Thursday, November 8, 2007

General Writes on the Battle of the Pyramids

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. 165-168.


Grand Cairo, July 29.

DUPUIS, General of Brigade, &c. to his friend Carlo.

ON land as on sea, in Europe as in Africa, I am doomed to be on thorns(1);--Yes, my friend, on our arrival at Malta I went to take possession of it, and to abolish the Order: on our arrival at Alexandria, and storming it, I was made Governor of the place. At present, after a most painful march of twenty days, we are arrived at Grand Cairo, not, indeed, without beating the Mameloucs, en passant; that is to say, putting them to flight, for they are not worth our anger.

Here I am, then, my friend, graced with a new dignity; which I could not refuse, since it was no less than the government of Cairo; a dignity much too fine for me to refuse, when offered by Bonaparte.

The conduct of the Brigade at the affair of the Pyramids is unique. It cut to pieces, itself, 4000 of the Mamelouc cavalry, took a battery of forty pieces of cannon, all their intrenchments, their colours, their magnificent horses, and their rich baggage—since there is not a single soldier who has not 100 louis d’ors, without exaggeration; and many of them 500(2).

In fine, my dear friend, I occupy at present the finest seraglio in Cairo; that of the favourite Sultana of Ibrahim Bey, Sultan of Egypt. I occupy his charming palace, and I respect, in the midst of his nymphs, the promise which I made to my dear girl in Europe—No; I have not yet been guilty of one act of infidelity towards her, and I hope, yes, I still hope to hold out.

This is a most horrid place. The streets are filthy and pestilential; and the inhabitants hideous and brutified. I toil like a horse, and yet I cannot find my way through this immense chaos, far more extensive than Paris; but Heavens! How different!—O how I long to get back to Liguria.

Yes, my dear fellow, though I enjoy myself tolerably well, and want for nothing—yet where are my friends? Where is the worthy Marina? I weep like a child at our separation: but I hope that I shall soon be with her—yes, soon, for I am d----nably sick of every body here.

Our march across the Desert, and our battles, cost us very few men. The army is in good health, and about to be new clothed. I do not know where I shall go to Syria or not; we are all ready. I had the misfortune to lose my [illegible word] at the storming of Alexandria.

Let me hear from you, I beg. Finally, the judge of the paltroony of this great people of whom we have heard so much. I took possession of this immense city on the 23d of this month, with only two companies of grenadiers. It has more than 600,000 inhabitants.

Adieu, my dear friend, I embrace Marcellin a thousand times, his mother, his father, his papa Carlo, and all friends, and believe me till death the most devoted of your friends.


I write by this courier to Pijon and Spinola—tell Pijon that he was in high luck to be banished(3); would to God that I had been so too! I embrace him and his family. My regard to poor Pietro.

I embrace Honorio, your brother, and your uncle.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)This is the strangest letter we ever met with. It is an incoherent rhapsody, which, if the author was sober when he wrote it, proves to him to be a singular compound of madness and folly. Such as he is, however, we see Bonaparte selecting him for the Governor of Grand Cairo! Yet on farther consideration, we do not think the General much less happy than usual in his choice; for a wise man would not have accepted the post; and a sane man could not have held it “to the purpose.”

(2)Dupuis has repeated this contemptible falsehood, in a letter which has found its way to Paris. “Our troops,” says he, “roll in gold, and are all mounted on huge asses, which gallop ventre a terre!!!’ This looks as if the Mameloucs had reserved, as usual, the horses for themselves; which will be found, we imagine, to be pretty nearly the case. The rest of the letter is too absurd for notice.

(3)We know nothing of General Dupuis. From his connections he appears to be a Genoese; but from his name and his mode of thinking, a Frenchman. He is in extacy at his good fortune, and longing to be rid of it! Proud of the government of Cairo, and wishing he had been hanged, or banished, before he went on the expedition which conferred it to him! He seems to reason some what in the manner of Sancho—“To be sure, a Governor is a great man; but if this is to be a Governor of Barataria, I would rather have staid at home, and kept goats.”

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