Friday, November 30, 2007

Kleber Condemns Bonaparte in Letter to the Directory

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. 3, pp. 38-52.




Head Quarters, Cairo, October 7th, 1799.

KLEBER(1), Commander in Chief, to the DIRECTORY.

THE Commander in Chief, Bonaparte, quitted this country for France on the morning of the 23d ult. without saying a word of his intention to any person whatever. He had appointed me to meet him at Rosetta on the subsequent day! I found nothing there but his dispatches. Unable to divine whether the General has had the good fortune to reach Toulon, I think it incumbent on me to send you a copy of the letter by which he transferred to me the command of the army, as also of another which he had addressed to the Grand Vizier at Constantinople, although he knew perfectly well, that this officer was already arrived at Damascus(2).

My first cares have been directed to obtain an accurate knowledge of the present condition of the army.

You know, Citizen Directors, and you have it in your power to procure the requisite statements; you know, I say, the actual strength of the army at its arrival in Egypt: it is reduced a full half!—and we occupy all the capital points of the great triangle, from the Cataracts to El Arisch, from El Arisch to Alexandria, and from Alexandria again to the Cataracts; meanwhile it is no longer a question, as it once was, of contending with a few hordes of dispirited Mameloucs; but of resisting and combating the united efforts of three great powers, the Porte, England, and Ruffia.

The absolute want of arms, of gunpowder, of cannon and musket-balls, presents a picture no less alarming than the prodigious and rapid diminution of our numbers. Our attempts to establish a foundry have failed of success; and the manufactory of powder, which we set on foot at Illhoda, has not hitherto kept pace in any degree without our expectations; in all probability it never will. Add to this, that the repairing of our small arms proceeds but slowly; and that, to give the necessary activity to these various undertakings, money and means, of which we have neither, are absolutely indispensable.

THE TROOPS ARE NAKED—and this privation of clothing is the more calamitous, as it is perfectly ascertained in this country, to be one of the most active causes of the dysenteries and ophthalmies which constantly prevail here. The first, in particular, has operated with an alarming effect this season, on bodies already weakened and exhausted by fatigue. The members of the Board of Health remark (and never fail to mention it in their reports), that although the army is so much diminished, the number on the sick left is considerably larger this year, than at the same period of the last.

General Bonaparte, previous to his departure, had, it is true, given orders for new clothing the army: but for this, as well as for a great many other projects, he contented himself with the mere orders(3):--the poverty of the finances (which is a new obstacle to be combated) reduced him, doubtless, to the necessity of adjourning the execution of this useless design.

Now I have mentioned the finances, I feel it my duty to say somewhat more in the subject.

General Bonaparte exhausted the extraordinary resources within a few months after our arrival! He levied at that time as extensive a military contribution as the country could possibly support! To have recourse a second time to this expedient, now that we are surrounded with enemies from without, would only pave the way for an insurrection the first favourable moment.

Notwithstanding all this, Bonaparte, at quitting us, did not leave behind him a SINGLE SOUS in the military chest, nor any thing capable of being turned into money! He left, on the contrary, a debt of near ten millions, more than a whole year’s income in the present state of things: the pay of the army alone is in arrear full four millions.

The present state of the inundation makes it impossible to recover the deficiencies of the year just expired, and which, if it were not so, would scarce answer the expenses of a month: we cannot, therefore, enter again on the collection of the taxes till the end of November; and even then it is clear to me, that we shall not be in a condition to attend sufficiently to it, because we shall have our hands full of fighting. In a word, the Nile being very low this year, many provinces, deprived on the inundation, will claim the customary exemptions, to which we cannot, in common justice, object.

Every syllable, Citizen Directors, which I here advance, I can authenticate either by verbal processes, or by estimates of the different services regularly signed.

Although Egypt is to all appearance tranquil ,it is nothing less than in a state of submission; the people are restless and uneasy, and in spite of all we can do to the contrary, persist in looking upon us as the enemies of their property: their hearts are incessantly open to the hopes of a favourable change.

The Mameloucs are dispersed, but not destroyed. Mourad Bey is still in Upper Egypt with a body of men sufficiently numerous to find constant employment for a considerable part of our forces. If we should quit him for an instant, his little army would increase with inconceivable rapidity, and he would descend the Nile and harass us at the gates of this capital, where, in spite of the most vigilant attention, they have constantly found means, to this very hour, to procure him supplies of arms and money.

Ibrahim Bey is at Gaza with about two thousand Mameloucs; and I am informed that thirty thousand men, part of the army of the Grand Vizier and Dgerzzar Pasha, are also arrived at the same place. The Grand Vizier left Damascus about three weeks ago; he is at present encamped near Acre: finally, the English are masters of the Red Sea.

Such, Citizen Directors, is the situation in which General Bonaparte has left me to sustain the enormous burden of commanding the army of the East! HE SAW THE FATAL CRISIS APPROACHING(4): your orders have not permitted him to surmount it. That such a crisis exists, his letters, his instructions, his negotiation lately set on foot, all contribute to evidence; it is of public notoriety, and our enemies appear to me no less perfectly informed of it than ourselves.

“If this year,” says General Bonaparte, “in spite of all my precautions, the plague should break out in Egypt, and carry off more than fifteen hundred men, &c. I then think that you ought not to venture upon another campaign, and that you are sufficiently justified in concluding a peace with the Ottoman Porte, even though the evacuation of Egypt should be the leading article, &c.”

I have pointed out this passage to you, Citizen Directors, because it is characteristic in more than one point of view(5); and, above all, because it clearly shows you the real situation in which I am placed. Of what consequence are fifteen hundred men, more or less, in the immense space of country which I have to defend, and against an eternal repetition of attacks?

The General further says, “Alexandria and El Arisch are the two keys of Egypt(6).” El Arisch is a paltry fort, four days journey in the Desert; the prodigious difficulty of [illegible] it, will not allow of its being garrisoned by more than two hundred and fifty men. Six hundred Mameloucs and Arabs might, whenever they pleased, cut off all communication with Catiez; and as, when Bonaparte left us, this garrison had but a fortnight’s provision in advance; just that space of time, and no more, would be sufficient to compel it to capitulate without firing a shot! The Arabs alone were capable of furnishing regular convoys of provisions through these burning deserts: but they have been so often over-reached and defrauded, that, far from offering us their services, they now keep aloof and conceal themselves; besides, the arrival of the Grand Vizier, who inflames their fanaticism and overwhelms them with presents, will equally tend to incline them to desert us(7).

Alexandria is by no means a fortress; it is a large intrenched camp. It was, indeed, tolerably well defended by a numerous heavy artillery; but since we lost it in the disastrous invasion of Syria, and since General Bonaparte has taken all the cannon belonging to the shipping, to complete the equipment of the two frigates with which he sailed for France, this camp can make, in fact, but a feeble resistance(8).

General Bonaparte deceived himself with regard to the consequences which he expected from his victory at Aboukir. He cut to pieces(9), it is true, near nine thousand Turks who had landed there: but what is such a loss as this to a great nation, from whom we have violently torn the fairest portion of its empire, and whom religion, honour, and interest, equally stimulate to avenge its injuries, and to re-conquer what it has been thus deprived of? As a proof of what I say, this victory has not retarded for a single instant, either the preparations or the march of the Grand Vizier.

In this state of things, what can, and what ought I to do? I think, Citizen Directors, that I should continue the negotiations entered upon by Bonaparte; though the result should be merely the gaining a little time, I should even then have sufficient reason to be satisfied with it. I have enclosed you the letter(10) which, in consequence of this determination, I wrote to the Grand Vizier; sending him at the same time, a duplicate of that from Bonaparte(11).

If this minister meets my advances, I shall propose to him the restitution of Egypt on the following conditions(12):

“The Grand Signor shall appoint a Pasha, as before.”

The Beys shall give up to him the Miri, which the Porte has had always de jure, and never de facto.”

“Commerce shall be reciprocally open between Egypt and Syria.”

“The French shall continue in the country, occupy the strong holds and the forts, and collect all the duties and customs, till the French government shall have made peace with England.”

If these summary preliminaries are accepted, I shall think I have rendered my country a greater service than if I had obtained the most brilliant victory. But I fear they will not be attended to: if the haughtiness of the Turks opposes no obstacle, I shall still have to combat the influence of English gold. Happen what may, I will endeavour to direct myself by circumstances.

I know all the importance of the possession of Egypt. I used to say in Europe, that this country was for France the point of fixture, by means of which she might move at will the commercial system of every quarter of the globe; but to do this effectually, powerful lever is required, and that lever is a navy. OURS HAS EXISTED! Since that period, every thing has changed; and peace with the Porte is, in my opinion, the only expedient that holds out to us a method of fairly getting rid of an enterprise no longer capable of attaining the object for which it was undertaken.

I shall not enter, Citizen Directors, into the details of all the diplomatic combinations which the present state of Europe might furnish: this is not my province. In the forlorn situation in which I stand, and so far removed form the centre of action, I can scarce give a thought to any thing but the safety and honour of the army which I command: happy if, in the midst of my distresses, I should have the good fortune to meet your wishes; at a less distance from you I should place all my glory in obedience.

I have annexed to this an exact climate of the more material articles of which we stand in need for the service of the artillery; and also a summary recapitulation of the debt contracted and left unpaid by General Bonaparte(13).

Health and respect.


P.S. At this instant, Citizen Directors, just as I am making up my dispatches, I learn that fourteen or fifteen Turkish vessels are at anchor before Damietta, where they are waiting for the fleet of the Captain Pasha, now at Joppa, and having on board, as I am told, from fifteen to twenty thousand land forces; besides these, there are still fifteen thousand men at Gaza, and the Grand Vizier is marching from Damascus. A few days since, he sent us back a soldier of the 25th demi-brigade, who had been made prisoner in the neighborhood of El Arisch; after having showed him all his camp, he desired him to acquaint his comrades with what he had seen, and to tell their commander to tremble. This seems to announce either the confidence which the Grand Vizier has in his forces, or a wish to enter upon an accommodation. With respect to myself, it will be absolutely impossible for me to get together more than five thousand men capable of taking the field against him: notwithstanding this, I will try my fortune, if I do not succeed in gaining time by my negotiations. Dgezzar has withdrawn his forces from Gaza, and marched them back to Acre.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)This is the first letter that has yet appeared from Kleber, and it is such as might have been expected from one of his distinguished reputation. It is sensible, and manly; forming a complete contrast in every respect to the letter of Bonaparte, of which it is a shrewd and impartial critique.

To point out that superior penetration and good sense of Kleber, would be superfluous; but it may not be so to compare his manner of proceeding with Bonaparte’s treatment of Brueys. That unfortunate man, after being reluctantly detained on the coast of Egypt by Bonaparte’s express and reiterated orders, was no sooner dead, than Bonaparte published, in the face of all Europe, that he had fallen a victim to his own obstinacy, and contempt of authority!—though the remonstrances of Brueys, and Bonaparte’s rejection of them, both existed, to convict him of so base, cowardly, and malicious calumny. While Kleber, with the calm dignity of a soldier, and a man of honour, indulging in no random speculations, patiently reviews the General’s statement, which he transmits to the Directory, with his own remarks, always intelligent and convincing;--that they may be enabled to judge of the facts on which they are founded, and the opinions from which they are drawn.

(2)It is not easy to account for this vagary of Bonaparte’s: the most natural way of obtaining his purpose, would certainly have been to look for the Vizier where he was sure to be found. Kleber apparently feels some resentment at this trifling with the miseries of the army, by a feeble attempt at procrastination.

(3)Kleber has fallen into a slight mistake here. Bonaparte did not absolutely content himself with ordering the clothing—no, he went farther—he set the Savans of the Egyptian Institute upon consulting what coloured cloth was best adapted to the climate: and these venerable sages, after discussing at great length the merits of several, of which there was not an ell in the country, ultimately fixed upon a gris-de-lin, of which there was still less! Nor did the General stop even here: he asserted in his dispatches that many thousand ells of this cloth (so judiciously chosen) had been delivered to the army! The readers of the Jacobin newspapers here cannot yet have forgotten their generous triumph at this inconvertible proof of the improving condition of the “Army of the East!”

The conclusion of this paragraph is an evident sarcasm. Kleber knew that Bonaparte was as well acquainted with the state of the finances before these orders as after them. He knew too, what all the world besides knows, that they were only given to procure a momentary popularity, and carry on that system of fraud and hypocrisy with which he began, and with which he will most assuredly end.

(4)Here is the key to Bonaparte’s flight. With respect to the orders Kleber mentions, he must either speak ironically, or, which is more probable, to convey an idea that the insinuation couched under the word [illegible] in Bonaparte’s letter, was false, and justified by no authority from home; he puts Bonaparte and the Directory at issue upon the point; and as it must be manifest who is really culpable, it is, perhaps, fortunate for the former that his present usurpation sets him above the immediate dread of the guillotine, for an act of equal treachery and disobedience.

(5)The general opinion of the good sense and humanity of Kleber would be ill justified, if he had omitted to set a mark of reprobation upon the passage he has quoted: it is, indeed, characteristic of Bonaparte! It is marked with his usual contempt of human sufferings, with his lavish expenditure of blood, and with his wanton sacrifice of his followers to projects at once useless and unattainable!

It is permitted to hope, however, that the more serious views of Kleber will induce him to close the disastrous scene, though a few less than fifteen hundred men should be the victims of the next pestilence.

(6)The statement which follows of the real strength and importance of El Arisch, and which differs so materially from that of Bonaparte’s is corroborated by a general officer in a letter which will be found.

There is no doubt of its accuracy, and it bears hard either on the veracity or the military skill of Bonaparte. The latter (of the former there are no doubts) has long been somewhat problematical; and the attentive readers of this correspondence will probably be inclined to think not much more highly of it than Kleber appears to do, or the very judicious officer, to whole strictures we allude.

(7)There are two roads from Syria to Egypt; so that it is by no means necessary to pass by El Arisch. Both these roads furnish water; one of them has just been discovered.—Note of Kleber.

(8)This circumstance is not less characteristic than the one so properly pointed out by Kleber a few pages above: to provide for his own personal safety at the expense of that of the whole “Army of the East,” is only a part of that narrow and selfish system on which he has always acted. But does any thing in it relish of the great general? Or can his most enthusiastic admirers see any thing that did so in his unfurnishing the only defensible place in his possession (of the importance of which he takes care to remind Kleber), for the sake of a wild and desultory expedition, he knew not where, at the hazard of leaving it an easy prey to the first enemy that might be apprized of its unprotected condition?

It is scarcely possible, on reading these and similar passages, not to call to mind the sensible exclamation of Lacuee; “Oh! How many false reputations were acquired in Italy! And how many pedestals will now rest without statues!”

(9)This does not mean absolutely cut to pieces, but destroyed as a bdoy, and indeed it appears from Bonaparte’s dispatches to the Directory, that more than two thousand of those who had disembarked were prisoners. From this General’s well-known talents for exaggeration, a reasonable hope might be entertained that when he stated the loss of the Turks at eighteen thousand men, he had merely put down a cipher too many; this hope is now done away by the unsuspected evidence of Kleber, which unfortunately reduces Bonaparte’s number only one half. The rest of Kleber’s information is of the most important and consolatory nature. The army of which Bonaparte and Berthier represent the whole to have been destroyed, was merely a detachment, it appears, from a much greater force; which, without any sensible diminution of its numbers or resolution, was still hovering near the place of action, and alarming the French for the safety of Brulous and Damietta!

(10)See No. XVI.

(11)See No. XIV.

(12)Of these conditions, the first is unnecessary, the second impracticable the third nugatory, and the forth inadmissible. It is evident, however, the Kleber expected nothing from them; they are merely projected in obedience to the commands of Bonaparte, to whom this excellent officers pays the same deference as if he were still at the head of the army. Indeed the whole of his conduct, as it appears in this well-written letter, is admirable in the highest degree; he feels that he is betrayed, yet not a murmur escapes him on his own account; and though he holds it a part of his duty to expose the weakness of which Bonaparte either was, or affected to be ignorant, he determines to hazard more, perhaps, than his own better judgment approved, to carry his instructions into executions with the smallest deviation possible.

(13)See No. VI.

(14)See No. VII.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bonaparte Dispatches Kleber Before Fleeing Egypt

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. 3, pp. 14-27.


Alexandria, August 22d, 1799.

BONAPARTE, Commander in Chief, to General KLEBER.

ANNEXED to this, Citizen General, you will find an order for you to take command of the army. My constant apprehensions lest the English fleet should again appear on the coast, compel me to hasten my voyage by two to three days.

I take with me Generals Berthier, Lannes, Murat, Andreoffi, and Marmont; Citizen Monge, and Citizen Bertholet.

Enclosed you will find the English and Francfort papers (1) up to the 10th of June. You will see by them, that we have lost Italy! That Mantua, Turin, and Tortona are in a state of blockade. I have some grounds to flatter myself that the first of these places will hold out to the end of November(2); and I trust, if fortune smiles upon me, to be in Europe before the beginning of October.

You will also find enclosed, a cipher for your correspondence with the Government; and another, for your communications with me.

I entreat you to dispatch Gimot some time in the month of October(3), together with the baggage which I have left at Cairo, and my domestics. I should, however, have no particular objection to your taking as many of them as may suit you, into your own service.

It is the present intention of Government, that General Desaix(4) should set out for Europe in November next, unless something of consequence should arise here to detain him.

THE COMMISSION OF THE ARTS shall return to France on board a flag of truce, which you will demand for this purpose, comfortably to the late cartel, some time in the month of November, immediately after they have completed the object of their mission. They are at present engaged in putting up a finishing hand to it, by an examination of Upper Egypt. Nevertheless, if you think that any of them will be of service to you, you may put them in requisition without scruple(5)!!!

The Effendi who was made prisoner at Aboukir, is set out for Damietta. I have already written to you to send him to Cyprus: he takes with him a letter for the Grand Vizier, of which I enclose you a copy(6).

The arrival of the Brest fleet at Toulon, and of the Cadiz fleet at Carthagena, leaves no kind of doubt of the possibility of transmitting to Egypt the muskets, sabers, and pistols, balls, &c. of which you stand in need, and of which I am provided with a very exact enumeration; together with a sufficient number of recruits to supply the losses of our two campaigns. Government itself, I presume, will, by that conveyance, acquaint you with its intentions: as for myself, both in my public and my private capacity, I promise to take every measure for enabling you to hear frequently from France(7).

If, by a series of the most extraordinary events, none of these attempts should succeed, and you should neither receive reinforcements, nor intelligence from France by May next; and if this year, in spite of all your precautions, the plague should break out in Egypt and carry off more than fifteen hundred of the troops(8)—a considerable loss in addition to that which the events of the war will daily occasion—I think that you ought not then to venture upon another campaign, and that you are sufficiently justified in concluding a peace with the Ottoman Porte; even though the evacuation of Egypt should be the leading article. It will merely be necessary for you to postpone the execution of it (if such a thing is possible) till the period of a general peace.

No one, Citizen General, has better means of judging of the importance of Egypt to France, than yourself. The Turkish empire, menaced with ruin on every side, is crumbling to pieces at this moment; and the evacuation of Egypt on our part, should be so much the more unfortunate, as we should be sure to see, ere long, this fine province fall into the hands of some other European powers.

The intelligence of the good or ill fortune which may attend the Republic in Europe, will, of course, have its due influence in determining your future measures.

If the Porte should reply to the overtures I have made for peace, before my letters from France can reach you, it will be, in that case, necessary for you to declare, that you have all the powers with which I was entrusted. Even then upon the negotiation; adhere strenuously and constantly to the assertion which I have advanced, that France never had the least idea Of TAKING EGYPT FROM THE GRAND SEIGNIOR!!! Require the Ottoman Porte to separate itself from the Coalition, to grant us the free commerce of the Black Sea, to set at liberty all the French in confinement, and lastly, to agree to a suspension of hostilities for six months, that there may be a sufficient time for the mutual exchange of ratifications.

Supposing, however, that you should find yourself in such circumstances as you conceive make it necessary to conclude the treaty with the Porte; you must then make that power understand that you cannot execute your part of it, before it be ratified (at home); and that, according to the usual practice of all nations, the interval between the signing and ratifying of a treaty, is always considered as a suspension of hostilities.

You are acquainted, Citizen General, with my way of thinking respecting the interior policy of Egypt. Act in whatever manner you please, the Christians will still be our friends; it will be necessary, however, to prevent them from growing too insolent, lest the Turks should conceive the same fanatic prejudice against us as against them, which would destroy every possibility of a reconciliation: this fanaticism must at all events be laid asleep, until we have an opportunity of extirpating it entirely(9). By gaining the good opinion of the powerful Cheiks at Cairo, we shall secure that of all Egypt; and of all the chiefs which its inhabitants may rally under, there are none less to be apprehended by us than the Cheiks, who are all timorous, unacquainted with arms, and, like all other priests, know how to inspire the people with fanaticism, without being fanatics themselves(10).

With respect to the fortifications, I consider Alexandria and El Arisch as the two keys of Egypt. I had once an idea of forming, during the approaching winter, several redoubts of palm-tree(11); two from Salich to Caslies, two from Caslies to El Arifch: of these last, one was to be placed on the spot where General Menou discovered a spring of tolerable water.

Brigadier-general Sanson, commander of the corps of engineers, and Brigadier-general Sougis, commander of the Artillery, will furnish you with the necessary details of their respective departments.

Citizen Poussielgue has had the sole management of the finances; I have found him extremely active, and in every respect a person of merit; he begins to have some insight into the chaos of the administration of this country. It was my intention, if nothing occurred to prevent me, to attempt this winter a new system of taxation, which would, by degrees, relieve us from our present dependence on the Copts: before you undertake it, however, I advise you to make it the subject of long and deliberate meditation; it is safer to begin an operation of this nature a little too late, than a little too soon.

Our ships of war will certainly make their appearance this winter, either at Alexandria, Brulos, or Damietta. You must have a battery and a signal-tower at Brulos. Endeavour to get together five or six hundred Mameloucs, in such a manner that, when the French fleet arrives, you may be able to lay your hands upon them at the same instant of time, either at Cairo or in the other provinces, and fend them off immediately for France(12). If you cannot procure Mameloucs, such Arab hostages, Cheiks al Beled as may then be in custody, no matter on what account, will answer the end as well. These people, landed in France, and detained there for a year or two, will contemplate the grandeur of the nation; they will acquire, in some degree, our manners and our language, and when they return to Egypt, will prove to us so many partisans.

I have already repeatedly written for the company of comedians; I will take particular care that they shall be sent(13). This appears to me an article of the utmost consequence, not only for the army, but for the purposes of effecting something like a change in the moral habits of the country.

The important situation of Commander in Chief, which is now devolved upon you, will afford you ample opportunities of displaying those talents with which nature has endowed you. The interest taken in every thing which passes here, is active and lively; and the consequences resulting from it will be immense, whether considered with respect to commerce or to civilization. This is assuredly the epoch from whence revolutions of the most extraordinary nature will take their date.

Accustomed to look for the recompence of the toils and difficulties of life in the opinion of posterity, I abandon Egypt with the deepest regret(14)! The honour and interests of my country, duty(14), and the extraordinary events which have recently taken place there; there, and there alone, have determined me to hazard a passage to Europe, through the midst of the enemy’s squadrons. In heart and in spirit I shall still be in the midst of you! Your victories will be as dear to me as any in which I may be personally engaged; and I shall look upon that day of my life as ill employed, in which I shall not do something for the army of which I leave you the command; and for the consolidation of the magnificent establishment, the foundation of which is so recently laid.

The army I entrust to your care, is entirely composed of MY OWN CHILDREN. I have never ceased, even in the midst of their most trying and difficult dangers, to receive proofs of their attachment(15); endeavour to preserve them still in those sentiments for me. This is due to the particular esteem and friendship I entertain for you, and to the unfeigned affection I feel for them!


A true Copy,


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)It would seem from this (and indeed the whole tenour of this correspondence proves it) that the Directory gave themselves as little trouble about Bonaparte, as if he had not obliged them by sacrificing his gallant army to their common views. But for these papers (which were most probably given to him by some unsuspecting British tar, who had better have kept them himself), he would have been ignorant of what was doing in Europe. He refers Kleber no information from the Directory; HE MENTIONS NO ORDERS FOR HIS RECALL—which would have been a sufficient plea, and which would not have failed to urge, if he had received any—but bottoms the whole, upon the accidental acquisition of a few newspapers! Even in his farewell address to the army, he gives no other reason for his return, but the news; though such a circumstance must have been to them a most cruel insult; as their preference in Europe must have been full as necessary as his own.

(2)Bonaparte may be pardoned for this conjecture, formed from an estimate of the time which it took him to reduce it, in his boasted campaigns. Mantua was invested by him for the first time on the 4th of June 1796; it did no surrender till the 2d of February in the following year, a space of eight months; nor then to the fire of the besiegers, but to that with which no courage, nor obstinacy, can contend—an absolute want of food! Compare this with the recovery of the same town, in the present campaign. It fell, with a garrison of thirteen thousand men, after a close and vigorous siege of only eleven days! Indeed, if the Austro-Russian campaign in Italy be compared with those of Bonaparte, the latter dwindle into insignificance. With an immense army, powerfully reinforced by the discontented and vicious of all nations, whom he attached to his standard by the lure of novelty and indiscriminate plunder, Bonaparte over-ran Italy in two years: let it be remembered, however, that all its fortresses (with the exception of Mantua) were pusillanimously or insidiously delivered to him, before he had even captured the paltry town of Ceva, the first garrison in Piedmont; while the Austro-Russians have reconquered the same country in the short space of nine months, with the addition of Alexandria, Tortona, &c. and the almost impregnable fortresses of Coni and Turin; the last of which had been treacherously seized by the execrable Joubert.

This, though pretty generally known, is mentioned here, for the exclusive benefit of Bonaparte’s Jacobin admirers; who, reduced to despise, with the rest of the world, his legislative talents, pretend to found his claims to empire on his rapid and unrivaled victories!

(3)The General had forgotten that he promised the soldiers (whom he took leave of with such heart-felt regret) that he would return to them forthwith.

(4)This is a person who, according to the joint reports of Bonaparte and himself, has annihilated Mourad Bey, and his handful of Mameloucs, several times over. It will be seen presently, however, that they are still alive and merry; preparing to do as much for him in their turn. Desaix was looked upon in France as one of the best officers in the service.

(5)Would not one imagine this humane savant-driver was talking of camels or buffaloes, instead of the men whose immortal labours in Egypt were to astonish the world, and illustrate France with a full display of the recondite lore of Hermes Trifmegiftus? Put them in requisition without scruple! Unfortunate beings! This s the very thing that he had before done to them in France!

This paragraph is highly worthy of serious consideration of the Jacobins: since of all the brilliant qualities of Bonaparte, none (with the exception of his humanity) has been so long and so loudly dwelt upon by them, as his singular love of learning, and learned men!

(6)See No. XIV.

(7)After noticing the various wants of the French army, the reader may be curious to know what Bonaparte has done in either of his capacities to relieve them. It may be told in three words. He has raked the kennels of Paris for a number of prostitutes more pestilential than the plague, to send them; and he has put in requisition a few miserable companies of strolling players, who may probably arrive time enough to see the curtain drop for ever on the tragic-comedy of his expedition.

(8)The cool calculation of 1500 men, which this “hope and consolation” of the rancorous “school of humanity” thinks a reasonable quantity to die of the plague, is chiefly noticed here, as furnishing a tolerable criterion for estimating the numbers that fell in the former season. As an useless sacrifice of so many hundred human beings, it is scarce worth mention in the history of a man, who has spilled more blood wantonly than any commander of ancient or modern times.

(9)Our General “has a meeting, and, no doubt, you all have sense enough to find it out; though, it must be confessed, it is not very obvious. The truth seems to be, that with an abundant degree of cunning (and this, and a fierce and savage courage, will, upon examination, be found to make up the whole of his character), he was bewildered himself in the variety of his objects. The Christians, by whom probably Bonaparte means the Copts, are to be trampled upon to gratify the Turks, whose fanaticism is to be indulged, that it may be the more easily destroyed some time hence by the French, who are at present treating for the entire evacuation of the country! Such are the contradictory reveries with which Bonaparte labours to confound Kleber, and to conceal his own want of rational and enlarged ideas on a subject so infinitely interesting and important.

(10)Bonaparte’s ignorance is inconceivable. He has been amusing himself for fifteen months with hunting out and destroying Arabs, Turks, and Copts; and yet he seems to know as little of their distinct polity as if he had never left home. Who ever heard before of Cheik priests? A Cheik is an Arabian chief, neither timorous nor acquainted with arms, as he had frequently found to his cost. It is not improbably that Bonaparte means by his Cheiks the Coptic clergy! Mean what he will, however, the sneer at priests comes with an admirable grace from one who has just paid them such extraordinary compliments in his proclamation to the royalists of La Vendee. An Atheist at Paris, a Catholic at Rome, a Mussulman at Grand Cairo, and a hypocrite every where, it is to be hoped his insidious language will be treated as it deserves; and that what is here laid of priests will be duly weighed by as many of those brave and faithful people as have at some unsuspicious moment been gratified by an encomium on their church, as deceitful, they will now see, as it was impious.

It is pleasant to reflect that the communication with the Vendeans, &c. is now so easy and so frequent, that this publication will probably reach them before it is heard of at Paris.

(11)This was an idea truly worthy of Bonaparte. To destroy the palm-trees would as effectually depopulate many parts of Egypt, as if he had turned the course of the Nile; thousands of the natives who inhabit the borders of the deserts have no other subsistence but dates for a great part of the year. But what is this to Bonaparte? To destroy and to reign are all he asks; it matters not over what or whom.

(12)It is impossible to conceive a scheme of blacker or more diabolical perfidy than Bonaparte here plans for Kleber.

Five or six hundred innocent people, living without suspicion or fear under the protection of the French, are to be torn from their country, their families, and friends, and hurried off to France under a pretence equally absurd and iniquitous.

Fortunately, Bonaparte left a man behind him but little inclined to be the agent of his villany. How must this gallant and discerning soldier have felt the insult here offered him? How must he have smiled with contempt at this mixture of indiotism and frenzy? This order for him to exasperate the country by an act of wanton barbarity, at the time he was instructed to treat about leaving it in peace! Bonaparte allows that those Mamelouc missionaries could not finish their Parisian educations in less than a year or two, and yet he has just before granted a delay of only six months to conclude the agreement which is to shut the French out of Egypt for ever.

With respect to the Arab hostages, Cheiks, or any thing else instead of Mameloucs; if such a motley crew were not designed to gratify his own vanity, they could only serve to remind the Parisians of the ever-memorable procession of the “Orator of the human race,” Anacharfis Clootz. At any rate, the idea of bringing about a great change in the country by their means, is completely ridiculous, and truly worthy of the man who conceived it.

(13)That is the only one of all his numerous promises that Bonaparte has condescended to recollect. He thought of it, we see, in Egypt; and, not to disparage his talents for invention, might be indebted for the idea to Voltaire, who advised us (not seriously, it must be confessed) to send a few opera-dancers to St. Vincents, to soften and subdue the Caraibs.

(14)What have we here? A mortified Carthusian? Meek and lowly servant of an unambitious republic, he makes no boastful claims to the admiration of the present age; he fights battles, he overturns states, he wades through human blood, from shores of Genoa to the Adriatic; he flies from one ravaged quarter of the globe to lay waste another, without motive or end;--and he tells all this in a jargon that Captain Bodadil would have laughed at. What then? His toil, like virtue, is its own reward, and he aspires only to the grateful notice of prosperity! All this is as perfectly true, as that he abandoned Egypt with regret, or that Keleber believed him when he said so.

(15)Of what materials must this man’s heart be made? Even Satan is represented by Milton as bursting into such tears as angels fled, at the recollection of what he had brought on his followers, yet—faithful how they stood. But Bonaparte seems absolutely incapable of any impressions of pity or remorse; he is an anomalous being, such as neither history nor fiction has yet dared to exhibit.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bonaparte Flees Egypt and Promotes Kleber

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. 3, pp. 5-6.


Head Quarters, Alexandria, August 23, 1799.

BONAPARTE, Commander in Chief, to the ARMY.

IN consequence of the news from Europe, I have determined to return immediately to France. I leave the command of the army to General Kleber: they shall hear from me speedily: this is all I can say to them at present. It grieves me to the heart to part from the brave men whom I am so tenderly attached; but it will be only for an instant; and the General I leave at their head is in full possession of the confidence of the Government and of mine.


By order of the Commander in Chief, and of the General of Division, Chief of the Staff,


A true copy,

SONNET, Adjutant General.

A true copy,



This address to the army was not delivered by Bonaparte. It was enclosed in the letter to Kleber, to be read to them after he was gone!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Kleber Briefs the Directory on Intercepted Letters

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. 3, pp. 2-3.



Head Quarters, Cairo, October 9, 1799.

KLEBER, Commander in Chief, to the EXECUTIVE DIRECTORY.

THE Citizen Barras(1) being particularly known to me by his fidelity, his extreme attachment to the Government, his love for the Republic, and for truth; I thought, Citizen Directors, that I could not fix on a more proper person to send home with my first dispatches to you, out of cipher. I have ordered him to throw them overboard(2), in the event of his being closely pursued by the enemy; and he is sufficiently acquainted with their contents to be able to give you a verbal account of them, if it should be necessary. I entreat you to place the same confidence in him which I have been induced to do, from observing the uprightedness of his conduct since he has been in this country.

Health and respect.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)Cousin to the ci-devant Director of that name.

(2)This was done, but some of the El Vincejo's men instantly jumped into the boat, and saved them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

British Editors Include a Diatribe on Bonaparte's "Wickedness and Fraud"

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. I-XX.


THE Correspondence, of which the following Letters make a part, was intercepted at different periods, by the Turkish and English ships of war. It consists of Official and Private Letters, whose contents, perhaps, like those of a thousand others, which have at various times, fallen into the hands of our cruisers, would have remained a secret to all but Government, had not the French, by holding out, first, a false account of the motive of this famous Expedition, and then, by spreading the most absurd and exaggerated accounts of its success; rendered it necessary to undeceive Europe, (still trembling at the tale), by proving from their own statements, that what began in wickedness and fraud, was likely to terminate in wretchedness and despair.

The Publication being thus determined upon, the next step was to make such a selection from the voluminous Correspondence in the hands of Government, as, without gratifying an idle curiosity, or indulging a prurient inclination for scandal and intrigue, should yet leave nothing to be desired with respect to the real situation of the Army in Egypt; its views and successes, its miseries and disappointments. For this purpose, every thing that was not illustrative of one or other of those objects was suppressed: all private Letters, unless intimately connected with the end in view, were passed over; and even those of Bonaparte (which have been so shamefully misrepresented, and commented upon by those fervid champions of decency, the Opposition Writers(1)), though not strictly and absolutely private, yet containing nothing that could materially interest or inform the public, were laid aside with the rest. We trust that we have not admitted any thing that can raise a blush on the cheek of our readers, either for themselves or for us.

We might here close our Introduction, but as the Egyptian Expedition has awakened curiosity, and been the theme of much wonder, and applause, and error, and misrepresentation; we do not think we shall render an unacceptable service to the reader, by enlarging a little on the subject.

The French have long turned their eyes towards Egypt. The sanguine disposition of their Consuls in the Levant, had ministered with admirable effect, to the credulity, and avarice, and ambition, of this restless nation, by assuring them that Egypt was the Paradise of the East, the key of the treasures of the Indies; easy to be seized, and still more easy to be kept! There was not a Frenchman under the old regimen, who was not fully persuaded of the truth of all this; and certainly they have lost nothing of their ambition, their avarice, and their credulity, under the new.

What plans the Monarchy might have devised for gaining possession of this “Paradise,” we know not. It could not hope to effect it by force.—But the present rulers of France, who have trampled on the powers of the Continent too long, and with too much impunity, to think it necessary to manage them now, could have no apprehensions of resistance to their measures, and were not likely to be scrupulous in the choice of means, to effect whatever purpose they had in view.

Egypt, however, though said and believed to be a rich country, promised no immediate supplies of plunder; and the project for seizing it would still have remained in the port-folio of Citizen Talleyrand, had not a circumstance happened that made its speedy adoption a measure of necessity.

Every one knows that the Directory long since engaged to make a free gift to the army, of a thousand livres, at the conclusion of a general peace. This engagement, like many others, it seemed to have forgotten; till the necessity of attaching the troops to their interests, and thus enabling them to perfect the Revolution of the 18th Fructidor, made it necessary for the Triumvirate to renew their promise, and to revive the languid expectations of the army.

None contributed more to the success of this fatal day than the army of Italy, which, to the eternal disgrace of Bonaparte, was permitted to overawe the councils, and to assume to itself the whole power of the state.

Such a service could not be overlooked: their claim to a portion of the milliary became doubly valid, and as the war in Italy was now supposed to be at an end, thousands of them returned to France to claim it.

Here began the difficulties of the Directory. They had no money to give; but it was not expedient to confess it: and the expedition to Egypt was, therefore, brought forward, as an excellent expedient for quieting the present clamour, and providing for forty thousand veteran troops, inured to plunder, and impatient of controul; who were too sensible of their merits, to be quietly laid aside; and too urgent in their demands, to be cajoled with empty promises.

Hence arose the expedition to Egypt. The plunder of the Venitian docks and arsenals, had fortunately furnished them with a vast quantity of naval stores, and with several ships of the line, frigates, &c. With the former, they fitted out the vessels in the port of Toulon; and they collected transports from every quarter. While these preparations were going on, the cupidity and ardour of the troops were artfully inflamed by ambiguous hints if an expedition that was to eclipse, in immediate advantages, the boasted conquests of Cortes and Pizarro.

To promote the farce (for such we are persuaded it was), artists of all kinds, chymists, botanists, members of the pyro-technical school in prodigious numbers, and we know not what quantities of people calling themselves Savans, were collected from every part of France, and driven to Toulon in shoals.—When all these were safely embarked, Bonaparte assembled the Italian army, (amounting to 22,0000 men), and after gravely promising them on his honour, which he observed had ever been sacred, that they should each receive on their return money enough to purchase six acres and a half of good land, took them on board, and tranquilly proceeded to bury them all in Egypt.

On his route he collected near twenty thousand more of the army of Italy—sturdy beggars, who might have disquieted the Directory if they had been suffered to remain in Europe, and who will now contribute with their fortunate comrades, to fatten the vultures of Grand Cairo.

We shall not stop to notice the capture, as it is called, of Malta(2), nor the various gambols that were played by this unwieldy armament in the Mediterranean, but having conducted it in safety to Alexandria, return to make a few miscellaneous observations on its outset, supposed destination, &c.

The first circumstance that strikes us, is the extreme ignorance of the French, with regard to the country they were going to desolate and destroy. They had no connections with its ports for ages, and yet they appear to have known no more of its interior, than the inhabitants of the moon. This want of knowledge was universal—from the Commander in Chief(3) to the meanest soldier in the army, all was darkness, and blind confidence in the blindest of guides!

The “Savans” were not a whit better informed than the rest—like Phaeton,

“They hop’d, perhaps, to meet with pleasing woods, And stately fanes, and cities fill’d with gods:--“

and like him too, we imagine, they have found a general conflagration, and a river!

Now we have mentioned these men, it may not be amiss to inquire into the services the general literature of Europe is likely to derive from their exertions: services, be it remembered, for which the Directory, who forced them on board, have already received the felicitation of all the “friends of liberty.”

The inquiry will be short. All the mention we find of them, from the hour of their embarkation to the present, is contained in Berthier’s letter to the Consuls of the Roman Republic. “The Savans Monge, Benolet, Boursienne, &c.” says he, “fought with the greatest courage; they did not quit the General’s side during any part of the action, and they proved by their exertions, that in combating the ENEMIES OF THEIR COUNTRY(4), every Frenchman is a soldier,” &c.

Thus we find that the “enlightened geniuses of the eighteenth century,” who were to explore the construction of the Pyramids, to dive into the Catacombs, to wind through the mazes of the sacred labyrinth, to dig up the mystic volumes of Hermes, and, in a word, to roam “with free foot” from the Cataracts to the seven mouths of the Nile; are become men of blood, obliged to cling to the troops for protection, and unable to advance a single step to the right or left, beyond the reach of the musquetry or cannon of the army!

But the imbecility displayed in the outset of this strange expedition, is not more extraordinary than the obstinacy with which it had been held up to the admiration of Europe. Either ignorance, or fear, or Jacobism, has been always at hand—to suggest the greatness of plan, where there was little, in fact, but blind hazard—to whisper a combination of means amidst the want of every thing, and to promise infallible success to men whose every step was attended with destruction and despair! While the army was yet on its way to the place of its destination, the old plans of the French Government were in every mouth; and the wisdom was loudly applauded which was to attach the Beys to the invader, crush the dominion of the Porte, and secure the country for ever to the “Great Nation.”

Bonaparte arrives, and reverses the whole scheme. The Beys are now to be crushed, because they alone have the power to resist: and the sovereignty of Constantinople is to be upheld, because it is inefficient. The applause was louder than before! “Better and better still,” cried the sagacious discoverers of deep design in all the bedlam tricks of France; “that country will gain more this way than l’other—“Vive la Republique!”

Again, when it was found that no impressions but those of hatred and hostility, were made on the natives of Egypt, and that the conqueror barely held the ground on which his army halted, we were suddenly made acquainted with another and a greater scheme; which we were seriously assured was the only genuine one, and which could not fail of success! What was not done in Egypt, might be done in Persia. The inhabitants of the southern coasts of that country were opportunely discovered to have the primitive religion of the Arabs, before it was infected with Mahometanism; and with them, “through the means of their venerable Patriarch,” Bonaparte, it was known, had long since been in correspondence. The clue of the mighty maze which had so much puzzled mankind, was at length discovered! Arabia was to be restored to liberty and happiness, by the arms of France, acting on one side of it, and by these innumerable and faithful auxiliaries, on the other. The rest was plain enough. Arabia being once organized, and in possession of a Directory and two Councils, a free passage to India was afforded, of course, through Mekran, the region of friends and philosophers, and the “tyrant of the sea,” driven with disgrace from Calcutta!

It would be superfluous to send our readers to any author of credit, for a refutation of all this absurdity; which yet has been dwelt on, by the friends of France, with complacency and delight—but if they should happen to look into Niehbur, they will find, that there really are some wild Arabs, a poor, and miserable, and half naked people, who wander up and down the coasts of Arabia Proper, and live on putrid fish! These Icthyophagi are the enlightened savages, who, in conjunction with Bonaparte, are to diffuse the knowledge of liberty and virtue through the Eastern world!

But it is not only the profoundity of the General’s plans of conquest, that is so highly and so justly celebrated: his capacity of legislating for the countries he subdues, receives an equal share of applause; and his admirers would think they insulted his reputation, if they forbore to mention, that he added the political sagacity of Solon, to the military science of Alexander.

The reader will find (No. X.) a Letter from Bonaparte, containing, what he calls, his “Provisional Organization of Egypt;” if he will look carefully into this, and into another curious Paper (Appendix, No. VIII.) he will be inclined, we think, to abate something of his admiration for this new Solon.

The tenaciousness of the Eastern people for their customs is proverbially great; yet they are to change them at a word! The simplicity and invariable uniformity of their dress is no less striking; ages pass away, and find it still the same; yet they are now, in obedience to they know not what orders, to trick themselves suddenly out in tri-coloured shawls and scarfs, and ribands, like the tawdry Jack Puddings of the Executive Directory.

All the complicated relations which bind the society among which the General is thrown, are either unknown or unheeded by him; one or two general and barren provisions are made to represent all those moral habits and local regulations which, with an infinite variety, distinguished the formed government of this people.

But a remedy is at hand: if his laws will not do of themselves, force will speedily make them effectual. The military, under the command of a French officer, are directed to be called in on every occasion (p. 71.); this is the grand specific for all! After a disgraceful and futile attempt at civil wisdom, the whole is resolved into violence, and the code of the legislator is thrust down the throat of the people by the bayonet of the Conqueror!

But what could be expected from a man who had already betrayed his incapacity in similar attempts in Europe? Let his stupid admirers (for we must now be serious), let his stupid admirers call to mind his Italian “organizations” (the worthy prototypes of his Egyptian ones), repeatedly changed by himself, and the instant he was out of sight disdainfully changed by others. There too was the same poverty of conception. From his traveling cloke-bag, he privately drew out the MODEL OF ALL LEGISLATION—THE CONSTITUTION OF 1795. This was copied for great and small, and applied in all situations, and to every people! Antiquity knew nothing of this sweeping mode of legislation; they shewed a condescension to the different customs and prejudices of those who fell under their management; and a cluster of small and contiguous powers were judiciously and humanely indulged with the possession of those laws which had long been dear to them, and which removed them from each other in principles and manners, as far from “the center to the pole.”

But Italy, which, in the judgment of our philosophists, had once exhibited this weakness, was now to be taught a better lesson. All moral consideration were to be superseded by the supreme wisdom of the cloke-bag; and Republics, Monarchies, and whatever else might be the distinctions of Aristocratic government, were to be swept away with the besom of 1795. What shall be the Constitution of Genoa? A Directory and two Councils. What of Mantua? A Directory and two Councils. What again of Bolognia? You are very tiresome: look into page—of the Constitution of 1795; what does it say? Once more, a Directory and two Councils. Thus it is. Ventum est ad summum fortuna; and we make laws quicker and better than the ancients—Achivis doctius unctis! One undistinguished rule domineers over all the varied application of political wisdom, and Minos, and Solon, and Lycurgues, are vanquished by a single roll of paper triumphantly carried through Europe, and speaking alike (whether intelligibly or not) “to all people, and nations, and languages and tongues.”

From the legislative pretensions of Bonaparte, we might now descend to the consideration of the fraud, and hypocrisy, and blasphemy, and impiety, and cruelty, and injustice, which he has never ceased to display since the commencement of this famous Expedition; but we are better pleased to leave them to the faithful page of the historian, which we are satisfied will one day hold them to the just contempt and execration of all mankind.

We shall indulge ourselves, however, with an observation or tow on his cruelty. We select this vice, because Bonaparte has been celebrated by the ignorant and malevolent of this country, for nothing so much as for this humanity! One man, of whom we should say, if we could for a moment believe in the metempsychosis, that the spirit of Bishop Bonner had taken full possession, has had the consummate folly to affirm, that Bonaparte, “his consolation and his triumph,” preferred the preservation of one citizen, to the melancholy glory of a thousand victories.

Where did this scribbler, who form his study insults the feelings of his countrymen, and boasts of his satisfactions in the success of their enemies, collects his proofs of the tender concern of Bonaparte for the life of a Citizen? Was it at the bridge of Lodi, where he sacrificed six thousand of them to the vanity of forcing a pass which he might have turned without the loss of a man? Was it--? But why multiply questions, when there is not, perhaps, a reader of a common newspaper in Europe (this pestilent foe to the honour of his country excepted), who does not know that Bonaparte has wantonly spilt more blood than any Attila of ancient or modern times, who, with the same means, has had merely the same ends to effect.

We may, perhaps, at some future time, take up this topic at great length; meanwhile we shall content ourselves with referring to Boyer’s Letter (No. XXII.), and return to the subject of the Expedition.

We have called it a farce—we might, with more justice, have called it a tragedy—It is, we are persuaded (but here we beg to be understood as speaking only our private and individual opinion) a deep-laid plan, of which the only actors in the secret are the Directory and Bonaparte, and, perhaps, Berthier. The main plot was to get rid of the Italian army: the subordinate one to conquer and plunder what they could: if Egypt fell—so much the better; if it did not—so much the better still. The denouement was skillfully effected either way, and the Government equally relieved!

But why then all this expence, this hazard of their sole remaining fleet, this exposure of their best and most skilful officers, of their profoundest philosophers, of their most scientific men of every kind?—These we confess are weighty and rational objections, and if we could not answer them to our own satisfaction, we would without hesitation, renounce the opinion we have given, and adopt that of our opponents in its stead.

We begin, then, with premising that the Directory do not set much store by their Savans; they have exported several head of them to Cayenne, a spot still worse than Egypt; and made a great consumption of them at home, in noyades, fusillades, &c. &c.—these, therefore, may be safely put out of the question.

With respect to the expence—to say nothing of the hopes of repaying themselves by the plunder of Malta, and Grand Cairo(5); it was surely worth something to effect the important ends they had in view. The “hazard of their fleet,” indeed, seems a more serious matter; but let it be remembered, that the Directory had no idea that we could possibly send a squadron into the Mediterranean (a sea which we had then abandoned for near two years), strong enough to attack it: and here let us pay the tribute of applause so justly due to the secrecy, and skill, and promptitude, with which this most important measure was effected.

With regard to the “exposure of their best officers”—and here we make our chief stand—we say, that the Government had no such design. They were sent, it is true, because the army would not move without them; but we have proof, little short of mathematical certainty, that they were speedily meant to be recalled to France. It appears from some of Bonaparte’s letters, that he had not the slightest idea of wintering in Egypt. “I shall pass,” says he, “the cold months in Burgundy, where I wish you would look out some little place for me”—Here, then, is the solution of the whole enigma. Bonaparte was to leave his devoted followers to moulder away in the undisturbed possession of Egypt, and under some plausible pretence to return to Europe with his ablest officers, and with, perhaps, a handful of the most ductile and tractable of his troops.

This plan, and no other, accounts for his keeping the fleet on the coast, in spite of the remonstrances of Brueys, and the evident danger to which it was exposed—it was to carry back the “Conqueror of Egypt” in triumph to France: and the Admiral, who was wholly unacquainted with his design, fell a sacrifice at last, to a perfidy which he could not comprehend.

THE FIRST OF AUGUST ruined all these fine spun schemes; and Bonaparte fell into the toils he was spreading for others! All return is now impossible, except as a fugitive, or a prisoner. He may enter into the chambers of the Pyramids, and hold conversations on the tomb of the Cheops, with Imans, and with Muftis; he may organize, and conquer, and plant botanic gardens, and establish menageries; he may pass from the Delta to the Thebaid, and from the Thebaid to the Delta, with his train of tri-coloured Cheiks, and be hailed as the ALI BONAPARTE of the country—all is still but folly: his final destruction can neither be averted nor delayed; and his unseasonable mummeries will but serve to take away all dignity form the catastrophe of the drama; and render his fall at once terrible and ridiculous.

Before our readers accuse us of being too sanguine in our expectations, or too precipitate in our judgment, let them carefully peruse the following Correspondence. They will find every officer in the army dissatisfied with his situation, and impatient to return to France: execrating the climate and the country, and lamenting the folly that left him to embark in so wild, and absurd, and hopeless an expedition. They will find the whole army without tents, baggage, or ammunition, without medicines, or wine, or brandy; with few of the necessaries, and none of the comforts of life.

This WAS a faithful picture of their situation before the destruction of their fleet—what IT IS since, they may easily conjecture. If, then, they will add to this accumulation of misery and despair, the inveterate hostility of the Arabs, the treachery of the Egyptians, and the destructive warfare of the Mameloucs, together with the nauseous and peculiar diseases of the country, the intolerable heats, and pestilential winds, the devouring myriads of venomous insects, and the stench and putrefication of ten thousand stagnant pools, they will not, we imagine, be much inclined to dispute the justice of our conclusions.

With respect to the Letters we have given, they were selected, as far as was consistent with our plan, with an eye to variety. They are, with few exceptions, extremely well written, and do credit to the epistolary talents of the authors: nor is this their highest merit; they are friendly and affectionate; and we see with pleasure that the cold-blooded rant of a detestable and impious philosophy, has not yet succeeded in extinguishing the social feelings!

One word more. We had very different motives from those of raising a laugh, when we admitted into the collection, the Letters of Guillot, Le Turcq, &c. We had it in contemplation to shew, that from the highest to the lowest, from the best informed to the most illiterate, the sentiment of discontent and disgust is universal; that, far from harbouring a thought of sitting down in Egypt, not an individual in the army (so far, at least, as had come to our knowledge) but turns with fond anxiety towards home, and thinks, with horror and despair, of a residence in this “Terrestrial Paradise,” even for a few weeks!


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)The following paragraphs are taken from the Morning Chronicle. We might have produced a hundred more of the same kind, but these we think will be sufficient to convince the reader, of the “superior delicacy” of that paper. When he has considered them well, he will not be disinclined, perhaps, to felicitate the French ladies, on the letters of their lovers and friends having luckily escaped such “delicate,” and honourable hands!

“It is not very creditable to the generosity of Office, that the private letters from Bonaparte and his Army to their friends in France, which were intercepted, should be published. It derogates from the character of a nation to descend to such gossiping. One of these letters is from Bonaparte to his Brother, complaining of the profligacy of his wife; another from young Beauharnois, expressing his hopes that his dear Mamma is not so wicked as she is represented! Such are the precious secrets which, to breed mischief in private families, is to be published in French and English!” [Nov. 24]

“After the public have been so long agitated with anxiety and speculation respecting Bonaparte and his Expedition, they are at length to be gratified with the scandal and intrigue of which the private Letters from the General and his Officers are full.” [Nov. 25]

“The private correspondence of Bonaparte’s Officers, is a curious specimen of public intelligence. It reminds us of the weak and impolitic Ministry who persecuted WILKES. When their fund of malice was nearly exhausted, they gave out that he had written an indecent poem, which certainly has as much to do with the question of general warrants, as Madame Bonaparte’s chastity has to do with her husband’s Expedition through Egypt!” [Nov. 26]

(2)That event had been secured before Bonaparte left Toulon, by the intrigues and largesses of Poussielgue: these have been since laid upon by the Bailli Teignie, and others; and made the subject of a formal accusation against the Grand Master Hompsech, by the Knights who have taken refuge in Germany, Russia &c.

(3)In a letter of Bonaparte’s to the Directory; dated July 6th, he says “this country is any thing but what travelers, and story tellers represent it to be.”

(4)The cant of the French is even more shocking than their enormities. They invade a friendly country, which they wantonly devote to pillage and devastation; and the leaders of this lerocious horde of savages have the detestable insolence to call the unoffending people whom they are exterminating for the crime of endeavouring to protect their lives and properties, and who are utterly and alike ignorant of them their sanguinary employers—“THE ENEMIES OF FRANCE.”

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bonaparte Issues Proclamation in Arabic

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. 235-237.

No. I.

Translation of the Proclamation issued by BONAPARTE, in the Arabic Language, on his landing in Egypt.

IN the name of God, gracious and merciful.—There is no God but God; he has no son or associate in his kingdom.

The present moment, which is destined for the punishment of the Beys, has been long anxiously expected. The Beys, coming from the mountains of Georgia and Bajars, have desolated this beautiful country, long insulted and treated with contempt the French Nation, and oppressed her merchants in various ways. Bonaparte, the General of the French Republic, according to the principles of Liberty, is now arrived; and the Almighty, the Lord of both Worlds, have sealed the destruction of the Beys.

Inhabitants of Egypt! When the Beys tell you the French are come to destroy your religion, believe them not: it is an absolute falsehood. Answer those deceivers, that they are only come to rescue the rights of the poor from the hands of their tyrants, and that the French adore the Supreme Being, and honour the Prophet and his holy Koran.

All men are equal in the eyes of God: understanding, ingenuity, and science, alone make a difference between them: as the Beys, therefore, do not possess any of these qualities, they cannot be worthy to govern the country.

Yet are they the only possessors of extensive tracts of land, beautiful female slaves, excellent horses, magnificent palaces! Have they then received an exclusive privilege from the Almighty? If so, let them produce it. But the Supreme Being, who is just and merciful towards all mankind, wills that in future none of the inhabitants of Egypt shall be prevented from attaining to the first employments and the highest honours.—The Administration, which shall be conducted by persons of intelligence, talents, and foresight, will be productive of the happiness and security. The tyranny and avarice of the Beys have laid waste Egypt, which was formerly so populous and well cultivated.

The French are true Mussulmen. Not long since they marched to Rome, and overthrew the Throne of the Pope, who excited the Christians against the professors of Islamism (The Mahometan religion). Afterwards they directed their course to Malta, and drove out the unbelievers, who imagined they were appointed by God to make war on the Mussulmen. The French have at all times been the true and sincere friends of the Ottoman Emperors, and the enemies of their enemies. May the Empire of the Sultan therefore be eternal; but may the Beys of Egypt, our opposers whose insatiable avarice has continually excited disobedience and insubordination, be trodden in the dust, and annihilated!

Our friendship shall be extended to those of the inhabitants of Egypt who shall join us, as also those who shall remain in their dwellings, and observe a strict neutrality; and when they have seen our conduct with their own eyes, hasten to submit to us; but the dreadful punishment of death awaits those who shall take up arms for the Beys, and against us. For then there shall be no deliverance, nor shall any trace of them remain.

Art. 1. All places which shall be three leagues distant from the route of the French army, shall send one of their principal inhabitants to the French General, to declare that they submit, and will hoist the French flag, which is blue, white, and red.

Art. 2
. Every village which shall oppose the French army shall be burned to the ground.

Art. 3. Every village which shall submit to the French, shall hoist the French flag, and that of the Sublime Porte, their Ally, whose duration be eternal.

Art. 4. The Cheiks and principal persons of each town and village shall seal up the houses and effects of the Beys, and take care that not the smallest article shall be lost.

Art. 5
. The Cheiks, Cadis, and Imans, shall continue to exercise their respective functions; and put up their prayers, and perform the exercise of religious worship in the mosques and houses of prayer. All the inhabitants of Egypt shall offer up thanks to the Supreme Being, and put up public prayers for the destruction of the Beys.

May the Supreme God make the glory of the Sultan of the Ottomans eternal, pour forth his wrath on the Mameloucs, and render glorious the destiny of the Egyptian Nation.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Admiral Ganteaume Provides Official Abstract of Encounter with the British

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. 230-234


Alexandria, August 5th.

Abstract of the Engagement which took place on the night of the first of August, between the French Fleet, and that of Great Britain, under the command of Rear Admiral NELSON.

AT two in the afternoon, the Heureux threw out a signal of 12 sail in the W.N.W. Our men on the look out, discovered them at the same time, and counted successively as many as 16. We were not long in recognizing these vessels to be an English squadron, composed of 14 sail of the line and two brigs.

The enemy steered for our anchoring ground, with a press of sail: having a brig sounding a head. The wind was N. and rather fresh.

The two brigs, the Alceste and the Raileur, were immediately ordered to make a sail to windward, to prevent the enemy’s light vessel from continuing her soundings.

The signals for stowing the hammocks, and making ready for fight; for announcing the resolution of engaging at anchor; and for recalling the men on board their respective ships, were all made at three.

The long boats employed in watering were also recalled: a boat was hastily dispatched from the Artemise to the shoals of Rosetta, to acquaint the transports there with the appearance of the enemy; and finally, the frigates and corvettes were ordered to send as many of their men as possible on board the ships of the line.

The enemy’s squadron continued to advance with a press of sail; after standing off to a considerable distance, to avoid the breakers on the island(1), it hauled its wind, shortened sail, and clearly manifested a design to attack us.

At three quarters after five, the battery on the little island threw some bombs, which fell into the van of the enemy’s line. At 6, the Admiral threw out the signal for commencing the engagement, and shortly after, the two headmost ships began firing.

Several of the enemy’s vessels having suddenly shortened sail, had turned the head of our line, and letting go their anchors, with a cable astern, had ranged along side, between us and the land; while others had moored themselves within pistol-shot of us, on the other side! By this maneuver, all our vessels, as far down as the Tonnant, found themselves completely enveloped, and placed between two fires.

It appeared to us that in executing this maneuver, two of their vessels had run aground: one of them, however, was immediately got off.

The attack and the defense were extremely brisk. The whole of our van was attacked on both sides, and sometimes raked. In this disorder, and involved as we were in continual clouds of smoke, it was extremely difficult to distinguish the different movements of the line.

At the beginning of the action, the admiral, all the superior officers, the first commissary, and about twenty pilots, and masters of transports, were on the poop of the ship(2), employed in serving the musquetry. All the soldiers, and sailors, were ordered to the guns of the main and lower decks: the twelve pounders were not half-manned.

After the action had lasted about an hour, the Admiral was wounded in the body, and in the hand; he then came down from the poop, and a short time after, was killed on the quarter-deck.

Obliged to defend ourselves on both sides, we gave up the twelve pounders, but the twenty-fours, and thirty-six’s kept up their fire with all possible ardour. The Franklin and the Tonnant appeared to be in as critical a situation as ourselves.

The English having utterly destroyed our van(3), suffered their ships to drift forward, still ranging along our line, and taking their different stations around us: while we [illegible] van cut off, were frequently obliged to [illegible] away our cable, or our hawser, to enable us to present our broadside to the enemy.

One of their ships, however, which lay close to us on the starboard side totally dismasted, ceased her fire, and cut her cable, to get out of the reach of our guns: but obliged to defend ourselves against two others who were furiously thundering upon us, on the larboard quarter, and on the starboard bow, we were again compelled to heave in some of our cable.

The 36 and 24 pounders were still firing briskly, when an explosion took place on the aft of the quarter-deck. We had already had a boat on fire; but we had cut it away, and so avoided the danger. We had also thrown a hammock, and some other things, which were in flames, over board, but this third time, the fire spread so rapidly and instantaneously amongst the fragments of every kind, with which the poop was incumbered, that all was soon in flames. The fire pumps had been dashed to pieces by the enemy’s balls, and the tubs and buckets rendered useless.

An order was given to cease firing, that all hands might be at liberty to bring water; but such was the ardour of the moment, that in the tumult, the guns of the main-deck still continued their fire. Although the officers had called all the people between decks, aloft, the flames had in a very short time, made a most alarming progress, and we had but few means in our power of checking them.

Our main and mizzen masts were both carried away; and we soon saw that there was no saving the ship; the fire having already gained the poop, and even the battery on the quarter-deck.

The captain and second captain had been wounded some time before. General Gnateaume therefore took upon himself the command, and ordered the scuttles to be opened, and every body to quit the ship.

The fire broke out about a quarter before ten, and at half after ten the ship blew up, although we had taken the precaution to open all the water-courses. Some of the crew saved themselves on the wreck; the rest perished.

The action continued all the night with the ships in the rear, and at break of day, we discovered that the Guerrier, the Conquerant, the Spartiate, the Aquillon, the Peuple Souverain, and the Franklin had hauled down their colours, and were in the possession of the enemy. The Timoleon, with all her masts gone, was dropt astern of the fleet, her colours still flying. The Heureux and the Mercure which had run aground were attacked, and obliged to strike in the morning. The artemise was set on fire at 8 o’clock, and the Serieuse sunk.

The Guillaume Tell, the Genereux, the Timoleon, the Diana, and the Justice, with their colours still flying, were engaged with some English vessels during a part of the morning, but this division, with the exception of the Timoleon, set their sails, about 11 o’clock, and stood off to sea.

The Timoleon ran ashore; and we have since heard, that the Captain, after landing all his men, set her on fire the next morning, to prevent her falling into the hands of the enemy.

Such are the results of this horrible affair; and we have detailed them as they presented themselves to our memory; not having been able to preserve a paper or note of any kind.

Read Admiral GANTEAUME.

[British Translators' Notes]

(1)See the Charts.

(2)The l’Orient.

(3)We take the opportunity of this passage to make a few observations.

It has been said in the French papers, and repeated in our ears usque ad nauseam, that the fate of the day was undecided when the l’Orient took fire; and questions have been gravely put by the opposition writers, and still more gravely debated, as to the probable consequences of the engagement, if that accident had not taken place.

These patriotic gentlemen, however, may now close their well meant discussions: we have it, happily, in our power to decide the question for ever, by such authority, as they neither can nor will, we believe, be inclined to dispute. We have the authentic and irrefragable testimony of the Admiral Ganteaume, that the van of the French fleet was in our hands before that event took place: and we have, secondly, THE EXPRESS AUTHORITY OF THE CAPT. BERRY for saying that Six of their ships had struck before the l’Orient was perceived to be on fire; and that not only HE, BUT EVERY OTHER OFFICER, WHO WAS IN A SITUATION OF JUDGING, IS PERSUADED THAT THE L’ORIENT HERSELF HAD PREVIOUSLY STRUCK TO THE BRITISH FLAG!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Admiral Ganteaume Gives Account of "Most Fatal of Disasters"

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. 219-225


Alexandria, August 23d.

Rear Admiral GANTEAUME(1), to General BRUIX, Minister of the Marine, and of the Colonies.

Citizen Minister,

OBLIGED to give you an account of the most fatal of disasters, it is with piercing and heart-felt sorrow, that I acquit myself of this melancholy part of my duty.

Eleven sail of the line taken, burnt, and lost for France, our best officers killed or wounded, the coasts of our new colony laid open to invasion of the enemy; such are the dreadful results of an engagement which took place on the night of the 1st instant, between our fleet and that of the English under the command of Admiral Nelson.

From the experience which you have had, Citizen Minister, in our ports during the course of this war, it will doubtless be easy for you to judge, whether the crews of a fleet so hastily fitted out as ours, could be reasonably expected to be well composed; and whether we could hope to find amongst men collected at random as it were, almost at the very instant of our departure, able mariners, and skilful and experienced cannoneers. The favourable season, however, the care and attention of the officers, and, perhaps, a certain portion of good luck, seconded the progress of the fleet effectually, that, together with its convoy, it reached the coast of Egypt without any accident whatever.

The Admiral has most assuredly informed you that on our arrival at Alexandria, we learned that an English squadron of 14 sail had been there three days before us. It would have been the most prudent step perhaps, to have quitted the coast the moment the descent had been effected; but the Admiral, who waited for the orders(2) of the Commander in Chief (whose army naturally derived a great degree of confidence from the presence of the squadron) did not think himself justified in quitting the coast, but took, on the contrary, a strong position in the anchoring ground of Bequiers.

This road by its proximity to Rosetta, enabled him to receive on board the necessary supplies for the fleet; and to replace, though with infinite risks and pains, some part of the water that was daily consumed on board. It was therefore, unfortunately determined to moor the fleet in one line, in an open situation, and which could not be protected from the shore.

Fatal intelligence received from time to time by neutral vessels, announced the return of the enemy’s squadron. It had been seen off the Isle of Candia, steering to the westward. The conduct of this fleet, which, though superior to ours, had not waited for us before Alexandria, but made sail to the west, while we were effecting our disembarkation, which it might easily have thwarted or prevented, unhappily confirmed us in the opinion that it had no orders to attack us, and produced a boundless and fatal security.

On the 21st of July, however, two of the enemy’s frigates(3) reconnoitred us, and on the 31st, about two in the afternoon, their whole fleet hove in sight. It was composed of 14 sail of the line, and two brigs. The wind was northerly and rather fresh. They bore down with a press of sail on our fleet, and clearly announced a design to attack us.

The measures which the Admiral took on this occasion, the resolution to engage at anchor, and the results of this horrible affair, are detailed in the abstract(4), which I have subjoined to the present letter; in that, I have delineated every circumstance as it appeared to me on this too grievous, and too dreadful night.

The L’Orient took fire. It was by an accident which I cannot yet comprehend, that I escaped from the midst of the flames, and was taken into a yawl that was lying under the ship’s counter. Not being able to reach the vessel of General Villeneuve, I made for this place, from whence I have now the mortification of transmitting you these melancholy details.

The Franklin, the Spartiate, the Tonnant, the Peuple Souverain, and the Conquerant are taken. They got their top-masts up, and sailed with the enemy’s squadron, which quitted the coast on the 18th of August; leaving here a small division of four ships of the line and two frigates.

The Mercure, the Heureux, and the Guerrier have been burnt by the enemy. The two first ran aground during the action, and were buiged when they took possession of them.

The Timoleon, incapable of making her escape, was run on shore by Captain Trulet, who set her on fire, after putting all the crew either into his own boats, or into those which were sent him from the rest of the fleet.

The two frigates, the Artemise and the Serieuse were destroyed, in spite of the enemy’s endeavours to preserve them; the first was burnt, and the other sunk.

The sole relicks then of this unfortunate armament are comprised in the division of frigates, corvets, and fluets, which are now at Alexandria, and in that of General Villeneuve, who, by a bold maneuver(5), made his escape from the enemy. You will see by my Abstract, that this latter division is composed of two ships of the line and two frigates,--the Guillaume Tell, the Genereux, the Diane, and the Justice.

Placed by my rank at the head of the part of our unfortunate armament which remains here, Admiral Nelson proposed to me to receive the wounded, and other prisoners. In concert with General Kleber, commandant of the town, I have acquiesced in his proposition; and three thousand one hundred prisoners, of whom about 800 are wounded, have been put on shore since the 6th of August.

By means of this correspondence we have collected some information respecting our personal losses. My pen trembles in my hand while, in conformity to my duty, I attempt to particularize our misfortunes.

The Admiral, the Chiefs of Division, Casa-Bianca, Thevenard, Du Petit Thouars, are killed, and six other superior officers, whose names are subjoined(6), dangerously wounded. I have not yet been able to procure an exact list of the privates killed and wounded, on account of Admiral Nelson’s refused to send me the Commissaries of the captured vessels, with their roles d’equipage.

Since the action the enemy’s cruisers are masters of the whole coast, and interrupt all our communications. The other day they captured the Fortune, a corvet which the Admiral had sent to cruize off Damietta. The English squadron, as I had the honour of mentioning to you above, sailed (it is said) for Sicily on the 18th instant. The division which is stationed here, consists of four seventy-fours and two frigates.

On account of the extraordinary care which the English always take to conceal their loss of men, we have been able to procure no information on the subject that can be relied on. We are assured, however, that Admiral Nelson is dangerously wounded in the head, and that two captains are killed. We are also told, that two of their ships, the Majestic and the Bellerophon, had each 150 men killed and wounded.

In the situation in which we are, blocked up by a very superior force, I am still ignorant, Citizen Minister, what measures we shall pursue with the feeble maritime resources that yet remain to us in this port; but if I must needs speak the truth, such as it really appears to me, I then say that, after so dreadful a disaster, I CONCEIVE NOTHING BUT A PEACE CAN CONSOLIDATE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF OUR NEW COLONY. MAY OUR GOVERNORS PROCURE US A SOLID AND HONOURABLE ONE!

I am, with respect,



[British Translators' Notes]

(1)Our last was from a spectator on shore. We now present our readers (and we do it with great satisfaction) with a narrative of the engagement, from one who was an actor in it; from one who might have said with Aeneas,

--quaeque ipse miserrima vidi, Et quorum pars magna fui!

From Ganteaume, in short, Rear Admiral of the fleet, who was on board the l’Orient durng the action—which he describes with the precision of a seamen, and the feelings of a patriot.

These dispatches are addressed to Bruix. They are confidential, and such as would certainly have never transpired, but for the event which threw them into our hands. If this correspondence reach the minister of marine (which we have no doubt but it will) he may still profit by it. We have given it with fidelity.

We think these two papers give the fullest account of the glorious event of the first of August, that has yet appeared. It should be observed, however, that the letters from our fleet were all on board the Leander; and, as we have already observed, were destroyed by her gallant commander, previous to striking.—We are not, indeed, without a portion of information on the subject; but still it is flattering to see a brave and able officer, (for such Ganteaume is,) bearing testimony in his official documents, to the superior courage and skill of our intrepid countrymen.

(2)If we wanted any additional proofs of the falsehood of Bonaparte, this paper would furnish it. To injure the reputation of Brueys, and to insult his ashes, he asserts, as we have already seen (No. III.), that this unfortunate Admiral detained the fleet on the coast of Egypt contrary to his wishes; and here we have Ganteaume, Commander in Chief of all the French Naval forces in Egypt, expressly declaring, in direct contradiction to the assertion, that Brueys only remained on the coast because Bonaparte would not permit him to depart!

We have given our opinion on this subject (No. III.), and probably said more than enough there to convince the blindest of Bonaparte’s admirers, that he is deficient in one quality at least, of a great man; but we could not resist the temptation of making “assurance doubly sure,” and establishing his character beyond all possibility of future doubt, by the unsuspected evidence of his warmest friend.

(3)Sir John Sinclair, who has taken his ideas of ships in the Mediterranean from flies in a milk-pot, ducks in a pond, or gilt boats and streamers in a garden canal, very properly reprehends Mr. Pitt for not having made the victory more complete, by causing all the ships which were in quest of Lord Nelson, to find him! And true it is, that if these two frigates, and two or three more that were on the look out for the Admiral, had joined him previous to the engagement, they might have rendered him some service. But the worst is yet to come: for we can seriously assure Sir John, that if these vessels had not perversely found the French fleet (for which their captains shall be broke when he is first Lord of the Admiralty) while they were searching for ours, the victory would have been as complete as heart could wish, not a vessel, not a man would have escaped! It was these and other frigates which afterwards appeared that alarmed the enemy, and occasioned all those measures of precaution and security which we find they took; and for which, if Sir John will be pleased to compare the various dates of this and the following dispatch, he will see they had sufficient time.

Notwithstanding all this, however, we are not inclined to be very angry with the ships in question. It is thought by many that their captains possess full as much nautical skill as Sir John Sinclair, and nearly as much promptitude and zeal for the service of their country; this we confess, is also our opinion, and when we see SUCH MEN anxiously and ardently engaged on an element which no human power can controul, and in a service which no human abilities can effect at will, we are ready to conclude that something more than a knowledge of agriculture is required to enable us to judge of their merits, and something better than an itch of finding fault, to justify an attack on the plans of the minister who employs them!

(4)It follows this letter.

(5)Genteaume does Villeneuve too much credit: the merit of the escape (such as it is) is due to another person.

(6)These names do not appear; they were, probably, omitted in the hurry of making up the dispatches.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Accurate Assessment of Results of Battle with the British

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. 206-213.


Rosetta, August 4th.

E POUSSIELGUE(1), Controller of the Expences of the Army of the East, and Administrator General of the Finances.

WE have just been witness, my dear girl, of the most bloody and unfortunate naval action that has been fought for many ages. We do not yet know all the circumstances of it, but those that we do know, are horrible.

The French fleet, composed of thirteen sail of the line, of which one was a three decker of 120 guns, and three of 80, was moored in the incommodious bay of Aboukir; the only station to be found on the coast of Egypt. For the last week several English frigates had frequently reconnoitred the position of our fleet; so that it was in constant expectation of being attacked. From Aboukir to Rosetta, in a straight line, is about ten miles; so that from the heights of this latter place our ships were plainly discernible.

The 1st of this month, at half after five in the evening, we heard the report of several guns: this was the commencement of the action. We immediately got upon the roofs of the highest houses, and on the little eminences, and clearly distinguished ten English vessels; the others were not yet in sight. The firing was exceedingly brisk till a quarter after nine, when we perceived, by favour of the night, a prodigious light, which sufficiently announced to us, that some vessel was in flames—at this moment the fire was brisker than ever. At ten o’clock, the vessel which was burning, blew up with a most tremendous noise, which was heard as plainly at Rosetta, as the explosion of Grenelle at Paris. This accident was succeeded by a pitchy darkness, and a most profound silence, which continued for about ten minutes. The time elapsed between our seeing and hearing the explosion was two minutes. The firing now began again, and continued, without intermission, till three in the morning: it then grew very faint till five, when it commenced with more fury than ever.

I now took my stand on a tower called Aboul-Mandour, about a mile from Rosetta, from whence I had a clear and distinct view of the whole engagement. At eight in the morning, I perceived a vessel on fire; about half an hour after, another, which did not appear to me to have been on fire before, suddenly blew up; its explosion was as dreadful as that of the preceding evening. The vessel which was burning removed further from the shore, the flames insensibly diminished, and it appeared to us, that the crew had succeeded in extinguishing them altogether.

During this time, the contest raged with redoubled fury: a large vessel, with all her masts carried away, got on shore. Several others appeared totally dismasted; but the two fleets were so intermixed, that we could not distinguish whether they were French or English; nor possibly make out which side had the advantage. The firing continued as warm as ever, till two in the afternoon of the 2d; at which period, two sail of the line, and two frigates, cut their cables, and make sail to the eastward with all the canvas they could carry. These vessels we clearly distinguished by their colours to be French. No other vessel stirred, and the firing ceased.

About six in the evening I returned to the tower of Aboul-Mandour, to reconnoiter the position of the two squadrons: it was the same as when I left it. The four vessels under weigh were off the mouth of the Nile. We knew not what to think of it. Twenty-four hours were past, and not a soul arrived to give us any information. To procure any ourselves was impossible; by land, on account of the Arabs, who were assembled between Rosetta and Aboukir; and by sea, on account of the difficulty of passing the bar, and the swell at the mouth of the Nile.

Thou may’st judge of our impatience and perplexity. We drew a very unfavourable augury from this silence: we were compelled, however, to remain in this state of uncertainty, all the night of the 2d. At length, on the morning of the 3d, a boat(2), which had slipped out in the night from Alexandria, brought us some details; but out of a most melancholy nature. They told us that some officers of the French fleet, who had escaped in a shallop to Alexandria, had reported that soon after the commencement of the action, Admiral Brueys had received three dangerous wounds; one on the head, and two in the body; that he still persisted in remaining on the quarter-deck; and that a fourth shot had cut him in two; that his first Captain Casa-Bianca, had been killed at the same instant, by a cannon ball; that the ship was just then perceived to be on fire; that they could not succeed in putting it out; and that she had finally blown up about ten in the evening. They added, that our squadron was defeated and destroyed; that four vessels only had escaped; and that the rest were in the enemy’s hands.

I returned to the tower, and found every thing precisely as it was the evening before. It was the same yesterday, and is still so this morning.

I now present you with an exact view of the whole scene, as it appeared to us: keeping the tower of Aboukir to the left, and directing our eyes along the horizon, to the right.

The 1st vessel dismasted, carries English colours.

The 2d and 3d in a good condition, colours not to be distinguished. The 4th has lost a mast.

The 5th in good condition; has English colours.

The 6th has lost a top-mast; this morning she hoisted a gib and a square sail.

The 7th has lost all her top-gallant masts.

The 8th has all her mast by the board.

The 9th ditto; except her bowsprit, which is standing.

The 10th dismasted; this morning a sail was bent to her bowsprit.

The 11th, 12th, and 13th, form a kind of groupe, we can only see that the three vessels have but seven masts between them.

The 14th has only her mizzen mast.

The 15th has lost her mizzen-top, and top-gallant masts.

The 16th has all her masts by the board.

The 17th has lost her mizzen top-gallant.

The 18th has lost her fore and main-masts.

The 19th, 20th, and 21st, form a groupe, with only four masts standing—all the top-masts gone.

The 22d entirely dismasted, and on shore—has English colours; they are endeavouring to get her off, and rig her out with jury masts.

The 23d in good condition; has English colours.

The 24th ditto. This is all that I could distinguish.

The result is, that though the English are victorious, they have been very roughly handled: this is clear, from their not being able to follow the four vessels that made off on the 2d.

For two days, all these vessels have remained inactive; they lie like logs in the water.

This morning intelligence is arrived from Alexandria, which confirms our losses. Rear Admiral Decres is killed, as well as Ducheyla. The Tonnant was the last ship that struck. Du Petit Thouars who commanded her, had both his legs carried away by a cannon ball. The vessels that escaped are the Guillaume Tell and the ----; the frigates are the Diana and the Justice. They say that it was the Artemise which blew up the morning before yesterday.

There is much still to be learned respecting this engagement. The English Admiral, they tell us, has sent a flag of truce to Alexandria, with a request that they would receive and take care of the wounded, which amount to 1500. He also proposes to send the prisoners on shore. I have not heard what answer was returned.

You will have in France the official relation of this event from both parties. I know not what they may say; but thou mayest rely with the utmost confidence on what I have written, because it is what I saw.

Communicate my letter to the female Citizen Corancez—this will save her son the trouble of writing; besides, I have set him about something else. He has already written six letters, and has not received an answer to any of them. I have heard nothing of Citizen Mony, whom I have appointed Agent at Demanhour. Derances, who has been ill, is quite recovered; he is with me. Martain is well, he has not received a single line from his family. I am the only fortunate person, since I have received three letters from thee since I have been in Egypt; many others have undoubtedly miscarried, as the English have taken several of our couriers.

I have had my portrait painted in profile since I have been here, by Citizen Denou, a skilful artist. They tell me that it is extremely like—but we have so many English about us, that I dare not send it, for fear it should find its way to England, or to the bottom of the sea. How happy should I be to bring it to thee myself! Be assured that the moment I can obtain my discharge, which I solicit night and day, I will quit this country. No fortune in the world shall keep me here. I would consent with pleasure to return to thee, as naked as I was born.

For the rest, my health is extremely good. I set out for Cairo to-morrow morning, in a handsome passageboat, with the military chest, the Paymaster-general, two advice-boats, an escort of 250 men, and more than 40 passengers. I take with me a fine Arabian horse, which a Cheik here made me a present of. We go by the Nile.

Adieu, my dear little girl, love me always well, and remember me to all our friends. I embrace thee tenderly, as well as my children.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)This man was originally a merchant of Marseilles; but having a talent for intrigue, he was selected by the Directory, who had frequently profited by his ingenuity, to corrupt and revolutionize the knights of Malta. How well he succeeded, the recent surrender of that island declares but too plainly. He had, however, made himself too obnoxious to the Maltese to think of remaining there, and Bonaparte who, as the Cardinal Antici somewhere observes, “knows how to distinguish,” advanced him, in return for his eminent services, to the lucrative post in which we now find him.

He is evidently a very able man; and his letter which we now lay before the reader, is one of the most surprising instances of accuracy of observation, and fidelity of description, that we ever remember to have met with. It has been shewn to many of our officers who were in the engagement; and they unanimously concur in regarding it as a very extraordinary production.

It should be mentioned to the farther credit of Poussielgue that he could at no time have been nearer than seven miles to the scenes which he so correctly and minutely describes.

(2) That which brought General Loyer. See his letter, No. XXVIII.