They were being dispatched by the ruler of Egypt at the urgent request of Emperor Napoleon III to replace French troops who were dying of yellow fever in unacceptable numbers in France's ill-fated 1863-1867 campaign to establish an imperial presence in Mexico. Most of the Sudanese troops had been forcibly acquired by the Egyptian government, which avoided the stigma of slavery by emancipating them at enlistment and holding them as military conscripts for the rest of their working lives. The French command at Veracruz was ill-equipped to receive this utterly un-French battalion. The reasons for this lay possibly in restricted attitudes, which made little provision for understanding the ways of non-European people. Even so, a sense of common humanity ultimately prevailed. In four years of patrolling and campaigning together, the Sudanese were never goaded into mutiny and the French developed a permanent admiration for their African allies.
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