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 8 of 9)
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the second day after our arrival, when we recommenced our march for the
river, whose distance we were told was three days march from El Medina.
During our stay at El Medina, Khalil Aga my companion was taken very ill
with vomiting and purging, occasioned by having drank of the water of
Morat, against which I had remonstrated without effect. He did not get
quit of the consequences of his imprudence for several days.

On the 15th, in the afternoon, we commenced our march for the river. The
desert hereabouts resembles that we passed the two first days after our
quitting the river, being a sandy plain studded with hills and mountains
of granite. We proceeded till about three hours after midnight, when we
lay down to repose till day-break, when we again mounted and continued
our journey till two hours before noon, when we stopped at a rock which
had some holes in it, where we sheltered ourselves from the sun, and
dined with appetite on some coarse durra bread baked upon camel's dung.

By the middle of the afternoon we were again on our way, which led
through the deep and winding valleys of three mountains of calcareous
stone, which indicated the proximity of the river, and over hills of
deep sand, with which the eddies of the wind had in many places filled
those valleys. Since we left Morat till we came to these mountains the
granite hills had become rarer, others of calcareous stone here and
there presented themselves, and the level of the desert was constantly
ascending[79] I have no doubt that the level of the interior of the
desert is lower than the bed of the river.

During the passage over these hills several of the camels gave out, that
of my black slave among the rest.[80] Four hours after sunrise we came to
a valley, where there was here and there some herbs of the desert, where
we stopped to let the camels eat, they having fasted since we left El

We were obliged to look among the rocks for shelter from the sun, each
one arranging himself as well as he could to eat durra bread and drink
warm water, and sleep as soundly as possible. During the course of last
night we fell in with a caravan coming from Assuan; we pressed round
them to buy something to eat; we asked for dates and flour to make
bread, but they had nothing of the kind that they could afford to part

We stayed at the rock before mentioned till the middle of the afternoon.
On awaking from sleep, I observed two of the Arabs of our caravan busily
employed about our guide. They were a long time engaged in frizzing
and plaiting his hair, and finished the operation by pouring over it a
bowlful of melted mutton suet, which made his head quite white. I asked
for the meaning of this operation at this time; they told me that
we should be at the river to-morrow morning, and that our guide was
adorning himself to see and salute his friends there. He appeared to be
highly satisfied with the efforts of his hair-dressers to make him look
decent, and it must be confessed that he made a very buckish appearance.

As soon as our guide had finished his toilette, he mounted his dromedary
and took his post in front, and we set forward. We marched all night
without stopping, which was necessary, as our water was nearly spent,[81]
but which distressed greatly that part of our caravan who had no beast
to ride.[82] These wretched men had hitherto accompanied us all the way on
foot, with little to eat and less to drink. At present they were almost
exhausted with fatigue, hunger and thirst. Every now and then, one or
more of them would throw himself on the sand in despair. The repeated
assurance that the river was near, hour after hour, became less and less
capable of rousing them to exertion, and the whip was at length applied
to make them get up and go on.[83] They demanded water immediately, which
we were too short of ourselves to give them, as we feared every minute
that our camels would drop, which would render every drop of water we
had as precious as life.

One unfortunate lad, who had joined the caravan before it entered the
desert, I suspect a domestic who had fled from the distresses that had
found us in the upper countries, made pathetic applications to me for
water; I twice divided with him a bowlful I was drinking, "in the name
of God, the protector of the traveler."

This young man, in the course of this toilsome night, had disappeared,
having doubtless laid himself down in despair. We unfortunately did not
miss him till it was too late.[84] About two hours before day-break we
reached the entrance of a deep ravine, between ridges and hills of
rocks. We marched in it for six hours. It zigzagged perpetually, and
its bottom was covered with fragments of the rocks that enclosed it, and
which had apparently been displaced by strong currents of water. This
phenomenon surprised me, as the entrance into this ravine being from
the plain, it was evident that the currents which had produced these
displacements could not at any era have come from thence. But at the
termination of this ravine, which ended nearly at the river, the cause
became evident. An ancient canal, now nearly filled up, leads from the
river into this ravine, and the rush of the current during the seasons
of inundation, has loosened and displaced fragments of the bordering

It was about two hours before noon on the 18th of Zilkade, when,
emerging from this ravine, we came upon the bank of the beautiful
and blessed river, which is the very heart and life's blood of all
north-eastern Africa. It was with the most grateful feelings toward "the
Lord of the universe," that I laid myself down under the date trees
by its brink to cool and to wash my swollen and inflamed eyes, whose
disorder was greatly increased by fatigue, a dazzling sun, and want of

Immediately after our arrival at the little village of Seboo,[85] which
stands on the canal leading to the ravine before mentioned, myself and
Khalil Aga addressed ourselves to the people of the village to engage
some one to go and bring to the river the unfortunate lad who had been
missed. I told them that, in two hours, a man mounted on a dromedary
could reach the place where he had disappeared, and save his life: I
appealed to their humanity, to their sense of duty towards God and man,
to engage them to go and save him. Finding them deaf to my entreaties,
I offered them money, and Khalil Aga his musket, to bring him safe and
sound to the river. I appealed to their humanity in vain, and to their
avarice without effect.[86] We told them that the Christians, in a case
of this kind, would send not one but forty men, if necessary, to go and
save a fellow creature from the horrible death of desert famine; and
that heaven would surely require at their hands the life of this young
man, if they neglected to save him At length the Sheck of the village
promised me to send a dromedary to the place to-morrow morning. He made
the promise probably to appease my reproaches, for he did not fulfill

On the second day after my arrival, I dipped my feet and slippers into
the Nile, and bequeathing the village of Seboo my most hearty curse,
(which God fulfill!) embarked on board a boat on its way from Dongola to
Egypt, and in three days reached Assuan.[87]


London Printed by C. Roworth Bell Yard, Temple Bar


[Footnote 1: For instance, a navigable passage has been cut through the
rocks of the First Cataract, and a canal is at present constructing,
by order of the Pasha, round some of the most difficult passes of
the Second. He has completed a broad and deep canal from the Nile to
Alexandria, by which commerce is liberated from the risk attending the
passage of the Boghaz of Rosetta. Large establishments for the fabric
of saltpeter, gunpowder, cannon and small arms, others for the fabric
of silks, cotton and sugar, have been erected by the Viceroy, and are in
operation under the superintendence of Europeans.]

[Footnote 2: Their names are as follows: - Succoot, Machass, Dongola,
Shageia, Monasier, Isyout, Rab-a-Tab, Berber, Shendi, Halfya, the
kingdoms of Sennaar, Darfour, and Kordofan; at present, all subject to
the conqueror of Egypt and Arabia.]

[Footnote 3: Mr. Frediani, an Italian*, and Messrs. Caillaud and
Constant, the latter sent out by His Most Christian Majesty, have
accompanied our camp to Sennaar, where I left them in good health. To
Messrs. Caillaud and Constant, particularly, I am indebted for much
cordiality and friendship, which it is a pleasure to me to acknowledge.
The geographical positions of the most important places on the Upper
Nile have been ascertained by Mr. Constant, who is provided with an
excellent set of instruments, with great care and the most indefatigable
pains, of which I myself have been a witness. His observations will
doubtless be a most valuable acquisition to geography.]

* Since dead in Sennaar, This unfortunate man died a chained maniac, in
consequence of violent fever.]

[Footnote 4: Corresponding to the end of September, or the former part
of October, A.C. 1820.]

[Footnote 5: This force may be thus enumerated: ten pieces of field
artillery, one mortar 8 inch caliber, and two small howitzers, attached
to which were one hundred and twenty cannoneers; three hundred Turkish
infantry and seven hundred Mogrebin ditto; the remainder of the army
Turkish and Bedouin cavalry, together with a corps of Abbadies mounted
on dromedaries.]

[Footnote 6: Called the Shellal of Semne.]

[Footnote 7: Called the Shellal of Ambigool.]

[Footnote 8: Called the Shellal of Tongaroo.]

[Footnote 9: Called the Shellal of Dal.]

[Footnote 10: I have been informed that about two miles northward of
this place, on the west side of the river, is to be seen a curious
vaulted edifice, having the interior of its walls in many places covered
with paintings. My informants believed that it was anciently a Christian
monastery. This is possible, as the ruins of several are to be seen on
the Third Cataract, and, as I have been told, on the Second also.]

[Footnote 11: About seventy miles above Wady Haifa.]

[Footnote 12: I cannot help smiling in copying off this part of my
journal, at the little account I made of "bread rice and lentils," at
the commencement of the campaign. Before I left Sennaar, I have been
more than once obliged to take a part of my horse's rations of durra to
support nature. He ate his portion raw and I boiled mine. The causes
of such distress were that the natives of the Upper country would
frequently refuse to sell us any thing for our dirty colored piastres of
Egypt, and the Pasha would allow nobody to steal but himself. "Steal" a
fico for the phrase. The wise "convey it call," says ancient Pistol, an
old soldier who had seen hard times in the wars.]

[Footnote 13: These were the rapids of Dall.]

[Footnote 14: In every dangerous pass, we invariably saw one or more of
our boats wrecked.]

[Footnote 15: It is called Gamatee.]

[Footnote 16: The middle of the Upper Nile is generally occupied by an
almost continued range of islands.]

[Footnote 17: I learned afterwards from Khalil Aga, the American, who
accompanied me to Sennaar and back again to Egypt, and who visited tins
spot, that this column made a part of the ruins of an ancient temple,
where are to be seen two colossal statues. I set out the next day with
him to visit this place, but being then only convalescent from a bloody
flux which had reduced my strength, I found myself too weak to reach the
place, and returned to the boat.]

[Footnote 18: The river continues in the same general direction as high
up as the island of Mograt, on the Third Cataract, when it resumes a
course more south and north. The length of this bend is probably not
less than two hundred and fifty miles.]

[Footnote 19: i.e. The bank on our left-hand ascending the river.]

[Footnote 20: A more particular account of this battle will be given
hereafter, in the course of the narrative.]

[Footnote 21: These gentlemen were Messrs. Waddington and Hanbury,
who, after staying a short time in our camp, returned to Egypt. Mr.
Waddington, on his return to England, published an account of his
travels on the upper Nile, in which, having been misled by the tongue
of some mischievous enemy of mine, he gave an account of me not a little
fabulous. On my arrival in London, I wrote to Mr. Waddington what he
was pleased to call a "manly and temperate letter," informing him of
his error, representing to him the serious injury it might do me, and
calling upon him for a justification or an apology. Mr. Waddington, in
the manner best becoming an English gentleman, frankly gave me both,
concluding with the following expressions - "I feel the most sincere and
profound sorrow for the unintentional injustice into which I have been
betrayed by too hasty a belief of false information. For this I am as
anxious to make you reparation, as I am incapable of doing any person a
willful injury. I will therefore cause the note in question to be erased
in the following editions of my book; and in the remaining copies of the
present, I will instantly insert a new page or sheet, if necessary;
or should that be impossible, I will immediately destroy the whole
impression." It was impossible for me, after this, to retain any of
the angry feelings excited by this affair, excepting towards "the false
tongue" that occasioned it, on which I cordially imprecate a plentiful
portion of the "sharp arrows of the mighty and coals of juniper."]

[Footnote 22: The desperate courage of these wretched peasants was
astonishing; they advanced more than once to the muzzles of the cannon,
and wounded some of the cannoneers in the act of re-loading their guns.
Notwithstanding their efforts, such was the disparity of their arms
against cannon and fire-arms, that only one of the Pasha's soldiers was
killed, and they are said to have lost seven hundred in the battle and
during the pursuit.]

[Footnote 23: I say "shot down," for the saber was found an unavailing
weapon, as these people are so adroit in the management of their shields
that they parried every stroke. I have seen upon the field where this
battle was fought several shields that had not less than ten or fifteen
saber cuts, each lying upon the dead body of the man who carried it, who
had evidently died by three or four balls shot into him. The soldiers
have told me that they had frequently to empty their carabine and
pistols upon one man before he would fall.]

[Footnote 24: When our troops approached the castle of Malek Zibarra,
his daughter, a girl of about fifteen, fled in such haste that she
dropped one of her sandals, which I have seen. It was a piece of
workmanship as well wrought as any thing of the kind could be even
in Europe. The girl was taken prisoner and brought to the Pasha, who
clothed her magnificently in the Turkish fashion and sent her to her
father, desiring her to tell him to "come and surrender himself, as he
preferred to have brave men for his friends than for his enemies." When
the girl arrived at the camp of Zibarra, the first question her father
asked her was, "My child, in approaching your father, do you bring your
honor with you?" "Yes," replied the girl, "otherwise I should not dare
to look upon you. The Pasha has treated me as his child, has clothed
me as you see, and desires that you would leave war to make peace with
him." Zibarra was greatly affected, and did make several efforts to
effect a peace with the Pasha, which were traversed and frustrated by
the other chiefs of the Shageias.]

[Footnote 25: Khalil Aga, who has passed the whole of the third
Cataract, found in several of the islands there ruins which were
probably those of monasteries, as he found there many of the stones
covered with Greek inscriptions, one of which he brought to me; I was
obliged to abandon it on the route, on the dying of the camel that
carried it.]

[Footnote 26: On my return to Egypt, I presented Mr. Salt with several
specimens, which are now in his possession.]

[Footnote 27: To which all the troops had been concentrated.]

[Footnote 28: It has been found, however, possible to pass the whole of
the third cataract, in boats not drawing more than three feet of water,
by the aid of all the male population on its shores, who, by the aid of
ropes, dragged up nine boats, which arrived in Berber before the Pasha
commenced his march for Sennaar. They were fifty-seven days in getting
from the island of Kendi to Berber. Every one of them was repeatedly
damaged in getting through the passages.]

[Footnote 29: I have been informed that, previous to the advance of
the Pasha Ismael from Wady Halfa, deputies from the chiefs of Shageia
arrived in the camp to demand of the Pasha, "for what reason he menaced
them with war?" The Pasha replied, "because you are robbers, who live
by disturbing and pillaging all the countries around your own." They
replied, "that they had no other means to live." The Pasha answered,
"cultivate your land, and live honestly." They replied with great
naivete, "we have been bred up to live and prosper by what you call
robbery; we will not work, and cannot change our manner of living," The
Pasha replied, "I will make you change it."]

[Footnote 30: The number of the old Mamalukes of Egypt was reduced, at
the time of our arrival in Berber, to less than one hundred persons.
They had, however, some hundreds of blacks, whom they had trained up in
their discipline.]

[Footnote 31: I am happy to add that these relics of the renowned
cavalry of Egypt are now residing there in ease and in honor; the
promises of the Pasha Ismael having been fulfilled by his father to the

[Footnote 32: It is a singular circumstance, that the chiefs of Dongola,
Shageia, Berber, Shendi, and Halfya; should bear the same title as used
in the Hebrew bible, to designate the petty sovereigns of Canaan.]

[Footnote 33: The Shageia cavalry, however, wore these cloths cut and
made into long shirts, in order, probably, to have the freer management
of their lances, shields, and broad swords. It should also be stated,
that the Maleks or chiefs of the Upper Nile, were generally habited in
fine blue or white shirts, brought from Egypt.]

[Footnote 34: The same circumstance of dress is common also among
the peasants of both sexes of Dongola, Shageia, and along the third
cataract, with this addition, that they not only anoint the head, but
also the whole body with butter, they say it protects them from the
heat; that employed by the personages of consideration is perfumed.
Every Malek has a servant charged with the particular care of a box of
this ointment. On our march to Sennaar, whither we were accompanied by
the Malek of Shendy, I could wind this servant of his a mile off.]

[Footnote 35: I never in my life saw such noble and beautiful specimens
of the species as were these two horses; they were stallions, eighteen
hands high, beautifully formed, of high courage and superb gait. When
mounted, they tossed their flowing manes aloft higher than the heads
of their turbaned riders, and a man might place his two fists in their
expanded nostrils; they were worthy to have carried Ali and Khaled to
"the war of God."]

[Footnote 36: I feel myself, however, bound in conscience to tell the
whole truth of this affair. In perambulating about the town, in the
course of the day, which was very hot, I got affected by a coup de
soleil, which gave me a violent fever and head-ache. I have strong
suspicions that this circumstance acted as a powerful "preventer stay"
to my virtue, and enabled me to put the devil to flight on this trying
occasion. The mother of these damsels appeared to be edified by the
discourse I made to her upon the subject of her proposal, but the young
women plainly told me, that I was "rajil batal," i.e. a man good for
nothing. If they could have understood Latin, I should have told them,

"Quodcunque ostendes mihi sic-k Invalidus odi."]

[Footnote 37: The ordinary price of a virgin wife in Berber, is a horse,
which the bridegroom is obliged to present to the father of the girl he
demands in marriage. I remember asking a young peasant, of whom I bought
some provisions one day in Berber, "why he did not marry?" He pointed to
a colt in the yard, and told me that "when the colt became big enough,
he should take a wife."]

[Footnote 38: This learned soldier somewhat surprised me, on my
demanding "why he did not give the title of Caliph to the Padischah?"
by answering that there had been no Caliph since Ali, and that the
Padischah was only "Emir el Moumenim," i.e. "commander of the true

[Footnote 39: This word is Hebrew, and signifies "a lamb."]

[Footnote 40: Abdin Cacheff is a very brave and respectable man, of
about fifty years of age. He treated me with great politeness and
consideration. He distinguished himself greatly at the battle near
Courty, fighting Ills way into the mass of the enemy and out again,
twice or thrice on that day.]

[Footnote 41: In order to save the artillery horses for the exigencies
of battle, the cannon were drawn by camels from the third cataract to
Sennaar, and the horses were led harnessed by their respective guns,
ready to be clapped on if necessary. I venture to recommend the same
procedure in all marches of artillery in the east.]

[Footnote 42: The other side of the river, at least as often and as far
as we could see it, presented the same appearance. The only mountains we
saw on the other side of the river, were those of "Attar Baal," at the
foot of which (they lie near the river, about three days march north of
Shendi) are, as I have learned, to be seen the ruins of a city, temples,
and fifty-four pyramids. This, I am inclined to believe, was the site of
the famous Meroe, the capital of the island of that name. The territory
in which these ruins are found is in fact nearly surrounded by rivers,
being bounded on the west by the Nile, on the south by the rivers Ratt
and Dander, and on the north by the Bahar el Uswood. All these three
rivers empty into the Nile.]

[Footnote 43: The butter of the countries on the Upper Nile is liquid,
like that of Egypt. That, however, which they use to anoint themselves
is of the color and consistence of European butter. We used the latter
in preference, in our cookery.]

[Footnote 44: It includes a great part of the ancient Isle of Meroe.]

[Footnote 45: Malek Shouus, on learning that the Malek of Shendi had
made his peace with the Pasha, threatened to attack him. On this it
is said the Malek of Shendi called out twenty thousand men to line the
easterly bank of the Nile, to prevent the approach of Shouus. Shouus,
however, had the whole country of Shendi on the western side entirely
under his control before our arrival, he and his cavalry devouring their
provisions and drinking their bouza at a most unmerciful rate. On our
approach, he went up opposite Halfya, where the country, on the western
shore, is desert. He demanded of the chief of Halfya, to supply him with
provisions: on his refusal, Shouus, in the night, swam the river with
his cavalry, fell upon the town of Halfya by surprise, and ransacked it
from end to end, and then repassed the river before the chief of Halfya
could collect a force to take his revenge. The cavalry of Shouus, in the
course of the campaign, have swam over the Nile five times: both horse
and man are trained to do this thing, inimitable, I believe, by any
other cavalry in the world. Shouus, since his joining us, has rendered
very important services to the Pasha, as he is thoroughly acquainted
with the strength, resources, and riches of all the tribes of the Nile,
from the second Cataract to Sennaar and Darfour: his horses' feet are
familiar with the sod and sand of all these countries, which he and
his freebooters have repeatedly traversed. On our march from Berber
to Shendi, I ran some risk of falling into his hands, as Shouus was
continually prowling about in our neighborhood, from the time of our
quitting Berber. Two nights before we reached Shendi, I stopped on the
route, at a village, to take some refreshment, letting the army go by
me. About an hour and a half after, I mounted my horse to follow the
troops, but, owing to the state of my eyes, I missed my way, after
wandering back-wards and forwards to find the track of the troops, about
two hours after midnight, I descried the rockets always thrown aloft
during our night marches, to direct all stragglers to the place where
the Pasha had encamped. I put my horse to his speed, and arrived there a

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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 8 of 9)