The Abdin Palace records include a letter of praise from Khedive Ismail, the leader of the Egyptian-Sudanese junta in the Mexico War, in which he expresses his appreciation and praise for the bravery of the soldiers of this Egyptian battalion, and it is stated in the text of the letter:

“We have heard about your steadfastness and courage in the war, and your courage and skill, which necessitated the attention of the French state, and we were very satisfied with what appeared from you, so you preserved the honor that you obtained from the Egyptian government.”

But for a moment, what does Egypt have to do with Mexico’s war of independence in the late 19th century?

Why did the Mexican War of Independence break out?

Before addressing the Egyptian-Sudanese role in the Mexican War of Independence, we must first understand the reasons for the escalation of this war, which witnessed the intervention of military forces belonging to a country located on the other side of the world.

Between 1857 and 1861, a civil war erupted in Mexico, between the liberal forces and their conservative counterpart, which ended with the victory of the liberal faction, and then the inauguration of “Benito Juarez”, the elected president of Mexico.

But the situation of the Mexican Republic worsened, as the country emerged from this war on the verge of bankruptcy, and failed to pay the debts owed to a number of European countries, which the conservative government borrowed during the civil war. Here, the new government decided, at the behest of the Mexican Parliament, to freeze the repayment of European debts, and not to recognize the debts that the conservative government had burdened the country with.

At the same time, opponents of Benito Juárez, the elected president, resorted to bringing in foreign military forces, with the aim of restoring the monarchy and restoring the prestige of the conservative church. Indeed, they succeeded in this, with the support of Napoleon III, Emperor of France, who formed a European alliance that included both From France, Spain and Britain, to occupy Mexico, on the pretext of forcing the Mexican authority to pay the European debts due in accordance with the “London Declaration”.

In June 1862, the European coalition led by France succeeded in occupying Mexico and displacing the Mexican army loyal to “Juárez” to the countryside.

Emperor Maximilian

The Egyptian ordeal in the Mexican War
Emperor Maximilian.

After the affairs of the European alliance were settled in Mexico, the issue of installing a loyal king became the preoccupation of “Napoleon III”, who found his lost in “Maximilian”, grandson of Austrian Caesar “Franz I”, who was convinced by some exiles belonging to the conservative Mexican class that this step It might help him restore the prestige of the “Habsburgs”, especially after the defeat to France in 1859.

Maximilian accepted the offer, while Juárez’s conservative opponents issued a decree declaring Mexico’s return to the monarchy. After a popular referendum, the conservative front was able to secure its positive result in favor of Maximilian, who obtained the crown of Mexico and became its official emperor.

The Emperor of Mexico arrived in its capital, Veracruz, in June 1864, among his conservative supporters, and his task seemed very difficult. Conservatives and liberals.

The Egyptian-Sudanese Troubles in the Mexican War

The Egyptian ordeal in the Mexican War
Egyptian Oorta in the Mexican War.

After four full months of fighting between Emperor Maximilian’s supporters, backed by French, Spanish and British military forces, and his opponents loyal to “Benito Juarez”, the Spanish and British forces decided to withdraw, leaving the French forces in the battlefield alone.

With the passage of time, the French forces, led by Commander “Jure de la Gravier”, realized that the white man would not be able to fight in the hot Mexican climate, so he decided to use forces from Senegal and West India under French rule.

In addition, de la Gravier approached the deputy of Khedive Said Pasha, and asked him to borrow a battalion of soldiers from Upper Egypt, to fight under the French flag in Mexico.

The Egyptian battalion trip to Mexico

On January 9, 1963, the French ship “Seine” sailed from Alexandria, carrying on board the Egyptian battalion, which consisted of 447 men, heading to France in order to join the rest of the battalions borrowed by France in order to participate in its war in Mexico.

The Egyptian-Sudanese aura in Mexico consisted of Egyptian and Sudanese officers and soldiers (Sudan was at that time under Egyptian protection) who were dark-skinned, as the available photos show at the moment they left Alexandria.

After 44 days, the battalion reached Veracruz, and as soon as it arrived, the Egyptian soldiers were placed under the command of the French commander “Mangin” of the 3rd Zouave Regiment, and to facilitate the chain of command, Algerian soldiers were brought in to help them overcome the language barrier and understand commands.

The courage of the Egyptian battalion in Mexico

Although a number of Egyptian soldiers passed away due to illness during their stay in Veracruz, the French commanders found in the Egyptian fighter at the time what they did not find in his European counterpart, which is courage.

On June 10, 1864, the French forces, with the help of 80 soldiers from the Egyptian-Sudanese region in Mexico, succeeded in achieving a huge victory against the forces of “Benito Juarez.”

Back to Egypt

The Egyptian ordeal in the Mexican War
Khedive Ismail.

At about the same time, the American Civil War had ended, and America had returned to play a role in the raging conflict in Mexico, which was summarized in its support for “Benito Juarez”, sometimes through financial support, and at other times by refusing to send Khedive Ismail additional Egyptian forces to support the Egyptian-Sudanese situation In the Mexico War, on the pretext that this support would increase the number of Negroes in America.

In contrast, the French Empire began to feel the financial distress resulting from the costs of the war in Mexico, so a desire grew in the mind of “Napoleon III” to abandon his ally, “Emperor Maximilian”, and leave him to his fate, who was eventually executed by Benito Juárez’s supporters.

In 1867, the Egyptian Orta (battalion) left Mexican lands, of which about 326 men survived, heading to Egyptian lands.

On May 9, specifically, Emperor Napoleon III, accompanied by Shaheen Pasha, commander-in-chief of the Egyptian army, saluted the Egyptian armies that participated in the Mexican War, while passing through Paris, where 56 men were awarded the Medal of Honor, while the commander “Mohamed Almaz” received the Officer’s Medal by the Emperor The French himself.

The story of the Egyptian-Sudanese battalion in the Mexico War ended with the return of the soldiers to Alexandria on May 23, 1867, where Khedive Ismail received them at the “Ras El-Tin” palace, and promoted the individuals returning from the war.

Testimonies against the Egyptian battalion

Several French reports spoke of the Egyptian bravery in the Mexican war, and the first report on it stated the following:

“The Egyptian battalion showed a military readiness that impresses everyone who sees it.”

While the French commander of Veracruz wrote about it:

“The campaign did well, they did not care about the force of the fire that was fired at them, and they turned back the attackers who outnumbered them in a ratio of 9 to 1”.

While the commander-in-chief of the French forces in Mexico conveyed his admiration, writing: “I fought the Egyptian-Sudanese squabbles in Mexico with rare courage. I did not witness a fight that broke out in calm and enthusiasm as I witnessed them. Only their eyes spoke, and their audacity astonished everyone.”

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