There Was, Indeed, No Course Open
To Them But Retreat.
Once the army was concentrated with sufficient
supplies at Akasha, their position was utterly untenable.
The Emir-in-Chief, Hammuda, then had scarcely 3,000 men around his flag.
Their rifles and ammunition were bad; their supplies scanty.
Nor could the
valour of fifty-seven notable Emirs sustain the odds against them.
There was still time to fall back on Kosheh, or even on Suarda - anywhere
outside the sweep of their terrible enemy's sword. They would not budge.
Obstinate and fatuous to the last, they dallied and paltered on the fatal
ground, until sudden, blinding, inevitable catastrophe fell upon them from
all sides at once, and swept them out of existence as a military force.
CHAPTER VI: FIRKET
June 7, 1896
Since the end of 1895 the Dervish force in Firket had been
under the command of the Emir Hammuda, and it was through the indolence
and neglect of this dissipated Arab that the Egyptian army had been able
to make good its position at Akasha without any fighting. Week after week
the convoys had straggled unmolested through the difficult country between
Sarras and the advanced base. No attack had been made upon the brigade at
Akasha. No enterprise was directed against its communications. This fatal
inactivity did not pass unnoticed by Wad Bishara, the Governor of Dongola;
but although he was nominally in supreme command of all the Dervish forces
in the province he had hardly any means of enforcing his authority.
His rebukes and exhortations, however, gradually roused Hammuda, and during
May two or three minor raids were planned and executed, and the Egyptian
position at Akasha was several times reconnoitred.
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