Page 3557

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

British forces.

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