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FROM ARGIN TO TOSKI;
OR, THE NILE CAMPAIGN OF 1889.
[The writer of this article, who is a very competent military critic, and has had exceptional opportunities of acquainting himself with details of the Nile Campaign, both by information from those engaged in it and by personally going over all the ground, wishes it to be understood that he is not connected with the Egyptian army.--Ed. B. M.]
From the day that Khartoum inhabit the deserts of Kordofan fell, it was known in Cairo that a to the south-west of Khartoum. serious attempt at the conquest After leaving Khartoum, Wad-elof Egypt would be made by the Najûmi concentrated his forces at Mahdy or his successor the Khalîfa. Dongola, and started northwards The dervishes, or soldiers of the on the 1st of Ramadan (correMahdy, were confident of the first sponding to the first of May), in signal success which might attend order to unite his forces to those their arms being immediately fol- of Abd-el-Halîm, the dervish comlowed by a general rising of the mander at Sarras, and then march Egyptian peasantry in their fa- on Egypt. Sarras was the most vour. They had prepared for this northerly post of the deryish army: invasion on a large scale and for it is 30 miles south of Wady a lengthened period. Abd-el-Rah- Halfa. Shortly after Wad-el-Namân, Wad-el-Najûmi, the dervish jûmi's departure from Dongola, he leader who had annihilated Hicks was followed by Makîn-el-Nur and Pasha's army in the Soudan, and a body of about 500 men of the afterwards taken Khartoum, was Baggâra tribe collected by Yunischosen as the commander of the Wad - Dekeim, the governor of expedition. The title given to him Dongola. These were again folwas “ Kaid il Sirrya il Masria,” or lowed by 1000 men of the Jaalin Commander-in-Chief of the army tribe under Ali-Wad-Saâd from of Egypt. On the 28th of June Berber. In case of success attend1889, Wad-el-Najůmi crossed the ing the invasion, all the emirs of Egyptian frontier at Matûka, 10 the Soudan were preparing to folmiles to the south of Wady Halfa, low the first army. and announced the commencement Wad-el-Najûmi himself—or the of the invasion by firing five guns. son of the astrologer, as his name
The dervish army, as it origin- implies - was a man of humble ally started from Khartoum, con- origin of the Jaâlin tribe of Arabs. sisted of some 6000 fighting men, By religious zeal and a talent for of whom 600 had rifles, with 7 war, he had risen to influence in guns. According to custom the his tribe, just as the Mahdy had blacks were the riflemen, while risen among the Taâshi and Bagthe Arabs were the swordsmen gâra. His victory over Hicks and spearmen. The Arabs were Pasha, and his presence at the chiefly of the Jaâlin and Baggâra death of Gordon, had invested him tribes. The former occupy great with very great importance ; while part of the country between Berber a native nobility of character made and Khartoum, while the latter up in the eyes of all his followers
for his low birth. All the desert- occupied by Wad-el-Najůmi among ers from his force testified that the powerful Jaâlin Arabs, he was Wad-el-Najůmi bore the same pri- a source of considerable anxiety to vations as the poorest of his sol- the Khalîfa and his tribe the Bagdiers. He was a religious enthusi- gâra ; and some suppose that he ast of the type of Loyola, and had was sent to Egypt to accomplish a perfect confidence in the justice of mission which the Khalifa well the Mahdy's claims to be the con- knew would result in failure, and queror of the world; he was con- possibly the death of its leader. sequently indifferent to the char- Wad-el-Najůmi, however,remained acter of the means employed to loyal to the last, and refused to accomplish that end. Both at credit his chief with duplicity; Argin and Toski he displayed a while the conduct of Makîn-el-Nur consummate knowledge of the art and his Baggâra contingent on the
At the former battle he field of Toski renders it possible dissipated the attacks of Wode that there was foul-play on the house Pasha through the whole part of the Khalîfa or Yunis-Wadof the forenoon, while at Toski Dekeim, the governor of Dongola he paralysed the Cavalry Brigade and near relative of the Khalifa. through a great part of the day. Of the other emirs with him, the During the march from Argin to best known were Abd-el-Halim Toski he only twice allowed his and Osman Azrak. Abd-el-Halîm opponents to see his army, and on was the commandant of Sarras, an both occasions so disposed of his unscrupulous and truculent but men that he was credited with a very brave man.
He lost an arm far larger force than what he at Argin, but was present in the really possessed. Those of the de- very front of the fight at Toski, serters who brought such detailed and fell early in the engagement. and exaggerated reports of his His body was easily recognised by numbers to the Egyptian officers the loss of the left arm. Osman were doubtless supplied by him Azrak is an Arab chief, a famous with this information. From the freebooter and plunderer, who has first day of the campaign to the personally engaged many officers of last he so impressed his personal- the Egyptian army in frontier ity on his opponents, that they in- raids and forays. There is nothing variably felt themselves in the of the religious enthusiast about presence of a very masterful en- him; be may fitly be compared to emy. In all their dealings with the stark mosstrooper of the type him, the English officers com- of William of Deloraine. Like manding the Egyptian forces felt Osman Digna, he has figured as that they were dealing with a man killed in many official reports. who had the instincts of a gentle- The last time was at Toski, though man. In the midst of a thousand he made good his escape, and is difficulties he not only kept up his ready for a future raid if opporown courage, but sustained that tunity offers. of his followers. Alone of all the As Wad -el - Najûmi marched dervishes, bis dead body has not northwards from Dongola, he plunbeen given to the fowls of the dered the country and forced the air and the beasts of the field. original inhabitants, or Berabra, It was recognised on the field of as they are called, to accompany Toski, and buried on the banks of his army as hewers of wood and the Nile near a palm-grove. drawers of water. No mercy was
Owing to the singular position shown to those who refused. "Har
rowing tales of cruelty were re. garrison there, and cut the comported by deserters as having been munications between Wady Halfa committed on those who tried to and Assuân. On being reinforced evade this duty. He left the by Makin-el-Nur and Ali-Wadcountry a complete desert behind Saad, he intended proceeding northhim. On reaching Sarras he halted wards and establishing a strong there five days, joined Abd-el-Hal- post at Abu Simbel, about 50 miles îm's force to his, and marched north of Wady Halfa. Opposite northwards along the left or west- Abu Simbel, on the eastern bank ern bank of the Nile, leaving only of the Nile, is the termination of a 100 men to garrison Sarras. To well-known caravan road crossing wards the end of June he reached the desert from Abu Hamed. After the Egyptian frontier, and halted this he hoped to hurry across the there three days. His army in all desert, gain the Kurkur, and strike probability consisted of 3500 fight- the Nile at Banbân, near which ing men, of whom 600 were rifle- latter place he intended making a
He had 7 guns and about strong intrenched camp at Gebel 350 camels for transport. His Silsila, and cutting the communicamp-followers consisted of about cations between Assuân and Cairo. 8000 men, women, and children, On the 29th June, Wad - elbringing the total number to11,000. Najûmi and Osman Azrak made a It will afterwards be explained why reconnaissance from Matûka as far 11,000 has been chosen in prefer- as a point opposite Wady Halfa. ence to any of the other estimates, The first impression which Halfa, which range from 10,000 to14,000. with its well-ordered defences and
He had had the option of invad- its strong position, would have ing Egypt either by way of Abu made on an ordinary invader, Hamed and the Murâd wells, or would have been one of depresby either bank of the Nile. He sion; but it gives a good insight considered the desert journey via into the mind of Wad-el-Najůmi, the Murâd wells as too difficult: and the buoyancy of his hopes, to he chose the western bank of the know that the first expression Nile for various reasons; among which fell from his lips was, “O others was the existence of a kind Wodehouse, four days hence my of oasis called the Kurkur, stretch. horses will be feeding in your ing in a direction generally parallel stables !” On the night of the to the Nile from a point 50 miles 30th June he made a false advance north-west of Korosko to a village towards the north in order to enabout 25 miles north of Assuân able him to see what position the called Banbân. Banbân and Diran Egyptian army would take up: are the names of two villages on The Egyptian forces advanced opposite banks of the Nile, where, quickly to Argin on the 1st July, on the final abandonment of the but finding the dervish advance Soudan, most of the refugees from a false one, they returned to Halfa Dongola settled. These men pro- on the same evening. Having mised to aid the dervishes, and taken bis dispositions, Wad-elencouraged them to think that Najûmi made a hurried march to there would be a rising in their Argin on the night of the 1st July favour. It was Wad-el-Najůmi's with an advance-guard of about intention first to take Argin, a 1500 men, appeared on the hills large village on the western bank overlooking the village at 7.30 A.M. of the river about 8 miles north on the 2d, and fell on the Egypof Wady Halfa, establish a strong tian position an hour afterwards: Within three or four hours of his battalion is the crack regiment own arrival at Argin, the whole of the Egyptian army. It has of his army and camp-followers seen the greatest amount of serreached his new position.
vice, and for steadiness and bravery It is now time to consider the is surpassed by none. It contains composition of the forces guarding a very large number of real blacks the Egyptian frontier. The fron- born in the Soudan. Some of the tier extended from Silsila, about battalions contain a considerable 35 miles north of Assuân, to proportion of blacks born in Egypt. Matûka, about 10 miles south of These men are much the same as Halfa. The distance from Assuân the Egyptians, and lack that perto Halfa along the river is 214 fect ignorance of fear which charmiles, so that the whole length of acterises the Sudanese proper. the frontier was 260 miles. At There are no braver troops in the Halfa there were stationed the world than the real blacks. The 9th, 10th, and 13th Sudanese Egyptians proper from Assuân to battalions, and the 7th Egyptian Cairo are better soldiers than those battalion, with about 200 cavalry, from the provinces north of Cairo. 100 camel corps, and four batteries Between Dongola and Halfa, and of field and garrison artillery. between Halfa and Assuân, live There were small detachments of the Berabra, who provide no solregular and irregular troops at diers of any kind. The artillery, various posts along the river, cavalry, and camel corps are all amounting altogether to over 1000 composed of Egyptians proper. men. At Assuân there were 700 The Sudanese are too uncivilised troops, while in the variqus desert to know how to treat animals proposts there were 700 irregulars. perly,and are consequently enlisted The total force on the frontier solely in the infantry. consisted of about 6000 men, Wodehouse Pasha,a Lieutenantunder the command of Wodehouse Colonel of Artillery in the English Pasha. Very few of these men army, and a Lewa in the Egyptian could be moved, as they were scat- army, was comparatively a junior tered over a very large area guard- officer for so important a post as ing intrenched posts, while the that of Commandant of the EgypMurâd wells were occupied by a tian frontier; but his conduct dervish force with reserves at during the campaign more than Abu Hamed, and there was a justified the confidence the Govern. very persistent rumour of a der- ment placed in him. His ready vish advance on Assuân through determination to make a desert of the Eastern desert.
the west bank of the Nile in adIt may elucidate matters to vance of Wad-el-Najû mi, and the note here that there are 13 bat- prompt method in which it was talions in the Egyptian army, of carried out, has introduced a new which the first eight are Egyptians method of warfare on the Nile. proper with a nominal strength It has made the Egyptian frontier per
battalion of about 650 men. at Wady Halfa impregnable. His The remaining five battalions are resolve to continue the advance on Sudanese, with a nominal strength the battlefield of Argin after the per battalion of about 700 men. arrival of the whole of Wad-elDuring the Nile campaign of 1889 Najûmi’s force averted a disaster the battalions engaged had an similar to that of Maiwand. His average strength of 500 men each appreciation of the great ability on the field. The 9th Sudanese of the dervish leader made him
confident that he was right in fol. Dunning, Intelligence Officer; and lowing the enemy down the Nile the 9th, 10th, and 13th Sudanese and cutting off his supplies, rather battalions-altogether about 2000 than risking an engagement in the men, with 200 horses, 20 mules, desert, where Najûmi, with his 100 camels, and 8 Krupp guns. vast experience of that kind of Four armed stern-wheelers were warfare, and his superior force, attached to the force. Each cruiser might have had the advantage. was armed with 2 Nordenfeldt guns Subsequent events fully justified and an English 9-pounder. They his plan of campaign, though it bore the historic names of Abu may be remarked that the extreme Klea, Tamai, Teb, and Metemmeh. desirability of obtaining accurate Hunter Bey was second in cominformation of the dervish num- mand, while Bimbashi Hickman bers would have justified him in was orderly officer to the Pasha, sending his reconnaissance parties and Dr Morse medical officer. far nearer to the enemy, and thus Towards the end of June and the learning their exact strength, even beginning of July the Nile is at at the risk of very serious casual- its lowest, and there are scarcely ties on his own side. As a special any crops on the ground. The characteristic of him, it may be dates are green, and unfit for food mentioned that few men are more for ordinary people, but they would highly gifted with the power of have provided food for the inhabiattaching those about them to tants of the Soudan, who are acthemselves.
customed at times to live on The officer second in command pounded date-seeds. The Pasha on the frontier was Hunter Bey, gave orders that all the villagers formerly Lieutenant-Colonel of the on the west bank of the river 9th battalion, but at the time of from Halfa to Tômas, a distance the dervish invasion Commandant of 70 miles, should be moved of Halfa. He had seen a great deal over to the other bank, with all of service, having been engaged their cattle and possessions of in almost all the important actions every kind. He had all the green on the Nile since 1883. At the dates pulled off and destroyed, so battle of Argin, the difficult opera- that the dervish force would have tion of clearing a determined enemy to move along what was practically out of the village at the point of a desert. He felt confident that the bayonet was intrusted to him, hunger would compel them to surand brilliantly performed; while render at discretion if their adat Toski he commanded the first vance was retarded sufficiently. He division of the Infantry Brigade, himself intended keeping up with which did practically the whole of the enemy and taking every opporthe fighting on that day.
tunity of harassing them and preAs soon as Wodehouse Pasha venting them from making a lodgwas assured of the dervish ad- ment on the edge of the Nile. On vance on Egypt, he detailed off all learning their numbers he telethe available troops under his com- graphed for reinforcements, emmand to form a flying column. phasising the fact that Wad-elThis column consisted of a battery Najůmi's was the first of a series of field and another of garrison of armies which were making their artillery, with 150 men, under way down the Nile. About Halfa Bimbashi Hasan Radwân; of about itself there was no anxiety. Halfa 200 cavalry under Bimbashi Beech; is naturally a very strong place for 100 camel corps under Bimbashi the kind of warfare on the fron