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Soudan; Abyssinia.

Africa, Mediaeval and Modern.
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The British war in the Soudan was the direct consequence of our occupation of Egypt, and the assumption of responsibility in that region. Nubia, formerly a part of Ethiopia, and extending on both sides of the Nile from Egypt to Abyssinia, and between the Red Sea in the east and the desert on the west, has of late been styled "Egyptian Soudan," a term applied to Nubia in its widest sense, from Assouan to Dongola, and thence to equatorial Africa. The country, now occupied by mixed Arab and negro people, was conquered by Arabs in the 14th century. The various tribes, mostly active and warlike, are Mohammedans in religion, and till 1820 were ruled by-their own chiefs. During the next half-century Egypt gained control of the provinces lying west and south of Khartoum. In 1874-75 Dar-Fur was annexed, and insurrections there were crushed in succession by General Gordon and by Gessi, an Italian officer, in 1877-79. In 1882 a new revolt occurred under the leadership of another "Mahdi," Mohammed Ahmed, born in Dongola about 1842, who was once in the civil service of Egypt, and then became a trader and a slave-dealer. The eastern Soudan was stirred by the call of a man who, at the prophetic age of 40, after 15 years of fasting and retirement, came forward as a "Messiah" whose mission it was to free Islam from external foes, and to restore the pure original faith. Early in 1883 he seized EP-Obeyd, the chief city of Kordofan, as his capital, and in November of that year he utterly destroyed an army of Egyptian troops commanded by the English "Hicks Pasha," an officer in the service of the Khedive. The Egyptian garrisons in the Soudan, at Dongola, Sinkat, and other places, were then in imminent danger. In January, 1884, General Gordon went out, at the instance of the British government, to arrange with the Mahdi for the peaceful withdrawal of the garrisons, as the Khedive had agreed to give up all the Soudan territory except the Red Sea coast. No terms could be made, and Gordon, with the Egyptian garrison, became closely beleaguered at Khartoum by the Mahdi's forces. In the eastern Soudan three Egyptian armies were routed by the Soudanese forces near Suakin, and at El-Teb and Tamanieh, but these disasters were retrieved by the victories of a British force under General Graham early in 1884, and Suakin, on the Red Sea, was permanently garrisoned. The expedition sent out in August, 1884, under Lord Wolseley, making its way up the Nile, and then, as it crossed the desert by a short cut, winning the desperate battles of Abu-Klea and Metammeh, in January, 1885, was too late, by three days, to save Gordon. Treachery inside Khartoum had been his ruin, and he was murdered two days before the steamers, fighting their way up against the batteries, reached the town where the Mahdi's flag was seen floating over the walls. This disaster has been generally attributed to the vacillations of a divided Cabinet. The Arab spearmen, in their charges against our troops, armed with the breechloader, and aided by Gatling guns, showed themselves as the bravest and most athletic warriors that ever put British courage and skill to the test. Among incidents of the warfare were the fall, at Abu-Klea, of Colonel "Burnaby of the Blues," the hero of the "ride to Khiva," fighting as a volunteer; the fatal wounding of General Sir Herbert Stewart at Metammeh; and the breaking, in the battle of Tamasi, in the eastern Soudan, of a British square by a fierce rush of the Arabs, an occurrence followed by the skilful and successful use of the bayonet on the part of our young soldiers. The Mahdi died in 1885, and the Soudan became, for many years, a scene of horrible tyranny and bloodshed under his successor Osman Digna. The fall of Khartoum ended for the time all Egyptian power to the south of Assouan.

Eleven years later an advance of Egyptian forces took place, under the command of the able Sir Herbert Kitchener, "Sirdar" of the Khedive's army. It was thought well to demonstrate the new military strength of Egypt under British rule, with a view to a moral effect in various quarters, and to the ultimate reoccupation of Khartoum, the fall of which, in the face of British efforts at relief, had acted badly for us on the minds of Mohammedan subjects in India. The campaign was opened in the spring of 1896, closely following on the utter defeat of General Baratieri, the Italian commander in Abyssinia, by a native force, another event baneful to European influence in Africa. It was also desirable to secure the upper Nile valley against the raids of the "Dervishes," the Mahdist followers of Osman Digna. A railway had been made from Wadi Haifa to Sarras, 35 miles southwards, and this was to be pushed on to Akasha, as an advanced base of operations. The force was composed solely of Soudanese and Egyptian battalions, under British officers, and these men, on June 7th, 1896, well directed by Kitchener and his subordinates, attacked the Dervishes at Ferkeh, 18 miles south of Akasha, and won a complete victory. The large village, extending for a mile along the Nile bank, was stormed in fine style by the infantry, bayonet in hand, with a loss to the enemy of about 50 emirs and 2,000 men. A close pursuit gave the victors possession of Suarda, nearly 40 miles south of Ferkeh, and on September 23rd Dongola was occupied without resistance. The next step was to follow up the re-conquest of Dongola province with an advance on Khartoum. In the campaign of 1897 Abu Hamed was gallantly taken by the Soudanese and Egyptian troops, under General Hunter, and this success was followed by the occupation of Berber, the retreat of the Dervishes to Metammeh, the revival of trade, the joy of natives released from Dervish despotism, the reopening of the route between Suakin and Berber, and the advance of the railway southwards through the desert, in preparation for another campaign. Before the year 1898 opened, several minor defeats had been inflicted on the enemy, and the news of great Dervish preparations caused the dispatch of some British regiments to the front. In the first days of January, 1898, battalions of the Royal Warwickshire, the Lincolnshire, and of the Cameron and the Seaforth Highlanders, were sent forward, with the 21st Lancers and a good supply of Maxims and field-guns. The enemy advanced from Metammeh to the Atbara river, which runs into the Nile about 25 miles south of Berber, and took up a position on the northern bank within entrenchments three miles in length, with rifle-pits constructed round a hill. After some sharp cavalry-work, and vain attempts to entice the enemy out of their works by shelling, Sir Herbert Kitchener resolved to attack. On Good Friday, April 8th, 1898, the strong position, after two hours' shelling, was stormed in the most brilliant manner, with a loss to the defeated of 3,000 killed, 4,000 prisoners, and the capture of the emir Mahmud, one of the chief commanders, and of all the cannon, flags, and ammunition. The total loss of the victors at this "battle of the Atbara," in a force composed of 3,500 British and 14,000 Soudanese and Egyptian troops, was over 500, of whom in were British, including three officers killed, and about 15 wounded. This great success ended the operations on the approach of the terrible summer-heat in that region, the troops returning into quarters northwards until the rise of the Nile in the autumn should enable gunboats, heavily armed, to act against the formidable works at Omdurman and Khartoum.

Abyssinia has, in the 19th century, aroused much interest. This ancient empire includes the territories of Tigre, in the north-east; Amhara, in the west and centre; and Shoa, in the south, which have been, at various times, separate kingdoms. Since the introduction of Christianity in the 4th century, the people have been members of the Alexandrian Church, with a head (Abuna) consecrated by the patriarch of that communion. An empire or kingdom of Axum, the ruined capital of which now lies in the modern province of Tigre, became great and prosperous in the 6th century, with the rule of all Abyssinia, and of Yemen and Saba in Arabia, and the control of the Red Sea. The empire was the farthest point southward reached by Greek civilisation, and also the outermost post of Christianity in that age. Mohammedan conquest confined the Abyssinians to the interior tableland, and cut them off for a long period from intercourse with the rest of the world. The capital was removed from Axum to Gondar, and the monarchs then assumed a title (Negus, with a lengthy affix) meaning "king of kings of Ethiopia." In the 16th century, warlike Galla tribes from inner Africa began a series of devastating raids, and in course of time the monarchy was broken up into several independent realms. About 1850 an able adventurer arose in Amhara, and in the course of five years overcame various native potentates, and was crowned by the Abuna, or head of the Church, as "Negus of Abyssinia," by the name of Theodore. After the conquest of Shoa he was master of the whole country, and ruled with wisdom for some time under the guidance of two British residents, Mr. Plowden and Mr. Bell, the former of whom was consul. In 1860 they perished by the arms of a rebel chief, and Theodore soon became tyrannical, supported by an immense army, the cost of which caused oppressive taxation. Rebellions in the provinces were crushed with the utmost cruelty, and the monarch's enmity to Europeans was aroused by his failure to obtain British and French aid against Moslem hostile neighbours in the Soudan. Captain Cameron, British consul at Massowah, on the Red Sea, received from the emperor, in 1862, a letter addressed to Queen Victoria. It was duly transmitted to Lord John Russell, then Foreign Secretary, placed in a "pigeonhole," and forgotten. This piece of neglect was costly to the state. Theodore was enraged at what he deemed to be insulting treatment, and made prisoners of Cameron and other consuls, with the missionaries and other foreign residents, following this up by the seizure of an envoy, Mr. Rassam, sent by our government, in 1864, from Aden, to treat for the release of the captives. Negotiation, backed by presents, was a failure, and the prisoners were all shut up in the strong rock-fortress of Magdala. The matter was much discussed in the Indian bazaars, and when remonstrances and threats were futile, forcible measures were adopted. Sir Robert Napier, a distinguished officer of engineers, who had done good service in the Sepoy war, took 16,000 men of all arms, with as many of the transport-service and camp-followers, from Bombay, and landed them at Annesley Bay in the early spring of 1868. The expedition was a triumph of organisation and good management. There was little fighting, as the people of the country, hating the tyrant, welcomed the invaders, and the only difficulties, and those great ones, were presented by a march of 400 miles through a very mountainous and rugged country, with the necessity of storing and guarding provisions at various points, and of keeping up communication with the sea-base of operations. At the Arogee Pass, on April 10th, some thousands of gaily clad Abyssinian horsemen rushed down upon a detached body of the British, to be slaughtered in heaps and quickly - driven off under the fire of breechloaders. The panic caused by this defeat caused the prompt surrender of the prisoners; but Napier, resolved to complete his work, still marched on Magdala, which was taken with little resistance. The dead body of Theodore, slain by a pistol-shot from his own hand, lay inside the gate. The victor became Lord Napier of Magdala, rose to be commander-in-chief in India, and died in 1890 Governor of the Tower. The cost of the expedition reached about 9,000,000 pounds sterling. The death of Theodore was followed by struggles for supremacy among rival chieftains. A prince of Tigre became emperor in 1872, and was at war with Egypt in 1875, the contest continuing in a desultory way until the evacuation of the Soudan in 1882. Italy began to aspire to territorial possession in that part of the world, and occupied Massowah in 1885. Warfare with the Abyssinians, with alternate success, ensued, and in May, 1889, a treaty was made by which the Italians, in their interpretation, constituted Abyssinia a "protectorate." On the death of the "Negus," John II., in the same year, Menelek II., king of Shoa, became supreme ruler. Certain territories, in 1891, were surrendered to the Italians, who constituted their possessions on the Red Sea, between 1890 and 1894, as the "colony of Eritrea." In 1893 King Menelek "denounced" the treaty concerning an Abyssinian protectorate, and war ensued. On March 1st, 1896, the native forces under Italian officers were almost destroyed in a battle near Adowa, and a treaty then recognised the complete independence of Abyssinia.

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