Saturday, September 22, 2007

French Army Embarassed by Mameloucs

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. 121-122


Grand Cairo (Thermidor). August 9th.

To Citizen St. GENIER, &c. at Toulouse.

You must be under some uneasiness about me. Hitherto we have got off pretty well, at the expence only of amazing fatigues. We have been masters of Cairo this fortnight. The Mameloucs [Mamluks] are about two days march from us: they lost two thousand men in the last action. General Bonaparte is in pursuit of them. In a little while I hope to return and embrace both you and my mother.

After landing at Alexandria, we set out for Cairo, without provisions of horses, and were pursued as far as this place, by bands of Arabs on horseback, who harassed us in a terrible manner. Just as we were setting out, the General, seeing us in want of every thing, said to us "THE VIRTUES ARE ON OUR SIDE!"(1)

In an engagement on the Nile, the Mameloucs carried off all the baggage which we had put on board the flotilla, and left us naked as we were born, with nothing but what we had on our backs!!!(2)

Mamet, as well as the rest of the officers who staid behind, have had their places filled up. I am glad of it.

Embrace my dear mother for me.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)How oft has the inclination to laugh outright at the absurdities discoverable in every part of this Correspondence, been checked by bitter reflection on the enormities in which they have usually terminated! the durate atque expectate cicadas of Naevolus was not half so severe a taunt on the miseries of his followers, as the ill-placed and incongrous exclaimation of Bonaparte to his starving army. What consolation they derived from it does not appear;--but if the reader will take into consideration that they were just come from the slaughter of the Alexandrines, and were immediately to enter upon that of the Egyptians, he cannot but be mightily struck at the ALLIES here assigned them

(2)Here is the explanation of a circumstance which perplexed us in the former publication. Many of the letters complain of having lost all their effects on the Nile, while none of them inform us, in what manner. It now appears that the Mameloucs were completely victorious in the engagement near Chebreiki, that they took three of the gun-boats, which they plundered of all the baggage, and that the remaining three would have shared the same fate, but for the fortunate arrival of the army. This is further confirmed by Brigadier Dumas, (No xviii.) and thus it is, that letters in themselves of little or no merit, materially assist in filling up, and perfecting in all its parts, the eventful history of this stupendous expedition!

If the reader wishes to see how this affair is treated by the commanders of the flotilla, let him turn to the letters of Rear admiral Perree, and Adjunct-General Royer. First Part, Nos. xix and xxii.

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