General Gordon - Khartoum Siege Money, 1884
General Gordon - Khartoum Siege Money, 1884
General Gordon - Khartoum Siege Money, 1884
General Gordon - Khartoum Siege Money, 1884
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General Gordon - Khartoum Siege Money, 1884

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Note: 6.5cm x 10.5cm

 

Lithographic printing on card. A 2500 piastres denomination note identifiable by the Arabic hand stamp just above centre and beneath the upper rectangle, the circular seal of the Governor-General of the Sudan to the left and Charles George Gordon's hectographic signature beneath his Arabic seal to the right. Dated 25 April 1884 in Arabic. Framed and glazed. Overall: 13cm x 17cm.

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Having successfully executed H.M. Government's instructions to evacuate 2500 British nationals from the Southern Sudan in early 1884, General Gordon faced a sudden cash crisis due to hoarding. Reasoning that it was essential to continue to pay his local troops come what may, he decided to issue currency under the guarantee of his office. Accordingly a lithographic press was set up to print serially numbered currency notes in denominations ranging from 1 to 5000 piastres - with any above 100 piastres being deemed a high denomination note. At first these were all signed by Gordon himself, a horrendous effort considering the time involved and the heat. Later on, a rudimentary technique was developed wherein the notes could be signed hectographically. An early difficulty in getting the troops and merchants to accept the notes was overcome, to the extent that they were soon being counterfeited. Stating that he was personally responsible for the liquidation of the siege notes, Gordon invited anyone to bring action against him in a civil capacity to recover their money. Controversy surrounding their redemption lasted for several years after Gordon’s massacre at the hands of the Mahdi.

Gordon kept a diary while under siege which he sent out on the last steamer in mid December 1884. It vividly illustrates the portending doom that awaited him and the rest of the garrison on 26 January 1885: December 5: ‘We are going to make an attempt to relieve Omdurman Fort … really things are looking very black ... A soldier deserted today to the Arabs.’ December 6: ‘The steamers went down and fired on the Arabs at Omdurman’... ‘We have L150 in cash left in the treasury’... ‘In the affair today we had three killed and thirty-six wounded in the steamers, the Arabs came down in good force.’ December 7: ‘The 270th day of our imprisonment.’ ... ‘It is rumoured the cock turkey (Madhi) has killed one of his companions, reason not known ...' Last entry - December 14: '... Now mark this, if the Expeditionary Force, I ask for no more than two hundred men, does not come in ten days, the town may fall; and I have done my best for the honour of our country. Good bye. C.G. Gordon'

Egmont Hake, A. (1885) The Journals of Major-General Gordon at Kartoum, Keegan Paul, Trench & Co., London.