Northern Africa 1897: Kitchener in Sudan
In March 1896 Anglo-Egyptian forces under Herbert Kitchener began their reconquest of Sudan from the Mahdist State. To help supply and transport the troops involved, Kitchener ordered the construction of a railway across the Nubian Desert, bypassing a long stretch of the Nile. The planned railhead, the town of Abu Hamed, was seized by the Anglo-Egyptians in August 1897, allowing for the completion of the railway in October.
10–21 Feb 1897 Benin Expedition▲
In late 1896 a British column entered the Kingdom of Benin in an attempt to reopen trade with King Ovonramwen Asoro N’ lyokuo, but was ambushed and destroyed by anti-British elements within the state in January 1897. In response, the British Niger Coast Protectorate sent in a punitive expedition under Admiral Sir Harry Rawson the next month. Rawson’s force captured Edo (Benin City) on 18 February, looting and destroying the city over the following days, and bringing an end to one of the oldest kingdoms in West Africa.
14 Feb 1897–18 Nov 1899 Second Batetela Rebellion▲
In late 1896 the Congo Free State (CFS) dispatched a military expedition under Baron Dhanis to occupy Fashoda in the Upper Nile, only for the largely Tetela column to revolt in February 1897 in the face of ongoing deprivations. Returning south, the Batetela (plural of Tetela) seized control of much of the mountainous area near the African Great Lakes, where they remained at large until finally suppressed by the CFS in November 1899. Meanwhile, in October 1898, German East Africa had used the crisis to justify the occupation of vacated CFS territory around Lake Kivu and along the Ruzizi River, eventually pushing through a border revision on that basis.
15 Feb 1897–21 Dec 1898 Cretan intervention▲
In early February 1897 Greek forces landed in Ottoman-ruled Crete in support of an ethnic Greek rebellion on that island. To restore order, the Great Powers of Austria-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia formed an International Squadron and blockaded and occupied Crete. After overseeing the withdrawal of Greek and Ottoman troops, the squadron ultimately decided to resolve the crisis by establishing a new Cretan State under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire.
17 Feb 1897 Battle of Rejaf▲
In December 1896 Louis Napoléon Chaltin led a Congo Free State column from Dungu to conquer the Lado Enclave—a territory in Sudan which had been reserved for Congolese occupation by treaty with Britain. Although an agreement to meet with a second column under Dhanis on the border at Ndirfi fell through when that column revolted, Chaltin nonetheless enter the enclave and occupied the old Egyptian outpost of Bedden on 14 February. The Mahdists, who controlled Rejaf, attacked on the 17th, but were repulsed and driven from Rejaf later that day, cementing the Congolese hold over the enclave.
18 Apr–20 Sep 1897 Thirty Days’ War▲
In April 1897 Greek irregulars, angered by the Ottoman suppression of unrest in Crete, crossed into Ottoman-ruled Macedonia, triggering an all-out war between Greece and the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans swiftly defeated the ill-prepared Greek army, overrunning Thessaly by 20 May and preparing to march on Athens. However, the Great Powers intervened to secure a peace which, while forcing Greece to pay reparation and cede small parts of Thessaly to the Ottomans, obliged the Ottomans to accept autonomy in Crete.
14 May 1897 Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1897▲
In 1897 Sir Rennell Rodd of Britain and Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia signed the Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty (a.k.a. Rodd Treaty), strengthening relations between the two nations. Aside from extending trade and military ties, the treaty defined the border between Ethiopia and British Somaliland—although the boundary itself would not be demarcated until 1932.
7 Aug 1897 Battle of Abu Hamed▲
On 29 July 1897 a 3,000-strong Egyptian flying column under the British Major-General Sir Archibald Hunter set out from Merowe for the strategic Nile town of Abu Hamed. After an eight-day march they reached their destination at the break of dawn, defeating the less than one thousand Mahdist defenders after an hour’s fighting. Securing Abu Hamed allowed for the completion of Kitchener’s railway across the Nubian Desert, massively facilitating the supply and transportation of Anglo-Egyptian forces in the Sudan.