Monday, November 5, 2007

Officer "Deceived" in "Expectations Respecting 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. 1, pp. 124-127.


Head Quarters, Grand Cairo, July 28th.

LE TURCQ, Aid-de-Camp to General BERTHIER, Chief of the Etat-Major, and General of the Army, to Citizen Le Turcq, his father.

Dear Father,

SINCE your letter of the 12th of May last, I have not received a single line from you: judge how wretched this has made me. I have omitted no opportunity of writing to you by the different couriers which have been dispatched to Paris, from Toulon, Malta, and Alexandria; and I now send to you by this, which is just setting out from Cairo.

I shall say nothing to you of the situation in which we find ourselves in this country, but content myself with observing once for all, that we have been miserably deceived in our expectations respecting Egypt. Happily for me, I have the good fortune to enjoy a tolerable state of health,--that is to say, I have been, down to the present hour, one of the healthiest in the whole army. I long most ardently to return to you, to lay before you a faithful picture of the country; from which you will easily be enabled to comprehend how many reasons we have to be disgusted with it.

I inclose, my dear father, a narrative(1) of what befell us in our march from Alexandria to Cairo, and of the different combats we had to sustain with the Mameloucs and the Bedouins. You will form a judgment without difficulty of our situation in the Desert. The whole army would have been destroyed, but for the assistance we derived from the Nile, a branch of a river which throws itself into the Delta! I conclude with repeating my hopes that I shall speedily enjoy the happiness of recounting these extraordinary events to you in person, by our own fire-side.

I will not pretend to deny but that it is a great advantage for me, already an old soldier, to be engaged in so important, and so instructive an expedition: but, knowing what the country really is, and the privations and sufferings to which we are exposed, I am not too sure, that if it were to begin again, I should venture to undertake it. Now, however, that I have overcome the major part of the evil which awaited me, I am not ill pleased with what I have done; and have made up my mind to persevere to the end(2).

We have been at Cairo some days. It is possible that we may stay here a fortnight longer, after which I think it probable that we shall march to Syria towards Upper Egypt(3). One division is already gone to Damietta.

I have no occasion to request you to communicate my letter, and narrative, to our kinsmen and common friends, particularly to Citizen Berthe and his wife, to my brother the merchant, to my uncle Le Turcq, and in a word, to all my relations. Tell them that I embrace them with my whole heart, and flatter myself that I shall have the pleasure of seeing them within six months.

General Berthier writes by this courier to his father, so does l’Huilier, who is this day promoted to a lieutenancy in the 14th regiment of dragoons.

Let me hear from you and all the family often. Do not forget the dragoon. I hope that my prompt return will identify him for the loss which he may sustain by my long absence in this expedition, in which I am forced to persevere—but tell him that he shall lose nothing by waiting. General Berthier has promised me every thing for him; and he is surely a man to be depended upon.

I embrace you a thousand times, and ever remain,

Your son,


Pray tell me if you have heard from Cesar Berthe; he is either at Milan, or Paris.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)This narrative we have suppressed. It is in fact a tedious and ill-written detail of the same operations which are related with infinitely more ability by Boyer (XXII.); from whom Le Turcq differs only, in his enumeration of the hardships and losses of the army; which he states to be somewhat greater than Boyer does.

(2)It is impossible to read this paragraph, in which Le Turcq states his discontent so forcibly, in descanting to his happiness; without being immediately put in mind of the professing readiness of the reluctant Bull-calf.

“Bull-calf. Good master corporate Bardolph, stand my friend, and here is four Harry ten shillings in French crowns for you. In very truth Sir, I had as life be hang’d, Sir, as go: and yet, for mine own part, Sir, I do not care; but. Rather, because I am unwilling, and, for mine own part, have a desire to stay with my friends; else, Sir, I did not care, for mine own part, so much.”


(3)This “old soldier” is rather young in his geography. Upper Egypt is not precisely in the road to Syria, any more than any part of Egypt is in the road from France to England—a mistake which the whole army seem to have made, and which is in a [illegible word] way of costing them dear.

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