Friday, November 9, 2007

Commissary Requests Provisions for Alexandria

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 1, pp. 171-174.

Alexandria, July 29.

LE ROY, Commissary of the Marine, to Admiral BRUEYS.

Citizen Admiral,

IN obedience to the orders of General Kleber, an agent for military supplies is about to set out for Rosetta. I shall furnish him with a letter for Citizen Jaubert, who will take measures for preventing the purchases made for the fleet, and those for the army, either here or at Rosetta, from occasioning a competition in the markets, which will be injurious to both.

The Board of Health has appointed Citizen Ferriere to the hospital at Aboukir. He will wait on you for orders.

Captain De la Rue writers to me in the most pressing manner, from Rosetta, for scherms (lighters). It is with the utmost difficulty that I have been able to collect five to send you—we are now engaged in looking out for a sixth.

I presume that the capture of Cairo will facilitate our communications;--but, at all events, the supplying the fleet with provisions of water, the forwarding the baggage of the army, the correspondence with Rosetta, the necessity of going to procure water for Alexandria, which in a short time will be in want of it(1)—All these urgent calls induce me to propose to you to dispatch one of the ships of war to Damietta, to collect as many scherms as possible, and bring them round to Rosetta, where they may be put under the command of Citizen De la Rue, and distributed according to your orders.

The situation of the sick, and the means of taking care of them, are not yet precisely such as to enable me to dispense with requesting you to order all the sick of your squadron to be put on shore in future at Rosetta. The difficulty of refitting at this port has, hitherto, retarded the sailing of the Madonna della N----; but you shall have her one of these days.

Health and respect.


P.S. What an infinity of pains, Citizen Admiral, for the most trifling thing! The success of the Commander in Chief will soon, I hope, alleviate or remove our difficulties.

General Kleber repeats his request to you, to let him know if you cannot contrive to send his packets by the first vessel which you dispatch to France. The General also desires you to send an officer to Rosetta, to overlook the taking on board the water for Alexandria, and the embarkation of the baggage of the cavalry on the Nile.

Here is the outline of a plan which I have drawn up for the purpose, by the assistance of the worthy Guien; a man whose friendship I owe to your recommendation—for which I can never be sufficiently thankful.

1. To convey all the scherms of Damietta to Rosetta, where, in conjunction with those at Alexandria, they shall be appropriated to the exclusive service of the squadron, and of this port.

2. The macks shall serve as transports to convey the passengers to Cairo, as well as the baggage of the army.

3. The Caisses shall supply the place of sloops, when ever a sufficient number of tartanes cannot be found.

4. To employ between this place and Bequier, and between Bequier and Rosetta, as many tartanes as possible, with latin sails, and drawing little water.

Health and respect.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)’Proofs rise on proofs!” We mentioned in our observations of Savary’s letter, (No. XII.) that the troops and transport vessels at Alexandria, would shortly experience a scarcity of provisions. We now find that a worse evil awaited them; for so long since as the beginning of August, they were obliged to draw their supplies of water from Rosetta! It is true that the rise of the Nile towards the end of that month, would probably furnish them with a precarious supply—but, on the other hand, as the canal was entirely in the possession of the Arabs, and as it never brought water enough to fill half the cisterns of the city, we may reasonably doubt whether they derived much advantage from it.

Add to this, that the usual population of the city, which was always (that is in modern times) scantily supplied with this indispensable article, is about eight thousand, the French say then: now the garrison, the transports, and the ships of war there, must make an addition to it of twelve thousand at least: so that placing every thing in the most favourable light, it is impossible but that the want of water must by this time be most seriously felt; and evil the more alarming, as not a drop can now be procured from Rosetta.

We may be accused of being too sanguine, but as we reason from facts; and not from a vague reliance on we know not what resources, to be found in the good genius of Bonaparte, we shall be little affected by the charge—while we give it as our fixed opinion, that the shipping at Alexandria (putting all the attacks upon it out of the question,) will soon be driven, by its wants, to attempt an escape which must be fatal to a great part of it, or to an unconditional surrender.

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