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From the Red to the Nile: William Nassau Kennedy
  • From the Red to the Nile: William Nassau Kennedy

    This article was found by viewing the profile of Lieutenant Colonel WILLIAM NASSAU KENNEDY - Back to Profile

  • The “Manitoba Boys” of the Gordon Relief Expedition, November, 1884.
    Source: Roy McLaren, Canadians on the Nile, 1882-1898

  • Seventeen years after Confederation, Canada lent major aid for the first time to an international military campaign. It was the first time that a large group of Canadians would be overseas in any military operation. However, they were not employed in the form of troops, or even in an official capacity. Instead, Canadian boatmen and voyageurs were recruited to transport troops up the Nile River for the Gordon Relief Expedition. Of the almost four hundred men, a quarter were from Manitoba and were led by Lt. Colonel William Nassau Kennedy from Winnipeg. This paper tells their story.

    The British government had initially become seriously involved with Egypt during the course of the construction of the Suez Canal, which was finally opened late in 1876. Charles “Chinese” Gordon, who was appointed Governor of Equatoria in the southern Sudan by the Egyptian Khedive in 1872, was part of the early, unofficial involvement. Gordon, who had previously served unofficially in China during the Taiping Rebellion as the leader of the Celestial Emperor’s “Celestial Army,” took up his post in February 1874, after obtaining leave from the British army. The Sudan was an administrative nightmare, far from Cairo and full of rebellious tribesmen. For the next few years, Gordon moved in and out of administrative appointments in the Sudan, while the Khedive staggered from one financial disaster to another. [1] Khedival finances, of course, were greatly strained by the construction of the Suez Canal. The British allowed the appointment of a British controller to “advise” the ministry of finance in Cairo in 1876, and soon found themselves more heavily involved in Egypt, initially in concert with the French, than they had intended.

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