British Expedition to Abyssinia 1868

[ 1868 ]

In October 1862 Tewodros II, emperor of Ethiopia, sent a letter to Queen Victoria which asked for an alliance. The British ignored the letter. Nearly two years later, when no response came, Tewodros imprisoned the British envoy and other Europeans in anger. This diplomatic incident led to the formation of an Anglo-Indian military expedition to Ethiopia. Sir Robert Napier was promoted to Lieutenant General and given command. A British army of as many as 32,000 men was assembled. 

Sir Robert Napier, the commander, paid money and weapons to Kassa Mercha, a Dejazmatch* of Tigray, in order to secure passage inland. On April 9 or 10, 1868, on the plateau of Argoi below Magdala (or Mek'dela, Magdela, Amba Maryam), British troops defeated the main imperial force. British and Indian battle losses are estimated at 29 wounded while the Abyssinians are believed to have suffered at least 500 killed and thousands wounded in the battle of Arogi. The next day, Tewodros released the prisoners held in Magdala, but it was not enough to save Tewodros. On April 13 (or 15), the British stormed the fortress of Magdala. That evening, Tewodros committed suicide. Soon afterwards, the British burned Magdala and left the country. Total Anglo-India losses are estimated in one source to number 400; total Abyssinian losses are estimated to be 1000.

For his victory, Napier was rewarded with titles, the thanks of Parliament, and an annual pension of £2,000.

*A dejazmatch (title variously translated as dejazmach, dejaj) is a high official, ranking immediately below a raj.

Belligerents Initiation Date Termination Date
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) and Ethiopian Empire 1867 1868 View

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