Wednesday, November 14, 2007

General Menou Reflects on the Aftermath of Defeat by 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. 198-200.


Rosetta, August 4th.

J. MENOU(1), General of Division, to General KLEBER.

WHAT a calamity, my dear General, has befallen our fleet! It is dreadful in the extreme: but we must take heart, and rise superior to our misfortunes!

I shall dispatch your Aid-de-Camp(2) to-morrow morning, together with the Commissary, in an advice boat to Cairo. I have had no details from Aboukir(3),

Not having any cavalry with me, I cannot dispatch a messenger over land; and the surf at the mouth of the river is so violent, that it is with the utmost difficulty and danger we can pass it(4).

I have still some faint hopes that all is not lost. If you have any intelligence of the tartanes, and other vessels, which had on board the artillery, cartridges, and other necessaries of the army, I beg you to communicate it to me; for we are in extreme want of them all here, and at Cairo.

If you could also, without risk, send round the baggage of the army, it would be of the greatest consequence, as it might then be forwarded to head quarters.

Finally, my dear General, let me hear from you—I am [anxious] to know every circumstance relative, as well to you, as to the ruins of our fleet. I am about to send you a courier, which is just arrived from the Commander in Chief; he has dispatches for you. Every thing is tolerably tranquil here; but we are obliged to keep a good look out!

I have again arrested Coraim(5), who had been released on board the L’Orient, and sent on shore. I shall send him to Cairo to-morrow under a strong escort. Is it true that you are thinking of sending me Demui? His troop will be extremely serviceable to me, if you have no occasion for it at Alexandria. Health and friendship, my dear General. Let me hear from you; for God’s sake, let me hear from you.



[British Translators' Notes]

(1)Menou was wounded at the attack on Alexandria, and left in consequence of it, with the command of Rosetta. The French reckon him one of their best officers.

(2)Loyer. See the preceding letter.

(3)They must have arrived soon after this letter was finished: for Loyer’s, which is dated the same day, says, they had then reached him, and that he was to take them with him to Bonaparte.

(4)Menou had a considerable number of horse at Rosetta, and yet he did not think them sufficient to escort a courier to the fort of Aboukir, garrisoned by Frenchmen, and not more than eight or ten miles from town! Can our readers which for a more convincing proof of the state of security in which the French live in Egypt, or of the complete possession which they so truly declare in their official papers, they now have of the country.

(5)The Cheriff mentioned in Loyer’s letter.

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