A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, October 21, 2011

The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Ball's Bluff: Remember Stone Pasha

Today marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Ball's Bluff during the American Civil War, a small but bloody debacle in northern Virginia in October 1861 that indirectly played an important role in the rise of the Egyptian Army. Since I wrote about this at some length in 2010, I'll refer you there for the more detailed account,
But the short form is that Brigadier General Charles Pomeroy Stone (left), overall commander in the theater at the time, became the scapegoat for the battle. The real blame fell on the commander on the scene, who was a US Senator, close friend of Abraham Lincoln, and had the good judgment to die on the battlefield. Stone accordingly was not only blamed, but actually imprisoned. Eventually released, his career in the US Army ruined, he sought new employment.

And he found it: Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Army. The Khedive Isma‘il was recruiting officers to remake his Army, and since he suspected the European powers of colonial ambitions in Egypt (hint: he was right), he turned to the Americans, who after the Civil War had plenty of experienced soldiers looking for work. He hired both Yanks and Confederates, and they served together. My earlier post linked above goes into a lot more detail on this.

Stone served longer than most, serving Isma‘il and then Khedive Tawfiq after him. He held the post of Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Army from 1871 to 1883, when, the British having occupied Egypt,  he was finally replaced. The photo at right shows Stone, by then known as Stone Pasha, as a Lieutenant General in the Egyptian Army. The Khedivial uniform is fancier, to say the least.

They're doing a reenactment at Ball's Bluff this weekend. I wonder how many of the reenactors will be aware of Stone's Egyptian role, which lasted a lot longer than his career in the US Army?

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