Monday, August 13, 2007

The Battle of the Pyramids: Bourrienne

From a Gutenberg e-text of Bourrienne's biography of Napoleon Bonaparte (R.W. Phipps trans.):

We had no communication with the army until the 23d of July. On the 22d we came in sight of the Pyramids, and were informed that we were only about, ten leagues from Gizeh, where they are situated. The cannonade which we heard, and which augmented in proportion as the north wind diminished, announced a serious engagement; and that same day we saw the banks of the Nile strewed with heaps of bodies, which the waves were every moment washing into the sea. This horrible spectacle, the silence of the surrounding villages, which had hitherto been armed against us, and the cessation of the firing from the banks of the river, led us to infer, with tolerable certainty, that a battle fatal to the Mamelukes had been fought. The misery we suffered on our passage from Rahmahanie'h [Rahmaniya] to Gizeh is indescribable. We lived for eleven days on melons and water, besides being momentarily exposed to the musketry of the Arabs and the fellahs. We luckily escaped with but a few killed and wounded. The rising of the Nile was only beginning. The shallowness of the river near Cairo obliged us to leave the xebec and get on board a djerm. We reached Gizeh at three in the afternoon of the 23d of July.

When I saluted the General, whom I had not seen for twelve days, he thus addressed me: "So you are here, are you? Do you know that you have all of you been the cause of my not following up the battle of Chebreisse? It was to save you, Monge, Berthollet, and the others on board the flotilla that I hurried the movement of my left upon the Nile before my right had turned Chebreisse [Shubrakhit]. But for that, not a single Mameluke would have escaped."

"I thank you for my own part," replied I; "but in conscience could you have abandoned us, after taking away our horses, and making us go on board the xebec, whether we would or not?" He laughed, and then told me how sorry he was for the wound of Sucy, and the death of many useful men, whose places could not possibly be filled up.

He made me write a letter to his brother Louis, informing him that he had gained a complete victory over the Mamelukes at Embabeh [Imbaba], opposite Boulac [Bulaq], and that the enemy's loss was 2000 men killed and wounded, 40 guns, and a great number of horses.

The occupation of Cairo was the immediate consequence of the victory of Embabeh. Bonaparte established his head-quarters in the home of Elfy Bey, in the great square of Ezbekye'h.

The march of the French army to Cairo was attended by an uninterrupted succession of combats and victories. We had won the battles of Rahmahanie'h [Rahmaniya], Chebreisse [Shubrakhit], and the Pyramids. The Mamelukes were defeated, and their chief, Mourad Bey, was obliged to fly into Upper Egypt. Bonaparte found no obstacle to oppose his entrance into the capital of Egypt, after a campaign of only twenty days.

No conqueror, perhaps, ever enjoyed a victory so much as Bonaparte, and yet no one was ever less inclined to abuse his triumphs.

We entered Cairo on the 24th of July, and the General-in-Chief immediately directed his attention to the civil and military organization of the country. Only those who saw him in the vigour of his youth can form an idea of his extraordinary intelligence and activity. Nothing escaped his observation. Egypt had long been the object of his study; and in a few weeks he was as well acquainted with the country as if he had lived in it ten years. He issued orders for observing the strictest discipline, and these orders were punctually obeyed.

The mosques, the civil and religious institutions, the harems, the women, the customs of the country-all were scrupulously respected. A few days after they entered Cairo the French were freely admitted into the shops, and were seen sociably smoking their pipes with the inhabitants, assisting them in their occupations, and playing with their children.


neurofuture said...

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Anonymous said...

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