As the editors of The Illustrated London News explain in a later issue, both sketches by Army and Navy officers and drawings by the newspaper’s artists took weeks longer to reach London than did text, such as this article’s, which arrived quickly via telegraph. The illustrations I have include appeared in the issues of 7 and 14 February. —  George P. Landow

Up to Wednesday evening this week, the expected news of the arrival of Brigadier-General Sir Herbert Stewart's force at Metammeh, opposite Shendy, on the Nile, a hundred miles below Khartoum, had not been received. The brigade, con sisting of the Heavy Camel Corps, the Guards, Marines, mounted infantry, half a battery of artillery, with screw - guns, half a battalion of the Sussex Regiment, and Lord C. Beresford's sailors, a squadron of the 19th Hussars, and others, altogether about nineteen hundred fighting men, was at Gakdul Wells, a hundred miles from Lord Wolseley's head-quarters at Korti, and seventy-eight miles from Metammeh, till Saturday last. They had crossed the Desert from Korti by a very trying march, setting out each day at two o'clock in the morning. The supply of drinking-water fell short, from the leaking of the goatskin bags, the “old bottles” of the East, in which it was carried on the camels' backs. Only a quart of water could be allowed to each of the soldiers per day, and their thirst was so great that a dollar was offered for a tumblerfull of the water from the wells, which was of the colour and consistency of pea-soup. The march was prolonged by the size of the convoy, the little moonlight, and the uccessity of saving the camels for the work ahead; but there need have been no great suffering had not the men, yielding to thirst, exhausted the store of water prematurely. The mounted infantry, having had pre vious experience of Desert marching, reserved some water until the last. At Howeiyat, the small party previously left to guard the wells were fired into, one night, but not otherwise molested. Small parties of Arabs were in move ment over the Desert, all wearing the Mahdi's uniform. Some of them who came in to sell sheep asserted that there was only a small body of the Mahdi's troops at Metammeh. On the column starting from Howeiyat, a detachment of the Essex Regiment was left as garrison, under Captain Carter and Lieutenant Young. A zareba had been constructed there, and a hospital organised under Surgeon Lingard.

The Khartoum Relief Expedition: Arrival of the First Column at the Wells of Gakdul. “A Sketch by ur Special Artist, Mr. Melton Prior.” Five separate keys in very small type appear directly below the image. From left to right they are (1) “Wells of Water, very dark in this ravine.” (2) “Guards in double column leading the troops.” (3) “Camels and Transport Corps.” (4) “Mounted Infantry bringing up the rear.” (5) “Troops of the 19th Hussars scouting.” Click on images to enlarge them.

On the 12th inst., Monday week, the column arrived at Gakdul. The plentiful supply of good water proved a welcome refresh ment after the severity of the march.

Left: Gakdul Wells on the Desert March: Lower Well at the Wells of Gakdul.. Middle: Gakdul Wells. Right: Passing Water Down to the Troops from the Upper Well.

A despatch of Friday week, from Gakdul, says: —“The brigade leave here at two to-morrow (Saturday) afternoon, and will march fifty-two miles to the Abu Klea Wells. They will leave a post there, and thence push forward to Metammeh, where the enemy is expected to attack. Half of the Sussex Regiment remains to guard this post.”

On Saturday evening Lord Wolseley telegraphed from Korti:—

Large convoy returned to-day from Gakdul; all quiet all along route. To-morrow convoy of Sowarab and Howayat tribes takes stores to Gakdul. Saleh, the chief of the Kabba bish, has come in. He reached our post at Debbeh to-day, and comes on here at once. Our English boats still coming in. It is satisfactory to know that out of 800 landed in Egypt 750 are now working along the river, and many of the remainder are now being repaired, a small number only having been totally wrecked at various times and places.

The part of the Camel Corps attached to General Earle's command has gone on to Hamdab. It is reported that re inforcements from Berber have arrived at Wady Gamr. The enemy say they will resist at Birteh. This is a village twenty-eight miles above Hamdab and as much below Wady Gamr, which is about ten miles from the scene of Colonel Stewart's murder. All letters for General Earle's command are ordered to be sent to Korosko for Abu Ahmed by the Desert route, which is now considered safe for travel, as the column will have reached Abu Ahmed by the time the first caravan across the Desert arrives there.

On Friday the Mudir of Dongola telegraphed to the Khedive announcing the return of his messenger to General Gordon. This man says: “General Gordon immediately questioned me as to the state of Dongola. During my stay in Khartoum the Mahdi sent a letter to General Gordon asking permission to enter Khartoum. General Gordon replied that he could come; he was willing to go to Omdurman to receive him. Orders were given to the troops to be ready. General Gordon, with four steamers carrying cannon, crossed the river to Omdur man. On their arrival, a considerable number of rebels attacked them. A sharp fight took place, and the rebels sank one steamer with a shell. The other steamers rescued the crew, and continued the fight, eventually dispersing the enemy. I afterwards visited the Mahdi's camp, and learnt that the Mahdi had several men kept in chains, among whom were Saleh Bey, Slaten Bey, and many others, but Hussein Bey Khalifa was free, and prays daily with the Mahdi. The strong tribe of the Bakarahr left the Mahdi, and were followed by his troops, but they fought and beat the Mahdi's men. The tribe have returned to their homes.”

There is continued fighting with Osman Digna, on the Red Sea coast about Souakim, and the first battalion of the Berk shire Regiment, a squadron of Hussars, and two guns of the Royal Horse Artillery have been ordered to Souakim from Cairo. They were expected to leave about Friday. It is re ported from Constantinople that the Sultan has given orders for an expedition of six thousand men to occupy Souakim. It is proposed to defray the expenses out of the revenues of certain territories on the Ited Sea littoral belonging to Egypt. Our large Engraving in the Supplement this week represents an incident of military tactics in the Soudan campaign.

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Illustrated London News 86 (24 January 1885): 83. Hathi Trust Digital Library online version of a copy in the University of Chicago Library. Web. 21 August 2020.

Last modified 23 August 2020