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An Eye Witness Account by an American Writer/Journalist. 

By Kidane Alemayehu and Konjit Meshesha

“They (two British troopers) noticed a person standing close to a haystack with a revolver in his hand. When he noticed them put together to fireside, he ran behind a haystack, and each males heard plainly a shot fired. They got here to the haystack, they noticed the person who had run behind mendacity prostrate on the bottom dying, with the revolver nonetheless convulsively clutched in his proper hand.”

The inscription on a silver plate hooked up to the revolver learn:











The above graphic report is offered within the fascinating guide entitled “Coomassie and Magdala” by Henry M. Stanley (1874) who had traveled to Ethiopia as a conflict correspondent for the New York Herald accompanying the British drive that was led by Lieut. -Basic Sir Robert Napier in 1868. This text is predicated on his detailed report of what transpired on the final day of Emperor Tewodros’ life as introduced in Stanley’s guide, pp 449-464. It additionally presents the astute statement and detailed report of the Magdala loot by Stanley in pp 454-462. It’s to be recalled that the aim of the British pressure’s incursion into Ethiopia was to realize the discharge of British nationals imprisoned by Emperor Tewodros primarily on account of the truth that Queen Victoria failed to answer his diplomatic initiatives for elevated ties between Nice Britain and Ethiopia.

To proceed with Stanley’s account:

Emperor Tewodros’ physique was drawn to the middle of the spot the place the British regiment had halted. By then, the British military had full management of Magdala and loud cheers of “Hurrah!” and “God save the Queen” have been being expressed with enthusiasm.

Though significantly wounded, Emperor Tewodros was nonetheless alive. Some Ethiopians noticed the physique and cried out his identify thereby figuring out him conclusively. Based on Stanley’s definition of the physique, it seemed like “…. a local seemingly half famished; clad in coarse higher clothes, dingy with put on, and ragged with tear, overlaying underneath clothes of unpolluted linen!”. He had been preventing in disguise to keep away from being shot by marksmen.

His face was “deep brown” with a “properly outlined (and) skinny mouth” and “two rows of whitest tooth”. He had an “aquiline nostril and his nostrils expanded extensively as he struggled to retain the breath which was quickly leaving him. ” His “face was broad, highcheek-boned, with a excessive outstanding brow, and overhanging brows.” “ His hair was divided into three giant plaits extending from the brow to the again of the neck…” The physique measured “ 5 ft and eight inches, and was very muscular and broad-chested”.

A subsequent autopsy revealed that he had sustained “solely a slight flesh wound on his proper leg,” and as well as “his palate was destroyed, the roof of the mouth scorched, and a gap discovered by means of the again of the top” resulting in the conclusion that “a pistol fired within the mouth had brought on the dying”.

On affirmation that the physique was that of Emperor Tewodros, “the Irish troopers took maintain of his legs, and roughly dragged him to the hammock, the place, after two or three gasps, he breathed his final.”

The British troopers current have been mocking him however considered one of them “coated the naked stomach and folded the arms upon the breast”. Quickly, the gang across the physique grew greater “making an attempt to get a glimpse” of it together with the previous captives who additionally confirmed his id.

Sir Napier rode as much as view the corpse however no phrases of sympathy have been expressed.

Stanley continues to write down: “I strolled to the place the lifeless physique of the late Grasp of Magdala lay, on his canvas stretcher. I discovered a mob of officers and males rudely jostling one another within the endeavour to get possession of a small piece of Theodore’s bloodstained shirt. No guard was positioned over the physique till it was bare….Prolonged on its hammock, it lay subjected to the taunts and the jests of the brutal-minded. ” On being knowledgeable of the state of affairs, Sir Napier gave orders that it ought to be dressed and ready for internment the next day. On the request of the Empress, the Emperor’s physique was buried at a church in Magdala after a quick ceremony carried out by his priest.

The final day within the lifetime of Emperor Tewodros began, most likely, round mid-night on April 12, 1868 when he acquired a last ultimatum from the commander of the British drive, Sir Napier, demanding that the Emperor give up the next day (April 13) by 9:00 a.m. or face an assault.

The morning of April 13 began with an excellent sunshine adopted, later, by heavy rain and lightening, ending within the night with an excellent sundown.

Having failed to realize the Emperor’s give up, and on being falsely knowledgeable that he had fled to Gojam, the British commander provided a ransom of “50,000 dollars” to whoever captured the Emperor: lifeless or alive. The commander additionally took the precautionary step of putting the third Dragon Guards on the rear of Magdala as “pickets to stop the retreat of Theodore”. On April 13, the onslaught by the British Military was in full swing. It comprised 1600 Europeans, 800 Beloochees, 800 Punjabees, 42 elephants, and quite a few different beasts of burden.

The British military progressed quickly with using its superior armaments and shortly captured Selassie and Fahla and by 2:00 p.m. reached the gates of Magdala which was being bombarded ferociously by British artillery. Stanley writes that Emperor Tewodros was observed mounted on his white horse observing the progress of the British military and inspiring his a lot dwindled loyal followers to place up a remaining wrestle. Stanley states that the Emperor shouted: “come on, are ye ladies, that ye hesitate to assault a couple of warriors?” Nevertheless, he needed to make a hasty retreat in view of the efficient cannon balls wreaking havoc to his military. However, Stanley states that the Emperor and his few followers stored on preventing as much as the final minute firing their muskets till the British military broke via the fortified Magdala gate.

As if to verify Emperor Tewodros’ harsh measures towards his Ethiopian opponents, Stanley relates that he witnessed 308 lifeless individuals “murdered by Theodore” on April 9.

After the tragic occasion of Tewodros’s demise, the disciplined British military progressively deteriorated into what Stanley referred to as “ totally different sorts of army mobs”. Quickly, the army mobs unfold throughout Magdala looking for loot. They ransacked the king’s storehouse, and moved to the imperial quarters the place “the lads picked up; then, analyzing the article, pocketed it or threw it down; to be picked up, examined, and pocketed or thrown away by others coming after them”.

From Stanley’s description the plateau of Magdala was dotted with totally different sorts of dwellings, silken and canvas tents, and what Stanley refers to as koord- like domiciles, cotes, and so forth. Persevering with his remark Stanley states: “ Every of those had mobs round it commenting, gossiping, pocketing, analyzing, breaking into items, or tearing into shreds no matter factor their imaginative and prescient or fancy lie upon”. The most important mob was concentrated across the koord- like domiciles. The scene round these treasure tents is described as “a pandemonium breaking out”. He concludes by making a stinging comment not solely of the marauding troopers but in addition the avarices of three missionaries, a Prussian, German and Russian mechanics that had secured the treasure tents lengthy earlier than the troopers arrived. The next is an excerpt describing a few of the articles that comprised the loot of Magdala.

Stanley opens his account of the loot by stating: “To enumerate even the one-tenth of the articles scattered about can be a activity as tiresome as it might be fruitless.” He then continues to provide a glimpse of the overwhelming quantity of articles unfold in entrance of him.

“In one of many tents was discovered the imperial commonplace of Ethiopia-a lion rampant, of the tribe of Judah, labored in variegated colors. In one other was discovered the Imperial seal, with the identical distinctive determine of a lion engraved on it. A chalice, of pure gold, was secured by Mr. Holmes, on which was engraved in historic Ethiopic;-







15th century.

The Abuna’s mitre, 300 years previous, of pure gold, in all probability weighing six or seven kilos troy weight; 4 royal crowns two of which have been very wonderful workmanship and price a spherical sum of cash; have been worthy issues to be positioned in a distinct segment of the British museum. A small escritoire richly ornamented with mom of pearl, was discovered additionally, filled with complimentary letters from European sovereigns, and state papers; in addition to numerous shields of beautiful magnificence. There have been additionally an infinite number of gold and silver, and brass crosses, and censers, a few of extraordinarily elegant design; golden and silver pots, kettles, dishes, pans; cups of miscellaneous descriptions; richly chased goblets, of the valuable metallic; Bohemian glasses, Sevres china, and Staffordshire pottery; wine of champagne, burgundy, Greece, Spain and Jerusalem; bottles of Jordan water; jars of arrachi and tej; chests full of decorative frippery; tents of rose, purple, lilac and white silk; carpets of Persia, of Uschak, Broussa, Kidderminster, and Lyons; robes of fur; conflict capes of lion, leopard, and wolf skins; saddles magnificently adorned with filigree gold and silver ;quite a few shields coated with silver plates; state umbrellas of beautiful hues, adorned with all of the barbaric magnificence that the genius of Begemder and Gondar might trend; swords and claymores; rapiers, scimitars, yataghans, tulwars, and bilboes;

daggers of Persia, of Damascus, of India, in scabbards of crimson morocco and purple velvet, studded with golden buttons; heaps of parchment royally illuminated; stacks of Amharic Bibles, missals, and numberless albums; ambrotypes and pictures of English, American, French, and Italian surroundings; bureaus, desks of crafty make.”

After enumerating the above articles, the writer brings to our consideration the dimensions of the loot and the chaos and dysfunction that reigned everywhere in the plateau. “ Over an area rising increasingly more prolonged, the thousand articles have been scattered in infinite bewilderment and confusion till they dotted the entire floor of the rocky citadel, the slopes of the hill, and all the street to camp two miles off!”

Earlier than the public sale every commanding officer chosen applicable mementos for his or her troops.

Early within the morning of the third day, the looted treasure was able to be auctioned off. The pile of trophies was unfold over half an acre. Current have been Mr. Holmes, a consultant of the British museum; a Colonel Fraser, a purchaser for a rich regiment mess, and personal gents who’ve come prepared with funds. As if to provide the reader a psychological image of the fierce bidding, Stanley writes, ”Armed with ample funds, he (Mr. Holmes) outbid all in most issues. When Theodore’s defend, utilized by him in his youthful days have been provided on the market the bidding turned energetic and from 10 dollars it speedly went to 200 dollars, for which sum it was bought by Colonel Fraser”. The public sale lasted two days and the cash from the sale was distributed among the many non-commissioned officers. .

The public sale concluded, the loot of Magdala was loaded on the backs of fifteen elephants and almost 200 mules prepared for the journey out of Ethiopia.

On the fourth morning of the autumn of Magdala, 30,000 Ethiopians descended Magdala to the Dalanta plateau. That very same afternoon as spectators took place on the southern fringe of Selassie ridge about 1000 yards away, the Royal Engineers torched and destroyed Magdala. Fanned by the wind, three thousand homes with their content material perished within the flame. Stanley states, “The extreme warmth created from the loaded weapons, pistols, projectiles and shells thrown in by British batteries exploded with a deafening reviews, and projectiles whistled ominously close to us. Not one home might have escaped destruction within the mighty ebb and circulate of that deluge of fireside.”

After committing Magdala to the scorching flames the British military loaded with the loot of Magdala began its march to the coast. Because the rear of the regiment began respectable, “cheer after cheer broke from six thousand voices”.

The return of the loot of Magdala has been an on going battle for Ethiopians and others with a way of historical past and justice. Contemplating the big quantity of historic manuscripts, books, priceless articles and private gadgets of Emperor Tewodros that was taken out of Ethiopia, the present wrestle via the management of Dr. Richard Pankhurst to return and reinstate the loot deserves help. AFROMET, The Affiliation for the Return of Magdala Ethiopian Treasures, with branches in Ethiopia and the UK, demanding restitution of the loot, has already achieved the repatriation of Tewodros’s amulet, which was given late final yr to the Institute of Ethiopian Research. As well as they’re actively campaigning to have a statue erected to Tewodros. Via the great will and energy of the Reverend McLukie, a Scottish priest, and officers of St. John Episcopal Church of Edinburgh, the “Tabot” of St. Michael, was returned to Ethiopia in February 2002. One other space that calls for a extra organized and elevated consideration and help is Ethiopian properties within the holy land, i.e. Jerusalem, Jericho, and different city facilities in Israel to be able to make sure that Ethiopia’s pursuits which date again hundreds of years are duly protected.

Thus ended the lifetime of one of the crucial controversial and dynamic emperors in Ethiopian historical past. Stanley offers an fascinating glimpse of probably the most important day in Emperor Tewodros’ life. His ebook is an account of the British triumph in fulfilling its mission of defeating Emperor Tewodros and in releasing the 61 captives with 187 servants and 323 animals. Stanley, nevertheless, fails to say the truth that the success of the British military was primarily as a result of, by then, Emperor Tewodros had misplaced the help of most Ethiopians as a result of his more and more harsh measures and in addition as a result of a few of the Ethiopian leaders of the time have been extra considering their very own political goals. It’s fascinating to notice that Stanley had a really dim view of Ethiopians with maybe the only exception of “Prince Kassa” (later Emperor Yohannes) who significantly facilitated the British Military’s mission in some ways together with opening the best way for its journey all the best way to Magdala with none resistance in addition to by making provisions obtainable for procurement as wanted by its pressure. Stanley additionally offers an account of the conferences between the native chiefs and Common Napier who was capable of negotiate his military’s journey unchallenged from the coast to Magdala.

Emperor Tewodros’ imaginative and prescient of a united and powerful Ethiopia in addition to the safety of its rights to its properties in Israel together with the Der Sultan monastery stay the dream of all Ethiopians for generations.