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A Black Corps d'Elite: An Egyptian Sudanese Conscript Battalion with the French Army in Mexico, 1863-1867, and Its Survivors in Subsequent Af
Contributor(s): Hill, Richard (Author), Hogg, Peter (Author)

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ISBN: 087013339X     ISBN-13: 9780870133398
Publisher: Michigan State University Press
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Binding Type: Hardcover - See All Available Formats & Editions
Published: May 1995
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Annotation: This is the story, recorded in detail for the first time, of an exotic incident in African-American relations in the mid-nineteenth century. Secretly, on the night of 7-8 January 1863, an under-strength battalion of 446 officers and men with one civilian interpreter sailed from Alexandria, Egypt in a French troopship for service with the French expeditionary force in Mexico. They were being dispatched by the ruler of Egypt at the urgent request of Emperor Napoleon III to replace French troops who were dying of yellow fever in unacceptable numbers in France's ill-fated 1863-1867 campaign to establish an imperial presence in Mexico. Most of the Sudanese troops had been forcibly acquired by the Egyptian government, which avoided the stigma of slavery by emancipating them at enlistment and holding them as military conscripts for the rest of their working lives. The French command at Veracruz was ill-equipped to receive this utterly un-French battalion. The reasons for this lay possibly in restricted attitudes, which made little provision for understanding the ways of non-European people. Even so, a sense of common humanity ultimately prevailed. In four years of patrolling and campaigning together, the Sudanese were never goaded into mutiny and the French developed a permanent admiration for their African allies. A Black Corps d'Elite follows these Sudanese soldiers as they embark on their journey and describes in detail their experiences in a distant and extremely foreign land. Hill and Hogg frame this story with unsurpassed descriptions of how the French and the Mexicans viewed Sudanese fighters, and how the conscripts' participation in this war was received in contemporary American andEuropean circles.
Additional Information
BISAC Categories:
- History | Latin America - Mexico
- History | Military - Wars & Conflicts (other)
- History | Modern - 19th Century
Dewey: 972.07
LCCN: 94028244
Physical Information: 0.88" H x 6.28" W x 9.3" L (1.20 lbs) 214 pages
- Chronological Period - 1851-1899
- Cultural Region - African
- Cultural Region - French
- Cultural Region - Latin America
- Cultural Region - Mexican
- Cultural Region - North Africa
- Ethnic Orientation - African
- Ethnic Orientation - Hispanic
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.
Publisher Description:

For several years, the armies of Napoleon III deployed some 450 Muslim Sudanese slave soldiers in Veracruz, the port of Mexico City. As in the other case of Western hemisphere military slavery (the West India Regiments, a British unit in existence 1795-1815), the Sudanese were imported from Africa in the hopes that they would better survive the tropical diseases that so terribly afflicted European soldiers. In both cases, the Africans did indeed fulfill these expectations. The mixture of cultures embodied by this event has piqued the interest of several historians, so it is by no means unknown. Hill and Hogg provide a particularly thorough account of this exotic interlude, explaining its background, looking in detail at the battle record in Mexico, and figuring out who exactly made up the battalion. Much in their account is odd and interesting, for example, the Sudanese superiority to Austrian troops and their festive nine-day spree in Paris on the emperor's tab. The authors also assess the episode's longer-term impact on the Sudan, showing that the veterans of Mexico, having learnt much from their extended exposure to French military practices, rose quickly in the ranks, then taught these methods to others.

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