Saturday, September 29, 2007

Commissary Discusses Operations on the Nile

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 163-165.


Cairo(1st Fructidor), August 18th.

To Citizen FABREGUE, Extra-Commissary, on board the Frigate la Mantoue, at Alexandria.

I EMBRACE, my dear brother, the present opportunity of writing to you. I have been in expectation of hearing from you a long time, but have been hitherto disappointed. I hope your health continues good; I have yet had no reason to complain of mine, notwithstanding the privations of every kind, and the continual fatigues which we experience on the Nile, where we are obliged, in spite of our exhausted condition, to contend with the Bedouins and Arabs along the banks of the river, as often as we have occasion to pass up or down in our advice-boats.

I never expected to engage in so toilsome and dangerous a navigation, with such vessels as ours. Whatever ideas you may form of it, you will never approach the reality;--but as reflection will not change my destiny, I can only say, Vogue la galere, et je nage,--Push forward! luck is every thing.

I have just written to my wife; I hope you will not forget to do the same, to remove her apprehensions respecting the consequences of the defeat of our fleet, when the news reaches Toulon.

Your are, doubtless, more likely than we are to be acquainted with the particulars of that affair: and since there is now a regular post established(1) between Alexandria and Cairo, I beg that, when you write next to our friend Fouque, or me, you will inform us how it actually was, and what is the true nature of our present situation.

The Mameloucs [Mamluks] have absolutely fled from their domains:--they are partly in the Deserts, and partly in the Said; and will not, I imagine, be in any great hurry to return. We have still, however, to reduce the Bedouin Arabs, who join themselves to the people of the country, and compel us from time to time to come to action. The advantage, it must be confessed, is always on our side; and the measures we are now taking will secure us, as far as it is possible, from their revolt.

Fouque and I beg you to remember us to our friends. Ferret, Morel, St. Andree, &c. on board your vessel.

I conclude, by intreating you to write to me more frequently than you have hitherto done; and to call to mind, that we are here, as it were, in exile,--for our sins undoubtedly. But patience! when they are expediated, we shall enter into Paradise; and Paradise, for me, is neither more nor less than my country house(2) at Toulon, my wife, and my children, and yourself, whom I shall always love.

Adieu; I embrace you, and am ever your affectionate brother,



[British Translators' Notes]

(1)Fabregue's notion of the establishment of a "regular post," is rather singular. It appears from his own letter, that the advice-boats were constantly attacked by the natives in their passage to Rosetta; and we know, from equally good authority, that from thence to Alexandria, they are exposed to still greater dangers,--to the bore at the mouth of the Nile, and to our cruizers, which it is almost impossible they should escape. Of this, amongst a thousand instances, the fate of the letter before us is a convincing proof.

The request to be informed of the real state of the action of the 1st of August, is natural enough; for it appears that from Bonaparte's address to the army, which has been given in all our papers, that though he did not expressly say that the English had gained the day, he insinuated pretty broadly that the French had not lost it.

(2)Bastide in the original; which is the name given to those little seats which abound so much in the south of France, particularly in the neighbourhood of Marseilles, Toulin, &c.


[Mamluke, Mameluke]

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