in which there
were losses on both sides, the rebels were again defeated. Intrenchments
were thrown up, and the night was passed on the field of battle. On the
3rd the march was resumed. Again the rebels attacked in considerable
numbers, endeavouring to surround the army, but after a serious
engagement, in which both sides lost severely, they were once more
defeated. The night was passed on this new field of battle. On the 4th
the army directed its course towards Kashgil. After four hours'
marching, the force was surprised by the rebels, who directed against it
a well-sustained fire. The soldiers were halted in square, and returned
the fire. They suffered terribly from thirst; nevertheless they
continued to fight all that day and during the night.

On the morning of the 5th, the firing having ceased, the army advanced
towards the wells. After half an hour's march, the Dervishes, who were
hidden in the woods, surrounded the troops on all sides, and opened
fire. The force replied with a strong fusillade, which was well kept up
till towards mid-day, when the enemy made a general charge with guns,
spears, and lances, and destroyed the whole army with the exception of
200 soldiers.

On the 1st December a telegram from Khartoum stated that for the last
week there had been an Arab rumour that there were dissensions between
Hicks and Al-ed Din Pasha prior to the battle, and that these
dissensions were known to all. Hicks, according to the rumour, was weary
of waiting near the water at Melbeis. Al-ed Din Pasha refused to move
further, because there was no water, and half the army went over to him,
and refused to obey Hicks. Hicks therefore pushed ahead with all his
European staff, artillery, and seven or eight thousand men, was
entrapped into an ambush, and fought for three days, not having a drop
of water or a reserve cartridge. All his army was destroyed. The rumour
added that Al-ed Din and his party, who stood by the water, were
afterwards attacked, and that they were at the far side of Obeid,
fighting every day, with large losses; and that there was with them a
white officer, English or German, who escaped, badly wounded, from the
massacre of Hicks and his army. There was also Mr. Vizetelly, an artist,
a prisoner in El-Obeid.

The story of a Greek merchant who escaped from Obeid was that when Hicks
started from Duem, large bodies of Arabs encamped each night on the
place occupied by the army the night before. Hicks frequently wished to
turn back and disperse these men, but Al-ed Din Pasha assured him that
they were friendly natives following in support of the army.

On the sixth or seventh day Hicks sent back a small body of his men.
These were fired upon by the Arabs, and Hicks then insisted that these
should be dispersed. Al-ed Din refused, and Hicks then drew his sword
and threw it on the ground, saying that he resigned, and would no longer
be responsible if Al-ed Din did not permit his orders to be obeyed.
Hicks also declared that from the time he left Duem Al-ed Din had caused
his orders to be disobeyed. After some time Hicks was persuaded to
resume the command; but things went on as before, the body of rebels in
the rear always growing larger.

After some slight engagements, Kashgil was reached. Here an ambuscade
had been formed some days before, the guide employed having been told to
lead the army thither. When the Arabs opened fire it was from behind
rocks and trees, where they were wholly covered, and could fire with
impunity. The shells and bullets of the Egyptian force were harmless, so
thick was the cover. Hicks wheeled his army to gain the open, but found
the defile blocked by Al-ed Din's so-called friendly natives, who had so
long been following him. They also had got under shelter, and opened
fire on the army. The Arabs, from behind their protection, kept up the
fire for three days, and in the whole affair lost only from 270 to 300
men. The Egyptian soldiers were then lying on the ground, dying or in
convulsions from thirst, and the Arabs found them in groups of twenty or
more, unable to rise. They were all speared where they lay. Hicks' staff
and escort alone had water, and were in a group on horseback. When the
Arabs came out of cover, Hicks charged, leading his staff, and shooting
down all the rebels in his way. They galloped past towards a sheikh
(supposed by the Egyptians to be the Mahdi). Hicks rushed on him with
his sword, and cut his face and arm. The man had on a Darfur steel mail
shirt. Just then a thrown club struck Hicks on the head and unhorsed
him; the horses of the staff were speared, but the officers fought on
foot till all were killed. Hicks was the last to die.[91] The Mahdi was
not in the battle, but came to see Hicks' body. As each sheikh passed,
he pierced it with his lance (an Arab custom), that he might say he
assisted at his death.

Later still, a boy who had been with Hicks' army, made a statement to
the following effect:--At Lake Rahad Hicks made a fort and mounted
twenty-three guns. The troops rested there for three days. The enemy was
hemming them in, and Hicks determined to push on to Obeid. The army
advanced at daybreak. It had not marched an hour when the enemy for the
first time opened fire, at long range. Some camels only were wounded.
The army halted for the night, intrenched itself, making a zeriba. For
two days the army remained in camp. It then marched to Shekan, where it
again halted for two days in consequence of being surrounded by the
enemy, whose fire began to kill both men and camels. Leaving Shekan, the
force marched till noon. It then halted, as the enemy were firing from
the bushes on all sides. On the third day the cavalry made a sortie, and
encountering the enemy's horsemen, put them to flight, capturing several
horses. This was early in the day. The square then resumed its march.
Shortly after, the galloping of horses was heard, and countless Arabs
appeared on all sides, waving their banners and brandishing their spears
above the bushes. The square was halted, and, opening fire, killed a
great many, whilst the Egyptians at the same time lost heavily. The
bushes were too thick for the Krupp guns to do much execution, but the
machine-guns were at work day and night. Next morning Arabs were seen
lying six deep killed by these guns. There were nine Englishmen with the
force besides Hicks. The Egyptians lay down to hide, but Hicks ordered
his English officers to go round and make them stand up. At noon he
sounded the assembly, to ascertain who was left alive. The force was
shortly after joined by Al-ed Din and his division. The next morning the
entire force marched together through a forest. Through field-glasses an
immense number of the enemy could be seen. The men insisted on
continuing their march to the water instead of halting to fight. Hicks,
yielding to their remonstrance, continued to march in square. Before
noon, Melbeis, where there was abundance of water, was in sight. About
noon the Arabs in overwhelming numbers burst upon the front face of the
square. It was swept away like chaff before the wind. Seeing this, the
other sides of the square faced inwards, and commenced a deadly
fusillade, both on the enemy and crossways on each other. Terrible
slaughter ensued. Seeing that all hope of restoring order was gone,
Hicks and the few English officers who remained then spurred their
horses and sprang out of the confused mass of dead and dying. The
officers fired their revolvers, killing many, and clearing a space
around them till all their ammunition was expended. They had then got
clear outside the square, and took to their swords, fighting till they
fell. Hicks alone remained. He was a terror to the Arabs. They said his
sword never struck a man without killing him. They named him "the
heavy-armed." He kept them all at bay until a cut on the wrist compelled
him to drop his sword. He then fell. The struggling and slaughtering
went on for hours. The black troops forming the rear of the square
remained in good order when all else was confusion. They marched some
distance and formed a square of their own. They were pursued, and the
Dervishes shouted to them to surrender. They replied, "We will not
surrender. We will not eat the Effendina's (Khedive's) bread for
nothing. We will fight till we die, but many of you shall die too!"
Whilst the parleying was going on, an unexpected rush was made which
broke the square, and the blacks were all killed.

This last account, which is the most circumstantial that has come to
light, bears, it will be observed, a certain resemblance to the
narrative of the camel-driver already quoted. In both, the serious
fighting is made to begin at Lake Rahad. The advance, accompanied by
frequent halts, was made through trees and bushes. The attacks made
under cover were received in square formation, the men were suffering
from want of water, and the final onslaught was made about mid-day. The
final scene in which Hicks and his staff charged their foes also agrees
with the previous accounts.

Of the number of Hicks' force which perished it is impossible to give a
correct estimate. According to Gordon they were so numerous that the
Mahdi made a pyramid with their skulls.

Of the number of the Mahdi's forces engaged no very accurate accounts
exist. The Copt whose narrative has already been referred to put it at
the preposterous figure of 300,000. The soldiers who brought the news of
Hicks' pretended victory put the Mahdi's forces at from 25,000 to
30,000, but Orientals, in the matter of numbers, are notoriously
inexact. The Greek merchant, whose account has been quoted, mentioned
the Mahdi's whole standing army as 35,000 men. Gordon Pasha, on the
other hand, expressed the opinion that the enemy did not exceed 4,000 in
number. It is certain that a considerable portion of the Mahdi's forces
consisted of the trained soldiers, formerly belonging to Arabi's army,
and who had surrendered at Bara and Obeid. These alone amounted to
5,500, and were provided with Remington rifles and an ample supply of
ammunition. It is said that these soldiers were placed in the front
rank, with the Soudanese behind to prevent their running away.

There is reason to believe that Adolf Klootz,[92] a late sergeant of the
Pomeranian army, who was servant to Major Seckendorff, and deserted some
days before the battle of Kashgil, took part in the action, and
commanded the Mahdi's artillery. A Christian lay-sister of the Austrian
Convent at Obeid, who succeeded in escaping a month later, reported that
this man was then with the Mahdi, and was the only European saved from
Hicks' army.

Of the Mahdi's losses in the battle with Hicks no record exists.

The Mahdi, after his victory, returned to Obeid, where a great religious
ceremony took place to celebrate the event. The heads of the European
officers were cut off and placed on spikes over the gates of the town.

Of the crushing nature of the blow inflicted by the defeat of Hicks'
army it is scarcely necessary to say more than a few words. It destroyed
the only army which Egypt had ready to put in the field. It increased
the prestige of the Mahdi enormously, and placed all the country south
of Khartoum at his mercy.

Khartoum itself was in a situation of very great peril. Its garrison
numbered only some 2,000 men to defend four miles of earthworks and keep
in order 60,000 natives, of whom 15,000 were avowed rebels.

Measures for the defence of the town and the calling in, as far as
possible, of the outlying garrisons were at once taken, and
reinforcements were demanded from Cairo. In the meantime a panic
prevailed, and all the Europeans began to take flight.

Happily the Mahdi did not follow up his success, but remained in the
neighbourhood of Obeid for several weeks, occupied, probably, in
dividing with his followers the spoils of victory.



On the 31st of October, 1883, at the suggestion of Cherif Pasha, it was
resolved that the British Army of Occupation, which now numbered 6,700
men, should be reduced to a total force of 3,000 men and six guns, to be
concentrated in Alexandria. Speaking of the change proposed, Ministers
declared, at the Guildhall banquet on Lord Mayor's day, that by the 1st
of January, 1884, the last British soldier would have left Cairo. How
far this prediction was verified will be seen later on.

On the arising of trouble in the Soudan the question was submitted in
Parliament to Mr. Gladstone whether or not Her Majesty's Government
regarded the Soudan as forming part of Egypt, and, if so, whether they
would take steps to restore order in that province. Mr. Gladstone
enigmatically replied that the Soudan "has not been included in the
sphere of our operations, and we are by no means disposed to admit
without qualifications that it is within the sphere of our

On the 19th November Sir Evelyn Baring wrote to Lord Granville that bad
news was expected from Hicks Pasha, and if his force were defeated
Khartoum would probably fall into the hands of the rebels. The Egyptian
Government had no funds to meet the emergency, and it was not improbable
that the Egyptian Government would ask Her Majesty's Government to send
English or Indian troops, or would themselves send part of Sir Evelyn
Wood's army to the front.

On the 20th Sir Evelyn Baring was informed that the British Government
could not lend English or Indian troops, and advised the abandonment of
the Soudan within certain limits. This was at once communicated to
Cherif Pasha.

On the 22nd news reached Cairo of the destruction of Hicks' army. The
political consequences of this disaster will be seen from what follows.

On the 24th Sir Evelyn Baring telegraphed that the recent success of the
Mahdi was a source of danger to Egypt proper, and that the danger would
be greatly increased if Khartoum fell, which seemed not improbable. On
the 25th Lord Granville replied that under existing circumstances the
British force in Egypt should be maintained at its then present
strength, and, in view of the alarming condition of the Soudan, informed
Sir Evelyn Baring that the Egyptian Government must take the sole
responsibility of operations in that country.

On the 3rd December Sir Evelyn Baring expressed a hope that Her
Majesty's Government would adhere steadfastly to the policy of
non-interference in the affairs of the Soudan. As a natural outcome of
this policy, it appeared to him that neither English nor Indian troops
should be employed in the Soudan, and that Sir E. Wood's army, which was
officered by English officers on the active list, should, as was
originally intended by Lord Dufferin, be employed only in Egypt proper.
On the 13th Lord Granville again telegraphed that Her Majesty's
Government had no intention of employing British or Indian troops in
the Soudan. They recommended the Khedive's Ministers to come to an early
decision to abandon the territory south of Assouan, or at least of Wady

On the 14th Sir Evelyn Baring reported as to the immediate steps
necessary if the policy of abandonment were carried out. As it was
impossible to say beforehand what the effect on the population of Egypt
proper would be, he recommended that Her Majesty's Government should be
prepared at a short notice to send a couple of battalions from the
Mediterranean garrison, and that immediate steps should be taken to
bring the force of the Army of Occupation up to its full strength.

On the 16th Sir Evelyn Baring informed Cherif Pasha that Her Majesty's
Government had no idea of sending English or Indian troops to the
Soudan, that Her Majesty's Government would not object to the employment
of Turkish troops exclusively in the Soudan, with a base at Souakim, if
they were paid by the Sultan. He added that Her Majesty's Government
recommended the abandonment of all the territory south of Assouan, or at
least of Wady Halfa, and that they were prepared to assist in
maintaining order in Egypt proper, and in defending it and the ports of
the Red Sea.

On the 20th Sir Evelyn Baring was authorized to inform Cherif Pasha that
Her Majesty's Government adhered entirely to the policy which they had
laid down with regard to Egyptian affairs, which had been interrupted
owing to the destruction of Hicks' army, and they were of opinion that
ineffectual efforts on the part of the Egyptian Government to secure
their position in the Soudan would only endanger its success. Her
Majesty's Government adhered to the advice given on the 13th inst. with
regard to the course which should be pursued by Egypt in view of the
disaster which had occurred in the Soudan.

The advice given to yield up the Soudan was most unpalatable to the
Egyptian Government, and Cherif Pasha communicated to Sir Evelyn Baring
his objections in a _note verbale_ dated 21st December. In forwarding
the note Sir Evelyn added he felt sure that under no amount of
persuasion or argument would the present Ministers consent to the
adoption of the policy of abandonment. The only way in which it could be
carried out would be for him to inform the Khedive that Her Majesty's
Government insisted on the adoption of this course, and that if his
present Ministers would not carry out the policy, others must be named
who would consent to do so.

On the 2nd January, 1884, Cherif wrote to Lord Granville that the former
had already pointed out the necessity imposed on the Government of His
Highness of retaining the Upper Nile, and the pressing need they had of
obtaining the temporary assistance of an armed force of 10,000 men, with
a view to opening up the Souakim-Berber road. The news which reached
them from Baker Pasha confirmed the opinion that the means at their
disposal were inadequate for coping with the insurrection in the Eastern
Soudan. Under these circumstances, and taking into consideration that
they could not get any help from Her Majesty's Government as regarded
the Soudan, the Government of His Highness found themselves compelled to
apply to the Porte without delay for a contingent of 10,000 men to be
sent to Souakim.

The reply was not long in coming. On the 4th January Sir Evelyn Baring
was informed that in important questions, where the administration and
safety of Egypt were at stake, it was indispensable that Her Majesty's
Government should, as long as the provisional occupation of the country
by English troops continued, be assured that the advice which, after
full consideration of the views of the Egyptian Government, they might
feel it their duty to tender to the Khedive, should be followed. It
should be made clear to the Egyptian Ministers and Governors of
Provinces that the responsibility which for the time rested on England
obliged Her Majesty's Government to insist on the adoption of the policy
which they recommended, and that it would be necessary that those
Ministers and Governors who did not follow this course should cease to
hold their offices. The alteration in the tone adopted by Lord Granville
will not fail to strike the reader. Formerly it was advice, now it was

On Lord Granville's despatch of the 4th January being communicated to
Cherif Pasha, he at once resigned.

Some difficulty arose as to how he was to be replaced. Riaz Pasha was
still sulky at not having been allowed when last in power to hang Arabi,
and would not accept office, but eventually Nubar Pasha agreed to
undertake the formation of a native Ministry, and declared that he
accepted the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the Soudan.

The late Nubar Pasha, the new President of the Council of Ministers,
was one of the most conspicuous characters in modern Egyptian history.

He came to Egypt some fifty years ago, as a _protégé_ of Boghos Bey,
the Minister of Mehemet Ali. After accepting various minor posts under
the Government, Nubar in 1865 became the chief of the Railway
Administration. Nubar, however, possessed talents which were destined to
raise him to a position more exalted than the comparatively obscure one
of head of the Railways, and he speedily became Ismail Pasha's Prime
Minister, and must with him share a fair proportion of praise and blame.

An Armenian by birth and a Christian by religion, Nubar possessed an
intelligence far superior to that of other Egyptian statesmen. That he
should have found himself able, in spite of his independent ideas and
somewhat dictatorial habits, to accept the formation of a Cabinet at
this epoch, is a proof of his far-seeing capacity and sound judgment.

Regarding Nubar's history impartially, it is difficult to deny that
while more in earnest and far-seeing in his projects than Ismail, he was
equally indifferent as to the means by which the money was obtained to
carry them out. At the same time it is certain that the execution of
nearly every good project that nominally emanated from Ismail was due to
Nubar. He was the Minister by whose agency Ismail, after difficult and
intricate negotiations, succeeded in obtaining the title of Khedive, the
change in the order of succession, and practical independence at the
price, nevertheless, of a large increase in the annual tribute paid to
the Porte.

Nubar, however, has a still greater claim to fame, in having brought to
a successful issue the scheme for the International Tribunals, whereby
the exclusive jurisdiction of the Consular Courts in civil cases was
abolished, and natives in dispute with Europeans were made subject to
the new Courts.[93]

During the course of the preceding events troubles were arising in the
Eastern Soudan.

Early in the month of August, 1883, considerable excitement was caused
at Souakim by the news that some emissaries of the Mahdi had arrived
near Sinkat, and were raising the tribes. At the head of the movement
was a man destined to play an important part in the succeeding
operations. This was Osman Digna.

Osman Digna was the grandson of a Turkish merchant and slave-dealer, who
settled in the Eastern Soudan in the early part of this century. Osman
and his brother Ahmed for some time carried on a thriving business in
European cutlery, cottons, ostrich feathers, and slaves, and their
head-quarters were at Souakim. Ahmed managed the business at home, while
Osman, of a more restless and adventurous spirit, was the travelling
partner, and journeyed far and wide, for the Dignas had branches or
agencies at Jeddah, Kassala, Berber, Khartoum, and other places.

His visits to the Soudan enabled him to become acquainted with the
leaders of the anti-Egyptian movement, which, though not culminating in
rebellion until the years 1881-2, was recognizable at least as early as
1869-70. About the last-named period the fortunes of the house of Digna
began to decline. Osman and his brother sustained serious losses in the
capture by a British cruiser of one or two cargoes of slaves on their
way to Jeddah. Then came the Anglo-Egyptian Slave Convention, which
completed the alarm and disgust of the slave-dealers, and the commercial
ruin of his house led Osman to schemes of rebellion.

In 1882 he went to the Red Sea coasts, in the vicinity of Sinkat, thence
inland to Khartoum, and threw in his lot with the new prophet.
Eventually all the tribes in the Eastern Soudan went over to Osman
Digna, who was named Emir to the Mahdi.

On the 16th October, 1883, 160 Egyptian troops, on their way to
reinforce Sinkat, were attacked in a defile by 150 men belonging to the
rebel tribes near Sinkat, and, with the exception of twenty-five, were
all killed.

Osman, leaving Sinkat to be besieged by the tribesmen, who, after this
success, were joining his cause day by day, moved down to Tamanieb,
about nineteen miles from Souakim. Osman then commenced operations with
a view to the capture of Tokar, sixteen miles from Trinkitat, on the Red
Sea coast.

On the 3rd November Mahmoud Talma Pasha, who had been appointed to the
command of the troops in the Eastern Soudan, left Souakim with 550 men
in two Egyptian gunboats for Trinkitat. The object of this expedition
was the relief of Tokar, which was also besieged by the rebels. The
force landed on the 4th of November, and set out on the march at eight
a.m., the cavalry in advance, and a mountain-gun in the centre. After an
hour and a half's march the troops rested for twenty minutes, and when
marching recommenced they were attacked by the enemy. The Egyptian
soldiers formed a square and commenced firing. The left side of the
square was broken into by eight or ten men. This created a panic amongst
the troops, many of whom threw away their rifles without firing a shot,
and a general stampede ensued. The Egyptian loss was eleven officers and
148 men. Amongst the killed was Captain Moncrieff, R.N., the British
Consul at Souakim, who had joined the expedition. When last seen
Moncrieff was stabbed in the thigh by an Arab, whom he afterwards shot,
but the captain was at that moment struck fatally in the back by a
spear. The singular part of the affair is that the attacking force only
amounted to 150 or 200 men.

This disaster created a panic at Souakim, where only a thousand troops
remained for the purposes of defence. So little confidence was felt in
them, that arms were served out to the civil population.

On the 17th November Suleiman Pasha, who had been named Governor-General
of the Eastern Soudan, left for Massowah to obtain 400 black soldiers to
be employed for the relief of Tokar and Sinkat.

On the 2nd December the black troops, having arrived, were sent with an
expedition, comprising a total force of 700 men and one mountain-gun, to
Tamanieb, between Souakim and Sinkat, about three hours' march from the
former place. At noon, when passing through a defile, the Egyptian force
was surrounded and cut to pieces. On being attacked the Egyptians formed
a square, but after firing only ten rounds the square was broken. The
black soldiers, fighting back to back, made a desperate resistance, but,
being unsupported by the rest of the force, their efforts were
unavailing. Out of 700 men comprising the expedition only thirty-five
escaped. The rebel force was probably not less than 2,000 to 3,000.

Information was now received that Osman had concentrated a force 7,000
strong on the Tamanieb road, that Sheikh Taka had surrounded Sinkat
with 11,000 men, and that the rebels at Tokar numbered 3,000. Fears
began to be entertained for the garrisons of Tokar and Sinkat, as they
were known to be in want of provisions.

In this threatening state of affairs no alternative remained but to
despatch reinforcements from Cairo and Alexandria. The difficulty,
however, was how to provide them; after much consideration the Egyptian
Government decided to make the attempt.

General Valentine Baker was appointed to command the expedition. Amongst
his officers were Colonel Sartorius, Chief of the Staff and Second in
Command; Lieutenant-Colonel Harrington, Lieutenant-Colonel Hay, Majors
Harvey, Giles, and Holroyd, Morice Bey, and Dr. Leslie.

On the 11th of December Colonel Sartorius arrived at Souakim with 650
gendarmes. In order to protect the place some English vessels of war,
under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir W. Hewett, were stationed off the
town, and from time to time fired a few rounds of shell at the rebels'

On the 16th the first battalion of blacks, organized by Zubehr Pasha,
left Suez to join Baker.

A few days later orders were given to send down the second battalion.
This one was in a worse condition than the other. The officer commanding
protested against going, as he said many of his men did not know how to
put a cartridge in their rifles; but as Baker had written on January 8th
asking for the immediate despatch of troops, drilled or undrilled, no
delay was allowed, and the second battalion left on the 20th.

Further reinforcements were brought up to swell Baker's force from the
Berber and Somali territories, by another battalion of Turks from Cairo,
and some 200 Bashi-Bazouk cavalry.

Baker had by this time collected a force of nearly 4,000 men, with some
Krupp and Gatling guns and rocket tubes. Part of his men were policemen
in uniform, ignorant of the rudiments of military drill, many were
simple fellaheen, whose unfitness as soldiers has been already referred
to, and the rest were the sweepings of the streets of Cairo and
Alexandria. The native officers were as disappointing as the men. With
an army thus composed, it is not surprising if gloomy forebodings
prevailed as to the result of the expedition.

Leaving a force to garrison Souakim, Baker on the 1st February moved the
rest of his army to Trinkitat.

By the 2nd the last of the troops and transports arrived at Trinkitat.
On the same day a fort was constructed about three miles beyond
Trinkitat to protect the guns and transports whilst crossing a morass
lying between the sea and the mainland. This was occupied by Sartorius
with 600 blacks, the remainder returning into camp.


On the 3rd the whole of the troops, with the guns, marched out to the
fort and bivouacked for the night. The force then consisted of 3,746



The morning of the 4th February, 1884, was dull with heavy showers. The
troops were paraded before daybreak. At 6.30 the force marched in the
direction of Tokar. The formation was as follows:--Three infantry
battalions in echelon, and marching in columns of companies; artillery
and cavalry on the front and flanks, and cavalry vedettes extending all
round at points a mile distant from the main body. The baggage,
transported by 300 camels, was in the rear, guarded by 200 blacks.

The country was open, but scattered here and there were patches of scrub
and thorny mimosa bushes. The scrub grew thicker as the force advanced;
but the ground was still sufficiently open for the operations of

After the force had marched about six miles, shots were heard from the
vedettes on the left front, and small numbers of the enemy were sighted
in the distance right ahead. A halt was at once called. The scouts
reported that the enemy was concealed in some bushes in advance of the
left front. Twice a Krupp gun was brought up and some shells fired
amongst them, causing them to fall back. The march was then resumed.

Bands of Arabs were next seen on the ridges, both in front and towards
the right, and in the latter direction a small body of horsemen,
apparently scouts, appeared in sight about a mile off. Major Giles was
ordered to charge them with the cavalry. This he at once did; but after
dispersing them, and wheeling towards the front, he suddenly came upon a
large number of spearmen, who sprang up from out of the brushwood. Major
Giles would have charged them, but his men, after their long gallop,
were in too loose order; there was no time to form, and nothing remained
but to fall back upon the main body. As the cavalry retired, the mounted
skirmishers joined them, and the Arabs followed close upon their heels.

In the meanwhile, the enemy opened a musketry fire simultaneously on the
front and both flanks. The force was taken by surprise, though warnings
of what was coming might have been detected previously, as the vedettes
on the left had for some time been drawing nearer to the main body.
This, however, seems to have been overlooked. The scouts were now seen
hastily retreating, and a large body of the enemy came swarming over the
hills. The intention seemed to be to rush upon the army on all sides.

To repel the impending attack, Sartorius Pasha, who was in advance with
Baker, was sent to form the infantry into a single large square, with
the camels and baggage in the centre. Two companies of the Alexandria
battalion at first refused to obey orders, and stood like a
panic-stricken flock of sheep; but at length the infantry formed in
front, on the left flank, and also on part of the right flank. On the
remaining part, however, and also along the whole of what would have
been the rear of the square, the companies were a noisy, confused
rabble, the soldiers being mixed up with the camels and baggage in wild

This was the state of things when the enemy, numbers of whom had been
concealed in the brushwood, rushed on with loud yells, delivering their
chief attack upon the left side of the force, and upon the left portion
of the front line.

The frantic efforts of the Egyptians to get into proper formation, the
confused din of orders, and the chaos in the rear, where 300 camels with
the whole of the transport were struggling to force their way into the
interior, defy description. The square was formed eventually, but the
rear side was but an irregular outbulging mass of horses, mules, camels,
and men, tightly wedged together, and extending towards the centre. The
confusion was increased by the cavalry skirmishers, who, when the rush
came, charged panic-stricken right into the square, many of them being
shot by their comrades, who by this time were firing wildly in all

The enemy were now rapidly encircling the entire force, which was
delivering a tremendous fire mostly into the air. Under cover of the
smoke the rush was made. The Egyptian infantry on being attacked broke
almost at once, falling back into the centre of the square, and forcing
the transport animals upon the rear of the Soudanese black troops. These
last stood well for some time, but after a while became demoralized by
the rush of fellow-soldiers and camels from behind.

The right of the square was not at first assailed, and here the men for
some time kept up a continuous fire towards the front, with the result
of killing many of their own cavalry.[94] Into the gaps made in the
square the enemy now poured in hundreds, and all became panic and
confusion. Sartorius, who, with his staff, was inside the square, tried
to rally his men. The task was a hopeless one.

At the time the charge was made on the left flank of the column, Baker
with Colonel Hay and the rest of his staff were out with the cavalry in
front. Upon riding back they found that the enemy had already got
between them and the square. They succeeded in cutting their way
through, though the General and Hay had narrow escapes from the spears
thrown at them. On nearing the square they had to run the gauntlet of
the fire of the Egyptians in front, who, regardless of what was going on
around, were blazing away before them. When Baker reached the square the
enemy had already broken it up, and it was clear that all was lost. In
eight minutes from the time of the rush the whole force was in hopeless

The scene on all sides baffles description; of those inside the square
very few escaped, they got jammed in amongst the mass of baggage-camels
and had but a poor chance of firing or defending themselves.

The Egyptian cavalry were the first to run. They fired off their
carbines into the air without taking aim at anything, and then bolted at
full speed. Sartorius and his staff, who with difficulty succeeded in
extricating themselves from the square, were sent off by Baker to
endeavour to get the flying cavalry to halt and make a charge. After
shooting two of his men, Sartorius succeeded in effecting a momentary
halt; but the instant his back was turned they were off again in full

The Soudanese warriors displayed the most reckless bravery. One of them
was seen charging alone a whole company of infantry. The Egyptians
offered no resistance, and the rebels with their two-edged swords and
spears were slaughtering them by hundreds. What had been the square was
now a seething, surging mass of men and camels.

The Turks and the European Police, who, in spite of the rush, had
managed to get together near the guns, alone made a stand, and were
annihilated almost to a man. The European officers, cut off from the
main body by the rush of the enemy, formed a little group apart, and
were bravely defending themselves with their swords and revolvers.
Morice Bey, after he had received a spear-thrust through the side,
killed no less than three of his assailants. When last seen alive, he
was standing in the left front face of the square alongside the camel
conveying the £400, of which he was in charge, and reloading his
revolver, whilst he waved on his men. Near Morice Bey, and close to the
guns,[95] were Surgeon Leslie, Captain Forrestier-Walker, and Lieutenant
Carroll. When last seen Dr. Leslie was sabreing the Arabs who swarmed
over and under the wheels of the Gatlings, and Forrestier-Walker was
shooting his men as they attempted to run from the guns. All four
remained at their posts until speared by the rebels.

All around, the scene was simply one of savage massacre. The Egyptians,
paralyzed by fear, turned their backs, submitting to be killed rather
than attempt to defend their lives; hundreds threw away their rifles,
knelt down, raised their clasped hands, and prayed for mercy.

The Arabs displayed the utmost contempt for their opponents. They seized
them by the neck, or speared them through the back, and then cut their
throats. One was seen to pick up a rifle thrown away by a soldier and
brain him with his own weapon. Another rode in among a crowd of
retreating Egyptians, hacking and hewing about him with his long sword.
An Egyptian officer whom he attacked, instead of defending himself,
raised his shoulders to his ears, and lay down over his horse's neck. In
that position, with his hands grasping the mane, he meekly took the
blows of his assailant until the latter was killed by a shot from an
English officer's revolver. The yells of the savages and the cries of
the victims are described as appalling.

After having made his ineffectual effort to stop the cavalry, Sartorius
ordered Lieutenant Maxwell to gallop after them, already in full flight
to Trinkitat, and try to rally them. Maxwell overtook them. He gave his
instructions to the Egyptian officer in command. The latter would not
even try to get his men together. He refused thrice. Maxwell then shot
him through the head. He succeeded in rallying some forty or fifty men;
but another band of fugitives coming up, swept them off as in a deluge.

The road back to Trinkitat became nothing but a long line of fugitives.
The men not only threw away their arms and accoutrements, but even great
part of their clothing, in order to get away the faster. Officers were
seen to shoot their own men for the sake of obtaining their horses.

A large body of Arabs followed the flying soldiers at a steady pace,
stabbing them through the back as they overtook them. Some few of the
Soudanese troops who had retained their rifles occasionally turned and
fired as they retreated, but most of the fugitives were too overcome by
terror to resist. As the pursuers neared them, they threw themselves
screaming on the ground, and were speared or sabred one after another.
This carnage lasted during a pursuit of upwards of five miles.

The enemy pursued right up to Fort Baker, as the fortification on the
mainland side of the lagoon was called. The garrison left to defend the
work had long since taken flight. Sartorius and the surviving English
officers formed a cordon across the narrow neck of land. Their purpose
was to stop all but the wounded, but the endeavour failed. The fugitives
in hundreds rushed on, many of them in a state of absolute nudity. The
cavalry positively refused to obey the orders of the English, their own
officers having already fled to Trinkitat. They even threw away their
saddles, and turned their horses loose, making the rest of their way to
the beach on foot, in order that they might not be sent out to fight

Fortunately, the enemy did not follow up the pursuit beyond Fort Baker,
otherwise scarcely any of the army would have escaped. Baker was one of
the last to return to the fort. Finding it impossible to rally any of
the men at the fort, Sartorius was sent on to man the lines of
Trinkitat, in order to protect the embarkation. Arrived at Trinkitat, he
succeeded to some extent in manning the lines with the few men in whose
hands rifles remained.

The fugitives ran pell-mell towards the boats, which, had they not
already been aground, would have been sunk by the numbers who crowded
into them. Many of the men waded into the sea in their eagerness to get
off to the transports, and it was only by firing upon them with
revolvers that the officers could induce them to return to the shore,
and wait for their turn to embark. The first troops ordered on board
were those who possessed no arms. Stores and horses were embarked during
the night on board the various steamers waiting. Baker and Sartorius,
and the other English officers, remained on shore to superintend the
embarkation. Although there were indications of the presence of the
enemy no attempt at attack was made.

The total number on the Egyptian side killed in the battle was 2,373,
out of a force numbering altogether 3,746.

The following European officers were killed:--

Morice Bey, Captains Forrestier-Walker and Rucca, Lieutenants Carroll,
Smith, Watkins, Cavalieri, Bertin, Morisi, de Marchi, and Dr. Leslie.

Four Krupp guns and two Gatlings were left in the hands of the enemy. As
each man carried 100 rounds of ammunition, and 100 more were in reserve,
at least half a million cartridges, as well as 3,000 Remington rifles
and carbines, were also lost.

The enemy's losses were at first estimated at about 1,000, but it is
obvious that they must have been much under that figure, for there was
little real resistance. A later estimate of 350 would probably be nearly
correct. Indeed, the whole of the rebel force was reckoned by the
English officers as not more than 1,200, and Baker Pasha has put them as
low as 1,000.

It is difficult to avoid seeing that some blame for the disaster
attaches to Baker. He knew, or ought to have known, the composition of
the troops he commanded, and that the short training they had undergone
was insufficient to render them fit to take the field. There was,
indeed, the pressing necessity for relieving the garrisons of Tokar and
Sinkat, and this is about the only thing to be said in his

The question whether or not Baker was surprised has been much discussed.
One thing is clear. If he were not surprised, his army undoubtedly was.
As already mentioned, the enemy rushed in before there was time to form
the square properly. It has been argued that it could not be a surprise,
because the enemy were sighted more than a mile off, and fired at as
well. The obvious answer is, that if they had been sighted and fired at
twenty miles off, it would have made the matter no better, if after all,
the rush found Baker unprepared. The more abundant the warning, the
heavier the blame upon those who failed to profit by it. There may
possibly have been no surprise, in the sense of the enemy jumping up out
of the bush when nobody dreamt of their existence. But to deny that the
enemy were upon the force before the latter was prepared to receive
them--that, in short, the battle was lost before the men had time to
defend themselves--the most ardent admirer of the General will hardly

Further, military critics are of opinion that even with disciplined
troops the formation of 3,000 men into a single square was a hazardous
experiment. The infantry might have been drawn up in three echeloned
squares. Each of these would then have been capable of giving support to
the others. If one square had been broken, the others might have stood
firm. The Turks, as their behaviour showed, might have been trusted to
hold fast in a square of their own. A large proportion of the blacks
would certainly have had more confidence had they been drawn up by
themselves. But the mixture of Turks and blacks with the cowardly
Egyptians was inevitably fatal. Even with good troops, Baker's
arrangements would probably have led to failure. But with an army mainly
composed of impressed slaves and the sweepings of the Cairo and Suez
bazaars, the only result could be destruction.

Disastrous as the result was, it is probable that had the Arab assault
been delivered five miles further on the march toward Trinkitat, the
annihilation of the Egyptian force would have been as complete as that
which befell Hicks Pasha's ill-fated column.

On the night of the 5th February, the transports, with Baker, Sartorius,
and the remainder of the troops, arrived at Souakim, where the news of
the disaster created a panic. In order to provide against an attack by
the rebels, and also to preserve order in the town, Admiral Hewett, on
the 6th, landed a party of bluejackets and Marines with Gatling guns.
With the remnant of Baker's troops, nearly 3,000 men were available for
the defence of the town, but the majority were completely demoralized.
In every part of the town and on the road to the camp were heart-rending
scenes, women and children weeping for husbands and fathers killed in
the late battle. Even for the purpose of holding Souakim, the Egyptian
troops could not be relied upon, whilst the townspeople, infected with
religious mania, threatened to turn on the Europeans.

On the 9th it was decided to declare Souakim in a state of siege, and to
give the British officers full powers, military and civil, over the
town. The Egyptian Government were at the same time notified that in the
event of Souakim being attacked it would be defended by a British force.

On the same day spies from Sinkat brought a letter from Tewfik Bey to
the effect that the garrison having eaten the camels, and even the cats
and dogs, were subsisting on roots and the leaves of trees.

The force at Souakim was now employed working day and night
strengthening the intrenchments and fortifications. A further force of
Marines and bluejackets landed from the fleet, occupying the new
barracks which had been made in the centre of the lines. This post was
surrounded by a trench, and made impregnable. The advanced lines, about
a mile in length, were to be manned by Egyptian troops in case of an
attack. As a means of preventing the latter from running away, the
communication between the lines to be held by them and the rest of the
works was so arranged that it could be immediately cut off, in which
case it was hoped that the Egyptians, having no alternative, might be
induced to stand their ground.

On the 10th the charge of Souakim was handed formally over by Baker to
Admiral Hewett, and the troops, numbering some 3,800 strong, were
paraded. At the same time a proclamation was posted in that town
announcing that the Admiral had taken over the command.

On the 12th the news reached Souakim of the fall of Sinkat. It appears
that the rebels surrounded the place and demanded the submission of the
garrison. Tewfik Bey, with the courage which had marked his conduct
throughout, declined to lay down his arms, replying that he preferred
death to submission. He then sallied forth with 450 half-starved men,
and attacked the rebels, killing a large number. He was finally
overpowered, and the whole of his force annihilated. Tewfik seemed to
have fought bravely himself, and after expending all the cartridges of
his Remington carbine, defended himself with his sword. Only five men
escaped the general massacre, and all the women except thirty were sold
as slaves.



We now arrive at the period when the abandonment of the Soudan having
been decided upon, the British Government confided to General Gordon the
task of extricating the Egyptian garrisons scattered throughout the
country. In dealing with this part of the subject the space available in
the present work will not admit of more than a concise summary of
events. The subject has, however, been so exhaustively dealt with by
other writers, that the abbreviated account given in the following pages
will probably be found sufficient for the general reader.

Charles George Gordon was born on the 28th January, 1833. Gazetted to
the Royal Engineers in 1852, he took part in all the operations in the
Crimea, including the first assault of the Redan. In 1860 he went to
China, where he shared in the advance on Pekin. In the spring of 1862 he
was summoned to Shanghai to check the advance of the Taepings, and in
March, 1863, was appointed to the command of "the ever victorious army."

Of Gordon's exploits in the Chinese service it is unnecessary
to dwell at any length. The Emperor bestowed on him the post of
Commander-in-Chief, with the decoration of the yellow jacket and
peacock's feather. The British Government promoted him to the rank of
Colonel, made him a C.B., and in 1865 he returned to England.

In 1874, as already stated, Colonel Gordon succeeded Sir Samuel Baker in
the Soudan. Offered £10,000 a-year salary, Gordon would only accept
£2,000. Landing at Souakim, he crossed the desert to Berber, paid his
first visit to Khartoum, and pushed up the Nile to Gondokoro, in
September. He began by conciliating the natives and by breaking up the
slave-stations. He continued Governor-General for a period of eighteen
months, during which time he accomplished miracles.

When he arrived, there was a fort at Gondokoro, and one at Fatiko, 200
miles to the south, miserably garrisoned by soldiers, who dared not
venture out half a mile for fear of being slaughtered by the natives.
When he left he had established a chain of stations from the Soudan up
to the Albert Nyanza, and rendered the communication between them
perfectly safe. He had, moreover, succeeded in restoring peace to the
tribes of the Nile Valley, who now freely brought their produce to these
stations for sale. He had checked the slave trade on the White Nile, and
secured a revenue to the Khedive's exchequer, without having recourse to
oppression. He had been the means of establishing satisfactory relations
with King M'tesa, the powerful ruler of Uganda, had mapped out the White
Nile from Khartoum almost up to the Victoria Nyanza, and had opened
water communication between Gondokoro and the lakes.

In October, 1876, Gordon, judging that he had done enough for the
Soudan, started northward, halted at Cairo to request Cherif Pasha to
inform the Khedive that he intended quitting his service, and on the
24th December reached London.

Egypt, however, had not yet done with him. Gordon remained only a short
time in retirement before he was again called to Egypt. In February,
1877, Ismail Pasha made him not only Governor-General of the Soudan, but
also of Darfur and the Equatorial Provinces, a country 1,640 miles long
and 660 miles broad.

Gordon hastened to Khartoum, the seat of his new government. It was
time. The Soudan had been drained of Egyptian troops for the support of
the Sultan in his war with Russia. Darfur was in revolt, and its
garrisons were beleaguered.

Arrived at Khartoum, he at once set to work to overthrow every tradition
of Oriental rule. In less than a month he revolutionized the whole
administration, abolished the courbash, checked bribery, arranged for a
water-supply to the city, and commenced the disbandment of the Turks and
Bashi-Bazouks, who, instead of acting as a frontier guard, favoured the
passage of slave-caravans.

In February, 1878, he was summoned by telegraph to the Egyptian capital
to lend his aid in arranging the finances of the country, which had
fallen into hopeless confusion. Reaching Cairo on the 7th March, he was
received with every honour, and placed at table on the Khedive's right
hand. He now fell into disfavour with the Egyptian Government. He was
too much in earnest and spoke out too openly, and within a month started
off in quasi-disgrace to inspect the south-eastern provinces of his
government. After dismissing an old enemy, Reouf Pasha, from the
governorship of Harrar, he made his way back to Khartoum by Souakim and
Berber, and for months remained engaged in settling questions of finance
and the affairs of the province.

In July, 1879, Gordon received the news of the Khedive Ismail's
deposition, and started at once for Cairo. He told Tewfik, the new
Khedive, that he did not intend to go back to the Soudan, but he
nevertheless accepted a mission to Abyssinia to settle matters with King
Johannes. Physically worn out by his exertions, he came to England for a
time, visiting on his way thither the ex-Khedive at Naples.

On the appointment in May, 1880, of Lord Ripon to the
Governor-Generalship of India, Gordon accepted the post of private
secretary to the Marquis, but resigned it on the 3rd of June, feeling,
as he expressed it, "the hopelessness of doing anything to the purpose."

On the invitation of the Chinese authorities he soon afterwards left
India for China, between which country and Russia differences had
arisen, and after successfully exerting his influence in the maintenance
of peace, left China the following August.

In the spring of 1881 Gordon went to the Mauritius as Commandant of the
Royal Engineers, remaining for a year, when he was made Major-General.
In the following May he proceeded to the Cape to aid the Colonial
authorities in solving the Basuto difficulty.

Shortly after his return to England he left for Palestine, where he
spent a year in retirement outside Jerusalem, devoting much time to
proving, to the horror of pious tourists, that the commonly received
"holy places" were not the right ones after all, and working out the
scheme for a Jordan Canal.

He then undertook a mission to the Congo River for the King of the
Belgians, and only relinquished his post on the British Government
requiring his services in the Soudan.

Opinions in Egypt were much divided on the subject of Gordon's mission
and his chances of success. His courage, energy, and disinterestedness
were beyond all doubt. There were, however, uncertainties, not to say
eccentricities, in his character, which led many persons to question
whether he was a fit person for the task to which he was called. That he
had formerly an immense influence over the tribes of the Soudan was
unquestionable. But people remembered that years had passed away since
that period, and argued that Gordon, returning to the Soudan with
half-a-dozen followers, would not be the Gordon of Ismail's time, backed
by his prestige and at the head of a powerful armed force. The
difficulty, however, was to find any one else. It was Gordon or nobody,
and the critics were compelled to shake their heads and hope all would
be for the best.

Gordon's original instructions were dated the 18th January, 1884. He was
to proceed at once to Egypt, to report on the military situation in the
Soudan, and on the measures which it might be advisable to take for the
security of the Egyptian garrisons and for the safety of the European
population in Khartoum. He was to consider and report upon the best mode
of effecting the evacuation of the interior of the Soudan, and upon the
manner in which the safety and the good administration by the Egyptian
Government of the ports on the sea-coast could best be secured. He was
also to give especial consideration to the question of the steps that
might usefully be taken to counteract the stimulus which it was feared
might be given to the slave trade by the insurrectionary movement and by
the withdrawal of Egyptian authority from the interior. He was to
perform such other duties as the Egyptian Government might desire to
intrust to him. He was to be accompanied by Colonel Stewart.

Gordon received new and more extended instructions from Sir Evelyn
Baring, at Cairo, on January 25th. The following are their salient

    "It is believed that the number of Europeans at Khartoum is very
    small, but it has been estimated by the local authorities that
    some 10,000 to 15,000 people will wish to go northward from
    Khartoum only, when the Egyptian garrison is withdrawn. These
    people are native Christians, Egyptian employés, their wives and
    children, &c. The Government of His Highness the Khedive is
    earnestly solicitous that no effort should be spared to insure
    the retreat both of these people and of the Egyptian garrison
    without loss of life. As regards the most opportune time, and
    the best method for effecting the retreat, whether of the
    garrison or of the civil populations, it is neither necessary
    nor desirable that you should receive detailed instructions.

    "You will bear in mind that the main end to be pursued is the
    evacuation of the Soudan. This policy was adopted, after very
    full discussion, by the Egyptian Government, on the advice of
    Her Majesty's Government. It meets with the full approval of
    His Highness the Khedive and of the present Egyptian Ministry.

    "You are of opinion that the 'restoration of the country should
    be made to the different petty Sultans who existed at the time
    of Mehemet Ali's conquest, and whose families still exist;' and
    that an endeavour should be made to form a confederation of
    those Sultans. In this view the Egyptian Government entirely

    "A credit of £100,000 has been opened for you at the Finance
    Department, and further sums will be supplied to you on your
    requisition when this sum is exhausted."

Gordon's final instructions were given him by the Egyptian Government in
a firman appointing him Governor-General. By this firman he was
empowered to carry into execution the evacuation of the respective
territories and the withdrawal of the troops, civil officials, and such
of the inhabitants as wished to leave for Egypt. He was, if possible,
after completing the evacuation, to take steps for establishing an
organized government in the different provinces.

The significance of the alteration in Gordon's instructions will be
perceived from Lord Granville's remark at the close of his summary of
Gordon's new duties, in a despatch of March 28th, that "Her Majesty's
Government, bearing in mind the exigencies of the occasion, concurred in
these instructions," which virtually altered General Gordon's mission
from one of advising and reporting to that of directing the evacuation
not only of Khartoum, but of the whole Soudan, and also of establishing
an organized government.

Gordon left Cairo on January 26th, 1884, and arrived at Khartoum on the
18th February. He held a levée at the Mudirieh, the entire population
being admitted. On his way between the Mudirieh and the Palace about
1,000 persons pressed forward, kissing his hands and feet, and calling
him "Sultan," "Father," and "Saviour of Kordofan." General Gordon and
Colonel Stewart at once opened offices in the Palace, granting
admittance to every one with a grievance and giving all a careful
hearing. The Government books, recording from time immemorial the
outstanding debts of the overtaxed people, were publicly burned in front
of the Palace. The courbashes, whips, and implements for administering
the bastinado, were all placed on the blazing pile. Gordon created a
native council of the local notables. Then he visited the hospital and
arsenal. With Colonels Stewart and De Cöetlogon and the English Consul
he visited the prison, and found it to be a perfect den of misery. Two
hundred beings loaded with chains lay there. They were of all ages, boys
and old men, some having never been tried, some having been proved
innocent, but left in prison, some arrested on suspicion and detained
there more than three years, others merely prisoners of war. Gordon at
once commenced to demolish this Bastille. Before it was dark scores of
prisoners had had their chains struck off. In the evening the town was
in a blaze of illumination, the bazaar being hung with cloth and
coloured lamps and the private houses decorated. There was also a
display of fireworks by the population, who indulged in rejoicings till
after midnight.

Gordon's next act was to issue a proclamation repealing the existing
laws against slavery. As a good deal of indignation has been expressed
at this step, it is only fair to give his explanation.

Gordon in his "Diary" says, "Was it not announced that the Soudan was
going to be abandoned, and consequently that the Soudanese were going to
be allowed to follow their own devices (which are decidedly
slave-huntingly inclined)? What possible influence could my saying that
that feeble Treaty of 1877 was not going to be enforced have on people
who were going to be abandoned?"



The defeat of Baker's force, following, as it did, the annihilation of
Hicks' army, created a most painful impression in England.

The situation was this--two armies led by English commanders and
officered in great measure by Englishmen had been successively
destroyed. Of the garrisons of Sinkat and of Tokar, one was known to
have been sacrificed, and the other might share its fate any day.
Besides this, Souakim itself was seriously threatened.

With regard both to Hicks' and Baker's expeditions the Government was
severely attacked both in and out of Parliament.

Of the character of the force which Baker had assembled at Trinkitat,
the British Ministers had full information. Before it started there was
a consensus of opinion that it was foredoomed. The special correspondent
of the "Daily News" telegraphed on February 1st, 1884, that "Baker
Pasha's force is unequal to the task of the relief of Sinkat, and if the
troops whose chiefs have visited our camp prove faithless, Sinkat will
be lost." The "Standard's" correspondent sent telegrams to the same
effect. On February 1st the "St. James's Gazette" said "there was a very
bad chance for Baker Pasha;" while the "Spectator" declared that "the
chances against the success of the expedition were as three to one." The
"Times" did not think Baker Pasha's enterprise a too hopeful one,
considering the class of men of which his force was composed, and added
"that it would be a calamity if the fate of Hicks' expedition were to be
risked again after a warning so recent and solemn." Opinion amongst
military men, both in Egypt and at home, was to the same effect.

And yet Baker, like Hicks, was allowed to lead his rabble on to
destruction. England, it was true, had declared that it took no
responsibility as regards the despatch of Hicks' army; but England at
the time of both disasters was omnipotent in Egypt. The country, bound
hand and foot, was in the hands of the British Government. Under these
circumstances, to permit was to do. The existence of power involved
responsibility. The Government of the Khedive after the events of 1882
was little more than a shadow. England had only to advise, and Egypt to
obey. Nevertheless, the Egyptian Government was permitted to send forth
two wretchedly equipped expeditions, one to Kordofan and another to
Souakim, both almost inevitably doomed to destruction.

The matter was not rendered more pleasant by the reflection that whilst
Baker was sent with an impossible army to perform what, with his force,
was a hopeless task, a British army capable of accomplishing with ease
all that was wanted remained idle in its barracks at Cairo. The
shortsightedness of British policy was shown by the fact that this very
force had after all to be despatched to accomplish what Baker had failed
in. Unfortunately, however, it was destined, like many other operations
recorded in this work, to be too late.

Public opinion had been especially moved by the news of the fall of
Sinkat and the massacre of its brave defenders, and it was felt that an
effort should be made to save, if possible, the garrison of Tokar from a
similar fate. For this purpose it was decided that a British force
should be sent to Souakim.

The force to be employed was to be chiefly drawn from the Army of
Occupation in Egypt, and General Stephenson was instructed by telegraph
to make the necessary preparations. He was informed that the object of
the expedition was to relieve the Tokar garrison if it could hold out,
and, if not, to take any measures necessary for the safety of the Red
Sea ports. He was to select the three best battalions under his command,
and these, with the Royal Irish Fusiliers (then on their way from
India), the York and Lancaster Regiment from Aden, and a battalion of
Marines, were to form an infantry brigade. The garrison of Alexandria
was to be removed to Cairo while the expedition lasted, and orders were
sent to the fleet to hold Alexandria temporarily. The 10th and 19th
Hussars, the Mounted Infantry, and any trustworthy native horsemen at
Souakim, were to constitute the mounted force. The 19th Hussars were to
be mounted with native horses taken from the Egyptian cavalry under Sir
Evelyn Wood. The baggage was to be on the lowest possible scale, as the
troops were to be back in Cairo in three weeks. Tents were to accompany
the force to Souakim or Trinkitat, as the case might be. The greatest
publicity was to be given to the determination to relieve Tokar by
British soldiers.

Messages were despatched to the garrison at Tokar, urging them to hold
out, as relief was on the way, and the expedition was hurrying forward
with all possible speed.

The command of the expedition was given to Major-General Sir Gerald
Graham, who had led the Second Brigade at Tel-el-Kebir. Generals Davis
and Redvers Buller were to accompany him.

Every effort was made to send off the expedition as early as possible.
The troops from Egypt embarked at Suez and proceeded to Souakim and
Trinkitat. Between the 16th and 18th February the 10th and 19th Hussars,
two batteries of Royal Artillery, the 3rd Battalion of the 60th King's
Royal Rifles, the 42nd Royal Highlanders (Black Watch), the 75th Gordon
Highlanders, the 65th York and Lancaster Regiment, the 89th Royal Irish
Fusiliers, the 26th Company of the Royal Engineers, and 100 Mounted
Infantry left for the scene of operations. Detachments of Marines from
the vessels of the Mediterranean Squadron were also told off to
accompany Graham's force.

The reorganized Egyptian Army under Sir Evelyn Wood was anxious to take
part in the expedition, but the British Government had declined to
sanction this, on the ground that the Egyptian army was expressly raised
for the defence of Egypt proper, excluding the Soudan.

General Graham left Suez with his head-quarters on the 18th February and
proceeded to Souakim.

Meanwhile Admiral Hewett had communicated with Osman Digna and warned
him that a British force was going to relieve Tokar, and at the same
time informed him that the English Government wished to avoid useless
bloodshed, and would not interfere with the tribes if they did not
oppose the expedition. Osman Digna replied that he felt himself obliged
to take Tokar, and must, therefore, fight the English, and the
responsibility for any bloodshed, he added, would rest with the latter.

On the 22nd of February an Egyptian soldier, who escaped from Tokar,
stated that the garrison was then going over to the rebels, and that the
commandant was treating for capitulation on the following day. Spies who
arrived subsequently said that they could not approach Tokar owing to
the presence of rebels in the vicinity, and on the 24th, whilst the
British forces were disembarking at Trinkitat, news was received that
Tokar had already fallen.

As to the precise manner in which this was brought about some little
mystery exists, but so far as can be ascertained the circumstances
attending the fall of Tokar appear to have been as follows. The garrison
had for some time been harassed by a continual fire kept up by the Krupp
guns and rifles in the hands of the rebels. The soldiers were despairing
of relief, and the officers more or less disaffected. The bulk of the
inhabitants were in favour of a surrender. According to some accounts,
the Governor for some while resisted their importunities; according to
others, he was only too willing to hand over the town to the besiegers.
In any case, negotiations were on the 19th opened with them through a
merchant in Tokar, who had been imprisoned by the authorities as a
sympathiser with the Mahdi, and who was now despatched as an emissary
to the rebel camp. The surrender was fixed for the next day. The
emissary returned to Tokar the same evening accompanied by 100 rebels,
who were admitted to the town. One officer and a few soldiers still
wanted to fight, but they were over-ruled by the others, who preferred
ceding the town to Mussulmans rather than to Christians. During the
night such soldiers as remained loyal escaped from the town, and several
of them, journeying by night, made their way to Souakim. The next day
the town was finally surrendered.

There seems to have been no valid reason for giving up Tokar, there
being an abundance of provisions, and 45,000 rounds of ball cartridge
left. Although the town had been shelled and exposed to a heavy rifle
fire for five days, the total loss suffered during the bombardment was
only two men killed and twelve wounded out of a garrison of 300 men. The
rebel force numbered less than 1,000.

Some doubt was at first felt as to the correctness of the news of the
surrender of Tokar. In any case the expedition was now at Trinkitat, and
it was resolved not to countermand it.

On the 26th Graham was instructed that, in the event of Tokar having
fallen, the main object would be to protect Souakim. The next day Mr.
Gladstone stated in Parliament that the Cabinet saw no reason to doubt
the accuracy of the report of the fall of Tokar. Notwithstanding this,
it was decided to continue to push on with Graham's expedition.

The real reason for this decision is not altogether clear. Probably the
truth is that the British Government was unwilling that the preparations
which had been made should be in vain. Possibly, also, it was desired
that the army, being on the spot, should strike a blow at Osman Digna
before coming away. From a despatch sent to Graham on the 24th February
it would seem that the objects to be attained by persevering with the
expedition were to march on El-Teb, to protect any fugitives, and to
bury the English dead, after which it was to return by land to Souakim.
These objects it was still in General Graham's power to attain.

On the 26th, after a preliminary reconnaissance by the Hussars and
Mounted Infantry, the Gordon Highlanders and Royal Irish Fusiliers moved
across the lagoon and took possession of Fort Baker. From early morning
the enemy had shown in considerable numbers in the vicinity of the fort,
but as the troops advanced the former fell back. A number also showed in
force on the ridge nearly two miles distant. Upon the cavalry advancing,
they still held their ground and opened fire at long range; but it being
evident that a yet larger force was still behind the ridge, it was not
considered advisable to charge.

The two succeeding days were occupied in transporting a supply of water
and three days' provisions for the whole army.

On the 27th the enemy massed some two miles off, and numbering about
2,000 strong, kept up continuous firing on the English sentries and
outposts. A last effort was now made to treat with the rebels. Major
Harvey, accompanied by Colonel Burnaby, rode with an escort to the
rising ground two miles distant. Here he planted a white flag with a
letter attached to the staff, enjoining the troops to disperse and to
send delegates to Khartoum to consult with General Gordon as to the
settlement of the Soudan provinces. The enemy maintained continuous
firing at the party, but, after it had withdrawn, took the flag and
letter, but left no reply.

On the afternoon of the 28th Graham and the remainder of the force
proceeded to the fort and bivouacked for the night. Each man carried
seventy rounds. No transport was taken.

The two infantry brigades were disposed as follows:--1st Brigade under
General Redvers Buller--2nd Brigade under General Davis. For transport
there were 600 camels, with 350 mules, and 100 camels for ambulance
work. There was also a camel battery of 80 animals and 100 men.



On the morning of the 28th February the bugles sounded the reveillé
about five, and instantly all were on the alert. The camp fires were
relighted, breakfast was got ready, and although the men had been
drenched by the rain which fell during the night, every one was in
excellent spirits. At 8 o'clock the order was given to advance, the men
having fallen in some time previously.

The force, though nominally in square, was formed in a long rectangle,
having an interior space of about 500 yards by 150 yards. The Gordon
Highlanders, in line, were in front; in the rear the Royal Highlanders
(Black Watch); on the right the Royal Irish Fusiliers, with four
companies of the King's Royal Rifles; and on the left the York and
Lancaster Regiment and the Royal Marines. Intervals were left at the
angles for the guns and Gatlings, the Naval Brigade occupying the front
and the Royal Artillery the rear angles. In the centre were the staffs
of Generals Graham and Buller, the officers of the Royal Engineers, and
the medical department. The front and left of the square were covered by
a squadron of the 10th Hussars, the right by a troop of the 19th
Hussars, and the rest of the cavalry were in the rear, under the command
of General Stewart. The total force, including the officers and men of
the Naval Brigade, was a little under 4,000 in number. The accompanying
diagram shows the formation:--


                Cavalry Scouts.

           R. N.               R. N.
       Gatlings                 Gatlings
          and                     and
       Gardners. 65th.   89th. Gardners.

  Cavalry Scouts.              Cavalry Scouts.

                Marines.   60th.

           R. A.                R. A.

           7-pounders.    7-pounders.

         Cavalry and Mounted Infantry.]

The men marched off with their water-bottles filled and one day's
rations. The only transport animals were those carrying ammunition and
surgical appliances; all these were kept together in the centre of the

The rain which had fallen caused the ground for the first two miles to
be very heavy. The Naval Brigade and the Royal Artillery dragged their
guns by hand, so that frequent halts had to be made to rest the men. The
force kept well to the north, and when about a mile from Fort Baker,
amidst low sand-hills thick with scrub, the enemy opened fire with their
Remingtons. The range, however, was too great, and no damage was done. A
few hundreds of the assailants were seen on the high ground on the front
and flanks. They retired very slowly before Graham's force, keeping
within 1,200 yards.

The route taken was somewhat to the left of the site of Baker's defeat,
which therefore lay between the squares and the enemy's position. The
infantry were thus spared the unpleasant sight which the remains of his
army presented. The Hussars, however, rode over the very spot. The air
was polluted with the smell of the decomposed bodies, the first of which
was met with about a mile from Fort Baker. The course taken by the
fugitives from the scene of the battle was marked by a belt about three
miles in length and a hundred yards in breadth. Here and there a few of
the runaways had straggled from the line of flight, only to leave their
bones in the adjoining bush. Most of the victims appeared to have fallen
on their faces, as if speared or cut down by their pursuers from behind.

On the spot where Baker's square had been destroyed, the dead, in every
attitude of painful contortion, lay piled in irregular heaps, literally
two or three feet deep over an area of at least 300 yards. The bodies
were all stripped, scarcely a vestige of clothes remaining. Of some only
the bare skeletons were left, but for the most part the remains had not
been attacked by vultures or wild animals, though all, or nearly all,
had been savagely mutilated. Just beyond this spot was a low mound of
earth, covered with sticks, from which waved strips of calico of
different colours, marking the graves of the fallen rebels.

During the march, H.M.S. _Sphinx_, off Trinkitat, at about 9.30, fired
four rounds, but the range was far too great to be effective, and as her
shells were falling more than a mile short of the enemy's position, and,
moreover, coming dangerously near the cavalry, she was signalled to
cease firing.

The Mounted Infantry were now sent forward on the left to get in touch
with the enemy, who appeared obstinate about moving, although not wholly
inclined to fight. About 10 o'clock reports came in from the front
that the enemy were intrenched on the left.

[Illustration: BATTLE OF EL-TEB.]

The defences consisted of shallow earthworks facing west by north,
somewhat semi-circular in shape. These were defended on the south-west
side by a battery on a mound (marked "A" on the plan), mounting two
Krupp guns and a brass howitzer; and on the north-east side by another
battery ("G" on the plan) armed with two Krupp guns, two brass
howitzers, and one Gatling. All these guns had been taken from Baker's
force, and, as was afterwards ascertained, were worked by Egyptian
gunners from the garrison of Tokar. Half-way between the two batteries
was a brick building, the remains of a disused sugar factory, and also,
lying on the ground, an old iron boiler. Rifle-pits were scattered about
on two sides of the position. These pits were constructed to hold about
twenty men each, and were scooped out of the sand in such a way that an
attacking force in front might get right up to them before becoming
aware of their existence. In the rear of the position were the wells,
some twelve in number, and the buildings forming the village of El-Teb.

At 11.20 Graham found himself, at a distance of 800 yards, immediately
opposite the south-west battery ("A"). Not caring to attack the position
in front, he moved his force off to the right, on which the enemy opened
fire with case and shell. Fortunately their aim was bad, so that few
casualties occurred, and Graham, moving steadily on without returning
their fire, succeeded in getting his force round on the left flank of
the work, which was on the proper left rear of the enemy's line.

Here the square was halted, the men were directed to lie down, and four
guns of the Royal Artillery and the machine-guns were brought into
action at a range of about 900 yards. The practice from the guns was
carried on with remarkable accuracy and deliberation, and with the help
of the machine-guns of the Naval Brigade, which poured in a stream of
bullets, the two Krupp guns in the battery, taken as they were slightly
in reverse, were speedily silenced, and their gunners driven off.

The bugles then sounded and the infantry advanced, the square moving by
its left face, which by the flank movement was opposite to the work
attacked. The fighting line was thus composed of the York and Lancaster,
supported by the Marines, the Gordon Highlanders and Royal Highlanders,
with bagpipes playing, moving in columns of fours on either flank, the
rear of the square being formed by the King's Royal Rifles and the Royal
Irish Fusiliers. The York and Lancaster advanced steadily, firing with
their Martinis as they did so, till within a short distance of the
works, when, with a cheer, they and the bluejackets on the right carried
them with a rush, and captured the guns.

This, however, was not accomplished without the most determined
resistance on the part of the enemy. The Soudanese clung to their
position with desperation. They were in no military order, but scattered
about, taking advantage of the abundant cover which the ground afforded.
They made several fierce counter-attacks, sometimes singly and sometimes
in groups, on the advancing line, many hand-to-hand fights taking place.

It was marvellous to see how the Soudanese warriors came on, heedless
and fearless of death, shouting and brandishing their weapons. To the
right and left they fell, but those who survived, even when wounded,
rushed on. A few, notwithstanding the rifle fire, got within five or ten
paces of the square, thus proving how many bullets it takes to kill a

When the York and Lancaster made their rapid advance, they were met by a
rush of several hundreds of the enemy, before which the battalion at
first recoiled some thirty or forty yards (the distance they had outrun
their comrades), thereby leaving a corner of the square open. The
regiment fell back a little, and the Marines advanced to their support;
the square was quickly closed, and in a few minutes all was well again,
the troops being as steady as possible. The check was but momentary, and
they again advanced, firing with great precision.

The ground at this place was broken and difficult. The formation of the
troops consequently became irregular, and gaps were here and there left
in the square. A halt for a few minutes had therefore to be called
before the final rush, in order to re-form the column and also to
distribute fresh ammunition.

Colonel Burnaby was the first to mount the parapet of the battery, with
some men of the Black Watch. He was armed with a double-barrelled
shot-gun, a deadly weapon when used at close quarters.

Captain Wilson, of the _Hecla_, seeing a Marine closely pressed in front
of the battery, rushed to the man's assistance, and whilst surrounded by
five or six of the enemy, broke his sword over one of them. The others
closing round him, he tackled them with his sword-hilt, and escaped with
only a sword-cut through his helmet, which wounded the scalp.

No sooner was the south-west battery taken than the Krupp guns in it
were wheeled round and directed upon the other battery to the north-east
of the position, which they soon silenced.

At this period General Stewart, apparently under the impression that the
infantry had finished their part of the work, moved his cavalry round
the present right flank of the square, and executed the charge referred
to later on.

But the fight was not yet over: the enemy was still in possession of the
village and wells of El-Teb, as well as of the north-east battery, to
capture which the force had to fight its way to the left across the
intrenchments from the southern to the northern extremity. By this
movement the Black Watch entered into the front or fighting line. But,
in reality, the square formation was broken up so that the whole
infantry division became an irregular semi-circular line, with the Black
Watch and York and Lancaster in the central and more advanced position
of it, and the Royal Irish Fusiliers and Gordon Highlanders on the

The enemy defended their remaining position with extraordinary
determination. In front were the brick sugar factory and iron boiler
already described, and all round were the rifle-pits, to which they
clung with desperate energy. This position the Black Watch, which, in
General Graham's despatch, were described as being at this moment
"somewhat out of hand," were ordered to charge, a movement which would
have caused great loss of life. The regiment, instead of at once
obeying, advanced with deliberation, and irregularly forming up, poured
a converging fire upon the factory. Several shells were also fired into
it to dislodge the enemy, but the guns were too small to effect a
breach. At length the Naval Brigade, with the Gatlings, took the
building, the sailors firing their revolvers through the windows whilst
the Highlanders shot down the enemy as they tried to escape. The
building was found full of bodies, and round the boiler no less than a
hundred Soudanese lay dead.

During the whole time of the attack the enemy never seemed to dream of
asking for quarter. When they found their retreat cut off they simply
charged out, hurled their spears at the attacking force, and fell dead,
riddled with bullets.

About 2 p.m. the force advanced upon and occupied the north-east battery
without resistance. The last work on the right of the position was
occupied by the Gordon Highlanders. The enemy had, by this time, given
up all idea of further fighting, and as the smoke rolled away the
defeated Soudanese were seen streaming away in the direction of Tokar
and Souakim, and the battle of El-Teb was won.

To return to the cavalry under Brigadier-General Stewart. His
instructions were "to avoid engaging the enemy until their formation was
broken, and until they were in full retreat." Bearing this in mind, the
question may well be asked, Why did the cavalry charge at that
particular stage of the action when the enemy's force was neither broken
nor in retreat?

As, when the artillery have produced the first effectual impression on
an enemy, the infantry advance to perform their task, so the cavalry
strike in to complete the confusion and ruin caused by the infantry. But
in this case, not only were the enemy not half beaten, but the charge
was made, according to Graham's despatch, "against masses of the enemy
not yet engaged."

To describe the charge: after the storming of the battery "A" the
cavalry was massed behind the left rear of the square, ready to act at
any given point when necessary. At 12.20 p.m., as the square advanced,
numbers of the enemy were visible in a plain beyond the ridge, and
Stewart, swinging his force round the infantry's right, gave the
order to charge. The cavalry were in three lines, the 10th Hussars,
under Colonel Wood, forming the first; the 19th Hussars, under
Lieutenant-Colonel Barrow, the second; and one hundred of the 10th,
under Lieutenant-Colonel Webster, formed the third. This formation was
maintained when the cavalry began to gallop, causing the enemy to split
into two large bodies right and left.

After a gallop of three miles the first two lines overtook some of the
Soudanese. Amongst them was a woman, who miraculously escaped through
the first line unhurt. Being perceived and spared by the second, she
showed her gratitude by firing a rifle after the men who had saved her.

There was now only a small party of the enemy in front, and a halt was
sounded. At this moment an orderly overtook Barrow, informing him that
Webster, with the third line, was being "cut up." That officer, after
the first two lines had passed, had suddenly discovered away on his
right a body of the enemy appearing out of the brushwood; a hundred, or,
according to another account, two hundred, of these were mounted. They
carried two-handed swords, and rode barebacked. In their rear were
numbers of spearmen on foot. Webster wheeled his squadron to the right,
and in a moment found himself engaged with a large force of the enemy.

On receipt of the orderly's report the word was instantly given "Right
about wheel." Barrow's two squadrons then became the front line, and
Wood's the rear. As the two lines rode back to Webster's assistance they
found themselves confronted by some hundreds of Soudanese, mounted and
on foot. Some thirty horsemen rode with full force boldly against the
first line of the advancing squadron. Three of them came straight
through safely, and, undismayed either by the shock they had survived,
or the equal peril of the second line sweeping down upon them, wheeled
their horses with wonderful rapidity, not hesitating to follow in full
pursuit the squadrons from which they had so narrowly escaped. Very
little harm, however, resulted from this attack. The real opposition
came from the spearmen, who lay scattered among the hillocks and mounds
of sand, and who, rising at the precise moment, attempted to hamstring
the horses of the cavalry, or else drove home their heavy spears,
throwing them whenever they were unable to reach their foe by hand. The
spears were like Zulu assegais in form, except that, being weighted with
a roll of iron at the extreme end of the shaft, they had a greater
momentum and piercing power. The Soudanese also threw boomerang-like
clubs of mimosa wood at the horses' legs, thus bringing many of the
animals to their knees.

Barrow, whilst leading the charge, was struck by a thrown spear which
pierced his arm and side. He, nevertheless, rode on until his horse was
brought down in the manner above described.[96]

The first line, missing its commander, and not fully realizing the
position, swept straight on, whereas Barrow would no doubt have wheeled
it to the right. Stewart, who was riding somewhat in advance of the left
flank of the second line, noting at once the flaw, drove spurs into his
horse, and with his staff galloped hard to bring round the erring
squadrons. It was a race between this small band, the General and Staff,
and a number of the enemy rushing from the right. The former won, and
caught up the first line; but in this conflict, during the sweep of the
10th Hussars, as they followed, wheeling with admirable precision to the
left, the chief casualties of the day occurred. Lieutenant Probyn, of
the 9th Bengal Cavalry, attached to the 10th Hussars, was among the
first to fall. Of the General's four orderlies one was killed and two
were wounded. Major Slade fell dead, pierced with spear-wounds, and his
horse hamstrung to the bone.[97] Another officer killed at the same time
was Lieutenant Freeman.

After the 10th and 19th had charged again and again through the
scattered groups of spearmen, doing but little execution on account of
the unsteadiness of the Egyptian horses,[98] each line dismounted one of
its squadrons, and poured volley after volley into the enemy; after
which the Hussars rode back to El-Teb, having lost heavily, in fact, one
man for every eight engaged.

The loss in killed on the British side was 4 officers and 26 men; in
wounded, 17 officers and 142 soldiers and marines. The officers killed
were Lieutenant Freeman, 19th Hussars; Major Slade, 10th Hussars;
Lieutenant Probyn, Bengal Cavalry; and Quartermaster Wilkins, King's
Royal Rifles.

The magnitude of the loss sustained in the cavalry charge will be
apparent when it is considered that out of a total of thirty killed no
less than thirteen, or nearly half, belonged to the small force under
General Stewart. It is singular that, with the exception of the loss
sustained by the cavalry, all the casualties during the fight were
caused by the enemy's bullets.

Of the enemy's force several estimates were made. It is obvious that
their total number was much under the figure of 10,000 originally
reported by General Graham. Another authority puts the numbers who
fought at the intrenchments and wells at 3,000. In addition to these was
the force held in reserve, and attacked by the cavalry. These were
probably 2,000 or 3,000 more.

It is stated in some of the accounts that 2,000 were slain and 5,000 put
_hors de combat_. Unfortunately it is impossible to arrive at strict
accuracy in such matters, but it is a fact that 825 bodies were counted
on the field of battle.

In any case the defeat was a conspicuous one, more especially
considering the comparatively small loss sustained by Graham's force.

The chief lesson taught by the engagement is the tremendous power of the
breechloader in steady hands. Against such weapons, carried by British
soldiers, all the courage of the Soudanese was of no avail. With the
exception of one moment, when the hurried advance of the front line
threatened to imperil the square, the enemy never succeeded in getting
near enough to be a source of serious danger; and but for the cavalry
attack, the utility of which, as already remarked, is open to
considerable doubt, the victory would have been won with almost a total
immunity from loss.

Of the tribes who fought against Graham one is said to have been totally
exterminated. Their reckless courage in action was the theme of general
admiration. Both during and after the fight their principal aim seemed
to be to sell their lives as dearly as possible. Lads of twelve, after
fighting desperately, fell dead into the shelter-trenches, with their
teeth set and their hands grasping their spears.

It was almost impossible to save the wounded or to take prisoners, as
the dying, even in their last moments, strove to thrust or cut with
knife, spear, or sword. The troops as they pressed forward had to shoot
or bayonet all they came near, for the wounded would start up and strive
to kill or maim their foes, a grim pleasure lighting up their faces
whenever they could bury their weapons in a soldier's body.

A marine roving about among the enemy's dead, behind the boiler more
than once referred to, was killed by a wounded Soudanese hidden among
the slain. The Arab with a knife fairly disembowelled the English
soldier, and was himself bayoneted on the spot almost immediately

Some time after the battle, and when the troops were searching about the
enemy's works, a boy of about twelve years of age, unobserved among a
heap of dead and dying, started up and rushed with a drawn knife on two
soldiers, who, taken aback at first, ran some yards, and then turned and
shot him. At some distance outside the lines a Soudanese sprang like a
cat upon the back of one of the soldiers and tried to cut his throat; an
officer, rushing up, shot the savage through the heart with his
revolver, barely in time to save the soldier's life.

The coolness of the British soldier seems never to have deserted him,
and gave rise to some scenes which might almost be described as
humorous. When the rush was made and the bulk of the assailants either
killed or driven back, one Soudanese warrior, spear in hand, dashed
singly forward. With a "hop, skip, and a jump," he cleared the front
rank of the square, only, however, to be adroitly caught on the point of
the bayonet of a soldier behind. "How's that, sir?" said the soldier,
turning to his officer. "Well caught," said the latter, involuntarily
reminded of the game of cricket.

After the fighting was over, and in a comparatively quiet corner near
the wells, one of the Soudanese suddenly went for a black sergeant
belonging to the Egyptian army. The latter, unprepared for the
onslaught, sought refuge behind his camel. Here he was pursued by his
enemy, who tried every means to get at the sergeant. The latter was
chased round and under his animal several times, to the amusement of a
group of Highlanders, who looked on unwilling to spoil the sport. On
went the chase, the two dodging round the sheltering camel, and it was
uncertain who was to win when the Soudanese, with his long knife,
proceeded to stab the camel. This attempt to secure an unfair advantage
was too much for the Highlanders, two of whom took aim at the Soudanese.
Their rifles went off at the same moment, and the man fell. It was
impossible to say which shot proved fatal, and a lively discussion
ensued as to "whose bird" the Soudanese was to be considered.

When the square was being assailed, a Soudanese, after being hit by a
rifle-bullet, suddenly swerved towards one of the guns. A gunner saw him
coming, snatched a rammer, and knocked him down with a blow on his
head. Before he could rise the Soudanese was bayoneted. A trooper of the
Hussars, named Hayes, after his squadron had passed ahead of him,
attacked a spearman, who parried his sword-thrusts with one of the
hippopotamus-hide shields carried by most of the enemy. The trooper
tried in vain to cut the man down, but his horse was too restive to
render this practicable. Hayes then coolly dismounted, and after
parrying a spear-thrust, killed his opponent with a sword-cut.

Admiral Hewett, who had accompanied the force, as well as Baker Pasha,
who was wounded by a piece of shell, returned to Trinkitat late in the
afternoon with a small escort of cavalry. Graham, with the army,
bivouacked at the wells that night, and started the next morning for
Tokar, leaving behind 500 of the 42nd to guard the wounded and the
supplies which had been brought up.

On the Mounted Infantry and a squadron of the 10th Hussars nearing Tokar
they were fired on from some huts in the town and had to retire to the
main column, which was some way behind; on its coming up Colonel Clery,
the Chief of Graham's Staff, rode forward towards the town, when he
discovered that the rebels had all fled; a soldier bearing a white flag
came out, and it was found that the Egyptian garrison had, as had been
reported, capitulated previously, but their lives had been spared, and
some of them even bore arms. On the English troops coming up the
townspeople professed to be overcome by delight and came out dancing and
shouting, and kissed the soldiers' feet.

The same day a party of the 42nd Regiment was sent out to bury the
Europeans who fell in Baker's defeat. All the bodies being stripped of
every particle of clothes, it was most difficult to identify them; but
twenty-five were distinguished, and of these the following could be
identified with certainty, viz., Morice Bey, Dr. Leslie, Captain
Forrestier-Walker, Lieutenants Watkins, Carroll, Smith, and Morisi.

Of the Egyptians who fell, only Abdul Rassak Bey, Chief of the Staff,
could be recognized. Morice Bey and Dr. Leslie were both lying side by
side inside the left front of the square with their faces towards the
front. Walker and Watkins were also close together in the opposite

The troops bivouacked in the plain in front of Tokar, supplies being
brought forward from Fort Baker.

On the 2nd March the cavalry rode out to the encampment of the enemy at
a place called Dubba, about three miles distant: here was found inside a
zeriba a pile of 1,500 Remingtons, 200 boxes of ammunition, one
7-pounder gun, and one Gatling. Outside was a hut, in which was stored
the loot taken at Baker's defeat, a miscellaneous assortment, gun-cases,
portmanteaus, writing-cases, surgical instruments, &c. A party of
Hussars broke up the whole of the rifles, and the other things of value
were loaded on mules.

The day following the arrival of the troops many of the inhabitants who
had fled when the rebels were fighting at El-Teb, or had gone off in
company with them, returned with their families and property. A wounded
Egyptian artilleryman said that he and seven others had been dragged
with ropes from Tokar to El-Teb to work the guns. All the others were
killed, and he, on trying to escape, was shot in the back by the
Soudanese, but managed to crawl to Tokar during the night. He stated
that a great number of the enemy escaped from the fight in a wounded
condition. According to this man and others, the rebel leaders alleged
that they were deceived by Osman Digna, who told them it was untrue that
the English were coming, and assured them that they would only have to
meet and defeat another Egyptian army.

The troops then returned to Trinkitat, accompanied by 700 of the
survivors from Tokar, and commenced to re-embark for Souakim on March



By the 9th of March the change of base from Trinkitat to Souakim had
been completed.

On the same day the Black Watch marched out and occupied a zeriba
constructed by Baker some weeks before, and distant about eight miles on
the road from Souakim to Sinkat.

According to the account given by a correspondent, before they moved off
the ground Graham addressed them on parade. To the amazement of every
one who heard him, he said that, although he claimed to have the
reputation of the Black Watch as much at heart as any of them, he could
not say that he was altogether pleased with their performance the other
day at El-Teb. He was understood to refer to the fact that the regiment
had not broken into the double when amongst the enemy's rifle-pits, and
to the rate at which they had fired away their ammunition. But to show
that he had not lost confidence in them, he went on to say he was going
to place the Black Watch in front throughout the coming operations.

With that unfortunate speech rankling in the minds of both officers and
men, the General sent the regiment on its way. Not only was the speech
ill-advised, but, as every one knew except Graham himself, it was
unjust. Its effect was apparent later on.

Owing to the absence of a breeze and the intense heat, the men were
unable to proceed except at the slowest rate and with frequent halts.
Even then there were hundreds of stragglers from the ranks. The officers
did all in their power to keep the men together, but it was nearly 1
p.m. before they were all got to the zeriba. Five men suffered attacks
of sunstroke, and many others were temporarily disabled by heat and

Camels and mules conveying water and stores kept arriving from Souakim
during the 9th and 10th, by the end of which time a large quantity of
water, ammunition, and provisions had been collected at the zeriba. At 6
p.m. on the 11th the artillery and infantry advanced to the zeriba,
which they reached at midnight. There was a bright moon, and the night
air was soft and pleasant, so that the march did not distress the men,
although it was hard work for the Naval Brigade.

The strength of the force was as follows:--

Royal Artillery, 176 men.

1st Infantry Brigade, under General Buller: Royal Engineers, 62 men; 3rd
Battalion King's Own Rifles, 565 men; Gordon Highlanders (75th), 712
men; Royal Irish Fusiliers (89th), 343 men.

2nd Infantry Brigade, under General Davis: Royal Highlanders (42nd Black
Watch), 623 men[99]; York and Lancaster (65th), 435 men; Royal Marine
Artillery and Light Infantry, 478 men.

At daybreak on the 12th the cavalry, comprised of 251 men of the 10th
Hussars, 362 men of the 19th Hussars, and 124 of the Mounted Infantry,
arrived at the zeriba, where the total force now amounted to 4,069 men.

About 10 a.m. it was reported that the enemy was in force some six miles
distant. Accordingly, the troops were ordered to advance towards Tamaai
as soon as the men had had their dinners. About 1 p.m. the force began
to move.

The following diagram explains the formation:--


           2nd BRIGADE--GENERAL DAVIS.

         Half 42nd.            Half 65th.
         - - - - -             - - - - -

        - - -                      - - -
  Half  - - -  Naval  |    9-pr.   - - -  Half
  42nd. - - -  Guns.  |  Battery.  - - -  65th.
        - - -                      - - -

          |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |
          |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |

  Cavalry.                    1st BRIGADE--GENERAL BULLER.
  - - - -
  - - - -                     Half 89th.        Half 75th.
  - - - -                     - - - - -         - - - - -

                             - - -                  - - -
                       Half  - - -     9 & 7-pr.    - - -    Half
                       89th. - - -   Camel Battery. - - -    75th.
                             - - -                  - - -

                               |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |
                               |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |

The 1st Brigade, under Buller, marched on the right rear of the other,
at a distance varying from 600 to 900 yards in an oblique line. In
military language the two brigades moved in echelon, the 2nd Brigade
leading, the object being to expose the enemy, in the event of his
charging one brigade, to a raking or flank fire from the other. The
rear battalions and the half-battalions on either flank of each brigade
marched at wheeling distances, so that on the word to form outwards
being given, two complete squares could be formed. The two brigades were
thus placed so as to form two independent oblongs, the front face or
line of each brigade being about 200 yards in length, the sides about
100 yards. The main body of the cavalry was echeloned on the left rear
of the 2nd Brigade.

It will be seen that, although the force at Tamaai was about the same as
that at El-Teb, a different formation was adopted. The unwieldiness of a
single great square had been shown by experience. It had the further
disadvantage that, in the event of an attack on one side, the fire of at
least two of the other sides could not be utilized. There was, moreover,
the old adage against "putting all one's eggs in one basket." The
comparatively difficult ground which had to be got over at Tamaai was
probably another reason for the change.

The line of march was about south-west. The Mounted Infantry having
reported that the low hills, six miles in front, were clear of the
enemy, it was deemed advisable to gain and occupy them before dark, and,
if possible, attack the enemy and drive them from their position near
the wells. The afternoon was hot, and frequent halts were necessary. The
ground was covered with grass knee-deep, scrub and brushwood, and in
some places the prickly mimosa and cactus were seven feet high.

By 3.30 the highest hill of the range was reached by the cavalry scouts,
and the broad intervening valley of Tamaai could be seen from its summit
through the haze. About four o'clock the infantry squares reached the
base of the hill and halted for a few minutes, whilst the scouts were
pushed forwards. At five o'clock they came in and reported that the
enemy, estimated at 4,000 men, were advancing to the attack.

The force was at once formed up in a defensive position on a favourable
piece of ground, having a clear space of 100 yards to the front, and, as
there was now barely an hour of daylight left, the Engineers and
pioneers were set to work to form a zeriba round the camp by cutting
down the mimosa bushes which grew plentifully about. Before this the
enemy had fired a few rifle shots and had shown in some numbers on a
ridge about 1,200 yards distant. By way of checking this, and to show
the power of the guns, two of the 9-pounders and a Gardner gun fired a
few rounds, and the enemy disappeared.

The operations of the day thus closed, the cavalry were sent back to
Baker's zeriba to water their horses, and, tired with their day's
exertion, the infantry lay down within the irregularly-shaped square
formed by the mimosa bushes. The men lay two deep and slept with their
great-coats on and their arms beside them. Orders were given that all
lights should be extinguished at nine.

About a quarter to one on the morning of the 13th there was an alarm,
and the enemy opened a distant dropping fire, which continued throughout
the night, causing few casualties, but disturbing the men's rest. One
man of the York and Lancaster was killed, and five, including an
officer, were wounded, as well as some camel drivers and horses.

At sunrise a 9-pounder and the Gardner gun were run out and made some
excellent practice at a range of 1,300 yards, dispersing the enemy, who
retired to their main position near the wells of Tamaai. About 7 a.m.
Stewart arrived with his cavalry, and at 7.30 ordered out the Mounted
Infantry to feel the enemy. At 8 o'clock the whole force moved out from
their bivouac. A native who accompanied the troops, and who had lately
been a prisoner in Osman Digna's camp, informed General Graham that the
bulk of the enemy's force would be in a deep khor, or watercourse, the
sides of which would serve as an intrenchment. Graham therefore directed
the advance to be made to the left of this position, where the ground
rose a little, intending (as he stated in his despatch) to sweep the
ravine with artillery fire before attacking.

The advance was made by the two brigades in squares marching in echelon.
Owing to some slight delay in getting the 1st Brigade forward, the 2nd
(which General Graham and his staff now joined) was somewhat further in
advance than was intended when they first came in contact with the
enemy. The route lay towards the south-south-east, across a sloping
plateau intersected by dry watercourses, towards a deep ravine, full of
boulders and huge detached rocks.[100] The morning was bright and
clear, with a brilliant sun, but there was no wind, as at El-Teb, to
carry off the smoke. This, as will be seen, became important.

[Illustration: BATTLE OF TAMAAI.]

As the brigades advanced the black forms of the Soudanese were seen
ranged along the hills on the front and right of the British force. Two
squadrons of cavalry, together with some Abyssinian scouts, were sent
forward to skirmish and endeavour to clear the bushes through which the
infantry had to advance. The skirmishers had not gone far before they
became hotly engaged. Captain Humphreys, in command, sent back word that
the ravine was occupied in force. Although this was only a few hundred
yards in front, it was so hidden by bushes as to be invisible to the

About twenty minutes after starting, the 2nd Brigade was halted to
re-form itself from the somewhat loose order into which it had fallen in
its advance over the rough ground. At half-past eight it was moving
slowly towards the ravine, which extended itself irregularly all along
the front, and was from 900 to 1,000 yards off. The 1st Brigade, 700
yards distant to the right and rear, was timing its movements and taking
its ground step by step with the 2nd Brigade.

Some 5,000 or 6,000 Soudanese were now visible, the greater part being
on the south, or more distant, side of the ravine, here about 50 to 100
yards wide. Some hundreds of them were also among the bushes to the
right as well as in the immediate front. They opened fire on the 2nd
Brigade, but the greater part of the bullets flew harmlessly overhead.
The skirmishers were withdrawn, and as soon as they were out of the line
of fire, the brigade replied, the men firing independently as they
advanced. When the square got within 200 yards of the ravine, a series
of broken and irregular rushes was made by the Soudanese on the front;
but the fire of the Martinis prevented any of the enemy getting at this
time within twenty yards of the British line. The front became soon
comparatively clear of foes, and then (about 9 a.m.) Graham[101] gave
the order, "Forty-second, charge!" and the Black Watch, forming the left
half face of the square, remembering the General's speech of two days
before, cheered, and, regardless of consequences, broke away at the
double. The 65th half battalion, on the right face of the square, had
no order given to them, but seeing the Highlanders dash ahead, they too
rushed on. The front rank of the square charged up to within thirty
yards from the edge of the ravine, then slackened speed, and, though
still advancing, recommenced firing. The order was given to "Cease
firing," but the men, seeing armed natives spring up in every direction
right and left, were not to be controlled, and continued to blaze away.

The enemy were now swarming on the ridges on the opposite side of the
ravine, and the Gatling and Gardner guns, which had been run out a few
yards in front of the right corner of the square, were turned upon them.
Many were observed running down the slopes, and disappearing among the
rocks in the little valley intervening. In the absence of any wind, the
smoke from the guns hung around the column in thick folds, totally
obscuring the view. Under cover of this smoke, hundreds of the Soudanese
crept up the near side of the ravine, and threw themselves upon the
right front and right flank of the square, which fell back in disorder.
The 65th, unable to resist the onslaught, were thrown back in confusion
upon the Marines in the rear, numbers being knocked off their legs in
the rush. Their colonel (Byam) and four of his officers were thrown
down. Soldiers and savages alike went trampling over them. As the
colonel lay, he was assailed by four spearmen, but with his revolver he
shot one at each touch of the trigger. The colonel rose up, and whilst
the main body of his regiment was breaking up, rallied some thirty of
his men, who, standing back to back, repelled with bayonet-thrusts the
assaults of the Soudanese who encircled them. Fifteen of the men of the
65th fell where they stood.

As the 65th on the right face and corner were borne back from the edge
of the ravine, the right wing of the 42nd became exposed, and the enemy,
rushing in at the gap, were among the Highlanders on their flank and
rear, cutting and spearing in every direction. The 42nd then recoiled
several paces, the movement, according to one correspondent, "resembling
the slow swing of a door on its hinges."

The condition of the column was something like this:--


An officer appropriately compared the appearance of his part of the
yielding line to the scramble in a game of football. The men were so
huddled together that many of them were unable either to fire their
rifles or use their bayonets. Captain Scott Stevenson, of the 42nd, was
suddenly seized by the legs by some Soudanese, who were crawling on the
ground. One of them dragged at the frogs of his kilt, and then at his
"sporran." The Captain, who was one of the best boxers in the army,
literally kicked himself clear, and his claymore being too long a weapon
to use at such close quarters, he laid about him with its hilt and with
his fists.

The Marines in rear of the Brigade were wheeled up to support the 65th
and close the gaps left in the formation, but it was too late, and they
too were thrown into confusion, and borne away on the line of retreat.
Graham and his staff tried their best to check the movement and rally
the men. As the Marines were being swept away, Major Colwell shouted in
stentorian tones, "Men of the Portsmouth Division, rally," which they
did, 150 of them closing together in a compact body, forming a little
square. The Highlanders also formed one or two such groups, and
materially assisted in bringing about the general rally which soon
followed. In spite of every effort, however, the whole force fell back
about 800 yards, in a direction to the eastward of that taken in the

The Naval Brigade, which had been sent to the front with the
machine-guns, during the rush lost three of their officers, Lieutenants
Montresor, Almack, and Houston Stewart, and many of their men. The guns
had to be abandoned, partly owing to the hurried retreat, and partly
because of the nature of the ground. Before retiring, the Naval Brigade
found time to lock the guns, so as to prevent the enemy, who immediately
captured them, from making any use of the weapons in the short interval
which elapsed before they were retaken.

Instances of individual heroism were not wanting at this trying moment.
One Highlander, seeing three or four mounted sheikhs, who were hounding
on their men, rushed out at the leader of them and bayoneted him on his
horse. Whilst the Black Watch were retiring, hard pressed, a private
rushed at one of the enemy who was slashing right and left, and ran him
through with his bayonet, so violently that he had to drag the wounded
man with him for some distance before the soldier could extract the
weapon. Every soldier who stumbled or fell during the retreat was at
once done for, the enemy darting forward in squads and thrusting their
spears into him as long as a sign of life remained. The nature of the
struggle may be gathered from the fact that of twenty men who formed a
section of a company of the Black Watch when charging up to the ravine,
only three escaped alive, and they were badly wounded.

As has been related above, the formation of isolated groups among the
retreating soldiers assisted to bring about the rally which took place
in about twenty minutes. But a more powerful aid, and one without which
Davis's square might have shared the fate of Baker's force at El-Teb,
was at hand. The 1st Brigade, under Buller, had been attacked at the
same time as the 2nd Brigade, and from its position at some 400 to 500
yards distance from the ravine, it had the advantage of a wider fire
radius. The men were formed in square, the 75th on the right, and the
89th on the left being the leading regiments with the 60th in the rear
and the 9 and 7-pounder guns in the centre. Whilst the narrowness of the
space between the slope and the 2nd Brigade enabled the enemy to "rush"
the square before the infantry had time to fire more than a round or
two, the distance between the slope and Buller's troops rendered it
impossible for the enemy to reach them in face of a well-directed fire.
Not one of the Soudanese who ran nearer than eighty yards to Buller's
square lived to tell the tale. There was no hurry, no flurry in the
handling of this brigade. The men formed up, shoulder to shoulder, in
leisurely order when they saw the enemy coming on. Their deliberate
volleys sounded like the harsh grating sound of the sea on a shingly
beach, and when the smoke drifted slowly away the plain reappeared black
with the bodies of the dead and dying.

Not content with attacking Buller's square in the front and on the
flanks, the enemy even passed round to the rear, so that, at one time,
all four sides were engaged. So well, however, was the brigade handled,
and so steady were the men, that this made no difference. Buller was
able, not only to hold his own ground, but also to assist the 2nd
Brigade. As this fell back, it got to the left of Buller's square, and
the General, seeing that something was wrong, moved up a short distance,
and began pouring in a heavy cross fire upon the Soudanese who were
assailing the other brigade. At the same time Stewart, moving his
cavalry round to the left flank of Buller's square, dismounted his men,
and fired a volley into the enemy's right flank. The Soudanese were thus
between two fires.

Now, covered by the fire of the 1st Brigade and by the cavalry, Davis's
square rallied. The retreating troops were halted and re-formed, this
time in line with the Marines on the right, the 65th in the centre, and
the 42nd, with 160 of the Naval Brigade in their rear, on the left.
After a quarter of an hour's halt, a fresh supply of ammunition having
been served out to each man, the 2nd Brigade went once more to the

The soldiers were forbidden to fire until the enemy should come well
within range, and on this occasion they obeyed orders more faithfully,
marching slowly and clearing the ground of the enemy as they advanced.
Thanks to the position taken by the 1st Brigade, which had now moved up
200 yards closer to the ravine and halted, Buller was able to pour a
raking fire into the enemy, and so prevent any attempt to again "rush"
Davis's flank.

The position was thus:--


In ten minutes the lost ground was regained and the guns recaptured.
They were immediately hauled into position, and fired a few rounds at
the enemy, who began to move off to the opposite slopes of the ravine,
within twenty paces of which Davis's force halted at 11 a.m.

It was now the turn of the 1st Brigade, which, still in square
formation, was sent off to take a second intervening ridge some 800
yards off. Forward down and across the ravine went the brigade. With a
cheer the men took the first ridge, firing as they went along occasional
shots at the enemy's main body, who could be seen gathered on the second
ridge beyond. The Soudanese, disheartened, kept up a feeble fire,
retreating as the brigade advanced. The defence of the second ridge was
insignificant, and it was carried without difficulty.

From the top Tamaai could be seen in the valley 180 feet below, with the
tents and huts of Osman Digna's camp. By 11.40 a.m. these were in the
possession of the British forces.

Osman Digna was not present at the battle, preferring to watch the
action from the top of a neighbouring hill. His cousin, Mohammed Mousa,
commanded the enemy's forces, and was shot at the commencement of the

Squads of men were told off to search for the wounded, a task of some
danger, on account of the number of partially disabled Soudanese lying
in the bush. Here, as at El-Teb, wounded Arabs refused to accept
quarter, but waited an opportunity to spring out and attack any of the
soldiers who came sufficiently close. An eye-witness wrote as follows:--

    "One wounded savage lay half reclining on a sloping bank near
    the spot where the Gatling gun had been rolled into the ravine.
    He was badly wounded in the leg, a bullet having shattered his
    knee. Grasping his heavy broad-bladed spear, he looked defiance
    and mischief at the soldiers as they approached. A bluejacket
    was the first to venture near him, and although Jack had his
    rifle and cutlass attached, he liked not the far-reaching spear.
    The troops were forbidden to fire, and there was nothing for it
    but to tackle the man with steel. The deft handling of the
    spear, wounded as the foe was, made Jack cautious. I looked and
    watched. A soldier now stole up on the opposite side of the
    Hadendowa, but even then the savage, like a wounded stag at bay,
    was not to be trifled with. A mean subterfuge, cunning
    stratagem, or what you will you may call it, prevailed. A stone
    thrown at the Arab's head stunned him for the moment, and before
    he recovered the bluejacket had plunged his cutlass into him,
    bending the weapon into such a hoop shape that he could barely
    withdraw it."

The British losses were as follows:--Killed: Lieut. Montresor,
_Euryalus_; Lieut. Almack, _Briton_; Lieut. Houston Stewart, _Dryad_;
Capt. H. G. W. Ford, York and Lancaster; Major Aitken, Royal
Highlanders; and 86 non-commissioned officers and privates. Wounded:
Seven officers and 103 non-commissioned officers and privates. Missing:
Nineteen men. Of the above, three officers and eleven men were killed at
the taking of the guns, and the loss of the 2nd Brigade at the time of
the square being broken was 70 in killed alone. The number of the enemy
was originally reported by Graham as being from 10,000 to 12,000, and
the loss as over 2,000 in killed. According to one account, over 1,500
lay dead in an area of 200 yards; 600 of these were counted on the spot
where the square was broken. Another account puts the total number of
the enemy's forces engaged at 9,000, and the loss in killed and wounded
2,400. No prisoners were taken.

Of the nature of the surprise intended for him at the ravine, Graham had
ample warning beforehand. Nevertheless he moved his men almost up to the
brink of the spot where the enemy lay in ambush, and very nearly brought
about a disaster.

As to the order given to a part of the front rank to charge, it is
unnecessary to say anything in its condemnation. The charge was made at
nothing. The front rank of the square doubled, whilst the sides and rear
only followed at quick time. It was, as a critic remarked, taking the
lid off the box.

Of the conduct of the soldiers of the 2nd Brigade it is impossible to
speak too highly. It was in consequence of a sheer military blunder that
the front of the square got separated from the rest, and that the men
were driven back by the surging mass of Soudanese; but it was proof of
the highest discipline and coolness that under these circumstances the
men, compelled to retire, kept their faces steadily toward the enemy,
and were able to re-form without panic or confusion.

The feeling of the troops, or at all events of the 2nd Brigade, after
the battle, was that they had been victorious, in spite of the
mismanagement of their superiors. The men of the Black Watch were
especially sore at what had occurred. Their idea was that they had been
needlessly exposed. They had a grievance ever since the beginning of the
campaign. At El-Teb they had been expected to charge rifle-pits in which
hundreds of the enemy were concealed. As this movement would have caused
great loss, the advance was made deliberately. For this the regiment
had, as has already been mentioned, been severely taken to task. To
enable them to retrieve their supposed loss of reputation, the Black
Watch were placed in the position of honour and danger at Tamaai, and
when the order to double against the enemy, thus, as it turned out,
breaking the square, was given, they obeyed promptly, though, as they
said, "We knew the order was foolish, but we were put on our mettle."
"It was of no use," they argued, "to form a square if it was to rush at
the enemy in fragments."

Before returning to Souakim on the 15th of March, parties of Engineers
were told off to complete the destruction of Osman Digna's camp at
Tamaai. This extended over a level plain two miles in length, surrounded
by naked rocks. The camp, as well as the huts and stores, were soon in a
blaze in scores of different places, the flames shooting up to a great
height, and volumes of smoke obscuring the view between the camp and the
distant hills. One feature of the scene was the explosion of the
magazines, containing about 600,000 rifle cartridges, captured from
Baker at El-Teb, besides a large quantity of Krupp and machine-gun

The British forces being once more concentrated at Souakim, Admiral
Hewett issued a proclamation offering 5,000 dollars for the head of
Osman Digna. Whether this step was in accordance with the rules of
civilized warfare or not may well be doubted. At all events, it created
a strong feeling of indignation in England, and in three days the
Admiral, acting under instructions from home, withdrew the objectionable

On the 18th the 19th Hussars, the Mounted Infantry, and the Gordon
Highlanders made a march to the wells of Handouk, a few miles from
Souakim. They found them all deserted, and no signs of the enemy. A
zeriba was formed at the base of a detached hill held by a company of
the Highlanders. News was brought to the camp that Osman Digna's force
was increasing, and that he had announced his intention of renewing the
fighting. He was reported to have 2,000 men with him.

On the 19th General Stewart, with two squadrons of Hussars, went to
Otao, eight miles further west, in search of the enemy, but in vain. A
squadron was also sent to Tamanieb, where Osman was reported to be, but
found no traces of him.

On the 21st two batteries of artillery and also the 10th Hussars were
moved out to Handouk.

On the 23rd the Gordon Highlanders were sent to a point near the
entrance of the Tamanieb valley to form a new zeriba in conjunction with
a company of the 89th, which marched from Souakim to join them, with
water and stores.

On the 25th General Graham marched with two brigades, under Buller and
Davis respectively, to a zeriba eleven miles from Souakim.

The march-out was a most exhausting one on account of the heat, and
between 300 and 400 men fell out of the ranks. There were numerous cases
of sunstroke. According to one account, the number of men who fell out
was equal to one-fourth of the whole force, the rear of which, it is
said, resembled a routed army. Many of the sick found room in the
ambulances, and others trudged along as best they could on foot. The men
were now becoming tired and disgusted with the campaign, and there was a
good deal of grumbling and dissatisfaction in the ranks.

The whole force bivouacked when nine miles from Souakim, and the night's
rest restored the men who had fallen out during the march, and all but
four returned to duty on the morning of the 26th.

Stewart's brigade of cavalry left the camp shortly after 9 a.m. for
Tamanieb. Graham's orders were that operations should be confined to
reconnoitring, the troops to fall back on learning the enemy's
position. For the first five miles the route lay across a plain through
patches of mimosa. After this, the hills were reached. Small parties of
the enemy were seen mounted on dromedaries, watching the force. On a
hill 600 feet high Stewart established a heliograph station for
signalling to the zeriba in the rear. After another five miles' march, a
second signal station was placed among the hills. From this point the
enemy's position could be seen two miles distant. Behind them were the
wells of Tamanieb. The number of the enemy appeared, at first, to be
about 3,000, though it subsequently turned out much less. It was now
half-past one, and the Mounted Infantry advanced to within 700 yards,
keeping up a fire meanwhile. This skirmishing was continued till 3
o'clock, when, the object of the reconnaissance having been attained,
General Stewart withdrew to the first signal station. Here he was met by
General Buller, who had advanced with the 75th and 89th Regiments,
having left camp at ten. In the afternoon the remainder of the force,
with the exception of the 65th Regiment and the sick, also advanced, and
joined Buller at the first signal station, where a new zeriba was
formed. A quiet night was passed at the advanced zeriba.

Shortly after 5 a.m. on the following day, the entire force, numbering
3,000 men, marched out. The Mounted Infantry scouted along the ridges to
the right and left flanks, but there was for some time no sign of the

It was cool at first, owing to the early hour at which the march
commenced, and there were no sick. The men were in the best of spirits,
not only at the prospect of offering the enemy battle, but because they
believed that the impending engagement would end the campaign. The
troops went forward very slowly on account of the rocky nature of the
ground. About fifty men fell out owing to the heat. As the hostile
position was approached, the Mounted Infantry and a squadron of Hussars
were sent forward to occupy the ground held during the skirmish of the
previous day. When they advanced the enemy opened a fire, to which the
troopers replied.

At nine Graham brought up the reserve of the Mounted Infantry, leaving
the two Infantry Brigades in the rear. Shortly after this, the enemy's
fire slackened. Half-an-hour afterwards the 1st Brigade had advanced far
enough for the 9-pounders to open fire on the enemy, of whom only small
bodies could be seen.

At ten the cavalry skirmishers were within 100 yards of the Tamanieb
Khor, and the Soudanese were seen retreating _en masse_ to the right and
left. Close at hand were the wells, and the troops, instead of pursuing,
were halted for a quarter of an hour to water the horses, which were
suffering greatly from thirst. The soldiers, too, drank copiously after
their march. When the cavalry formed up and moved along the wells to the
village the enemy had disappeared. There was no resistance, and Graham
ordered the burning of the village. This was immediately carried out,
and the huts, some 300 in number, were soon in a blaze.

There were no casualties on the side of the British, nor do any of the
accounts refer to any loss on the part of the enemy, who, according to
one report, did not number over 100 altogether.

After this achievement the troops started on the return march to

The whole of the force reached Souakim on the 28th, and with the
exception of a battalion left to garrison that place was at once broken
up, the troops from Egypt returning to Cairo, and the remainder
proceeding to England. No trustworthy information was obtained as to the
position or force of Osman Digna, though the village of Tamanieb showed
signs of a recent occupation by his army. Under these circumstances, to
attempt to pursue Osman further into the interior was considered to be
impracticable. The troops, too, were again suffering from the heat, and
it was deemed best to close the campaign for the season.

The rapidity of Graham's campaign was one of its most striking features.
The orders for the expedition were received in Cairo on the 12th
February. By the 1st of March a force of over 4,000 men had been
assembled at Trinkitat, had fought the battle of El-Teb, and had brought
away the fugitives from Tokar. Starting from Souakim on the 11th March,
the expedition had by the 28th fought the battle of Tamaai, occupied the
enemy's position at Tamanieb, and terminated the campaign.

Besides serving to develop the admirable qualities of the British
soldier under trying conditions, the campaign cannot be said to have
achieved any permanent result, it having only shattered and not
annihilated, Osman Digna.

The ill effects of the withdrawal of Graham's force upon the rebellious
tribes cannot well be exaggerated. Notwithstanding their repeated
defeats they easily persuaded themselves that they had driven the
English out of the country, and the policy of "Rescue and retire"
pursued by the British Government was the means of laying up a store of
future trouble for Souakim and the neighbourhood.

Although there was no further opportunity of fighting Osman Digna at
this period, the question naturally arises, whether at all events part
of Graham's force might not have been usefully employed in assisting
Gordon in withdrawing the Egyptian garrisons.

One pretext for the battles of El-Teb and Tamaai was the necessity for
opening the road to Berber. On March 25th Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice
said:--"One thing was perfectly certain, that it was of the very
greatest importance, with a view to keeping open communications with
Khartoum, that the road between Souakim and Berber should itself be
open." As the road between Souakim and Berber was the short cut out of
the Soudan, the importance of keeping it open could hardly have been
ignored by a Government concerned in the task of extricating from the
Soudan an army of 29,000 men with all the civil employés and their wives
and families. Gordon could hold Khartoum, but by no possible miracle
could he keep open the road hundreds of miles in his rear by which he
had to send the troops and refugees down to Egypt. Hence, he suggested
to the Government that if they wished to intervene, they should open up
the Souakim-Berber route by Indian Moslem troops.

After the victory at Tamaai Graham could have sent a few squadrons of
cavalry through to Berber with ease, and he was anxious to do so. Two
squadrons would, in the opinion of all the authorities in the Soudan,
have sufficed to open the road and to save Berber, which was the key of
the Soudan, and without the retention of which evacuation was hopeless.
General Stephenson and Sir Evelyn Wood both agreed that the move was
possible, although Stephenson disliked it, owing to the scarcity of
water on the road.

On February 29th Gordon had telegraphed:--

    "There is not much chance of the situation improving, and every
    chance of it getting worse; for we have nothing to rely on to
    make it better. You must, therefore, decide whether you will or
    will not make an attempt to save the two-thirds of the
    population who are well affected before these two-thirds
    retreat. Should you wish to intervene, send 200 British troops
    to Wady Halfa, and adjutants to inspect Dongola, and then open
    up Souakim-Berber road by Indian Moslem troops. This will cause
    an immediate collapse of the revolt."

On March 2nd he telegraphed:--

    "I have no option about staying at Khartoum; it has passed out
    of my hands, and as to sending a larger force than 200, I do not
    think it necessary to Wady Halfa. It is not the number, but the
    prestige which I need. I am sure the revolt will collapse if I
    can say that I have British troops at my back."

On the 5th Sir Evelyn Baring wrote to Lord Granville:--

    "General Gordon has on several occasions pressed for 200 British
    troops to be sent to Wady Halfa. I agree with the military
    authorities in thinking that it would not be desirable to comply
    with this request."

On March 11th Lord Granville replied to Gordon's urgent entreaties that
"Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to send troops to Berber."

Sir Evelyn Baring, who had opposed the despatch of troops to Wady Halfa
and to Berber, on March 16th recognized the necessity for action. On
that day he telegraphed home:--

    "It has now become of the utmost importance not only to open the
    road between Souakim and Berber, but to come to terms with the
    tribes between Berber and Khartoum."

But Lord Granville still felt unable to authorize an advance of British

On March 24th Sir E. Baring telegraphed:--

    "Under present circumstances, I think that an effort should be
    made to help General Gordon from Souakim, if it is at all a
    possible military operation. General Stephenson and Sir Evelyn
    Wood, whilst admitting the very great risk to the health of the
    troops, besides the extraordinary military risks, are of opinion
    that the undertaking is possible."

"We are daily expecting British troops. We cannot bring ourselves to
believe that we are to be abandoned by the Government. Our existence
depends on England," is what Mr. Power, British Consular Agent,
telegraphed from Khartoum on March 23rd.

It was in vain; notwithstanding every appeal the British Government
determined to refuse, until too late, the assistance asked for.



Gordon's situation at Khartoum in the meantime may be learned from what

On the 27th February, 1884, he issued a Proclamation to the inhabitants
of the Soudan, stating that he would be compelled to use severe measures
against those who did not desist from rebellion, and also that "British
troops are now on their way, and in a few days will reach Khartoum."

In a despatch, on the same day, to Sir E. Baring, Gordon said:--

    "You must remember that when evacuation is carried out the Mahdi
    will come down here, and by agents will not let Egypt be quiet.
    Of course my duty is evacuation, and to do the best I can for
    establishing a quiet government. The first I hope to accomplish.
    The second is a more difficult task, and with care and time can
    be accomplished. Remember that once Khartoum belongs to the
    Mahdi, the task will be more difficult.

    "If you decide on smashing Mahdi, then send up another,
    £100,000, and send up 200 infantry troops to Wady Halfa, and an
    officer to Dongola under pretence to look out quarters for
    troops. Leave Souakim and Massowah alone. I repeat that
    evacuation is possible, but you will feel the effect in Egypt
    and be forced to enter into a far more serious affair to guard

While Gordon was sending almost daily expressions of his view as to the
only way of carrying out the policy of eventual evacuation, it was
becoming clear to him that he would very soon be cut off from the rest
of Egypt. His first remark on this subject was to express "the
conviction that I shall be caught in Khartoum;" and he wrote:--"Even if
I was mean enough to escape, I have no power to do so." The accuracy of
this forecast was speedily demonstrated. Within a few days
communications with Khartoum were interrupted, and although subsequently
restored for a time, the rising of the riparian tribes rendered the
receipt and despatch of messages exceedingly uncertain. On the 8th of
April, however, Gordon succeeded in getting the following message
through to Sir Evelyn Baring:--

    "I have telegraphed to Sir Samuel Baker to make an appeal to
    British and American millionaires to give me, £300,000 to engage
    Turkish troops from the Sultan and send them here. This will
    settle the Soudan and the Mahdi for ever. For my part I think
    you will agree with me. I do not see the fun of being caught
    here to walk about the streets for years as a dervish with
    sandalled feet; not that I will ever be taken alive."

Eight days later he wrote as follows:--

    "As far as I can understand, the situation is this--You state
    your intention of not sending any relief up here or to Berber. I
    consider myself free to act according to circumstances. I shall
    hold out here as long as I can, and if I can suppress the
    rebellion I shall do so. If I cannot I shall retire to the

The complete investment or siege of Khartoum may be considered as having
commenced about this time.

When Gordon first began to perceive that he would get no material help
from his Government, he made several propositions which would, if
adopted, have relieved them from further responsibility. As indicated in
the foregoing telegrams, one was to make an appeal to international
philanthropy, and by employing Turkish troops to smash the Mahdi.
Another was that he should steam up the Nile, and taking Bahr Gazelle
and the Equatorial Province in the name of the King of the Belgians,
join hands with Stanley, or whoever else might represent the King, on
the Congo.

While communications were still maintained, Gordon sent his account of
his first action with the rebels, which showed not only the kind of
enemy he had to deal with, but also the sort of men on whom he had to
depend for the defence of Khartoum. On the 17th of March he described in
the following words an action on the previous day:--

    "At eight a.m. on the 16th two steamers started for Halfiyeh.
    Bashi-Bazouks and some regulars advanced across plain towards
    rebels. At ten a.m. the regulars were in square opposite centre
    of rebels' position, and Bashi-Bazouks were extended in their
    line to their right. A gun with the regulars then opened fire.
    Very soon after this a body of about sixty rebel horsemen
    charged down a little to the right of centre of the
    Bashi-Bazouks' line. The latter fired a volley, then turned and
    fled. The horsemen galloped towards the square, which they
    immediately broke. The whole force then retreated slowly towards
    the fort with their rifles shouldered. The horsemen continued to
    ride along the flanks cutting off stragglers. The men made no
    effort to stand, and the gun was abandoned, with sixty-three
    rounds and fifteen cases of reserve ammunition. The rebels
    advanced, and retreat of our men was so rapid that the Arabs on
    foot had no chance of attacking. Pursuit ceased about a mile
    from stockade, and the men rallied. We brought in the wounded.
    Nothing could be more dismal than seeing these horsemen, and
    some men even on camels, pursuing close to troops, who, with
    arms shouldered, plodded their way back."

In fact, this fight was a massacre, as the Egyptian soldiers did not
attempt the least resistance. Colonel Stewart, who commanded in person,
was wounded. The two Pashas under him were subsequently convicted of
treachery and shot.

On the 25th of June the garrison heard of the fall of Berber. The news
was brought by the English Consul, Mr. Cuzzi, who was sent in by the
rebels to inform Gordon that the one connecting link between him and the
outer world had fallen into the hands of the Mahdi.

Long before the summer of 1884, it was evident that the position of
Gordon at Khartoum had become so critical that, if he were to be rescued
at all, it could only be by the despatch of a British force. As far back
as April 23rd, Earl Granville telegraphed to Mr. Egerton at Cairo,
instructing him to forward a cypher message to Gordon asking what would
"be the force necessary to secure his _removal_, its amount, character,
the route for access to Khartoum, and time of operation."

Early in May, war preparations were commenced in England, and on the
10th of the month the military authorities in Cairo received
instructions to prepare for the despatch in October of an expedition for
the relief of the Soudanese capital. Twelve thousand camels were ordered
to be purchased and held in readiness for a forward march in the autumn.

On the 16th May a half-battalion of English troops was moved up the Nile
to Wady Halfa. A few weeks later some other positions on the Nile were
occupied by portions of the Army of Occupation. Naval officers were also
sent up the river to examine and report upon the cataracts and other
impediments to navigation. Still it was not till the 5th August that Mr.
Gladstone rose in the House of Commons to move a vote of credit of
£300,000 to enable the Government to undertake operations for the relief
of Gordon, "in case it might be necessary."

The Government policy on the subject of Gordon had been repeatedly
attacked in Parliament. On July the 8th Lord Hartington formally
declared to the House of Commons that it was not the intention of the
Government to despatch an expedition for the relief of Gordon, unless it
was clearly shown that such was the only means by which Gordon and those
dependent on him could be relieved. "We have received," added the
Secretary of State for War, "no information making it desirable that we
should depart from that decision." Urged on, however, by the public
press, and plied day after day with questions in the House of Commons,
the Government at last brought forward the vote of credit. The money was
granted, and the War Office then began to take action.

Lord Wolseley had as early as April 8th pressed the Government on the
subject, and on the 24th July he wrote that he thought no time should be
lost in pushing up a small brigade of 3,000 or 4,000 British troops to
Dongola. He believed that such a force would most probably settle the
whole business, adding, "But you must know that time presses. I believe
that such a force could be sent from England and reach Dongola about
October 15th if the Government is in earnest, and acts at once. Remember
we cannot command things, and all the gold in England will not affect
the rise and fall of the Nile, or the duration of the hot and cold
seasons in Egypt.

"Time is a most important element in this question, and indeed it will
be an indelible disgrace if we allow the most generous, patriotic, and
gallant of our public servants to die of want, or fall into the hands of
a cruel enemy, because we would not hold out our hands to save him.
Dongola can be reached without fighting, and our presence there in force
might secure for us all the objects we wish to obtain."

On the 20th July Gordon sent a message asking where the reinforcements
were, and what was their number. On the 30th he announced, "Retreat is
impossible. I recommend as a route for troops Wady Halfa, but fear it is
too late." On the 31st he expressed himself to Sir Evelyn Baring as
follows:--"You ask me to state cause and intention of staying at
Khartoum. I stay at Khartoum because Arabs have shut us up and will not
let us out."

The views of the British Government as to the rescue of Gordon were
communicated by the Marquis of Hartington to General Stephenson,
commanding the Army of Occupation, on the 8th August. The Government,
the former wrote, were not convinced that it would be impossible for
Gordon to secure the withdrawal from Khartoum, either by the employment
of force or by pacific means, of the Egyptian garrisons, and of such of
the inhabitants as might desire to leave. Nevertheless, he added, "Her
Majesty's Government were of opinion that the time had arrived when some
further measures for obtaining accurate information as to his position,
and, if necessary, for rendering him assistance, should be adopted."

As to what "further measures" were to be adopted considerable difference
of opinion existed amongst the advisers of the Government. It was agreed
that there were but two routes by which Khartoum could be approached by
an expedition, one by way of the Nile, and the other _viâ_ Souakim and
Berber, but which of the two presented the least difficulty was a point
upon which the highest authorities differed.

The first involved sending the force a distance of 1,650 miles from its
base at Cairo, by a river in which were innumerable obstacles in the
shape of cataracts, rocks, and shoals. The expedition would have to
proceed against the stream, thus making progress slow, and in boats,
every one of which would have to be specially constructed for the

The second necessitated a march from Souakim to Berber of some 280 miles
over a country furnished only with a few wells, the supply from which
might have to be supplemented by water to be carried by the expedition,
in addition to a journey of 200 miles from Berber to Khartoum.

In the last case there was an almost absolute certainty that the march
would have to be made in the face of an opposing force.

General Stephenson, who may be considered as the highest authority on
the subject, was in Cairo, and therefore in a certain sense on the spot.
He had, moreover, the advantage of conferring with Commander Hammill of
the _Monarch_ and other officers, who had for weeks previously been
engaged on the Nile in examining into the facilities for getting
steamers and boats past the cataracts, and other obstacles in the way of
river navigation. His opinion was strongly adverse to the Nile route,
and in favour of that by Souakim and Berber.

Lord Wolseley, however, basing his calculations on the success of the
Red River Expedition, had formed an opposite opinion to that of General
Stephenson, and Lord Wolseley being all-powerful at the War Office, his
views were adopted by the Government.

On the 15th of August Lord Hartington further explained his views of the
measures to be adopted, insisting that the movement must be made by the
Nile Valley, instead of by the Souakim-Berber route, with the sole and
exclusive object of relieving Gordon, adding, "This renders it essential
that, in framing any plans for the movement of troops south of Wady
Halfa, the possibility of being obliged to advance as far as Khartoum
itself should be included in and form a necessary part of such plans."
His Lordship at the same time declared it to be essentially necessary to
provide for the return of the troops before the end of the winter

Lord Hartington telegraphed to Stephenson to report fully as to what he
proposed, and to state the number of the force and of camels which would
be required. On the 21st General Stephenson telegraphed to Lord
Hartington, with the information asked for, adding, "My own opinion
still is in favour of the Souakim-Berber route:--

    "Should this be adopted, Egyptian troops should be sent to New
    Dongola, consisting of two battalions, one regiment of cavalry,
    one battery of artillery; one English battalion retained at Wady
    Halfa; half battalion Egyptian, Korosko; and one English and one
    and a half battalions Egyptian at Assouan, leaving about 2,000
    Egyptians with Marines available for garrisoning Souakim and
    line of communication to Berber."

But Lord Hartington was evidently too much impressed by the arguments of
Lord Wolseley to be inclined for further discussion. On the 22nd August
he wrote:--

    "I gather from the telegraphic correspondence which I have had
    with you since my despatch of the 15th instant that, in acting
    on the instructions communicated to you in my despatch of the
    8th instant, you have to this date based your preparations on a
    scheme of operations which is substantially that sketched out in
    the report of Commander Hammill, dated 4th August. I also learn
    from your telegram of the 21st instant that, while it is in your
    opinion possible by the means indicated in that report to send
    the small force described in my despatch of the 8th to New
    Dongola, it would not be practicable by those means to push
    forward such a force as would in your opinion be required to
    reach Khartoum, and to bring it back within the next winter.
    Influenced by this consideration, you state that your opinion is
    still, if such an operation should be undertaken, in favour of
    the Souakim-Berber route. For the reasons stated in my despatch
    of the 8th, I am not now prepared to authorize a movement on
    that line."

Then came the intimation that Wolseley was to command the expedition.

        "To Lieut.-General Stephenson.
            "_War Office_, _August 26, 1884_, Midnight.

    "After anxious consideration, Her Majesty's Government have
    come to the conclusion that it is unjust to you to ask you to
    be responsible for directing an operation which, after full
    knowledge of the plan, you consider to be impracticable. They
    have, therefore, decided to send Lord Wolseley to take
    temporarily the chief command in Egypt. Government highly
    appreciate the manner in which you have carried out the
    important and difficult duties of your command, and earnestly
    hope that you may feel yourself able to remain in Egypt while
    Lord Wolseley is there, and assist him with your advice."

In making the choice of routes, the one vital question of time seems to
have been insufficiently considered. Gordon was known to be hard
pressed, and the object should have been for the expedition for his
rescue to arrive at its destination with as little delay as possible.
From Souakim to Berber occupied Hicks Pasha less than three weeks, and
from Berber to Khartoum five or six days more; of course, it is not
pretended that a force so large as Wolseley had under his orders could
march nearly as rapidly as Hicks' small detachment. But it may be
argued that assuming that the route by Souakim was _possible_, and of
this there seems no doubt, the relief expedition, even if it had to
fight its way step by step, must eventually have arrived in much less
time than the many months occupied by Wolseley on the river route.



The Nile route having been decided on, preparations on a large scale
were begun.

The first thing was to obtain boats for the transport up the Nile; and
for these, contracts were at once entered into with various firms in
England. Eight hundred in all were ordered. From their shape they were
called whalers, and they were to be each thirty feet in length, with six
feet six inches beam, and a draught of two feet six inches. Each was to
weigh nine hundredweight, and was to be fitted with twelve oars and two
masts with lug sails. Every boat was to be fitted to carry a dozen men,
viz., two boatmen and ten soldiers, besides provisions and ammunition.
The price of each boat was £75.

Eight steam pinnaces were equipped for the expedition, as well as two
stern-wheel paddle-boats.

At the same time a contract was entered into with Messrs. Thos Cook and
Son, the well-known tourist agents, for the transport of the entire
force as far as Sarras, just above the Second or Great Cataract.

To assist in the Nile navigation 380 boatmen, called "_Voyageurs_" were
engaged; 290 of them were French or English-speaking Canadians, with a
few half-breeds, all from the St. Maurice or Ottawa districts, and about
fifty were Iroquois Indians from Caughnawanga. The remainder were
Salteaux from Manitoba.[102] In addition to the Canadians 300 Kroomen
were obtained from the West Coast of Africa to carry stores round the

All the Nile steamers in serviceable condition belonging to the Egyptian
Government, including those under contract to Messrs. Cook and Son,
were requisitioned for the transport of the whalers and men of the

It next became requisite to fix the numbers of the force to be placed
under Wolseley's command. In doing this allowance had to be made for the
many posts which it would be necessary to establish in order to keep up
the line of communication.

It was at first arranged that not more than 5,000 men should form the
expedition, but later on the number was raised to 7,000. Two regiments
were ordered from India, three battalions from Gibraltar, Malta, and
Cyprus, one battalion from Barbadoes, and several companies of the Royal
Engineers and some batteries of the Royal Artillery, with drafts of the
Commissariat Transport and Army Hospital Corps, from England.

These, with the troops already in Egypt, and a contingent of seamen and
Marines, made up a total force of 14,000 men, from which Lord Wolseley
was to select the 7,000 required for the expedition. Colonels Sir
Charles Wilson, Brackenbury, Harrison, Henderson, and Maurice, and Lord
Anson, were appointed to the force for special service. General Sir
Redvers Buller was named Chief of the Staff, and General Earle was told
off to command a brigade.

The instructions given to Lord Wolseley stated that the primary object
of the expedition was to bring away Gordon from Khartoum; and when that
purpose should be effected, no further offensive operations of any kind
were to be undertaken. The Government even questioned the necessity of
advancing as far as Khartoum, and expressed a desire that the sphere of
military operations should be limited as much as possible.

Throughout the month of August the arsenals in Great Britain were in
full activity, and every effort was made to get the expedition forward
in time to take advantage of the high Nile. During the latter part of
the month, and during September, troops and stores were arriving almost
daily in Alexandria and were being forwarded at once to the front.

One may judge of the measures taken from the fact that on the 1st
September, within sixteen days after the order for the Nile boats had
been given, many of them were already shipped, and a fortnight later
400, or half the total number, had been sent off.

The whalers on arriving in Egypt were at once forwarded by rail and
river to Assiout. Thence they were towed by steamer to Assouan, over 300
miles further, and just below the First Cataract. Here most of them were
placed upon trucks for conveyance by a railway eight miles long to
Shellal, on the south side of the cataract. Some few were hauled through
the rapids and past the Isle of Philæ. Once through the cataract all was
fair sailing as far as Wady Halfa, 200 miles further, where the Second
Cataract forms another obstacle to Nile navigation.

Lord Wolseley arrived at Alexandria in company with Lord Northbrook on
the 9th September, and left the same day for Cairo.

Meanwhile the Nile, from Assiout to the Second Cataract, presented a
scene of unwonted bustle and activity. Posts were established at
Assiout, Assouan, Wady Halfa, and other places for the purpose of
forwarding supplies. Coaling stations were provided for the steamers,
and almost interminable processions of steamers, barges, whalers, and
native craft passed up daily with men, horses, and stores.

Prior to Lord Wolseley's departure from England, Sir Evelyn Wood and
Commander Hammill had started up the Nile to superintend the operations.
The 1st Battalion of the Royal Sussex was conveyed from Assouan to Wady
Halfa by the _Benisouef_ steamer, and then hurried on to Dongola with
three months' rations for a thousand men on board some of the boats
which the Mudir had in the meanwhile despatched to Sarras. The Royal
Sussex was replaced at Wady Halfa by the Staffordshire Regiment, and
then the Mounted Infantry came up by water to Sarras and proceeded to
Dongola. Throughout the earlier part of September troops were constantly
advancing, Lord Wolseley having expressed the desire that they should be
pushed on to Dongola without waiting for his arrival. The men were
conveyed by train to Assiout, and thence by steamer to Assouan.

A large number of the whalers had already arrived at Wady Halfa, when,
on September 27th, Lord Wolseley, who had completed his plan of
operations, left Cairo with his staff for Upper Egypt. Journeying along
the Nile in the yacht _Ferouz_, he made frequent halts on the way,
inspecting the military arrangements and visiting various points of
interest. Arriving at Assouan on October 1st, he inspected the Egyptian
and British troops encamped there, and, after visiting the Temple of
Philæ, again embarked with Sir Redvers Buller and his staff.

Even before Wolseley had left Cairo Generals Earle and Sir Herbert
Stewart had already reached Wady Halfa. The latter at once set out for
Dongola, and arrived at his destination on September 30th, at the same
time as two hundred and fifty men of the Mounted Infantry, who made the
journey up the Nile from Sarras in "nuggars," or native boats.

On the 5th October Wolseley reached Wady Halfa. This had become
temporarily the base of the British operations as well as the permanent
chief depôt of commissariat and ordnance stores for the expedition. The
railway at Wady Halfa, running for a distance of thirty three miles
along the east bank of the Nile, was utilized for forwarding stores, &c,
to Sarras. Some of the whalers were landed at Bab-el-Kebir ("The Great
Gate") and carried overland above the Second Cataract, whilst others
were hauled through it. A good number of the whalers had already passed
prior to the arrival of Wolseley at Wady Halfa. The first boat, indeed,
was hauled up the rapids on September 25th without any other appliances
than its own gear and some towing ropes, the operation occupying but a
quarter of an hour. The second boat was then hauled up by means of
Commander Hammill's cleverly-arranged tackle, and the operation was
carried out even more rapidly and safely.

At Wady Halfa, Wolseley got news respecting Colonel Stewart, which he
telegraphed as follows:--

            _"Wady Halfa, October 5, 1884._

    "Stewart bombarded Berber, and, taking one steamer and some of
    the boats, with forty soldiers, proceeded down the river. Other
    steamers continued bombardment of Berber, and then returned
    towards Khartoum. Stewart's steamer struck on a rock at
    El-Kamar, one day's journey above Merawi. They arranged for
    camels to continue journey with Suleiman Wad Gamr, who went on
    board to undertake to supply camels and guide them, and
    received a sword and dress; when they went ashore to start,
    they were set upon and killed. Suleiman afterwards took the
    steamer, and killed all but four on board. Express sent out to
    find out who those four are."

The statements made by different natives, who subsequently reached
Dongola with reports of the murder, varied considerably as to date,
time, and place, but as the informants one and all spoke from hearsay,
this was not surprising. It was ultimately ascertained that the rumours
were perfectly true, and that Stewart, after accomplishing two-thirds of
his journey from Khartoum to Dongola, had been murdered, together with
Mr. Power, the British Consul at Khartoum and correspondent of the
"Times"; M. Herbin, the French Consul at Khartoum, and a number of
Greeks and Egyptians.

From Gordon's despatches and Sir Charles Wilson's subsequent report, it
appears that the expedition, consisting of three steamers, left Khartoum
on the night of September 10th, and proceeded to Shendy. The steamers
then went on to Berber, and, after shelling the forts, two of them
returned southward under the command of Gordon's man, Khasm-el-Mus,
while Stewart and his companions tried to reach Dongola with the steamer
_Abbas_, which carried one gun, and had in tow two boats full of men and
women. All went well with the party until they approached Abu Hamid,
when the rebels swarming along the shore opened so severe a fire that
those on board the steamer had to cast the boats adrift. The boats fell
into the hands of the rebels below Abu Hamid, and the Greeks and
Egyptians they contained were taken in captivity to Berber. The _Abbas_,
however, with forty-four men on board, pursued its course through the
country inhabited by the Monassir tribe.

On the 18th September, while the steamer was approaching the village of
Hebbeh, it ran upon a hidden rock, got caught when partly over, and was
badly injured towards the stern. What afterwards occurred was
subsequently related by an Egyptian stoker, named Hussein Ismail, who,
taken prisoner at the time, ultimately escaped from the rebels and
joined General Earle's column.

He said as follows:--

    "We were passing at the time through Sheikh Wad Gamr's country,
    and had seen the people running away into the hills on both
    sides of the river. When it was found that the steamer could not
    be got off the rock, the small boat (a dingey with which the
    launch was provided) was filled with useful things, and sent to
    a little island near us. Four trips were made. Then Colonel
    Stewart drove a nail into the steamer's gun, filed off the
    projecting head, and threw both gun and ammunition overboard.
    The people now came down to the right bank in great numbers,
    shouting, 'Give us peace and grain.' We answered, 'Peace.'
    Suleiman Wad Gamr himself was in a small house near the bank,
    and he came out and called to Colonel Stewart to land without
    fear, but he added that the soldiers must be unarmed or the
    people would be afraid of them. Colonel Stewart, after talking
    it over with the others, then crossed in the boat, with the two
    European Consuls (Mr. Power and M. Herbin), and Hassan Effendi,
    and entered a house belonging to a blind man named Fakri Wad
    Etman, to arrange with Suleiman for the purchase of camels to
    take us all down to Dongola. None of the four had any arms, with
    the exception of Colonel Stewart, who carried a small revolver
    in his pocket. While they were in the house the rest of us began
    to land. Shortly afterwards we saw Suleiman come out of the
    house with a copper water-pot in his hand and make signs to the
    people who were gathered near the place. They immediately
    divided into two parties, one entering the house and the other
    rushing towards us on the banks, shouting and waving their
    spears. I was with the party which had landed when they charged
    down. We all threw ourselves into the river, whereupon the
    natives fired, and killed some of those in the water; several
    others were drowned, and the rest were speared as they
    approached the shore. I swam to the island, and hid there till
    dark, when I was made prisoner with some others, and sent to
    Berti. I heard that Colonel Stewart and the two Europeans were
    killed at once, but Hassan Effendi held the blind man before
    him, so that they could not spear him. They accordingly spared
    his life, and he afterwards escaped to Berber. Two artillerymen,
    two sailors, and three natives, are, I believe, still alive at
    Berber, where they were sent by Suleiman. All the money found on
    board and in the pockets of the dead was divided among the
    murderers, and everything else of value was placed in two boxes
    and sent under a guard to Berber. The bodies of Colonel Stewart
    and the others were thrown at once into the river."

Hussein Ismail, the stoker, did not actually witness the death of
Stewart, but heard of it from natives, who acknowledged that he fought
desperately for his life, killing one of his assailants and wounding a
second one with his revolver.

According to Gordon's Diaries, Stewart, Herbin, and Power left Khartoum
of their own free will. The situation at the time was felt to be
desperate. Herbin asked to go. Stewart said he would go if Gordon would
exonerate him from deserting. Gordon, in reply, said that by remaining
and being made prisoner Stewart could do no good, whereas by going down
and telegraphing Gordon's views, Stewart would be doing him a service.
The Greeks, nineteen in number, were sent as a body-guard, as Gordon
subsequently stated. Stewart took with him the journal of events at
Khartoum, from 1st March to 9th September, with the Foreign Office
cypher, all the documents relating to Gordon's mission, and £60 in
gold.[103] As to Gordon's reason for not accompanying the party, he
stated in his Diary that "he couldn't if he would, as the people were
not such fools as to let him, and that he wouldn't if he could, desert
them." He added that it was generally believed that the passage of the
_Abbas_ down was an absolute certainty without danger.

Forty more whalers reached Wady Halfa in tow of the steamer _Ferouz_ on
the 16th October, and ten days later the Canadians also arrived.
Wolseley now gave orders for the troops to hurry forward with all
possible despatch. There was as yet but a mere advance guard at Dongola,
including the Mounted Infantry, the first battalion of the Royal Sussex,
some squadrons of the 19th Hussars and the Camel Corps; the main body of
the expeditionary force being still at Wady Halfa, or even lower down
the Nile. However, on November 2nd, the general advance practically
commenced by the South Staffordshire Regiment embarking for Dongola.

The start of the South Staffordshire was followed by that of the
Cornwall Regiment, some detachments of the Essex Regiment, the Royal
Engineers, the West Kent, the Royal Irish, the Gordon Highlanders, and
such portions of the Camel Corps, Artillery, and Transport Service as
had not yet moved forward. While the mounted detachments proceeded by
road along the western bank of the Nile, the foot-soldiers rowed up the
river in the whale-boats.

From Wady Halfa to Dal, a distance of 123 miles, the course of the Nile
comprises a series of dangerous rapids and intricate passages, the
cataracts of Samneh, Attireh, Ambigol, Tangour, Akasha, and Dal
following each other in swift succession. The two first are not so
difficult, but the rapids of Ambigol, which extend some four or five
miles, are impassable at low Nile, and a severe trial even when the
water is high. A short distance further, the Tangour Cataract bars the
way, and it is as difficult of passage as that of Ambigol.

A quantity of dynamite had been sent out from England for blasting the
rocks at this and other points, but when it reached Wady Halfa any such
proceeding was impracticable, as the river was then too high. The
dynamite being useless, the boats had either to be carried beyond the
cataracts or to ascend them, navigated by the Canadians or hauled along
by natives specially engaged for the purpose. The difficulties of
navigation between Wady Halfa and Samneh were illustrated by the
experience of the Royal Engineers.

The detachment of Engineers under Major Dorward, numbering fifty-seven,
left Sarras in five boats at ten a.m., and by two o'clock next day had
just succeeded in making the passage of the nearest cataract. For the
greater portion of the distance, seven miles in all, the work was of a
most difficult and exhausting description, the current being in some
places exceedingly strong, and the banks rough and most unsuitable for
towing. The boats proved to be not nearly strong enough for the work for
which they were intended. The rudders, too, were found to be too small
to be of use, and the Canadians found fault with the boats having been
provided with keels, which were not only useless but in the way. The
difficulties of the ascent were increased by the falling of the Nile,
which, instead of running quietly and smoothly as before, now rushed in
broken water over the shallows, and increased the number of rapids
indefinitely. Two new and formidable rapids made their appearance in two
days between Sarras and Samneh. The passage of the rapids was aided by
natives sent down from Dongola; without their help the soldiers could
never have hauled the boats up; the cargoes had to be taken out at the
foot of the cataracts and carried overland to the upper end; it was not
till noon on the 5th of November that Major Dorward arrived at Ambukol,
the voyage occupying over a month. Three of the boats which had been
injured in the ascent were repaired with tin and lead plates and made
ready to continue the journey. The work of navigation was described as
most severe, beginning at daylight, and only ending when it became too
dark for the men to see what they were doing; the crews were frequently
breast-deep in water.

To provide for the wants and the relief of the men on the way, a series
of stations had been established at Ambigol, Akasheh, Tangour,
Zarkamatto (or Dal), Absarat, Kaibar, and Abu Fatmeh, there being on an
average one for every thirty-three miles of the river's course between
Sarras and Dongola. Each station was commanded by an officer, with a
detachment of Egyptian soldiers under him and a commissariat depôt.

The hauling of the steamers sent up the river for the conveyance of
stores or for towing purposes proved extremely difficult. It was
necessary to sling them in cables passed under their keels, and secure
them with steel hawsers round their hulls, and even then accidents
frequently befell them. Some thousands of men were employed in hauling
the vessels through the intricate and winding passages among the granite
rocks that lie in the bed of the river. The s.s. _Ghizeh_ passed
successfully through the cataract of Akabat-el-Banet beyond Sarras, but
on reaching Tangour she was wrecked and sunk, only her masts and funnel
being above water. At one moment it seemed as if the _Nassif-el-Kheir_
steamer would meet with a similar fate, and it was only by the greatest
exertions and by a wonderful display of skill that she was eventually
got past the rapids at Samneh.

About the same time the twin screw steamer _Montgomery_ reached Samneh,
having passed through the western channel, thus avoiding the full force
of the cataract. The first of the steam-pinnaces from England was
likewise launched at Sarras, being successfully hauled down an
improvised slip from the railway to the river, although the drop was a
steep one, and the engineers had no proper appliances for such work. One
of the stern-wheel steamers built by Messrs. Yarrow and Co. was brought
by barges in 700 pieces to Samneh, and riveted up and launched there.
This vessel, which was 80 feet in length, 18 feet in beam, and only 16
inches in draught, was capable of carrying from 400 to 500 men and a

As may be supposed, there was no slight trouble in forwarding the stores
which had been collected at Wady Halfa to Dongola. From Wady Halfa they
went a little way by rail, and then to Ambigol by camel; between
Ambigol and Tangour, and thence to Korti, by native boats and by

The Camel Corps, above referred to, which had been formed in accordance
with Lord Wolseley's instructions at an early stage, numbered in all
some 1,500 men, and consisted of detachments from the Household Cavalry,
and other mounted regiments, and from the Guards, each forming a
separate division--Heavy Cavalry, Light Cavalry, and Guards, with a
fourth regiment of Mounted Infantry. The detachment of Marines was
attached to the Guards.

The idea of forming such a corps was by no means novel, having been
adopted by Napoleon I., who, when in Egypt, organized a similar force,
mounted on dromedaries. This French Dromedary Corps, it is said, would
march ninety miles in a day over the desert, without provisions or
water. The practice, when in action, was for the animals to lie down,
and for the men to fire over them.

Lord Wolseley's Camel Corps met on the road from Wady Halfa to Dongola
with frequent mishaps and delays. The camels, only really at home on
their native sands, often got so entangled amongst the rocks and blocks
of granite that they could with difficulty be persuaded to advance. As
the march was made along the east bank of the Nile, it became necessary
to ferry the animals over the river at Dongola, and considerable time
was spent in this operation, as boats were not always ready at the
crossing places.

On the 28th October Wolseley and his staff left Wady Halfa by train for
Sarras, whence they proceeded by camels to Hannek, escorted by a small
detachment of Egyptian troops, and guided by Arab sheikhs. _En route_
they met the Guards' Camel Corps, under Colonel Sir William Cummings,
and pushed forward to the point where the steamer _Nassif-el-Kheir_ was
waiting to convey them to Dongola.

On the 3rd November Wolseley arrived at Dongola,[104] and was received
by Sir Herbert Stewart and the Mudir, or Governor. The native troops
lined the avenue from the river bank to the Mudirieh, and a detachment
from the Sussex Regiment formed a guard of honour.

A firman from the Khedive to the Mudirs, the notables, and the people
was read, ordering them to obey Lord Wolseley, "who had been sent to the
Soudan to carry out such military operations as he might consider

His Lordship conferred on the Mudir the Order of the Second Class of St.
Michael and St. George. It is said that the Mudir subsequently underwent
a process of purification to rid himself from the contamination thus
caused. The same Mudir was afterwards found to be in direct
communication with the enemy.



Meanwhile disquieting rumours with regard to Gordon had reached Cairo,
and Sir Evelyn Baring telegraphed to Lord Wolseley on November 3rd,
asking him whether he had any reason to believe that there was any
foundation for the reports which had been current in Cairo for the last
few days, that Khartoum had been taken, and that Gordon was a prisoner.

Lord Wolseley telegraphed from Dongola the same day to the following

    "Major Kitchener telegraphs to Sir C. Wilson that he has seen a
    man named Ibrahim Wad-Beel, who recently came from the Arabs
    some distance south. He said all was quiet, and when Gordon
    received our messenger, he fired a salute, and held a parade of
    troops. A second telegram from Major Kitchener, dated November
    3, announces that Haji Abdallah had arrived, and stated that a
    man from Shendy reported that the Mahdi came with a strong force
    to Omdurman and asked General Gordon to surrender. General
    Gordon replied that he would hold Khartoum for years."

The information as to the position of Khartoum up to this date was as

On the 8th October a letter had reached Cairo from M. Herbin, the French
Consular Agent at Khartoum. It was as follows:--

            "_Khartoum, July 29, 1884._

    "We are in a strong position at Khartoum. No need for alarm,
    unless it be the want of provisions (in two months our
    provisions will be exhausted). There is abundance of
    ammunition. The least assistance would enable us to relieve the
    town. If at the moment of eating our last biscuit we were to
    attempt to retire in a body northwards, the retreat could only
    be effected at the cost of immense exertions and dangers (the
    means of transport are wanting). Besides this, the people would
    rise to a man to pillage the convoy. A few determined men might
    attempt to escape southwards to the Equator, but it would be
    necessary to abandon most of our soldiers, and all the women
    and children. Gordon Pasha has decided that he will share the
    fate of the town, and I think it my duty to share that of the
    few Frenchmen shut up here. Except for unforeseen
    circumstances, you can even now foresee what will happen."

On October 31st Sir E. Baring had received a telegram stating that an
Arab of the Kababish tribe had brought the news that the Mahdi's troops
had attacked Gordon's force at Omdurman opposite Khartoum, a few days
before, but the attack was repulsed. In a telegram dated Debbeh,
November 2nd, a correspondent gave the following additional news:--

    "Gordon attacked the rebels at Omdurman with a flotilla of
    twelve vessels, including steamers. For eight hours the
    engagement lasted. There were 25,000 rebels, and they had four
    Krupp guns. One gun burst. They retreated, leaving enormous
    numbers of dead behind them. The fugitives retired to Markeat,
    but were returning with an additional force."

On the 1st November, Sir E. Baring had received communications from
Gordon to the effect that on the date they were sent off, viz., 13th
July, Khartoum was "all right and could hold out for four months."

The next letter received from Gordon appears to have been the following.
Though dated in August, it was not received till the 23rd November.

It was as follows:--

        "_General Gordon to Sir E. Baring._
            "_Khartoum, August 5, 1884._

    "We are sending up steamers to Senaar, on Blue Nile, to open
    route. Arabs have left our vicinity in nearly all directions.
    When steamers come back we hope to recapture Berber by
    surprise, to place garrison in it, and Stewart and Power will
    descend Nile to Dongola and communicate with you. The garrison
    of Berber (to which I shall give provisions for three months)
    will be the Egyptian troops from this place; and I also shall
    make the foreign Consuls go down to Berber. I can look after
    security of Berber for two months, after which time I cannot be
    longer responsible for it, and you must relieve it from
    Dongola, or let the garrison perish and Berber be again taken
    by Arabs. You will dislike this arrangement, perhaps, but I
    have no option; and it would entail no risks to you, seeing
    that Berber will be held during your advance.

    "All well here, and troops elated at the result of their recent

Notwithstanding every effort to get the troops up the river as rapidly
as possible, so many difficulties intervened that the task occupied much
longer than had been anticipated. Early in November Wolseley telegraphed
that, owing to steamers breaking down, difficult coaling, and scarcity
of native labour, he did not expect to concentrate his force at Ambukol,
on the Nile just above Old Dongola, until the end of the year.

The necessity for pushing forward with all possible despatch was made
clear to Wolseley by a letter of much later date, received from Gordon
on the 17th November, saying that he could hold out for forty days with
ease, but that after that time it would be difficult. The following is
an extract:--

            "_Khartoum, 4th November, 1884._

    "Post came in yesterday from Debbeh, Kitchener, dated 14th
    October, cypher letter from Lord Wolseley, 20th September last,
    which I cannot decipher, for Colonel Stewart took the cypher
    with him. No other communications have been received here since
    31st, letter which arrived a week after Stewart's steamer left

    "At Metammeh, waiting your orders, are five steamers with nine
    guns. We can hold out forty days with ease; after that it will
    be difficult. Terrible about loss of steamer. I sent Stewart,
    Power, and Herbin down, telling them to give you all
    information. With Stewart was the journal of all events from
    1st March to the 10th September. The steamer carried a gun and
    had a good force on board.

    "Since 10th March we have had up to date, exclusive of
    Kitchener's 14th October, only two despatches; one, Dongola,
    with no date; one from Souakim, 5th May; one of same import,
    27th April. I have sent out a crowd of messengers in all
    directions during eight months. I should take the road from
    Ambukol to Metammeh, where my steamers wait for you. Leontides,
    Greek Consul-General, Hanswell, Austrian Consul, all right.
    Stewart, Power, and Herbin went down in the _Abbas_. Your
    expedition is for relief of garrison, which I failed to
    accomplish. I decline to agree that it is for me personally.
    You may not know what has passed here. The Arabs camped outside
    Khartoum on the 12th March; we attacked them on the 16th March,
    got defeated and lost heavily, also a gun. We then from that
    date had continual skirmishes with Arabs.

          *       *       *       *       *

    "The soldiers are only half a-month in arrears. We issue paper
    money, and also all the cloth in magazines. All the captives
    with the Mahdi are well. The nuns, to avoid an Arab marriage,
    are ostensibly married to Greeks. Slatin is with Mahdi, and has
    all his property, and is well treated; but I hear to-day he is
    in chains.

    "A mysterious Frenchman[105] is with Mahdi, who came from
    Dongola. We have got a decoration made and distributed, with a
    grenade in the centre; three classes--gold, silver, pewter.
    Kitchener says he has sent letters and got none in reply. I
    have sent out during last month at least ten. Steamer with this
    leaves to-morrow for Metammeh. Do not let any Egyptian soldiers
    come up here; take command of steamers direct, and turn out
    Egyptian fellaheen. If capture of steamer with Stewart is
    corroborated, tell French Consul-General that Mahdi has the
    cypher he gave Herbin. Hassen Effendi, telegraph clerk, was
    with Stewart. You should send a party to the place to
    investigate affairs and take the steamer."

On the 15th November, Lord Hartington telegraphed to Lord Wolseley to
know how the information in Gordon's letter affected his plans. In
reply, his Lordship, who had gone back to Wady Halfa, to hurry forward
the expedition, stated that Gordon's letter made no change in his plans,
but that it seemed to indicate the almost impossibility of Gordon's
relief without fighting, adding that he, Wolseley, had sent Gordon the
following message:--"Wady Halfa, November 17, 1884. Yours of 4th inst.
received 17th; the first I have had from you. I shall be at Kasr Dongola
in four days."

A few days later an Arab merchant who arrived at Dongola from Khartoum
_viâ_ Shendy and Ambukol, and who had come by the desert route, stated
that both water and fodder were plentiful. This news was confirmed by a
messenger who returned to Dongola from Khartoum on the 19th November.

On the 28th a messenger sent by Gordon arrived at Dongola with a letter
addressed to the Khedive, Nubar Pasha, and Baring, in cypher, and dated
as far back as the 9th September. The letter began:--

    "There is money and provisions in Khartoum for four months,
    after which we shall be embarrassed."

A telegram from Gordon to Sir E. Baring and Nubar Pasha, undated, but
received 29th November, gave the following details:--

    "Seeing now that the Nile is high, and steamers can go as far as
    Berber, I have formed an expedition of 2,000 men of the Khartoum
    garrison, which will proceed by steamers in order to rescue the
    Mudirieh of Berber from the hands of the rebels. After its
    recovery this force will remain at Berber with food for two
    months only, and if in that time the relieving army does not
    reach Berber in order to reinforce it, the Nile will have fallen
    and the islands will be dry, and the same result will ensue as
    before. Therefore it is to be hoped that the necessary troops
    will be sent to seize the Ghesireh of Berber while the Nile is
    high; and Stewart is going down in the small steamer, the
    _Abbas_, to proceed to Dongola by way of Berber, in order to
    communicate (with you) on the Soudan question."

On the 29th November a messenger who had been despatched with a letter
to Gordon, but had been taken prisoner not far from Khartoum, and had
subsequently made his escape, came into camp. He reported that the
Mahdi's troops were suffering from disease, food was very dear, the
Arabs were deserting, but the Kordofan men were faithful to him; that
Gordon sent to the Mahdi, inviting him, if he were the real Mahdi, to
dry up the Nile and cross over; that five hundred regulars recently went
over to Gordon; that the regulars still with the Mahdi were
discontented; that on the 14th he saw an attack made on Khartoum between
the Blue and White Niles; that it was repulsed, and the Mahdi, who was
looking on, was very angry because it had been made without his orders.

Aware that time was of paramount importance, Wolseley, in order to
stimulate his men to exertion, offered a prize of £100 to the battalion
which should make the quickest passage from Sarras to Debbeh, twenty
miles further up the river, a measure which was much criticized by a
portion of the British Press.[106]

Wolseley now gave orders for the formation of a small naval brigade, to
be commanded by Lord Charles Beresford, his naval aide-de-camp.[107]

On the 23rd November, some cases of smallpox having occurred at Dongola,
Sir Herbert Stewart started to select another camping-ground at Debbeh,
a little further up the river.

All the remaining troops destined to take part in the expedition reached
Wady Halfa by the end of November, with the exception of the 1st
battalion of the Cameron Highlanders, which remained at Korosko.

The advance in force from Dongola commenced on the 2nd December, from
which date the troops as they arrived were moved on beyond Debbeh to
Ambukol, where a depôt for supplies had been formed and placed in charge
of Stewart. The head-quarters were established at the latter place on
the 12th December. From Ambukol the force was moved a few miles further
up the river to Korti, a much healthier spot.

Sir Herbert Stewart, with the Mounted Infantry and Guards' Camel Corps,
reached Korti on the 15th December, after a march along the east bank of
the Nile.

Wolseley's arrival at Korti on the 16th was followed by that of the
South Staffordshire Regiment. The last companies of the South
Staffordshire, with part of the Sussex Regiment, reached the front on
the 22nd, and they were speedily followed by other detachments. The
Light Camel Corps, under Colonel M'Calmont, arrived on the 24th, after a
twenty days' march from Wady Halfa, and at the same time the Heavy Camel
Corps came up from Debbeh. General Buller, the Chief of the Staff,
reached the front soon afterwards.

Of the Nile journey Wolseley reported to Lord Hartington, "The English
boats have up to this point fulfilled all my expectations. The men are
in excellent health, fit for any trial of strength, as the result of
constant manual labour."

As a commentary on the above, it may be mentioned that nine out of
sixteen boats which brought up some of the Duke of Cornwall's Regiment
were lost, and the remainder, owing to the slightness of their build,
had to be patched with tin to prevent their sinking--over fifty boats in
all were lost. There can be no doubt as to the "constant manual labour"
mentioned by Lord Wolseley. The men arrived in a deplorable plight, many
of them without either boots or trousers. A more ragged set of soldiers
never arrived at the seat of war. According to one account there was
literally not a sound garment in the whole column, and the men resembled
Falstaff's ragged regiment rather than a body of British troops.

By Christmas Day, a great part of the expeditionary force was
concentrated at Korti.[108]

It now became necessary to decide upon the route to be adopted by the
expeditionary force in order to reach Khartoum. The one important
question to consider was that of time; already the journey up the river
had taken much longer than was expected. The season during which
military operations could be carried on was limited, and if, as had
been intended, the expedition was to return before the hot weather
there was not a day to spare. Moreover, Gordon's latest communications
showed that he was rapidly running short of provisions, and if not
speedily relieved Khartoum must fall.

As a military operation, the route by the Nile offered many advantages,
and had time permitted there is no doubt that Wolseley's whole force
would have gone that way. But the distance to be traversed requiring
months for its accomplishment, rendered it imperative to adopt some
other expedient if Gordon was to be relieved at all. Under these
circumstances, it was determined to divide the expeditionary force into
two columns, one to proceed across the desert to Metammeh, a distance of
185 miles, and thence to Khartoum, and the other to proceed by the river
up the Nile Valley.

Shortly stated, Wolseley's plans for the campaign were as follows:--

1st. By despatching a column across the desert to Metammeh to secure the
shortest passage to Khartoum, and at the same time to hold the wells at
Gakdul and Abu Klea, and to occupy Metammeh whilst communications were
maintained with Gordon.

2nd. By despatching a second column along the Nile Valley to disperse
the rebels around Hamdab, fifty-two miles distant from Korti, to punish
the Monassir tribes for the murder of Colonel Stewart, to leave Berti in
safety, to rid Abu Hamid of the enemy, and to open up the desert route
from thence to Korosko, whence stores and ammunition for an attack on
Berber would be forwarded. Thus covering a great bend of the Nile, the
column would operate on Berber, dislodge the rebels there, and join
hands with the other column on the banks of the Nile at Metammeh.

In a letter to the Secretary at War, Wolseley gives the reasons for
adopting the above plan of operations in the following words:--

    "I had always thought it possible that upon arrival here I might
    find it necessary to operate beyond this point in two
    columns--one continuing up the river in our English-built boats,
    while the other pushed rapidly across the desert to Metammeh,
    and it was with the view of securing to myself the power of
    moving across this desert that I proposed the formation of a
    Camel Brigade.

    "Any march across this desert with a small column, as an
    isolated operation, would be hazardous, and for the purpose of
    my mission a most useless undertaking. Such a column would most
    probably be able to fight its way into Khartoum; possibly it
    might fight its way out again; but it could never bring away
    General Gordon and his garrison in safety. Undertaken, however,
    under present circumstances, the march of a small force across
    this desert presents a very different aspect. The so-called
    Mahdi and his supporters are well aware that they have to deal
    not only with it, but also with the English army, which they
    know is advancing up the Nile on Khartoum by Abu Hamid and
    Berber. Upon arrival here I had to decide whether I should keep
    all my force together and follow the Nile Valley to Khartoum,
    or to divide it into two columns--one following the river,
    while the other was pushed rapidly across to Metammeh.

    "If I were not restricted by time, the first course would be by
    far the most satisfactory, the safest, and would insure the
    best results; but I know that General Gordon is pressed by want
    of food, and the hot season is not far off, when military
    operations in this country are trying to the health of European
    soldiers. I therefore decided upon the last-mentioned course."

The first, or Desert column, was placed under the command of Sir Herbert
Stewart, and consisted of men mainly belonging to different sections of
the Camel Corps; a company of the Royal Engineers, part of the 19th
Hussars, and detachments of the Commissariat and Medical Corps. The
force was to be accompanied by 2,000 camels for the purposes of
transport. Sir Charles Wilson was to proceed with Stewart, and to the
former was allotted the task of opening up communication with Gordon
when once the Nile should be struck at Metammeh.

Lord Charles Beresford and a small body of seamen were told off to
accompany the force, to take possession of any of Gordon's steamers
which might be found at Metammeh. A detachment of infantry was to
proceed to Khartoum by the steamers, and Sir Charles Wilson was
empowered on entering Khartoum to march his men through the city to show
the people that British troops were at hand, but he was directed only to
stay long enough to confer with Gordon.

The Nile column was placed under Major-General Earle, and consisted of
the Staffordshire and Duke of Cornwall's Regiments, the Black Watch, the
Gordon Highlanders, a squadron of the 19th Hussars, a battery of
Egyptian Artillery, an Egyptian Camel Corps, and the auxiliary native
troops of the Mudir of Dongola. The whole, with transport, numbered
about 3,000 men.



The march across the desert being determined upon, the first step was to
seize and hold the wells of Gakdul, some ninety-five miles distant, and
there establish a depôt for ammunition, provisions, and stores. This
being accomplished, and a garrison being left to guard the post, the
remainder of the force, with the baggage animals, were to return to
Korti and make a fresh start with further supplies. This somewhat
cumbrous arrangement was necessitated by the insufficient transport at
the General's disposal.

On the 30th December, Stewart's force, consisting of 73 officers, 1,032
non-commissioned officers and men, 2,099 camels, and forty horses,
paraded for inspection on the rising ground south of Korti, preparatory
to the march across the Bayuda Desert.

The baggage-camels were arranged in columns, with from twenty to thirty
marching abreast, and with fifty yards interval between each troop. The
Guards in front and the Mounted Infantry in the rear were in close
companies ready to dismount and form square at a moment's notice.
Wolseley inspected the whole, and in the afternoon the cavalry scouts,
under Major (afterwards Sir Herbert) Kitchener with some Arab guides,
moved off in front.

A little later the great column got in motion, striking straight off
across the undulating and pebbly plain towards the distant horizon. It
was a strange sight to see the camels, with their necks stretching out
like ostriches and their long legs, moving off in military array, until
the rising dust first blended desert, men, and camels in one uniform
grey hue, and finally hid them from the sight of those who remained in
camp. Scared gazelles rose from among the rocks and bounded away across
the desert, from time to time, as the force advanced. Broad as was the
face on which this column marched, it extended fully a mile in length.
The first halt was made at five p.m. with a view to ascertaining the
whereabouts of the Hussars, who had gone on in the morning to collect
wood and light fires at the first halting-place. After some time it was
discovered that they had taken the wrong route, and it was not till
midnight that they joined the column. The halt lasted for an hour and a
half. General Stewart then gave orders for the column to close up, and
for the camels to proceed on a broader front.


When they moved on again in the bright moonlight, the length of the
column was reduced to half-a-mile, and was not only under better control
on the line of march, but more able to resist any sudden attack.

The march continued until early in the forenoon of the 31st, when a long
halt was called, and the camels were unloaded. There was some excitement
among the men when they halted for the first bivouac, owing to the
uncertainty as to the whereabouts and disposition of the inhabitants.
Only a few huts were visible, and these were deserted. Plenty of green
fodder was obtainable, and the troops remained on the spot undisturbed
until three in the afternoon, when a fresh start was made.

The force now marched through a beautiful country. Great spreading
plains covered with mimosa and scrub succeeded one another, bounded by
black rocky mountains, through the gorges of which the troops passed
only to emerge on fresh tracts of the same character. The formation
observed almost throughout the march was columns of companies, and the
force was so distributed that in two minutes three squares could be
formed in échelon to resist any attack.

At a quarter-past five the column again halted, and then, with a bright
moon, resumed its way, passing the wells of Hambok, where only a small
supply of water was found. After leaving Hambok the route was amidst
verdant trees and long grass, forming quite a contrast to what one would
expect in a so-called desert.

Shortly after midnight a halt was made at the wells of El Howeiyah. At
8.30 on the 1st January, 1885, the march was resumed till one p.m., when
a halt was made during the heat of the day.

Thus far the column had met neither friends nor foes, but just before
this halt the capture was made of a man and his family, who were
watching their flocks. The man, who turned out to be a noted robber
chief, was thenceforth made use of as a guide.

Later in the afternoon the column marched again until dark, then,
waiting until the moon rose, resumed its way. Without any further halt
the column continued its march throughout the night. During the night
one or two prisoners were taken; one of them being an Arab from
Metammeh, who gave important information.

At four a.m. on the 2nd the force was opposite the wells of Abou Halfa,
three miles from the main track. A company of Mounted Infantry was sent
to seize the wells. This was effected, only a few natives being seen,
and these fled at the approach of the troops.

Three hours later the mouth of the gorge leading to Gakdul wells,
distant 95 miles from Korti, was reached. The column had occupied
forty-six hours and fifty minutes on the march, and been thirty-two and
three-quarter hours actually on the move. There had been no casualties
on the road, and the men, although they had remained almost without
sleep since leaving Korti, were in the best of spirits.

The wells at Gakdul proved to be three in number, situated at the north
end of a large circular plain or natural amphitheatre, surrounded by
steep rocks of yellow sandstone some 300 feet in height. The day was
occupied in watering the camels. At eight p.m. Sir Herbert Stewart, with
all the camels and the whole force except the Guards and Engineers,
started on the return journey to Korti.

The force, numbering in all about 400, which was left to guard the
wells, set to work under Major Dorward, of the Royal Engineers, to
construct three forts on the high ground, and made improvements in the
arrangements for watering and in the means of access to the wells. Major
Kitchener's Mounted Infantry captured a convoy of camels laden with
dates for the Mahdi. The appearance of natives in the neighbourhood was
reported, but otherwise the little party at the wells met with no
excitement. On the 11th a convoy of stores and ammunition, under Colonel
Clarke, arrived at the wells from Korti.

Stewart and the column which accompanied him back from Gakdul returned
to Korti on January the 5th. Lord Wolseley rode out to meet the column
and complimented the General on his achievement.

The prisoners taken stated that Metammeh was occupied in force by the
Mahdi's army. Some put the fighting men there at 2,000, others said
that there were 5,000. The enemy had thrown up an intrenchment and were
prepared to receive an attack.

In the interval between General Stewart's departure from and return to
Korti, Lord Wolseley (on the 30th December) had received from a
messenger from Khartoum a communication from Gordon, showing the
desperate condition of things there.

The messenger brought a piece of paper the size of a postage-stamp, on
which was written:--

    "Khartoum all right.

          "(Signed) C. G. GORDON.
  "_December 14th, 1884._"

It was genuine, as Gordon's writing was recognized, and his seal was on
the back of it.

Gordon told the messenger to give Lord Wolseley the following message:--

    "We are besieged on three sides, Omdurman, Halfiyeh and Khojali.
    Fighting goes on day and night. Enemy cannot take us, except by
    starving us out. Do not scatter your troops. Enemy are numerous.
    Bring plenty of troops if you can. We still hold Omdurman on the
    left bank and the fort on the right bank. The Mahdi's people
    have thrown up earthworks within rifle-shot of Omdurman. The
    Mahdi lives out of gun-shot. About four weeks ago the Mahdi's
    people attacked Omdurman and disabled one steamer. We disabled
    one of the Mahdi's guns. Three days after fighting was renewed
    on the south, and the rebels were again driven back.

    "(Secret and confidential.)--Our troops in Khartoum are
    suffering from lack of provisions. Food we still have is
    little; some grain and biscuit. We want you to come quickly.
    You should come by Metammeh or Berber. Make by these two roads.
    Do not leave Berber in your rear. Keep enemy in your front, and
    when you have taken Berber send me word from Berber. Do this
    without letting rumours of your approach spread abroad. In
    Khartoum there are no butter nor dates, and little meat. All
    food is very dear."

It is clear that the words "Khartoum all right" were simply intended to
deceive in the event of the written communication getting into the wrong
hands. This became evident later on from a letter which Gordon wrote to
a friend in Cairo at the same date as he penned the words "Khartoum all
right," but which did not arrive till the month of February. "All is
up," he said; "I expect a catastrophe in ten days' time. It would not
have been so if our people had kept me better informed as to their
intentions. My adieux to all. C. G. GORDON."

The latter part of the verbal message is significant, and seems to
imply that Gordon anticipated that if the approach of the troops were to
become known, the treachery which he had all along expected would be

It is scarcely necessary to say that only the written portion of
Gordon's communication, viz., "Khartoum all right," was disclosed to the
British public, who thus formed a very erroneous opinion as to his real

It does not appear that Wolseley's plans were changed by the receipt of
Gordon's message; there was, in fact, nothing to be done but to push on
with all possible speed.

On the 8th January Stewart, having strengthened his column, again set
out for Gakdul.

On the 10th, the force reached the Hambok wells, whence Stewart pushed
forward to Howeiyah. On arriving there it was found that the Engineers
and Mounted Infantry, left behind on the previous journey, had sunk
several holes to a depth of nine feet or so in the rough gravel soil
near a dry watercourse, and that some of these holes contained about six
inches of cold opal-coloured water with a chalybeate taste.
Unfortunately the holes in question had been practically drained a
couple of hours before by the men of the previous convoy; so that
Stewart's troops had to content themselves with only a quart per head
for the entire day.

Resuming their forward march, they reached a grassy plain to the south
of the Galif range shortly after sunset, and here they bivouacked until
the following morning. A fresh start was then made, but the heat and
excessive thirst were beginning to tell both on men and camels, thirty
of the latter dropping dead on the road. However, the column persevered
in its course, and the wells of Abu Haifa were reached at three in the
afternoon. Pannikins, canteens, water-bottles, and horse-buckets were
soon at work, the men taking their turn until their thirst was quenched.

Early on the 12th the column was astir, and at eleven o'clock it defiled
along a rocky gorge into the crater-like amphitheatre where the Gakdul
reservoirs were situated. Here was found the force left to guard the
wells when Stewart returned to Korti. It was ascertained that more wells
were to be found across the hills at a distance of a mile or two, but
the three natural receptacles at Gakdul itself were computed to contain
among them nearly half-a-million gallons of water, so that for military
purposes the supply was regarded as practically inexhaustible.

Colonel Burnaby arrived at Gakdul on the 13th with a convoy of grain.
The following day, the march towards Abu Klea was resumed, Major
Kitchener going back to Korti, and Colonel Vandeleur being left with 400
of the Sussex Regiment at Gakdul to hold that station, whilst the Guards
who had previously protected the wells joined the column. The force was
composed as follows--Three troops 19th Hussars; Naval Brigade, one
Gardner gun; half battery Royal Artillery, i.e., three (7-pounder)
screw-guns; Heavy Camel Regiment; Guards' Camel Regiment; Mounted
Infantry, Camel Regiment; Sussex Regiment; Naval Brigade Royal
Engineers; Transport and Medical Corps; in all 1,581 men with 90 horses,
2,880 camels, and 340 drivers.

Beyond Gakdul, the road led across a more barren region than that which
had been previously traversed. Only ten miles were covered on the
afternoon of the 14th.

The following day the column was again on the move at 5 a.m. When
opposite Gebel-el-Nil, a well-known mountain in the desert, a halt was
made to allow of the stragglers coming up. The march was now telling
severely on the heavily laden camels, which had been for several days on
half allowance of forage. Numbers of them fell through sheer exhaustion,
and had to be shot to put them out of their misery or to prevent their
falling into the hands of the enemy. At noon the march was resumed until
the evening, when, after going twenty-four miles since the morning, the
column halted near another mountain, Gebel Serghain.

On the 16th the column started at 5 a.m. It was then too dark to see
anything, and the force got into some confusion. This, however, was soon
rectified on daylight appearing.

Whilst halted at half-past eleven for breakfast, a report was received
from Lieutenant-Colonel Barrow, of the 19th Hussars, who had been sent
forward with his squadron to reconnoitre the neighbourhood of the Abu
Klea wells, stating that he had seen some fifty of the enemy standing in
groups on the hills about four miles north-east of Abu Klea. Shortly
after this the whole force was advanced. The ground now traversed was a
vast flat plain favourable for military evolutions, and the Guards'
Camel Regiment, the Heavy Camel Regiment, and the Mounted Infantry Camel
Regiment moved in a broad front in line of columns at half distance.
Before the column rose steep black mountains through which it had to
pass, and in the centre, at a point where the ground slopes towards the
Nile, were the wells of Abu Klea.

It soon became evident that the enemy was in force, and looking to the
hour (two p.m.) Stewart deemed it undesirable to attempt an attack that
day. The column, therefore, was ordered to bivouac when about three
miles from Abu Klea.

Abu Klea is an elevated spot in the desert, about 300 feet above the
level of the Nile, distant above forty-three miles, on the caravan
track, from Gakdul, and from Metammeh twenty-three miles.

On the troops bivouacking for the night the men were set to work cutting
down brushwood, and forming a zeriba round, the baggage and camels. A
stone breastwork with a frontage of about 150 yards was thrown up as an
additional protection some 100 yards further to the front. Pickets were
also placed on the hills to the left of the position.

From an advanced position occupied by the outposts the enemy's camp was
sighted across a pass about two miles ahead, and in front of it a long
line of flags marked the position. Meanwhile two troops of the enemy
were watching the movements of the British force from the hills on the
left front.

Towards six o'clock the enemy fired a few stray shots on the British
right flank, to which three of the screw-guns replied with a few rounds.
The enemy continued firing at intervals all night, with no results
beyond one slight casualty.



Upon the 17th inst. it was plain that the enemy were in force. During
the night they had constructed works on the right flank of the column,
from which a distant but well-aimed fire was maintained. Both on the
right and in front the manoeuvring of their troops in line, with drums
beating and banners waving, was apparent, and everything pointed to the
probability of an attack being made. Under these circumstances Sir
Herbert Stewart was in no particular hurry to advance, in the hope that
his apparent dilatoriness might induce the enemy to make the attack.

The skirmishers had been engaged from early dawn, and bullets soon began
to fall thicker and thicker around the British position; men who had
jumped up to stretch their legs were not sorry to lie down again under
cover of the little wall which surrounded the zeriba. After waiting some
time for the attack which the enemy did not seem disposed to make, the
General ordered breakfast to be served out at 9 a.m., and made his
preparations for an advance. His intentions were, briefly, to fight his
way to the wells of Abu Klea at any cost, leaving only a small garrison
to protect the baggage and camels in the zeriba; the wells once won, to
send back for the baggage, feed and water the column, and push on to
Metammeh at once. Meanwhile the fire became hotter and hotter. Stewart
seemed a favourite target for the enemy's marksmen, and brought grief to
several. The first to fall was Major Dickson, of the Royals, shot
through the knee. Colonel Burnaby's horse next received a wound, and was
led limping to the rear. Major Gough (commanding the Mounted Infantry)
was knocked senseless by a bullet on the temple, and Lieutenant Lyall,
R.A., was struck in the back by another.

The camp was now strengthened to admit of its being held by a reduced
garrison of 40 Mounted Infantry, 125 Sussex, and details; and the rest
of the force, with the exception of the Hussars and a few of the Mounted
Infantry, proceeded to form square, in which formation the advance was
to be made.

The square was formed as follows:--Left front face, two companies
Mounted Infantry; right front face, two companies Guards, with the three
guns Royal Artillery in the centre. Left face, two companies Mounted
Infantry; one company Heavy Camel Regiment. Right face, two companies
Guards, detachment Royal Sussex. Rear face, four companies Heavy Camel
Regiment, with Naval Brigade and one Gardner gun in the centre. In the
centre were some thirty camels for carrying water, ammunition, &c.

It will be noticed that each face of the square, except the rear, was
made up of a composite force, the object being, probably, to provide
against a break of corps at the angles. Thus the Guards held the right
forward angle, and the Mounted Infantry the left; the Heavy Camel
Regiment held the rear face and the left rear angle; the Sussex Regiment
filled the gap in the right rear face between the Guards and the Heavy
Camel Regiment. Thus there was a break of corps only at the right rear

It should be stated that after various experiments all idea of fighting
on the camels had been abandoned, and that in the operations of the
column at this time and subsequently the camels were simply used for
purposes of locomotion. This being so, the terms "Camel Corps" and
"Mounted Infantry," when used must in most cases be understood as
meaning dismounted troops belonging to those corps respectively.

At about 10 a.m. the force advanced, its front and flanks being covered
by skirmishers who engaged those of the enemy. A square formation is
unsuited for rapid movement, and the men went forward at a slow march to
allow of the guns and camels coming up, keeping always on open rocky
ground, so as to avoid spots where the enemy could collect unseen.

No sooner had the advance commenced, than a redoubled fire from the
enemy showed that these movements had attracted their attention. The
hills on each side were alive with their sharpshooters and spearmen,
running parallel to the square and keeping up a hot fire all the time.
The skirmishers had to do their utmost before they succeeded in
reducing the fire which at this time poured down upon Stewart's men. The
ground was rough and uneven, and intersected with ruts and
water-courses, which it was difficult to get over without disarranging
the square, so that frequent halts had to be made.

At 11 a.m. the column brought its left face opposite the left flank of
the enemy's position, and it became necessary for him to attack in order
to avoid being enfiladed.

When about 1,500 yards from a line of flags on the left front marking
the enemy's position, the guns fired four or five shells, and hundreds
of men were seen to rise up and bolt, leaving only their standards
visible. Then on a sudden came the enemy's attack. To resist it the
square was halted on the face of a hill sloping towards the enemy's
position, and a hurried attempt was made to close up the rear. When the
order to close up was given, the Naval Brigade had begun to move the
Gardner gun from its position in middle of the rear face and put it at
the left rear corner of the square. In order to do this it had to be
taken through the camels, which were crowded together between the two
positions, and in the confusion when the rear closed up the gun and the
sailors round it were left outside the formation; they were thus at
first dangerously exposed, but, happily, just before the rush the
Gardner gun was drawn back, taken through the left face, and brought
into action a few paces in front of it.

The first intimation of the impending charge was the running in at full
speed of the skirmishers. They were followed by a black mass of Arabs,
said to have been 5,000 in number, who, rising suddenly out of cover
when the troops were at a distance of 450 yards from the flags, made
straight for the square. Their shouts as they came on were described by
an eye-witness as being like the roar of the sea. Headed by mounted
emirs or sheikhs with banners in hand, they neared the left front of the
square, where they were received with such a deadly fire from the
(dismounted) Mounted Infantry that they swerved round the left flank and
made a furious onslaught on the left rear of the square, where the Heavy
Camel Regiment was stationed.

The rush was so sudden that the skirmishers had barely time to reach the
square before the enemy fell upon the Heavy Camel Corps,[109] who, to
avoid killing their own men, were for some minutes compelled to reserve
their fire. Among the first to feel the effects of the charge were the
Naval Brigade, which had, as already stated, put their gun outside of
the square. After firing eight rounds at the advancing enemy, it was
noticed that the elevation was too great. This was rectified, but after
six more rounds the gun jammed and became useless. When Lord Charles
Beresford was attempting to clear it with the assistance of his chief
boatswain's mate, the enemy came on them, spearing the latter, and
knocking Lord Charles down under the gun. His two officers, Lieutenants
Pigott and De Lisle, were speared, whilst the rest of the Naval Brigade
were driven back for a few minutes, when a rush was made, and the gun
recaptured, Lord Charles then getting back unhurt into the square.

With such impetuosity was the charge made that the Heavy Camel Corps
were borne back, and the square penetrated by the sheer weight of

Frantic shouts to the Guards to stand firm were heard. Both officers and
men still faced the enemy, although the line of the Heavies was bent
into an irregular semicircle extending into the square as far as the
kneeling camels behind. These camels formed a useful breastwork, beyond
which the assailants could not penetrate, and over and around the
animals the battle raged, both parties fighting hand to hand, bayonet
against spear.

For ten minutes a desperate struggle extended from the left rear to the
centre. It was at this period that Colonel Burnaby fell, a spear having
severed his jugular vein, but not until he had killed with his own hand
more than one of his assailants. Stewart's horse was thrown off his legs
and then speared, and his orderly was killed beside him. The General's
life was only saved by the coolness and presence of mind of Sir Charles
Wilson, who was standing next to him. A few of the enemy had crawled in
between the camels, and one man who had succeeded in doing this was
making, spear in hand, for the General. Sir Charles Wilson observed the
move, whipped out his revolver, and shot the man dead.

Many of the camels were speared by the assailants, and the interior of
the square formed a mass of falling camels and struggling combatants,
half hidden amid dust and smoke. The issue could not, however, be said
to have been a moment in doubt, for the Heavy Camel Corps were soon
supported by soldiers from the other side of the square. These were in
readiness to oppose any further advance had the line given way, though
they were obliged to withhold their fire so long as the two parties were
mingled in the strife. Later on they faced about and fired into the
square, killing no doubt both friends and foes.

It was not long before every Arab who had entered the square was killed,
the rest beaten back, and amid three hearty cheers the square re-formed
on fresh ground away from the killed and wounded.

It was now half-past three, and as the enemy moved off the guns opened
on them with grape at 500 yards range, and hastened their retreat.[110]
They withdrew in a slow, sullen way, turning round from time to time as
if anxious to come on again. Eventually the last of them disappeared
over the sand-hills.

The force opposed to Stewart was stated by the prisoners taken to
consist of ten tribes of about 800 men each. According to the report of
the Intelligence Department, their numbers were still greater, and were
made up of Ababdeh, Bisharin, and other Arabs from Berber, soldiers of
the old Egyptian army, Arabs and others from Metammeh, men of the
Mahdi's regular army (400 armed with rifles), and Arabs of various
tribes from Kordofan.

The rifles with which some of the enemy were armed were all of the
Remington pattern, and formed part of the arms captured from Hicks
Pasha's army. The rest of the enemy carried the heavy Soudan sword or a
long spear, supplemented in most cases by a shield of tough hide. The
Berber force, which had a contingent of 250 horsemen, retreated towards
Berber after the action.

Throughout the battle the enemy fought with the most reckless courage
and absolute disregard of death.

The troops on the right attack were led by Abu Saleh, Emir of Metammeh,
on the left by Mahommed Khair, Emir of Berber. The latter was wounded,
and retired early; but Saleh came desperately on at the head of a
hundred fanatics, escaping the fire of the Martinis marvellously, until
at last he was shot down in the square.

The loss of the enemy was not less than 1,200 killed and wounded, 800
bodies being counted on the open space flanking the square. The
slaughter would have been greater still had the square been able to open
fire as soon as the charge commenced, instead of having to wait till the
skirmishers had run in. But for this, in spite of their bravery,
comparatively few of the assailants would have succeeded in coming to
close quarters.

The British loss, viz., ten officers and sixty-five non-commissioned
officers and men killed, and eighty-five wounded, was very heavy for a
force whose total number was only 1,800 men. The following is the list
of officers killed:--

Colonel Burnaby, Royal Horse Guards; Major Carmichael, 5th Lancers;
Major Atherton, 5th Dragoon Guards; Major Gough, Royal Dragoons; Captain
Darley, 4th Dragoon Guards; Lieutenant Law, 4th Dragoon Guards;
Lieutenant Wolfe, Scots Greys; Lieutenants Pigott and De Lisle, Naval
Brigade; Lord St. Vincent.[111]

The greatest loss on Stewart's side fell on the Heavy Cavalry Camel
Corps, of whose officers six were killed and two wounded. The
extraordinary disproportion of killed and wounded officers as compared
with the rank and file is remarkable, and speaks volumes for the
self-sacrificing devotion of the officers of both services.

The seizure of the Abu Klea wells was a matter of paramount importance,
and the detachment of the 19th Hussars, which had come up too late to
strike at the retreating foe, was pushed forward to perform this
service. This they were able to accomplish without resistance, a fact
which goes far to prove the demoralization of the enemy. The Hussars, as
stated in Stewart's report, took possession of the wells at 5 p.m. They
then sent back filled water-skins for their comrades at the zeriba.
Jaded as the rest of the men were by marching, by night alarms, by a
fierce heat, and an encounter with an enemy seven times their number,
they reached the wells soon after.

The water was plentiful, and though of a muddy yellow colour, it was fit
for drinking. At eight at night a portion of the Guards, with some of
the Heavy Camel Corps and Mounted Infantry, were sent back to fetch the
occupants of the zeriba in the rear. The force then bivouacked on the
ground near the wells without tents, provisions, or baggage. The night
was piercingly cold, and the men had to get between the camels, and
cover themselves with the baggage nets for warmth and shelter.

Next morning the party despatched to the zeriba returned, and the whole
column, including camels and baggage, was now concentrated at the wells.
On the arrival of the zeriba detachment with stores and provisions, the
force partook of its first meal since the morning of the previous day.



Although active preparations were commenced at once for the march to
Metammeh, the column was not ready to proceed till 3.30 p.m. on the
18th. The interval was occupied in loading up the camels, filling the
water-bottles and constructing a fort to protect the wounded, who were
to be left behind with a detachment of the Sussex Regiment. It had been
hoped that the advance would be postponed until the following morning,
in order that the men might have a rest, but General Stewart was
resolved to push on before the enemy had time to recover from their
recent defeat. So, as soon as everything was in order, the march
commenced. Stewart's intention was to proceed along the Metammeh road,
and after passing the wells of Shebacat and getting within a few miles
of Metammeh, to turn to the right and strike the Nile about three miles
above the town. This he hoped to do before daybreak, and then to attack
the town. The column moved off with the Hussars in front, then the
Guards, and after them the convoy, followed by the Heavies and the
Mounted Infantry. The total number of camels was 2,500, of which 1,350
were ridden by the fighting part of the force, and the remainder were
used for transport.

The force got on pretty well and with few halts until sunset, but as
darkness came on the tall grass became thicker, and the ground more
broken. Here the camels began to tumble about and get out of their
places. After two hours of this work, the guide reported that they were
getting near the wells, and the Guards dismounted so as to be prepared
for an attack.

The trees now became more dense, and the tracks so diminished in number
as to allow only room for a half section of cavalry to pass between the
scrub on either side. Here the column fell into wild disorder; the
baggage camels got entangled in the bush, and many of them had to be
left behind.[112] The men, utterly worn out by want of rest, went to
sleep, tumbled off, and their unguided camels wandered off the track. To
show the confusion that existed, on several occasions the rear guard
were found in front of the force, thus proving that the troops were
going in a circle. The passage through the bush, difficult as it would
have been for the men and transport by daylight, by night, and with no
moon, became almost impossible, and the disorder was endless. Had the
enemy attempted to rush the column in the darkness, the consequences
might have been disastrous, more especially considering the exhausted
condition of both men and animals.

Still the column blundered on till at last it got to open ground, where
a long halt was made. At 1.15 a.m. on the 19th, the force again advanced
over a fairly easy country, with a few scattered trees, but no path.
Both men and animals were so worn out that continual halts had to be
made. Directly the halt sounded the men laid down to snatch a few
minutes' sleep.

Daylight found the column still some six or seven miles from the Nile,
which, however, was nowhere visible. Stewart, suspecting the guide of
treachery, now placed him in charge of a cavalry escort, and altered the
direction of the column more to the eastward in the hope of striking
the river. After going about two miles further, the town of Metammeh,
with a broad tract of vegetation marking the presence of the Nile, came
in sight.

There was no chance now of getting to the river without being seen, so
the column kept on its way till about 7 a.m., when crowds of the enemy
were observed swarming out of the town, some coming straight towards the
British force, while others kept along the river bank as if to cut off
the column from the Nile.

The troops had by this time reached an open piece of ground, where, on a
low gravelly hill, they halted and formed square round the camels. It
was evident that a fight was inevitable, and Stewart, determining that
his men, exhausted by their long night march, should not fight on empty
stomachs, ordered breakfast to be got ready.

Meanwhile the enemy were working round the position with great rapidity,
and firing with their Remingtons into the square, where by 8 a.m. the
bullets began to drop freely. The plain around was dotted with bushes,
and there were many depressions, so that the enemy's marksmen, whilst
concealed themselves, were able to keep up a steady fusillade.

To protect the men, a zeriba of camel saddles, boxes, &c., was hastily
constructed. The work was very trying, and the men fell fast whilst it
was going on. As the fire became hotter, the parapet of the zeriba grew
in height, and here and there traverses of boxes and packages were built
up as a protection against the enfilading fire of the enemy's

A little after ten General Stewart fell, severely wounded, and from this
moment Sir Charles Wilson took over the command. Other casualties
occurred about the same time, including Lieutenant C. Crutchley, of the
Scots Guards, wounded, and Cameron, correspondent of the "Standard," and
Herbert, correspondent of the "Morning Post," killed. Burleigh, of the
"Daily Telegraph," was also wounded. The British troops all this time
were replying as best they could to the enemy's fire, but the men were
gradually being worn out, and their shooting was comparatively
ineffective. The enemy being concealed in the long grass, the men in the
zeriba laboured under the disadvantage of being exposed as targets
without being able to strike back. This went on for hours, the fire on
both sides continuing without intermission, and men dropping fast. It
became evident that this state of things could not last, and orders were
given to construct works in which to place the heavy baggage and the
wounded, in charge of a small detachment, whilst the square should take
the initiative and march to the Nile.

Under heavy fire the works were completed, a redoubt being thrown up by
Major Dorward and Lieutenant Lawson, of the Engineers, and the zeriba
strengthened. This was not accomplished without loss, twelve men being
killed and forty wounded up to this time. The baggage, camels, &c., were
protected by the artillery and the Gardner guns which were left in the
zeriba. With them were the 19th Hussars (whose horses were so done up as
to render them useless as cavalry), the Naval Brigade, half the Heavy
Camel Corps. Colonel Barrow was left in command under Lord Charles
Beresford, who was the senior officer in rank.

During the forming of the square, so hopeless did the situation appear
to some of the correspondents, that they started for Abu Klea, but were
turned back, partly by the cavalry sent out by Colonel Barrow, and
partly by the enemy's horsemen. Eventually all the correspondents
remained in the zeriba except Villiers, the artist of the "Graphic," who
went forward with the column.

Owing to the delay caused by strengthening the zeriba and constructing
the redoubt, it was three o'clock when the square moved slowly out from
the zeriba. The object of the advance was not so much to attack as to
gain the desired position on the river. The movement was a strikingly
bold one, as the smaller force left behind was exposed to great risks,
and the larger one was weakened by division. Everything depended on the
steadiness of the advancing square. Were it to give way, the small party
remaining in the redoubt could not hope to hold out for any length of

The column was about 1,200 strong. The front of the square was composed
of the Grenadier Guards and Coldstreams, the right flank of the Scots
Guards and part of the Heavy Camel Corps, and the left flank of the
Mounted Infantry, while the Sussex Regiment and another part of the
Heavy Camel Corps brought up the rear.

They moved at a slow march, keeping always in the open, covered by the
fire of the Gardner gun in the redoubt, whilst flanking skirmishers
threaded their way through the mimosas, for the ground was rough and
irregular, with bushes in all directions.

For two miles the enemy, though visible in force, made no direct attack,
but contented themselves with keeping up an incessant rifle-fire from a
distance. However, on approaching a gravel ridge between the British
force and the river, a body on foot, some thousands strong, was seen
approaching in crescent formation. The square was at once halted, and
the men lying down, delivered volley after volley with the utmost
steadiness. Soon the critical moment came when the charge took place.
Led by several emirs on horseback, 800 of the enemy's spearmen hurled
themselves against the square. The troops never wavered for a moment,
but cheered lustily when they saw the rush coming. The main body of the
assailants made for the left angle of the front face, where the Guards
and Mounted Infantry were posted. The attack looked serious, but the
Guards and Mounted Infantry received the charge with a fire so deadly at
300 yards, that all the leaders with their fluttering banners went down,
and not one got within thirty yards of the square. The fight only lasted
a few minutes; the Dervish front ranks were swept away, and then there
was a backward movement as the whole of the assailants recoiled and,
with the masses assembled on the adjoining hills, disappeared in the
direction of Metammeh. They left 250 bodies on the field, including
those of five of the emirs, whilst not a single British soldier was
either killed or wounded in repelling the charge.

During the advance, the garrison in the zeriba had been engaging the
enemy at long range. Though attacked by rifle-fire up to the time that
the charge was made on the square, the assailants never came to close
quarters. The garrison made effective use of the guns in shelling the
masses of the enemy on the gravel hills in front of Wilson's advancing
force. As the column moved forward, their shells were seen bursting and
scattering the crowds, and it was mainly owing to the accuracy of the
artillery fire that a larger number of spearmen did not join in the

The British loss in the day's fighting was twenty killed and sixty
wounded. The officers and newspaper correspondents killed were as
follows: Officers, 19th Hussars, Quartermaster A. G. Lima; Commissariat
and Transport Corps, A. C. Jewell; correspondents, Messrs. St. Leger
Herbert and Cameron.

A few minutes' halt to enable the men to have a drink of water and fill
up their ammunition pouches was allowed, and then the column continued
its march towards the hill. When the gravelly ridge was occupied the sun
was about setting, and the river, which had been so long looked for, was
not yet in sight. Parties were pushed on in search of it in the
darkness, and eventually, half an hour after nightfall, the Nile was

The wounded were at once taken to the most suitable place to be found on
the river bank, whilst the men went down by companies to drink. The
camels, which were by this time as worn out as the men, were turned
adrift to graze in the surrounding vegetation. The men were so exhausted
that when they came up from their drink they fell down like logs, and
difficulty was experienced in rousing them and getting them into their
places for the night.

The force was allowed to bivouac in peace on the Nile bank, and both
officers and men, lying on the bare ground, found the rest of which they
were so much in need. The only sign of the enemy's presence was the
beating of the "tom-toms," which went on all night.

On the 20th the adjacent village of Abu Kru (which for some unknown
reason was called Gubat) was occupied, and a small garrison being placed
there, the rest of the troops, recruited and refreshed, marched back to
relieve the party at the zeriba. As the returning column neared the
work, the small garrison greeted it with hearty cheers. The task of
removing the wounded, together with the rest of the camels, the baggage,
and guns, was then commenced, and continued until the whole were brought
to the new position at Gubat.[114] The Hussars' horses by this time had
been two days and the camels five days without water.

Sir Charles Wilson's dash for the Nile was one of the most hazardous of
military operations, and has been condemned by nearly all professional
critics. He not only divided his already reduced forces in the face of
the enemy, but cut himself off from his baggage, artillery, and
supplies. On the other hand, there was an absolute necessity for gaining
a position on the river with the least possible delay, and, if a further
justification were wanted, Sir Charles can point to the complete success
which attended the movement. If one regards closely the question of
risk, it is impossible not to feel that the despatch of Stewart's column
of only 1,800 men across the desert against an enemy of unknown strength
was in itself a highly venturesome proceeding, and one which, if
undertaken by a less able commander or with inferior troops, must have
ended in disaster. This, in fact, was very nearly being the case with
the column at Abu Klea, where nothing but the steadiness of the men
saved the day. "Success justifies all risks," but it is a curious
circumstance that, whilst one argument against adopting the
Souakim-Berber route was that it involved a long desert march with a
fight at the end at Berber, this was practically what happened to
Stewart's force, which, after a long and trying march, had to fight
towards its end both at Abu Klea and Metammeh. There was this
difference, however, between the two, that the result of Stewart's
operations was to open a line of communications from Metammeh to Cairo
of more than 1,300 miles, instead of one of only 280 miles from Berber
to the Red Sea. There was the further consideration that, from the
disposition of the Mahdi's forces, less resistance would probably have
been met with at Berber than was encountered in the Bayuda desert,
whilst Khartoum being almost as accessible from Berber as from Metammeh,
the former would have been nearly as important as the latter as an
objective point for the purposes of the expedition.

On the 21st, a garrison having been left in camp to protect the wounded,
the rest of the column marched towards Metammeh, which was found to be a
long village of mud houses with loopholed walls and two or three
mountain guns. If, as was thought possible after the events of the
previous day, it was found to be undefended, Wilson's idea was to take
possession of the place. The advance commenced at daybreak. On nearing
the town it was found to be full of people and strongly held. An
adjoining village was occupied by Wilson's men, who had to sustain a
well-aimed fire from the loopholed buildings, whilst they could hit
nobody in return. Two of the British guns were brought up, but did
little harm, the shell merely going through the mud walls without
bursting. Wilson's force was too small and already too much incumbered
with wounded to justify an attack at close quarters, and the town if
taken was too big to hold. So he determined to retire without pressing
the attack. The troops, whose casualties amounted to only one man killed
and one officer wounded, now deployed and fell back covered by
skirmishers and the artillery.

Just at the moment when the attacking force was nearest the town, and
the guns were attempting to make a breach in the enemy's walls, four
steamers flying the Egyptian flag came down stream and anchored. Every
one knew at once that they were from General Gordon, and greeted them
with loud cheers. They were commanded by Nusri Pasha, and were sent by
Gordon from Khartoum to communicate with the expeditionary force. They
had on board some Soudanese and Egyptians and some brass howitzers. Four
of the latter were at once landed and run into action by a force of
Soudanese from the steamers under Khasm-el-Mus, a native sheikh with the
rank of bey. These made excellent practice at the town up to the moment
when the retreat sounded.

Khasm-el-Mus stated that he had seen a force under Feki Mustapha
marching down the west bank from Khartoum, and that it would reach
Metammeh by sunset or very early next morning. The camp at Gubat was
therefore hurriedly placed in a state to resist an attack, and
arrangements were made for bringing in such of the stores as still
remained at the zeriba.



Gordon's journals began on 10th September, 1884, and continued to 14th
December, 1884. Want of space renders it necessary to give but a few

Gordon seems to have felt the announcement that the object of Lord
Wolseley's expedition was to relieve him not less acutely than the
neglect with which he had been treated by the Government. More than once
he recurs to the subject, and the receipt of some newspapers mentioning
the departure of the Gordon Relief Expedition drew from him the
following comments:--

    "I altogether decline the imputation that the projected
    expedition has come to _relieve me_; it has come to save our
    national honour in extricating the garrisons, &c., from the
    position our action in Egypt has placed these garrisons in....
    _I came up to extricate the garrisons and failed; Earle comes up
    to extricate garrisons, and, I hope, succeeds_. _Earle does not
    come to extricate me_.... I am not the _rescued lamb_, and will
    not be."

In another passage he refers again to the personal question:--

    "It may be said that the object of the present expedition is for
    my relief personally; but how is it possible for me to go away
    and leave men whom I have egged on to fight?"

On the subject of how the expedition should advance, and of what it
ought to do on arrival, he wrote the following:--

    "My view is this, as to the operations of British forces. I will
    put three steamers, each with two guns on them, and an armed
    force of infantry at disposal of any British authority. Will
    send these steamers to either Metammeh, opposite Shendy, or to
    the cataract below Berber to there meet any British force which
    may come across country to the Nile. These steamers with this
    force coming across country will (D.V.) capture Berber and then
    communicate with Khartoum.... When Berber is taken I should keep
    the bulk of the forces there, and send up the fighting column to

On the same subject he adds:--

    "I cannot too much impress on you that this expedition will not
    encounter any enemy worth the name in a European sense of the
    word; the struggle is with the climate and destitution of the
    country. It is one of time and patience, and of small parties of
    determined men, backed by native allies, which are got by policy
    and money. A heavy lumbering column, however strong, is nowhere
    in this land. Parties of forty or sixty men, swiftly moving
    about, will do more than any column. If you lose two or three,
    what of it? It is the chance of war. Native allies above all
    things, at whatever cost. It is the country of the irregular,
    not of the regular. If you move in mass, you will find no end of
    difficulties, whereas, if you let detached parties dash out here
    and there, you will spread dismay in the Arab ranks."

Later on he wrote:--

    "All that is absolutely necessary is for fifty of the
    expeditionary force to get on board a steamer and come up to
    Halfiyeh, and thus let their presence be felt; this is not
    asking much, but it must happen at once, or it will (as usual)
    be too late."

It will not excite any great surprise that Gordon should have felt bound
to come to the conclusion that--

    "We are wonderful people; it was never our Government that made
    us a grand nation; our Government has been ever the drag upon
    our wheels. It is, of course, on the cards that Khartoum is
    taken under the nose of the expeditionary force, which will be
    _just too late_."

As indicated in this last sentence, Gordon seems to have had a
presentiment that the relief which he had been looking to, more for the
sake of his followers than of himself, would fail to arrive in time.

Thus, on October 24th, he wrote, "If they do not come before the 30th
November, the game is up, and Rule Britannia." And then comes the
following paragraph, in characteristic style:--

    "I dwell on the joy of never seeing Great Britain again, with
    its horrid, wearisome dinner-parties and miseries. How we can
    put up with those things passes my imagination! It is a perfect
    bondage. I would sooner live like a Dervish with the Mahdi than
    go out to dinner every night in London. I hope, if any English
    general comes to Khartoum, he will not ask me to dinner. Why men
    cannot be friends without bringing their wretched stomachs in,
    is astounding."

The variety of Gordon's ideas, military, political, and humorous, is
forcibly illustrated throughout the journals. Now he is describing a
battle with clearness and graphic power, now he is criticizing a
Government or a Minister, and now and again he is indulging his love of
fun, at one time in pure jest, and at others in brilliant satire.

Speaking of the tendency of his men to duck their heads in order to
avoid the Arab rifle-fire, he says:--

    "In the Crimea it was supposed and considered mean to bob, and
    one used to try and avoid it. ---- used to say, 'It is all well
    enough for you, but I am a family man,' and he used to bob at
    every report. For my part, I think judicious bobbing is not a
    fault, for I remember seeing on two occasions shells before my
    eyes, which certainly had I not bobbed would have taken off my
    head. 'And a good riddance, too,' the Foreign Office would say."

One of the most amusing passages is that in which he says, "I must say I
hate our diplomatists." Here follows a rough sketch of two figures, one
intended for Sir Evelyn Baring, and the other for Mr. Egerton, his
deputy in Cairo. The former is represented as saying, "Most serious, is
it not? He called us humbugs--arrant humbugs." Egerton is made to reply,
"I can't believe it; it's too dreadful." Gordon, with characteristic
candour, continues, referring to diplomatists in general, "I think with
few exceptions they are arrant humbugs, and I expect they know it."

The foregoing is accompanied by one of the many extracts from the
Scriptures, which abound. It is as follows: "Blessed is the man who does
not sit in the seat of the scornful" (Ps. i. 1).

Hearing the news that to prevent outrage the Roman Catholic nuns at
Obeid had been compelled to declare themselves married to the Greek
priests, Gordon remarks, "What a row the Pope will make about the nuns
marrying the Greeks; it is the union of the Greek and Latin Churches."

On the 23rd of September Gordon says, that from 12th March till 22nd
September the garrison had expended 3,240,770 Remington cartridges,
1,570 Krupp cartridges, and 9,442 mountain-gun cartridges. He calculated
that of the Remington cartridges perhaps 240,000 had been captured by
the enemy, so that the number fired away would be only three millions.
As the rebels lost perhaps 1,000 men in all, he reckons that each man
killed required 3,000 cartridges to kill him.

There is less in the Diaries than might have been expected in the way of
personal attack on the Government which sent Gordon to Khartoum. He
says, indeed:--

    "I could write volumes of pent-up wrath on this subject if I did
    not believe things are ordained and work for the best. I am not
    at all inclined to order half rations with a view to any
    prolongation of our blockade; if I did so it would probably end
    in a catastrophe before the time when, if full rations are
    given, we should have exhausted our supplies. I should be an
    angel (which I am not, needless to say) if I was not rabid with
    Her Majesty's Government; but I hope I may be quiet on the
    subject of this Soudan and Cairo business, with its indecision;
    but to lose all my beautiful black soldiers is enough to make
    one angry with them who have the direction of our future."

The diaries refer frequently to the Stewart incident, already mentioned
in these pages. Gordon resolved to send the _Abbas_ down, and upon his
assuring Stewart, in reply to his inquiry, that he "could go in honour,"
Stewart left. Stewart asked for an order, but this Gordon refused, as he
would not send him into any danger he did not share. It was the wish of
Stewart and Mr. Power (the "Times" correspondent) to leave Khartoum and
proceed down the Nile, and Gordon placed no restraint on their wish.
Further, when they left he took every step in his power to provide for
their security. He sent his river boats to escort them past Berber, and
he gave them much advice, which, if it had been implicitly followed,
should have brought them in safety to Dongola. Once reconciled to their
departure and the despatch of some of his steamers northwards, he formed
his plan for the co-operation of the latter with the Relief Expedition.
It has been shown how this was actually carried out; but while thus
endeavouring to facilitate the progress of the expedition, Gordon
seriously weakened his own position in Khartoum.

That these steamers, each of which he considered worth 2,000 men, had to
run no inconsiderable danger is shown by the following extract:--

    "If any officer of the expedition is on board, he will know what
    it is to be in a penny boat under cannon-fire. The _Bordein_ has
    come in; she has seven wounded and one woman killed."

The news of the loss of the _Abbas_ was a terrible blow to Gordon, and
although at the time he knew nothing certain as to the fate of those on
board, yet he feared treachery. Many of his anticipations as to the
ultimate fall of Khartoum and other events were prophetic; and although
he did not foresee the exact circumstances of the loss of the _Abbas_,
he foresaw the fate of Stewart and those with him. After he heard that
the _Abbas_ had been captured, but had received no information as to the
circumstances of the loss, he writes:--

    "Stewart was a man who did not chew the cud, he never thought of
    danger in prospective; he was not a bit suspicious (while I am
    made up of it). I can see, in imagination, the whole scene, the
    Sheikh inviting them to land, saying, 'Thank God, the Mahdi is a
    liar!'--bringing in wood--men going on shore and dispersed. The
    _Abbas_ with her steam down, then a rush of wild Arabs and all
    is over!"

Throughout the journals reference is made to various important
documents, the most notable of which is a letter from the Mahdi to
Gordon, dated 2nd Moharrem, 1302 (22nd October, 1884). In it the writer

    "We have now arrived at a day's journey from Omdurman, and are
    coming, please God, to your place. If you return to the Most
    High God, and become a Moslem, and surrender to His order and
    that of His Prophet, and believe in us as the Mahdi, send us a
    message after laying down your arms and giving up all thought of
    fighting, so that I may send you some one with safe-conduct, by
    which you will obtain (assurance of) benefit and blessing in
    this world and the next. Otherwise, and if you do not act thus,
    you will have to encounter war with God and His Prophet. And
    know that the Most High God is mighty for your destruction, as
    He has destroyed others before you, who were much stronger than
    you, and more numerous."

In reply, Gordon sent a telegram to the Commandant of Omdurman, to be
communicated to the Mahdi, with the memorable words "I am like iron, and
hope yet to see the English arrive."

The following passages record some of the later incidents of the

    "12th November, 10.20 a.m.--For half an hour firing lulled, but
    then recommenced, and is still going on. The _Ismailia_ was
    struck with a shell, but I hear is not seriously damaged. The
    _Husseinyeh_ is aground (I feel much the want of my other
    steamers at Metammeh). 11.15 a.m.--Firing has lulled; it was
    very heavy for the last three-quarters of an hour from
    _Ismailia_ and Arabs. It is now desultory, and is dying away.
    _Husseinyeh_ is still aground; the _Ismailia_ is at anchor. What
    a six hours' anxiety for me when I saw the shells strike the
    water near the steamers from the Arabs; imagine my feelings!
    Noon.--The firing has ceased, I am glad to say. I have lived
    years in these last hours! Had I lost the _Ismailia_ I should
    have lost the _Husseinyeh_ (aground), and then Omdurman and the
    North Fort, and then the town. One p.m.--The Arabs are firing on
    the steamers with their two guns. The _Husseinyeh_ still
    aground; that is the reason of it. 1.30 p.m.--Now has ceased.
    The _Ismailia_, struck by three shells, had one man killed,
    fifteen wounded on board of her; she did really very well. This
    is our first encounter with the Mahdi's personal troops. 2.45
    p.m.--The _Ismailia_ tried to take _Husseinyeh_ off and got
    struck twice, in addition to the three times before mentioned,
    with shells, so she desisted from the attempt. The Arabs are
    firing on the _Husseinyeh_. I have ordered the Krupp of (Fort)
    Mogrim to play on the Arab guns, and shall wait till night to
    take off the _Husseinyeh_. She is nearer to the left bank than
    to the right bank. It is not clear if she is aground or half
    sunk (equally a trouble). 3.30 p.m.--The Arabs are bringing
    their guns nearer to the aground or half-sunken _Husseinyeh_.
    The _Ismailia_ reports that the two last shells have done her no
    material damage. 4.30 p.m.--The Arabs have now three guns
    bearing on the _Husseinyeh_. Six p.m.--The firing has ceased. I
    hope to get the _Husseinyeh_ off to-night. Seven p.m.--The Arabs
    keep up a dropping fire on the _Husseinyeh_, who, I hear, has
    two shell holes in her, and has six men, including the captain,

    "22nd November.--I am terribly anxious for the fort at
    Omdurman, and am trying to devise some means of occupying the
    Arabs and diverting their attention elsewhere.... The Arab
    camps are about five miles from the city.

    "5th December.--I have almost given up an idea of saving the
    town; it is a last resource we make to open the route to the
    Omdurman Fort.

    "6th December.--I have given up all idea of landing at
    Omdurman; we have not the force to do it. The Arabs fired
    forty-five rounds at (Fort) Mogrim and the steamers. We had two
    men wounded at Mogrim and one killed. This is most distressing,
    to have these poor fellows wounded and killed.

    "13th December.--The steamers went up and attacked Arabs at
    Buri. Certainly this day after day delay has a most
    disheartening effect on every one. To-day is the two hundred
    and seventy-sixth day of our anxiety. The Arabs appear to have
    suffered to-day heavily at Buri.... We are going to send down
    the _Bordein_ the day after to-morrow, and with her I shall
    send this journal. If some effort is not made before ten days'
    time, the town will fall. It is inexplicable this delay. If the
    expeditionary forces have reached the river, and met my
    steamers, one hundred men are all that we require just to show

The latest entry in the Diaries is on 14th December, and is as

    "Arabs fired two shells at the Palace this morning: 546 ardebs
    dhoora in store; also 83,525 okes of biscuits. 10.30 a.m.--The
    steamers are down at Omdurman engaging the Arabs. Consequently I
    am on 'tenterhooks.' 11.30 a.m.--Steamers returned. The
    _Bordein_ was struck by a shell in her battery. We had only one
    man wounded. We are going to send down the _Bordein_ to-morrow
    with this journal. If I was in command of the two hundred men of
    the expeditionary force, which are all that is necessary for the
    movement, I should stop just below Halfiyeh and attack the Arabs
    at that place before I came on here to Khartoum. I should then
    communicate with the North Fort, and act according to
    circumstances. Now, mark this, if the expeditionary force--and I
    ask for no more than two hundred men--does not come in ten days
    the town may fall, and I have done my best for the honour of our
    country. Good-bye.

        "C. G. GORDON."

It would be impossible to find words more simple and at the same time
more pathetic than those contained in the concluding sentences of the
man who so long held the attention of the world riveted upon him, and
who, unaided and alone, maintained the highest traditions of British
courage and fortitude.



"Khartoum all right, can hold on for years.--C. G. Gordon, 29: 12: '84,"
was the cheering message, written on a tiny slip of paper, which reached
Sir Charles Wilson by Gordon's steamers.

With this writing came Gordon's journals, containing a narrative of
events from the 10th September to the 14th December, some private
letters and also some despatches addressed by him to "the Officer
Commanding H.M.'s troops," to Sir Evelyn Baring, and others.

In one of the despatches, dated 20th October, 1884, Gordon informs the
officer in command of the British troops of the sending to him of the
steamers, and advises the removal from them of all Egyptians, whether
pashas, beys, or privates, all of whom Gordon terms "hens." The letter

    "If you do not use the steamers, at least take out the hens and
    send them back empty. If you choose to put black troops on
    board, they will be welcome, but not those heroes of

In another letter, dated 21st October, addressed to "the Chief of the
Staff, Soudan Expeditionary Force," Gordon wrote that he had tendered
the resignation of his commission in the British Army, and requested
that the General commanding Her Majesty's troops advancing for the
relief of the garrison might be informed of this fact.

The letter addressed to Sir Evelyn Baring was dated the 12th December.
In it Gordon stated that, having been sent to Khartoum to draw up a
report on the state of the Soudan, and for this purpose having been
placed under the orders of Her Majesty's Minister in Egypt, he now
informed him that Colonel Stewart took down this report, and that
consequently Gordon's connection with the Foreign Office and Baring had

The latest letter was dated the 14th December, and was addressed to the
Chief of the Staff. Its contents were as follows:--

    "I send down the steamer _Bordein_ to-morrow with Vol. 6 of my
    private journal containing account of the events in Khartoum
    from 5th November to 14th December. The state of affairs is such
    that one cannot foresee further than five to seven days, after
    which the town may at any time fall. I have done all in my power
    to hold out, but I own I consider the position is extremely
    critical, almost desperate; and I say this without any feeling
    of bitterness with respect to Her Majesty's Government, but
    merely as a matter of fact. Should the town fall, it will be
    questionable whether it will be worth the while of Her Majesty's
    Government to continue its expedition, for it is certain that
    the fall of Khartoum will insure that of Kassala and Sennar."

The writing dated 29th December, 1884, containing the expression,
"Khartoum all right, can hold on for years," was probably intended,
like Gordon's previous message to the like effect, merely to convey the
information that he was still holding out.

The wording of the document was simply a _ruse_ in the event of the
capture of the person who brought the message, on foot, to the steamer
after she left Khartoum. This is apparent from the letter of the 14th
December, as well as from the statements of the Egyptian officers who
accompanied the steamers. They reported that they had been for some
weeks stationed a short distance above Metammeh waiting for the arrival
of the British column. They had assisted in getting messages into and
out of Khartoum, where the situation was altogether most gloomy. Gordon
himself was well, they said, but his soldiers were despairing of relief,
and it was necessary that some Europeans should proceed with the utmost
alacrity to Khartoum, in order to reassure the population and the

Abdul Hamid Bey, who commanded one of the steamers, the _Bordein_,
informed Sir Charles Wilson that he left Khartoum on the 14th in that
vessel, and Gordon then told him that if he (Abdul Hamid) did not return
with English troops within ten days it would be too late; and that in
that case he had better not attempt to return at all.

The other three steamers had quitted Khartoum in September, and had been
down to Shendy and other places looking for the expeditionary force.

On the 22nd January, 1885, it was decided to construct two forts--a
village fort to be held by the Guards, and a river fort, containing the
hospital, to be held by the remainder of the force. The three small guns
of the column, together with some from the steamers, were put in

The same day, the steamers were utilized by Sir Charles Wilson for the
purposes of another reconnaissance, this time towards Shendy, a town
opposite to Metammeh on the right bank of the Nile. Only a small force,
consisting for the most part of a detachment of the Mounted Infantry,
was embarked. Shendy was found to be in the possession of the enemy,
though they were not in overwhelming force. One Krupp gun was mounted
there. The steamers contented themselves with throwing a few shells into
the place and then retired.

It was found that a portion of the enemy had occupied a small island in
the Nile just opposite the British camp. The guns of the steamers were
speedily brought to bear on them, and the infantry opening a steady fire
drove the intruders out of the island and across the river.

The whole of the 23rd was occupied in changing the crews and soldiers on
board the steamers, fitting them up and loading them with supplies for
Khartoum, and preparing for a start. Owing to the absence of coal, wood
had to be substituted, and the latter commodity was scarce. It was only
obtained by landing parties from the steamers carrying off the timber of
which the sakheas or waterwheels were constructed. A convoy of camels
under Colonel Talbot was sent back to Gakdul after dark with despatches
for Lord Wolseley, and instructions to bring up provisions. The escort
of 400 men accompanying the convoy reduced the little garrison at Gubat
to a total of 922 all told.

The original plan was for Lord Charles Beresford to man two of the
steamers with his naval brigade and, after putting fifty of the Sussex
Regiment on board, to take them with Sir Charles Wilson to Khartoum.
Unfortunately it was impossible to carry out this programme. All the
naval officers were killed or wounded except Beresford, who was so ill
as to be unable to walk, and many of the best petty officers and seamen
were also gone. Beresford indeed offered to accompany the expedition,
but, as he was clearly not in a fit condition, Wilson felt bound to
decline the offer. After consultation with him Khasm-el-Mus was placed
in command of the steamer _Bordein_, and Abdul Hamid Bey in command of
the _Tala Hawiyeh_. It was Lord Wolseley's idea that the military escort
should enter Khartoum in red coats. There was some difficulty in finding
a sufficient number of coats for the purpose, but at the last moment
they were obtained from the Guards, and the Sussex men were enabled to
appear in tunics which were sadly wanting in point of fit, though
correct in colour.

At 8 a.m. on the 24th Sir C. Wilson left for Khartoum in the _Bordein_,
with Captain Gascoigne, Yorkshire Hussars, ten non-commissioned officers
and men of the Sussex Regiment, and one petty officer, artificer, Royal
Navy; the _Tala Hawiyeh_ followed with Captain Trafford and ten
non-commissioned officers and men of the Sussex, Lieutenant
Stuart-Wortley, King's Rifles, and one petty officer, artificer, Royal
Navy. Captain Trafford commanded the escort, and Captain Gascoigne and
Lieutenant Stuart-Wortley accompanied Wilson for service with Gordon, at

No information has been given why only two of the four vessels were
despatched, nor why only twenty British soldiers were embarked. Of
course little more than a "demonstration" could have been made with any
force such as the steamers could have carried, even if all of them had
been employed. Still the singular reduction from 14,000, the total of
the British Army in Egypt, to 7,000, the force told off for the
expedition, then to 1,800, the number of Sir Herbert Stewart's column,
and finally to twenty, the number of Sir Charles Wilson's forlorn hope,
cannot fail to strike the reader.

Colonel Boscawen was left in command of the force which remained at

When near Sheikeih, on the left bank, a portion of the force under
Fiki-Mustapha, which, it had been reported, was marching on Metammeh,
was seen in the distance. It was ascertained afterwards that this force,
about 3,000 men, had halted on receiving news of the fight at Metammeh,
and then retired to Wad-Habeshi.

On the 26th two Shukriyehs came on board and reported that for the last
fifteen days there had been fighting at Khartoum, and on the 27th a man
shouted out from the left bank, that a camel-man had just passed with
the news that Khartoum had fallen, and that Gordon had been killed.

On the 28th, a Shukriyeh on the right bank stated that Khartoum had
fallen two days previously, and that Gordon had been killed. The news
was generally discredited, and the vessels prepared to force their way
past the enemy's batteries into Khartoum, the _Bordein_ leading and the
_Tala Hawiyeh_ following close astern. The orders to the detachment of
the Royal Sussex were to fire volleys at the embrasures of the
batteries, whilst the Soudanese troops kept up an independent fire and
the four guns on the steamers replied to the fire of the batteries.

On approaching Halfiyeh it was noticed that the palm-grove there had
been burned, and that three or four large nuggers were lying alongside
the bank. On the attention of Khasm-el-Mus being called to this, he at
once replied, "Gordon's troops must be there, as the Mahdi has no
boats." Directly afterwards a heavy fire was opened upon the steamers
from four guns, and from rifles at from 600 to 900 yards range. One gun
was in a sakhea pit at the water's edge, two in an earthwork a little
above the sakhea, and one in the village. After passing Shamba, two guns
on the right bank opened on the steamers while a heavy rifle-fire came
from both banks, and this was sustained until they came within range of
the guns of Omdurman. When abreast of Tuti Island, which it was expected
to find in Gordon's possession, the vessels were received by a sharp
musketry fire at from 75 to 200 yards range; three or four guns, of
which one was a Krupp, opened fire from the upper end of Tuti, or from
Khartoum, two guns from the fort at Omdurman, and a well-sustained
rifle-fire from the left bank. The steamers returned the fire both with
guns and rifles.

On reaching a point beyond Tuti, Wilson came to the conclusion that
Khartoum was in the hands of the enemy, and that it would be a useless
sacrifice of life to attempt to land or try to force a passage to the
town itself; he therefore ordered the _Bordein_ to turn and run down the
river at full speed. The _Tala Hawiyeh_, which had grounded for a few
minutes, near the upper end of Tuti Island, followed, and the steamers
drew up for the night near Tamaniat.

Here Wilson sent out two messengers, one to go to Khartoum to ascertain
the fate of Gordon, the other to collect information. The latter, on his
return, stated he had met a Jaalin Arab, who told him that Khartoum had
fallen on the night of the 26th, and that Gordon was dead. He also said
that on the 27th the Mahdi had entered Khartoum, prayed in the principal
mosque, and then retired to Omdurman, leaving the town to three days'

The reasons which led Wilson to the conclusion that Khartoum had fallen
were:--The heavy fire brought to bear from Tuti Island; the absence of
any fire from Khartoum in his support; the fact that no Egyptian flag
was flying from any place in or near the town, though Government and
other houses were plainly visible; the presence of a large number of
dervishes with their banners on a sandspit; and the fact that a number
of Gordon's troop boats and nuggers were lying along the left bank of
the White Nile under Omdurman Fort.

On the 29th the _Tala Hawiyeh_ ran at full speed on a sunken rock in
open water opposite Jeb-el-Royan and rapidly filled. The _Bordein_ was
brought up at a small island below the wreck, and before sunset Captain
Trafford and Lieutenant Stuart-Wortley came down with a large nugger, in
which they placed every one on board the steamer, the two guns, and such
of the ammunition as had not been damaged.

Fiki-Abd-Er-Rahman, who had come down to the river with a flag of truce
at Omdurman, and followed down to the scene of the wreck, came on board
with a letter from the Mahdi, which was addressed to the party. The
letter stated that Khartoum had been taken and Gordon killed, and
offered a safe-conduct to any one sent to verify the facts. The Mahdi
enjoined the English to become Moslems if they wished for peace, and
promised protection to Khasm-el-Mus and his followers if they submitted.
The messenger, on the other hand, stated that Gordon was with the Mahdi
at Omdurman, and that the garrison of Tuti having refused to submit had
been put to the sword.

Wilson made no reply to the Mahdi's letter, but, to secure a safe
passage through the cataracts, where the slightest opposition would have
been fatal to every one on board the steamers, Khasm-el-Mus, with
Wilson's cognizance, answered that he would never give himself up unless
the Mahdi sent him a special safe-conduct and promise of safety. If this
were sent he would surrender to Fiki-Mustapha at Wad-Habeshi, where guns
had been mounted to oppose the passage of the steamers.

On the 30th they passed the most difficult portion of the cataract
without opposition (the result of Khasm-el-Mus' answer, for during
several hours the soldiers and men on the steamer and nugger were at the
mercy of a few sharpshooters).

The same day two Shukriyehs came on board with information that Gordon
was shut up in the mission church at Khartoum with some faithful

On the 31st, after the _Bordein_ had been lowered down a difficult fall
with great care, she was run on a sunken rock off the island of Mernat
between two and three miles above the enemy's position at Wad-Habeshi.
The steamer was beached on the sandspit of a small island, and
everything landed. The island of Mernat, about forty yards distant, was
occupied by a picket of the Royal Sussex and the crew and soldiers of
the _Tala Hawiyeh_, and at nightfall the picket of the Sussex was
withdrawn to the smaller island.

Stuart-Wortley was directed to proceed as soon as it was dark to Gubat,
with information of the position of the expedition, and a request for

Wilson at first intended to cross to the right bank of the Nile and
march as soon as the moon rose, but finding it impossible to move the
Soudanese troops, he bivouacked with Khasm-el-Mus on Mernat, whilst
Captains Trafford and Gascoigne remained on the smaller island to guard
the stores.

On the 1st February a zeriba was made on Mernat Island; the four guns
from the steamers were mounted, and all the ammunition and stores which
had been saved were collected. Some Shukriyehs from the mainland visited
the party, and said that since the fall of Khartoum they had determined
to throw in their lot with the Mahdi; they advised Khasm-el-Mus to do
the same, but he replied he would never surrender without a letter from
the Mahdi promising safety.

When the zeriba was finished, Wilson called the men to arms and, during
the inspection which followed, was able to assure himself that a large
proportion of the soldiers would remain loyal and fight to the last. One
soldier deserted during the day. Two messengers were sent to Halfiyeh to
obtain news from Khartoum.

On the 2nd Fiki-Mustapha, from Wad-Habeshi, crossed to the island and
tried to persuade Khasm-el-Mus to submit, but he returned the same
answer as before. A friendly Shukriyeh brought news that a steamer had
left Gubat for the relief of the force at noon the previous day. A
sister of Khasm-el-Mus, who had followed the steamers down the river,
also arrived, with news that the families of all the officers on board
the steamers had been killed at Khartoum, and that Gordon was killed
whilst coming out of his room in Government House. Khasm-el-Mus' sister
was sent back to Khartoum to obtain further information, and to purchase
back any of the family sold into slavery. During the afternoon Abdul
Hamid Bey (who had brought a strong letter of recommendation from Gordon
to Lord Wolseley) deserted, as well as some of the "Reises" (pilots) and
four soldiers. As soon as Wilson was aware of this, he placed the
remaining Reises, who were all Dongolawis, and friendly to the Mahdi,
under a guard of the Sussex, with orders that they were to be shot if
they attempted to escape.

On the 3rd, Wilson ordered all the troops to be confined to the zeriba,
and, in the event of the non-arrival of the steamer, made arrangements
to seize Fiki-Mustapha, who was again to visit the island, and keep him
as hostage.

To return to Stuart-Wortley: he left the island at 6.45 p.m. in a small
rowing-boat with four English soldiers and eight natives, and floated
past the enemy's works, who did not see him until opposite their last
bonfire, when they fired several shots without effect. He then ordered
the men to row hard, and reached the camp at Gubat at 3 a.m. on the 1st
February without any further opposition.

The news he brought placed the force at Gubat in a state of
consternation. The first necessity was, of course, to get Wilson's party
off the island. It was decided that Lord Charles Beresford should start
early in the afternoon in one of the remaining steamers. It was also
resolved to send off a convoy across the desert to bring up
reinforcements in view of a probable advance of the Mahdi with the force
which the capture of Khartoum had set free.[115]

Stuart-Wortley left Gubat at 2 p.m. on board the _Safiyeh_, with Lord
Charles Beresford in command; a portion of the Naval Brigade, under
Lieutenant Van Koughnet; twenty non-commissioned officers and privates
of the Mounted Infantry, under Lieutenant Bower, King's Royal Rifles;
two Gardner guns; and two 4-pounder brass mountain-guns.

On the 2nd a few shots were fired from the west bank. The vessel stopped
for the night just past Gebel-Fangur. On the 3rd she started at 6.30
a.m. At 8 a.m. she came in sight of the enemy's works at Wad-Habeshi,
where the Arabs could be seen running into the rifle-trench; fire was
opened with the bow gun at about 1,000 yards range. On nearing the
position, the enemy opened a heavy rifle-fire, and a gun, in an
embrasure facing down the river, also opened fire. The steamer replied
with the Gardners and rifles, and also with a 4-pounder. When opposite
the central embrasure, the enemy moved their gun and fired, their shot
passing over the steamer. The latter's fire was so rapid and
well-directed that the enemy were shy of putting their heads over the
parapet to take aim. Having passed the embrasure facing up the river,
where the enemy had their second gun, a round shot passed through the
vessel's boiler and caused the steam to escape in a huge volume. She
proceeded about 300 yards further, while the steam lasted, and then
dropped anchor at 500 yards from the enemy's position. Van Koughnet was
shot through the thigh when serving the Gardner, one bluejacket was
mortally wounded, and two more were severely scalded. The Gardners had
to be moved abaft the battery, and a hole made in it to allow the gun
and the Gardners to play upon the enemy's works. The boiler was found to
be repairable. Firing continued very brisk until 10.30 a.m., when the
enemy's fire was silenced.

Wilson's party heard the _Safiyeh_ coming into action with the enemy's
battery at Wad-Habeshi; but shortly afterwards Trafford, who was on the
"look-out" at the end of the island, reported that he had seen the
steamer enveloped in smoke, and feared she had met with a serious
accident. As the steamer continued to fire on the battery, and could be
seen swinging at anchor, it was determined to break up the zeriba at
once and march down to her.

As soon as the order was given a scene of wild confusion arose, as it
was impossible to keep the Soudanese soldiers under control, and the
enemy opened a heavy rifle-fire when they noticed the movement.
Eventually the guns, ammunition, stores, wounded, and women, were placed
in a nugger, and the troops assembled on the island. Gascoigne, with a
small guard of the Sussex, was put in charge of the nugger with
instructions to stop at the nearest point he could reach on the right

Wilson then marched the rest of the British and Soudanese troops to the
end of the island, whence they crossed to the right bank in a small
boat. The crossing was covered by the detachment of the Sussex.

On reaching the nugger Gascoigne proceeded down the river until he
reached the right bank opposite the _Safiyeh_, whilst Wilson marched to
the same place. Finding it difficult to communicate with Beresford by
signal, he sent Gascoigne, who volunteered for the service, in a small
boat to the _Safiyeh_ with the two naval artificers, and a native crew;
the boat was received with a sharp rifle-fire from the enemy going and
returning, but fortunately no one was hit. In the meantime, Wilson had
got one of the guns out of the nugger and brought it into action against
the centre embrasure of the battery; whilst three marksmen of the Sussex
made good practice at 1,100 yards range, and the remainder of the Sussex
and the Soudanese were drawn up behind a sakhea channel.

Lord Charles Beresford having sent a message to say that his boiler,
which had been pierced by a shot, would be ready by the evening, and
that he would pick the party up at a more convenient place about three
miles lower down next morning, Wilson directed Trafford to proceed down
the river with the Sussex and a portion of the Soudanese under
Khasm-el-Mus to form a zeriba at the selected point.

Wilson remained behind to cover the passage of the nugger with the gun
and a detachment of Soudanese, but she unfortunately ran on a sandbank,
and did not get off before sunset. In dragging the gun down through the
tangled vegetation after dark, the men, who had had no food, became
exhausted, and it was found necessary to abandon the gun, which was
spiked and thrown into the river. After sunset Gascoigne endeavoured to
run past the battery in the nugger, but she again grounded on two rocks
opposite to and about 200 yards from the centre embrasure. Here she
remained all night and until about 8 a.m. next morning, under fire from
the battery and rifle-pits, but by most extraordinary good fortune no
one was wounded.

On the 4th Beresford, having got up steam, ran past the battery, which
now reopened on him, and brought to a short distance below; he then sent
a party of bluejackets under Lieutenant Keppel, in a boat, to
Gascoigne's assistance. For more than an hour the work of lightening the
nugger had to be carried on under fire, and nothing could exceed the
coolness and gallantry shown by Gascoigne and by Keppel, who was struck
by a spent ball during this trying time. When the nugger was clear of
the rocks Beresford proceeded down stream, and embarked the soldiers and
crews of the steamers by 11 a.m. The camp at Gubat was reached at 5.30

Though the members of Wilson's expedition were repeatedly under fire,
their losses were only two Soudanese killed and twenty-five wounded.
This was due to the excellent manner in which the steamers were
protected, as well as to the enemy's bad shooting. The casualties on
board Beresford's steamer have been already mentioned, and they also
were comparatively small for the same reason.

It only remains to add that there are probably few more gallant
achievements recorded than the successful rescue effected by Lord
Charles Beresford in the face of difficulties.[116]



Gordon's Diaries bring the history of the siege of Khartoum down to the
14th December, 1884. The relative positions of the besiegers and
besieged at that date may be seen from the accompanying plan.

It will be observed that Khartoum was protected on the north and west
sides by the Blue and White Niles respectively, and on the south and
east by a line of intrenched fortifications, with intervening redoubts,
running from Fort Buri, on the Blue Nile, almost to the White Nile.
Unfortunately, at this time, the late high Nile had washed away portions
of the parapet for a considerable distance from the western end, and,
now that the river had fallen, there was a serious gap in this part of
the defences. To remedy this, Gordon had for some time employed working
parties to repair the demolished parapets, but as the work had to be
conducted under fire from the enemy's troops at Omdurman, on the
opposite bank, but little progress had been made. The ditch at this
point was also more or less damaged by the action of the river, and was
never completely restored. To guard this, the weak part of the position,
Gordon stationed armed barges and native boats on the river close by. He
also placed mines there, but these were destroyed by the Nile. In the
rear of the line of ramparts, and between them and the town, extended an
open plain, a little more than a mile in breadth, on which stood
barracks and slaughter-houses, and here and there an Arab cemetery. On
the south and east sides, fronting the fortifications, were the camps
of the besieging armies of Wad en Nejumi and Abu Girgeh.[117]


The army under the immediate command of the Mahdi was encamped on the
west of Omdurman, where Mohamed Faragallah Bey, with some Egyptian
soldiers, was still holding out, in a work called Fort Omdurman. A large
force of Dervishes,[118] under Sheikh-el-Obeid, occupied a position at
Khojali, on the north side of the Blue Nile, where Gordon also had a
fort called "the North Fort," at a point named "Ras-el-Rasek," as well
as a battery on Tuti Island, nearly opposite.

On the 14th December Gordon wrote, "In ten days the town may fall."
There were then in store 83,525 okes (or 227,000 lbs.) of biscuit, and
546 ardebs (or 2,700 bushels) of dhoora (Indian corn), representing
approximately eighteen days' rations for the troops alone. But Gordon
had already, on the 22nd November, found it necessary to issue 9,600
lbs. of biscuit to the poor in the town, so great was the destitution
which prevailed. As the siege progressed this state of things became
more and more aggravated, and the Government supplies had to be further
drawn on for the benefit of the civil population.

Ever since the 3rd of November the Fort of Omdurman had been cut off
from communication with Khartoum. It was then provisioned only for a
month and a half, and at the end of the year the garrison was in great
straits from want of food. Gordon made one or two efforts to relieve the
garrison, but, having no longer his steamers, four of which had gone to
meet the British expedition, and the fifth having been lost with Colonel
Stewart, he was unable to open communication.

On the 5th January, 1885, Faragallah signalled that his provisions and
ammunition were alike exhausted, and Gordon was compelled to reply that
there was nothing for it but to surrender. Faragallah and the whole of
the force at Fort Omdurman then capitulated, and were transferred to the
Mahdi's camp, where they were well treated, as an encouragement to
others to join the Dervish ranks.

On the 6th January, seeing that the garrison of Khartoum was becoming
daily more and more reduced by want of food, and that existence for many
of the inhabitants was almost impossible, Gordon issued a Proclamation
authorizing as many of the civil population as liked to leave the town
and go over to the Mahdi. Some thousands of natives took advantage of
the offer, and Gordon sent with them a letter to the Mahdi, asking him
"to feed and protect these poor Moslem people as he (Gordon) had done
for the last nine months." After the fugitives had left, it was
estimated that only about 14,000 remained in the town, out of a
population shown by the census taken in the September previous as

The fall of Omdurman was a great blow to the garrison of Khartoum, who
thus lost the only position they had on the west bank of the White Nile.
The Dervishes were thenceforth able to close the river to Gordon's two
remaining steamers, and to establish ferries south of Khartoum, giving
easy communication between the camps at Omdurman and those of Wad en
Nejumi and Abu Girgeh. Khartoum was practically hemmed in on three

The food difficulty became daily more serious. To make matters worse,
those in charge of the biscuit and dhoora stole quantities of both, as
occasion offered. The officer in charge of the stores was arrested and
brought before a court of inquiry, but Gordon, realizing the emergency
of the situation, had to point out to those conducting the investigation
the necessity of not inquiring too critically into the matter.

The Island of Tuti was still held by Gordon's forces, and the crops
there were reaped under the fire of the forts, and stored in the
Commissariat. This produced about 1,600 bushels of corn altogether,
which, with the remaining biscuits, were served out to the soldiers.
When this was finished, Gordon ordered a search to be made in the town,
with the result that further quantities (32 bushels only) were
discovered in some of the houses, and also buried in the ground. These
also were taken to the Government store, the owners being given, in
every case, receipts for the quantities carried off. The search was
conducted daily until there was nothing left in possession of the

Soon all that had been collected in the Commissariat was finished, and
then the soldiers and inhabitants were reduced to eating dogs, donkeys,
skins of animals, gum, and palm-fibre. Then an actual famine prevailed.
The gum produced diarrhoea, and the soldiers became so weak that they
could scarcely man the fortifications.[119] The situation of the civil
inhabitants was even worse. Many died of actual starvation, and corpses
lay about the streets, no one having sufficient strength or energy to
bury them.

All this time the enemy kept up a fusillade on the garrison,
occasionally killing a few of their number. The soldiers were also
harassed by repeated night attacks.[120]

Although it must have been evident to Gordon that the end could not be
far off, he continued to encourage the people by Proclamations
announcing the near approach of the British Relief Expedition, and even
went so far as to hire some of the principal houses on the river for the
reception of the men belonging to it. Day by day he watched from the
roof of his Palace, in the hope of seeing them arrive. After awhile many
of the inhabitants began to lose faith in him, and commenced opening
communications with the Mahdi.

On the 20th January, the news of the battle of Abu Klea reached the
Mahdi's camp, where it caused the greatest consternation. A Council of
Emirs was thereupon held, at which there were great divergencies of
opinion. The Mahdi himself was strongly in favour of raising the siege.
He told the Emirs that he had been warned in a vision that he was to
make a "Hegira," or flight, to Obeid, whither he proposed to withdraw
with his forces. He said, "If one Englishman had been able to keep us at
bay for a year, what chance shall we have against thousands of
Englishmen who have defeated our best men at Abu Klea?" All agreed
except one Emir, named Mohammed Abd el Kerim, who said that an attempt
should be made to take Khartoum by assault, adding, rightly enough, that
if it succeeded the English would not dare to come on, and that, if it
failed, there would always be time to retreat. Abd el Kerim's views, for
the time being, prevailed, and there was no longer any talk of raising
the siege.

Before the meeting terminated it was decided to announce a great
victory. Accordingly a salute of 101 guns was fired, the war drums were
beaten, and every demonstration was made, as if in celebration of some
great triumph. The stratagem failed to impose on Gordon, who had seen,
through his glass, thousands of women in the camp, weeping and
indulging in signs of despair. The actual news of the battle was
conveyed to him shortly after by a female spy from Omdurman.

A Council, composed of Farag Pasha, the Military Commandant, the chief
Government officials, the Greek Consul, and other leading members of the
Greek colony, was hurriedly summoned to the Palace. The meeting was then
informed of the victory at Abu Klea, and that the English were
approaching, and would arrive in two or three days. This intelligence
inspired everybody with fresh hope, only, however, to give place to
deeper despair when the next few days passed away without any signs of
the relieving force. Gordon still struggled to keep up the spirits of
his men, constantly saying, "They must come to-morrow," though few
believed in him, and people began to say that, after all, the great
battle which had taken place must have been a Dervish victory.

It is said that Gordon at this time took no sleep, but spent his days in
watching the river from the roof of the Palace, and his nights in
visiting the various posts.

On the 23rd, he had a stormy interview with Farag Pasha, whom he
reproached with having left one of the forts insufficiently guarded. It
seems that Farag, on this occasion, proposed to surrender Khartoum to
the Mahdi, and stated the terms which the latter was willing to accept.
Gordon indignantly refused to listen to the proposition, and is even
said to have struck Farag.

There is no doubt that, at this period, not only Farag, but many of the
other officers and Government officials, as well as some of the leading
merchants, were in correspondence with the Mahdi, who was also kept
posted up in the condition of the garrison by the deserters who, from
time to time, left Khartoum. On one night alone, Omar Agha Ibrahim, a
lieutenant of infantry, after taking the precaution of drawing half a
month's pay for himself and his men, went over to the enemy with thirty
of his comrades.

By the way of final preparations, Gordon had all the ammunition and
powder not required for daily use removed from the Arsenal and placed in
the Catholic Church, a strong stone building near the Palace, and
commenced to lay a slow match train between the two buildings, so as to
enable him to explode the whole supply, in the event of the Mahdists
entering the town.[121]

To provide for the safety of the Europeans, he stationed the small
steamer _Ismailia_ just beyond the Palace walls, with orders to the
engineer to get up steam on a signal being made. The arrangement was
kept secret, being communicated only to the principal Greek residents,
who, it was proposed, should go on board with their families at the last
moment and save themselves by the river.[122]

Meantime the Mahdi had full information of the movements of the British
expeditionary force. The delay in the advance from Metammeh inspired
both him and his followers with fresh courage. It also gave support to
Mohammed el Kerim's arguments, and when, on the 24th, intelligence was
received that two steamers had started from Metammeh, a Council was held
at which it was determined to act on his advice and make the attack
before the vessels should arrive.

This decision was, to some extent, influenced by the circumstance that
the Mahdi had opportunely had another vision, in which, this time, the
Prophet had assured him "that Allah had put the lives of the garrison
into the Mahdi's hands, and that the attack should be made early on the
morning of Monday, the 26th."

On the 25th Gordon was slightly ill, and, it being Sunday, he did not
appear in public. Through mental strain and trouble his hair had grown
completely white. Although he appeared to realize that the end could not
be much longer postponed, he was repeatedly heard to say that, if he had
only a couple of English soldiers to parade on the ramparts, he should
not fear the enemy's attack.

In the morning he observed a great movement in the hostile lines, and
called many of his officers, and the leading men of the town, to the
Palace. After telling them that he thought the attack was impending, he
appealed to them to make a last effort, as he believed that the British
troops would arrive in twenty-four hours. He called upon every male
inhabitant--even the old men--to assist in manning the fortifications.
It was a gloomy Sunday in Khartoum, and as the day went by without any
signs of the relieving force, despair settled down over all. When night
came many of the famished soldiers left their posts on the ramparts and
wandered into the town in search of food. Others were too weak, from
want of nourishment, to go to their stations. Although this was not an
unusual occurrence of late, the number of defaulters that night was so
great as to cause the most serious alarm in the town, and many of the
principal inhabitants armed themselves and their servants and went to
the fortifications in place of the soldiers.

Gordon, who had established a complete system of telegraphic
communication with all the posts along the lines, sat up alone writing
in the Palace till after midnight, and then, worn out with anxiety and
fatigue, fell asleep.

In the early part of the night, which, after the moon had set, was dark
and cloudy, the Mahdi crossed over from Omdurman with a huge mass of his
followers and joined the armies of Wad en Nejumi and Abu Girgeh, drawn
up on the south and east faces of the fortifications. After addressing
the combined forces and giving his final orders, the Mahdi then returned
to Omdurman, leaving Wad en Nejumi to conduct the attack.

At about 2 a.m. on the 26th, the entire force, under Wad en Nejumi,
numbering from 40,000 to 50,000 men, began its advance. It moved in two
divisions. The foremost was told off to attack the lines to the westward
at the point between the Messalamieh Gate and the White Nile, where the
defences had been partially destroyed by the river. The other division
was to attack towards Buri, at the opposite, or eastern, extremity of
the lines, or in the event of the attack on the White Nile side proving
successful, to follow in the track of the foremost division and thus
enter Khartoum. The instructions were to march as silently as possible,
and not to fire until fired upon by the defenders.

Carrying "angaribs," or couches of palm boughs, and bundles of
brushwood, to throw into the trenches, under cover of the darkness the
Dervishes marched noiselessly close up to the lines till the ditch was
reached. This they found partly filled with mud and the parapet broken
away. A few of the Dervishes fired in reply to the fire from the lines;
the remainder, charging with spears, dashed into the trench and up the
opposite side, shouted their war cries, and, meeting but little
resistance, effected an entrance into the works.

The defenders only perceived the advance a few minutes before the actual
attack, when the alarm sounded. The greater part of the troops were so
tired and worn out that it was not till the sentries fired that the rest
of the garrison started up, to find the enemy swarming across the ditch
and up the broken parapet. When once the Dervishes were upon them,
Gordon's soldiers made but little fight. Too feeble to withstand the
rush, some were killed, and still more broke and fled. In a few minutes
all resistance at this part of the position was over, and whilst a
stream of Dervishes from behind, pouring in through the place where the
entry had been effected, pushed on and entered Khartoum, those in front
rushed along inside the parapets and attacked the defenders in the rear.
These last, stationed at distances of from three to four paces apart,
and hopelessly outnumbered, could do but little. They fired a few shots
and were then either killed or dispersed--leaving the enemy in
undisputed possession of the fortifications. Over 150 soldiers' bodies
were afterwards counted on the parapets alone.

The Commandant, Farag Pasha, was at Buri, at the further end of the
fortifications, when the assault was made, and at once rode down the
lines, encouraging his men. When he reached the Messalamieh Gate, the
Dervish horde had already crossed the ditch and were rolling up the line
of the defenders on the parapets. Farag, seeing that resistance was
useless, opened the Messalamieh Gate and surrendered himself prisoner. A
great many of his followers also rushed out through the gate and threw
down their arms. Charges of treachery have been brought against Farag
for his conduct on this occasion, but, seeing that the enemy were well
within the position when the gate was opened, this act could not have
affected the issue one way or another. Farag's having been put to death
in the enemy's camp three days later also tends to rebut the accusation
of having betrayed his trust.

Mohamed Bey Ibrahim, who commanded at the same gate, formed his men,
consisting of two companies, into a square, and, taking up a position on
the plain between the lines and the town, fought courageously till he
and nearly all his men were killed.

Bakhit Betraki was in charge at Buri, and held his ground till, seeing
that the enemy had carried the works at the other end, and were inside
the lines, he abandoned the fortifications. Then, rallying his men, he
fought as long as any of them were left alive.

Notwithstanding the resistance offered in this and other instances, the
Dervish loss was but trifling, only from 80 to 100 being killed in the
whole operations, which, from the time the first gun was fired till
Khartoum was taken, are said to have lasted three hours.[123]

The soldiers who had been placed on board the barges and armed boats on
the White Nile, as already stated, made but very slight resistance. They
did a little firing at the moment of the first assault, after which they
forsook the boats and fled.

The garrisons at Tuti Island and at "the North Fort" were, from the
nature of their positions, unable to take any active part in the fight;
they fired occasionally from their guns, but when Khartoum fell they all
surrendered without further opposition.

The party of Dervishes who, when the first attack succeeded, pushed on
to Khartoum, at once took possession of the town and began massacring,
pillaging and looting everywhere.

Their first thought was to rush for the Palace, where they expected to
find the treasure, as well as Gordon, the man who had so long and so
successfully resisted them.

Gordon, who had with him a company of black troops as a guard, on being
aroused by the noise of the attack, went on the roof of the Palace,
which stood on the northern side of the town facing the Blue Nile, and,
finding that the enemy had entered the works for upwards of an hour,
kept up a hot fire in the direction of the attack. As dawn approached he
could see the Dervish banners in the town. Soon the gun which he had
mounted on the roof became useless, as it could not be depressed
sufficiently to fire down upon the Dervishes, who were by this time
crowding in thousands round the Palace. Gordon, seeing that resistance
was useless, then quitted the roof, put on his Pasha's white uniform,
and, with his sword by his side and his revolver in hand, placed himself
at the door of his divan just at the top of the grand staircase. Here he
stood and calmly awaited his fate.

A small band of Wad en Nejumi's followers forced their way into the
building and dashed up the steps. Gordon asked them who was their
leader. The only reply that he got was a curse, and one of the band
plunged his spear into Gordon's body. Gordon made no attempt to defend
himself, but turned away with a disdainful gesture, when he was again
stabbed from behind and fell forward on the ground. Others of the party
then rushed up and cut and hacked at the prostrate body until life was
extinct. This was shortly before sunrise--whilst hundreds of Dervishes
swarmed up to the Palace roof and slaughtered the soldiers there.
Gordon's body was dragged down the steps to the garden, where the head
was cut off, wrapped in a handkerchief, and taken to the Mahdi. The
Mahdi is said to have been very angry at Gordon's death. His idea had
been to convert him to Mahdism, and afterwards to hand him over to the
Government in exchange for Arabi Pasha. Gordon's head, after being shown
to Slatin Pasha, then a captive in the camp, was hung on a tree at
Omdurman, where multitudes of the Mahdi's followers cursed and insulted
it. His body was left in the garden the whole day, and thousands of the
Dervishes came up and plunged their spears into it. Later on it was
thrown, with many others, into one of the wells adjoining.[124]

The steamer which Gordon had placed near the Palace was of no assistance
at the critical moment. The captain saw the mob rushing to surround the
building, and waited for Gordon to arrive. Later on, probably at the
moment when Gordon met his end, a crowd of Dervishes made for the
vessel, which, to escape being captured, steamed out into mid stream and
moved backwards and forwards until the captain received a message from
the Mahdi, offering him pardon if he would give up the steamer, which
was thereupon surrendered.

After the Palace had been taken the Catholic mission building and church
were the next objects on which the mob directed themselves. The guards
in the grounds outside were at once killed, and the assailants then
broke into the building, killing and looting everywhere.

The massacre in the town lasted six hours, and 4,000 persons at least
were killed. The black troops were spared, except such as resisted. The
Bashi-Bazouks, fellaheen regulars, and the Shaggiah irregulars were
mostly killed in cold blood after they had surrendered and been
disarmed. Large numbers of the townspeople and slaves were either killed
or wounded.

At 10 a.m. the Mahdi sent orders to stop the massacre, which then
ceased, and the Dervishes devoted themselves exclusively to looting. The
Mahdi had promised his followers as much gold and silver as they could
carry when Khartoum fell, and immense disappointment was expressed when
they failed to find the expected treasure, for which Gordon's bank notes
formed but a poor substitute.[125]

The bloodshed and cruelty which attended the massacre are said to be
such as defy description. Nicola Leontides, the Greek Consul, had his
hands first cut off and was then murdered. Martin Hansel, the Austrian
Consul, and the oldest member of the European colony, was alive up to 2
p.m., when a party of Arabs, headed by his own janissary, entered his
house and beheaded him, together with a man named Mulatte Skander, who
lived with him. The two bodies were then taken outside, covered with
petroleum and set fire to. The Austrian tailor, Klein, on making the
sign of the cross, had his throat cut from ear to ear before the eyes
of his wife and children. The savages then buried their lances in the
body of his son, aged seventeen, who fell lifeless. The mother, a
Venetian by birth, seized her son of five years old with one hand, and,
holding her baby to her breast with the other, struggled heroically to
prevent their taking her children from her. Eventually they seized her
daughter, a girl of eighteen, who was carried off to add to the other
booty taken.

Numbers of women, and even children, perished in the general slaughter.
Of the survivors, all the young and good looking women and girls were
taken off to the "Beit el Mal," the Mahdi's treasury, where the loot was
ordered to be collected. There they lay exposed like cattle in a pen,
awaiting their turn to be selected to fill the harems of the conquerors.
The first choice lay with the Mahdi himself, then followed the various
Emirs, each in order of his rank. The women who were not chosen were
distributed among the soldiers. The old women were given a few rags with
which to cover themselves, and then sent to the Dervish camp to eke out
a miserable existence by begging.

The number of Europeans made prisoners is stated to have been about
ninety altogether, besides several thousands of natives. Most of these
were removed to Omdurman, where they were left to get on as best they
could, and exposed to many privations.

Only two days later, on the 28th, whilst the Mahdi's army was still
engaged in celebrating the victory, Wilson's two steamers were observed
slowly making their way up stream in the direction of the north end of
Tuti Island, firing as they advanced both from guns and rifles. It was
at once decided to oppose the landing of the red-coated soldiers who
could be seen on board. All rushed to the river's bank, the women
shouting "Môt lil Inglesi" ("Death to the English").

After reaching a point mid-way between Tuti Island and the left bank of
the White Nile, and apparently looking for indications as to the fate of
Khartoum and Gordon, the steamers were seen to turn round and proceed
down the river under a hail of bullets from the shore.

The news of the fall of Khartoum, after a siege of 317 days, or only
nine days less than that of Sebastopol, reached the War Office in London
at a quarter of an hour before midnight on the 4th February. It was
communicated by a despatch from Lord Wolseley, sent from Korti, at 9.10
p.m. on the same day.

The War Office officials, many of whom were summoned on the receipt of
the despatch, hesitated to believe the news it contained, until it
should be confirmed by later intelligence, and the representatives of
the Press Association were informed that nothing would be published till
the following day. On the 5th the despatch appeared in the second
edition of several of the morning papers, and England realized to the
fullest extent the bitterness of a great national disappointment. All
the gallantry and devotion of her officers and men had been unavailing;
the costly Nile Expedition had proved a dismal failure; and Gordon had
been allowed to perish.

The general feeling on the subject was intensified by the reflection
that but two days elapsed between the fall of Khartoum and the arrival
of the British troops before the town. The Government of Mr. Gladstone
was severely reproached with having been once more "too late."

As to the part taken by Sir Charles Wilson, there was a strong tendency
to censure the delay which had occurred in the departure of the steamers
for Khartoum. Sir Charles, in a letter to Lord Wolseley, gave full
explanations on this subject. He based his reasons for not starting
sooner on the following considerations:--

1st. The military situation. The force had been much weakened by its
losses in the fighting on the 17th and 18th January, and would be
further reduced by the convoy and escort which it was necessary to send
back to Gakdul. The horses and camels were so "done up" from fatigue and
want of food, as to be unable to reconnoitre any distance.
Reinforcements for the enemy were reported as advancing both from
Omdurman and Berber, and it was necessary for him, before leaving, to
ascertain that the small British force at Gubat was not liable to

2ndly. The necessity of changing the men in the steamers (in accordance
with Gordon's advice) and replacing them by Soudanese.

3rdly. The steamers' engines required to be overhauled, and the vessels
themselves had to be prepared for resisting the batteries which it was
known they would have to fight on their way to Khartoum.

4thly. Gordon was known to be still holding out, and there was nothing
to show that the expected crisis, so long delayed, would take place in
the next few days.

As a fact, the steamers from Khartoum reached Gubat on the 21st January,
whilst the British were engaged with the enemy at Metammeh; and Wilson
received the letters which General Gordon had sent down between three
and four p.m. on that day. The earliest possible date for starting
would, therefore, be on the morning of the 22nd, and Sir Charles pointed
out that, if the steamers had left at that time and travelled at the
same rate as they subsequently did, they would then only have reached
Khartoum at mid-day on the 26th, when it had already fallen.

Sir Charles might, without exaggeration, have enlarged on the condition
of his forces, which were so utterly used up--both men and animals--that
a short interval of comparative repose was indispensable before anything
further was attempted. That in spite of their condition they should have
been able to undertake the abortive attack on Metammeh on the 21st,
speaks volumes for their pluck and endurance.

Even if Wilson had disregarded all other considerations and pushed on at
once with his handful of soldiers, there is every reason to suppose that
the result would have been the same. From what has subsequently been
ascertained, it is clear that for weeks previously the Mahdi had
Khartoum at his mercy, and could have taken it at any moment, though he
preferred that it should fall by the slower process of starvation.

He had full information of Wilson's movements, and had the latter
started two days earlier, the only result would have been that the
capture of the town would have been accelerated by precisely that period
of time.

It would be too much to imagine that if the subaltern's guard which
Wilson had at his disposal had reached Khartoum whilst it still held
out, it could (notwithstanding Gordon's expectations to the contrary)
have changed the fortunes of the day, or have induced the Mahdi to carry
out his idea of raising the siege and retiring to Obeid. For this, the
presence, or at least the advance, of the whole force at Gubat was

As it happened, the column at Gubat was not in a condition to advance,
and the Mahdi, knowing that at the worst he had only the two steamers
to reckon with, determined to risk an assault.

The responsibility for the disaster may be traced partly to the
insufficient supply of camels to the Desert Column, owing to which
Stewart, instead of pushing on at first straight across the Bayuda
desert, was compelled to return from Gakdul Wells to Korti, and then
make a fresh start, thus losing twelve days' valuable time. But after
all, the main responsibility will always rest with the Government which
so long delayed despatching the Relief Expedition, and then, as if to
make its failure the more certain, sent it by the wrong route.



The result of the taking of Khartoum was naturally to increase the
renown of the Mahdi to a greater extent than ever in the Moslem world.
His fame as a conqueror spread not only throughout the Soudan, but also
in the towns and villages of Upper and Lower Egypt. Many of those who
before had disbelieved in him, now became fully assured of his holy
mission. Had he at once followed up his success by an advance down the
Nile, the consequences to the British forces at Gubat and elsewhere
might have been disastrous. As it was, he contented himself with staying
with his followers in the neighbourhood of Khartoum, the pillaging of
which no doubt afforded an agreeable relaxation after a long and arduous

With Khartoum in the Mahdi's power, the whole situation was changed. His
army instead of being concentrated before Khartoum, was set free to
strike a blow at any point which he might think opportune for attack.

Not merely was the small force at Gubat in danger, but Wolseley's entire
army was at this period divided and split up in fragments. One of these
was at Gubat, in immediate proximity to the fortified town of Metammeh
held by a superior force. Another was isolated near Kirbekan, where the
enemy were reported to be in considerable strength; whilst a third
remained with Wolseley at the head-quarters at Korti. In addition
detachments were scattered across the Bayuda desert at the different
points of communication.

Though at first the capture of Metammeh and operations against Berber
were contemplated, the question of the relief of Khartoum gradually
resolved itself into the problem of extricating "The Relief Expedition"
itself. Opinions differed greatly how this was to be effected. Some were
in favour of the immediate retreat of the desert column to Korti. Others
considered a march across the desert of so small a force, with the
prospect of encountering hordes of Mahdists from Khartoum, anything but
a safe operation. Other advisers were in favour of concentrating the
whole of the expeditionary force on the capture of Berber and holding
that place until the arrival of reinforcements from India or from home
landed at Souakim, should either insure the safe retreat of the force,
or allow of the recapture of Khartoum. That which was done will appear

During the absence of Sir Charles Wilson, the British force in the
neighbourhood of Gubat, under Colonel Boscawen, was employed in
improving and strengthening the works there. A triangular fort was
erected, and earthworks with flanking trenches and parapets were thrown
up both on the land side and towards Metammeh. Brushwood and wire
entanglements were placed outside to impede the enemy in the event of
their attempting to storm the position, and, in fact, every preparation
was made to stand a siege.

Although an attack was constantly expected, the enemy, beyond beating
tom-toms all night and making a parade every day, did nothing.

The force from time to time sent convoys of sick and wounded back across
the desert to Abu Klea and Korti. To facilitate and guard the line of
communications, the garrisons at the Wells were strengthened from time
to time by detachments from Korti.

The whole country round Metammeh, except the village itself, where 2,000
to 3,000 of the enemy were quartered, remained quiet. At Metammeh, on
the 28th January, there was a great firing of guns, with other signs of
rejoicing over the news from Khartoum.

On intelligence of General Stewart's condition reaching head-quarters,
Sir Redvers Buller was appointed to succeed to the command of the Desert
column, Sir Evelyn Wood becoming Lord Wolseley's Chief of the Staff,
and Brigadier-General Grenfell succeeding Sir Evelyn Wood as "Sirdar"
(Commander-in-Chief) of the Egyptian army.

Buller left Korti on the 29th January for Gakdul by the Desert route.
The Royal Irish and West Kent Regiments left at the same time to
strengthen the garrisons at the Wells and reinforce Gubat.

On the 11th February, Buller, with six companies of the Royal Irish
Regiment, which had marched on foot the whole way from Korti, reached
Gubat. His instructions were to seize Metammeh and march on Berber, but
on no account to let himself be hemmed in at Metammeh.

The programme was suddenly altered, and in lieu thereof a retreat was
decided on. One reason for this change was the loss likely to be
incurred in the taking of Metammeh, another consideration was the
insufficiency of Buller's column to operate against Berber in the face
of the large force, which, set free by the fall of Khartoum, the Mahdi
would now have at his disposal.

Buller deemed it unwise even to attempt to hold the position at Gubat
against the Mahdi's army reinforced by Gordon's captured soldiers, and
supplied with the arms and ammunition taken at Khartoum. Reports of the
Mahdi having commenced an advance with 50,000 men were received, and it
was judged best to retire, and so avoid the risk of having the retreat
cut off.

Under these circumstances preparations were made for the march back
across the Bayuda desert.[126]

Before leaving, Gordon's two remaining steamers were rendered useless by
removal of parts of the machinery.

On the 13th Buller evacuated Gubat. His force numbered nearly 1,600 rank
and file, and consisted of the following corps:--Squadron of 19th
Hussars, Naval Brigade with two Gardner guns, detachment of Royal
Artillery with two guns, a portion of the Mounted Infantry, a portion of
the Guards Camel Corps, a wing of the Heavy Cavalry Camel Corps,
portions of the Sussex and Royal Irish Regiments, details from
departmental corps, and 300 Soudanese.

The wounded were the first sent off, the escort of 300 men being placed
under the command of Colonel Talbot. The bad cases were carried in
litters by the Egyptians. Sir Herbert Stewart, by this time much changed
for the worse, was among the sick.

On the march to Abu Klea, Buller met with no opposition beyond a
skirmish which the advance guard had on the day of starting.

On the 16th the column arrived at Abu Klea, and at once set to work to
strengthen the position against attack.

About thirty of the enemy's cavalry were seen scouting round the place
all day. About an hour before sunset these were reinforced by some 400
infantry armed with rifles. They crossed the hills to the north-east and
eastward, and having made a cover by throwing up a series of low stone
walls, opened a well-directed fire at long range on the camp. The
bullets fell all round and over the position. No lights or fires were
allowed after dark, as the enemy kept up a dropping fire throughout the
night. The British force made no reply. Up to the morning of the 17th,
two men had been killed, and four officers and ten men wounded. On the
17th the guns of the Royal Artillery opened fire on the enemy's position
with shrapnel. The Gardners were also turned on, but as the supply of
ammunition was limited the fire had to be restricted. Still, slow as was
the fire, it sufficed to check that of the enemy until eight a.m., when
the cover they had been throwing up being completed, their fire became
as heavy as before. Fortunately, the aim was somewhat interfered with by
the high wind blowing, and by clouds of sand. Still, as Buller in his
despatch to Lord Wolseley observed, to remain stationary subject to this
unceasing pelting by bullets "was annoying."

The fire of the enemy did not interfere with the work of strengthening
the camp. Three new forts mutually supporting one another were
constructed. Buller placed the command of the principal and largest of
them in the hands of Lord Charles Beresford, with his naval men and
guns. The Royal Irish were ordered to hold the fort on the west of the
camp, while the Sussex men garrisoned the fort on the east. The
Engineers guarded the zeriba itself, in which the hospital was erected.

About noon a steady shelling of the enemy's position was commenced. The
Gardner guns were at the same time again brought into use, and the
Mounted Infantry also opened fire with their Martinis. After about two
hours of this long range fighting, the enemy's fire showed signs of
slackening. Major Wardrop was then sent out to reconnoitre, and
endeavoured to ascertain the actual strength and position of the enemy,
up to this time unknown.

With one officer and three troopers the Major crept round the enemy's
right, under cover of some rising ground. Ascending a slight rise, he
looked cautiously over, and observed that the enemy's riflemen on the
hill were not numerous, and had no supports. He dismounted his men, and
made them, without showing more than their heads, fire a volley. He then
remounted and galloped off and repeated his tactics two or three times
in different places, leaving one man in each place to fire as rapidly as
possible, but without exposing himself to view. The Arabs were
completely deceived by this manoeuvre, and imagining that large
reinforcements of British troops had come up, became demoralized, broke
off the fight, and retreated towards Metammeh, carrying with them their
killed and wounded, and leaving only a few mounted scouts to watch the

Buller's loss in this skirmish amounted to three men killed, and four
officers and twenty-three men wounded. The enemy's losses were more
severe. They were seen to carry off several bodies, and they left six on
the field of battle. Owing to the nature of the ground it was impossible
to form an estimate as to the strength of the enemy. Equally difficult
was it to understand what their object was, but the better opinion seems
to be that it was intended to try and engage Buller until the Mahdi
should come up with his whole army.

Buller then sent off a detachment of the Light Camel Corps, with
despatches for Gakdul, requesting that more transport camels with
ammunition might be sent to him. His reasons for thus weakening his
forces were twofold. In the first place, the water supply at Abu Klea
was not sufficient for the whole force for many days. In the second, his
means of transport were insufficient for the requirements of the
marching column, in addition to those of the garrison at the Wells.

The night of the 17th was passed quietly at the camp. On the morning of
the 18th Buller detached a party of infantry which moved southwards
towards the hills which had been occupied by the enemy. Their position
was found to be completely abandoned, and was taken possession of by
the British force. A strong post was established on the principal hill,
and scouting-parties were sent out, but nothing more could be seen of
the enemy.

Sir Evelyn Wood, with three companies of the West Kent Regiment, was
despatched from Korti to strengthen the force at Gakdul Wells, which
they reached on the 17th, and from Gakdul a supply of transport camels
with stores was sent on to Buller at Abu Klea.

During the march of the convoy from Gakdul nothing had been seen of the
enemy until the neighbourhood of Abu Klea was reached, when suddenly a
small body of armed men was observed watching the movements of the
party. Some of the Camel Corps forthwith went in chase, and captured a
half-dozen. These made no attempt to resist capture, but threw down
their Remingtons, and begged for mercy. When interrogated the prisoners
declared that there was no strong force of rebels anywhere near. There
was, they said, a rebel camp on rising ground some two miles distant,
but there were only 600 fighting men there, all of whom had recently
come from Metammeh. The prisoners agreed in stating that none of the
Mahdi's forces from Khartoum had yet reached Metammeh.

On the arrival of the camels and stores, Buller made his preparations
for evacuating Abu Klea. His original intentions were merely to destroy
the forts, and leave the wells untouched. But on the forenoon of the
23rd, he got information to the effect that the enemy had received a
strong reinforcement, estimated at not less than 8,000 men. This
compelled him to modify his plans, and he resolved to leave the forts
standing, but to fill up all the larger wells.

The latter step was afterwards much criticized, and can only be
justified by the extreme peril in which Buller's force might otherwise
have been placed. To stop up a desert well is to the Oriental mind about
the blackest crime that could be committed; and is a measure which is
never adopted even in savage warfare. Buller, however, had no
alternative. The absence of water in his rear was the sole thing that
could check pursuit by the supposed force in his rear. It was, in short,
the only method of covering his retreat. Accordingly, regardless of
Eastern traditions, heaps of stones and rubbish were piled into all the
principal wells before leaving. It was foreseen that before the enemy
could advance he must lose several hours, and perhaps days, in restoring
the wells to their former state. This time Buller calculated on
employing in getting a start over his pursuers.

At two p.m. all the baggage was sent on under convoy to camp on the Omit
Handel plain out of gunshot range of the Abu Klea hills. At six the
outposts were withdrawn, and an hour later the whole force, including
thirty-two sick and wounded, was in retreat towards Gakdul. As they
marched out, the troops were not interfered with by the enemy. The
enemy's scouts appeared about midday on the 24th, and fired a few shots.
After this they retired, and the column was no more molested, reaching
Gakdul on the 26th.

There being barely sufficient camels for the supplies, all the men and
officers had to march on foot. This, as Buller observed in his despatch,
in the weather which prevailed, with an allowance of only three quarts
of water per man a-day, was most exhausting. He adds, "Nothing could
have been better than the spirit shown by all ranks."

At Gakdul Buller's force learned the news of the death on the 16th of
their former leader, General Stewart, who, with the other wounded, had
been sent on in advance. The latest accounts of his condition had been
such as to lead to hope of his recovery. It subsequently transpired that
the nature of the wound he had received rendered this impossible, and
after supporting the hardships of the desert march he finally succumbed
the day before the convoy reached the wells of Gakdul, where a small
force was left to bring on the stores.[127]

The column remained but a brief period at Gakdul, and on the 27th set
out for Korti, which was reached on the 1st March, the last of the
troops arriving on the 15th.

Of the march of Stewart's column across the Bayuda desert to Metammeh
and back, it is unnecessary to say anything more. The highest military
authority in Europe, Count Von Moltke, said of the men who took part in
it, "They were not soldiers but heroes."



The advance guard of the Nile column, consisting of 545 of the 38th
South Staffordshire Regiment, left Korti for Abu Hamid in the whalers on
the 28th December, 1884. Brigadier-General Brackenbury, second in
command, with a troop of the 19th Hussars, followed the next day.

On the 3rd January, 1885, the force encamped at Hamdab, where General
Earle and his staff arrived on the 4th. The remainder of the column was
sent forward from time to time, as the regiments reached Korti.

On the 24th the force at Hamdab, having been in the meantime joined by
the Royal Highlanders (Black Watch), a portion of the Gordon
Highlanders, the Duke of Cornwall's Regiment, the Transport Camels and
the Camel Battery, left camp and continued the journey up stream, the
mounted troops proceeding along the banks, and the remainder going in
the whalers as before. The enemy being reported to be in force at Berti,
every precaution was taken to avoid a surprise, zeribas being formed
each night, and a system of moonlight signalling was adopted.

Passing the Fourth Cataract and other formidable rapids, Berti was
reached by the advance guard on the 1st February and found deserted. The
enemy, according to the report of a deserter, had abandoned the place on
the previous day, and retired up the river to Salamat. Suleiman Wad
Gamr, the murderer of Colonel Stewart's party, it was reported, had fled
beyond recall. The boat belonging to Stewart's steamer _Abbas_ was
discovered on the shore. Hussein Ismael, the stoker, whose account of
the murder has been already given, presented himself and confirmed his
previous story. The houses in Berti being searched, traces of Stewart's
party were found in the shape of a number of papers, fragments of books,
and a portion of a barometer.

On the 3rd the head-quarters moved to Berti, where the rest of the
troops encamped as they came up. On the 4th news was received of the
fall of Khartoum by a telegram from Sir Evelyn Wood. The discouraging
information was carefully kept from the knowledge of the men. The same
message instructed General Earle to halt where he was until further
orders. On the 8th the General was informed by telegraph that Lord
Wolseley was communicating with the Government as to future operations,
but that the column was to push on to Abu Hamid. Orders for the troops
to move up were thereupon issued.

On the night of the 8th General Earle received a report from Colonel
Butler, who was in command of the advanced camp, that, in reconnoitring
that day, he had found the enemy in a strong position, occupying some
rocky knolls, and holding a high razor-backed ridge of hills behind.
Earle then ordered the advance of the 1st Battalion South Staffordshire
and 1st Battalion Royal Highlanders, in boats, to an open camping-ground
which Colonel Butler had selected, about a mile short of the enemy's
position, and ordered the squadron 19th Hussars, half of the Egyptian
Camel Corps, and two guns of the Egyptian artillery, to advance to the
same place.

On the 9th General Earle himself arrived on the scene, and having
personally reconnoitred the enemy's position, and sent Colonel Butler
with the cavalry to make a wide reconnaissance towards the enemy's rear,
he decided to attack the position the next morning.

A company of the Royal Highlanders was left in a zeriba to guard the
boats, baggage, and baggage animals, and at 7 a.m. on the 10th the
advance commenced.

Two companies of the South Staffordshire and two guns were placed under
the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Alleyne, who was instructed to take up
a position on a rocky hillock facing the enemy's position, and, with the
assistance of the Egyptian Camel Corps, to occupy the attention of the
defenders in front, whilst, with six companies of the South
Staffordshire and six companies of the Royal Highlanders, Earle marched
about a mile and a half to his right front, thus completely turning the
high ridge referred to in Butler's report, and the whole of the enemy's

[Illustration: BATTLE OF KIRBEKAN.]

Meanwhile fire was opened (at 8.30) by the two companies of the
Staffordshire and the guns under Colonel Alleyne, the enemy replying
with their Remingtons.

After turning the enemy's position, Earle's column, pivoting on its
left, brought the right of the column round till it reached the rear of
the enemy's lines, and then marched over broken and rocky ground through
a valley in the direction of the river, keeping the high ridge on the
left. It was found that the column formation, ready to form square, was
unsuited to the nature of the ground, and the further advance was made
by companies, but not in extended order, points of vantage in the rocky
ground being occupied in succession.

The enemy had been seen crowding the high ridge as the column passed its
eastern end, but at first they appeared to take no notice. No sooner,
however, had the force wheeled to the left than (at 9.15) fire was
opened on it with Remingtons, hitting two or three men. As the fire
became hotter Earle sent two companies of the South Staffordshire, under
Colonel Eyre, to take the high ridge by working up its western shoulder.
The men advanced under a heavy fire, and climbed about a third of the
way up the shoulder, till they reached a cluster of rocks under which
they obtained partial shelter.

At the same time, two companies of the Highlanders and a company of the
Staffords were directed to advance under cover of the river bank and
take the knoll nearest the river, towards which parties of the enemy
were seen making their way, and swimming to the other side. This knoll
was speedily captured, and the enemy's position on the two principal
knolls was thus enfiladed.

The remainder of the Highlanders and Staffords then advanced from one
cluster of rocks to another towards the rear of the position, firing as
they did so, till they reached the rocks nearest to the enemy's
position, about 400 yards distant. From behind the enemy's works,
consisting of earthworks and loopholed buildings, a steady and
well-directed fusillade was kept up on the attacking force. This
continued for some time, till, difficulty being found in dislodging the
enemy by musketry fire, the order was about to be given to assault the
position and carry it at the point of the bayonet, when suddenly a body
of the enemy abandoned their works, and with spears and banners charged
down upon the nearest of the Highlanders, who were somewhat advanced
towards the British left front under Colonel Green.

The Highlanders, without changing their formation, received the assault
with a withering fire, killing many. The rest turned to their left and
made for the river, where several of them were shot in the water as they
attempted to escape.

After repelling this onslaught the Highlanders advanced with their pipes
skirling, scaled the rocks, and stormed the main position from front and
flank in gallant style, killing every one of the enemy, who were in
great numbers among the rocks and boulders.

At this time General Earle, who had accompanied the advance up the
ridge, was killed by a bullet from a hut in which several of the
defenders had taken refuge.

Meantime the two companies of the South Staffordshire sent to take the
high ridge had been received by a heavy fire; Lieutenant-Colonel Eyre
had been killed, and their ammunition was exhausted. Lieutenant-Colonel
Beale was sent by General Brackenbury, who had assumed the command, to
reinforce the attack and take the ridge, which duty was successfully
accomplished, and the enemy were driven from their last position by 1.30
p.m. Most of the defending force were armed with Remington rifles, and
their position, which was a formidable one, was defended with desperate

When General Earle made his turning movement, and so placed the
detachment he was leading between the enemy and their camp, Colonel
Butler, who had guided the column to the rear of the enemy's position,
made a wide sweeping detour with the cavalry to the enemy's camp, three
miles further on, which he captured. So rapidly was this operation
conducted that the camp was in his possession before the Highlanders had
captured the main position.[128]

Leaving two companies of the Highlanders to guard the captured position,
the remainder of the troops were sent back to the camp they had left in
the morning.

The Egyptian Camel Corps did excellent service in the fight. The
position which they had taken up at the commencement of the day enabled
them to protect the flank of the infantry in its advance. They remained
in that position throughout the day, assisting by their rifles to keep
down the fire from the high ridge and shooting, and in some instances
pursuing and capturing, such of the enemy as attempted to escape towards
the east on the southern slope of the hill. When the Staffords stormed
the shoulder of the hill one Egyptian soldier charged up alone on their
extreme right and joined in the attack.

Besides forty-one donkeys and camels captured at Kirbekan, fifty-eight
rifles, four fowling-pieces, two flint-lock muskets, one revolver,
twenty-two swords, fifty-three spears, and ten standards fell into the
hands of the English. Some prisoners were taken, and, according to their
statements, the enemy were surprised by General Earle attacking their
rear, and thought the soldiers who got behind their position were coming
from Berber.

Owing to the way in which the position was surrounded, it is difficult
to see how many of the enemy could have escaped. They lay thick in every
nook and crevice, and on the open ground where they charged the troops,
and the Staffordshires killed many on the main ridge of hills.
Nevertheless, their losses are only put in the General's report as 200.
As no account mentions more than 125 bodies having been counted on the
field of battle, this appears a liberal estimate, even after allowing
for the bodies swept away by the stream. The return of rifle ammunition
expended gives a total of 24,040 rounds, or rather more than 120 for
each man killed, leaving out of the calculation twenty-three shells
fired from the Camel Battery. The English force engaged only numbered
1,200, owing to the Gordon Highlanders and the half battalion of the
Duke of Cornwall's Regiment not having come up; the former, in fact, had
not succeeded in getting further than Berti.

The enemy's force at Kirbekan was stated by prisoners as being from
1,500 to 2,000. General Brackenbury, however, has put the number who
held the works at 800, and says that at least half of these escaped
before the attack. The resistance made was due to the almost impregnable
position taken up.

Owing to the excellent tactics adopted in taking the works in the rear,
the loss of the attacking force was but small. The death of General
Earle, however, made Kirbekan a dearly purchased victory. He met his
death shortly after the assault which resulted in the capture of the
ridges. The troops were at the time being collected and formed up.
Between the crests of the two main knolls there was a depression forming
a small flat plateau, on which stood a stone hut with a thatched roof.
Earle was forming up the ranks only ten yards from the hut, when it was
discovered that there were men in it. One of the latter fired from the
hut and shot a soldier. The General thereupon ordered the roof to be set
on fire, at the same time approaching the hut. The roof commenced to
burn, and a native rushed out, and was at once bayoneted. At this moment
a shot was fired from a window of the hut, and the General fell, shot
through the head. The back of the skull was shattered, and he lived only
a few minutes.

In addition to General Earle, the British and Egyptian loss was as

_South Staffordshire Regiment_--Killed, Lieutenant-Colonel Eyre and 3
men; wounded, 2 officers and 20 men.

_Royal Highlanders_--Killed, Lieutenant-Colonel Coveney and 4 men;
wounded, 2 officers and 18 men; missing, 1 man.

_Egyptian Camel Corps_--Killed, 2 men; wounded, 1 man.

Total killed, 11; wounded and missing, 44.

On the 11th, General Brackenbury received further instructions,
according to which the Expedition was to stay in the country till the
Mahdi's power at Khartoum was destroyed, and arrangements were to be
made for co-operation with General Buller in an attack on Berber. The
instructions further stated that the column was to push on with all
possible speed pursuant to orders.

On the same day, the column continued its progress, the wounded officers
and men being conveyed in the boats. The difficult pass of Shukook was
got through without opposition, though it bore signs of having been
prepared for defence throughout its entire length of six miles.

On the 17th Salamat was occupied, and the force destroyed the house,
palm-trees, and sakheas of Suleiman Wad Gamr, the chief author of
Colonel Stewart's murder. Many relics of the murder were found, such as
cards, papers, photographs, &c.

On the 20th, Hebbeh, close to the scene of the murder, was reached, and
on that and the following day the 800 horses and camels of the force
swam over to the opposite bank, the equipments and loads being ferried
across in boats.

The wreck of Stewart's steamer was seen fixed upon a rock about 200
yards from the bank of the river. She was pitted with bullet-marks, and
torn by fragments of shell. The natives had stripped her of everything

The house of Fakri Wad Etman, where the murder was committed, was
visited by General Brackenbury. Fragments of books, Stewart's visiting
cards, and a shirt-sleeve stained with blood, were found close by.

Whilst the crossing was being effected, the troops, not otherwise
engaged, were employed in destroying the houses and property of Fakri
Etman. The force then advanced along the right bank towards Abu Hamid.

On the night of the 23rd, the whole column with 215 boats was
concentrated at the last cluster of huts in the Monassir country,
twenty-six miles from Abu Hamid, and the Cavalry, which had scouted six
miles ahead, were still without touch of the enemy.

On the 24th, just as the further advance was being resumed, Brackenbury
received Wolseley's instructions to discontinue the movement on Abu
Hamid and return to Merawi. The despatch said, "Buller evacuated Gubat.
His main body went to Gakdul with sick and wounded. He remains with
1,500 at Abu Klea. I have abandoned all hope of going to Berber before
the autumn campaign begins." This was a bitter disappointment to both
officers and men. A strong patrol was advanced to within sight of Mograt
Island (just opposite Abu Hamid), after which the column was reversed,
reaching Hebbeh again the same day.

On the 25th it remained at the halting-place the whole day, as the
horses and camels absolutely required rest.

Continuing his movement down the river on the following day, Brackenbury
reached a village opposite Salamat. Here, leaving the mounted troops and
convoy to move independently on the right bank under the command of
Colonel Butler, the General descended the river himself with the boats.
On the 4th March Hamdab was reached, the force having descended with the
boats in nine days, a distance that it had taken thirty-one days to
ascend. On the following day the force arrived at Merawi. The crossing
commenced at 2 p.m., and was completed at 11.30 a.m. on the 6th. On the
7th, Brackenbury, leaving the Black Watch, a troop of Hussars, the
Egyptian Camel Corps, and a detachment of Engineers, to remain at Merawi
under Colonel Butler, started with the rest for Korti, which was reached
the following day.

Apart from the engagement at Kirbekan, the Nile column had no fighting
exploit to boast of. The crushing effect of that action was, however,
shown by the fact that after the fight, the enemy allowed General
Brackenbury's force to march unmolested through the Monassir country, to
take successively all the positions which had been prepared for defence,
and subsequently to retire through the same positions without firing a
shot or offering any opposition.

Credit is undoubtedly due to the column for the manner in which it
triumphed over the difficulties caused by the nature of the river, which
from a few miles above Merawi presented a succession of rapids. All
these rapids, amongst the most formidable obstacles on the Nile, were
ascended and descended at an unfavourable season, with a loss by
drowning of only three lives throughout the entire operation.



To return to Lord Wolseley's head-quarters at Korti.

There is no doubt that the news of the fall of Khartoum was a severe
blow to Wolseley. It seemed as if, for once, his star had deserted him.
All hope of adding the rescue of Gordon and the relief of Khartoum to
his list of triumphs, was gone from the General who had so often been
described as "the luckiest man in the British army."

On the 4th February Wolseley had telegraphed the disaster to the War
Office. On the 5th he sent another message, saying that he had directed
all the wounded to be removed as soon as possible from Abu Klea and
Gubat, and added, "I only await the decision of Government to give
further orders."

There is here a gap in the published Blue Book, some of the messages
exchanged with the War Office being evidently suppressed. But in a
despatch to Sir Evelyn Baring, dated the 6th February, it is stated that
"Her Majesty's Government have given complete discretion to Lord
Wolseley to take all such measures as he may deem necessary for the
further conduct of his operations, and they have assured his Lordship
that he will receive any further assistance which he may desire, either
by the despatch of troops to Souakim and Berber, or in any other manner
he may indicate."

That Wolseley, under the altered circumstances, was not prepared to
advise an attempt to recapture Khartoum with the force at his disposal,
appears clear from the following extracts from his despatch to Lord
Hartington of the 9th February:--

    "I shall not attempt to disguise from your Lordship how deeply
    the reported fall of Khartoum is felt by all ranks in the army
    under my command. If it be literally true--and it is difficult
    to disbelieve it--the mission of this force, which was the
    relief of Khartoum, falls to the ground.

    "The strength and composition of this little army was
    calculated for the relief, not the siege and capture, of
    Khartoum, the two operations being entirely different in
    character and magnitude. The former meant one or more
    engagements in the open with an enemy who, owing to the
    geographical position of Khartoum, could not concentrate his
    forces without raising the siege, and who, in order to
    concentrate, would have had to pass his troops, guns,
    ammunition, &c., over two unfordable rivers of considerable
    breadth, in the face of General Gordon's armed steamers.

    "If he opposed my advance along the right bank of the Nile upon
    Khartoum, he must have fought in a position where defeat would
    have been his destruction. I think I may say that, as long as
    Khartoum held out, he could not have prevented my entering it,
    although he might afterwards have awaited my attack in a
    selected position on the left bank of the White Nile to the
    south or south-west of the city.

    "With Khartoum in the enemy's possession, the whole conditions
    are reversed, and the Mahdi, strengthened by the large number
    of rifles, guns, ammunition, &c., taken in that place, and by
    the captured troops, who would certainly fight on his side,
    could concentrate an overwhelming force to oppose my advance;
    and, if defeated, could still fall back upon the city, the
    siege and capture of which, situated as it is in the fork of
    two unfordable rivers, would be an impossible operation for the
    little army under my command, more especially as it would then
    be incumbered by a large number of wounded men. As I have
    already said, the force under my command was not intended for
    any operation of that magnitude, nor was such an operation even
    contemplated in the instructions I received from Her Majesty's
    Government. Khartoum, in the hands of the enemy, cannot be
    retaken until the force under my command has been largely
    augmented in numbers and in artillery."

Although operations against Khartoum were for the moment out of the
question, the necessity of doing something seems to have occurred both
to the Government and Lord Wolseley, if only for the sake of satisfying
public opinion and restoring the prestige of the British army.

Seeing the position occupied by the British forces at this time, it is
not surprising that Wolseley should have had the idea of seizing Berber
by means of a combined attack by the River column under General Earle
and by the Desert column from Metammeh under General Buller. It was
intended that this operation should be accompanied by an onslaught upon
Osman Digna in the neighbourhood of Souakim, which it was hoped would
have the effect of keeping open the road between that place and Berber.

On 8th February, Wolseley telegraphed to General Earle as follows:--

    "Government have decided that Mahdi's power at Khartoum must be
    overthrown. This most probably means a campaign here next cold
    weather, and certainly the retention in the Soudan of all troops
    now here. A strong force of all arms goes as soon as possible to
    Souakim to crush Osman Digna. We must now take Berber. Buller
    will take Metammeh. Let me know date you will reach Berber, so
    that Buller's force may co-operate with you."

The same day Wolseley telegraphed to Lord Hartington as follows:--

    "The sooner you can now deal with Osman Digna the better. I
    should recommend brigade of Indian Infantry and one regiment of
    Punjaub Cavalry to be sent to Souakim as soon as possible to
    hold that place during summer, and co-operate with me in keeping
    road to Berber open; the English troops you send now to Souakim
    might then either go to mountains near there for summer, or to
    Egypt to be ready for autumn campaign."[129]

It is clear from the two preceding despatches that there had been some
communication between the General and the Government which has not been
disclosed, on the subject of the English force which it was intended to
send to Souakim.

On 9th February, a further despatch from Wolseley to Earle stated that
the Government had decided that the troops were to stay in the Soudan
till the Mahdi's power at Khartoum was destroyed; that if they could not
do this before the hot weather they must wait till autumn; that Buller
had left Gakdul on the 8th for Gubat, and would take Metammeh as soon as
the Royal Irish reached Gubat; that on the River column reaching Berber,
Buller, who would be in the neighbourhood with four or six guns and
about 1,500 men on the left bank, would meet Earle and co-operate with
him in the attack on Berber.

The Government lost no time in carrying out the Souakim project, and on
the 9th General Stephenson in Cairo received instructions to arrange for
the immediate purchase of camels for the expedition,[130] and on the 9th
February Lord Hartington telegraphed to Wolseley the composition of the
force which the Government proposed sending to Souakim, making
altogether 9,000 men. The despatch added that the Indian Brigade and
cavalry asked for had also been ordered. The General was asked to give
his opinion as between this and the smaller force, which could move more

On the 11th Wolseley's plans were so far matured that he telegraphed to
Lord Hartington that he proposed leaving for Gubat to direct the
operations himself.

To this Lord Hartington replied on the 13th that there appeared to be
great advantages in Wolseley's present position for communicating with
both columns, and with Souakim and Egypt, and stated that the Government
relied on him not to allow his natural wish to take an active part in
the operations to influence his decision. The General replied that, as
he did not expect to take Berber before the 16th March, there was no
immediate necessity to decide the question of his leaving. He added
that he proposed to leave General Dormer in command at Korti in case he
(Wolseley) felt it desirable in the interests of the service to go

On the 17th Lord Hartington telegraphed to Wolseley further details as
to the Souakim force, and also the arrangements made with Messrs. Lucas
and Aird for the construction of a railway from Souakim to Berber.

This seems to have been the first mention of the railway. Wolseley
replied that if he could take Berber before the hot weather set in,
which was very doubtful, the railway could then be made through to that
place without any cessation of construction; but, if Berber were in the
enemy's hands, in all probability it could only be made to the
neighbourhood of Ariab. In the meantime, rails, sleepers, &c., for the
construction of the desert section of 110 miles, from Ariab to Berber,
should be collected at Ariab.

A few days later the news of Buller's retreat from Gubat apparently
caused Wolseley to modify his plans.

Reporting that movement on the 18th, his Lordship added as follows:--

    "I think he (Buller) acted with wisdom and discretion; for,
    since the fall of Khartoum, the whole of the Mahdi's army is
    disposable, and could have invested him at Gubat with a large
    force, not only of men, but of guns; this they cannot do either
    at Abu Klea or Gakdul. My instructions to General Buller were on
    no account to allow himself to be shut in near Metammeh; and,
    with the information he had of the Mahdi's movements, in
    proceeding to Abu Klea, he has rightly interpreted the spirit of
    these instructions. The fall of Khartoum set free for the Mahdi
    a considerable army; and furnished him with an arsenal
    containing a great number of guns and rifles, and about
    1,000,000 rounds of rifle ammunition. Operations which before
    could be carried out under only the ordinary hazards of war
    cannot now be undertaken without incurring inordinate risks.
    When Khartoum fell, moreover, the main object for which General
    Stewart's force was sent to Metammeh ceased to exist. That
    object was to be prepared to march at once, even at considerable
    hazard, to the assistance of Gordon, should it be found that he
    required immediate aid.

    "The capture of Khartoum left his force without an objective;
    while, at the same time, it greatly increased the insecurity of
    its position. Its isolated situation, separated from me by 180
    miles of desert, and liable at any moment to have its
    communications cut by a movement of the Mahdi down the Nile,
    has latterly caused me considerable anxiety."

At the opening of Parliament on the 19th February the Government
announced that it had decided on going to Khartoum to break the power of
the Mahdi. On the 20th February Lord Wolseley telegraphed that the state
of his supplies would not admit of his going to Berber, even if he
thought his lines of communication sufficiently secure, which he did not
think they were, to warrant such a forward movement so late in the
season. He would hold the line of river from Merawi to Dongola and
Hanneck Cataract during the summer, and prepare for an autumn campaign.
To do anything else would, he thought, be unwise.

With a view to carrying out the plan of holding the river as indicated,
Wolseley now sent orders to Earle's Nile Column, to stop the advance
upon Berber and to return to Merawi.

On the 21st, Lord Hartington asked Wolseley if anything more could be
done for supplies for the summer.

Lord Wolseley replied on the 22nd as follows:--

    "When I have concentrated my force on this part of the Nile, I
    have no fear for my communications, so I do not want any more
    troops here now. It is important to thoroughly crush Osman
    Digna, and restore peace to the country now under his influence,
    in order to push forward the railway, and, by a brilliant
    success near Souakim, make the Soudanese realize what they must
    expect when we move forward in the autumn."

Wolseley's views on the military situation, and on the operations to be
conducted, were communicated to Lord Hartington in a despatch dated 6th
March, 1885, from which the following is an extract:--

    "In reply to my telegram, your Lordship informed me that my
    immediate duty was to protect the province of Dongola--the only
    province of the Soudan which is still clear of the enemy--and
    that, as soon as the necessary arrangements could be completed,
    Her Majesty's Government had determined to destroy the Mahdi's
    power at Khartoum, in order that peace, order, and a settled
    government might be established there. This I conceive to be in
    general terms a fair description of the new mission with which I
    have been intrusted, and which I shall endeavour to carry out
    next autumn.

    "I take this opportunity of congratulating Her Majesty's
    Government upon having adopted the Nile route as the line of
    advance for this force on Khartoum. Had this army been
    despatched from Souakim as a base, and upon arrival at, or
    near, Berber, learnt that Khartoum had fallen, it could not
    possibly have transferred its base to the Mediterranean, for it
    could not have been fed under those circumstances in this part
    of the Nile Valley. The province of Dongola would have been at
    the enemy's mercy, and the frontiers of Egypt would have been
    open to his attack.

    "As it is impossible for me to undertake any offensive
    operations until about the end of summer, it is important that
    in the meanwhile Osman Digna's power in the Souakim district
    should be crushed. The defeat will, in some measure, act as a
    counterpoise to the Mahdi's capture of Khartoum. This operation
    is not difficult, as the forces are near the seaboard, and it
    should be immediately followed by the occupation of the Tokar
    and Sinkat districts. A railway should also be begun without
    delay at Souakim in the direction of Berber. Your Lordship has
    informed me that a contract has been entered into for the
    construction of this railway on a gauge of 4 ft. 8-1/2 inches.

    "Although I do not for a moment entertain the idea that a
    railway of such a gauge can be completed over the 250 miles
    (about) of country lying between Souakim and Berber in time to
    have any very direct or immediate effect upon our operations
    towards Khartoum next autumn, I am convinced that active
    progress made upon it will bring home to Mohammed Ahmed, and to
    all intelligent Sheikhs, the fact that we are now in earnest,
    and do not mean to leave the country until we have
    re-established order and a settled government at Khartoum.

    "I am now engaged in distributing the army along the left bank
    of the Nile on the open reach of water that extends from the
    Hanneck Cataract to Abu Dom, opposite Merawi. There I shall be
    quite prepared to meet Mohammed Ahmed at any time during the
    summer, should he, by any good fortune, be tempted to advance
    in this direction. During the summer I shall collect the
    supplies which this army will require for its advance in the
    autumn. The railway from Souakim to Berber would take about two
    years and five months to complete."

In reading this despatch it will be seen that Wolseley lays stress upon
the necessity of crushing Osman Digna's force at Souakim. He also
recommends the immediate construction of the Souakim-Berber railway. But
on the 20th February instructions had already been given to Graham to
effect both these objects. Of this Wolseley was fully aware at the time,
and it strikes one as singular that so late in the day he should be
found advising the Government to take two steps which had already been
decided on.

Further, it will be noticed that his Lordship, whilst approving of the
construction of the railway (which he reckons would require two years
and five months) is careful to point out that he does not for a moment
entertain the idea that it could be constructed in time to have any
direct or immediate effect upon the operations towards Khartoum, to be
undertaken in the autumn.

Another singular feature in the despatch is the complacency with which
his Lordship, after the total failure of the expedition by way of the
Nile, congratulates the Government on having chosen that route.

The difficulties in the way of further operations during the summer now
began to be apparent. The hot weather had set in at Korti. The
thermometer on the 5th March registered 104 degrees under the shade of
the trees. Later on it went up two degrees higher still. The wind
blowing from the desert was like a blast from a furnace. Under these
conditions the tents with which the soldiers were provided offered
little or no protection. Sickness, too, began to break out, and several
cases of enteric fever were reported.

The Nile Column, as already stated, got back on the 8th March, and the
last troops of the Desert Column arrived from Abu Klea on the 16th, and,
with the exception of the detachment left at Merawi, the whole of
Wolseley's army was now assembled at Korti.[132]



The real object and intention of the Gladstone Administration in
directing the despatch of the Souakim expedition of 1885 will probably
remain for ever a mystery.

Wolseley had, it is true, pointed out the necessity of losing no time in
dealing a crushing blow to Osman Digna, and had suggested the sending of
a brigade of Indian Infantry and a regiment of Punjaub Cavalry to
Souakim to hold that place during the summer and to co-operate with him
in keeping open the road to Souakim. He also approved the commencement
of the Souakim-Berber railway. But his demands, so far as the published
papers show, appear to have gone no further than that. The expedition
told off to Souakim was nevertheless fixed at 9,000 men, and comprised
nearly every arm of the service. In addition, there were all the plant,
materials, and labour required for the purpose of making the
Souakim-Berber railway. The season chosen for the expedition, too, was
singularly unfortunate, as it coincided with the precise time of the
year at which, a twelvemonth before, the hot weather had compelled the
withdrawal of Graham's army, and when even the one or two squadrons of
Cavalry which Gordon had asked to be sent to Berber were refused him.

There is some reason to suppose that at the time the expedition was
resolved upon the idea was that it should co-operate with Wolseley's
forces in a movement upon Khartoum as soon as the Nile force should have
succeeded in taking Berber, and that when the movement on Berber was
postponed till the autumn the object of the expedition had to be limited
to "the crushing of Osman Digna and the opening up of the Souakim-Berber
route." At all events, this was announced as the official programme. It
will not fail to strike the reader that this was to undertake in March,
1885, with troops from England, precisely the enterprise which the
Government, in March, 1884, declined to undertake with troops on the
spot. The only change in the situation was that then the expedition
would have been in time to have saved Khartoum, whereas now it was too
late. It seems to have been fated that the policy of "Rescue and retire"
should always be adopted, the former too late, and the latter too soon.

Probably the true explanation is to be found in the exigencies of the
political situation. The Gladstone Administration felt the necessity for
doing something, if only to satisfy public opinion, intensely excited by
the news from Khartoum. The Government had allowed Khartoum to fall and
Gordon to perish. The result was neither creditable to the Ministry nor
favourable to British prestige. On the 19th February Lord Salisbury,
replying to Lord Granville's announcement that the Government had
"decided upon going on to Khartoum to break the power of the Mahdi,"
declared that "Gordon had been sacrificed to the squabbles of a Cabinet
and the necessities of party politics."

This was followed on the 23rd by Sir Stafford Northcote moving a vote of
censure in the House of Commons on the Soudan policy of the Government.
The motion was only lost by fourteen votes, a similar motion by Lord
Salisbury being carried in the House of Lords by no less than 121 votes.

Whatever may have been the motives of the Government in deciding upon
the expedition to Souakim, no time was lost in making the necessary
preparations. This time it was determined to carry out the operations on
a grand scale.

The force was fixed at considerably more than double the number engaged
in the Souakim expedition of 1884.

Amongst the troops ordered to take part in it were the 1st Battalion of
the Coldstream Guards; the 2nd Battalion of the Scots Guards; the 3rd
Battalion of the Grenadier Guards; the 1st Battalion of the Shropshire
Regiment; the 2nd Battalion of the East Surrey; the 1st Battalion of the
Berkshire Regiment; one Battalion of Royal Marines; one regiment of
Australian Infantry; some batteries of Royal Horse Artillery, of Royal
Artillery, and Australian Artillery; some companies of Royal Marine
Artillery, and Royal Engineers, as well as squadrons of the 5th Lancers,
and the 20th Hussars, and detachments of the Ordnance, Commissariat, and
Medical Staff Corps. In addition to these, an Indian Contingent of over
2,000 men was provided. It comprised the 9th Bengal Cavalry, the 15th
(Loodianah) Sikhs, the 17th Bengal Native Infantry, the 28th Bombay
Native Infantry, and some companies of Madras Sappers. Besides the
above, several hundred labourers were ordered from England, and one
thousand coolies from India to construct the railway to Berber.

The operation of crushing Osman Digna having to be performed, General
Graham was selected as the "crusher."

This was a surprise to most people, and probably equally so to Graham
himself. Military critics had not forgotten how, by his order to charge,
given at an unfortunate moment, the General very nearly caused the wreck
of the 2nd Brigade at Tamaai; nor the ill-feeling, bordering almost upon
insubordination, which his treatment of the Black Watch had brought
about in the Soudan army of 1884; and the appointment was freely
criticized. The General, however, was a nominee of Lord Wolseley, and
this, although it did not silence criticism, served in a great measure
to satisfy public opinion.

Brevet-Major-General A. J. L. Fremantle was appointed to command the
Brigade of Guards, and Major-General Greaves was named Chief of the
Staff. The Infantry Brigade was placed under Major-General Sir J. C.
McNeill, V.C.

General Graham's instructions, dated 20th February, were on arrival at
Souakim to take command of the forces which were to be assembled there,
to make the best arrangements which the shortness of the time at his
disposal, before the hot weather commenced, would admit of to organize a
field force, and to make such transport arrangements as were possible to
enable it to secure the first and most pressing object of the campaign,
viz., the destruction of the power of Osman Digna.

The General was told that an agreement had been made with Messrs. Lucas
and Aird to construct a railway from Souakim to Berber, and that on this
he must greatly rely for his means of transporting supplies. It would
therefore be of the first importance that every possible facility should
be given to Messrs. Lucas and Aird in the conduct of their operations.

The pushing on of the railway from Souakim towards Berber was the next
point to which he was to direct the greatest attention. By the agreement
with Messrs. Lucas and Aird, the contractors were to construct for the
War Department for the purposes of the expeditionary force, a 4 ft.
8-1/2-inch gauge single line of railway from Souakim, and thence in
sections so far towards Berber as might from time to time be ordered in
writing by the Secretary of State, and also an 18-inch gauge single line
of railway in or about Souakim. The War Department engaged to keep the
way clear and the working staff protected. The contractors were to
supply plant and working staff, and, with regard to the latter, were to
be at liberty, with the consent of the Secretary at War, to employ
natives as labourers. The staff to be paid by the Government, and
rationed and clothed by the War Department. The contractors were to
receive a commission of 2 per cent. upon all expenditure, from the War
Department, such commission, however, not to exceed in the whole
£20,000, and they were to be entitled to a further sum not exceeding
£20,000 if the railway should be satisfactorily completed in the
judgment of the Secretary of State.

On the 27th February, Lord Hartington again called Graham's attention to
the necessity for rapidly constructing the railway from Souakim to
Berber, and to the extreme importance of the services it would be
required to perform, not only in connection with the advance of Graham's
force, but also in connection with the troops under Wolseley's command
when concentrated at Berber. His Lordship pointed out that by this route
alone, when the railway should have been completed, could that force be
supplied, re-equipped, and reinforced with that precision and certainty
so essential to the future operations on the Nile. He continued:--

    "When the first and essential operation of crushing Osman Digna
    and clearing the country sufficiently to make it safe for the
    constructors of the railway is accomplished, the next most
    important duty will be the pushing on of the railway, and I
    request that you will facilitate and aid this object by every
    means in your power. You will, of course, decide what military
    posts you will occupy."

Towards the end of February Graham's force began to assemble at Souakim,
and from that date troop-ships and store-ships began to come in almost

Early in March Graham reached Souakim, and assumed command of the force
assembled there.

Considering the camp to be too extended, rendering night attacks too
easy, he at once took steps to reduce the front occupied. The enemy had
in fact for some time been in the habit of attacking in small bodies
every night, and succeeded in killing or wounding many of the sentries.
The camps were surrounded by zeribas and entanglements which were never
attacked, the plan adopted being to creep in at unguarded points, and
stab or spear the men as they slept. A large number of so-called
friendly natives were employed about the camps in the daytime, and so
acquired a knowledge of the localities. Returning at night, it was thus
easy for them to choose positions which were unguarded, and so to murder
the sleeping soldiers. That this was so, was shown by more than one
native who had been shot down being found to be wearing the red badge
given to the "friendlies."

On the 17th Graham's force amounted to 491 officers, 10,222
non-commissioned officers and privates, 1,616 horses, 2,759 camels, 791
mules, and 2,629 followers. At this date troop and store-ships were
still arriving.

On the 19th Graham made a reconnaissance to Hasheen, about seven and a
half miles from Souakim, with the Cavalry Brigade and Mounted Infantry,
the Infantry of the Indian Contingent moving out about four miles in
support. The enemy retired in front of the British force, evacuating the
village of Hasheen, and making for the mountains, but not without first
offering some resistance, by which one private was killed, and one
officer and a sergeant were wounded. After this the whole force marched
back to the camp.

On the 20th Graham determined on a general advance to Hasheen, and at
6.15 a.m., leaving only the Shropshire Regiment and details as guards,
the whole force, numbering about 10,000 men, marched out from the camp.
Making for the hills in front of Hasheen, the Cavalry moved off at about
6.10 a.m., the Infantry following at 6.25 in the following order:--The
Guards in columns of companies, on the right; the 2nd Brigade (East
Surrey Regiment and Marines), in line of company columns of fours; the
Indian Brigade in column of companies on the left; the Horse Artillery
Battery on the right of the line. The water camels and transport animals
followed in rear of the 2nd Brigade.

The action is described in the General's despatch as follows:--

    "The advance was made in a direction nearly due west. The
    Infantry reached the foot of the hills at about 8.25 a.m. The
    17th and 24th Companies Royal Engineers, the Madras Sappers, and
    the 70th East Surrey Regiment, were ordered to commence work at
    once. The enemy had fallen back on Dihilibat and the Beehive
    Hill, exchanging shots with my advance guard at about eight a.m.
    I now determined to clear these hills, and gave orders to the
    Infantry to advance in the following order:--2nd Brigade in
    first line, Indian Contingent in support, Guards in reserve; the
    Horse Artillery to take up a position on Beehive Hill.

    "At about nine a.m. the force had reached the foot of Dihilibat
    Hill. The Berkshire Regiment advanced up the steep slopes of
    the hill in attack formation, with one half battalion Royal
    Marine Light Infantry on the right rear, and the other half
    battalion in rear of the centre of the Berkshire Regiment as
    supports. The ascent was very steep and difficult, but the
    first spur was occupied without opposition. This spur is
    separated from the main edge by a deep ravine. The enemy now,
    however, opened a heavy fire from the summit, and from a
    position further to the right. The Berkshire Regiment replied
    by volleys, and the half battalion of Marines on the right was
    advanced to flank the enemy's position. The enemy then
    abandoned their position, and the Berkshire Regiment advanced
    to the summit, and detached one company to a spur on the left,
    from which an effective fire was opened upon the retiring
    enemy. Meanwhile the Indian Brigade had taken up a position
    between the foot of Dihilibat and the Beehive Hill; the Guards
    also were formed up near the foot of the north-east spur of
    Dihilibat Hill.

    "The Horse Artillery, which moved out with the Guards' Brigade
    as far as the first hills, received orders to follow the Indian
    Brigade in its further advance, and to take up a position on
    Beehive Hill. While passing under the Hill Dihilibat they were
    heavily fired upon, losing two horses. The slopes of Beehive
    Hill proving impracticable for the guns, the battery, after
    firing a few rounds of shrapnel into the bush, detached three
    guns to a position on a low spur to the west of Beehive Hill,
    where they remained in action for some time shelling parties of
    the enemy who were visible across the valley on the spurs of
    the Wharatab Range. The battery subsequently retired with the
    Guards' square, and took up a position on one of the hills
    reached at 8.25. Here several rounds were fired, subsequently
    to the retirement of the Infantry, at parties of the enemy
    which appeared on the low spur.

    "At about 9.40 a.m. two squadrons of the 9th Bengal Cavalry
    were detached by Colonel Ewart, commanding Cavalry Brigade, to
    pursue the enemy, who, driven from the Hill Dihilibat by the
    Berkshire Regiment, were retiring south in the direction of
    Tamaai. Colonel Ewart ordered two squadrons to dismount and
    fire volleys. These squadrons were charged by the enemy in
    considerable strength, and retired with loss on the square
    formed by the Guards at the foot of the Dihilibat Hill.

    "During the morning the 5th Lancers were employed in securing
    the right front. At about 10.45 a considerable force of the
    enemy endeavoured to advance down the Hasheen Valley from the
    north-west, apparently attempting to turn my right flank. Both
    the 5th Lancers and a portion of the 9th Bengal Cavalry were
    engaged with the small advanced parties of this force, and
    succeeded in checking the movement. During this time work was
    carried on by the Royal Engineers and Madras Sappers, assisted
    by parties of the East Surrey Regiment, and by about 2.30 p.m.
    four strong posts had been formed, and a zeriba commenced.

    "At 12.25 I recalled the Indian Brigade, the Berkshire
    Regiment, and the Marines covering the movement. The latter
    then joined the Indian Brigade, and, forming a single square,
    retired to the more open ground south. The Guards' square and
    the Artillery remained at the foot of the Dihilibat Hill till
    one p.m., and then retired, taking a direction somewhat to the
    south of that followed by the 2nd and Indian Brigades.

    "During the retirement of the Guards the right face of the
    square received a hot fire from parties of the enemy concealed
    among the bushes, and suffered some loss. By firing steady
    volleys into the bush the enemy's fire was effectually
    silenced, and the Brigade halted close to the south foot of the
    hills first mentioned. The general retirement of the whole
    force began about 4.30 p.m., and the camp was reached at 6.15.

    "The Dihilibat Hill was carried by the Berkshire Regiment with
    the greatest spirit, and the behaviour of the Guards' square
    under a heavy fire from an unseen enemy was marked by extreme
    steadiness. During the formation of the fortified posts, the
    presence of the enemy in rear rendered it necessary several
    times to order the East Surrey Regiment to stand to their arms.
    This was done without any confusion, and the Royal Engineers
    and Madras Sappers quietly continued their work on the

    "It is impossible in such a country to estimate the numbers of
    an enemy who is able to remain completely concealed until he
    chooses to attack; but it is probable that on this occasion the
    number of Arabs present was about 3,000, of whom at least 250
    were killed, much of this loss being caused by the fire of the
    Berkshire Regiment from the commanding position they had taken
    up on Dihilibat Hill. The scouting was very efficiently
    performed by the Cavalry, considering the great difficulties of
    the country with which they had to contend."

The enemy, according to other accounts, seemed to have lost none of the
daring with which they had met Graham's force a twelvemonth before.
Instead of fleeing before the charge of the Bengal Lancers, the
Soudanese actually charged the Cavalry. The same tactics were practised
as at El-Teb, the Soudanese throwing themselves on the ground at the
critical moment of the charge, and slashing with their swords at the
horses' legs. So badly were the Lancers used that they had to fall back
as stated in the despatch, losing one non-commissioned officer and four
men, whose horses had been hamstrung in the encounter.

In the course of the fight, some 150 of the enemy sprang up from behind
a hill 300 yards off, and had the audacity to charge the whole of the
Guards' Brigade. The assailants were received by such a deadly fire from
the face of the square that they never succeeded in getting nearer than
fifteen or twenty yards of the line of bayonets. Those who survived at
once turned and fled, leaving behind their wounded chief on a camel,
within thirty yards of the square, where he was made prisoner.

The object of the recall of the Indian Brigade at 12.25 p.m., and the
subsequent retirement towards the hill (then being fortified by the 70th
Regiment) of that force, the Berkshire Regiment, and Marines, followed
at one p.m. by the Guards and Artillery, practically the whole army, is
not stated in the General's despatch. But from other reports it seems
that the troops had got into a position where the thickness of the bush
gave the enemy the advantage of pouring a heavy fire into General
Graham's force, whilst the latter could only deliver an ineffective fire
in return.[133] At the position to which the troops fell back, the
ground was more open, and Graham's men could make better practice with
their Martinis.

The apparent intention of the enemy to turn the right of the British
line, also probably influenced the General in retiring.

After some hours' marching and fighting under a blazing sun the force
set out on the return to Souakim, leaving a detachment to guard the
fortified posts made by the Engineers and Madras Sappers.

The following are the casualties as reported by telegram from
Graham:--Officers killed, Lieutenant M. D. D. Dalison, Scots Guards; 1
native officer, Indian Contingent; 4 non-commissioned officers and
privates, and 12 sowars of the Indian Contingent. Wounded, 6 officers,
26 non-commissioned officers and privates, 13 sowars, and 3 privates of
the Indian Contingent.

The enemy's strength was, as usual, liberally estimated in the various
newspaper reports of the action, some putting the number as high as
14,000 men. General Graham's original estimate was 4,000, but this he
subsequently reduced to 3,000, a number probably much nearer the mark.

Graham's object in occupying a position at Hasheen was declared by him
to be to protect his right flank in the impending advance on Tamaai, to
obtain a post of observation near to the mountains, and to assist in
overawing the tribes. How far this was effected may be judged from the
fact that only five days later the works were dismantled and the place
was abandoned.



After the operations on the 19th and 20th March, 1885, preparations were
made for the advance on Tamaai, Osman Digna's reputed head-quarters and
stronghold. Situated, as it was, some fourteen miles to the south-west
of Souakim, the distance was deemed too great to be traversed in a
single day's march. It became necessary then, as on previous occasions,
to establish an intermediate position in which, as an advanced camp, the
usual stores of water, provisions, and ammunition might be

About an hour after daylight on the 22nd March the force detached for
this purpose started from Souakim. Ahead and on the flanks was one
squadron of the 5th Lancers scouting; next marched the British
regiments, the 49th Berkshire, and the Royal Marine Light Infantry,
formed up in square under the command of Major-General Sir John C.
McNeill. The Berkshire Regiment led the way, and the Marines brought up
the rear, a detachment of the Royal Engineers occupying places in the
flanks. The only representatives of the artillery arm were four Gardner
guns with detachments of sailors and Royal Marine Artillery.

Outside the British square, but close to its left flank, moved the
Field Telegraph waggon and party, which kept unrolling the telegraph
wire and covering it with loose soil as it went on, so maintaining the
communication with Souakim throughout the advance.


Formed up in a still larger square a short distance in rear of the right
flank, the Indian Contingent marched in echelon under command of
Brigadier-General Hudson. The 15th Sikhs formed the front face and a
portion of the flanks. The remainder of the right flank and one half of
the rear face were formed by the 28th Bombay Native Infantry. The 17th
Bengal Native Infantry occupied a similar position on the left flank and
rear face. In reserve, immediately within the rear face, marched a
company of Madras Sappers. Within this square was inclosed a vast and
miscellaneous array of laden camels, mules, carts, and conveyances of
all kinds, forming the transport train. The camels alone numbered from
1,000 to 1,200, and there were in all some 1,500 animals. The combined
British and Indian forces amounted to 3,300 men.

The orders were for the whole force to proceed to a point eight miles
distant in the direction of Tamaai, there to form a zeriba (No. 2), in
which the stores, &c., were to be deposited. When this was accomplished
the Lancers, Indian Infantry, and empty transport train were to return,
stop at a point five miles from Souakim, construct another zeriba (No.
1), and leaving it to be garrisoned by the 15th Sikhs, go back to

General Graham accompanied the troops for about two and a half miles and
then returned to camp, the chief of his staff warning McNeill to "look
out for an attack," but, beyond this casual reference to the possibility
of an attack, nothing more was said on the subject, although at
head-quarters information had several days previously been received that
the force would be assailed by at least 5,000 of the enemy before there
should be time to form the zeriba. The importance of this circumstance
will be apparent later on in connection with the events which followed.

The route which the force was instructed to take was to the westward of
the comparatively well-known road followed by Baker Pasha, and also by
the British troops, in 1884, and though free from difficulty at first,
later on led through thick bush of ever-increasing height and density.
The rate of progress was necessarily slow, and frequent halts became

As the force advanced the Lancers began to report that parties of the
enemy were seen hovering about.

The heat of the day, with a burning sun overhead, from which the bushes
afforded no protection, now began to tell on the men, and at 10 a.m.,
when a little over five miles had been traversed, it was calculated by
the two generals that, allowing time for the construction of the zeribas
(Nos. 1 and 2) and the return journey, it would be well towards midnight
before the Indian Brigade and transport train would get back to Souakim.
Accordingly at 10.30 it was determined to halt the force and make the
zeriba in an open space six miles from the camp at Souakim.

The spot selected formed a large oblong with very irregular outlines,
presenting an area in the clearest portions about half a square mile in

McNeill then telegraphed to head-quarters at Souakim the change which
the difficulties with the transport had necessitated, and received back
in reply the message, "Go on if you can; if not, zeriba." The reply also
stated that, as the halt had been made at only six miles distance, no
intermediate zeriba would be required at the five-mile point previously

The site for the zeriba being fixed upon, no time was lost in making the
necessary dispositions. The troops marched upon the ground in the same
order in which they had advanced, and the British square, being the
first to emerge upon the open, turning up a little to the left halted in
its original formation, taking up a position on the north-east side of
the open space. Past it came the Indian Brigade with the transport train
under its charge, General Hudson disposing his troops so as to cover the
ground on the three remaining sides.

On the side opposite the British square were posted the 15th Sikhs, to
the right the Bombay Native Infantry, and to the left the Bengal Native
Infantry. The bush in front of the Bombay Infantry being very dense, and
comparatively open in front of the Bengal Infantry, two companies of the
latter were moved across and placed on the right of the former to
strengthen and prolong this face.

In order to protect the front of the various lines of infantry, small
pickets of from four to five men each were thrown forward about 120
yards. A quarter of a mile further out in front of these pickets were
the Lancers, arranged as "Cossack posts" of four men each. Another
"Cossack post," also of four men, was used as a connecting link, the
remainder constituting the picket and visiting patrols.

At once the task of measuring and pegging out the site for the proposed
works was taken in hand. The plan adopted was to form three separate
squares placed diagonally like squares on a chess-board, or, as it is
termed, "in echelon," the large or central square, intended to contain
the stores, non-combatants, and transport animals, being between the
other two. Attached to this, and communicating with it at its
north-west and south-east angles respectively, were the smaller squares
set apart for the north and south zeribas, of equal dimensions, with
accommodation in each for a battalion and two Gardner guns. By this
arrangement every side of the central square or zeriba was capable of
being swept by a flanking fire from the zeribas at the angles.

Working parties were organized for cutting down the bush and dragging it
into position. The chief work of construction fell upon the Royal
Engineers and the Madras Sappers, but to expedite matters working
parties were drawn both from the British and Indian troops. The
remainder of the British troops, retaining their original formation in
square, piled their arms, and were ordered to lie down and rest. The
Indian troops not engaged in cutting brushwood remained standing to
their arms in lines two deep.

At 12.30 the Marines had their rations served out, the men dining by
half-companies at a time.

At 1 p.m. Major Graves with a squadron of the 20th Hussars arrived from
the camp at Souakim, and stated that he had been sent by General Graham
to communicate with McNeill. The Major reported that on the way out he
had seen in his front stray parties of the enemy, who retired before the
cavalry without coming into collision. On receiving a despatch for
Graham's chief of the staff, stating that matters were proceeding
satisfactorily, the Major started with the Hussars on his return journey
at 1.30.

As the most vital part of the defences, attention had been first of all
directed to the formation of the north and south zeribas. Both of these
were pushed on with the utmost expedition, but, as has been seen, the
bush being thickest at the north side, in front of the Bombay Infantry,
the zeriba at this angle was in a more advanced state than that on the
south side. The former was completed shortly after 2 p.m., and the two
Gardner guns designed for it were got into position. The battalion of
Marines hitherto forming part of the British square was now transferred
to this zeriba, together with the reserve ammunition and the telegraph
waggon. With this transfer of Marines the Berkshire Battalion was
contracted into a smaller square.

Meanwhile the south zeriba was also being rapidly proceeded with, and
it being represented that the Berkshires had eaten nothing since 4 a.m.,
rations and water were ordered to be served out to them, the men taking
their food by half battalions. As soon as the first of the half
battalions had finished it was marched into the south zeriba, very soon
after the Marines had occupied that on the north. The time was now
getting on towards half-past two, and shortly after the half battalion
had gone into the zeriba the soldiers piled their arms inside, part of
the men going out in front of the Sikhs to cut bush in order to complete
the defences.[135]

The camels had been unloaded in the central zeriba, and were filing out
to form up for the return march, the bulk of them being collected on an
unoccupied space to the south-east. The lines were being held by eight
companies of the Bengal Infantry, by the 15th Sikhs, and by the Bombay

This was the situation when shortly after 2.30 one of the Lancers rode
up and informed McNeill that the enemy was gathering in front and
advancing rapidly. Orders were at once given for the working and
covering parties to come in and for the troops to stand to their arms.
Whilst these instructions were being carried into effect, the Cavalry
were seen galloping up on every side with the Soudanese close at their

The attack was delivered mainly on the southern and western sides, the
Soudanese surging onwards in one vast impetuous mass, enveloped in
clouds of dust and filling the air with shouts and yells as they made
frantic efforts to storm the position. The Berkshires and Marines, as
well as the Sikhs and Bombay Infantry, stood their ground, receiving and
repulsing the attack with a heavy fire. The 17th Bengal Native Infantry,
however, thrown into partial disorder by some of the Cavalry riding
through their ranks, fired one wild and scattered volley and fled for
such cover as the zeriba might afford, many of them being shot down by
the defenders. Every effort was made to rally the fugitives, and about
120 were got within the southern zeriba, where they fired another
ineffectual volley and again broke and fled.

The assailants now crowded in by the uncompleted salient at a point
where there was no brushwood, but merely a sandbag parapet, where the
Gardner guns, not being yet in position, could not be got into action,
and killed six of the sailors and four officers.

Other parties of the enemy following the retreat of the Madras Infantry
dashed into the central zeriba, and caused a stampede among the animals
there and a panic among the native drivers. A general rush of the latter
took place both to the open side, and also through the north zeriba,
where some of the Marines were for the moment carried away by it. At
this moment the rear rank of the Berkshire half battalion engaged in
defending the western face of the south zeriba faced about and occupied
the gap through which the Soudanese were now pouring. Meeting the enemy
half-way, the Berkshires despatched every Arab who had entered, 112
bodies being counted within the limits of this zeriba alone. They also
captured a flag which the enemy had planted on the sandbag parapet. In a
few minutes this zeriba was cleared, and no further serious attack was
made upon it.

The bulk of the enemy's force, repelled by the steady volleys from the
troops on the south and west sides of the position, swept round by the
great mass of the transport animals, gathered together outside and to
the eastward for the return journey to Souakim. It was to cover this
part of the ground that six companies of the Bengal Infantry had been
drawn up in line. Their unfortunate collapse, however, gave the enemy an
opportunity of which they were not slow to take advantage. With a wild
howl, peculiarly alarming to the camel, they rushed upon the
panic-stricken and helpless mass. Plying lance and sword, cutting,
stabbing, hacking, and hamstringing the beasts, and slaughtering their
drivers, the tribesmen of the Soudan drove before them an unwieldy and
terrified body, heedless of everything but flight. Thus driven, the
transport train broke up and scattered itself in all directions.
Impelled by the pursuers, part of it bore down upon the zeribas held by
the Berkshires and Marines respectively, and part on the central zeriba.
Mixed up as they were with the charging enemy, many of the animals were
unavoidably shot down by the troops as a matter of self-preservation.
The same thing happened in the attack made upon the half battalion of
the Berkshires which remained drawn up outside in square formation,
but, pursued by the Arabs, the great bulk of the baggage train went off
in their mad flight in the direction of Souakim.

After the southern zeriba the two main points of attack were the
northern zeriba, held by the Marines and the half battalion of the
Berkshires. Both these positions were in the direct line of the camel
stampede, and their occupants were placed at a serious disadvantage. In
spite of the completed mimosa fences, trampling their way over all
obstacles, a mass of the terror-stricken animals tore right through the
northern zeriba, for the time seriously disorganizing the defence. As
stated by Colonel Way, an eye-witness--

    "Everything seemed to come at once, camels, transport of all
    kinds, including water-carts, ammunition mules, 17th Native
    Infantry, Madras Sappers, sick-bearers, Transport Corps, cavalry
    and Arabs fighting in the midst. All these passed close by me,
    and went out on the other side of the zeriba, carrying away with
    them a number of the Marines and some officers, who eventually
    got together and returned. The dust raised by this crowd was so
    great that I could not see anything beyond our zeriba for a
    minute or two, and it was impossible to say what might happen.
    The men behaved splendidly, and stood quite still. It was about
    the highest test of discipline I shall ever see, as in my
    opinion nothing could beat it."

The stampede of the transport train is thus described by another

    "Suddenly from the bush all along the face of the zeriba
    fronting Tamaai burst out a clamour of savage cries, and the
    next instant the whole assemblage of transport animals plunged
    forward. There was a multitude of roaring camels, apparently
    heaped one upon another, with strings of kicking and screaming
    mules, entangled in one moving mass. Crowds of camp-followers
    were carried along by the huge animal wave, crying, shouting,
    and fighting. All these surged up on the zeriba, any resistance
    being utterly hopeless. This mass of brutes and terrified
    natives swept all before it, and a scene of indescribable
    confusion ensued."

Notwithstanding the rush of the transport which had passed through the
Marines' zeriba, comparatively few of the enemy seem to have penetrated
it, only twelve bodies being counted there. Outside the dead were much
more numerous, the position having been attacked on various sides. The
men behaved with the greatest coolness, and, after being rallied by
their officers when the living avalanche had swept past, were well in

The naval detachment in this zeriba, more fortunate than their
companions in the southern one, had their Gardner guns in action from
the first, discharging at least 400 rounds and doing great execution.

The half battalion of the Berkshires remaining, formed up in the open at
a distance of 250 yards east of the zeriba, had also a severe time of
it. Falling in and standing to their arms at the first alarm, they
formed a rallying square, and successfully defended themselves against
the repeated attacks made on them. It was found that 200 of the
assailants had fallen before the fire of their rifles, whilst amongst
themselves there was only one slight casualty.

Other small bodies of men who were outside the zeriba at the moment of
the attack, or had stampeded at its occurrence, were similarly collected
by their officers, and succeeded in making their way back to the zeriba.

The whole affair lasted only about twenty minutes, after which the
enemy, unable to stand any longer against the leaden hail of the
Martini-Henry and Snider rifles, recoiled at every point, and at twelve
minutes past three, as the assailants disappeared in the bush, the bugle
sounded "Cease firing." Up to the last moment individual Arabs came
forward, throwing up their hands above their heads, and facing the
rifles as if bent on suicide, and courting the death which they
received. Small groups of them also formed up as if to encourage each
other for a renewed assault, but without effecting anything they melted
away before the deadly fire of the soldiers.

When the smoke cleared away, and there was time to look around, a
dreadful spectacle presented itself. The dead bodies of friends and foes
lay thickly scattered within and about the zeribas. Everywhere were
wounded and slaughtered men and animals, whilst groans and cries filled
the air. Strewn upon the ground were arms and accoutrements of every
kind, with all the usual accompaniments of a savage and sanguinary

The enemy's force was reported by General Graham in his despatch as not
less than 2,000, although, as he states, it was impossible to form an
accurate estimate.

The Soudanese as usual fought with the utmost courage. One man came
rushing on to the zeriba holding by the hand a boy armed with a knife.
Throwing the boy over the defensive works, he jumped in after him, and
immediately both were killed. At another point there stood between the
opposing forces another boy, apparently not more than twelve years old,
actually throwing stones at the British troops in one of the zeribas.

Among various mischievous devices resorted to may be noted that of a
Soudanese armed with a rifle, who during the attack managed to creep up
close to the mimosa fence of the southern zeriba, and from this cover
contrived in succession to shoot first one and then another of the
Berkshires, and though fired at in return, was missed. His third shot
was directed at a major of the regiment on duty inside the zeriba, who
narrowly escaped, the bullet carrying away his trousers pocket and part
of his coat, and not till then was the assailant shot. Another trick of
the assailants was to bring hides, and throwing them on the top of the
thorny bushes forming the fence, they would spring over into the zeriba
and rush at the defenders and engage in a hand-to-hand fight.

During the assault on the southern zeriba an interesting adventure
occurred to the Colonel of the Berkshires. He was sitting on his horse
close to his regiment when the attack took place, and was confronted by
a gigantic Soudanese who appeared from behind a camel, brandishing a
huge spear, and bent on slaughter. Their eyes met, and seeing the
Colonel's revolver levelled at his head, the expression on the
countenance of the savage suddenly changed from triumph to horror as the
Colonel fired, and the Arab, with the upper part of his head blown away,
fell to the ground a ghastly wreck.

McNeill's force suffered severely, having, exclusive of camp-followers,
6 officers and 94 men killed, and 6 officers and 136 men wounded, and 1
officer and 10 men missing. Amongst the killed were Captain Francis J.
Romilly, and Lieutenant C. M. C. Newman, of the Royal Engineers;
Lieutenant Montague H. M. Seymour, of the Naval Brigade; Major Von
Beverhoudt, of the Indian Contingent; Quartermaster C. Eastmead, of the
Ordnance Store Department, and Lieutenant George S. Swinton, of the
Berkshire Regiment. The bodies of 8 British and 25 Indian soldiers were
found in the bush away from the zeriba.

The loss in transport animals was enormous, over 900 camels alone being
killed. Scores of them, which had been left outside the zeriba, were
shot as the enemy swarmed on to the attack.

The enemy's loss was severe. Graham states that 1,000 bodies were found
on the field. Besides the 112 bodies counted in the zeriba, there were
the 200 found in front of the Berkshire Regiment. Near the redoubt held
by the Naval Brigade, the dead lay in heaps. All around the ground was
literally strewn with bodies; among them were several women and boys.

Throughout the entire conflict McNeill showed the greatest coolness and
judgment, leading his men on with a courage oblivious of danger. During
his preliminary efforts to rally the Bengal Native Infantry, the
General, mounted on his grey Arab horse, found himself outside the
defences, with the enemy streaming on full in front. Here, strange to
say, he seemed to be entirely unnoticed, and, with revolver in hand
ready to despatch any who might venture too near, he quietly turned his
horse, and without difficulty made him cross the fence and step into the

Later on, towards half-past three, there were circumstances which
appeared to indicate that the enemy, notwithstanding the heavy loss they
had sustained, were disposed to renew the attack, a large gathering of
them presenting itself to the south-east of the zeriba. Their attitude
was so threatening that McNeill resolved to make a sortie and endeavour
to disperse them. Taking with him two companies of Marines, he led them
straight for the enemy. As they advanced the little force was soon in
front of the foe. Fire was at once opened, and the ground cleared; and
though the men were anxious to make a charge with the bayonet, the
demonstration having served its purpose, the troops were withdrawn
without further fighting.

Notwithstanding McNeill's successful defence of the zeriba, and the
heavy loss inflicted on the enemy in the action on the 22nd, Sir John
has been the object of much adverse criticism. This criticism has been
directed upon several points. It has been asked, Why were the fatigue
men employed in cutting materials for the zeriba allowed to go into the
bush unarmed? Sir John's answer is, that this was done designedly; the
working parties were covered by the Cossack pickets of the Lancers; men
incumbered with slung arms could not work to any good purpose in hot
weather; in the event of attack, it was not desirable that the working
parties should attempt to make a stand, as they would be of more service
by running in and taking their places in the alignment marked by their
piled arms, and they would thus avoid the danger of masking the fire of
the troops in position.

The main charge, however, brought against the General is that he allowed
himself to be surprised. This, however, if true at all, is so only in a
limited sense of the term. That his force was attacked before the whole
of it had time to form up in a fighting attitude is undoubted; but
whether this was through any fault of his is quite another matter. The
careful planning of the zeribas, the disposition of the troops, and the
outlying pickets and vedettes have already been referred to. It is
difficult to see what other precautions the General, with the means at
his command, could have adopted. Not more than one-third of the British
troops ever left their arms, and the Indians, minus their fatigue
parties, remained throughout in position constantly ready for an attack.
Whilst one half of the Berkshires moved into their completed zeriba, the
remaining half was carefully re-formed in square outside. In the issue,
as showing that a zeriba was little required for their protection, this
last half battalion proved the strongest part of the position, and
though subject to repeated attacks, lost not a man.

That Sir John was not informed in time of the impending attack was due
to the insufficient number (one squadron only) of cavalry with which he
was provided, and which were absolutely necessary for covering a
frontage of over three miles. Here it may perhaps be remarked that, had
this suggested itself to the General's mind, it seems strange that he
did not take steps to detain and utilize the squadron of Hussars, under
Major Graves, which visited the zeriba shortly before the attack was

The General had many difficulties to contend with. He was incumbered
with a wholly disproportionate mass of transport; was directed on an
impracticable line; was unsupplied with information of vital importance;
and, finally, was sent to conduct an operation of which he strongly
disapproved. To crown all, there was the flight of the Bengal Infantry
at the very commencement of the fight, an event which the General could
hardly have been expected to foresee. The result, however, was a signal
victory, and practically the only successful operation of the campaign.

Graham was at Souakim whilst the attack was made on the zeriba. On
first hearing the firing at 2.45 p.m., he ordered the Guards and Horse
Artillery to go to McNeill's assistance. The force advanced two miles on
the road when a message sent by the field-telegraph from the zeriba
arrived, stating that the attack had been repelled, after which the
proposed reinforcements returned to Souakim.

The following day Graham advanced to McNeill's zeriba. Here he sent off
the following despatch, dated Souakim, March 23rd, 6.30 p.m.:--

             "_Advanced Zeriba, 12 noon._

    "Arrived here with Guards and large convoy. Am sending in
    wounded and baggage animals with Indian Brigade and Grenadier
    Guards, under Fremantle, leaving two battalions of Guards here
    with McNeill's brigade. A strong zeriba has been constructed,
    and I consider position secure against any number of enemy. The
    attack yesterday was very sudden and determined, and came
    unfortunately on our weakest point. The Sikhs charged the enemy
    with bayonet. The Berkshire behaved splendidly, clearing out
    the zeriba where entered and capturing three standards. Marines
    also behaved well. Naval Brigade was much exposed and suffered
    severely. Engineers also suffered heavily, being out working
    when attacked. The enemy suffered very severely, more than a
    thousand bodies being counted. Many chiefs of note are believed
    to have fallen. I deeply regret our serious losses, but am of
    opinion that McNeill did everything possible under the
    circumstances. The cavalry, 5th Lancers, did their best to give
    information, but the ground being covered with bush it was
    impossible to see any distance. The troops behaved extremely
    well. All the staff and regimental officers did their utmost.
    Enemy charged with reckless courage, leaping over the low
    zeriba to certain death; and, although they gained a temporary
    success by surprise, they have received a severe lesson, and up
    to the present time have not again attempted to molest the

Of the scene round McNeill's zeriba some idea may be formed from the
following description:--

    "When going from Souakim the last three miles of the march were
    marked at every step by graves, Arab and Indian, so shallow that
    from all oozed dark and hideous stains, and from many protruded
    mangled feet, half-stripped grinning skulls, or ghastly hands
    still clenched in the death agony, though reduced to little more
    than bone and sinew. Strewed around, thicker and thicker, as we
    neared the scene of that Sunday's fight, lay the festering
    bodies of camels and mules; and around them hopped and
    fluttered, scarcely moving when our column passed, hundreds of
    kites and vultures. The ground was also thickly sown with hands
    and feet dragged from their graves by the hyænas, and the awful
    stench and reek of carrion which loaded the air will never be
    forgotten by any of us. Day after day we passed and repassed
    over the same sickening scene with our convoys, in blinding dust
    and under a scorching sun, obliged to move at a foot's pace to
    keep up with the weary camels, and to pick our steps carefully
    for fear of suddenly setting foot on one of those dreadful heaps
    of corruption."

On the 25th March a convoy was sent out to McNeill's zeriba, under
escort of the 15th Sikhs, 28th Bombay, and the Madras Sappers, with a
few cavalry. When three miles from Souakim the convoy halted according
to instructions, commenced cutting wood and forming a zeriba. A
battalion composed of Guards and Marines from McNeill's force marched
towards them and was attacked on the way by a long range fire from the
enemy, by which a lieutenant of the Marines and one private were
wounded. At two p.m. the two escorts met, when the Guards and Marines
taking over the convoy prepared to return to McNeill's zeriba. At this
moment the enemy appeared in force and attacked the column. The Guards,
Marines, and Cavalry, moving out in four different detachments, fired
into the attacking force and dispersed it.

The Guards and Marines then started again, but after ten minutes the
enemy again appeared and fired a volley into them, which was at once
returned. After less than a quarter of an hour a third attack was made.
The Guards fired volley after volley, and once more drove back their
assailants. The column then renewed its march, parties of the enemy
still following them, and from time to time attacking their rear.
Eventually the party got safely to the zeriba.

The result of the day's proceedings was to show that the enemy, in no
way disheartened by the losses on the 22nd, were still in force, and
ready to attack within four miles of Souakim. The attempt on the convoy
was evidently made with the object of capturing the supplies destined
for McNeill; and though it failed, it showed the increasing boldness of
the enemy.

On the 25th, a war balloon which had been sent out to McNeill's zeriba
made an ascent in charge of Major Templar. The same day, with a view to
the advance, the head-quarters camp was shifted to a spot two miles
nearer Tamaai, and the East Surrey Regiment having destroyed the post on
the hills near Hasheen, came in and joined the main body.



On the 26th March, another convoy was attacked, this time about two
miles only from Souakim. The enemy on this occasion charged the head of
the square, and were repulsed with considerable loss, none of them
getting within five yards of the square. The British casualties were
three wounded. It was said that 100 of the enemy were killed in this
affair. The heat of the weather was now beginning to make itself felt,
and several cases of sunstroke occurred amongst the troops engaged.

The first part of the Australian Contingent arrived at Souakim on the
29th March. The troops consisted of twenty-eight officers, 500 men of
the battalion of Infantry, thirty men of the Artillery, and thirty-three
men of the Ambulance Corps. The Contingent, which was commanded by
Colonel Richardson, met with an enthusiastic reception from the naval
and military forces at Souakim.

The railway was now vigorously pushed forward in the direction of
Handoub, and on the 2nd April General Graham determined to advance and
attack Osman Digna in his position at Tamaai, although there was some
doubt whether he would accept battle.

Accordingly at three a.m. the General paraded his troops in the
moonlight, and at four marched them to McNeill's zeriba. This zeriba
(No. 1) was reached at 9 a.m., and the force halted until 10.15 a.m. for
rest and refreshment. During this time arrangements were made for the
defence of the zeriba, at which the 28th Bombay Native Infantry were
left with two Gardner guns manned by marine artillery. The balloon was
filled and made ready for use for reconnoitring purposes.

The troops were joined at the zeriba by the Grenadier Guards, the
Berkshire Regiment, the 24th Company of the Royal Engineers, two Gardner
guns, manned by the Naval Brigade, the Mounted Infantry, and one troop
of the 9th Bengal Cavalry.

A finer body of men than that which was now assembled was probably never
got together. They were in the best of spirits, and looked forward with
eagerness to meeting the enemy. The size and composition of the force
were such as to render any possibility of it receiving a check from
Osman Digna out of the question.

The place where it was hoped the engagement would come off was the spot
where Graham had encountered such severe resistance just twelve months
before. This time it was determined to be prepared to meet any number of
the enemy.

The march was resumed at 10.15 a.m., the whole force marching in square.
It was composed of 8,175 officers and men, 1,361 horses, 1,639 camels,
930 mules, and 1,773 camp-followers.

Soon after starting, an attempt was made to reconnoitre from the
balloon, and parties of the enemy were reported to be discovered some
miles in front. The wind, however, increased to such an extent as to
render the balloon unserviceable, and at eleven it had to be packed up.

The following details of the operations are taken mainly from General
Graham's despatch.

    "The square advanced slowly with frequent halts, owing to the
    density of bush in the neighbourhood of the zeriba.

    "At 12.15 p.m., about three miles from zeriba No. 1, the
    Cavalry and Mounted Infantry reported the presence of the enemy
    in the bush in scattered groups, a few being on camels and the
    main portion on foot. These appeared to be at first advancing
    through the bush, but gradually fell back before the advance of
    the Cavalry.

    "At 12.45 p.m. the force halted for a short time, and at 1.30
    p.m. the enemy were reported as retiring towards the Teselah
    Hills and Tamaai. At 2 p.m., about three miles from the Teselah
    Hills, the force halted for water and food, and the Mounted
    Infantry and a squadron of the 9th Bengal Cavalry were ordered
    to reconnoitre the position on these hills, reported to be
    lined with the enemy.

    "At first the enemy seemed inclined to defend the position, but
    their flanks being threatened they fell back on Tamaai.
    Teselah, a group of bare rocky hills, about 100 feet high, but
    practicable for guns, was occupied by the Mounted Infantry and
    Bengal Cavalry at three o'clock. From these hills an excellent
    view was obtained of the scattered villages of New Tamaai,
    lying between the ridges of low hills beyond Teselah, and the
    deep ravine Khor Ghoub, beyond which the country becomes
    exceedingly mountainous and intersected by ravines with
    precipitous sides.

    "The Mounted Infantry were ordered to push on to the village,
    find out if it was occupied, and then, if practicable, move on
    to the water and water the horses. One company advanced about a
    mile south through a village, when fire was opened on them from
    another village further south; while the company moving towards
    the water in the Khor Ghoub were fired upon by the enemy on the
    ridges near. The fire was returned, and the Mounted Infantry
    fell back to the Teselah Hill, where they were ordered to join
    the Cavalry, and return to No. 1 zeriba for the night."

The main body of the force reached the Teselah Hills at 5 p.m., when the
usual zeriba (2) was formed.

About 1 a.m., on the 3rd, shots were fired into the camp from about 800
to 1,000 yards. The moon was shining brightly, and the men at once stood
to their arms, and the Grenadier Guards answered by a volley. This and a
shrapnel shell silenced the enemy, not, however, before one of Graham's
men had been killed and two wounded.

At 4.30, on the 3rd, the troops were aroused, and the zeriba being left
in charge of McNeill with the East Surrey and Shropshire Regiments, the
advance was resumed at eight.

Graham's object was to gain possession of a cluster of villages at New
Tamaai which had long been Osman Digna's head-quarters, and to secure
the water supply, either by attacking the enemy's position, or by
drawing them into an engagement on the open ground near the villages.
The ground over which the men advanced was rough and broken. It was free
from bush, but was intersected with deep gullies, and studded with
jutting rocks and boulders.

At 8.45 fire was opened at long range by about 200 Arabs on the Mounted
Infantry and Bengal Cavalry in front. This was replied to. It soon
became evident that the enemy were unable to oppose any serious
resistance to the advance of the column.

The force proceeded through the villages, which were found to have been
recently deserted, and at 9.30 the crest of the north side of the Khor
Ghoub was gained.

The Mounted Infantry and Bengal Cavalry were all this time engaging the
enemy on the right flank, but were unable to draw them from their

The 2nd Brigade, under General Hudson, now moved to the right, advanced
across the Khor Ghoub, and ascended the hill on the opposite bank. The
Berkshire Regiment, with the Marines on their right, opened fire from
the highest point in the centre of the hill, and the Scots Guards threw
out a company to fire up the khor. The Guards' Brigade and Australian
Regiment moved forward in support of the 2nd Brigade, crowning the
ridges on the north side of the khor. G Battery of the Royal Horse
Artillery came into action on the left flank of the 1st Brigade, and
opened fire on some parties of the enemy.

During those operations the enemy were keeping up a distant fire, which
resulted in one man being killed, and one officer and fifteen men
wounded. The enemy's numbers and loss it was impossible to estimate with
any accuracy, but a steady, well-aimed fire was kept up on such bodies
as showed themselves, and the effect of the fire was to overcome any
opposition they may have intended to make.

On descending to the bed of the khor it was found that at the spot where
the previous year was running water, there were no signs of water beyond
a little moisture, and well-holes partly filled in. By digging about
four feet down only a small supply of brackish water could be obtained,
and at a short distance there was a shallow pool on a bed of black mud.

It is probable that this failure of the water supply had had much to do
with the disappearance of Osman Digna's forces.

Graham's force had brought with it only three days' supply of water, and
this failure of the wells at Tamaai rendered it dangerous to advance
against Tamanieb, for should the wells there be found to be also
waterless, the position of the army would become very serious.

Under these circumstances, and in view of the retirement of the enemy,
and their evident inability or indisposition to meet the force, the
General considered it best to withdraw, as it would have been fruitless
to attempt to follow Osman Digna into the mountainous country with no
water for the transport animals.

At 10.20 a.m. Graham ordered the withdrawal of the force, by alternate
brigades, from the position which had been taken up. By 10.40 a.m. the
troops had recrossed the khor, the movement being covered by two Horse
Artillery guns on the ridge to the north, which fired a few rounds of
shrapnel at detached parties of the enemy.

New Tamaai was ordered to be destroyed, and it was fired as the troops
retired through it. Considerable quantities of ammunition were
destroyed. Osman Digna's residence is believed to have been among the
huts burnt.

At noon the force reached No. 2 zeriba at the Teselah Hill. As the
troops fell back a handful of Arabs made their way, parallel to the line
of march, along the distant hills to the right, keeping up a running
fire on the British column. From zeriba No. 2 the force moved gradually
back to the other zeriba, and thence to Souakim.

The total casualties were one man killed and six wounded. Only seven men
fell out during the march.

It was a severe disappointment to the troops that, after all their
exertions, the marches in the blazing sun to and from the zeribas, and
the loss of life in previous engagements, the enemy should refuse to
await the attack, and that the want of water should prevent the column
following him up. The temporary occupation, followed by the destruction,
of a wretched village, was a very inadequate result to show after such
extensive preparation, and so much labour and effort.

From the 11th to the 20th April, Graham was occupied in making
reconnaissances to Hasheen, Otao, Deberet, and Tambouk, taking a few
prisoners, and capturing sheep and cattle.

The construction of the railway was at the same time pushed forward,
till it was close to Otao, making altogether a total distance of
eighteen miles.

Meanwhile, Osman Digna's followers amused themselves cutting the
telegraph wires and damaging the railway works as opportunities offered.

They also made nightly attacks on Graham's camp. In order to check this,
a series of automatic mines, to explode when trodden on, was placed
outside the British lines. It does not appear that this measure answered
the purpose intended, although an accidental explosion of one of the
mines resulted in the loss of a promising young officer, Lieutenant
Askwith, of the Royal Engineers.

Osman Digna's exact position at this period seems to have been somewhat
of a puzzle to Graham, but on the 22nd he was able to telegraph that
Osman was for the time without any large following, and that his people
were greatly discouraged by their losses in the various engagements, and
also in want of food.

The question of withdrawing the expedition now arose. Graham was most
unwilling to retire without having achieved something decisive, and on
the 26th he telegraphed that he strongly recommended crushing Osman
before the expedition should be withdrawn. He added, that with Osman
crushed, the country would be at peace, and the native allies safe;
whereas if the British force were withdrawn he would soon become as
strong as ever, would threaten Souakim, and punish the friendly tribes.

In the beginning of May Lord Wolseley arrived at Souakim and from that
moment the question of what was to be done was taken out of Graham's

The Government had made up its mind, so far as such an operation was
possible, not to go on with the railway to Berber at all events for the
present, and the inutility of keeping the expedition in Souakim in face
of the policy of abandoning the Soudan, referred to in the following
chapter, generally, naturally struck Lord Wolseley.

On the 4th May he telegraphed to Lord Hartington that if it was
positively decided not to push forward the railway as part of the
campaign against the Mahdi at Khartoum, he advised the immediate
embarkation of the Guards, the navvies, and Australians, leaving only
the Indian Contingent and one British battalion for a garrison at
Souakim. He added, on the 5th, that the heat was increasing, and the men
of the expedition would soon become sickly; that he did not think the
further operations wished for by Graham were, in face of the hot
weather, desirable. Among other suggestions he proposed to the
Government to send back to England the ships laden with railway
material, and to take up the railway before the troops fell back.

This despatch suggests the idea that Wolseley was beginning to get a
little tired of giving advice to a Government which was always asking
his opinion and never acting upon it.

On the 8th he was instructed that the Government adhered to the decision
to adopt the proposal for defence of the frontier in his despatch of
14th April, but that the Government did not approve of his suggestion to
take up the railway and ship off the plant; but that he should arrange
to hold the line, pending consideration whether it would be carried

This last despatch was too much for Wolseley, who appears to have
thought it hard enough to have to carry out a policy of which he
disapproved, without having the initiation of it attributed to himself;
and in his despatch of the 11th he replied, "What you term my proposals,
were the military dispositions recommended in order to give effect to
your policy at Souakim, to stop the railway, and send away as many
troops as could be spared for service elsewhere. If the garrison here
is to be seriously reduced, the railway must be either taken up or
abandoned." He added, "Unless you have some clearly defined Soudan
policy to initiate, any military operations, such as the extension of
the railway would entail, would be to throw away uselessly valuable

On the 13th Wolseley was instructed that the Government adopted the
dispositions recommended in his telegram of the 5th. This was followed
by preparations for the immediate embarkation of the expedition.

Before this, Graham had on the 5th made a raid on Takool, a village ten
miles south of Otao, and twenty west of Souakim, and driven out the
enemy, reported to be 700 strong. Graham's force burnt Takool, and
captured between 1,500 and 2,000 sheep and goats in this the last
exploit of the campaign.

The railway works were now discontinued, the troops called in from Otao,
and the navvies withdrawn. As the last truckload came in from the front,
it was followed and fired on by jeering Soudanese.

The store-ships, which had for weeks been lying in the roads with rails,
plant, and machinery not yet unloaded, were ordered back to England with
their cargoes.

On the 17th May Graham and his staff left Souakim with the Coldstream
Guards. The Grenadiers, as well as the Australians and Scots Guards,
sailed the following day.

The remainder of the troops followed shortly after, and before the end
of the month the whole of the expedition, with the exception of the
Shropshire Regiment and a portion of the Indian Contingent, had left

Of the results obtained by the expedition, there is but little to say.
Its departure left Osman Digna still uncrushed, and the Souakim-Berber
route still unopened; and Osman was enabled in 1885 to boast, as he had
done in 1884, that he had driven the British out of the country.[136]

This expedition was of far greater strength than its predecessor, and it
is no disparagement to the officers and men engaged in it to say that
their exploits did not equal those of the expedition of 1884. Tamaai,
Handoub, and other positions had been taken and occupied temporarily,
and a small portion of the railway had been made. This represented about
the sum total of results.[137]



Towards the end of March, 1885, the force at Korti was gradually
withdrawn to the town of Dongola, where Wolseley again fixed his
head-quarters. A small garrison of black troops only was left at Korti.
The detachment at Merawi, under Colonel Butler, still remained there as
a rear guard.

Although it had been decided to postpone further operations until the
autumn, there is no reason to suppose that Wolseley entertained any idea
that the enterprise against Berber and Khartoum was ever going to be
abandoned. But early in April an unexpected contingency had to be
reckoned with. On 9th April Mr. Gladstone announced to the House of
Commons the Russian attack on the Afghan frontier, and the calling out
of the Reserves in the United Kingdom.

This led the British Government to reconsider the whole question of the
Soudan Expedition, and Wolseley was instructed to proceed to Cairo and
confer with Sir E. Baring and General Stephenson on the military

On 13th April, Lord Hartington telegraphed to Wolseley as follows:--

    "In the condition of Imperial affairs it is probable that the
    expedition to Khartoum may have to be abandoned, and the troops
    brought back as soon as possible to Egypt. Consider at once what
    measures should, in that case, be taken for safe withdrawal of
    troops. This would involve stopping advance from Souakim, but
    not hurried withdrawal."

On the 14th April Wolseley telegraphed that in the event of the
Government determining to withdraw the troops from the Soudan, before
completion of arrangements he must know whether it was intended to
retain Dongola, Wady Halfa, Korosko, or Assouan, as the frontier post.
He said that if the position on the southern frontier of Egypt was to be
exclusively one of defence, he would hold Wady Halfa and Korosko as
outposts, with a strong brigade at Assouan. There would be no difficulty
in withdrawing troops, but for the position in Egypt it was most
essential that the announcement of withdrawal should be accompanied by
an authoritative statement that the Government was determined to
maintain a British garrison.

The next day Wolseley telegraphed his opinion on the question of
withdrawal, strongly advising the retention of Dongola. His message,
omitting irrelevant passages, was as follows:--

    "At, and south of Assouan, I have about 7,500 British fighting
    soldiers. Retreat policy will require at least 2,500 on the
    frontier, leaving 5,000 available. For the sake of this handful,
    is it advisable to reverse Soudan policy? Retreat from Dongola
    hands that province over to the Mahdi, and renders loyalty of
    Ababdehs and other frontier tribes very doubtful. Withdraw
    Graham's force if necessary; this will not seriously disturb
    Egypt; but hold on to Dongola province."

There are few unprejudiced persons who will not agree in the soundness
of the views above expressed. The reply was as follows:--

            "_War Office, April 15th, 1885._

    "Your telegrams of the 14th and 15th received. Decision will
    probably be to adopt proposal for defence of Egyptian frontier
    at Wady Halfa and Assouan, as in your telegram of 14th. It is
    desirable that troops not required for this purpose should be
    concentrated as soon as possible, and available for any other

The Government at this time had fully made up their minds to withdraw
from the Soudan altogether as early as possible.

Wolseley, on the other hand, was anxious that before this step should be
finally taken, the Mahdi should be crushed once for all, and in a very
able despatch, dated the 16th April, set forth his views.

The document, which reads very like a protest against the policy of the
Gladstone Cabinet, omitting some passages, is as follows:--

    "Both from a military and financial point of view, and also with
    regard to the general well-being of Egypt proper, the growing
    power of the Mahdi must be met, not by a purely defensive policy
    on the frontier, whether at Assouan or Wady Halfa, but by his
    overthrow in the neighbourhood of Khartoum."

The despatch concludes:--

    "To sum up. The struggle with the Mahdi, or rather, perhaps,
    with Mahdi-ism, must come sooner or later. We can accept it now,
    and have done with it once and for all, or we can allow all the
    military reputation we have gained at the cost of so much toil
    and hard fighting, all the bloodshed and all the expenditure of
    the past campaign, to go for nothing, and try and stave the
    final struggle off for a few years. These years will be years of
    trouble and disturbance for Egypt, of burden and strain to our
    military resources, and the contest that will come in the end
    will be no less than that which is in front of us now. This is
    all we shall gain by a defensive policy."

The Afghan question still troubled the Ministry, and on the 20th April
Lord Hartington telegraphed that the "Government were about to announce
that it was necessary to hold all the military resources of the Empire,
including the forces in the Soudan, available for service wherever
required. The Government would not," he said, "therefore make provision
for further offensive operations in the Soudan, or for military
preparations for an early advance on Khartoum, beyond such as could not
be stopped with advantage, and did not involve hostile action, viz.,
river steamboats contracted for, and the completion of the Wady Halfa
Railway. As to ulterior steps, the Government reserved their liberty of
action. With the cessation of active operations on the Nile, any
considerable extension of the Souakim-Berber Railway was to be
suspended; but as Souakim must be held for the present, it might be
necessary to occupy one or more stations in the neighbourhood, and the
Government would retain a garrison in Egypt, and defend the frontier."

On the 23rd April Wolseley proposed that he should go to Souakim in
order to form an opinion on the spot as to the points which it would be
desirable to hold.

This was approved by the Government, and on the 24th Wolseley
communicated the arrangements made for the disposition of the Nile force
in his absence as follows:--

    "On 1st June, troops at Merawi start for Dongola, at which place
    and Abu Fatmeh I propose to concentrate force now up the Nile.
    This movement will be completed by 1st July.

    "In the meantime, railway to Ferket will be in a forward state,
    and able to assist greatly in the movement of troops and Civil
    Government officers on Wady Halfa. At present nearly all the
    troops are in huts; to move them in this present hot weather
    will be very trying to their health.

    "When troops are concentrated at Dongola and Abu Fatmeh I shall
    expect orders before I move them to Wady Halfa."

On the 27th April Wolseley was informed that he was to act in accordance
with the proposals contained in his telegram of the 24th. The
concentration, he was instructed, should be deliberate, but the movement
from Merawi was to begin at once.

Wolseley and his staff left Cairo on April 29th and immediately embarked
for Souakim.

General Buller and Sir Charles Wilson being asked their opinions, both
reported strongly against a withdrawal from Dongola, and their views
were supported by Sir Evelyn Baring.

All argument, however, was in vain. The Government remained unconvinced.

In the beginning of May the Merawi detachment moved down to Dongola, and
on the 13th the evacuation of the latter place commenced.

The Soudan having to be abandoned, the Government evinced some desire to
consider how far some sort of government could be set on foot for the
province of Dongola.

Sir E. Baring, to whom a question was addressed on the subject, referred
to Wolseley and General Buller. The former, regarding the matter from a
military point of view, replied that a railway ought to be made to
Hannek (just below the town of New Dongola), and the end of the line
held by a British battalion, and Dongola itself should be garrisoned by
2,000 black troops. The present "Wekil," according to Wolseley, should
be appointed Mudir. "It was safer," added his Lordship, "to attempt this
than to hand Dongola over to the Mahdi and anarchy."

Buller replied that he did not think it possible to establish a
government as proposed, and that the first thing to be considered was
who was to take charge of it. His opinion was that no force of blacks
that could be got together would be sufficient to hold the province. He
added that he did not believe the railway to Hannek to be anything but a
waste of money; it would besides require all the present force as a
covering party; he believed the British were withdrawing just as the
fruit was falling into their hands; concluding with the sentence, "I do
not believe that when we leave Dongola any one else will keep the Mahdi

Sir E. Baring, in forwarding the above opinions, said that "in view of
the decision of the Government he thought that instructions should be
given to send down all troops, and as many of the civil population as
wished to leave, to Wady Halfa," and concluded in the following words:--

    "Your Lordship will understand that we make this recommendation
    only because we consider it to be the necessary consequence of
    the decision of Her Majesty's Government to abandon the province
    of Dongola at once, but that it must in no way be taken to imply
    our agreement with that decision.

    "Nubar Pasha, on behalf of the Egyptian Government, requests me
    to make a final and most earnest appeal to the Government of
    Her Majesty to postpone the departure of the British troops
    from Dongola for, say, six months, in order that there may be
    at least a chance of establishing a government there.

    "Nubar Pasha fears that the retreat of the British from Dongola
    will react on Egypt, and especially on the southern provinces,
    to such an extent as will render it impossible for the
    Khedive's Government to maintain order, and that they will be
    forced to appeal to Her Majesty's Government for help to
    preserve order in the country, and that thus the present system
    of government which Her Majesty's Government have been at so
    much trouble to maintain will be found no longer possible."

Nubar's appeal had no effect, and the question of the future government
of Dongola occupied the British Cabinet no more. On the 14th May, Sir E.
Baring was informed that it was the intention to withdraw the whole
force to Wady Halfa.

On the 16th Wolseley telegraphed his idea as to the British force which
should remain at Korosko and Wady Halfa.

This was approved by the Government, and the troops continued their
journey down the Nile.

The departure of the soldiers from Dongola was accompanied by the exodus
of a large portion of the native population, who feared to be left
exposed to the vengeance of the Mahdi.

Mr. Gladstone's Ministry retired from office on 12th June, and on the
Conservative Cabinet coming into power, one of the first questions with
which it occupied itself was that of Egypt.

It was impossible for the Ministry of Lord Salisbury to at once reverse
the Egyptian policy of their predecessors, but the new Premier declared
that "England had a mission in Egypt, and that until it was accomplished
it was idle to talk of withdrawal."

The evacuation of the Soudan, however, stood on a different footing. The
steps taken by Mr. Gladstone's Government were so far advanced that the
measure was already practically a _fait accompli_. As Lord Salisbury
stated, "the whole of the Soudan down to Dongola had been already
evacuated, and the whole of the province of Dongola, with the exception
of a rear-guard left at Debbeh, had been evacuated also; and 12,000 of
the luckless population, to avoid the vengeance of the Mahdi, had fled
from their houses and taken refuge in Upper Egypt."

It was not, however, without inquiry that Lord Salisbury's Cabinet
determined to proceed with the evacuation. Wolseley was again consulted,
and in a despatch of 27th June he wrote:--

    "You cannot get out of Egypt for many years to come. If the
    present policy of retreat be persisted in the Mahdi will become
    stronger and stronger, and you will have to increase your
    garrisons and submit to the indignity of being threatened by
    him. Eventually you will have to fight him to hold your position
    in Egypt, which you will then do with the population round you
    ready on any reverse to rise against you. No frontier force can
    keep Mahdism out of Egypt, and the Mahdi sooner or later must be
    smashed, or he will smash you.

    "To advance in the autumn on Khartoum and discredit the Mahdi
    by a serious defeat on his own ground would certainly finish
    him. The operation, if done deliberately, would be a simple
    one; and, as far as anything can be a certainty in war, it
    would be a certainty. Until this is done there will be no peace
    in Egypt, and your military expenditure will be large and
    increasing. My advice, therefore, is, carry out autumn campaign
    up the Nile, as originally intended. I would leave Souakim as
    it is."

On the 2nd July the Government telegraphed that--

    "Her Majesty's Government, after a full consideration of all the
    circumstances, were not prepared to reverse the orders given by
    their predecessors by countermanding the retreat of the force
    from Dongola."

Thus the policy of evacuation was affirmed.

General Brackenbury with the last of the rear-guard left Dongola on the
5th, and followed the rest of the troops down to Cairo.

On the 6th July Wolseley handed over the command of the British troops
to General Stephenson, and in a few weeks the greater part of the
officers and men forming the expedition had left Egypt.

The services of the officers and men forming the Gordon Relief
Expedition were referred to by Lord Salisbury on the 12th August in
moving in the House of Lords a vote of thanks in the following words:--

    "In considering their merits you must keep out of sight
    altogether the precise results and outcome of the labours they
    have gone through and the dangers they have incurred. Of course
    this is not the moment at which to broach controversial topics,
    and I only wish to say that you must look upon this fact--that
    they failed to fulfil the main purpose for which they were sent
    out through no fault of their own. The prize of success was
    taken from them, as it were by an overmastering destiny, by the
    action of causes, whatever their nature, over which they
    themselves had no more control than they would have over a
    tempest or earthquake."[138]

There can be no doubt that Lord Salisbury's eulogium was well deserved.

The merits of the officers and men were unquestionable. That they did
not succeed was owing to the incapacity of those who sent them, at the
wrong time, by the wrong route, on their fruitless errand.



The preceding chapter brings the narrative down to the summer of 1885,
at which period the First Edition of the present work was brought to a

In the final chapter the errors of British policy in Egypt were dealt
with. It was pointed out how the dilatory fashion in which England
intervened to suppress the Arabi revolt led to its indefinite
prolongation; how when Alexandria had been destroyed, and massacres had
taken place all over the country, a British army was sent too late to
avert these disasters; how when the Arabi insurrection had been put
down, and that of the Mahdi took its place, England reduced the Army of
Occupation, and left Egypt to attempt to cope single-handed with the
revolt; how in 1884, when Tokar and Sinkat were cut off, England sent an
army to the relief of those places only in time to find that they had
already fallen; how when many British lives had been sacrificed, and
thousands of Soudanese had been slaughtered in the Eastern Soudan,
England, instead of crushing Osman Digna and opening the route to
Berber, withdrew her troops only to send another expedition in the
following year, when too late to accomplish those very objects; finally,
how, having sent Gordon to bring away the garrisons in the Soudan,
England, again too late, despatched an expedition to his rescue.

The feeble manner in which the reform of Egyptian institutions had been
taken in hand was also indicated, and it was pointed out how England, by
declaring that her stay in the country was only to be short-lived, added
to the difficulty of carrying any of such reforms into effect.

With regard to the Drummond-Wolff Convention of the 24th October, 1885,
it was foretold that the inquiry provided for into Egyptian affairs
would be illusory, and the withdrawal of the Army of Occupation, which
the Convention was to effect, was one of those events which might safely
be relegated to the remote future.

It was pointed out that, whatever the future of Egypt under British
guidance might be, it was impossible that it could be marked by greater
errors than had been witnessed in the past, and, in conclusion, advice
was given in the words following:--

    "Put the Administration really, instead of nominally and
    half-heartedly, under English control. Discard all idea of going
    away in two years, or twenty years, or two hundred years, if the
    country is not brought to order and prosperity by that time.
    Declare that as long as England remains she will be responsible
    for Egyptian finances, and for the safety and property of
    Europeans. Simplify as much as possible the official staff and
    system, and take proper steps for securing whatever point may be
    needed as the frontier."

It is satisfactory to be able to observe that since the above was
written much has been done in the way of following the Author's
recommendations. The firm attitude adopted with regard to Egypt by Lord
Salisbury's Ministry on its accession to office in 1885 has been
maintained by succeeding Governments, and with the happiest results. One
Egyptian administration after another has been taken in hand, abuses
have been suppressed, corruption reduced to a minimum, and order and
regularity introduced. The finances have been placed on a sound footing;
reforms have been everywhere inaugurated; and tranquillity reigns
throughout the country, which has arrived at a pitch of prosperity such
as in modern times it has never before attained. In addition, as a
result of the improvements made in her military system, Egypt, with
England's aid, has been enabled to suppress a formidable insurrection,
and to regain the most valuable of her lost provinces.

The different steps by which all this has been brought about may be
gleaned, partially at least, from the following pages.




It was not unnatural that the retirement of the Gordon Relief
Expedition, in 1885, should have inspired the Mahdi with the idea that
the moment had now arrived for the fulfilment of what he regarded as
part of his Divine mission, viz., the invasion of Egypt. Two British
armies had been sent, in two successive years, to the Eastern Soudan,
and both, after a certain amount of fighting, had been withdrawn, whilst
a third, despatched for the relief of Khartoum, had, when almost at the
gates of Khartoum, been forced to retrace its steps, and retreat down
the Nile. What ensued was only the result foretold by Lord Wolseley when
he prophetically declared to Her Majesty's Government that "the struggle
with the Mahdi, or rather with Mahdism, must come sooner or later.
Eventually you will have to fight him to hold your position in Egypt. No
frontier force can keep Mahdism out of Egypt, and the Mahdi, sooner or
later, must be smashed, or he will smash you."[139]

When, as stated in another chapter, the last of the British troops left
Dongola on 5th July, 1885, an Egyptian frontier field force, composed of
British and Egyptian troops, was formed, and placed under the command of
Major-General Grenfell, Sir Evelyn Wood's successor as Sirdar of the
Egyptian army. His head-quarters were fixed at Assouan, whilst
Brigadier-General Butler commanded the advanced brigade at Wady Halfa,
with outposts at Kosheh, about forty-two miles south of the railway
terminus at Akasheh.

The Mahdi's plans for the invasion of Egypt were formed as early as May,
in fact, as soon as he was able to make sure of the break-up of the Nile

The idea was to make the advance in two river columns, under the command
of the Emirs Abd-el-Medjid and Mohammed-el-Kheir respectively, who were
to march on Wady Halfa, whilst a third column was to cross the desert
from Abu Hamid to Korosko, thus cutting the communications of the
defensive force at Wady Halfa.

The death of the Mahdi in the month of June by no means interfered with
the carrying out of this programme, his successor, the Khalifa
Abdullah-el-Taaishi, being almost as capable a leader as his
predecessor, and even more oppressive and unscrupulous.

Notwithstanding that Omdurman, which had become the Khalifa's capital,
was ravaged by famine and small-pox, the preparations for the advance
continued, and by the early part of August Debbeh and Old Dongola were
occupied by the forces of Abd-el-Medjid, numbering 4,000 men. By the end
of the month the whole of the country south of Dongola was in the hands
of the Khalifa's troops. On the 24th, Wad-en-Nejumi, one of the chief
Emirs, was reported as having left Omdurman with a large force, going
north. It must not be supposed that the expedition was popular with the
Khalifa's soldiers, but unfortunately they had no choice in the matter.
They are said to have declared, "Our brothers are dead; the English
shoot well, and we have nothing to eat."

From Dongola the invaders proceeded north along the Nile, till, on the
20th September, they had reached as far as Hafir. The Dervish forces at
that place, and at Dongola, were estimated at 7,000 by the beginning of

Meanwhile, another army was marching on Abu Hamid, where 3,000 men
arrived in the latter part of October.

Seeing that the Dervish attack was impending, steps were taken to meet
the emergency. Two gunboats were sent to patrol the river above Akasheh,
and the post at that place was strengthened by the sending of a force of
Egyptian Mounted Infantry, and a half battalion of black troops.

On the 26th October General Grenfell telegraphed from Assouan to General
Stephenson for another battalion to be sent him from Cairo, adding, "We
should now look upon an advance on Egypt as merely a question of time,
and be thoroughly prepared." On 4th November, Captain Hunter (now Sir
Archibald Hunter), of the Intelligence Department, reported that 8,000
of the enemy had crossed to Abu Fatmeh, and that everything indicated
an immediate advance. On the next day news was received that the enemy
was advancing on both banks, Mohammed-el-Kheir on the east, and
Abd-el-Medjid on the west, with the object of cutting off the
communications of the advanced force, and preventing reinforcements
reaching it.

A few days later, viz., on the 17th, it became known that 8,000
Dervishes had reached Dulgo,[140] and that the advanced guard was at
Absarat, whence it was to march on Khanak, to cut the Wady Haifa

On the 27th, it was reported that 7,000 of the enemy were occupying the
heights near Ammara, a few miles south of Ginnis, and that 4,000 more
were now at Abu Hamid. Three days afterwards a spy gave information that
1,000 mounted men had left by the desert for the north of Akasheh, and
that another thousand had crossed the river to the west bank, the
intention being to make a simultaneous attack on Kosheh, Akasheh, and
the railway.

The news of the Dervish advance now caused widespread alarm in Cairo, as
well as in Egypt generally, and, to preserve public order, the police
force had to be reinforced, more especially in the frontier provinces.
Steps were, at the same time, taken to strengthen the Army of Occupation
by sending two additional battalions from the United Kingdom.

On the 30th November, General Butler and his staff left Wady Halfa for
the front at Akasheh, and General Grenfell moved up to Wady Halfa. At
this date the frontier force was disposed as follows:--At Kosheh, 600
British and 300 Egyptians; at Mograkeh, 260 Egyptians; at Sarkamatto and
Dal, 200 Egyptians; at Akasheh, 600 British and 350 Egyptians; and at
Wady Halfa, 500 British and 350 Egyptians; total, 3,160 men. In addition
to these, small detachments were posted at Ambigol Wells, Sarras, and
other places.

A skirmish, which took place at Ginnis on the 29th, showed that the main
body of the enemy was posted in front of Kosheh, where it had arrived on
the previous day.[141]

On the 3rd December, Captain Hunter engaged the advance party of the
enemy, with Gardner guns and rifles, with considerable effect, several
horsemen and foot-soldiers being killed.

Meanwhile an attempt had been made by the Dervishes to cut the line of
communications at Ambigol Wells, where a small post of only thirty men
of the Berkshire and West Kent Regiments was established in a fort. The
Dervish force attacked with men, mounted and on foot, and one gun. They
were driven off with some loss on the 2nd December, but on the two
following days returned to the attack. Several sorties were made by the
little garrison, until the arrival of reinforcements on the 4th caused
the besiegers to retire.

At 6.15 a.m. on the 12th, 3,000 Dervishes attacked a fort constructed at
Mograkeh, near Kosheh, and got within 100 yards of it. The garrison of
the fort, consisting of 300 men of the Egyptian army, behaved with great
steadiness, and repulsed the attack. After the skirmish, the enemy moved
to the village of Ferket, a place on the river north of Ginnis, and
occupied it, From this point they retired to the hills. Two men killed
and half a dozen wounded represented the Egyptian loss.

This was followed, on the night of the 15th, by a further attack on
Kosheh from a battery erected on sand hills on the western bank, which
was silenced, and the attacking force driven off on the 16th.

All the posts were now rapidly reinforced. General Grenfell had already
arrived at Wady Halfa on the 4th December, and on the 19th December
General Stephenson came from Cairo and assumed the command of the
frontier force, with Grenfell as Chief of the Staff.

Arrangements were promptly made to inflict a crushing blow on the enemy,
who, encouraged by the slight resistance to their advance hitherto made,
had pushed their foremost troops north of the village of Ginnis, where
the main body was established.

At the same time, about 1,000 men, with a gun, threatened the zeriba on
the west bank, held by the Egyptian troops.

On the 29th, Generals Stephenson and Grenfell marched from Ferket and
bivouacked on the east bank below the fort of Kosheh, where the whole of
the fighting force was by this time concentrated.

The troops consisted of--_Cavalry_,20th Hussars; British Mounted
Infantry and Camel Corps; Egyptian Cavalry and Camel Corps: _Artillery_,
1 battery Royal Artillery; 1 Egyptian camel battery and Gardner guns:
_Royal Engineers_, 1 company: _Infantry_, 1st Brigade, under General
Butler--Berkshire Regiment, West Kent Regiment, and Durham Regiment; 2nd
Brigade, under Colonel Huyshe--Cameron Highlanders; Yorkshire Regiment;
1st and 9th Battalions (part only) of the Egyptian army. Total, about
5,000 men.

On the morning of the 30th, Stephenson attacked and defeated the
Khalifa's forces at Kosheh and the neighbouring village of Ginnis.

On the two preceding days, artillery fire had been kept up on the
enemy's position. At 5 a.m. on the 30th, the whole force advanced.

By daylight the 2nd Brigade and the 1st Egyptian Battalion had taken up
a strong position on the heights above Kosheh, at a distance of about
1,200 yards from, and directly opposite, the village. At 6.10 a.m. the
British battery attached to this brigade began to shell Kosheh. A
quarter of an hour later the Cameron Highlanders and two companies of
the 9th Soudanese rushed the houses in gallant style.

The village was captured, together with a brass gun, at 6.50 a.m. The
gunboat _Lotus_ co-operated in this movement, and by her fire inflicted
considerable loss on the retreating Dervishes.

Whilst this was going on, the 1st Brigade, under Butler, had swept round
to the south end of the village of Ginnis, and by daybreak had gained a
position on the hills about a mile from the river. Up to this time, the
advance made along the flank of the enemy's position had escaped
observation, but as the eastern sky behind the advancing troops
brightened, the Dervishes, who were completely surprised, came out from
the low ground along the river, and streamed to the front. Thence they
opened an irregular fire, which, in spite of the Martini-Henrys of the
brigade, was maintained for about forty minutes.

In the meanwhile, the Egyptian battery, attached to the 1st Brigade, had
been brought into action on the right of the position, and was doing
good service. The infantry deploying in line, the West Kent on the
right, and the Berkshire and Durham Regiments on the left of the guns,
kept up a steady fire, assisted by the Egyptian Camel Corps.
Notwithstanding the volleys of the Martini-Henrys, a large body of
spearmen managed to creep up unobserved, through a deep ravine in front
of the line of infantry, to a spot where the dismounted camels of the
Egyptian Camel Corps had been placed.

The spearmen then made so rapid a rush that the men of the Camel Corps
had not time to mount, and so were driven back fighting hand to hand
with their assailants, who pressed them closely. The West Kent Regiment,
which on the attack developing had been moved to the left of the line,
came to the assistance of the Camel Corps, and shooting down numbers of
the enemy, the rest fell back and fled to the hills. The brigade, then
swinging round to the left, was directed upon the village of Ginnis,
and, though time after time attempts at a stand were made, the enemy
were eventually all dispersed, and at 9.15 the village was occupied, the
Dervishes fleeing south, in the direction of Atab.

The 2nd Brigade, after disposing of Kosheh, had continued its advance in
the direction of Ginnis, which it entered on the eastern side, a quarter
of an hour after the 1st Brigade had taken possession.

The cavalry went in pursuit of the fugitives until 10 a.m., and by that
time the Dervish army had been dissolved into a mass of disorganized and
terror-stricken Arabs. Many of them crossed over to the west bank and
escaped into the desert.

The camp at Ginnis was seized, and four guns and twenty standards

The British and Egyptian loss in the fight was only seven killed and
thirty-four wounded, and if, as estimated, out of a force of 6,000 men,
the Khalifa's troops had 500 killed and 300 wounded, it must be admitted
that the engagement partook more of the nature of a _battu_ than a

After the fight, and on the same day, the 1st Brigade advanced to Atab,
five miles to the west of Giniss, whilst the cavalry continued the
pursuit to Abri, which on the following day was occupied by Buller's

The action at Ginnis was a serious check to the Khalifa. Not only had
his emir Abd-el-Medjid with eighteen minor chiefs been killed, but the
prestige which the Mahdi's successor enjoyed amongst his followers had
also sustained a severe blow.

The remainder of his scattered-forces was now collected at Kermeh,
about 30 miles north of Dongola, where, under the command of
Mohammed-el-Kheir, they awaited reinforcements.



In the year 1885, each of the subjects mentioned in the heading of the
present chapter came prominently to the front. In the following pages it
is proposed to deal with the different matters in succession.

_Finance._ In July, 1885, Egypt, thanks to the good offices of Great
Britain, was enabled to arrange a very thorny question which had arisen
with regard to her finance. To explain what occurred, it is necessary to
refer to the events which had previously taken place.

Under the financial decrees of Ismail Pasha, certain revenues were
assigned to the Public Debt Commissioners to provide for the interest
and Sinking Fund of the debt. Although, by the Law of Liquidation
accepted by the Powers in 1880, the rate of interest was reduced, the
provision for the Sinking Fund was left untouched, and the result was
that the debt was gradually reduced by about a million. This, however,
was too good a state of things to last. The expenses caused by the
insurrection in the Soudan, the necessity of providing for the payment
of the Alexandria indemnities, and other pressing claims, not only
rendered it impossible for Egypt to continue the reduction of her
existing debt, but made it indispensable to contract a fresh one in the
shape of a new loan.

In March, 1884, at the invitation of Lord Granville, a conference of the
Great Powers was held in London to discuss the situation. To purchase
the goodwill of France, what became known as "The Anglo-French
Convention" was entered into. By this, subject to the acceptance by the
Powers of the British financial proposals, the British troops in Egypt
were to be withdrawn at a fixed date, unless the Powers, in the
meantime, should agree to their remaining. Lord Granville pointed out
the absurdity of Egypt continuing to pay off her old debts at a moment
when the funds at her disposal were insufficient to meet her current
expenditure. The British proposals, which involved not only a suspension
of the Sinking Fund, but also a further diminution in the rate of
interest, were o