George Bethune English.

A Narrative of the Expedition to Dongola and Sennaar Under the Command of His Excellence Ismael Pasha, undertaken by Order of His Highness Mehemmed Ali Pasha, Viceroy of Egypt, By An American In The S online

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Online LibraryGeorge Bethune EnglishA Narrative of the Expedition to Dongola and Sennaar Under the Command of His Excellence Ismael Pasha, undertaken by Order of His Highness Mehemmed Ali Pasha, Viceroy of Egypt, By An American In The S → online text (page 3 of 9)
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here, the only one I had seen for a month. After toiling for an hour,
the boatmen at length succeeded in getting the boat water-borne. About
an hour after noon the wind abated and the boat proceeded on her way
under her foresail only. We went at a great rate till an hour before
sunset, when we put to shore on the east bank of the river. The people
informed us that we had passed Dongola, and, from their description of
that place, we were convinced that the city we had seen this morning,
upon the eminence on the east bank of the river, must have been the
place we were bound to. The people said that all the boats that preceded
us had followed the march of the army of the Pasha, who was encamped,
they reported, at two days' distance from this place. We therefore
determined to proceed to join him, and not to return to Dongola, where
it was probable we should only receive directions to proceed to the
Pasha. The country we saw to-day was not so uniformly fertile as that we
have passed for several days past. Sand was in some places visible.

1st of Rebi. Made great way to-day, the wind being very strong till
sunset. We landed at evening on a large and fertile island which was
well cultivated. I observed here, at a considerable distance from the
place where we landed, a large and lofty column, situated, as I then
supposed, on the main land, on the eastern bank of the river.[17] The
country we passed to-day, for about ten miles on the eastern bank of the
river, is mostly covered by sand; that on the western bank is beautiful.
During the whole of the afternoon, however, the country we passed, on
both banks, can be surpassed by none in the world for fertility; the
appearance of numerous water-wheels and large plantations of durra
and cotton, showed us that this fine territory was improved by a
considerable population. The face of the country continues still
the same, an immense and fertile plain, bounded by the horizon
and intersected by the windings of the river Nile. We have seen no
considerable eminence for many days, except that on which stands the
old city of Dongola, which we passed yesterday; it is a fine military

2d of Rebi. The wind to-day was right ahead, owing to the curious fact
that the river here makes an eccentric bend to the left, toward the
north-east, and presents itself as coming from that quarter instead of
from the south or south-west, as usual hitherto.[18] The Rais attempted
to advance by cordelling the boat; but the force of the wind and current
prevented the boatmen from gaining more than two or three miles along
the coast of the island, where we landed yesterday. We were therefore
obliged to pass a great part of this day and all night by the shore. The
island is about twenty miles long and very beautiful; it is called, as I
have been repeatedly informed, "Argo."

3d of Rebi. We were obliged still to continue fast by the shore till
noon, when the wind abating, the boat advanced about two miles by the
help of the cordel, so far as to arrive at a small bend in the river,
which brought the wind a little in our favor, so as to pass by its aid
to the other side, in the hope, if the wind continued the same on the
morrow, to profit by it and proceed. We arrived a little before sun set,
and remained there for the night. We saw this day, while the boat
was warping slowly along the left bank of the river, the ruins of a
considerable fortified town, built of stone and encompassed by large
cemeteries. Some large columns, of a beautiful stone, white intermixed
red, are to be seen among the ruins. One of the cemeteries is evidently
ancient, as the tombs are covered with hieroglyphics, intermixed with
inscriptions. In one of the tombs one of our party found the remains of
a mummy.

4th of Rebi. Made but little progress to-day, on account of the
irregularity in the river already mentioned, which makes its course
hereabouts almost the direct contrary to its natural direction, and
brings, in consequence, the prevalent winds ahead. Passed some small,
but fine islands, and saw, for the first time for several days, stone
mountains in the distance: the shores of the river hereabouts are
fertile, but thinly inhabited. Saw several large villages in ruins.

5th of Rebi. The wind and the untoward direction of the river obliged us
again to employ the cordel to forward the boat a few miles more on her
way. By the middle of the afternoon we had arrived at a place on the
left [19] bank of the river that had been, a few days ago, the scene of a
battle between the Pasha and the brigands of Shageia. We found there a
strong and well built castle at the farther extremity of a high and
long mountain, running nearly at right angles with the river, and which
approached to within a few hundred yards of its bank; thus furnishing
a fine position to the enemy. The castle was taken by the aid of the
Pasha's artillery, and his cavalry rode through and dispersed all who
fought outside of it.[20] This castle was astonishingly welt arranged in
its interior, and was thereby rendered very comfortable quarters for
a considerable garrison. The country, in the vicinity, contains many
villages, and was covered with plantations of durra beans and fields of
cotton. These villages had been ransacked, and in part destroyed, by
the victorious troops, as the inhabitants, instead of coming in to the
Pasha, as did the people of the lower countries, had taken up arms and
sided with the brigands who lorded it over the country. We learned,
however, that they did this much against their will, being compelled
thereto by their marauding masters. I was informed today that some
English travelers were in one of the boats ahead. I determined, in case
the wind should continue unfavorable tomorrow, to walk up the river and
pay them a visit.

6th of Rebi. Set out very early in the morning, it being dead calm, and
the boat in consequence unable to proceed, except by the cordel, to see
the strangers, and to be informed of their accommodations, as I feared
that they too were obliged to participate in the privations to which we
were all exposed. After about two hours walk at length came up with the
boat, on board of which these gentlemen were. They informed me that they
had set out from Cairo a few days after we had quitted Bulac. They were
suffering privations, as were all in the boats, and I regretted that
my being in similar circumstances put it out of my power to ameliorate
their situation. As, however, we had now learned to a certainty, that
the camp of the Pasha was not far distant, it was in my power to assure
them that they would be better off in a day or two.[21] All the way to
their boat, and on my return to ours, I observed some hundreds of bodies
of men and animals that had perished in the late engagement and during
the pursuit, and the stench which filled the air was almost intolerable.
The country, covered with an abundance of grain almost matured,
was abandoned; the water-wheels stood still, and the cisterns were
frequently infected by a bloody and putrefying carcass.

7th of Rebi. Passed the last night on board the boat, near the mountain
already mentioned in the day before yesterday's journal. Two Greeks on
board of our boat reported last evening, that they had heard menacing
cries from the mountain. The people on board of the boat supposed that
some of the brigands had returned to their haunt and meditated an attack
on our boat by night. We were accordingly on the watch till morning,
without, however, being molested. This morning, about two hours after
sunrise, these same Greeks reported that they had seen fifteen or
sixteen of the robbers in a body, and armed. They also told the Mogrebin
soldiers in the other boats, which had now come up with ours, that these
men had probably massacred one of the soldiers attached to me and two of
my servants, as they had not been seen since morning. I accordingly
set out, in company with twenty soldiers, in pursuit of the supposed
assassins. We had not proceeded far when we met the persons supposed
killed, on their way to our boat, safe and sound. They had seen no
armed men, though they came from the direction that the Greeks said the
robbers had taken. I therefore returned to the boat, reflecting upon
the old proverb, "A Greek and a liar." The Mogrebin soldiers were not,
however, convinced of the falsehood of the report, and pursued their way
to the mountain; they found no robbers there, but repaid themselves for
the trouble they had taken, by taking possession of a young and
pretty girl, which they carried to their boat as a lawful prize. After
proceeding a few miles by the aid of the cordel, we put to land at
sunset, near a village on the left bank of the river. We found here
the ruins of a Christian church, built in the style of the lower Greek
empire, of which one column, of red granite, of no great height, was
standing, (it bore on its chapiter a cross and a star,) and was all that
stood on its base; others, fallen and broken, were lying near it. The
soldiers found in the villages near us several hundred women and about
two hundred men; they were peasants who had taken refuge here during the
battle between the brigands and the troops of the Pasha. The soldiers
were disposed to treat them as enemies, but they were saved from their
fury by showing a paper given them by the Pasha, assuring them of
protection. It is the rule to give these papers to every village not
hostile, to protect them from the soldiers. We remained here all
night. The country of Shageia, possessed by the brigands, was the best
cultivated we had seen this side of Assuan; the water-wheels, so far
as we have passed their country, being frequently within half a stone's
throw of each other. They obliged the peasants to work hard to raise
food and forage to ml the magazines of their castles, which are seen
here and there all over this country.

8th of Rebi. The wind and the direction of the river continuing the
same, we were obliged to advance by the cordel. The country continued
fine and well cultivated, and we passed several large and beautiful
islands. In walking along the shore, saw at a distance a large castle,
lately occupied by the brigands; on visiting it, found it capable of
accommodating at least a thousand men. The walls and towers very thick
and pierced with loopholes: it had been taken by the aid of the Pasha's
artillery, and almost every thing combustible in it had been burned by
the troops. A few miles beyond this the boat stopped for the night.

9th of Rebi. Heard this morning at day-light, with great pleasure, the
report of three cannon, which indicated the proximity of the camp. We
proceeded slowly by the cordel, the river obstinate in maintaining the
same untoward direction, and the wind consequently adverse. The country
we saw to-day, like that we have passed for the last two days, gave us
continual occasion of surprise. It was better cultivated than any part
of the countries south of Egypt that we had seen. It was crowded with
villages and covered with grain, deserted by its proprietors. In the
afternoon, however, the disagreeable impression produced by seeing
so fine a country without inhabitants was almost obliterated by
the pleasure I felt on being informed that a large number of its
cultivators, with their wives and children, were on their return to
their fields and houses, provided with an escort from the camp, and a
firman from the Pasha Ismael, securing them from outrage, and
assuring them of protection. I am sorry to be obliged to say, that the
inhabitants of this unfortunate district had great occasion for this
protection. The soldiers in the boats were disposed to take liberties
with the inhabitants, on the plea of their being the allies of
the brigands. This morning, two men belonging to a village in this
neighborhood, were severely beaten, and their wives or sisters violated
by some soldiers belonging to the boats. This afternoon, a soldier
belonging to our boat, accompanied by one of the Greeks already
mentioned, and the Frank cook of the Proto Medico went to the same
village, without my knowledge, to participate in this licentious
amusement. They were somewhat surprised and terribly frightened on their
arrival at this village, on finding themselves suddenly surrounded by
about two hundred peasants armed with clubs, who fiercely demanded what
they wanted, asking them if they had come, as others had before them
to-day, to cudgel the men and violate the women, and ordered them to be
off immediately to the boats. The luckless fornicators, confounded by
this unexpected reception, were heartily glad to be allowed to sneak
back to the boat in confusion and terror. On their arrival, and this
affair becoming known to me, I abused them with all the eloquence I
could muster, first, for their villainy, and then for their cowardice,
as they were well armed, and had fled before the face of cudgels.
When we stopped at night, we were told that we were about three hours
distance from the camp.

10th of Rebi. The river and the wind still obliged us to proceed slowly
by the cordel. The country we passed to-day was fine, and had been
cultivated with great care, but deserted. The face of the fields was
almost covered with the household furniture of the villagers. Straw
mats, equal to any sold at Cairo, were abandoned by hundreds on the
spots where they had been employed for the night by the troops, when on
the pursuit after the brigands who had fled from the last battle. Many
of the largest of these mats the soldiers had formed into square huts
for the different guards. The abandoned harvests waved solitary in
the wind, and the numerous water-wheels were all motionless. We
passed several large castles, not many days back garrisoned by fierce
marauders, who claimed all around them, or within the reach of their
horses' feet, as theirs; and many well built villages, whose inhabitants
were the slaves of their will. In one of these deserted castles, we
found fragments of vessels of porcelain, basins of marble, chests of
polished Indian wood, the pillage probably of some caravan, and a small
brass cannon. The walls of the apartments were hung with large and
colored straw mats, of fine workmanship, and showed many indications of
the pains taken to make them comfortable and convenient. An hour after
noon, we met great numbers of men, women, and children, accompanied by
their herds and flocks, who were returning to this abandoned country,
by the encouragement and under the protection of the Pasha. It was
an affecting sight to see almost every one of these unfortunate women
carrying her naked and forlorn children either upon her shoulders or
in her arms, or leading them by the hand. The pleasure I felt at seeing
these proofs of the humanity of the Pasha Ismael was diminished by
seeing his safe-conduct disregarded by some of the Mogrebin soldiers,
and particularly by the Greek and Frank domestics of the Proto Medico
Bosari, who seized from the hands of these miserable creatures as many
sheep and goats as they thought they had occasion for. About an hour
before sunset, we passed the encampment of Abdin Cacheff, on the right
or opposite bank of the river; and at night-fall came in view of that of
the Pasha about three miles farther up on the same side. We stopped to
pass the night, as the boatmen were too much fatigued to draw the boat
any farther to-day.

11th of Rebi. The direction of the river and the wind still the same.
Proceeded slowly by the cordel till about two hours after noon, when we
arrived at the camp of the Hasnardar on the left bank of the river;
that of the Pasha was on the opposite side. Not far from the camp of the
Hasnardar, some ruins and several small pyramids attracted my attention.
As I could not go to the Pasha before to-morrow, I determined to employ
the remainder of the day in a visit to these antiquities, which lay near
a large high and isolated rock, about a mile distant from the river. I
found before this rock the ruins of a very large temple, which covered
a great space of ground. Some columns, almost consumed by time, were
standing nearly buried in the rubbish. The bases of others were visible,
which, from their position, evidently once supported an avenue of
pillars leading to an excavation in the great rock aforementioned,
against and joining on to the side of which, that fronted towards the
river, this temple appeared to have been constructed. Among the ruins
saw two large lions of red granite, one broken, and the other little
injured, and a small headless statue, about two feet high, in a sitting
posture. On approaching the front of the rock, found it excavated into
a small temple, whose interior was sculptured with the usual figures and
symbols seen in the temples of ancient Egypt. Its roof, and that of the
porch before it, exhibited several traces of the azure with which it had
been painted. The porch before this excavation was supported by Caryatid
figures, representing huge lions standing nearly erect upon their hinder
legs. The ruins before the rock seemed to me to have originally composed
a large temple, of which this excavation was the inner sanctuary. The
pyramids were close by these ruins. I counted seventeen, some of them in
ruins, and others perfect. Those which were uninjured were small, of a
height greater than the breadth of the base, which was generally about
twenty feet square; the sides resembled steep stairs. They were however
compactly and very handsomely constructed of hewn stones, similar to the
rock before mentioned, and probably taken from it. Before some of these
pyramids, and attached to one of their sides, we found low buildings,
resembling small temples, and, judging from the interior of one we found
open, intended as such, as the inside of this one was covered with the
usual hieroglyphics and figures. It would be a work of little difficulty
to open the pyramid to which was attached the little temple I entered,
as the figure of a door of stone in the pyramid is to be seen, when
inside of the temple, attached to its side. In view from this place,
many other pyramids were in view higher up the river, on the opposite
bank, one of them large. The people of the country called the place I
visited, "Meroe" as likewise the whole territory where these ruins
are found. The ruins I have mentioned do not appear ever to have been
disturbed. I doubt not that several remains worth research lie concealed
under the rubbish, which here covers a great space of ground. No other
remains of antiquity are visible in this place besides those I have
mentioned. The immediate spot where they stand, and its vicinity
backward from the river, is covered by the sand of the Desert,
underneath which probably many more lie concealed.

The river Nile has been represented, and I think with justice, as one
of the wonders of the world. I do not consider it as meriting this
appellation so much on account of its periodical and regular floods, in
which respect it is resembled by several other rivers, as on account
of another circumstance, in which, so far as I know, it is without a

The Nile resembles the path of a good man in a wicked and worthless
world. It runs through a desert - a dry, barren, hideous desert; on the
parts of which adjoining its course it has deposited the richest soil in
the world, which it continually waters and nourishes. This soil has
been the source of subsistence to several powerful nations who have
established and overthrown mighty kingdoms, and have originated the
arts, the religion, the learning and the civilization of the greater
part of the ancient world. These nations, instructors and pupils, have
perished; but the remains of their stupendous labors, the pyramids and
the temples of Egypt, Nubia, and in the countries now visited for the
first time, at least for many ages, by minds capable of appreciating
the peoples who erected them, are more than sufficient to excite
astonishment and respect for the nations who founded them. The few in
stances that I have mentioned are such as have presented themselves to
my notice in sailing up the river, without my having the opportunity to
scrutinize them particularly, or time or means to pursue any researches
in the vicinity of those I have seen, by which doubtless many more would
be discovered. Some future traveler in these interesting and remote
regions, who may have the power and the means to traverse at his leisure
the banks and islands I have seen and admired, will, I believe, find
his labors rewarded by discoveries which will interest the learned, and
gratify the curious.

A voyage up the Nile may be considered as presenting an epitome of the
moral history of man. We meet at almost every stage with the monuments
of his superstition, his tyranny, or his luxury; but with few memorials
of his ingenuity directed with a view to real utility. We also every
where behold the traces of the vengeance of Almighty Justice upon his
crimes. Everywhere on the banks of the ancient river we behold
cities, once famous for power and luxury, a desolation, and dry like a
wilderness; and temples once famous, and colossal idols once feared, now
prostrate and confounded with the dust of their worshippers. "The flocks
lie down in the midst thereof: the cormorant and bittern lodge in the
temples and palaces. Their voice sings in the windows, and desolation is
in the thresholds."

The peoples who now occupy the territories of nations extinct or
exterminated have profited neither by their history nor their fate. What
was once a land occupied by nations superstitious and sensual is now
inhabited by robbers and slaves. The robbers have been expelled or
slain, and the oppressed peasant is emancipated by the arms of the
nation who avenged the cause of Heaven upon the degenerate Greeks, but
who nevertheless have derived neither instruction nor warning from their
downfall and subjugation. The Nile meantime, which has seen so many
nations and generations rise and disappear, still flows and overflows,
to distribute its fertilizing waters to the countries on its borders:
like the Good Providence, which seems unwearied in trying to overcome
the ingratitude of Man by the favors of Heaven.

On my arrival at the camp, I was informed of the particulars of the
progress of the victorious son of the distinguished Meheromet Ali from
Wady Haifa to Meroe. Before his march every thing had submitted or
fallen. All attempts to arrest his progress had proved as unavailing as
the obstacles opposed by the savage rocks of the Cataracts of the Nile
to the powerful course of that beneficent and fertilizing river.

His Excellence, as said before, set out from Wady Haifa on the 26th of
Zilhadge last. In ten days of forced march he arrived at New Dongola. A
little beyond this village, the Selictar, at the head of a detachment of
about four hundred men, surprised and dispersed about fifteen hundred
of the enemy, taking many of their horses and camels. Four days' march
beyond New Dongola, the Pasha, at the head of the advance guard of
the army, came up with the main body of the Shageias and their allies,
strongly posted on the side of a mountain near a village called Courty,
on the westerly bank of the river. The Pasha at this juncture had
with him but six hundred cavalry and some of the Abbadies mounted on
dromedaries, of whom we had about five hundred with the army, but none
of his cannon. The enemy advanced to the combat with loud screams and
cries, and with great fury. The Abbadies could not withstand their
charge, and were driven rearward. At this critical instant, his
Excellence gave the order, and the cavalry of the Pasha charged and
poured in the fire of their carabines and pistols. After a conflict of
no long duration, the cavalry of the enemy fled in dismay, while those
who fought on foot fell on their faces, throwing their shields over
their heads to secure them from the tramp of the cavalry, and implored

In consequence of the result of this affair, all the country between the
place of combat and Shageia, i.e. the country occupied by the castles
and immediate subjects of the Maleks of Shageia, submitted and were
pardoned. The Pasha pursued his march to the province of Shageia, where
Malek Shouus, the principal among the Shageia chiefs, had collected the
whole force of the republic of the brigands with a determination to risk
another battle. The Pasha found, on his arrival, a part of their force
posted on an island near the long mountain I have mentioned in my
journal as having been the scene of a combat a few day? before I reached

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Online LibraryGeorge Bethune EnglishA Narrative of the Expedition to Dongola and Sennaar Under the Command of His Excellence Ismael Pasha, undertaken by Order of His Highness Mehemmed Ali Pasha, Viceroy of Egypt, By An American In The S → online text (page 3 of 9)