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Ten Years' Captivity in the Mahdi's Camp 1882-1892

Extending from Kalakala to Buri


This

catastrophe was another terrible blow to Gordon. He had counted on Stewart being able to inform the Government of the straits to which Khartum was reduced, and the necessity of sending immediate help. The state of Khartum now became very serious. Nejumi and the other forces were clustering round Kalakala; there was daily fighting, and bullets fell in the streets of Khartum. There were upwards of 10,000 Dervishes, extending from Kalakala to Buri. Wad Gubara and Wad Sheikh el Obeid had their camp at Khojali, on the right bank of the Nile, to the north. Thus was Khartum surrounded by hordes of fanatical Arabs, who attacked the starved and forsaken town from morning till night.

CHAPTER VIII.

THE SIEGE AND FALL OF KHARTUM.

The surrender of Omdurman fort--Gordon's dispositions for defence--His great personal influence--The night before the assault--The attack and entry of the Dervishes--Gordon's death--The adventures of Domenico Polinari--The massacre in Khartum--How most of the Europeans died--Ruthless cruelty and bloodshed--The fate of the wives and daughters of Khartum--Ohrwalder's views on the situation in Khartum and the chances of relief by the British Expeditionary Force--His description of the town three months after the fall.

The Mahdi camped on the south

side of Omdurman fort, and at once began to direct the siege, the command of his troops was vested in Abu Anga; but he did not dare to send his black troops, who had previously fought in the Egyptian service under Gordon, against Khartum, fearing that, owing to the influence which Gordon had formerly exercised over them, they might desert to him.

Omdurman Fort, which was then under the command of Faragallah Pasha, was soon reduced to great straits, and the Mahdiists threw up trenches, in which they were comparatively safe from the continuous fire. Eventually they succeeded in entrenching themselves between the fort and the river, thus cutting the communications, which Gordon was unable to restore. Consequently, the garrison soon began to starve; but they still fought courageously, and inflicted great loss on the Dervishes. Amongst the latter was a certain emir, named Mohammed Wad el Areik, who, while in the act of laying a gun at Omdurman, was struck in the back of the neck by a bullet. He was visited by the Khalifa Abdullah, who promised that he should recover; but, in spite of this promise, he died the following day.

Faragallah, having now no food left, was obliged to surrender, and thus the Mahdi was enabled to press the siege of Khartum more closely than ever.

The town itself was full of traitors; almost all the important townsmen had written to the Mahdi from time to time, to the effect that they wished to submit to him, and that they believed in him. Gordon was, so to speak, alone in the midst of enemies, but the expected arrival of the English kept the inhabitants from surrendering.


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