29. A Confederate Fighting to Create an Empire in Africa
Confederates such as William Wing Loring (1818 – 1886) had fought in the US Civil War, in part, to preserve a system based on the enslavement of Africans and their descendants. A decade later, Loring was back at war, this time in Africa. He sought to realize Khedive Ismail’s dreams of creating an Egyptian empire in Africa, stretching from the Mediterranean to Lake Victoria, and from the Sahara to Somalia. In 1874, Ismail got started on making his dreams come true by ordering an invasion of Ethiopia, Egypt’s chief rival in northeast Africa.
In the ensuing Egyptian-Ethiopian War (1874 – 1876), Egyptian columns twice set out to conquer Ethiopia. Once from Egyptian-controlled Sudan, and again from the Egyptian-controlled Red Sea coast of what is now Eritrea. Each time, the Egyptian forces, equipped with modern weapons and led by Western officers such as Loring, were crushed by poorly equipped but numerically superior Ethiopians. Loring played a significant role in the second failed attempt, which ended in a crushing defeat at the Battle of Gura in 1876.