U.S. military missions in Darfur


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Oct 17, 2012
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Proposal to resettle black Americans in the undeveloped areas of Sudan

May come to mind that U.S. interest in Darfur is a result of the latest developments in the region, but, in fact it started in the nineteenth century, indirectly, through a number of officers who carried cartographical surveys in Kordofan and Darfur, disguised under the umbrella of the Egyptian military establishment. In his report one of them suggested that some of these regions be home for black Americans.

I came across this issue while I was reading "The Sudan Memoirs of Carl Christian Karl Giegler Pasha" who referred in his book to names, and events where he met U.S. officers in Kordofan during his service between 1873 - 83 in the country. He didn't elaborate on the actual objectives of their mission.
Giegler has been appointed to extend the telegraph network in the country. At one point he assumed the post of deputy Governor-General of Sudan. I will try in this article to shed light on the little information that I have managed to get, which definitely needs further research.
The Recruitment
A symposium was held at the American Center in Alexandria under the title "U.S. officers in the army of the Khedive Ismail" which was addressed by Abdul Wahab Shakir, in-charge of Egypt's historical memory project in the library. He explained that the number of American officers who served in Egypt during the period (1869 -1882) reached 55 officers.
He stated that in 1868 Ismail Pasha entered a race against time to build Egypt's powerful military in order to be able to achieve independence from the Ottoman Empire and establish an Egyptian empire in the African continent. Despite the French influence since Mohamed Ali's era, Ismail decided to employ U.S. military officers impressed by their courage and experience acquired during the American Civil War. He was also encouraged by lack of United States territorial ambitions in Egypt at that time. The intention of the Americans recruitment was to re-organize the Egyptian army and prepare it for a war against the Ottoman Empire to achieve Egypt's independence.
Protests and fears
From the outset, France and Britain protested against the existence of military American experts in Egypt.The French were worried about losing their influence established since the days of Mohamed Ali Pasha, who thought the help of the French expertise for the organization of the Egyptian army. Britain, on its part, saw the employment of the Americans as a possible attempt to threaten the safety and territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire. So instead of heading towards Washington to get rid of the US military mission Britain focused its efforts on the Khedive Ismail and the Ottoman Sultan. The British Ambassador in Istanbul organized a protest movement among European countries to push the Sultan to force the Khedive to abandon the recruitment of the Americans.

Once the news about the arrival of the American experts reached Istanbul, the Sultan sensed Khedive Ismail's desire for independence from the Ottoman Empire, especially when he learned of the fact that Ismail was fortifying the Egyptian coast and dissemination of guns under the supervision of the U.S. officers, he sent immediately ordered Ismail to transfer the guns to Istanbul, and demanded the expulsion of the foreign officers from the Egyptian army. Ismail tried to calm the sultan by sending him some guns, but he refused the expulsion of American experts to expel on the ground that they were brought only for defensive purposes.
The United States unwilling to hurt the feelings of the Sultan of Turkey, it was keen to confirm in letters to the U.S. consul in Turkey that these officers may not be considered as U.S. officers, but American citizens who have agreed to serve in the Egyptian army. As for the position is advertised, it was very welcome of this idea since it allowed those officers to obtain leave from the US army to enable them to join the Egyptian army service.
Through, Thaddeus Mott, an American with distinguished Middle Eastern connections, the Khedive recruited unemployed officers who fought in the American Civil War, especially in the side of the Confederacy .Mott. selected 50 officers under the command of Federal General Charles Stone.Among the recruits were Alexander Mason ,Erastus Purdy ,R.E. Colston and Henry Prout. General Stone, who became the chief of Staff of the Egyptian Army was appointed by the Khedive as undersecretary of the Geographical Society and later was entrusted with the management of the Survey Department.
Those officers were the most important names linked to the explorations in Kordofan and Darfur.

Yankee's in Kordofan
Giegler mentions that when he arrived in El Obied in 1875 ,as part of work, he found a mission from the Egyptian Chiefs of Staff, led by Colston Bay including other American officers. He said that the Mission moved from Dongola to Kordofan and Darfur for carrying " military research and other " in these regions, especially the iron ore mines in Kordofan.
In his book titled " The Geographical and Cartographic Work of the American Military Mission to Egypt- 1870-1878" , David Icenogle, said that the survey group, traveled from Dongola south-west towards El Fasher, tracing ancient caravan route known as "Derb Al Arbaeen" to investigate the resources of Darfur province, which was recently annexed . "
In Darfur
Giegler mentions again in his memoirs, that he arrived on 14 November 1876 to the city of El Fasher, and stayed at the Sultan's Palace where a U.S. mission led by Colonel Purdy was staying.There he met Colonel Prout and stayed in a room close to the residence of the American officers.
Resettlement of black Americans in Sudan
As Colston fell from a camels back,his health condition did not enable him to move.He managed the survey campaign of South Darfur from a large house in El Obied where Giegler met him.According to Giegler he left Khartoum to Cairo in mid-December 1875. He adds that ’Ameralay’ Colston, after returning to the United States, took teaching job at the Virginia Military Institute. His surveys between the Nile and Darfur was of great geographical value.
His assistant Henry J. Prout Bey continued to carry the surveys and with Colonel Marno helping him .All the mission staff were ex-U.S. officers.
Mason, who was awarded the title of Bey, served as deputy to Purdy when the mission moved to Darfur and went back to Egypt in 1876. During his service in the Sudan he showed great interest in the country. In 1883 he presented a paper to the Geographical Society containing a study on the possibilities of commuting by railway railway. And also an usual project proposal "Why do not we follow the example of the state of Liberia for the settlement of black Americans who are willing to be repatriated to the mother continent, in the undeveloped areas in the Sudan?"
But the proposal generated very little interest. Betty Patchin Greene, a descendant of Mason, in an article titled "The Bey from Virginia," said that the interest was probably weak because Mason failed to consider how few African American Baptists will adapt with African Muslims.
Colonel Henry Prout,took over as the leadership of the Darfur survey mission after Colston's departure and continued the operations. He was University of Michigan graduate, and spent 6 years in Egypt and Sudan. He was promoted to the rank of Binbashi and then Qaim Maqam (Lt Colonel) alter he was awarded the title of Bey .Finally he succeeded Gordon as the acting Governor-General of Equatoria province. When he returned to the United States he became the editor of the railway newspaper.
One of those who contributed to the surveys and mapping of Sudan and the campaigns to explore resources of Darfur, was Erastus Sparrow Purdy Pasha. The son of the governor of San Francisco and participated as a federal officer in the American Civil War.
Purdy discovered the north-western region of Darfur as well as those areas south of Darfur, which is the area from Dara town to Hufrat Al Nihas
It is worth mentioning that all the membership of missions to explore Kordofan and Darfur have been restricted to the U.S. officers and there was no mention of any other nationalities even the Egyptians who recruited them.
And makes us reach a conclusion of the possibility of them sending copies of their reports to parties in the motherland. Also they might have wrote their experiences or findings in the form of memoirs or articles in newspapers or magazines or may have discussed it with their students as some of them took,after returning, academic or media professions. I did not find even a summary of the reports to show us the real objectives, not the official, behind these expeditions.


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Jun 27, 2011
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sw mizzouri
It was a move by those following Cecil Rhodes and the racial elitism of the pessimistic social Darwinist...


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Jan 7, 2014
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This is kind of related, and I did not want to start a new thread, but I found this interesting news.

Al Arabiya News. Wednesday, 25 February 2015
Sudan has closed all Iranian cultural centers in the capital Khartoum because the establishment has become a threat to national security, President Omar al-Bashir said in an interview with sister channel Al Arabiya News.


His statement was in reference to an announcement the Sudanese government made in September, in which it said that the Iranian cultural center in the capital and its other branches had violated their mandate and become a social and ideological threat to the largely Sunni country.

The government also expelled Iranian diplomats.​

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