Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bonaparte Writes from Syria

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. 7-8.


Head Quarters at Jaffa, [May 27, 1799]


I INFORMED you, by the courier whom I dispatched on the [23d April], of the events so glorious for the Republic, which have taken place during the last three months in Syria, and of the resolution which I have adopted of repassing the Desert immediately, that I may arrive in Egypt before the month of Thermidor [June].

The batteries of mortars, and of 24-pounders, were established, as I announced to you, on [May 12], in order to destroy the palace of Dgezzar, and the principal buildings of Acre. They were played continually for sixty-two hours, and fully completed the end which I proposed, the place being incessantly on fire.

The garrison, in a sort of despair, made a general sortie on the [16th May]. The General of Brigade Verdier, was in the trenches, and the action lasted for three hours. The remainder of the troops arrived a week before from Constantinople, and who were exercised after the European manner, advanced against our trenches in close columns. We withdrew our men from the posts, which we had occupied on the ramparts; and by that means the batteries, on which were our field-pieces, could fire with a grape shot on the enemy. More than half of them fell, in consequence, on the field of battle. Our troops then beat the charge in the trenches, and pursued the remainder, the bayonet in their reins. We took on this occasion, eighteen stand of colours.

The opportunity appeared to be favorable for carrying the place: but our spies, the deserters, and the prisoners, all agreed in stating, that the plague was then making most terrible ravages in the town of Acre; that more than sixty persons died of it every day; and that the symptoms of it were dreadful, those who were seized with it dying in thirty-six hours, and in convulsions similar to madness.

Had we entered the town, it would have been impossible to prevent the soldiers from pillage; and thus, in the evening, they would have brought into the camp the feeds of that dreadful disease, more formidable than all the armies of the world.

The army left Acre on the [21st May], and arrived in the evening. We encamped on the following night, on the ruins of Caesarea, surrounded by fragments of columns of marble and of granite, which announce the former grandeur of the place.

During the last two days, the army has been filing off with detachments to Egypt. I shall remain for some days at Jaffa, in order to blow up the fortifications. I shall next proceed to punish some districts where misconduct has prevailed; and in a few days I shall repass the Desert after leaving a strong garrison at El-Arisch. My next dispatches shall be dated from Cairo.


1 comment:

C James B said...

Short translation: Bomaparte fails to take Acre but moves goalposts.