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SUDAN OPERATIONS

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Originally appearing in Volume V09, Page 130 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SUDAN OPERATIONS, 1896–1900 The wonderful progress—political, economical and social—which Egypt had made during British occupation, so ably set forth in Sir Alfred Milner's England in Egypt (published in 1892), together with the revelation in so strong a light of the character of the khalifa's despotism in the Sudan and the miserable condition of his misgoverned people, as detailed in the accounts of their captivity at Omdurman by Father Ohrwalder and Slatin Bey (published in 1892 and 1896), stirred public opinion in Great Britain, and brought the question of the recovery of the Dongola Sudan into prominence. A change of ministry took campaign, 1896. place in 1895, and Lord Salisbury's cabinet, which had consistently assailed the Egyptian policy of the old, was not unwilling to consider whether the flourishing condition of Egyptian finance, the prosperity of the country and the settled state of its affairs, with a capable and proved little army ready to hand, did not warrant an attempt being made to recover gradually the Sudan provinces abandoned by Egypt in 1885 on the advice of Mr Gladstone's government. Such being the condition of public and official sentiment, the crushing defeat of the Italians by the Abyssinians at the battle of Adowa on the 1st of March 1896, and the critical state of Kassala—held by Italy at British suggestion, and now closely invested by the dervishes—made it not only desirable but necessary to take immediate action. On the 14th of March 1896 Major-General Sir H. Kitchener, who succeeded Sir Francis Grenfell as sirdar of the Egyptian army in 1892, received orders to reoccupy Akasha, 50 M. south of Sarras, and to carry the railway on from Sarras. Subsequent operations were to depend upon the amount of resistance he encountered. On the loth of March Akasha was occupied without opposition by an advanced column of Egyptian troops under Major J. Collinson, who formed an entrenched camp there. The reserves of the Egyptian army were called out, and responded with alacrity. The troops were concentrated at Wadi Haifa; the railway reconstruction, under Lieutenant E. P. Girouard, R.E., pushed southward; and a telegraph line followed the advance. At the commencement of the campaign the Egyptian army, including reserves, consisted of 16 battalions of infantry, of which 6 were Sudanese, to squadrons of cavalry, 5 batteries of artillery, 3 companies of garrison artillery, and 8 companies of camel corps, and it possessed 13 gunboats for river work. Colonel H. M. L. Rundle was chief of the staff; Major F. R. Wingate was head of the intelligence department, with Slatin Bey as his assistant; and Colonel A. Hunter was in command of Sarras, and south. The 1st battalion of the North Stafford-shire regiment moved up from Cairo to join the Egyptian army. In the meantime the advance to Akasha had already relieved the pressure at Kassala, Osman Digna having withdrawn a considerable force from the investing army and proceeded with it to Suakin. , To meet Osman Digna's movement Lieutenant-Colonel G. E. Lloyd, the Suakin commandant, advanced to the Taroi Wells, 19 M. south of Suakin, on the 15th of April to co-operate with the " Friendlies," and with Major H. M. Sidney, advancing with a small force from Tokar. His cavalry, under Major M. A. C. B. Fenwick, went out to look for Sidney's force, and were surprised by a large number of dervishes. Fenwick, with some 40 officers and men, seized an isolated hill and held it through the night, repulsing the dervishes, who were the same night driven back with such heavy loss in attacking Lloyd's zeriba that they retired to the hills, and comparative quiet again reigned at Suakin. At the end of May an Indian brigade arrived for garrison duty, and the Egyptian troops were released for service on the Nile. The dervishes first came in contact with the Egyptian cavalry on the Nile near Akasha, on the 1st of May, and were repulsed. The army concentrated at Akasha early in June, and on the 6th Kitchener moved to the attack of Firket r6 m. away, where the amir Hamuda, with 3000 men, was encamped. The attack was made in two columns: one, under Colonel Hunter, marching along the river-bank, approached Firket from the north; while the other, under Major Burn-Murdoch, making a detour through the desert, approached it from the south. The co-operation of the two columns was admirably timed, and on the morning of the 7th the dervish camp was surrounded, and, after a sharp fight, Hamuda and many amirs and about r000 men were killed, and 500 prisoners taken. The dash and discipline of the Egyptian troops in this victory were a good augury for the future. By the end of June the railway was advanced beyond Akasha, and headquarters were at Kosha, to m. farther south. Cholera and fever were busy both with the North Staffordshire regiment at Gemai, whither they had been moved on its approach, and with the Egyptian troops at the front, and carried off many officers and men. The railway reached Kosha early in August; the cholera disappeared, and stores were collected and arrangements steadily made for a farther advance. The North Stafford-shire moved up to the front, and in September the army moved on Kerma, which was found to be evacuated, the dervishes having crossed the river to Hafir. There they were attacked by the gun-boats and Kitchener's artillery from the opposite bank, and forced to retire, with their commander, Wad Bishara, seriously wounded. Dongola was bombarded by the gunboats and captured by the army on the 23rd of September. Bishara and his men retreated, but were pursued by the Egyptians until the retreat became a hopeless rout. Guns, small arms and ammunition, with large stores of grain and dates, were captured, many prisoners taken, while hundreds surrendered voluntarily, among them a brother of the amir Wad en Nejumi. The dervish Dongola army had practically ceased to exist. Debba was seized on the 3rd October, Korti and Merawi occupied soon after, and the principal sheiks came in and submitted to the sirdar. The Dongola campaign was over, and the province recovered to Egypt. The Indian brigade at Suakin returned to India, and was replaced by Egyptians. The North Staffordshire returned to Cairo. The work of consolidation began, and preparations were made for a farther advance when everything should be ready. The railway up the right bank of the Nile was continued to Kerma, in order to evade the difficulties of the 3rd cataract; but the sirdar had conceived the bold project of cutting off the great angle of the Nile from Wadi Haifa to Abu Gahmpaigna Hamed, involving nearly 600 m. of navigation and 1897. including the 4th cataract, by constructing a railway across the Nubian desert, and so bringing his base at Wadi Haifa within a few hours of his force, when it should have advanced to Abu Hamed, instead of ten days. Early in 1897 this new line of railway was commenced from Wadi Haifa across the great Nubian desert 230 M. to Abu Hamed. The first-mentioned line reached Kerma in May, and by July the second had advanced 130 M. into the desert towards Abu Hamed, when it became necessary, before it was carried farther, to secure that terminus by an advance from Merawi. In the meantime the khalifa was not idle. He occupied Abu Klea wells and Metemma; recalled the amir Ibrahim Khalil, with 4000 men, from the Ghezira; brought to Omdurman the army of the west under Mahmud—some 1o,000 men; entrusted the line of the Atbara—Ed Darner, Adarama, Asubri and El Fasher—to Osman Digna; constructed defences in the Shabluka gorge; and personally superintended the organization and drill of the forces gathered at Omdurman, and the collection of vast stores of food and supplies of camels for offensive expeditions. Towards the end of June the chief of the Jaalin tribe, Abdalla wad Said, who occupied Metemma, angered by the khalifa, made his submission to Kitchener and asked for support, at the same time foolishly sending a defiant letter to the khalifa. The sirdar sent him rifles and ammunition across the desert from Korti; but before they arrived, Mahmud's army, sent by the khalifa, swept down on Metemma on the 1st of July and massacred Abdalla wad Said and his garrison. On the 29th of July, after several reconnaissances, Major-General Hunter, with a flying column, marched up the Nile from near Merawi to Abu Hamed, 133 M. distant, along the edge of the Monassir desert. He arrived on the 7th of August and captured it by storm, the dervishes losing 25o killed and 50 prisoners. By the end of the month the gunboats had surmounted the 4th cataract and reached Abu Hamed. Berber was found to be deserted, and occupied by Hunter on the 5th of September, and in the following month a large force was en-trenched there. The khalifa, fearing an attack on Omdurman, moved Osman Digna from Adarama to Shendi. In the 23rd of October Hunter, with a flying column lightly equipped, left Sudan towards Berber, and telegraphed to Cairo for a British 1898.a1, brigade. By the end of January the concentration was complete, and the British brigade, under Major-General Gatacre, was at Dakhesh, south of Abu Hamed. Disagreement among the khalifa's generals postponed the dervish advance and gave Kitchener much-needed time. But at the end of February, Mahmud crossed the Nile to Shendi with some 12,000 fighting men, and with Osman Digna advanced along the right bank of the Nile to Aliab, where he struck across the . desert to Nakheila, on the Atbara, intending to turn Kitchener's left flank at Berber. The sirdar took up a position at Ras el Hudi, on the Atbara. His force consisted of Gatacre's British brigade (1st Warwicks, Lincolns, Seaforths and Camerons) and Hunter's Egyptian division (3 brigades under Colonels Maxwell, MacDonald and Lewis respectively), Broadwood's cavalry, Tudway's camel corps and Long's artillery. The dervish army reached Nakheila on the loth of March, and entrenched them-selves there in a formidable zeriba. After several reconnaissances in which fighting took place with Mahmud's outposts, it was ascertained from prisoners that their army was short of pro-visions and that great leakage was going on. Kitchener, there-fore, did not hurry. He sent his flotilla up the Nile and captured Shendi, the dervish depot, on the 29th of March. On the 4th of April he advanced to Abadar. A final reconnaissance was made on the 5th. On the following day he bivouacked at Umdabia, where he constructed a strong zeriba, which was garrisoned by an Egyptian battalion, and on the night of the 7th he marched to the attack of Mahmud's zeriba, which, after an hour's bombardment on the morning of the 8th of April, was stormed with complete success. Mahmud and several hundred dervishes were captured, 40 amirs and 3000 Arabs killed, and many more wounded; the rest escaped to Gedaref. The sirdar's casualties were 8o killed and 472 wounded. Preparations were now made for the attack on the khalifa's force at Omdurman; and in the meantime the troops were camped in the neighbourhood of Berber, and the railway carried on to the Atbara. At the end of July reinforcements were forwarded from Cairo; and on the 24th of August the following troops were concentrated for the advance at Wad Hamad, above Metemma, on the western bank of the 6th cataract:—British division, under Major-General Gatacre, consisting of 1st Brigade, commanded by Colonel A. G. Wauchope (1st Warwicks, Lincolns, Seaforths and Camerons), and 2nd Brigade, commanded by Colonel the Hon. N. G. Lyttelton (1st Northumberlands and Grenadier Guards, 2nd Lancashire and Rifle Brigade); Egyptian division, under Major-General Hunter, consisting of four brigades, commanded by Colonels MacDonald, Maxwell, Lewis and Collinson; mounted troops—21st Lancers, camel corps, and Egyptian cavalry; artillery, under Colonel Long, 2 British batteries, 5 Egyptian batteries, and 20 machine guns; detachment of Royal Engineers. The flotilla, under Commander Ix. 5Keppel, R.N., consisted of ro gunboats and 5 transport steamers. The total strength was nearly 26,000 men. While the army moved along the west bank of the river, a force of Arab irregulars or " Friendlies " marched along the east bank, under command of Major Stuart-Wortley and Lieutenant Wood, to clear it of the enemy as far as the Blue Nile; and on the 1st of September the gun-boats bombarded the forts on both sides of the river and breached the great wall of Omdurman. Kitchener met with no opposition; and on the 1st of September the army bivouacked in zeriba at Egeiga, on the west bank of the Nile, within 4 M. of Omdurman. Here, on the morning of the 2nd of September, the khalifa's army, 40,000 strong, attacked the zeriba, but was repulsed with slaughter. Kitchener then moved out and marched towards Omdurman, when he was again twice fiercely attacked on the right flank and rear, MacDonald's brigade bearing the brunt. MacDonald distinguished himself by his tactics, and completely repulsed the enemy. The 21st Lancers gallantly charged a body of 2000 dervishes which was unexpectedly met in a khor on the left flank, and drove them westward, the Lancers losing a fifth of their number in killed and wounded. The khalifa was now in full retreat, and the sirdar, sending his cavalry in pursuit, marched into Omdurman. The dervish loss was over ro,000 killed, as many wounded, and 5000 prisoners. The khalifa's black flag was captured and sent home to Queen Victoria. The British and Egyptian casualties together were under 500. The European prisoners of the khalifa found in Omdurman—Charles Neufeld, Joseph Ragnotti, Sister Teresa Grigolini, and some 30 Greeks—were released; and on Sunday the 4th of September the sirdar, with representatives from every regiment, crossed the river to Khartum, where the British and Egyptian flags were hoisted, and a short service held in memory of General Gordon, near the place where he met his death. The results of the battle of Omdurman were the practical destruction of the khalifa's army, the extinction of Mandism in the Sudan, and the recovery of nearly all the country formerly under Egyptian authority. The khalifa fled with a small force to Obeid in Kordofan. The British troops were quickly sent down stream to Cairo, and the sirdar, shortly afterwards created Lord Kitchener of Khartum, was free to turn his attention to the reduction of the country to some sort of order. He had first, however, to deal with a somewhat serious matter —the arrival of a French expedition at Fashoda, on the White Nile, some 600 m. above Khartum. He started for the captain south on the loth of September, with 5 gunboats and Marchand a small force, dispersed a body of 900 dervishes at Fashoda. Reng on the 15th, and four days later arrived at Fashoda, to find the French Captain Marchand, with 120 Senegalese soldiers, entrenched there and the French flag flying. He arranged with Marchand to leave the political question to be settled by diplomacy, and contented himself with hoisting the British and Egyptian flags to the south of the French flag, and leaving a gunboat and a Sudanese battalion to guard them. He then steamed up the river and established a post at Sobat; and after sending a gunboat up the Bahr-el-Ghazal to establish another post at Meshra-er-Rek, he returned to Omdurman. The French expedition had experienced great difficulties in the swampy region of the Bahr-el-Ghazal, and had reached Fashoda on the loth of July. It had been attacked by a dervish force on the 25th of August, and was expecting another attack when Kitchener arrived and probably saved it from destruction. The Fashoda incident was the subject of important diplomatic negotiations, which at one time approached an acute phase; but ultimately the French position was found to be untenable, and on the 11th of December Marchand and his men returned to France by the Sobat, Abyssinia and Jibuti. In the following March the spheres of interest of Great Britain and France in the Nile basin were defined by a declaration making an addition to Article IV, of the Niger convention of the previous year. During the sirdar's absence from Omdurman Colonel Hunter commanded an expedition up the Blue Nile, and by the end of 11 Berber for Adarama, which he burned on the 2nd of November, and after reconnoitring for 40 M. Up the Atbara, returned to Berber. The Nile was falling, and Kitchener decided to keep the gunboats above the impassable rapid at Um Tuir, 4 M. north of the confluence of the Atbara with the Nile, where he constructed a fort. The gunboats made repeated reconnaissances up the river, bombarding Metemma with effect. The railway reached Abu Hamed on the 4th of November, and was pushed rapidly forward along the right bank of the Nile towards Berber. The forces of the khalifa remaining quiet, the sirdar visited Kassala and negotiated with the Italian General Caneva for its restoration to Egypt. The Italians were anxious to leave it; and on Christmas day 1899 Colonel (afterwards General Sir Charles) Parsons, with an Egyptian force from Suakin, took it formally over, together with a body of Arab irregulars employed by the Italians. These troops were at once despatched to capture the dervish posts at Asabri and El Fasher, which they did with small loss. On his return from Kassala to Berber the sirdar received information of an intended advance of the khalifa northward. He at once ordered a concentration of Egyptian troops Battle of Omdurman. September had occupied and garrisoned Wad Medani, Sennar, Karkoj and Roseires. In the meantime Colonel Parsons marched with 1400 men from Kassala on the 7th of September, to capture Gedaref. He encountered 4000 dervishes under the amir Saadalla outside the town, and after a desperate fight, in which he lost 5o killed and 8o wounded, defeated them and occupied the town on the 22nd. The dervishes left 500 dead on the field, among whom were four amirs. Having strongly entrenched himself, Parsons beat off, with heavy loss to the dervishes, two impetuous attacks made on the 28th by Ahmed Fedil. But the garrison of Gedaref suffered from severe sickness, and Colonel Collinson was sent to their aid with reinforcements from Omdurman. He steamed up the Blue Nile and the Rahad river to Ain-el-Owega, whence he struck across the desert, reaching Gedaref on the 21st of October, to find that Ahmed Fedil had gone south with his force of 5000 men towards Roseires. Colonel Lewis, who was at Karkoj with a small force, moved to Roseires, where he received reinforcements from Omdurman, and on the 26th of December caught Ahmed Fedil's force as it was crossing the Blue Nile at Dakheila, and after a very severe fight cut it up. The dervish loss was 500 killed, while the Egyptians had 24 killed and 118 wounded. Two thousand five hundred fighting men surrendered later, and the rest escaped with Ahmed Fedil to join the khalifa in Kordofan. On the 25th of January 1899 Colonel Walter Kitchener was despatched by his brother, in command of a flying column of operations 2000 Egyptian troops and 1700 Friendlies, which had in the been concentrated at Faki Kohi, on the White Nile, Sudan, some 200 M. above Khartum, to reconnoitre the 1899. khalif a's camp at Sherkela, 130 M. west of the river, in the heart of the Baggara country in Kordofan, and if possible to capture it. The position was found to be a strong one, occupied by over 6000 men; and as it was not considered prudent to attack it with an inferior force at such a distance from the river base, the flying column returned. No further . attempt was made to interfere with the khalifa in his far-off retreat until towards the end of the year, when, good order having been generally established throughout the rest of the Sudan, it was decided to extend it to Kordofan. . In the autumn of 1899 the khalif a was at Jebel Gedir, a hill in southern Kordofan, about 8o m. from the White Nile, and was contemplating an advance. Lord Kitchener concentrated 8000 men at Kaka, on the river, 38o m. south of Khartum, and moved inland on the loth of October. On arriving at Fongor it was ascertained that the khalifa had gone north, and the cavalry and camel corps having reconnoitred Jebel Gedir, the ex- pedition returned. On the 13th November the amir Ahmed Fedil debouched on the river at El Alub, but retired on finding Colonel Lewis with a force in gunboats. Troops and transport were then concentrated at Faki Kohi, and Colonel Wingate sent with reinforcements from Khartum to take command of the expedition and march to Gedid, where it was anticipated the khalif a would be obliged to halt. A flying column, comprising a squadron of cavalry, a field battery, 6 machine guns, 6 companies of the camel corps, and a brigade of infantry and details, in all 3700 men, under Wingate, left Faki Kohi on the 21st of November. The very next day he encountered Ahmed Fedil at Abu Aadel, drove him from his position with great loss, and captured his camp and a large supply of grain he was convoying to the khalifa. Gedid was reached on the 23rd, and the khalifa was ascertained to be at Om Debreikat. Wingate marched at midnight of the 24th, and was resting his troops on high ground in front of the khalifa's position, when at daybreak of the 25th his picquets were driven in and the dervishes attacked. They were repulsed with great slaughter, and Wingate advancing, carried the camp. The khalif a Abdullah el Taaisha, unable to rally his men, gathered many of his principal amirs around him, among whom were his sons and brothers, Ali Wad Helu, Ahmed Fedil, and other well-known leaders, and they met their death unflinchingly from the bullets of the advancing Sudanese infantry. Three thousand men and 29 amirs of importance, including Sheik-ed- din, the khalifa's eldest son and intended successor, surrendered. The dervish loss in the two actions was estimated at loon killed and wounded, while the Egyptian casualties were only 4 killed and 29 wounded. Thus ended the power of the khalifa and of Mandism. On the 19th of January 19oo Osman Digna, who had been so great a supporter of Mandism in the Eastern Sudan, and had always shown great discretion in securing the safety of his own person, was surrounded and captured at Jebel Warriba, as he was wandering a fugitive among the hills beyond Tokar. The reconquest of Dongola and the Sudan provinces during the three years from March 1896 to December 1898, considering the enormous extent and difficulties of the country, was achieved at an unprecedentedly small cost, while the main item of expenditure—the railway—remains a permanent benefit to the country. The figures are: Railways E.1,181,372 Telegraphs 21,825 Gunboats 154,934 Military 996,223 Total E.2,354,354 Towards this expense the British government gave a grant-in-aid of £800,000, and the balance was borne by the Egyptian treasury. The railway, delayed by the construction of the big bridge over the Atbara, was opened to the Blue Nile opposite Khartum, 187 m. from the Atbara, at the end of 1899. (R. H. V.)
End of Article: SUDAN OPERATIONS
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