A NARRATIVE OF THE EXPEDITION TO CENTRAL AFRICA FOR THE SUPPRESSION OF THE SLAVE TRADE
KHEDIVE OF EGYPT.
by SIR SAMUEL W. BAKER, PACHA, M.A., F.R.S., F.R.G.S., Major-General of the Ottoman Empire, Member of the Orders of the Osmanie and the Medjidie, late Governor-General of the Equatorial Nile Basin, Gold Medallist of the Royal Geographical Society, Grande Medaille d'Or de la Societe de Geographie de Paris, Honorary Member of the Geographical Societies of Paris, Berlin, Italy, and America, Author of "The Albert N'yanza Great Basin of the Nile," "The Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia," "Eight Years' Wanderings in Ceylon," "The Rifle and Hound in Ceylon," etc. etc
II. English Party
III. The Retreat
IV. The Camp at Tewfikeeyah
V. Exploration of the Old White Nile
VI. The Start
VII. Arrival at Gondokoro
VIII. Official Annexation
IX. New Enemies
X. Destruction of the Shir Detachment
XI. Spirit of Disaffection
XII. Vessels Return to Khartoum
XIII. Moral Results of the Hunt
XIV. The Advance South
XV. The Advance to Lobore
XVI. Arrival at Patiko
XVII. The March to Unyoro
XVIII. March to Masindi
XIX. Restoration of the Liberated Slaves
XX. Establish Commerce
XXII. The March to Rionga
XXIII. Build a Stockade at Foweera
XXIV. No Medical Men
XXV. I Send to Godokoro for Reinforcements
XXVI. Arrival of M'Tese's Envoys
An interval of five years has elapsed since the termination of my engagement in the service of His Highness the Khedive of Egypt, "to suppress the slave-hunters of Central Africa, and to annex the countries constituting the Nile Basin, with the object of opening those savage regions to legitimate commerce and establishing a permanent government."
This volume—"Ismailia"—gives an accurate description of the salient points of the expedition. My thanks are due to the public for the kind reception of the work, and for the general appreciation of the spirit which prompted me to undertake a mission so utterly opposed to the Egyptian ideas of 1869-1873; at a time when no Englishman had held a high command, when rival consulates were struggling for paramount influence, when the native officials were jealous of foreign interference, and it appeared that slavery and the slave trade of the White Nile were institutions almost necessary to the existence of Egyptian society.
It was obvious to all observers that an attack upon the slave-dealing and slave-hunting establishments of Egypt by a foreigner—an Englishman—would be equal to a raid upon a hornets' nest, that all efforts to suppress the old-established traffic in negro slaves would be encountered with a determined opposition, and that the prime agent and leader of such an expedition must be regarded "with hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness." At that period (1869) the highest authorities were adverse to the attempt. An official notice was despatched from the British Foreign Office to the Consul-General of Egypt that British subjects belonging to Sir Samuel Baker's expedition must not expect the support of their government in the event of complications. The enterprise was generally regarded as chimerical in Europe, with hostility in Egypt, but with sympathy in America.
Those who have read "Ismailia" may have felt some despondency. Although the slave-hunters were driven out of the territory under my command, there were nevertheless vast tracts of country through which new routes could be opened for the slave caravans to avoid the cruising steamers on the White Nile, and thus defeat the government. The Sultan of Darfur offered an asylum and a secure passage for all slaves and their captors who could no longer venture within the new boundaries of Egypt. It was evident that the result of the expedition under my command was a death-blow to the slave trade, if the Khedive was determined to persist in its destruction. I had simply achieved the success of a foundation for a radical reform in the so-called commerce of the White Nile. The government had been established throughout the newly-acquired territories, which were occupied by military positions garrisoned with regular troops, and all those districts were absolutely purged from the slave-hunters. In this condition I resigned my command, as the first act was accomplished. The future would depend upon the sincerity of the Khedive, and upon the ability and integrity of my successor.
It pleased many people and some members of the press in England to disbelieve the sincerity of the Khedive. He was accused of annexation under the pretext of suppressing the vast organization of the White Nile slave-trade. It was freely stated that an Englishman was placed in command because an Egyptian could not be relied upon to succeed, but that the greed of new territory was the actual and sole object of the expedition, and that the slave-trade would reappear in stupendous activity when the English personal influence should be withdrawn. Such unsympathetic expressions must have been a poor reward to the Khedive for his efforts to win the esteem of the civilized world by the destruction of the slave-trade in his own dominions.
Few persons have considered the position of the Egyptian ruler when attacking the institution most cherished by his people. The employment of an European to overthrow the slave-trade in deference to the opinion of the civilized world was a direct challenge and attack upon the assumed rights and necessities of his own subjects. The magnitude of the operation cannot be understood by the general public in Europe. Every household in Upper Egypt and in the Delta was dependent upon slave service; the fields in the Soudan were cultivated by slaves; the women in the harems of both rich and middle class were attended by slaves; the poorer Arab woman's ambition was to possess a slave; in fact, Egyptian society without slaves would be like a carriage devoid of wheels—it could not proceed.
The slaves were generally well treated by their owners; the brutality lay in their capture, with the attendant lawlessness and murders; but that was far away, and the slave proprietors of Egypt had not witnessed the miseries of the weary marches of the distant caravans. They purchased slaves, taught them their duties, fed and clothed them—they were happy; why should the Khedive of Egypt prohibit the traffic and thus disturb every household in his territory?
There is no Hyde Park or Trafalgar Square in Egypt, there are no agitators nor open-air meetings, fortunately for the modern ruler, or he would have had an unpleasant expression of the popular sentiment at the close of my administration. The break-up of the White Nile slave-trade involved the depression of trade in Khartoum, as the market had supplied the large bands of slave-hunters. The ivory of the numerous adventurers still remained in the White Nile stations, as they feared confiscation should their vessels be captured with the ever accompanying slave cargo. Thus little ivory arrived at Khartoum to meet the debts of the traders to the merchants in Cairo and Alexandria. These owed Manchester and Liverpool for calicoes supplied, which had been forwarded to the Soudan.
The direct blow at the White Nile slave-trade was an indirect attack upon the commerce of the country, which was inseparably connected with the demand of the Soudan employers of brigands.
This slight outline of the situation will exhibit the difficulties of the Khedive in his thankless and Herculean task of cleansing the Augean stables. He incurred the wrath of general discontent; his own officials accused him of deserting the Mahommedan cause for the sake of European Kudos, and while he sacrificed his popularity in Egypt, his policy was misconstrued by the powers he had sought to gratify. He was accused of civilizing "through the medium of fire and sword" by the same English journals which are now extolling the prowess of the British arms in Caffraria and the newly-annexed Transvaal!
In this equivocal position it would have been natural either to have abandoned the enterprise at the termination of my own engagement, or to have placed a Mahommedan officer in charge of the new provinces. Instead of this, His Highness adhered most strictly to his original determination, and to prove his sincerity he entrusted the command to an English officer of high reputation, not only for military capacity, but for a peculiar attribute of self-sacrifice and devotion. Colonel C. E. Gordon, R.E., C.B., was appointed Governor-General of the Soudan and equatorial districts, with supreme power.
This appointment extinguished the delusions which had been nourished by the Soudan authorities, "that at the expiration of Baker Pacha's rule the good old times of slavery and lawlessness would return." There was no longer any hope; the slave-trade was suppressed, and the foundation was laid for the introduction of European ideas and civilization. It will now be interesting to trace an outline of the advance of Egypt during the last five years.
The main difficulty in my original enterprise was the obstruction of the White Nile by the accumulation of matted vegetation, which impeded navigation, and actually closed the river. Upon arrival at Gondokoro, after the tedious process of cutting through 50 miles of swamp and vegetable matter, via the Bahr Giraffe, I had requested the Khedive to issue an order that the Governor of Khartoum should immediately commence the great work of re-opening the White Nile.
His Highness without delay forwarded the necessary instructions, and in two years the work was completed by Ismail Ayoob Pacha, with the loss of several vessels which had been overwhelmed by the sudden bursting of vast masses of floating swamps and entangled reeds. It had been necessary to commence operations below stream, to enable the blocks of vegetation to escape when detached by cutting from the main body.
The White Nile was restored to navigation a few months after my return to England, and was clear for large vessels by the time that Colonel Gordon arrived in Khartoum.
I had originally sent up six steamers from Cairo to ply between Khartoum and Gondokoro; these had been simply employed as far as Fashoda station, but as the Nile was now open, they at once established a rapid and regular communication with the equatorial provinces. The terrible difficulty had vanished, and Gondokoro was linked with the outer world from which it had been excluded. The appliances which had been prepared with much care could now be utilized. With the river open, supplies and reinforcements could be immediately forwarded, and the ivory which had accumulated in the government stations could be brought to market. In addition to the physical advantages of restored communication, a great moral change was effected throughout the officers and troops; they felt no longer banished from the world, but accepted their position as garrisons in Egyptian territory.
At Gondokoro I had constructed a steel steamer of 108 tons, and I had left ready packed for land transport a steamer of the same metal 38 tons, in addition to two steel life-boats of each 10 tons, for conveyance to the Albert N'yanza. At Khartoum I had left in sections a steamer of 251 tons. All these vessels had been brought from England and conveyed with incredible trouble upon camels across the deserts to Khartoum.
Before my arrival in the Soudan the entire river force of steamers upon the Blue and White Niles was represented by four very inferior vessels. I had added six from Cairo, and built a seventh; thus I left a force of eleven steamers working on the river, exclusive of two in sections.
The stations garrisoned by regular troops were— 1. Gondokoro, N. lat. 4 degrees 54 minutes. 2. Fatiko, N. lat. 3 degrees 2 minutes. 3. Foweera, N. lat. 2 degrees 6 minutes. 4. Fabbo, N. lat. 3 degrees 8 minutes.
By the newly-raised irregulars— 5. Farragenia. 6. Faloro.
In this position of affairs Colonel Gordon succeeded to the command in the spring of 1874. Although the Bari tribe, which had been subdued, was nominally at peace, it was hardly safe to travel through the country without an armed escort.
Colonel Gordon's first effort was in favour of conciliation, with the hope of inspiring a friendly spirit among the chiefs. At the same time he resolved to offer a chance for reform to the slave-hunter Abou Saood, who he considered might amend his ways, and from his knowledge of the people become a useful officer to the government. Unfortunately, the leopard could not change his spots, and the man, to whom every opportunity had been given, was dismissed and punished. It was impossible to have discovered an officer more thoroughly qualified for the command than Colonel Gordon. By profession a military engineer, he combined the knowledge especially required for carrying on the enterprise. He had extended the hand of friendship to the natives, but when rejected with contempt and opposed by hostility, he was prompt in chastisement. The wet seasons and attendant high flood of two years were employed in dragging the 108-ton steel steamer up the various cataracts which intervened between Gondokoro and Duflli (N. lat. 3 degrees 34 minutes). This portion of the river formed a series of steps caused by a succession of cataracts at intervals of about 25 miles; between the obstacles the stream was navigable. The natives of Moogi treacherously attacked and killed the whole of a detachment, including the French officer in command, during the absence of Colonel Gordon, who was engaged in the operation of towing the steamer through the rapids only a few miles distant. This open hostility necessitated the subjugation of the tribe, and the establishment of a line of military posts along the course of the river.
After much trouble, at the expiration of two years the steamer was dragged to an utterly impassable series of cataracts south of Lobore. This line of obstruction extended for the short distance of about twelve miles, beyond which the river was navigable into the Albert N'yanza.
Several vessels had been towed up together with the steamer from Gondokoro, and the 38-ton steel steamer and two life-boats which had been thus conveyed, were now carried in sections to the spot above the last cataracts at Duffli, where they could be permanently reconstructed.
Signor Gessi was entrusted with the command of the two life-boats upon their completion, and had the honour of first entering the Albert N'yanza from the north by the river Nile.
The 38-ton steamer was put together, and the 108-ton (Khedive), which had been left a few miles distant from Duffli, below the cataracts, was taken to pieces and reconstructed on the navigable portion of the Nile in N. lat. 3 degrees 34 minutes.
The plan of connecting the equatorial Lake Albert with Khartoum by steam communication which I had originated, was now completed by the untiring energy and patience of my successor. The large steamer of 251 tons was put together at Khartoum, to add to the river flotilla, thus increasing the steam power from four vessels, when I had arrived in 1870, to THIRTEEN, which in 1877 were plying between the capital of the Soudan and the equator. The names of Messrs. Samuda Brothers and Messrs. Penn and Co. upon the three steel steamers and engines which they had constructed for the expedition are now evidences of the civilizing power of the naval and mechanical engineers of Great Britain, which has linked with the great world countries that were hitherto excluded from all intercourse.
There is still some mystery attached to the Albert N'yanza. It has been circumnavigated by Signor Gessi, in the steel life-boats, and subsequently by Colonel Mason of the American army, who was employed under Colonel Gordon. Both of these officers agree that the southern end of the lake is closed by a mass of "ambatch," and that a large river reported as 400 yards in width flows INTO the Albert N'yanza. On the other hand, the well-known African explorer Mr. Stanley visited the lake SOUTH of the ambatch limit, to which he was guided by orders of the King M'tese;. At that spot it was called the "M'woota N'zige;," the same name which the lake bears throughout Unyoro, therefore there can be no reasonable doubt that it is the same water. The description of the ambatch block and the river flowing into the lake explains the information that was given to me by native traders, who declared they had come by canoe from Karagwe;, via the Albert N'yanza, but that it would be difficult without a guide to discover the passage where the lake was extremely narrow and the channel tortuous into the next broad water.
Colonel Gordon has continued the amicable relations established by myself with the Unyoro chief Rionga, and with M'tese;, King of Uganda.
The commercial aspect of the equatorial provinces is improving, but our recent experience in South Africa must teach the most sanguine that very many years must elapse before the negro tribes become amenable to the customs and improvements of civilized communities.
The expedition of 1869 which His Highness the Khedive entrusted to my command laid the foundation for reforms which at that time would have appeared incredible in Egypt. The slave-trade has been suppressed through the agency of British influence, persistently supported by the Khedive; Darfur, the hot-bed of slave-hunting, has been conquered and annexed; Colonel Gordon has the supreme command of the entire Soudan; Malcolm Pacha is commissioned to sweep the slave traffic from the Red Sea.
With this determination to adopt the ideas of Europe, the Khedive has passed through the trying ordeal of unpopularity in his own country, but, by a cool disregard for the hostility of the ignorant, he has adhered to a policy which has gained him the esteem of all civilized communities. He has witnessed the bloody struggle between Russia and Turkey, and though compelled as a vassal state to render military assistance to the Sultan, he has profited by the lesson, and has determined by a wise reform to avoid the errors which have resulted in anarchy and desolation throughout the Ottoman Empire.
In the year 1870 the slave-hunting of Central Africa was condemned. Since that time Englishmen have been honoured with the special attention of the Khedive, and have been appointed to posts of the highest confidence. European tribunals were established in the place of consular jurisdiction, British government officials have been invited to reform the financial administration, and Mr. Rivers Wilson has been induced to accept the responsible office of Minister of Finance. Nubar Pacha has been recalled to office, and he must regard with pride the general confidence occasioned throughout Europe by his reappointment. The absolute despotism hitherto inseparable from Oriental ideas of government has been spontaneously abrogated by the Khedive, who has publicly announced his determination that the future administration shall be conducted by a council of responsible ministers.
England has become the great shareholder in the Suez Canal, which is the important link with our Indian Empire. At the alarm of war we have already seen the fleet of steam transports hurrying through the isthmus, and carrying native troops to join the British forces in the Mediterranean. We have learnt to know, and the Khedive has wisdom to understand, that the bonds between Egypt and Great Britain are inseparable. At the same time we have been aided by the cordial alliance of France in promoting the advance of free institutions and the growth of European influence in the administration of the country. England and France, who struggled in hostile rivalry upon the sands and seas of Egypt, are now joined in the firm determination to uphold the integrity of the great canal of Suez, and these powers and leaders of civilization will become the guides and guardians of Egyptian interests. The reforms already sanctioned with a new era of justice and economy will insure the confidence of British capitalists; the resources of Egypt will be developed by engineering skill that will control the impetuosity of the Nile and protect the Delta alike from the scarcity of drought, and from the risk of inundation. The Nile sources, which from the earliest times had remained a mystery, have been discovered by the patience and industry of Englishmen; the Nile will at no distant period be rendered navigable throughout its course, and Egypt, which for actual existence depends alone upon that mighty river, will be restored by British enterprise, supported by the intelligence and good-will of its ruler, to the position which it held in the pages of Eastern history.
S. W. B.
In the present work I shall describe the history of the Khedive of Egypt's expedition, which I have had the honour to command, as the first practical step that has been taken to suppress the slave trade of Central Africa.
I shall not repeat, beyond what may be absolutely necessary, that which has already been published in my former works on Africa, "The Albert N'yanza" and "The Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia," but I shall adhere to the simple path taken by the expedition. This enterprise was the natural result of my original explorations, in which I had been an eye-witness to the horrors of the slave trade, which I determined, if possible, to suppress.
In my former journey I had traversed countries of extreme fertility in Central Africa, with a healthy climate favourable for the settlement of Europeans, at a mean altitude of 4,000 feet above the sea level. This large and almost boundless extent of country was well peopled by a race who only required the protection of a strong but paternal government to become of considerable importance, and to eventually develop the great resources of the soil.
I found lands varying in natural capabilities according to their position and altitudes—where sugar, cotton, coffee, rice, spices, and all tropical produce might be successfully cultivated; but those lands were without any civilized form of government, and "every man did what seemed right in his own eyes."
In this dislocated state of society, the slave trade prospered to the detriment of all improvement. Rich and well-populated countries were rendered desolate; the women and children were carried into captivity; villages were burnt, and crops were destroyed or pillaged; the population was driven out; a terrestrial paradise was converted into an infernal region; the natives who were originally friendly were rendered hostile to all strangers, and the general result of the slave trade could only be expressed in one word—"ruin."
The slave hunters and traders who had caused this desolation were for the most part Arabs, subjects of the Egyptian government.
These people had deserted their agricultural occupations in the Soudan and had formed companies of brigands in the pay of various merchants of Khartoum. The largest trader had about 2,500 Arabs in his pay, employed as pirates or brigands, in Central Africa. These men were organized after a rude military fashion, and armed with muskets; they were divided into companies, and were officered in many cases by soldiers who had deserted from their regiments in Egypt or the Soudan.
It is supposed that about 15,000 of the Khedive's subjects who should have been industriously working and paying their taxes in Egypt were engaged in the so-called ivory trade and slave-hunting of the White Nile.
Each trader occupied a special district, where, by a division of his forces in a chain of stations, each of which represented about 300 men, he could exercise a right of possession over a certain amount of assumed territory.
In this manner enormous tracts of country were occupied by the armed bands from Khartoum, who could make alliances with the native tribes to attack and destroy their neighbours, and to carry off their women and children, together with vast herds of sheep and cattle.
I have already fully described this system in "The Albert N'yanza," therefore it will be unnecessary to enter into minute details in the present work. It will be sufficient, to convey an idea of the extended scale of the slave-hunting operations, to explain that an individual trader named Agad assumed the right over nearly NINETY THOUSAND SQUARE MILES of territory. Thus his companies of brigands could pillage at discretion, massacre, take, burn, or destroy throughout this enormous area, or even beyond this broad limit, if they had the power.
It is impossible to know the actual number of slaves taken from Central Africa annually; but I should imagine that at least fifty thousand are positively either captured and held in the various zareebas (or camps) or are sent via the White Nile and the various routes overland by Darfur and Kordofan. The loss of life attendant upon the capture and subsequent treatment of the slaves is frightful. The result of this forced emigration, combined with the insecurity of life and property, is the withdrawal of the population from the infested districts. The natives have the option of submission to every insult, to the violation of their women and the pillage of their crops, or they must either desert their homes and seek independence in distant districts, or ally themselves with their oppressors to assist in the oppression of other tribes. Thus the seeds of anarchy are sown throughout Africa, which fall among tribes naturally prone to discord. The result is horrible confusion,—distrust on all sides,—treachery, devastation, and ruin.
This was the state of Central Africa and the White Nile when I was first honoured with the notice of Ismail Pacha, the present Khedive of Egypt.
I had received certain intimations from the Foreign Minister, Nubar Pacha, concerning the Khedive's intentions, a short time previous to an invitation with which I was honoured by his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to accompany their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess during their tour in Egypt.
It is almost needless to add that, upon arrival in Egypt, the Prince of Wales, who represented at heart the principles of Great Britain, took the warmest interest in the suppression of the slave trade.
The Khedive, thus supported and encouraged in his ideas of reform, concluded his arrangements for the total abolition of the slave trade, not only throughout his dominions, but he determined to attack that moral cancer by actual cautery at the very root of the evil.
I was accordingly requested to draw up a plan for the proposed expedition to Central Africa.
After some slight modifications, I received from the Khedive the following firman:—
"We, Ismail, Khedive of Egypt, considering the savage condition of the tribes which inhabit the Nile Basin;
"Considering that neither government, nor laws, nor security exists in those countries;
"Considering that humanity enforces the suppression of the slave-hunters who occupy those countries in great numbers;
"Considering that the establishment of legitimate commerce throughout those countries will be a great stride towards future civilization, and will result in the opening to steam navigation of the great equatorial lakes of Central Africa, and in the establishing a permanent government . . . . We have decreed and now decree as follows:—
"An expedition is organized to subdue to our authority the countries situated to the south of Gondokoro;
"To suppress the slave trade; to introduce a system of regular commerce;
"To open to navigation the great lakes of the equator;
"And to establish a chain of military stations and commercial depots, distant at intervals of three days' march, throughout Central Africa, accepting Gondokoro as the base of operations.
"The supreme command of this expedition is confided to Sir Samuel White Baker, for four years, commencing from 1st April, 1869; to whom also we confer the most absolute and supreme power, even that of death, over all those who may compose the expedition.
"We confer upon him the same absolute and supreme authority over all those countries belonging to the Nile Basin south of Gondokoro."
It was thus that the Khedive determined at the risk of his popularity among his own subjects to strike a direct blow at the slave trade in its distant nest. To insure the fulfilment of this difficult enterprise, he selected an Englishman, armed with a despotic power such as had never been intrusted by a Mohammedan to a Christian.
The slave trade was to be suppressed; legitimate commerce was to be introduced, and protection was to be afforded to the natives by the establishment of a government.
The suppression of the slave trade was a compliment to the European Powers which would denote the superiority of Egypt, and would lay the first stone in the foundation of a new civilization; and a population that was rapidly disappearing would be saved to Africa.
To effect this grand reform it would be necessary to annex the Nile Basin, and to establish a government in countries that had been hitherto without protection, and a prey to the adventurers from the Soudan. To convey steel steamers from England, and to launch them upon the Albert Lake, and thus open the resources of Central Africa; to establish legitimate trade in a vast country which had hitherto been a field of rapine and of murder; to protect the weak and to punish the evil-doer, and to open the road to a great future, where the past had been all darkness and the present reckless spoliation—this was the grand object which Ismail, the Khedive of Egypt, determined to accomplish.
In this humane enterprise he was firmly supported by his two Ministers, Nubar Pacha and Cherif Pacha (an Armenian and a Circassian). The young princes his sons, who are well-educated and enlightened men, took the greatest interest in the undertaking; but beyond these and a few others, the object of the expedition was regarded with ill-concealed disgust.
Having received full powers from the Khedive, I gave orders for the following vessels to be built of steel by Messrs. Samuda Brothers:—
No. 1. A paddle steamer of 251 tons, 32-horse power. No. 2. A twin screw high-pressure steamer of 20-horse power, 108 tons. No. 3. A twin screw high-pressure steamer of 10-horse power, 38 tons. Nos. 4, 5. Two steel lifeboats, each 30 ft. by 9—10 tons each.
These vessels were fitted with engines of the best construction by Messrs. Pond & Co., and were to be carried across the Nubian desert in plates and sections.
In addition to the steamers were steam saw mills, with a boiler that weighed 8 cwt. in one piece—all of which would have to be transported by camels for several hundred miles across the Nubian desert, and by boats and camels alternately from Alexandria to Gondokoro, a distance of about THREE THOUSAND MILES.
In the description of this enterprise, which terminated in the suppression of the slave trade of the White Nile and the annexation of a large equatorial territory to Egypt, I shall be compelled to expose many abuses which were the result of misgovernment in the distant provinces of Upper Egypt. It must be distinctly understood that his Highness the Khedive was ignorant of such abuses, and that he took prompt and vigorous measures to reform the administration of the Soudan immediately upon receiving information of the misgovernment of that extensive territory. Throughout the expedition his Highness has exhibited a determination to succeed in the suppression of the slave trade in spite of the adverse opinion of the public; therefore, when I expose the abuses that existed, it must be accepted without hesitation that the Khedive would have been the foremost in punishing the authors and in rectifying such abuses had he been aware of their existence.
As a duty to the Khedive, and in justice to myself, I shall describe the principal incidents as they occurred throughout the expedition. The civilized world will form both judge and jury; if their verdict be favourable, I shall have my reward. I can only assure my fellow-men that I have sought earnestly the guidance of the Almighty in the use of the great power committed to me, and I trust that I have been permitted to lay a firm foundation for a good work hereafter.
The success of an expedition depends mainly upon organization. From my former experience in Central Africa, I knew exactly the requirements of the natives, and all the material that would be necessary for the enterprise. I also knew that the old adage of "out of sight out of mind" might be adopted as the Egyptian motto, therefore it would be indispensable to supply myself with everything at the outset, so as to be independent of support hereafter.
The English party consisted of myself and Lady Baker; Lieutenant Julian Alleyne Baker, R.N.; Mr. Edwin Higginbotham, civil engineer; Mr. Wood, secretary; Dr. Joseph Gedge, physician; Mr. Marcopolo, chief storekeeper and interpreter; Mr. McWilliam, chief engineer of steamers; Mr. Jarvis, chief shipwright; together with Messrs. Whitfield, Samson, Hitchman, and Ramsall, shipwrights, boiler-makers, &c. In addition to the above were two servants.
I laid in stores sufficient to last the European party four years.
I provided four galvanized iron magazines, each eighty feet long by twenty in width, to protect all material.
Before I left England I personally selected every article that was necessary for the expedition; thus an expenditure of about 9,000 pounds was sufficient for the purchase of the almost innumerable items that formed the outfit for the enterprise. This included an admirable selection of Manchester goods, such as cotton sheeting, grey calico, cotton and also woollen blankets, white, scarlet, and blue; Indian scarfs, red and yellow; handkerchiefs of gaudy colours, chintz printed; scarlet flannel shirts, serge of colours (blue, red), linen trowsers, &c., &c.
Tools of all sorts—axes, small hatchets, harness bells, brass and copper rods, combs, zinc mirrors, knives, crockery, tin plates, fish-hooks, musical boxes, coloured prints, finger-rings, razors, tinned spoons, cheap watches, &c., &c.
All these things were purchased through Messrs. Silber & Fleming, of Wood Street, Cheapside.
I thus had sufficient clothing for a considerable body of troops if necessary, while the magazines could produce anything from a needle to a crowbar, or from a handkerchief to a boat's sail. It will be seen hereafter that these careful arrangements assured the success of the expedition, as the troops, when left without pay, could procure all they required from the apparently inexhaustible stores of the magazines.
In addition to the merchandise and general supplies, I had several large musical boxes with bells and drums, an excellent magic lantern, a magnetic battery, wheels of life, and an assortment of toys. The greatest wonder to the natives were two large girandoles; also the silvered balls, about six inches in diameter, that, suspended from the branch of a tree, reflected the scene beneath.
In every expedition the principal difficulty is the transport.
"Travel light, if possible," is the best advice for all countries; but in this instance it was simply impossible, as the object of the expedition was not only to convey steamers to Central Africa, but to establish legitimate trade in the place of the nefarious system of pillage hitherto adopted by the so-called White Nile traders. It was therefore absolutely necessary to possess a large stock of goods of all kinds, in addition to the machinery and steel sections of steamers.
I arranged that the expedition should start in three divisions.
Six steamers, varying from 40 to 80-horse power, were ordered to leave Cairo in June, together with fifteen sloops and fifteen diahbeeahs— total, thirty-six vessels—to ascend the cataracts of the Nile to Khartoum, a distance by river of about 1,450 miles. These vessels were to convey the whole of the merchandise.
Twenty-five vessels were ordered to be in readiness at Khartoum, together with three steamers. The governor-general (Djiaffer Pacha) was to provide these vessels by a certain date, together with the camels and horses necessary for the land transport.
Thus when the fleet should arrive at Khartoum from Cairo, the total force of vessels would be nine steamers and fifty-five sailing vessels, the latter averaging about fifty tons each.
Mr. Higginbotham had the command of the desert transport from Korosko to Khartoum, and to that admirable officer I intrusted the charge of the steamer sections and machinery, together with the command of the English engineers and mechanics.
I arranged to bring up the rear by another route, via Souakim on the Red Sea, from which the desert journey to Berber, on the Nile, N. lat. 17 degrees 37 minutes, is 275 statute miles.
My reason for this division of routes was to insure a quick supply of camels, as much delay would have been occasioned had the great mass of transport been conveyed by one road.
The military arrangements comprised a force of 1,645 troops, including a corps of 200 irregular cavalry, and two batteries of artillery. The infantry were two regiments, supposed to be well selected. The black or Soudani regiment included many officers and men who had served for some years in Mexico with the French army under Marshal Bazaine. The Egyptian regiment turned out to be for the most part convicted felons who had been transported for various crimes from Egypt to the Soudan.
The artillery were rifled mountain guns of bronze, the barrel weighing 230 lbs., and throwing shells of 8-1/4 lbs. The authorities at Woolwich had kindly supplied the expedition with 200 Hale's rockets—three-pounders—and fifty snider rifles, together with 50,000 rounds of snider ammunition. The military force and supplies were to be massed in Khartoum ready to meet me upon my arrival.
I had taken extra precautions in the packing of ammunition and all perishable goods. The teak boxes for snider ammunition, also the boxes of Hale's rockets, were lined and hermetically sealed with soldered tin. The light Manchester goods and smaller articles were packed in strong, useful, painted tin boxes, with locks and hinges, &c. Each box was numbered, and when the lid was opened, a tin plate was soldered over the open face, so that the lid, when closed, locked above an hermetically sealed case. Each tin box was packed in a deal case, with a number to correspond with the box within.
By this arrangement the tin boxes arrived at their destination as good as new, and were quite invaluable for travelling, as they each formed a handy load, and were alike proof against the attacks of insects and bad weather.
I had long waterproof cloaks for the night sentries in rainy climates, and sou'-wester caps; these proved of great service during active operations in the wet season, as the rifles were kept dry beneath the cloaks, and the men were protected from wet and cold when on guard.
All medicines and drugs were procured from Apothecaries' Hall, and were accordingly of the best quality.
The provisions for the troops were dhurra (sorghum vulgare), wheat, rice, and lentils. The supplies from England, and in fact the general arrangements, had been so carefully attended to, that throughout the expedition I could not feel a want, neither could I either regret or wish to have changed any plan that I had originally determined.
For the transport of the heavy machinery across the desert I employed gun carriages drawn by two camels each. The two sections of steamers and of lifeboats were slung upon long poles of fir from Trieste, arranged between two camels in the manner of shafts. Many hundred poles served this purpose, and subsequently, were used at head-quarters as rafters for magazines and various buildings.
The No. 1 steamer of 250 tons had not arrived from England. I therefore left instructions that she was to be forwarded across the desert upon the same principles as adopted for the transport of the other vessels.
I had thrown my whole heart into the expedition; but I quickly perceived the difficulties that I should encounter in the passive resistance of those whose interests would be affected by the suppression of the slave trade. The arrangements that I had made would have insured success, if carried out according to the dates specified. The six steamers and the sailing flotilla from Cairo should have started on 10th June, in order to have ascended the cataracts of Wady Halfah at the period of high water. Instead of this, the vessels were delayed, in the absence of the Khedive in Europe, until 29th August; thus, by the time they reached the second cataract, the river had fallen, and it was impossible to drag the 'steamers through the passage until the next season. Thus twelve months were wasted, and I was at once deprived of the invaluable aid of six steamers.
In addition to this difficulty was the fact of inevitable delay necessitated by the festivities attending the opening of the Suez Canal. The Khedive, with his accustomed hospitality, had made immense preparations for the reception of visitors, and every available vessel had been prepared for the occasion.
A train of forty-one railway waggons laden with sections of steamers, machinery, boiler-plates, &c., &c., arrived at Cairo, and were embarked on board eleven hired vessels. With the greatest difficulty I procured a steamer of 140-horse power to tow this flotilla to Korosko, from which spot the desert journey would commence. I obtained this steamer only by personal application to the Khedive.
At length I witnessed the start of the entire English party of engineers and mechanics, together with Mr. Higginbotham and Dr. J. Gedge. The steamer Minieh, towed the lone line of eleven vessels against the powerful stream of the Nile. One of the tow-ropes snipped at the commencement of the voyage, which created some confusion, but when righted they quickly steamed. out of view. This mass of heavy material, including two steamers, and two steel lifeboats of ten tons each, was to be transported for a distance of about 3,000 miles, 400 of which would be across the scorching Nubian deserts!
The first division of the heavy baggage had started on 29th August, 1869, with the sloops, to ascend the cataracts direct by river to Khartoum. I dared, not trust any portions of the steamers by this dangerous route, lest by the loss of one vessel with sections I might destroy all hope of success.
It was a relief to have started the main branches of the expedition, after the various delays that had already seriously endangered the chances of the White Nile voyage. For that river all vessels should leave Khartoum early in November.
On 5th December, 1869, we brought up the rear, and left Suez on board an Egyptian sloop of war, the Senaar. In four days and a half we reached Souakim, after an escape from wreck on the reef of Shadwan, and a close acquaintance with a large barque, with which we nearly came into collision.
The captain of our sloop was a most respectable man, apparently about eighty years of age. The first lieutenant appeared to be somewhat his senior, and neither could see, even with the assistance of a very greasy and dirty binocular. The various officers appeared to be vestiges from Noah's ark in point of antiquity; thus a close shave with a reef and a near rub with a strange vessel were little incidents that might be expected in the Red Sea.
We anchored safely in the harbour of Souakim; and landed my twenty-one horses without accident.
I was met by the governor, my old friend Moomtazz Bey, a highly intelligent Circassian officer, who had shown me much kindness on my former expedition.
A week's delay in Souakim was necessary to obtain camels. In fourteen days we crossed the desert 275 miles to Berber on the Nile, and found a steamer and diahbeeah in readiness. We arrived at Khartoum, a distance of 200 miles by river, in three days, having accomplished the voyage from Suez in the short space of thirty-two days, including stoppages.
Khartoum was not changed externally; but I had observed with dismay a frightful change in the features of the country between Berber and the capital since my former visit. The rich soil on the banks of the river, which had a few years since been highly cultivated, was abandoned. Now and then a tuft of neglected date-palms might be seen, but the river's banks, formerly verdant with heavy crops, had become a wilderness. Villages once crowded had entirely disappeared; the population was gone. Irrigation had ceased. The night, formerly discordant with the creaking of countless water-wheels, was now silent as death. There was not a dog to howl for a lost master. Industry had vanished; oppression had driven the inhabitants from the soil.
This terrible desolation was caused by the governor general of the Soudan, who, although himself an honest man, trusted too much to the honesty of others, who preyed upon the inhabitants. As a good and true Mohammedan, he left his territory to the care of God, and thus, trusting in Providence, he simply increased the taxes. In one year he sent to the Khedive his master 100,000 pounds in hard dollars, wrung from the poor peasantry, who must have lost an equal amount in the pillage that accompanies the collection.
The population of the richest province of the Soudan fled from oppression, and abandoned the country; and the greater portion betook themselves to the slave trade of the White Nile, where, in their turn, they might trample upon the rights of others; where, as they had been plundered, they would be able to plunder; where they could reap the harvest of another's labour; and where, free from the restrictions of a government, they might indulge in the exciting and lucrative enterprise of slave-hunting. Thousands had forsaken their homes, and commenced a life of brigandage on the White Nile.
This was the state of the country when I arrived at Khartoum. The population of this town, which was about 30,000 during my former visit, was now reduced to half the number. The European residents had all disappeared, with the exception of the Austrian Mission, and Mr. Hansall the Austrian Consul; also an extremely tough German tailor, who was proof against the climate that had carried off his companions.
I had given the necessary orders for vessels and supplies six months previous; thus, I naturally expected to find a fleet ready for departure, with the troops and stores waiting for instructions. To my surprise, I discovered that my orders had been so far neglected, that although the troops were at hand, there were no vessels prepared for transport. I was coolly informed by the governor-general that "it was impossible to procure the number of vessels required, therefore he had purchased a house for me, as he expected that I should remain that year at Khartoum, and start in the following season."
There literally was not one vessel ready for the voyage, in spite of the positive instructions that had been given. At the same time I found that the governor-general had just prepared a squadron of eleven vessels, with several companies of regular troops, for an expedition to the Bahr Gazal, where it was intended to form a settlement at the copper-mines on the frontier of Darfur. This expedition had been placed under the command of one of the most notorious ruffians and slave-hunters of the White Nile. This man, Kutchuk Ali, originally of low extraction, had made a fortune in his abominable traffic, and had accordingly received promotion from the governor; thus, at the same time that the Khedive of Egypt had employed me to suppress the slave trade of the Nile, a government expedition had been intrusted to the command of one of the most notorious slave-hunters.
I at once perceived that not only was my expedition unpopular, but that it would be seriously opposed by all parties. The troops had been quartered for some months at Khartoum; during this time the officers had been intimate with the principal slave-traders of the country. All were Mohammedans—thus a coalition would be natural against a Christian who commanded an expedition avowedly to annihilate the slave trade upon which Khartoum subsisted.
It was a "house divided against itself;" the Khedive in the north issued orders that would be neutralized in the distant south by his own authorities.
As in the United States of America the opinion of the South upon the question of emancipation was opposed to that of the North,—the opposition in Soudan was openly avowed to the reform believed to have been suggested to the Khedive by England.
The season was already far advanced. There is no weapon so fatal as delay in the hands of Egyptians. I knew the intentions of the authorities were to procrastinate until the departure of the expedition would become impossible. It was necessary to insist upon the immediate purchase of vessels which should have been prepared months before.
None of the steamers from Cairo had passed the cataracts. The fifteen large sloops upon which I had depended for the transport of camels had actually given up the attempt and returned to Cairo. Only the smaller vessels had mounted the cataracts, and they could not arrive at Khartoum for some months.
The first division, consisting of all merchandise that I had sent from Cairo, had arrived in Khartoum under the charge of a Syrian to whom I had given the command. I heard that Mr. Higginbotham, accompanied by Dr. Gedge and the English party, together with all the Egyptian mechanics, was on his way across the desert in charge of the steamers and machinery, carried by some thousand camels. The third division, brought up by Mr. Marcopolo, arrived from Souakim a few days later than ourselves, thus every arrangement that had been intrusted to my own officers was well executed.
After some pressure, the governor began to purchase the vessels. It may be imagined that a sudden necessity gave a welcome opportunity to certain officials. Old vessels were purchased at the price of new, and the government agent received a bribe from the owners to pass the vessels on survey. We were now fitting out under difficulties, and working at a task that should have been accomplished months before. Sailcloth was scarce; hempen ropes were rarities in Khartoum, where the wretched cordage was usually obtained from the leaves of the date-palm. The highest prices were paid for everything; thus a prearranged delay caused an immense expense for the expedition. I studiously avoided any purchases personally, but simply gave the necessary instructions to be executed by the governor. It is only fair to admit that he now worked hard, and took great interest in the outfit of the flotilla. This governor-general, Djiaffer Pacha, had formerly shown me much kindness on my arrival at Souakim, during my first journey in Africa. I had therefore reckoned upon him as a friend; but no personal considerations could palliate the secret hatred to the object of the expedition.
From morning till night I was occupied in pushing on the work; in this I was ably assisted by Lieutenant J. A. Baker, R.N., whose professional experience was of much service. A new spirit seemed to move in Khartoum; hundreds of men were at work; a row of masts and yards rose up before the government house; and in a few weeks we had thirty-three vessels of fifty or sixty tons each, caulked, rigged, and ready for the voyage of 1,450 miles to Gondokoro.
If the same energy had been shown some months ago, I should have found a fleet of fifty ships awaiting me. I had lost a month at Khartoum at a season when every day was precious.
I reviewed the troops, about 1,400 infantry, and two batteries of artillery. The men were in fine condition, but I had no means of transport for the entire force. I therefore instructed Djiaffer Pacha to continue his exertions in preparing vessels, so that on Dr. Higginbotham's arrival he might follow with the remaining detachment.
I reviewed the irregular cavalry, about 250 horse. These were certainly VERY irregular. Each man was horsed and armed according to his individual notion of a trooper's requirements. There were lank, half-starved horses; round short horses; very small ponies; horses that were all legs; others that were all heads; horses that had been groomed; horses that had never gone through that operation. The saddles and bridles were only fit for an old curiosity shop. There were some with faded strips of gold and silver lace adhering here and there; others that resembled the horse in skeleton appearance, which had been strengthened by strips of raw crocodile skin. The unseemly huge shovel-stirrups were rusty; the bits were filthy. Some of the men had swords and pistols; others had short blunderbusses with brass barrels; many had guns of various patterns, from the long old-fashioned Arab to the commonest double-barrelled French gun that was imported. The costumes varied in a like manner to the arms and animals.
Having formed in line, they now executed a brilliant charge at a supposed enemy, and performed many feats of valour in dense clouds of dust, and having quickly got into inconceivable confusion, they at length rallied and returned to their original position.
I complimented their officer;—and having asked the governor if these brave troops represented my cavalry force, and being assured of the fact, I dismissed them; and requested Djiaffer Pacha to inform them that "I regretted the want of transport would not permit me the advantage of their services. 'Inshallah!' (Please God!) at some future time," &c., &c.
I thus got rid of my cavalry, which I never wished to see again. I had twenty-one good horses that I had brought from Cairo, and these together with the horses belonging to the various officers were as much as we could convey.
The flotilla was ready for the voyage. We had engaged sailors with the greatest difficulty, as a general stampede of boatmen had taken place. Every one ran from Khartoum to avoid the expedition.
This was a dodge of the slave-traders, who had incited the people to escape from any connection with such an enterprise. It was supposed that without boatmen we should be unable to start.
The police authorities were employed, and by degrees the necessary crews were secured,—all unwilling, and composed of the worst material.
I had taken the precaution of selecting from the two regiments a body-guard of forty-six men. Their numbers were equal black and white, as I considered this arrangement might excite an esprit de corps, and would in the event of discontent prevent a coalition.
The men having been well chosen were fine examples of physique, and being armed with the snider rifle and carefully drilled, such a body of picked troops would form a nucleus for further development, and might become a dependable support in any emergency. This corps was commanded by an excellent officer, my aide-de-camp, Lieut.-Colonel Abd-el-Kader, but owing to the peculiar light-fingered character of the men, I gave it the name of "The Forty Thieves."
Eventually the corps became a model of morality, and was distinguished for valour and fidelity throughout the expedition.
Six months' rations were on board for all hands, in addition to the general stores of corn, and cases, bales, &c., innumerable.
On the 8th February, 1870, the bugles announced the departure. The troops hurried on board their respective transports according to the numbers painted on their sides and sails. The official parting was accomplished. I had had to embrace the governor, then a black pacha, a rara avis in terris, and a whole host of beys, concluding the affecting ceremony with a very fat colonel whom my arms could not properly encircle.
A couple of battalions lined the shore; the guns fired the usual salute as we started on our voyage; the flotilla, composed of two steamers, respectively of thirty-two and twenty-four horsepower, and thirty-one sailing vessels, with a military force of about 800 men, got away in tolerable order. The powerful current of the Blue Nile quickly swept us past Khartoum, and having rounded the point, we steamed up the grand White Nile. The wind blew very strong from the north, thus the entire fleet kept pace with the steamers, one of which was towing my diahbeeah, and the other that of the colonel, Raouf Bey. Thank God we were off; thus all intrigues were left behind, and the future would be under my own command.
On reference to my journal, I find the following entry upon 8th February, 1870:—
"Mr. Higginbotham, who has safely arrived at Berber with the steel steamers in sections for the Albert N'yanza, will, I trust, be provided with vessels at Khartoum, according to my orders, so as to follow me to Gondokoro with supplies, and about 350 troops with four guns.
"My original programme—agreed to by his Highness the Khedive, who ordered the execution of my orders by the authorities—arranged that six steamers, fifteen sloops, and fifteen diahbeeahs, should leave Cairo on 10th June, to ascend the cataracts to Khartoum, at which place Djiaffer Pacha was to prepare three steamers and twenty-five vessels to convey 1,650 troops, together with transport animals and supplies.
"The usual Egyptian delays have entirely thwarted my plans. No vessels have arrived from Cairo, as they only started on 29th August. Thus, rather than turn back, I start with a mutilated expedition, without a SINGLE TRANSPORT ANIMAL."
Having minutely described the White Nile in a former work, "The Albert N'yanza," I shall not repeat the description. In 103 hours and ten minutes' steaming we reached Fashoda, the government station in the Shillook country, N. lat. 9 degrees 52 minutes, 618 miles by river from Khartoum.
This town had been fortified by a wall and flanking towers since I had last visited the White Nile, and it was garrisoned by a regiment of Egyptian soldiers. Ali Bey, the governor, was a remarkably handsome old man, a Kurd. He assured me that the Shillook country was in excellent order; and that according to the instructions received from the Khedive he had exerted himself against the slave trade, so that it was impossible for vessels to pass the station.
Fashoda was well situated for this purpose, as it completely dominated the river; but I much doubted my friend's veracity.
Having taken on board a month's rations for all hands, we started; and, with a strong breeze in our favour, we reached the Sobat junction on 16th February, at 12.30 p.m.
There we took in fresh water, as that of the Sobat is superior to the White Nile. At this season the river was about eight feet below the level of the bank. The water of the Sobat is yellowish, and it colours that of the White Nile for a great distance. By dead reckoning I made the Sobat junction 684 miles by river from Khartoum.
When I saw the Sobat, in the first week of January 1863, it was bank-full. The current is very powerful, and when I sounded in various places during my former voyage, I found a depth of twenty-six to twenty-eight feet. The volume of water brought to the Nile by this river is immense, and the power of the stream is so superior to that of the White Nile, that as it arrives at right angles, the waters of the Nile are banked up. The yellow water of the Sobat forms a distinct line as it cuts through the clear water of the main river, and the floating rafts of vegetation brought down by the White Nile, instead of continuing their voyage, are headed back, and remain helplessly in the backwater. The sources of the Sobat are still a mystery; but there can be no doubt that the principal volume must be water of mountain origin, as it is coloured by earthy matter, and is quite unlike the marsh water of the White Nile. The expeditions of the slave-hunters have ascended the river as far as it is navigable. At that point seven different streams converge into one channel, which forms the great river Sobat. It is my opinion that some of these streams are torrents from the Galla country, while others are the continuation of those southern rivers which have lately been crossed by the slave-hunters between the second and third degrees of N. latitude.
The White Nile is a grand river between the Sobat junction and Khartoum, and after passing to the south of the great affluent the difference in the character is quickly perceived. We now enter upon the region of immense flats and boundless marshes, through which the river winds in a labyrinth-like course for about 750 miles to Gondokoro.
Having left the Sobat, we arrived at the junction of the Bahr Giraffe, thirty-eight miles distant, at 11 a.m. on 17th February. We turned into the river, and waited for the arrival of the fleet.
The Bahr Giraffe was to be our new passage instead of the original White Nile. That river, which had become so curiously obstructed by masses of vegetation that had formed a solid dam, already described by me in "The Albert N'yanza," had been entirely neglected by the Egyptian authorities. In consequence of this neglect an extraordinary change had taken place. The immense number of floating islands which are constantly passing down the stream of the White Nile had no exit, thus they were sucked under the original obstruction by the force of the stream, which passed through some mysterious channel, until the subterranean passage became choked with a wondrous accumulation of vegetable matter. The entire river became a marsh, beneath which, by the great pressure of water, the stream oozed through innumerable small channels. In fact, the White Nile had disappeared. A vessel arriving from Khartoum in her passage to Gondokoro would find, after passing through a broad river of clear water, that her bow would suddenly strike against a bank of solid compressed vegetation—this was the natural dam that had been formed to an unknown extent: the river ceased to exist.
It may readily be imagined that a dense spongy mass which completely closed the river would act as a filter: thus, as the water charged with muddy particles arrived at the dam where the stream was suddenly checked, it would deposit all impurities as it oozed and percolated slowly through the tangled but compressed mass of vegetation. This deposit quickly created mud-banks and shoals, which effectually blocked the original bed of the river. The reedy vegetation of the country immediately took root upon these favourable conditions, and the rapid growth in a tropical climate may be imagined. That which had been the river bed was converted into a solid marsh.
This terrible accumulation had been increasing for five or six years, therefore it is impossible to ascertain or even to speculate upon the distance to which it might extend. The slave-traders had been obliged to seek another rout, which they had found via the Bahr Giraffe, which river had proved to be merely a branch of the White Nile, as I had suggested in my former work, and not an independent river.
I was rather anxious about this new route, as I had heard conflicting accounts in Khartoum concerning the possibility of navigating such large vessels as the steamers of thirty-two horse-power and a hundred feet length of deck. I was provided with guides who professed to be thoroughly acquainted with the river; these people were captains of trading vessels, who had made the voyage frequently.
On 18th February, at 10 A.M., the rear vessels of the fleet arrived, and at 11.40 A.M., the steamers worked up against the strong current independently. Towing was difficult, owing to the sharp turns of the river. The Bahr Giraffe was about seventy yards in width, and at this season the banks were high and dry. Throughout the voyage on the White Nile we had had excellent wild-fowl shooting whenever we had halted to cut fuel for the steamers. One afternoon I killed a hippopotamus, two crocodiles, and two pelicans, with the rifle. At the mouth of the Bahr Giraffe I bagged twenty-two ducks at a right and left shot with a No. 10-shot gun.
As the fleet now slowly sailed against the strong, current of the Bahr Giraffe, I walked along the hank with Lieutenant Baker, and shot ten of the large francolin partridge, which in this dry season were very numerous. The country was as usual flat, but bearing due south of the Bahr Giraffe junction, about twelve miles distant, is a low granite hill, partially covered with trees; this is the first of four similar low hills that are the only rising points above the vast prairie of flat plain.
As we were walking along the bank I perceived an animal ascending from the river, about two hundred yards distant, where it had evidently been drinking: we immediately endeavoured to cut off its retreat, when it suddenly emerged from the grass and discovered a fine lion with large shaggy mane. The king of beasts, as usual, would not stand to show fight in the open, but bounded off in the direction of the rocky hills.
It will be necessary to give a few extracts from my journal to convey an exact idea of the Bahr Giraffe. The river was very deep, averaging about nineteen feet, and it flowed in a winding course, through a perfectly flat country of prairie, diversified with forest all of which, although now dry, had the appearance of being flooded during the rainy season:—
"February 23.—Steamed from 6 A.M. till 7 P.M. Vast treeless marshes in wet season—now teeming with waterfowl: say fifty miles accomplished to-day through the ever-winding river. The wood from the last forest is inferior, and we have only sufficient fuel for five hours left upon the steamer. The diahbeeah in tow carries about twenty hours' fuel: thus, should we not arrive at some forest in twenty-five hours, we shall be helpless.
"The river was exceedingly narrow about fifteen miles from our starting point this morning. The stream was strong but deep, flowing through the usual tangled grass, but divided into numerous small channels and backwaters that render the navigation difficult.
"In this spot the river is quite bank-full, and the scattered native villages in the distance are in swamps. The innumerable high white ant-hills are the only dry spots.
"February 24.—Started at 6 A.M. Everybody eaten up by mosquitoes. At 9 A.M. the steamer smashed her starboard paddle: the whole day occupied in repairing. Saw a bull elephant in the marshes at a distance. Horrible treeless swamps swarming with mosquitoes.
"February 25.—Started at 7 A.M. At 10 A.M. arrived at a very narrow and shallow portion of this chaotic river completely choked by drift vegetation. All hands worked hard to clear a passage through this obstruction until 2.30, when we passed ahead. At 4 P.M. we arrived at a similar obstacle; the water very shallow; and to-morrow we shall have to cut a passage through the high grass, beneath which there is deeper water. I ordered fifty swords to be sharpened for the work. We counted seventy elephants in the distance, but there is no possibility of reaching them through the immense area, of floating vegetation.
"February 26.—Hard at work with forty men cutting a canal about 150 yards long through the dense mass of compressed vegetation.
"February 27.—Working hard at canal. The fleet has not arrived; thus we are short-handed.
"February 28.—The canal progresses, the men having worked well. It is a curious collection of trash that seriously impedes navigation. The grass resembles sugar-canes; this grows from twenty to thirty feet in length, and throws out roots at every joint; thus, when matted together, its roots still increase, and render the mass a complete tangle. During the wet season the rush of water tears off large rafts of this floating water-grass, which accumulate in any favourable locality. The difficulty of clearing a passage is extreme. After cutting out a large mass with swords, a rope is made fast, and the raft is towed out by hauling with thirty or forty men until it is detached and floated down the stream. Yesterday I cut a narrow channel from above stream in the hope that the rush of water would loosen the mass of vegetation. After much labour, at 12.30 p.m. the whole obstruction appeared to heave. There was soon no doubt that it was moving, and suddenly the entire dam broke up. Immense masses were carried away by the rush of water and floated down the river; these will, I fear, cause an obstruction lower down the stream.
"We got up steam, served out grog to all the men, and started at 2 P.M. In half-an-hour's steaming we arrived at another block vegetation. In one hour and three-quarters we cleared a passage, and almost immediately afterwards we arrived at the first piece of dry ground that we have seen for days. This piece of firm land was a few feet higher than the maximum rise of the river, and afforded about half an acre. We stopped for the night.
"March 1.—Started at 6.30 A.M., the river narrowing immediately, and after a run of half a mile we found ourselves caught in a trap. The river, although fourteen feet deep, had entirely disappeared in a boundless sea of high grass, which resembled sugar-canes. There was no possibility of progress. I returned to our halting-place of last night in a small rowing-boat, and examined it thoroughly. I found marks of occupation by the slave-traders, about three months old. Among the vestiges were the remains of fires, a piece of a lucifer-match box, a number of cartridge cases—they had been fired—and a piece of raw hide pierced with bullets, that had evidently been used as a target.
"I shot two geese and five plover, and returned to our vessel. My opinion is that the slave-hunters have made a razzia inland from this spot, but that our guide, Bedawi, has led us into a wrong channel.
"I attempted to seek a passage ahead, but it was quite impossible for the smallest rowing boat to penetrate the dense vegetation.
"An advance being impossible, I ordered the steamer and two diahbeeahs to return down the river about eighty miles to our old wooding-place at the last forest, as we are nearly out of fuel. We thus lose time and trouble, but there is no help for it. For some days there has been no wind, except uncertain breaths from the south. Unless a change shall take place, I have no idea how the fleet will be able to come up against the stream.
"March 2.—At 6.30 a.m. we got under way and ran down stream at eight miles an hour towards our old wooding-place. Saw a few buffaloes. At 1 p.m. we passed on left bank a branch of the river. At 3.30 sighted the tall yards of the fleet in the distance. At 4.30 we arrived at the extreme southern limit of the forest, and met Raouf Bey with the steamer and twenty-five vessels, with a good supply of wood. The troops were in good health, but one unfortunate man had been carried off by a crocodile while sitting on the vessel with his legs hanging over the side.
"March 3.—Filling up with wood from the forest.
"March 4.—Sent the steamer back to the station of Kutchuk Ali, the trader, to procure some cattle for the troops. In this neighbourhood there is dry land with many villages, but the entire country has been pillaged by Kutchuk Ali's people—the natives murdered, the women carried off, &c.
"Raouf Bey counted the bodies of eighteen natives who had been shot near the trader's camp. Yesterday I went to a native village, and made friends with the people, some of whom came down to our boats; they complained bitterly that they were subject to pillage and massacre by the traders. These so-called traders are the people of Kutchuk Ali, THE OFFICER EMPLOYED BY THE GOVENOR-GENERAL OF THE SOUDAN to command his expedition to the Bahr Gazal!
"Filled up with a large supply of wood ready to start tomorrow.
"March 5.—Great good fortune! A fine north wind for the first time during many days. All the vessels sailing well. We started at 7 a.m. Saw a Baleniceps Rex[*]; this is the second of these rare birds that I have seen.
[*Footnote: The whale-headed stork, or Baleniceps Rex, is only met with in the immense swamps of the White Nile. This bird feeds generally upon water shellfish, for which nature has provided a most powerful beak armed with a hook at the extremity.)
"At 1 p.m., as we were steaming easily, I happened to be asleep on the poop-deck, when I was suddenly awakened by a shock, succeeded almost immediately by the cry, 'The ship's sinking!' A hippopotamus had charged the steamer from the bottom, and had smashed several floats off her starboard paddle. A few seconds later he charged our diahbeeah, and striking her bottom about ten feet from the bow, he cut two holes through the iron plates with his tusks. There was no time to lose, as the water was rushing in with great force. Fortunately, in this land of marsh and floating grass, there were a few feet of tolerably firm ground rising from the deep water. Running alongside, all hands were hard at work discharging cargo with great rapidity, and baling out with every conceivable utensil, until we obtained assistance from the steamer, whose large hand pump and numerous buckets at length so far overcame the rush of water, that we could discover the leaks.
"We now found two clean holes punched through the iron as though driven by a sharp pickaxe. Some hours were occupied in repairing the damage by plastering white lead upon some thick felt; this was placed over the holes, and small pieces of plank being laid over the felt, they were secured by an upright piece of timber tightened with wedges from a cross-beam. The leaks were thus effectually and permanently stopped.
"By sunset all was completed and the vessel reloaded; but I sent twenty-eight boxes of snider ammunition on board the tender. This miserable wood tender has sprung her yard so that she cannot carry sail. The day was entirely lost together with a fine north wind.
"March, 6.—Brisk wind from the north. Started at 5.45 a.m., but at 7 a.m. something happened to the engine, and the steamer stopped until eight. After frequent stoppages, owing to the sharp bends in the narrow river, we arrived at the spot where we had formerly opened the dam; there the current ran like a rapid.
"March 7.—Much difficulty in ascending the river, but upon arrival at the dry ground (called the 'dubba'), we found the No. 8 steamer and the whole fleet assembled, with the exception of six that are in sight.
"March 8.—The other vessels arrived; I have thus thirty-four sail, including the two steamers. The entire country is swamp, covered with immensely high water-grass, beneath which the depth is considerable. The reputed main channel of the river is supposed to come from S.W., this is only denoted by a stream three or four feet broad, concealed by high grass, and in places choked by the Pistia Stratiotes. These surface plants, which resemble floating cabbages with fine thready roots, like a human beard of sixteen inches in length, form dense masses which are very difficult to clear
"Our guides are useless, as we cannot depend upon their contradictory statements. We are in a deplorable position—the whole fleet in a cul-de-sac; the river has disappeared; an unknown distance of apparently boundless marsh lies before us; there is no wood, and there is no possibility of moving without cutting a channel.
"I have ordered thirty vessels to form in line, single file, and to cut a canal.
"March. 9.—The men worked famously, but I much fear they will be laid up with fever if kept at such an unhealthy task. To-day a force of 700 men cut about a mile and a half. They are obliged to slash through with swords and knives, and then to pull out the greater portion of the grass and vegetable trash; this is piled like artificial banks on either side upon the thick floating surface of vegetation. I took a small boat and pushed on for a mile and a half. I found a very narrow stream, like a small brook, which gave hopes of lighter labour for to-morrow. I shall therefore try to force the steamer through. Thirty-two men reported on the sick list this evening.
"March 10.—A fine north wind for about half an hour, when it suddenly chopped round to the S.E. We cut on far ahead, so that I was able to push on the steamers and the whole fleet for a distance of about five miles. I had a touch of fever.
"March 11.—Frightful stinking morass. All stopped at a black muddy pond in the swamp. The river is altogether lost. We have to cut a passage through the morass. Hard work throughout the day. One soldier died of sunstroke. No ground in which to bury him.
"It is a curious but most painful fact that the entire White Nile has ceased to be a navigable river. The boundless plains of marsh are formed of floating rafts of vegetation compressed into firm masses by the pressure of water during floods. So serious is this obstacle to navigation, that unless a new channel can be discovered, or the original Nile be reopened, the centre of Africa will be entirely shut out from communication, and all my projects for the improvement of the country will be ruined by this extraordinary impediment.
"March 12.—I think I can trace by telescope the fringe of tall papyrus rush that should be the border of the White Nile; but this may be a delusion. The wind is S.W., dead against us. Many men are sick owing to the daily work of clearing a channel through the poisonous marsh. This is the Mahommedan festival of the Hadj, therefore there is little work to-day.
"March 13.—Measured 460 yards of apparently firm marsh, through which we plumbed the depth by long poles thrust to the bottom.
"Flowing water being found beneath, I ordered the entire force to turn out and cut a channel, which I myself superintended in the advance boat.
"By 6 p.m. the canal was completed, and the wind having come round to the north, we sailed through the channel and entered a fine lake about half a mile wide, followed by the whole fleet with bugles and drums sounding the advance, the troops vainly hoping that their work was over. The steamers are about a mile behind, and I have ordered their paddles to be dismounted to enable them to be towed through the high grass in the narrow channel.
"March 14.—At 6 a.m. I started and surveyed the lake in a small rowing boat, and found it entirely shut in and separated from another small lake by a mass of dense rotten vegetation about eighty yards in width. I called all hands, and cleared it in fifty-five minutes sufficiently to allow the fleet to pass through. Upon an examination of the next lake, I found, to my intense disappointment, that not only was it closed in, but there was no outlet visible even from the mast-head. Not a drop of water was to be seen ahead, and the entire country was a perfect chaos, where the spirit of God apparently had not yet moved upon the waters. There was neither earth nor clear water, nor any solid resting-place for a human foot. Now and then a solitary bittern rose from the marsh, but, beyond a few water-rails, there were no other birds. The grass was swarming with snakes, and also with poisonous ants that attacked the men, and greatly interfered with the work.
"It is easier to clear a passage through the green grass than through the rotten vegetation. The former can be rolled in heaps so as to form banks, it is then secured by tying it to the strong grass growing behind it; the rotten stuff has no adherence, and a channel closes up almost as fast as it is made, thus our labour does no permanent good. I am in great anxiety about Mr. Higginbotham; it will be impossible for him to proceed by this route, should he arrive with a comparatively small force and heavily-laden vessels.
"As the channel closes so rapidly, I must wait until the steamers can form a compact line with the fleet.
"The black troops have more spirit than the Egyptians, but they are not so useful in clearing channels, as they are bad swimmers. They discovered to-day a muddy spot where they had a great hunt for fish, and succeeded in capturing with their hands about 500 pounds weight of the Prolypterus, some of which were above four pounds. We caught for ourselves a number of very delicious boulti (Perca Nilotica) with a casting-net.
"March 15.—Having probed the marsh with long poles, I found deep water beneath, which denoted the course of the sub-vegetal stream. All hands at work, and by the evening we had cut a channel 300 yards in length. The marsh swarms with snakes, one of which managed to enter the cabin window of the diahbeeah. The two steamers, now far astern, have become choked by a general break up and alteration of their portion of the world. The small lake in which I left them is no longer open water, but has become a dense maps of compressed vegetable rafts, in which the steamers are jammed as though frozen in an ice-drift in the Arctic regions! There is much work required to clear them. The only chance of progress will be to keep the entire fleet in compact line so as to push through a new channel as quickly as it is made. I shall send back the wood tender, if possible, from this spot with a letter to stop Mr. Higginbotham should he be south of the Sobat, as it will be impossible for him to proceed until next season. Many of the men are sick with fever, and if this horrible country should continue, they will all sicken.
"March 16.—I went back in a rowing boat, accompanied by Lieutenant Baker, to the two steamers which we found stuck fast in the drift rafts, that had closed in upon then. Many men are sick—all are dispirited; and they worked badly. Having worked all day, we returned at 6.30 p.m., to my diahbeeah, having the good fortune to shoot seven ducks by a family shot upon a mud bank on the way home.
"I found that the main body under the colonel, Raouf Bey, had completed the channel about 900 yards long to lake No. 3. I ordered sail to be made immediately, and after five hours' hard work, as the channel was already beginning to close, we arrived in the open lake at 11.15 p.m., in which we found the fleet at anchor.
"March 17.—The lake is about 2 1/2 miles long, and varies from 150 to 300 yards in width, with a mean depth of ten feet. I sent men ahead in the boat to explore the exit; they now report it to be closed by a small dam, after which we shall enter another lake. Thunder and clouds threatening in the southeast.
"About half-an-hour before sunset I observed the head of a hippopotamus emerge from the bank of high grass that fringed the lake. My troops had no meat—thus I would not lose the opportunity of procuring, if possible, a supply of hippopotamus beef. I took a Reilly No. 8 breechloader, and started in the little dingy belonging to the diahbeeah. Having paddled quietly along the edge of the grass for a couple of hundred yards, I arrived near the spot from which the hippopotamus had emerged.
"It is the general habit of the hippopotami in these marsh districts to lie in the high grass swamps during the day, and to swim or amuse themselves in the open water at sunset.
"I had not waited long before I heard a snort, and I perceived the hippopotamus had risen to the surface about fifty yards from me. This distance was a little too great for the accurate firing necessary to reach the brain, especially when the shot must be taken from a boat, in which there is always some movement. I therefore allowed the animal to disappear, after which I immediately ordered the boat forward, to remain exactly over the spot where he had sunk. A few minutes elapsed, when the great ugly head of the hippopotamus appeared about thirty paces from the boat, and having blown the water from his nostrils, and snorted loudly, he turned round and seemed astonished to find the solitary little boat so near him. Telling the two boatmen to sit perfectly quiet, so as to allow a good sight, I aimed just below the eye, and fired a heavy shell, which contained a bursting charge of three drachms of fine-grained powder. The head disappeared. A little smoke hung over the water, and I could not observe other effects. The lake was deep, and after vain sounding for the body with a boathook, I returned to the diahbeeah just as it became dark.
"March 18.—A heavy shower of rain fell, which lasted for an hour and a half. When the rain ceased, the day continued cloudy with variable wind. The body of the hippopotamus was discovered at daybreak floating near us, therefore all hands turned out to cut him up, delighted at the idea of fresh meat. There was about an acre of high and dry ground that bordered the marsh in one spot; to this the carcase of the hippopotamus was towed. I was anxious to observe the effects of the explosive shell, as it was an invention of my own that had been manufactured by Mr. Reilly, [*] the gunmaker, of London. This shell was composed of iron, covered with lead. The interior was a cast-iron bottle (similar in shape to a stoneware Seltzer water bottle); the neck formed a nipple to receive a percussion-cap. The entire bottle was concealed by a leaden coating, which was cast in a mould to fit a No. 8, or two-ounce rifle. The iron bottle contained three drachms of the strongest gunpowder, and a simple cap pressed down upon the nipple prepared the shell for service.