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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Castrioti

January 26th, 1885 - The Fall of Khartoum

Conflict: War for the Sudan

Combatants: Anglo-Egyptians vs. Mahdist Sudanese

Location: Sudan

Outcome: Sudanese victory

In 1883, the Sudanese rose in rebellion to the rule of the British-backed Egyptian government. The uprising was led by Mohammed Ahmed of Dongola, the "Mahdi", who declared himself a prophet. When the Mahdi's troops destroyed an army of Egyptians at El Obeid, Britain ordered the Egyptians to withdraw from the Sudan.

General Gordon's Last Stand by George W. Joy

In February of 1884, British General Charles "Chinese" Gordon was sent to Khartoum to supervise the evacuation of the Egyptians. Gordon evacuated women and children from Khartoum but, rather than fully withdraw, requested reinforcements from Great Britain to retake the Sudan. In March, while London still debated Gordon's request, the forces of the Mahdi soon surrounded the city. Gordon and the Egyptians prevented the soldiers of the Mahdi from completing investment of the city.

Finally, in October of 1884, a British relief force was dispatched from Cairo. However, on January 26th of 1885, with the relief force just two days away, the Mahdi's troops overwhelmed the defenders of Khartoum . Gordon and every soldier of the garrison were massacred by the Sudanese. The relief force immediately retreated from the city. While the Mahdi died six months later, his dervishes completed the conquest of the Sudan under the direction of his successor, the Khalifa Abdullah.

Death of General Gordon at Khartoum by J. L. G. Ferris

Points of Interest:

  • Charles Gordon was attributed the appellation "Chinese" after his time advising the Chinese government and leading Chinese troops against the Taipings in 1863.

  • In 1896, the British returned to the Sudan under the leadership of Sir Horatio Kitchener (Lord Kitchener). By the end of 1898, Kitchener's Anglo-Egyptian forces had defeated the dervishes of the late Mahdi and re-established British influence in the Nile watershed region.

  • The Siege of Khartoum is depicted in the film Khartoum (1966). Charles Gordon is portrayed by Charlton Heston; the Mahdi is portrayed by Lawrence Olivier.

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