LIMITATIONS OF BRITISH CONTROL
avert the menace of a Dervish attack on the rear of the Italian position in Erythrea. The great problems of irrigation in Egypt and the scheme for the big dam at Assuan, which was then preparing, had already brought home to the British and Egyptian Governments the necessity of eventually reoccupying the Sudan in order to control the essential waters of the Blue and White Nile. But financial considerations were still delaying the final decision when they had to yield to the exigencies of international policy. Before the end of 1896 Dongola had been recovered; in 1897 the Dervish hordes had been pushed back as far as the confluence of the Nile and the Atbara, on the upper waters of which, in the Eastern Sudan, Kassala, abandoned by the Italians, had been reoccupied by a small Egyptian column.
On September 2nd, 1898, Mahdi-ism received its deathblow on the stricken field of Omdurman, and the British and Egyptian flags were hoisted side by side on the ruins of the old palace, near the spot where Gordon was known to have died a hero's death nearly fourteen years before. The Khalifa, however, escaped, and more than a year elapsed before he and the remnants of his followers were brought to bay by Sir Reginald Wingate. He died fighting together with his principal Emirs and many of his followers. The rest surrendered. It was the end of Mahdi-ism, which in sixteen years had reduced the population of the Sudan from over eight to under two millions, and wiped most of the large towns and thousands of villages out of existence. From start to finish the expedition had been brilliantly conducted, and to have created a new Egyptian army that, even when stiffened by a large British force, could meet and stand up to the fierce Dervish warriors before whom the Egyptians had so often fled in the past was in itself no mean feat. But the actual fighting represented only one aspect of the difficult task involved in the reconquest of the Sudan. Though the expedition together with the laborious construction of hundreds of miles of railway
E 2rsion on the Nile which should danger of foreign complications.