Hick's campaign

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Hick's campaign

Postby HerbertKitch12 » 23 Mar 2014 20:15

Got a fair view questions on this one, any feedback would be appreciated :-)

What are people's views on Hick's campaign?
Could it have ever succeeded?
Does anybody know a rough timeline of the key events in the Hicks campaign from him leaving in India to his arrival in Khartoum?

Thanks in advance :-)
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Re: Hick's campaign

Postby Mark A. Reid » 25 Mar 2014 01:07

Hello Herbertkitch 12;

I won't speculate on your second question but would highly recommend reading " With Hicks Pasha in the Sudan " by Col. J. Colborne, Smith, Elder, London, 1884. Most of your questions will be answered therein. Happy reading!

Cheers,

Mark
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Re: Hick's campaign

Postby mike snook » 25 Mar 2014 03:20

It is little known that there were in fact two Hicks campaigns, one into the jazira, the big V of fertile ground between the Niles due south of Khartoum, which was a success and included a winning battle, and the ill-fated Kordofan expedition which was as big a disaster as they come.

Why?

Unsecured and overextended lines of communication. No professional logistic arm. Eventually, obvious approach of logistic collapse.
Unsound choice of route - a function of poor environmental intelligence - hence LoC unnecessarily lengthy and insufficiently well watered. Consequent adverse effect on morale.
Moral superiority of the enemy.
Divided command. Governor general also present.
Tensions between Egyptian/Turco-Circassian/Sudanese loyalist/European factions in officer corps.
Language barrier for Europeans, especially if poor French speakers. No common language with Egyptian ORs or any of the Sudanese.
Worsening morale amounting eventually to despair and near psychological collapse.
No particular advantage in terms of firepower.
Surrounded by the time of the climactic action.
Poor tactical cohesion and cooperation.
Poor standard of leadership; poor professional competence of officers. Gulf between officers and men.

Mahdists by contrast enjoy the advantages of:

Interior lines.
Concentration of force.
Superior numbers. Parity of firepower. Capacity for shock action (and a bit of awe thrown in).
Unified command. Excellent cooperation and cohesion.
High morale. God on their side. String of victories.
Superior mobility.
Ground of own choosing.
Excellent intelligence and surveillance.
Effective preliminary harassing operations.
Effective subversion of morale by means of clever psychological operations: leaflets and camp fire story-teller recounting Mahdi's miracles.

Could he have won. No. Do you up the stakes when you know the bloke on the other side of the table has all the aces? No,you wait until the cards turn in your favour before making the big bet. Are you more likely to win at home or away? In the desert 'home' is much easier win than 'away'.

Best course of action. Wait. No rush. All is already lost in Kordofan. No surviving garrisons after fall of El Obied and Bara. An anti-government insurrection has to maintain its momentum or wither on the vine. Wait at Khartoum. They have to come eventually. Recce enemy approaches. Choose own ground (towards which the enemy will ideally be drawn or can be channelled - though sometimes difficult in open desert). Develop tactical plans including contingencies against the unexpected. Build confidence and competence of troops by training. Ensure intelligence and surveillance network is sound (informers, spies, patrols and observation). Rehearse. If striking offensively try to incorporate tactical surprise, good operational security and if possible decisive manoeuvre. If settled on tactical defensive, ensure good fields of fire, all round defence or rear on Nile. Maintain reserve. Fire support from Fort Omdurman and steamers ideally. Keep calm. Shoot slow but straight. If it looks like your winning, be ready with worked up contingencies to counterattack and pursue. Once in pursuit mode do it relentlessly, use the open desert and distance to sanctuary to turn enemy defeat into destruction.

Might have worked! Flogging all the way to El Obeid on the other hand....well, why would you do that? You have to have a good reason for such an ambitious operational undertaking. Hicks didn't.

M
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Re: Hick's campaign

Postby Jonathan » 25 Mar 2014 04:28

Mike,
What a wonderfully educational and fun to read reply! Thank you!

Jonathan
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Re: Hick's campaign

Postby HerbertKitch12 » 25 Mar 2014 09:22

mike snook wrote:It is little known that there were in fact two Hicks campaigns, one into the jazira, the big V of fertile ground between the Niles due south of Khartoum, which was a success and included a winning battle, and the ill-fated Kordofan expedition which was as big a disaster as they come.

Why?

Unsecured and overextended lines of communication. No professional logistic arm. Eventually, obvious approach of logistic collapse.
Unsound choice of route - a function of poor environmental intelligence - hence LoC unnecessarily lengthy and insufficiently well watered. Consequent adverse effect on morale.
Moral superiority of the enemy.
Divided command. Governor general also present.
Tensions between Egyptian/Turco-Circassian/Sudanese loyalist/European factions in officer corps.
Language barrier for Europeans, especially if poor French speakers. No common language with Egyptian ORs or any of the Sudanese.
Worsening morale amounting eventually to despair and near psychological collapse.
No particular advantage in terms of firepower.
Surrounded by the time of the climactic action.
Poor tactical cohesion and cooperation.
Poor standard of leadership; poor professional competence of officers. Gulf between officers and men.

Mahdists by contrast enjoy the advantages of:

Interior lines.
Concentration of force.
Superior numbers. Parity of firepower. Capacity for shock action (and a bit of awe thrown in).
Unified command. Excellent cooperation and cohesion.
High morale. God on their side. String of victories.
Superior mobility.
Ground of own choosing.
Excellent intelligence and surveillance.
Effective preliminary harassing operations.
Effective subversion of morale by means of clever psychological operations: leaflets and camp fire story-teller recounting Mahdi's miracles.

Could he have won. No. Do you up the stakes when you know the bloke on the other side of the table has all the aces? No,you wait until the cards turn in your favour before making the big bet. Are you more likely to win at home or away? In the desert 'home' is much easier win than 'away'.

Best course of action. Wait. No rush. All is already lost in Kordofan. No surviving garrisons after fall of El Obied and Bara. An anti-government insurrection has to maintain its momentum or wither on the vine. Wait at Khartoum. They have to come eventually. Recce enemy approaches. Choose own ground (towards which the enemy will ideally be drawn or can be channelled - though sometimes difficult in open desert). Develop tactical plans including contingencies against the unexpected. Build confidence and competence of troops by training. Ensure intelligence and surveillance network is sound (informers, spies, patrols and observation). Rehearse. If striking offensively try to incorporate tactical surprise, good operational security and if possible decisive manoeuvre. If settled on tactical defensive, ensure good fields of fire, all round defence or rear on Nile. Maintain reserve. Fire support from Fort Omdurman and steamers ideally. Keep calm. Shoot slow but straight. If it looks like your winning, be ready with worked up contingencies to counterattack and pursue. Once in pursuit mode do it relentlessly, use the open desert and distance to sanctuary to turn enemy defeat into destruction.

Might have worked! Flogging all the way to El Obeid on the other hand....well, why would you do that? You have to have a good reason for such an ambitious operational undertaking. Hicks didn't.

M


Cracking read that thank you for answering my question so thoroughly :-).
I did read about the initial succesful campaign carried out by Hicks. Was it not quite near to Khartoum thus giving the Egyptian troops the feeling of being on home turf? I read quotes from Hicks saying that he was pleasently surprised by the Egyptian steadiness under fire, I also read though that he did not wish to advance into Korfodan prefering to wait but was placed under pressure and subsequently took the grave decision to advance.
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Re: Hick's campaign

Postby HerbertKitch12 » 25 Mar 2014 09:23

PS Mark thanks for the recommendation, will definately be giving that a read :-)
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Re: Hick's campaign

Postby mike snook » 25 Mar 2014 20:45

Herb

Ooo...I think Marabieh (battle thereof) would be at least 150 miles or so up the White Nile from Khartoum. There's a quote from Hicks something to the effect of we lost seven while they lost 'shoals'. So it was an easy victory.I can't recall that he was ever effusive about his troops after that, but it went pretty well, so I guess he might have been.

Certainly Cairo wanted to put an end to the false one but whether Hicks was genuinely reluctant....well... generals are meant to have moral courage aren't they....so he shouldn't have been bullied into anything he didn't think he could get away with.

Jonathan

Who said history can't be fun?!! You're too kind.

M
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Re: Hick's campaign

Postby HerbertKitch12 » 27 Mar 2014 16:25

Thanks alot Mike it has been a pleasure reading your replies.

Did Hicks spend any time in Cairo at all or did he go straight to Khartoum from Cairo?
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