Monday, January 28, 2008

Berthier Explains Preliminary Operations in Syrian Campaign

From: An Account of the French Expedition in Egypt; Written by Bonaparte and Berthier; with Sir William Sidney Smith’s Letters. With an English translation (London, Edward Baines, 1800.), pp. 9-11.

ALEXANDER BERTHIER, General of Division, Chief of the Staff of the Army, to the Minister at War.

Head Quarters, Alexandria, 11th Thermidor [July 29].

YOU will find annexed, Citizen Minister, a relation of the campaign in Syria, and an account of the memorable battle of aboukir. The courage and constancy of our brave troops multiply our forces. We confidently believe that the Government does not lose sight of this army.


Head Quarters, Alexandria, 11th Thermidor [July 29].

THE object of the military and political conduct of Bonaparte, from the moment of the army landing in Egypt, was to strike a great blow against England, at the same time that he neglected nothing that could tend to convince the Porte of the desire the French Republic entertained of continuing the friendship which existed between the two powers. On the capture of Malta, a great number of Turkish slaves were delivered, and sent to Constantinople. Since our entering Egypt, the Turkish flag has waved along with that of France; the agents of the Porte were respected. A Turkish galley was in the port of Alexandria, as well as several merchant ships.—Bonaparte assured the Captain of the attachment of the French. An order arrived from the Grand Seignior for the galley to proceed to Constantinople. It was at that time when the Turkish vessels usually leave Egypt. Bonaparte made a present to the Captain of the galley, and desired him to take on board Citizen Beauchamps, with dispatches, assuring the Porte of the desire the French nation entertained of preserving the existing relations of friendship. He signified to the Grand Signior the causes of complaint which he had against Achmet, Dgezzar, Pacha of Acre, and stated that the punishment he intended to inflict upon that Pacha, if he continued to behave improperly, ought to give no uneasiness to the Ottoman Empire. These were the grounds of complaint against Dgezzar:--Ibrahim Bey, with about 1000 Mamelukes, had fled to Gaza after the affair of Salehich; Dgezzar had given him a cordial reception. Bonaparte had forseen every thing that could alarm the Porte. He had dispatched an officer to Dgezzar by sea. He carried a letter, assuring him that the French Republic was serious to preserve friendship with the Grand Seignior and to live at peace with him; but he insisted that Dgezzar should dismiss Ibrahim Bey and his Mamelukes, and refuse them aid. Achmet Dgezzar(1) returned no answer to this advance of Bonaparte. He arrogantly sent back the French officer, and the French at Acre were put in irons. Dgezzar not only continued to receive the Mamelukes with welcome, but threatened the frontiers of Egypt by hostile preparations. The army received no intelligence from Europe. The ports of Egypt were blocked up; but all the accounts received over land announced that the policy of England had availed itself of the affair of Aboukir to seduce the Porte, and prevail upon the Turkish Government to agree to an offensive alliance against us. Russia seemed equally desirous to draw the Grand Seignior into its views, under the pretext of connecting their interests, in the view of attacking us. What an inconsistent union of politics! But every thing may be expected from a Government no less barbarous than ignorant, and overwhelmed with anarchy. Bonaparte concluded, that if the Porte declared for our enemies, a combined operation would take place against Egypt; an attack on the side of Syria, and an attack by sea. He accordingly resolved to march into Syria, if it remained our friend: return into Egypt, be at the combined operation by sea, which, from the season, probably would not take place before about the end of June. Bonaparte, after having driven Ibrahim Bey into Syria, had returned to Cairo. He had sent General Dessaix with his division in pursuit of the remains of the army of Murad Bey, who continued in Upper Egypt. He organized the Government of Egypt by establishing a Diwan in every province. He has communicated to the people the happiness of being their own governors. He caused Salchieh, Balbeis, Alexandria, and Damietta, branches of the Nile, and the mouth of the Rosetta at Lasba, to be fortified, he suppressed the sedition at Cairo on the 30th Vendemiaire.

(1)Achmet, surnamed Dgezzar (which signifies butcher) the disgrace of human nature, regarded as a monster, even amongst the most barbarous people of the East, who has filled his territories with moments of cruelty unheard of till his time. He has caused several of his wives to be slain on the most frivolous pretexts. He causes the men he wishes to chastise to be loaded with irons. He cuts off with his own hands the heads of his confidants. He cuts off nose, ears, hands, and feet from the most trivial suspicions. He makes those who displease him rot alive to the very head. He encourages the robbery and peculation of his officers, in order to seize and strangle them for wealth they have amassed.

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