One Man’s Opinion

Dick Nicholas

Volume 15, Number 12
December 2007

In last month’s column we reviewed the history of the American Civil War veterans who served as advisors to the Khedive of Egypt, Ismail Pasha, for about ten years after the war. We focused on the background and activities of the five former Confederate generals in the group, but this month our attention is directed to some of the Union army veterans in the contingent.

There were three ex-generals in the group of twenty Union veterans who recruited for service in Egypt: Charles Pomeroy Stone, William McEntyre Dye, and Washington Carroll Tevis. Of the three, Stone would make by far the greatest contribution. In fact, he became the de facto leader of the entire group of former Blue and Gray soldiers employed in Egypt in the postwar period.

Like the ex-Confederate Generals Loring, Colston, Sibley, and Reynolds who served in Egypt, General Stone had a blighted Civil War career. After graduating from West Point in 1845, he participated in the Mexican War, retired from the service in 1856, re-enlisted in 1861 and placed in charge of Washington’s defenses at the beginning of the war, and commissioned a brigadier general. He was unjustly blamed for the Union defeat at nearby Ball’s Bluff in October of 1861, suspected of treason, and imprisoned for six months without trial. Later re-instated in the army, Stone served in Louisiana followed by a brief stint as a brigade commander with Grant in Virginia in August of 1864. Physically and emotionally broken after being made a scapegoat for Union defeats, he resigned a month later. One historian labeled Stone as the “American Dreyfus.”

Stone was employed after the war as the superintendent and engineer of the Dover Mining Company in Goochland County until former Union Colonel Thaddeus Mott found Stone and recruited him for the Egyptian assignment in 1870. In spite of Stone’s obvious shortcomings and questionable war record, William T. Sherman, the chief American general at the time, apparently liked him and recommended his name to Mott. It was a good choice, because the khedive made Stone the chief of staff of the entire American advisory force.

Stone’s initial mission was to establish a general staff and train and reorganize the Egyptian army. But in addition to their military duties, the Americans were soon given another major responsibility. At the time Egypt was an appendage of the backward Ottoman Empire, but Ismail dreamed of expanding his country’s economic base and eventually achieving Egyptian independence. For additional resources, the khedive looked south to the headwaters of the Nile into what are today Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, and other parts of central Africa. Although Egypt exercised nominal hegemony over much of that vast area, most of the territory remained both un-subdued and uncharted.

In order to extend Egypt’s domain, the khedive ordered exploration, surveying, and mapping expeditions into the interior of the continent. Stone, who was headquartered in Cairo, was given the primary responsibility for the undertaking, and assigned officers of the American force to command several major reconnaissances during the 1870s. In spite of vast cultural, language, and logistical difficulties, the American-planned and led expeditions were very successful in accomplishing many of the khedive’s objectives, although in the end the khedive’s grandiose plans for imperialistic expansion were never realized.

Egypt’s finances collapsed in 1878 when the country’s European creditors closed their coffers. As a consequence, the services of all the remaining Union and Confederate veterans were terminated—with the exception of General Stone. Somehow he survived the ouster of Ismail Pasha and change of government in 1879, and retained the title of chief of staff and acted as advisor to the new khedie until 1883.

Stone returned home in February. He had served the Egyptians well and faithfully, and had redeemed his personal honor by removing the blot of suspicion, which had marred his record during the Civil War. Indeed, there was fine irony in Stone’s last employment in the United States when, in 1886, the government asked him to prepare the foundation for the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.

Charles Pomeroy Stone died in New York in 1887. In a symbol of respect, former Union Generals Sherman, Schofield, and Fitz-John Porter attended his funeral.

William McEntyre Dye, a native of Pennsylvania and graduate of West Point in 1853, had led an Iowa regiment at Vicksburg, served in Louisiana, Texas, and Alabama, and was promoted to brevet brigadier general in the U.S. Volunteers in 1865. He arrived in Egypt in 1873 after trying his luck as a postwar farmer in Iowa. Dye was assigned to the general staff as a colonel under General Stone and for a time had charge of the mapping and surveying section. He later acted as adjutant general for the disastrous Egyptian campaign into Abyssinia in 1876 and was wounded in the battle of Gura. The colonel was court-martialed later for striking a pious Egyptian lieutenant on the road to Gura. The episode evolved into a contentious controversy, and Dye never got over his rancor against the Egyptians as well as Generals Stone and Loring who he thought had wronged him. Dye, along with all the remaining American veterans except General Stone, was relieved of his duties on June 30, 1878. He received full pay, six month’s pay as indemnity for the termination of the contract, $375 for expenses home, and another $5,000 for injuries received in service.

Returning to America, Dye became Chief of Police in Washington, D.C., and in 1880 published a book called Moslem Egypt and Christian Abyssinia that summed up his bitter feelings about his African experiences. In 1888 Dye went to Korea where he became the military advisor to the king of Korea. He returned home in 1899 and died the same year in Michigan.

Washington Carroll Tevis of Pennsylvania graduated from West Point in 1849. After serving briefly in the cavalry, Tevis resigned and enlisted in the Turkish army in 1854 for a brief stint. He commanded the 4th Delaware Volunteers and a Maryland cavalry regiment during the Civil War. His record also included three months under arrest in 1864, but in spite of this blemish he was promoted to brevet brigadier general in the U.S. Volunteers in March 1865. He arrived in Egypt in 1872 and make a brigadier general, but resigned a year later. Nothing is known about his brief service, and Tevis was apparently a very minor participant in Stone’s group. He died in 1900.

Aside from the Stone, the American Civil War veteran who made perhaps the greatest contribution to the Egyptian mission was the Marylander Charles Chaillé-Long. He had been a captain of a Maryland Regiment during the Civil War but saw no action. He dabbled in journalism in the postwar years before arriving in Egypt in 1870 at age thirty-two where he was made a lieutenant colonel. He had several miscellaneous minor assignments before 1874 when he was ordered off on a major expedition into equatorial Africa. He spoke Arabic fluently and soon became one of the world’s great explorers and saw parts of the continent that had never before met the eye of civilized man. In perhaps his greatest adventure, he traveled several thousand miles from Cairo to central Africa during a 15-month period from 1874 to 1875, mapped the vast territory of the upper Nile and major lakes, and established the khedive’s hegemony over Uganda and other provinces. In another major excursion, he ventured as far south as the Indian Ocean.

Chailleé-Long was an energetic, fame-seeking, egotistical, but dandyish man who backed up his image with triumphal accomplishments. He clashed with General Stone, however, and harbored a jealousy that the American de facto leader had not rewarded him fairly. As a result, the embittered adventurer resigned in 1877, returned home, got a law degree from Columbia, and wrote several books about his experiences. He then enlisted in the diplomatic service and in 1882 returned to Egypt as consul general. Afterwards he went to Seoul, Korea, also as consul general.

In addition to the cadre of blue and gray Civil War veterans serving in the Egyptian army after the war, a number of prominent Civil War personalities toured the historic area during that era beginning with William Henry Seward, former secretary of State, and General Nathaniel Banks in 1869. Those two were followed by generals William T. Sherman in 1872, George B. McClellan in 1874, and lastly be General Grant in 1878.

Grant’s visit, of course, was a momentous event. The American expatriates honored the former President with a dinner that emphasized the harmonious relationships of the Confederate and Federal veterans then serving together in Egypt. But there was one unexpected echo of the rancor of the American Civil War. General Robert E. Lee’s daughter Mary Custis Lee happened to be in Egypt on one of her many tours at the same time as Grant. The uninhibited lady not only refused a personal plea from General Stone to attend the banquet honoring Grant, she stated rather emphatically: “I wouldn’t sit down at the same table with General Grant to save his life.̶

The forty-six American Civil War veterans who served in Egypt, both blue and gray, accomplished much. Although adversaries in a great war at home, they reunited in a common cause and worked, explored, and occasionally fought for Egypt. In addition to some of the individuals restoring their personal dignity and honor, the motley group, with a few exceptions, performed admirably by building an army, erecting schools, exploring new trails, and help to instill American-style ideas among the people of the Middle East.