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Siege of Medina Fort

Eugene Mage's view of the lifting of the siege of Fort du Médine, from Voyage dans le Soudan occidental (1868).

The Siege of the Fort du Médine took place in 1857 at Médine near Kayes modern-day Mali, when the Toucouleur forces of El Hadj Umar Tall unsuccessfully besieged French colonial troops under General Louis Faidherbe, governor of Senegal.

Contents

  • Origin 1
  • The siege 2
  • Consequences 3
  • Present-day Medine 4
  • References 5

Origin

France at this time was struggling to create a West African empire to rival the holdings of its powerful neighbor Britain. The previous year, the French legislature had voted the first funds for what would become the Dakar-Niger railway line, a key transportation system to link France's colonies. As the railroad line expanded toward the east, the army established a series of forts, moving troops and cannon into them by steamship where possible and overland where not.

In 1848, Umar Tall launched his jihad against neighboring Malinké regions. By 1855, his rapid expansion had led to several skirmishes with the French army. With the authorization of his ally, Khasso king Hawa Demba Diallo, Governor Faidherbe ordered a fort built at the Khasso city of Medina, not far from Kayes.

The siege

In April 1857, Umar Tall declared war against the Khasso kingdom, and marched on Medina Fort, their nearest outpost, with an army of 20,000 to 25,000 riflemen. He laid siege to the fort and began a series of assaults that resulted in hundreds of casualties for the Toucouleur army. In the 97 days that followed, the defenders' food supplies soon ran low, and the fort was on the verge of surrendering when Faidherbe arrived by steamboat with supplies and 500 reinforcements, breaking the siege.

Consequences

Realizing the difficulties of attacking the well-equipped French, Umar Tall turned his attention to the neighboring Bambara Empire, soon conquering most of its territory including its capital of Ségou. However, the French continued to expand their West African presence, conquering Ségou and the Toucouleur Empire less than thirty years after Umar Taal's death.

Present-day Medine

The Fort du Medine is open to the public. The Fort is located about 12 km east of Kayes on the "road to Bamako." There is also an old railroad station and European-style cemetery with graves from the mid-19th century. The village population is around 1800 with a small market daily.

References

  • Initial article is based on a translation of the corresponding article from the French WorldHeritage, retrieved on July 5, 2005
  • B.O. Oloruntimeehin. The Segu Tukulor Empire. Humanities Press, New York (1972). SBN 391002066
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