Hicks, William (1830-1883) (DNB00)

HICKS, WILLIAM, commonly known as Hicks Pasha (1830–1883), general, was born in 1830, and entered the Bombay army as ensign in 1849. He served as lieutenant (1856) with the first Belûchî battalion in the campaign of 1857–9, and as staff officer in the Panjâb movable column, also with General Penny in the Rohilkand campaign, and subsequently under Lord Clyde. In 1861 he obtained his company, and in the Abyssinian campaign of 1867–8 he acted as brigade-major in the first division, attaining the rank of lieutenant-colonel in 1875, and honorary colonel in 1880. It was after the conclusion of his services in the British army that Hicks became a prominent figure in contemporary military history. At the recommendation of Valentine Baker Pasha, then in command of the Egyptian gendarmerie, Hicks was despatched in February 1883 to command the Egyptian army in the Sûdân, destined for the suppression of the Mahdi's revolt. When he left Cairo on 7 Feb. with a capable staff of European officers, the British government and its representatives in Egypt were generally censured for allowing him to depart on so hazardous an enterprise with no better support than ten to twelve thousand native troops, many of whom had taken part in the recent rebellion under Arâbî Pasha. Hicks, however, set out, reached Berber by way of Suâkin, and thence proceeded up the Nile to Khartûm, where he joined his army. A reconnaissance under Colonel the Hon. J. Colborne to Kawa disclosed the proximity of the enemy, and on Hicks's arrival there an advance into Sennâr was resolved on. On 24 April they marched, five thousand strong, with four Nordenfeldt guns, upon Jebel 'Ayn, and on the way fell in, 29 April, with a body of the enemy, four or five thousand in number. The Egyptians behaved with remarkable steadiness and courage, and, in spite of the customary dash of the Sûdânis, gained a victory so decisive for the moment that, on arriving at Jebel 'Ayn in June, no enemy was to be found. The province of Sennâr was deserted by the Mahdi's troops; the chiefs were assembled and addressed by Hicks with much tact in a spirit of conciliation; and all being tranquil in this direction, the army returned to Khartûm. Later in the year the Mahdi's influence was rapidly spreading in the direction of El-'Obeyd, and Hicks determined to advance to the attack—a forward movement which has been adversely criticised. On 9 Sept., with over ten thousand men, he left Omdurman and ascended the White Nile to Duem, thence striking across the desert to El-'Obeyd. Against his will, he was accompanied on his desert march by large bodies of Arabs or Sûdânis, who evidently had the countenance of the Egyptian governor-general of the Sûdân. These men were undoubtedly in league with the Mahdi, while Hicks's chief guide, as afterwards appeared, was in constant communication with the enemy. On 1 Nov. Hicks found himself with the main body of his army betrayed into an ambuscade, where the enemy, commanded by the Mahdi in person, enjoyed every facility for firing upon the Egyptians from a sufficiently dense cover to render the return fire ineffectual. In spite of this disadvantage and the sufferings of extreme thirst, the Egyptians fought bravely, and for three entire days stood at bay to the no small loss of the enemy. On the fourth day their ammunition gave out, and the Sûdânis, with the customary tumultuous onslaught, bore down upon the Egyptians and speared the wounded as they lay. Hicks himself, revolver in one hand and sword in the other, led his mounted staff to a last desperate charge, in which they fell fighting, the general last of all. The reserve corps of the army, which was stationed at some distance in the rear, and appears to have been ignorant of what was going on, alone escaped destruction. The massacre is dignified by the name of ‘the Battle of Kashgil.’

[Hon. J. Colborne's With Hicks Pasha in the Soudan, 1884; Times, 17 Jan., 7 Feb., 8 March 1884; Army List.]

S. L-P.