This was one of the minor battles before the more famous Tel-el-Kebir where the British defeated the Arabi rebellion against the Khedive of Egypt.
An Egyptian force under Arabi Pasha was attempting to destroy the lock gates on the Sweetwater canal at Kassassin. The gates were defended by a small force under General Graham. Unknown to the Egyptians, the British artillery were short of ammunition (with the exception of the gun mounted on a railway truck) and had also summoned assistance from the cavalry stationed further to the rear.
Arabi decided to demonstrate against the naval units defending the sweetwater canal, whilst making his main attack on the open right flank of the British line.
The Egyptian cavalry began their advance, but were hampered by soft sand (ie low movement dice) and the infantry and artillery were able to keep up with them. On the Egyptian right the 4th battalion moved along the line of the railway by the canal, making good progress until it came into range of the British artillery. The close column suffered heavy casualties, forcing a halt and a change to skirmish formation. Fortunately, the Egyptian artillery now came into action and their fire suppressed the fire of the naval infantry and forced them to adopt a skirmish formation. However, the British artillery now concentrated on the Egyptian guns and soon the gun were surrounded by wounded or dead crew and smashed equipment.
In the centre the 3rd battalion began to deploy into line and exchange fire with the British line.
Unsupported, it became the focus for fire from most of the British line, plus two guns and casualties rose rapidly. But now the flank attack was in place; the cavalry prepared to charge and the British formed square. Egyptian artillery accepted the target with glee and the square although shrinking remained resolute in defence. Graham was growing uneasy; his right was outnumbered three to one and could not hold off a combined cavalry and infantry attack. Then, out of the desert came a rapidly moving cloud of dust and the British cavalry arrived in the nick of time. To make matters worse for Arabi the British cavalry were in position to attack his native cavalry, which they did with elan.
Initially the tribesmen held their line, but the lances of the British cavalry opened up gaps and soon the native horsemen were streaming to the rear. To the left of the lancers the Household cavalry arrived and they took on the regular Egyptian cavalry. Again the result was a decisive British success. The British flank was now secure and the lancers pressed home their advantage by charging the 1st battalion which guarded the Egyptian guns. The Egyptians fired a volley, but when this did not stop the horsemen, they took to their heels.
Acknowledging defeat Arabi pulled back, the gathering gloom deterring British pursuit.
The game followed the historical events quite closely as the 'midnight' charge of the British cavalry secured victory and became part of Victorian military folklore and art
1 day ago