Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Captain Tells of Voyage from Rome, to Malta, to Alexandria

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. 225-227.


‘TIS with great pleasure, my dear brother, that I write you the present; hoping it will have the good fortune to reach you, in spite of the prodigious difficulties we find in sending or receiving a letter by sea, on account of the total destruction of our fleet.

The English are at this moment complete masters of the Mediterranean; we are reduced, therefore, to the disagreeable necessity of trusting all our correspondence with France to neutral vessels: even these can only hope to convey it, by escaping the vigilance of the English; for if they are taken they are burnt.

We were marched from Rome, as I wrote to you in my last letter from Civita Vecchia at the moment we were going on board the transports. You must have discovered the state of my mind from that letter. I have had misfortunes enough in my life, but never any, I can assure you, like that which I then experienced. I was forced to quit a charming girl, with a very pretty fortune, when I was on the point of being made happy.—Yes, obliged to leave her without any hope of ever seeing her again! I shall never find such another match! But what can be said?—‘tis my hard fortune!

We went on board without knowing whither we were going. When we reached Malta we were told that our destination was to besiege that place, and in three days we made ourselves masters of it. We staid there five or six days to recruit ourselves, and then put to sea, without the least information being given to the army with respect to the place of its future destination. We sailed for eighteen days, when we fell in with the land, and found ourselves before the city of Alexandria, the metropolis of Turkey, and in a state of open rebellion against the Grand Seignior(1)!

As soon as we were put on shore we began to fight against certain nations, known by the name of Bedouins: nations of the most barbarous kind. At first they made no prisoners. When General Bonaparte saw this, he sent them a Manifesto in their own language, informing them, that if they put their prisoners to death, he should be obliged to retaliate.—Notwithstanding this, they have not altered their conduct.

At present we are victorious. In one action alone we [Illegible Word] or killed near ten thousand, and having put the remainder to flight, pursued them into Upper Egypt, on the side of Jerusalem!!! I have not yet heard what will be our next expedition.

I must now inform you, my dear brother, that I have a trunk in the hands of one of my friends, a master tailor in the demi-brigade. I shall send to him by this conveyance that you may have no difficulty in executing my commission. Write a letter, therefore, and direct it to Citizen Grivet, master-tailor to the depot of the 88th brigade, Fort Bareau, near Chambery. He will send the trunk wherever you order it. I would have you repair to Auch, call upon Dumont’s eldest son (a merchant there) remember me kindly to him, and request him, in my name, to assist you in facilitating its arrival.—Be assured that he will render me this service—be assured, my dear brother, that the trunk is worth looking after. There is rare booty in it—You will find, among other things, six louis-d’ors, a pair of silver buckles, a number of shirts, two new coats, some waistcoats and breeches of white cloth, some white under-waistcoats, two pair of boots, several pair of thread and cotton stockings, some silk ones, a number of pocket handkerchiefs, and many other articles. These you will take charge of till my return to France; if I am ever happy enough to return there,--if not, apply them to your own use.

If you ever happen to hear that the demi-brigade is returned home, and, after a competent time, receive no letter from me, you may then write to the Council of Administration of the Brigade, for whatever belonged to me; and if it reaches you in safety, I would wish you to give for louis to Henriette, and four to Joseph,--the rest keep for yourself.

Present my love to your dear wife, to my brothers and sisters, and to all the family, not forgetting your secretary.

I remain, ever yours affectionately,

ROZIS, capt.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1) We are almost weary of remarking on the gross ignorance of the officers of the French army; and yet it is impossible not to notice such passages as the above. Calling Alexandria the capital of Turkey is what we should have some difficulty in excusing in a follower of the camp; but when we find a Captain asserting that Alexandria was in a state of rebellion against the Porte, and in consequence of it actually destroying the Turks under the idea that he was obliging the Grand Seignior,--nous y perdous notre latin, and, indeed, our patience. Bonaparte seems to have formed a just estimate of the capacity of his officers, and to have made their unparalleled credulity the foundation of his own unparalleled assurance!

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