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river war ,Battle of Ansar in Kararie,by winston churchil who attended the war

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river war ,Battle of Ansar in Kararie,by winston churchil who attended the war

مُساهمة من طرف cnoc في السبت أبريل 02, 2011 6:08 am

river war battle of Kararie
every jazeerabi should read it to know how strong we were.
pls go to www.gutenberg.org and look for: river war by w.churchil

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Title: The River War

Author: Winston S. Churchill

Release Date: January, 2004 [EBook #4943]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on April 2, 2002]

Edition: 10

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An Account of the Reconquest of the Sudan

(1902 edition)

By Winston S. Churchill


I. The Rebellion of the Mahdi
II. The Fate of the Envoy
III. The Dervish Empire
IV. The Years of Preparation
V. The Beginning of War
VI. Firket
VII. The Recovery of the Dongola Province
VIII. The Desert Railway
IX. Abu Hamed
X. Berber
XI. Reconnaissance
XII. The Battle of the Atbara
XIII. The Grand Advance
XIV. The Operations of the First of September
XV. The Battle of Omdurman
XVI. The Fall of the City
XVII. 'The Fashoda Incident'
XVIII On the Blue Nile
XIX. The End of the Khalifa


>>> to illustrate the military operations <<<

|* Wady Halfa
(The Nile) /
| __* Abu Hamed
| _/ \
Dongola *\ _/ \ Suakin *
\ Merawi / \
\ */ \
\_ _ / \ Berber
/\__ (The Atbara River)
_/ \_
Metemma */ \
Omdurman */
Khartoum /*\_
| \_
| \_ (The Blue Nile)
\ \

(The White Nile)



The north-eastern quarter of the continent of Africa is drained
and watered by the Nile. Among and about the headstreams and
tributaries of this mighty river lie the wide and fertile provinces of
the Egyptian Soudan. Situated in the very centre of the land, these
remote regions are on every side divided from the seas by five hundred
miles of mountain, swamp, or desert. The great river is their only
means of growth, their only channel of progress. It is by the Nile
alone that their commerce can reach the outer markets, or European
civilisation can penetrate the inner darkness. The Soudan is joined to
Egypt by the Nile, as a diver is connected with the surface by his
air-pipe. Without it there is only suffocation. Aut Nilus, aut nihil!

The town of Khartoum, at the confluence of the Blue and White Niles,
is the point on which the trade of the south must inevitably converge.
It is the great spout through which the merchandise collected from a
wide area streams northwards to the Mediterranean shore. It marks the
extreme northern limit of the fertile Soudan. Between Khartoum and Assuan
the river flows for twelve hundred miles through deserts of surpassing
desolation. At last the wilderness recedes and the living world broadens
out again into Egypt and the Delta. It is with events that have occurred
in the intervening waste that these pages are concerned.

The real Soudan, known to the statesman and the explorer, lies far
to the south--moist, undulating, and exuberant. But there is another
Soudan, which some mistake for the true, whose solitudes oppress the
Nile from the Egyptian frontier to Omdurman. This is the Soudan of the
soldier. Destitute of wealth or future, it is rich in history. The
names of its squalid villages are familiar to distant and enlightened
peoples. The barrenness of its scenery has been drawn by skilful pen
and pencil. Its ample deserts have tasted the blood of brave men.
Its hot, black rocks have witnessed famous tragedies. It is the scene
of the war.

This great tract, which may conveniently be called 'The Military Soudan,'
stretches with apparent indefiniteness over the face of the continent.
Level plains of smooth sand--a little rosier than buff, a little paler
than salmon--are interrupted only by occasional peaks of rock--black,
stark, and shapeless. Rainless storms dance tirelessly over the hot,
crisp surface of the ground. The fine sand, driven by the wind, gathers
into deep drifts, and silts among the dark rocks of the hills, exactly
as snow hangs about an Alpine summit; only it is a fiery snow, such as
might fall in hell. The earth burns with the quenchless thirst of ages,
and in the steel-blue sky scarcely a cloud obstructs the unrelenting
triumph of the sun.

Through the desert flows the river--a thread of blue silk drawn across
an enormous brown drugget; and even this thread is brown for half the
year. Where the water laps the sand and soaks into the banks there grows
an avenue of vegetation which seems very beautiful and luxuriant by
contrast with what lies beyond. The Nile, through all the three thousand
miles of its course vital to everything that lives beside it, is never
so precious as here. The traveller clings to the strong river as to an
old friend, staunch in the hour of need. All the world blazes, but here
is shade. The deserts are hot, but the Nile is cool. The land is parched,
but here is abundant water. The picture painted in burnt sienna is
relieved by a grateful flash of green.

Yet he who had not seen the desert or felt the sun heavily on his
shoulders would hardly admire the fertility of the riparian scrub.
Unnourishing reeds and grasses grow rank and coarse from the water's
edge. The dark, rotten soil between the tussocks is cracked and
granulated by the drying up of the annual flood. The character of the
vegetation is inhospitable. Thorn-bushes, bristling like hedgehogs and
thriving arrogantly, everywhere predominate and with their prickly
tangles obstruct or forbid the path. Only the palms by the brink are
kindly, and men journeying along the Nile must look often towards their
bushy tops, where among the spreading foliage the red and yellow glint
of date clusters proclaims the ripening of a generous crop, and protests
that Nature is not always mischievous and cruel.

The banks of the Nile, except by contrast with the desert, display an
abundance of barrenness. Their characteristic is monotony. Their
attraction is their sadness. Yet there is one hour when all is changed.
Just before the sun sets towards the western cliffs a delicious flush
brightens and enlivens the landscape. It is as though some Titanic
artist in an hour of inspiration were retouching the picture, painting
in dark purple shadows among the rocks, strengthening the lights on the
sands, gilding and beautifying everything, and making the whole scene
live. The river, whose windings make it look like a lake, turns from
muddy brown to silver-grey. The sky from a dull blue deepens into violet
in the west. Everything under that magic touch becomes vivid and alive.
And then the sun sinks altogether behind the rocks, the colors fade out
of the sky, the flush off the sands, and gradually everything darkens
and grows grey--like a man's cheek when he is bleeding to death. We are
left sad and sorrowful in the dark, until the stars light up and remind
us that there is always something beyond.

In a land whose beauty is the beauty of a moment, whose face is
desolate, and whose character is strangely stern, the curse of war was
hardly needed to produce a melancholy effect. Why should there be
caustic plants where everything is hot and burning? In deserts where
thirst is enthroned, and where the rocks and sand appeal to a pitiless
sky for moisture, it was a savage trick to add the mockery of mirage.

The area multiplies the desolation. There is life only by the Nile.
If a man were to leave the river, he might journey westward and find no
human habitation, nor the smoke of a cooking fire, except the lonely tent
of a Kabbabish Arab or the encampment of a trader's caravan, till he
reached the coast-line of America. Or he might go east and find nothing
but sand and sea and sun until Bombay rose above the horizon. The thread
of fresh water is itself solitary in regions where all living things
lack company.

In the account of the River War the Nile is naturally supreme. It is
the great melody that recurs throughout the whole opera. The general
purposing military operations, the statesman who would decide upon grave
policies, and the reader desirous of studying the course and results of
either, must think of the Nile. It is the life of the lands through
which it flows. It is the cause of the war: the means by which we fight;
the end at which we aim. Imagination should paint the river through every
page in the story. It glitters between the palm-trees during the actions.
It is the explanation of nearly every military movement. By its banks
the armies camp at night. Backed or flanked on its unfordable stream they
offer or accept battle by day. To its brink, morning and evening, long
lines of camels, horses, mules, and slaughter cattle hurry eagerly. Emir
and Dervish, officer and soldier, friend and foe, kneel alike to this god
of ancient Egypt and draw each day their daily water in goatskin or
canteen. Without the river none would have started. Without it none might
have continued. Without it none could ever have returned.

All who journey on the Nile, whether in commerce or war, will pay their
tribute of respect and gratitude; for the great river has befriended all
races and every age. Through all the centuries it has performed the annual
miracle of its flood. Every year when the rains fall and the mountain
snows of Central Africa begin to melt, the head-streams become torrents
and the great lakes are filled to the brim. A vast expanse of low, swampy
lands, crossed by secondary channels and flooded for many miles, regulates
the flow, and by a sponge-like action prevents the excess of one year
from causing the deficiency of the next. Far away in Egypt, prince,
priest, and peasant look southwards with anxious attention for the
fluctuating yet certain rise. Gradually the flood begins. The
Bahr-el-Ghazal from a channel of stagnant pools and marshes becomes a
broad and navigable stream. The Sobat and the Atbara from dry
watercourses with occasional pools, in which the fish and crocodiles are
crowded, turn to rushing rivers. But all this is remote from Egypt.
After its confluence with the Atbara no drop of water reaches the Nile,
and it flows for seven hundred miles through the sands or rushes in
cataracts among the rocks of the Nubian desert. Nevertheless, in spite of
the tremendous diminution in volume caused by the dryness of the earth
and air and the heat of the sun--all of which drink greedily--the river
below Assuan is sufficiently great to supply nine millions of people with
as much water as their utmost science and energies can draw, and yet to
pour into the Mediterranean a low-water surplus current of 61,500 cubic
feet per second. Nor is its water its only gift. As the Nile rises its
complexion is changed. The clear blue river becomes thick and red, laden
with the magic mud that can raise cities from the desert sand and make
the wilderness a garden. The geographer may still in the arrogance of
science describe the Nile as 'a great, steady-flowing river, fed by the
rains of the tropics, controlled by the existence of a vast head reservoir
and several areas of repose, and annually flooded by the accession of a
great body of water with which its eastern tributaries are flushed'
[ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA]; but all who have drunk deeply of its soft yet
fateful waters--fateful, since they give both life and death--will
understand why the old Egyptians worshipped the river, nor will they even
in modern days easily dissociate from their minds a feeling of mystic

South of Khartoum and of 'The Military Soudan' the land becomes more
fruitful. The tributaries of the Nile multiply the areas of riparian
fertility. A considerable rainfall, increasing as the Equator is
approached, enables the intervening spaces to support vegetation and
consequently human life. The greater part of the country is feverish
and unhealthy, nor can Europeans long sustain the attacks of its climate.
Nevertheless it is by no means valueless. On the east the province of
Sennar used to produce abundant grain, and might easily produce no less
abundant cotton. Westward the vast territories of Kordofan and Darfur
afford grazing-grounds to a multitude of cattle, and give means of
livelihood to great numbers of Baggara or cow-herd Arabs, who may also
pursue with activity and stratagem the fleet giraffe and the still
fleeter ostrich. To the south-east lies Bahr-el-Ghazal, a great tract
of country occupied by dense woods and plentifully watered. Further
south and nearer the Equator the forests and marshes become exuberant
with tropical growths, and the whole face of the land is moist and green.
Amid groves of gigantic trees and through plains of high waving grass
the stately elephant roams in herds which occasionally number four
hundred, hardly ever disturbed by a well-armed hunter. The ivory of
their tusks constitutes the wealth of the Equatorial Province. So
greatly they abound that Emin Pasha is provoked to complain of a pest of
these valuable pachyderms [LIFE OF EMIN PASHA, vol.i chapter ix.]: and
although they are only assailed by the natives with spear and gun,
no less than twelve thousand hundredweight of ivory has been exported
in a single year [Ibid.] All other kinds of large beasts known to man
inhabit these obscure retreats. The fierce rhinoceros crashes through
the undergrowth. Among the reeds of melancholy swamps huge hippopotami,
crocodiles, and buffaloes prosper and increase. Antelope of every known
and many unclassified species; serpents of peculiar venom; countless
millions of birds, butterflies, and beetles are among the offspring of
prolific Nature. And the daring sportsman who should survive his
expedition would not fail to add to the achievements of science and the
extent of natural history as well as to his own reputation.

The human inhabitants of the Soudan would not, but for their vices
and misfortunes, be disproportioned in numbers to the fauna or less
happy. War, slavery, and oppression have, however, afflicted them until
the total population of the whole country does not exceed at the most
liberal estimate three million souls. The huge area contains many
differences of climate and conditions, and these have produced
peculiar and diverse breeds of men. The Soudanese are of many tribes,
but two main races can be clearly distinguished: the aboriginal natives,
and the Arab settlers. The indigenous inhabitants of the country were
negroes as black as coal. Strong, virile, and simple-minded savages,
they lived as we may imagine prehistoric men--hunting, fighting,
marrying, and dying, with no ideas beyond the gratification of their
physical desires, and no fears save those engendered by ghosts,
witchcraft, the worship of ancestors, and other forms of superstition
common among peoples of low development. They displayed the virtues of
barbarism. They were brave and honest. The smallness of their
intelligence excused the degradation of their habits. Their ignorance
secured their innocence. Yet their eulogy must be short, for though
their customs, language, and appearance vary with the districts they
inhabit and the subdivisions to which they belong, the history of all
is a confused legend of strife and misery, their natures are uniformly
cruel and thriftless, and their condition is one of equal squalor
and want.

Although the negroes are the more numerous, the Arabs exceed in power.
The bravery of the aboriginals is outweighed by the intelligence of the
invaders and their superior force of character. During the second
century of the Mohammedan era, when the inhabitants of Arabia went forth
to conquer the world, one adventurous army struck south. The first
pioneers were followed at intervals by continual immigrations of Arabs
not only from Arabia but also across the deserts from Egypt and Marocco.
The element thus introduced has spread and is spreading throughout the
Soudan, as water soaks into a dry sponge. The aboriginals absorbed the
invaders they could not repel. The stronger race imposed its customs and
language on the negroes. The vigour of their blood sensibly altered the
facial appearance of the Soudanese. For more than a thousand years the
influence of Mohammedanism, which appears to possess a strange
fascination for negroid races, has been permeating the Soudan, and,
although ignorance and natural obstacles impede the progress of new
ideas, the whole of the black race is gradually adopting the new
religion and developing Arab characteristics. In the districts of the
north, where the original invaders settled, the evolution is complete,
and the Arabs of the Soudan are a race formed by the interbreeding of
negro and Arab, and yet distinct from both. In the more remote and
inaccessible regions which lie to the south and west the negro race
remains as yet unchanged by the Arab influence. And between these
extremes every degree of mixture is to be found. In some tribes pure
Arabic is spoken, and prior to the rise of the Mahdi the orthodox Moslem
faith was practised. In others Arabic has merely modified the ancient
dialects, and the Mohammedan religion has been adapted to the older
superstitions; but although the gap between the Arab-negro and the
negro-pure is thus filled by every intermediate blend, the two races
were at an early date quite distinct.

The qualities of mongrels are rarely admirable, and the mixture
of the Arab and negro types has produced a debased and cruel breed,
more shocking because they are more intelligent than the primitive
savages. The stronger race soon began to prey upon the simple
aboriginals; some of the Arab tribes were camel-breeders; some were
goat-herds; some were Baggaras or cow-herds. But all, without exception,
were hunters of men. To the great slave-market at Jedda a continual
stream of negro captives has flowed for hundreds of years. The
invention of gunpowder and the adoption by the Arabs of firearms
facilitated the traffic by placing the ignorant negroes at a further
disadvantage. Thus the situation in the Soudan for several centuries
may be summed up as follows: The dominant race of Arab invaders was
unceasingly spreading its blood, religion, customs, and language among
the black aboriginal population, and at the same time it harried and
enslaved them.

The state of society that arose out of this may be easily imagined.
The warlike Arab tribes fought and brawled among themselves in ceaseless
feud and strife. The negroes trembled in apprehension of capture, or rose
locally against their oppressors. Occasionally an important Sheikh would
effect the combination of many tribes, and a kingdom came into existence
--a community consisting of a military class armed with guns and of
multitudes of slaves, at once their servants and their merchandise,
and sometimes trained as soldiers. The dominion might prosper viciously
till it was overthrown by some more powerful league.

All this was unheeded by the outer world, from which the Soudan is
separated by the deserts, and it seemed that the slow, painful course of
development would be unaided and uninterrupted. But at last the
populations of Europe changed. Another civilisation reared itself above
the ruins of Roman triumph and Mohammedan aspiration--a civilisation
more powerful, more glorious, but no less aggressive. The impulse of
conquest which hurried the French and English to Canada and the Indies,
which sent the Dutch to the Cape and the Spaniards to Peru, spread to
Africa and led the Egyptians to the Soudan. In the year 1819 Mohammed
Ali, availing himself of the disorders alike as an excuse and an
opportunity, sent his son Ismail up the Nile with a great army. The Arab
tribes, torn by dissension, exhausted by thirty years of general war,
and no longer inspired by their neglected religion, offered a weak
resistance. Their slaves, having known the worst of life, were apathetic.
The black aboriginals were silent and afraid. The whole vast territory
was conquered with very little fighting, and the victorious army,
leaving garrisons, returned in triumph to the Delta.

What enterprise that an enlightened community may attempt is more
noble and more profitable than the reclamation from barbarism of
fertile regions and large populations? To give peace to warring tribes,
to administer justice where all was violence, to strike the chains off
the slave, to draw the richness from the soil, to plant the earliest
seeds of commerce and learning, to increase in whole peoples their
capacities for pleasure and diminish their chances of pain--what more
beautiful ideal or more valuable reward can inspire human effort? The
act is virtuous, the exercise invigorating, and the result often
extremely profitable. Yet as the mind turns from the wonderful cloudland
of aspiration to the ugly scaffolding of attempt and achievement,
a succession of opposite ideas arises. Industrious races are displayed
stinted and starved for the sake of an expensive Imperialism which they
can only enjoy if they are well fed. Wild peoples, ignorant of their
barbarism, callous of suffering, careless of life but tenacious of
liberty, are seen to resist with fury the philanthropic invaders, and to
perish in thousands before they are convinced of their mistake. The
inevitable gap between conquest and dominion becomes filled with the
figures of the greedy trader, the inopportune missionary, the ambitious
soldier, and the lying speculator, who disquiet the minds of the
conquered and excite the sordid appetites of the conquerors. And as the
eye of thought rests on these sinister features, it hardly seems possible
for us to believe that any fair prospect is approached by so foul a path.

From 1819 to 1883 Egypt ruled the Soudan. Her rule was not kindly, wise,
or profitable. Its aim was to exploit, not to improve the local
population. The miseries of the people were aggravated rather than
lessened: but they were concealed. For the rough injustice of the sword
there were substituted the intricacies of corruption and bribery.
Violence and plunder were more hideous, since they were cloaked with
legality and armed with authority. The land was undeveloped and poor.
It barely sustained its inhabitants. The additional burden of a
considerable foreign garrison and a crowd of rapacious officials
increased the severity of the economic conditions. Scarcity was frequent.
Famines were periodical. Corrupt and incapable Governors-General
succeeded each other at Khartoum with bewildering rapidity. The constant
changes, while they prevented the continuity of any wise policy, did not
interrupt the misrule. With hardly any exceptions, the Pashas were
consistent in oppression. The success of their administration was
measured by the Ministries in Egypt by the amount of money they could
extort from the natives; among the officials in the Soudan, by the
number of useless offices they could create. There were a few bright
examples of honest men, but these, by providing a contrast, only
increased the discontents.

The rule of Egypt was iniquitous: yet it preserved the magnificent
appearance of Imperial dominion. The Egyptian Pro-consul lived in state
at the confluence of the Niles. The representatives of foreign Powers
established themselves in the city. The trade of the south converged
upon Khartoum. Thither the subordinate governors, Beys and Mudirs,
repaired at intervals to report the state of their provinces and to
receive instructions. Thither were sent the ivory of Equatoria, the
ostrich feathers of Kordofan, gum from Darfur, grain from Sennar, and
taxes collected from all the regions. Strange beasts, entrapped in the
swamps and forests, passed through the capital on their journey to Cairo
and Europe. Complex and imposing reports of revenue and expenditure
were annually compiled. An elaborate and dignified correspondence was
maintained between Egypt and its great dependency. The casual observer,
astonished at the unusual capacity for government displayed by an
Oriental people, was tempted to accept the famous assertion which Nubar
Pasha put into the mouth of the Khedive Ismail: 'We are no longer in
Africa, but in Europe.' Yet all was a hateful sham ['The government of
the Egyptians in these far-off countries is nothing else but one of
brigandage of the very worst description.'--COLONEL GORDON IN CENTRAL
AFRICA, April 11, 1879.] The arbitrary and excessive taxes were
collected only at the point of the bayonet. If a petty chief fell into
arrears, his neighbours were raised against him. If an Arab tribe were
recalcitrant, a military expedition was despatched. Moreover, the
ability of the Arabs to pay depended on their success as slave-hunters.
When there had been a good catch, the revenue profited. The Egyptian
Government had joined the International League against the slave trade.
They combined, however, indirectly but deliberately, to make money out
of it. [EGYPT, No.11, 1883.]

In the miserable, harassing warfare that accompanied the collection of
taxes the Viceregal commanders gained more from fraud than force. No
subterfuge, no treachery, was too mean for them to adopt: no oath or
treaty was too sacred for them to break. Their methods were cruel, and
if honour did not impede the achievement, mercy did not restrict the
effects of their inglorious successes; and the effete administrators
delighted to order their timid soldiery to carry out the most savage
executions. The political methods and social style of the
Governors-General were imitated more or less exactly by the subordinate
officials according to their degree in the provinces. Since they were
completely hidden from the eye of civilisation, they enjoyed a greater
licence in their administration. As their education was inferior, so
their habits became more gross. Meanwhile the volcano on which they
disported themselves was ominously silent. The Arab tribes obeyed, and
the black population cowered.

The authority of a tyrannical Government was supported by the presence
of a worthless army. Nearly forty thousand men were distributed among
eight main and numerous minor garrisons. Isolated in a roadless country
by enormous distances and natural obstacles, and living in the midst of
large savage populations of fanatical character and warlike habits,
whose exasperation was yearly growing with their miseries, the Viceregal
forces might depend for their safety only on the skill of their officers,
the excellence of their discipline, and the superiority of their weapons.
But the Egyptian officers were at that time distinguished for nothing
but their public incapacity and private misbehaviour. The evil reputation
of the Soudan and its climate deterred the more educated or more wealthy
from serving in such distant regions, and none went south who could
avoid it. The army which the Khedives maintained in the Delta was, judged
by European standards, only a rabble. It was badly trained, rarely paid,
and very cowardly; and the scum of the army of the Delta was the cream of
the army of the Soudan. The officers remained for long periods, many all
their lives, in the obscurity of the remote provinces. Some had been sent
there in disgrace, others in disfavour. Some had been forced to serve out
of Egypt by extreme poverty, others were drawn to the Soudan by the hopes
of gratifying peculiar tastes. The majority had harems of the women of
the country, which were limited only by the amount of money they could
lay their hands on by any method. Many were hopeless and habitual
drunkards. Nearly all were dishonest. All were indolent and incapable.

Under such leadership the finest soldiery would have soon degenerated.
The Egyptians in the Soudan were not fine soldiers. Like their officers,
they were the worst part of the Khedivial army. Like them, they had been
driven to the south. Like them, they were slothful and effete. Their
training was imperfect; their discipline was lax; their courage was low.
Nor was even this all the weakness and peril of their position; for
while the regular troops were thus demoralised, there existed a powerful
local irregular force of Bazingers (Soudanese riflemen), as well armed
as the soldiers, more numerous, more courageous, and who regarded the
alien garrisons with fear that continually diminished and hate that
continually grew. And behind regulars and irregulars alike the wild Arab
tribes of the desert and the hardy blacks of the forests, goaded by
suffering and injustice, thought the foreigners the cause of all their
woes, and were delayed only by their inability to combine from sweeping
them off the face of the earth. Never was there such a house of cards as
the Egyptian dominion in the Soudan. The marvel is that it stood so long,
not that it fell so soon.

The names of two men of character and fame are forever connected
with the actual outburst. One was an English general, the other an Arab
priest; yet, in spite of the great gulf and vivid contrast between their
conditions, they resembled each other in many respects. Both were earnest
and enthusiastic men of keen sympathies and passionate emotions. Both
were powerfully swayed by religious fervour. Both exerted great personal
influence on all who came in contact with them. Both were reformers.
The Arab was an African reproduction of the Englishman; the Englishman
a superior and civilised development of the Arab. In the end they fought
to the death, but for an important part of their lives their influence on
the fortunes of the Soudan was exerted in the same direction. Mohammed
Ahmed, 'The Mahdi,' will be discussed in his own place. Charles Gordon
needs little introduction. Long before this tale begins his reputation
was European, and the fame of the 'Ever-victorious Army' had spread far
beyond the Great Wall of China.

The misgovernment of the Egyptians and the misery of the Soudanese
reached their greatest extreme in the seventh decade of the present
century. From such a situation there seemed to be no issue other than
by force of arms. The Arab tribes lacked no provocation. Yet they were
destitute of two moral forces essential to all rebellions. The first
was the knowledge that better things existed. The second was a spirit
of combination. General Gordon showed them the first. The Mahdi
provided the second.

It is impossible to study any part of Charles Gordon's career
without being drawn to all the rest. As his wild and varied fortunes
lead him from Sebastopol to Pekin, from Gravesend to South Africa,
from Mauritius to the Soudan, the reader follows fascinated. Every
scene is strange, terrible, or dramatic. Yet, remarkable as are the
scenes, the actor is the more extraordinary; a type without comparison
in modern times and with few likenesses in history. Rare and precious
is the truly disinterested man. Potentates of many lands and different
degree--the Emperor of China, the King of the Belgians, the Premier of
Cape Colony, the Khedive of Egypt--competed to secure his services.
The importance of his offices varied no less than their nature. One day
he was a subaltern of sappers; on another he commanded the Chinese army;
the next he directed an orphanage; or was Governor-General of the Soudan,
with supreme powers of life and death and peace and war; or served as
private secretary to Lord Ripon. But in whatever capacity he laboured
he was true to his reputation. Whether he is portrayed bitterly
criticising to Graham the tactics of the assault on the Redan; or
pulling the head of Lar Wang from under his bedstead and waving it in
paroxysms of indignation before the astonished eyes of Sir Halliday
Macartney; or riding alone into the camp of the rebel Suliman and
receiving the respectful salutes of those who had meant to kill him;
or telling the Khedive Ismail that he 'must have the whole Soudan to
govern'; or reducing his salary to half the regulation amount because
'he thought it was too much'; or ruling a country as large as Europe;
or collecting facts for Lord Ripon's rhetorical efforts--we perceive a
man careless alike of the frowns of men or the smiles of women, of life
or comfort, wealth or fame.

It was a pity that one, thus gloriously free from the ordinary
restraining influences of human society, should have found in his own
character so little mental ballast. His moods were capricious and
uncertain, his passions violent, his impulses sudden and inconsistent.
The mortal enemy of the morning had become a trusted ally before the
night. The friend he loved to-day he loathed to-morrow. Scheme after
scheme formed in his fertile brain, and jostled confusingly together.
All in succession were pressed with enthusiasm. All at times were
rejected with disdain. A temperament naturally neurotic had been
aggravated by an acquired habit of smoking; and the General carried this
to so great an extreme that he was rarely seen without a cigarette. His
virtues are famous among men; his daring and resource might turn the
tide or war; his energy would have animated a whole people; his
achievements are upon record; but it must also be set down that few more
uncertain and impracticable forces than Gordon have ever been introduced
into administration and diplomacy.

Although the Egyptian Government might loudly proclaim their detestation
of slavery, their behaviour in the Soudan was viewed with suspicion by
the European Powers, and particularly by Great Britain. To vindicate his
sincerity the Khedive Ismail in 1874 appointed Gordon to be Governor of
the Equatorial Province in succession to Sir Samuel Baker. The name of
the General was a sufficient guarantee that the slave trade was being
earnestly attacked. The Khedive would gladly have stopped at the
guarantee, and satisfied the world without disturbing 'vested interests.'
But the mission, which may have been originally instituted as a pretence,
soon became in Gordon's energetic hands very real. Circumstances,
moreover, soon enlisted the sympathies of the Egyptian Government on the
side of their zealous agent. The slave dealers had committed every
variety of atrocity for which the most odious traffic in the world
afforded occasion; but when, under the leadership of Zubehr Rahamna,
they refused to pay their annual tribute, it was felt in Cairo that
their crimes had cried aloud for chastisement.

Zubehr is sufficiently described when it has been said that he was
the most notorious slave dealer Africa has ever produced. His infamy had
spread beyond the limits of the continent which was the scene of his
exploits to the distant nations of the north and west. In reality, his
rule was a distinct advance on the anarchy which had preceded it, and
certainly he was no worse than others of his vile trade. His scale of
business was, however, more extended. What William Whiteley was in
respect of goods and chattels, that was Zubehr in respect of slaves--
a universal provider. Magnitude lends a certain grandeur to crime; and
Zubehr in the height of his power, at the head of the slave merchants'
confederacy, might boast the retinue of a king and exercise authority
over wide regions and a powerful army.

As early as 1869 he was practically the independent ruler of the
Bahr-el-Ghazal. The Khedive resolved to assert his rights. A small
Egyptian force was sent to subdue the rebel slaver who not only
disgraced humanity but refused to pay tribute. Like most of the Khedivial
expeditions the troops under Bellal Bey met with ill-fortune. They came,
they saw, they ran away. Some, less speedy than the rest, fell on the
field of dishonour. The rebellion was open. Nevertheless it was the
Khedive who sought peace. Zubehr apologised for defeating the Viceregal
soldiers and remained supreme in the Bahr-el-Ghazal. Thence he planned
the conquest of Darfur, at that time an independent kingdom. The Egyptian
Government were glad to join with him in the enterprise. The man they had
been unable to conquer, they found it expedient to assist. The operations
were successful. The King of Darfur, who was distinguished no less for
his valour than for his folly, was killed. The whole country was subdued.
The whole population available after the battles became slaves. Zubehr
thus wielded a formidable power. The Khedivial Government, thinking to
ensure his loyalty, created him a Pasha--a rank which he could scarcely
disgrace; and the authority of the rebel was thus unwillingly recognised
by the ruler. Such was the situation when Gordon first came to the Soudan.

It was beyond the power of the new Governor of the Equatorial Province
at once to destroy the slave-hunting confederacy. Yet he struck heavy
blows at the slave trade, and when in 1877, after a short visit to
England, he returned to the Soudan as Governor-General and with absolute
power, he assailed it with redoubled energy. Fortune assisted his efforts,
for the able Zubehr was enticed to Cairo, and, once there, the Government
refused to allow their faithful ally and distinguished guest to go back
to his happy-hunting grounds. Although the slave dealers were thus robbed
of their great leader, they were still strong, and Zubehr's son, the brave
Suliman, found a considerable following. Furious at his father's captivity,
and alarmed lest his own should follow, he meditated revolt. But the
Governor-General, mounted on a swift camel and attired in full uniform,
rode alone into the rebel camp and compelled the submission of its chiefs
before they could recover from their amazement. The confederacy was
severely shaken, and when, in the following year, Suliman again revolted,
the Egyptian troops under Gessi Pasha were able to disperse his forces and
induce him to surrender on terms. The terms were broken, and Suliman and
ten of his companions suffered death by shooting [von Slatin, Baron
Rudolf Karl. FIRE AND SWORD IN THE SOUDAN, p.28.] The league of the slave
dealers was thus destroyed.

Towards the end of 1879 Gordon left the Soudan. With


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