3557 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR,
inhabited, and a large proportion of the
population consists of wandering Arabs.
The people for the most part displayed
little hostility toward the invaders, and
in fact, frequently received them as friends.
The great heat, the unhealthiness of the
climate, and particularly the uncertain navigation of the Tigris, made progress slow,
however, and it was months before the expedition, after several minor fights, reached
Ctesiphon, twenty miles from Bagdad.
The danger that menaced this famous
city caused the Turks to send large reinforcements for its defense. At Ctesiphon,
towards the end of November, a terrific
battle took place. The British, who were
now commanded by Major General Charles
V. F. Townshend, were outnumbered but
they fought with great address and courage,
and managed to beat off all the Turkish
attacks. At critical moments General
Townshend showed himself a cool and
resourceful tactician, and several times
rallied his men and personally led them
in charges. It was evident, however,
that Bagdad could not be taken with the
forces at hand, while the danger of being
surrounded and overwhelmed was so great
that the British retired down the Tigris
to Kut-el-Amara, a position that had
many advantages in the way of defense.
The Turks followed, and besieged the
The progress of the Mesopotamia expedition up to this time had been watched
with much satisfaction by the British,
and, now that it was in danger, a strong
demand arose that it should be saved.
A relieving force was hurried to the head
of the Persian Gulf. This force fought
its way up the Tigris River, and, in January,
managed to get within about twenty-three
miles of the beleaguered town. Here it
was held up by the Turks and also by
heavy rains, which raised the river over
the lowlands and turned the ground over
which fighting must be done into a quagmire.
In April, the relieving force managed to
make considerable progress, and, by the
capture of Turkish trenches, reached a
point somewhat nearer the beleaguered
force, but here its advance was stopped.
At the end of April, after a resistance of