3 SEPTEMBER 1898, Page 16


SIRDAR AND KHALIFA.* This volume, from the pen of one of the most experienced, audacious, and " graphic " of war-correspondents, appears most appropriately as a literary overture to the present great military operations in the Egyptian Soudan. The book is all the more valuable and interesting that the author, somewhat like the private soldier whom Sir Herbert Kitchener delights to honour and to command, marches to his goal with as little

• Birder and Xhalifa ; or, The Reconquest of the Soudan in 1898. By Bennet Zurieigh. London : Chapman and Hall. 1123.]

as possible in the way of literary impedimenta. Mr. Bennet Burleigh may not feel disposed, like M. Zola, to say of himself that he is not an artist, but an artisan. Yet there is a work- manlike directness in the manner in which he goes straight to his point whatever that is, and, above all, in the almost peremptory fashion in which he disposes of matter irrelevant to the main purpose of his book, which is to give the prepara- tions for the final struggle between the Khalifa and the Sirdar.

As the title of his book indicates, Mr. Burleigh pays, especially in his opening chapters, more attention to the persons than to the places that figure in the last act of the drama of the Soudan. This is wise. Thanks to lavish journalistic enterprise, the ordinary Englishman who finds no special difficulty in mastering half a dozen newspaper accounts of the same incident in one day is tolerably familiar with the events of the Atbara Campaign and with the various. stages on the road between Wady Haifa and Omdurman. But impressions and portraits are strictly individuaL Mr.

Burleigh, therefore, loses no time in giving portraits of the leading figures on both sides in the struggle for Khartoum. In the first place we have a sketch of the Khalifa, otherwise "Abdullah the Taaishi," a chief of the Baggara Arabs,. who, when Mahommed Achmed the Dongowali, styled' the Mandi, died of virulent small-pox in 1885 at the age of thirty-seven, succeeded to the throne of Khartoum, or rather of Omdurman. " Khalifa Abdullah, though but fifty-faar- years of age, is already an old man. In the earlier years of his life of pleasure in Omdurman, the strong, medium-sized, active Abdullah grew lazy and inordinately fat. Quite recently, however, possibly owing to the increasing cares of his situation, he has become thin, grey-haired, and feeble- looking in body." He has some capacity for warfare,. having to a great extent replaced the mad fury of the early Dervishes by the introduction of military organisation among the wild tribes, and endeavoured, though in a crude- way, to adopt the system of training and tactics employed in the Egyptian army. In one respect that system has been bettered. " Some of the Dervish accounts, probably kept by Coptic clerks, which fell into my hands at Hafir, Dongola, and elsewhere, showed that down to the uttermost pound of beans or packet of small-arms ammunition, nothing was issued without a written warrant, and that receipts for everything were taken, and the stores in hand could be ascertained at a glance." Finally, by means of special "revelations," he "has had the hardihood to depart from Moslem teaching, and to designate his son and lineage as the heaven-chosen successors- in the Khalifate in the event of his death. The son who has been made ' Commander of the Forces' is a worthless

young man, sodden with excesses." Here is Mr. Burleigh's- view of the opponents of the Khalifa and his son:—

"With mind and eye bent on carrying out the policy England in Egypt, Lord Cromer has held steadfastly on his set course. He has been serenely indifferent, for a diplomatist, to the babble and the petty trickeries of Eastern political huck- stering. Alert, but aloof, he has pursued his vocation as Britain's. representative, bettering instruction, turning counsel into law.

Sir Herbert Kitchener, an enthusiast in arms, resourceful' and daring, unites in himself the skill and subtleties of the sapper- with the dash of a trooper. It was at Debbeh, ninety miles south of Dongola, in 1884, that I first learned to know him well. He was. then living with the Mudir Mustapha's irregulars. Wearing the dress of an Arab, he was scarcely distinguishable from a native. He had gone in advance of the British forces on a delicate and• dangerous mission for which he had volunteered. I had wandered,. unauthorised, to Debbeh, attended by one servant, in search of news and adventure, and easily found both. On the upward trip. I had passed a risky night in the Mandi's ancestral home with his uncle and nephews, and had ridden among bands of fierce- Kabbabish. To my astonishment and delight, I found one- Englishman within the mud walls of Debbeh,—Captain. Kitchener, RE., for such he then was. He gave me a hearty welcome, and added to my debt of gratitude by producing two bottles of claret, his whole store, which we most loyally drank at dinner His tall sinewy form is unbent, he is as active as ever, observant, and of a. some-- what silent disposition. In manner he is good natured, a listener rather than a talker, but readily pronouncing an opinion if it is called for. All his life he has been par excellence 'a volunteer" officer—volunteering, time and again, for one difficult and dangerous duty after another."

The handing over of Kassala by the Italians to the Egyptian. Government, and the making of arrangements for its oocu-

pation by the Sirdar, led Mr. Burleigh to go to Massowah, and thence to " our new possession." What most impressed

Mr. Burleigh in connection with the occupation of a portion

of the Soudan sea-board by the Italians is their capacity for making roads, which they have perhaps inherited from the

Romans. Massowah Mr. Burleigh describes as " a glorified Suakim." While in 1883 Kassala was a place of importance, with between fifty thousand and seventy thousand inhabitants, "to-day jackals and hyenas are the only denizens of the roof- less walls, the desolate streets and alley-ways, of old Kassala. Its lease to the destroyers was one of England's liberal over- tures to Mabdism. Kassala of December, 1897, I found, was little more than a town by courtesy,—a name." But at the gates of Abyssinia, and the natural portal for the trade of the region which will be opened up to commerce by the fall of Khartoum, Kassala ought to be supremely valuable. Without

looking too far into the future, it is not difficult to see that with the close of the Khartoum period of the history of the

Soudan problem another chapter will be opened at Kassala or Erythrea.

Recalled from England to Egypt in January by the news of Sir Herbert Kitchener's intention to advance on the Atbara, Mr. Burleigh made his way to Wady Halfa. What impresses one most in Mr. Burleigh's book, even more than the capacity of the Generals and the endurance of the men who fought in the Atbara Campaign, is the fact that the reconquest of the Soudan has been accomplished by railway enterprise. Thus it strikes Mr. Burleigh, even when writing in cold blood :-

" A railway laid upon the sea—and such a thing has been soberly proposed—an iron line built across the awful furrowed chaos of the moon's surface, would be relatively little greater achievements than this new Soudan military railway. Running straight into the bare, unredeemed, and totally barren desert that lies betwixt Wady Halfa and Abu-Hamed, for 230 miles the line passes from the Nile to the Nile. This new railway has entirely changed the whole situation in the Soudan, and brought the reconquest of Khartoum within easy and measurable distance. The interminable wastes, the terrible and never ending marches, which baffled alike the attempts of Cambyses and of many would-be conquerors of Kordofan and Central Africa, are all over- come."

As Mr. Burleigh admits, his book, regarded as the prose epic of the Atbara Campaign, has already appeared in instal- ments, and slightly condensed, in the columns of the Daily Telegraph. It is therefore to a large extent familiar, yet it is inspiriting reading,—especially the final narrative of the

advance of the Soudanese and the Camerons on Mahmoud's zareba :—" Trampling up a pebbly slope, barely a hundred yards from the zareba, a crest was at last gained in face of a terrible hail of bullets,—Remingtons, repeaters, elephant guns, and buckshot. It was as hot as that which raged for a few minutes at Tel-el-Kebir, and far more deadly. Still, stiff as ramrods, the Camerons halted for a second or two, and firing as at target practice, partly subdued or wiped out the Dervish riflemen in their immediate front. Their bullets smote the loose earth over the Dervish trenches, making puffs of dust jump and fly in a fearful hailstorm. Then there were cries of ' Come on, men ! ' ringing shouts and cheers, as, freed from the leash, the Camerons, followed by their comrade bat- talions, dashed at the Dervishes."

Mr. Burleigh's survey of the work of the campaign is crisp and in every way admirable. It leaves the im- pression that the Sirdar and his lieutenants, particularly Generals Hunter and Gatacre, are uncompromising workers, and also that the men, although they grumbled, not perhaps without reason, about such matters as boots and rations, and did not take at first kindly to the ex- clusion of beer from the canteens, finally acquiesced in arrangements which have made them in some respects the toughest fighting army—for its size—in the world. Then it is happily beyond doubt that the cruelties of Abdullab, which culminated in the extirpation of the rebellious Jaalins by Mahmoud and the Baggaras, have prepared the way for the work so thoroughly accomplished by the Sirdar. When Gatacre's brigade arrived at Berber this scene was enacted:—

" Thousands of the townsfolk, men and women, turned out to see them, an extraordinary thing for such professed indifferen- tists as Arabs to do. It was the first occasion I had known of such an event in these long years of campaign in the Soudan. Now, the women raised their customary pea-fowl cry of welcome and the male natives shouted in something of the fashion of a cheer. But there was no mistaking the sentiments of the blacks. They are more the children of nature than the Arabs, and are not ashamed to shout, sing, or dance, or give full expression to their feelings. Their hearts and lungs were in their throats and mouths, and their bodies were jumping with nervous energy. Men and women alike, they rushed up and shook hands with the

British soldiers as they passed, and gave them such small presents as they could afford of dates, water, onions, and tomatoes."

When Sir Herbert Kitchener has not only proved the supremacy of the Anglo-Egyptian army at Omdurman, but has planted the flag of Egypt on what are still left of the walls of Khartoum—he may be doing it as we write—his work as civil administrator will be facilitated by the circum- stance of his being welcomed as a deliverer, as well as respected as a conqueror.