Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bonaparte Sends Orders to his Admiral

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. 1, pp. 58-60.


Head Quarters, Cairo, July 27.

BONAPARTE, Member of the National Institute, Commander in Chief, to Admiral BRUEYS.

AFTER a number of very fatiguing marches, and some fighting, we are at length arrived in Cairo. I am extremely well satisfied with the conduct of the Chief of Division, Perree, and I have therefore promoted him to the rank of Rear Admiral.

I hear from Alexandria(1) that a channel, such as we could wish, has been discovered; and by this time, I flatter myself, you are already in the port with all your fleet.

There is no occasion for you to be under any uneasiness with respect to the subsistence of your men. This country is rich in wheat, pulse, rice, and cattle, almost beyond imagination.

I persuade myself, that to-morrow, or the day after at the farthest, I shall hear from you,--which I have not yet done since my departure from Alexandria.

The instant you inform me what you have done, and in what situation you are, you shall receive further orders from me respecting what we have yet to do.

Some of the staff-officers have undoubtedly given you an account of our late victory.

I take it for granted, that you have a frigate cruising off Damietta. As I am sending troops to take possession of that town, I must request you to order the captain of the frigate to keep as near the land as possible, and to open a communication with our forces: who will be in possession of the place by the time this reaches you.

Send off the courier whom I have dispatched to you immediately: put him on shore wherever you think it best.—In this, you will of course be guided by what you hear of the enemy’s fleet, and by the winds which prevail at this season.

I could wish that you would send him in a frigate, which should have positive orders to stay no longer than eight-and-forty hours in any port where she might land him (whether Malta or Ancona)—in this case, you might charge the captain to bring us back all the journals, and all the information which our agents may have collected.

I have dispatched by the Nile, a prodigious quantity of provisions to Alexandria, to pay for the freight of the transports there(2).

Say a thousand kind things to Ganteaume and Casabianca.

I salute you.



[British Translators' Notes]

(1) We shall not remark on the general strain of coldness that runs through this letter; but merely call the reader’s attention for a moment to the passage we have marked: “I hear,” he says, “from Alexandria,” &c. It looks as if the General’s anxiety to detain the fleet he induced him to depart from the line of fair conduct, and tamper, unknown to the Admiral, with some of the officers at Alexandria. Brueys (see his letter to the minister of marine, No. IV.) had already employed two persons very well qualified (as he writes) to examine the ground, and their report had not yet been made; so that there is something extremely suspicious in the premature information thus obtained by Bonaparte.

(2) See the next letter.

(3) This is the letter of which Bonaparte speaks in his dispatches of the 19th of August. If the reader has gone through it attentively, which we hope he has, we will beg leave to ask him two questions;--first, whether he finds any mention of returning to Corfou in it, which the General says there was?—and secondly, whether the whole tenour of it does not militate against his (Bonaparte’s) having the smallest idea of such a thing? When he has answered these two questions, as we think he must, we will not trouble him for his opinion of the General’s veracity.

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