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The Abyssinian Expedition page 6


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But on that Sunday evening Theodore was informed by the chief whom he had sent down with the cattle, that /he cows had been stopped at the first piquet, and had not been admitted into the camp. He saw at once that he had been misled, and that the English commander intended to abate nothing from the original terms. For the greater part of that night he is said to have walked about on the peak of Selassyč. Mr. Rassam had not visited him according to his request; did that also confirm his apprehensions, and deepen his despair? At clawn the next morning (Easter Monday, April 13), he called on the warriors who loved him to take nothing but their arms and follow him; the time had come, he said, to seek another home. Followed by four chiefs and a few soldiers, he went up into Magdala, passed through it and out at the other side through the gate leading to the saddle which communicated with the Tanta plateau. Whether this sudden movement really indicated a resolution to begin life over again, as the leader of a band, or whether it was connected with the thought that had arisen in his mind of becoming a monk, it is now impossible to say. But after having gone a little way, his men refused to follow him, and he returned with them into Magdala, and thence went down again to Islamgyč. Hither, on the previous day, lie had caused his artillery to be brought up from Fāla.

Meantime information had reached the English camp that Theodore had fled from Magdala. The troops were immediately put in motion, while a notice was sent among the Gallas offering a reward for the King's capture. The two brigades scaled the steep ascent of the saddle connecting Fāla with Selassyč, meeting with no opposition whatever. Crowds of people covered the heights, and those among them who were armed were made to lay down their guns and spears. The English regiments slowly advanced until they reached the nearer end of the saddle of Islamgyč. Here they found the greater number of Theodore's guns with their ammunition. A number of chiefs, richly dressed, were seen at the farther- end of Islamgyč, galloping wildly about and occasionally firing off their rifles. These in a short time were seen to ascend the steep path leading up into Magdala, pass through the gate called the Koket Bir, and close it after them. About this time authentic information reached the General that Theodore had not escaped, but was still in Magdala. He was one among those who had been just seen to ascend from Islamgyč into the fortress. Sir Robert Napier thought it necessary, under these circum stances, to cannonade Magdala with all the artillery at his disposal. The twelve mountain guns and the rocket tubes were disposed in a line across the saddle of: Islamgyč, and commenced to cannonade the place, directing their fire chiefly at the gate and the defences- near it. Theodore, and the few followers who remained faithful to him, upon entering the place at the Koket Bir, closed the gate and blocked it up with large stones. This gate stood some distance below the edge of the plateau, at the very brink of which was a second gate. On the rocks, between the two gates, attended by a faithful few, Theodore sat and watched the practice of the English guns. The shells burst all around him; his faithful minister Ras Engeda and his brother were killed by the same shell.. No return could be made to the fire, for there had not been time, in consequence of Theodore's vacillation, to haul up any guns from Islamgyč to the fortress.

At 4 p.m. a storming party - consisting of the 33rd Regiment led by Major Cooper, the 10th company of Royal Engineers, and a company of Madras Sappers - was ordered to attack the Koket Bir, which is described as "a roofed stone gateway, fifteen feet deep, with folding wooden doors." The long line of red-coats wound up the steep pathway, keeping up a hot fire on the hedge and gate above them. A feeble dropping fire was all that replied to them. For when the bombardment became too hot, nearly all Theodore's followers consulted their safety and fled, taking refuge in the huts on Magdala. The King, and about ten persons who still adhered to him, went down into the Koket Bir when the soldiers commenced to climb the steep, and fired upon them through some rudely-constructed loop-holes. Seven men were wounded by this fire. When the soldiers reached the gate, it was found impossible to force it, owing to the large stones with which it had been blocked up; but, after a short delay, a way was made through the hedge on either side of the gate, and the 33rd thus got within the place, removed the stones and opened the doors to admit the rest of the storming party. The King, meantime, had retired up the hill and passed within the second gate. Of his ten companions, six were wounded, more or less seriously.

" The English soldiers were now swarming through the Koket Bir. Theodore reached some huts on the amba about fifty yards from the second gate. Here he dismissed all his surviving followers, except his faithful valet Walda Gābir, telling them to leave him and save their own lives. Flee,' he said, 'I release you from your allegiance; as for me, I shall never fall into the hands of the enemy.' As soon as they were gone, he turned to Walda Gābir, and said, ' It is finished! Sooner than fall into their hands, I will kill myself.' He put a pistol into his mouth, fired it, and fell dead; the ball passing through the roof of the mouth and out at the back of the head. This was, as nearly as possible, at ten minutes past four in the afternoon." When the soldiers entered the amba through the second gate, there were many there to recognise the body and point it out to the English as that of the King. Presently Sir Charles Staveley entered the place. " The body was put into a litter and brought to Sir Charles, and the prisoners, first glancing at the face, and then taking up one hand and looking at a finger that had been broken, one and all exclaimed, Theodore! ' Sir Charles walked on, and a crowd came round the body, gave three cheers over it, as if it had been that of a dead fox, and then began to cut and tear the clothes to pieces until it was nearly naked." That so foul an indignity should have been offered, and offered with impunity, to the yet warm remains of a noble enemy, is creditable neither to English civilisation nor to English discipline. Some days afterwards the body received decent burial in *he cloister of the church of Magdala.

So ended the career of a man who, if he had inherited d purer and more practical Christianity, and learned to control his passions, might have raised his country's name from obscurity, spread the influences of religion and civilisation through eastern Africa, and lived in history as one of the great benefactors of mankind. Wrath and sensuality were his ruin. There were an openness, a friendliness, a manly generosity in his character, which place him morally far above Henry VIII.; but of him to, it might be said, as of the Tudor King, that " he spared no man in his anger, and no woman in his lust." Un happily the clergy of the Abyssinian Church, so far from helping Theodore against his besetting temptations, either by precept or example, were themselves so corrupt as to tempt all who put faith in them to disjoin, like them, religious doctrine and ceremony from purity of life. Theodore himself accused the Bishop (the Abuna Salama) to Mr. Rassam of having made attempts upon the virtue of his Queen, and of a long list of other malpractices. Let us hope that if it shall be the will of Providence again to raise up in the midst of this interesting Christian people a man of genius, a true king of men, as Theodore was in his younger days, his overtures to England may fall into the hands of a minister more appreciative than Lord Russell, and his experience of the elevating influences of Christianity be derived from purer sources than the lives of such men as the Abuna Salama, or even as the respectable missionary mechanics who cast guns and mortars for Theodore.

The rest may be briefly told. The huts on Magdala were burnt by order of the English General, and this outpost of Christianity fell again into the hands of the ferocious Gallas. North of the river Beshilo, Sir Robert recognised the authority of the Wakshum Gobazyč. Theodore's Queen, Terunesh, and her little boy, Alamayahu, were among the inhabitants of Magdala at the time of its capture, and were consigned to the care of Mr. Rassam. The Queen said that it had been Theodore's last wish that his son should be taken charge of by the English; and this wish was complied with. For her own part, she wished to return to her native province, Semyen; but on the way down she died, and was buried at Chelicut near Antalo. The English army commenced its return march on the 18th April. The arrangements for the march to the coast and the embarkation were made with great judgment and forethought, and the last man of the expedition had left Annesley Bay before the end of June. The landing-piers, wells, roads, and whatever plant had been left behind all not worth removal, came into the possession of the Egyptians, and Abyssinia was sealed up again from intercourse with the outer world, as before the expedition.

Honours were lavished freely on the chief officers in command of the expedition. Sir Robert Napier received the Grand Cross of the Bath and a pension, and was made a peer with the title of Lord Napier of Magdala. General Merewether was made an extra Knight Commander of the Star of India. In moving that the thanks of the House of Commons the given to Sir Robert Napier and his army, Mr. Disraeli, after an eloquent enumeration of the obstacles which they had surmounted, said that that had been accomplished which not one of them ten years ago could have fancied even in his dreams, and they had seen " the standard of St. George hoisted upon the mountains of Rasselas."

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Pictures for The Abyssinian Expedition page 6

The Emperor Theodore
The Emperor Theodore >>>>
The Emperor Theodore treating a captive
The Emperor Theodore treating a captive >>>>
Map of Abyssinia
Map of Abyssinia >>>>
Putting the captives into irons
Putting the captives into irons >>>>
Sir Robert Napier
Sir Robert Napier >>>>
The Abyssinians at the river Beshilo
The Abyssinians at the river Beshilo >>>>
King Theodores house
King Theodores house >>>>
Interior of Magdala
Interior of Magdala >>>>
Church at Magdala
Church at Magdala >>>>

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