Wednesday, January 30, 2008

French Maneuver Forces Around the Suez

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. 11-14.

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

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

October 1, 1798; he punished the guilty, he pardoned the rest and re-established order. He established a system of defence for the city of Cairo, in such a manner as to secure it against the Arabs, while at the same time he rendered himself master of that populous town so as to command it with a battalion. The French parties were disposed in such a manner, that they were proof against any seditious movement. He adopted a system of warfare against the hordes which have always depopulated Egypt. He established a new distribution of imposts. He introduced economy into the administrative part of the army. He established a new distribution of imports. He introduced economy into the administrative part of the army. He established a commercial company. He employed General Andreoffi, distinguished equally for his military and scientific knowledge, to reduce the Lake Muzalee, the Pelusiac Mouths, and to take an accurate survey of all these points, both in a scientific and military point of view. General Andreoffi having on the [23d October] returned from this survey, set out again with Citizen Berthollet, to survey the Lake of Nitron. Bonaparte had established an Institute at Cairo. He formed there a library, caused a chemical laboratory to be constructed, assigned proper funds for the support of these establishments and sent out men of science to examine those parts of the country where the position of the army assured them of safety. In short, he made every preparation for his expedition in Syria; before his departure he wished to make himself master of Suez and to explore that point, of so much consequence to the commerce of India, as well as to resolve the question concerning the canal which was said to have joined the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, respecting which, history has left only doubts.

While Bonaparte was making preparations for his Syrian expedition, he set out for Suez on the [22d September]. He was preceded by General Bon, who, with 1500 men, and two pieces of cannon, had traversed the Desert, and taken possession of Suez on [December 7]. Bonaparte being at Suez, learned that Dgezzar has been appointed Pacha of Damascus and Egypt—that he was assembling troops—and that a corps was already approaching the port of El-Arisch situated at the distance of a day’s journey from the entrance of the Desert. He sent orders to General Reignier, who was at Salchieh with the division, to dispatch General Lagrange with the 9th demi-brigade, and two pieces of artillery, to take possession of Cathich, and to construct there a fort.—The same day Bonaparte arrived at Cairo, where he employed himself with the utmost activity, in completing the preparations for his expeditions into Syria.

The army for this expedition consisted of the division of General Kleber, having under his command, Generals Verdier and Junot; the 2d demi brigade of light infantry; two battalions of the 25th of the line, and two of the 75th.—The division of General Reigner, having under his command General of Brigade Lagrange: the 9th demi-brigade of the line; and the 85th.—The division of General Bon, having under his command the Generals of Brigade Rampon and Vial: the 1st battalion of the 4th light infantry; and 1st and 2d of the 69th; 900 cavalry of different regiments, commanded by General Murat.—On the 5th the troops lay on their arms in the Desert. On the 6th they arrived at Suez. On the 8th they passed the Red Sea, at a ford near Suez, which is practicable at low water, and proceeded to the fountains of Moses, situated at the distance of two leagues and a half from Suez, in Asia.—These fountains are formed by five springs, which arise from the top of small mounts of sand. The water is fresh, but a little brackish. There are found here the vestiges of a small modern aqueduct, which conveyed water to cisterns on the sea-shore where it was preserved for the use of ships. These fountains are at the distance of three quarters of a league from the sea. In the evening they entered Suez, but it was high water; they then ascended to the point of the Red Sea; but the guide lost himself in the marshes, from which he extricated himself with difficulty, being up to the middle in water. This guide must have been a descendant of the one who conducted Pharaoh. Suez seems to have been a considerable staple of commerce. None but barks can enter the port; but a sand-bank, which projects a league into the sea, which is dry at low water, and near which frigates can anchor, renders it possible to construct a battery, which would protect the anchorage, and defend the road.—The Arabs of Tor came to solicit the friendship of the French. Bonaparte encouraged commerce, by establishing a custom-house, where the duties are inferior to those paid at the time of the arrival of the French, and he secured it against the usual oppression of the Mamelukes and the Pachas.—There is reason to believe that Suez will assume more splendor than ever it enjoyed before, considering the dispositions for its protection, and particularly for transporting goods from Suez to Cairo and Belbeis, by organized caravans. During our stay here, four vessels arrived from Djedda. On the 10th, Bonaparte set out from Suez, marching along the Red Sea to the north. At the distance of two leagues and a half from Suez, he found the remains of the entrance of the canal of Suez, which he followed four leagues. The same night he rested at the fort of Adgeroud; on the 11th, at the distance of ten leagues in the Desert; and on the 12th, at Belbeis. On the 14th he advanced into Honareb, where he found vestiges of the canal of Suez, at its entrance into the canal of Suez, and his entrance into the cultivated and watered land of Egypt. He followed it for the space of several leagues, and ordered Citizen Peyre, engineer, to report to Suez, and to set out with a sufficient escort, to take a geometrical level of the whole course of the canal—an operation which will resolve the problem of the existence of one of the greatest and most useful works in the world. General Dommartin, commandant of artillery. General Caffarelli, commandant of engineers. The park was composed of four 12-pounders, three 8-pounders, five howitzers, and three 5-inch mortars. There we attached besides, to each of the four divisions, two 8-pounders, two 6 inch howitzers, and two 3-pounders. To the guides on horseback, four 8-pounders, and two 6-inch howitzers. To the cavalry four 4-pounders.


Ralph Hitchens said...

Berthier, what a wit! (Comment re. the guide at Suez.)

IT Tips said...

I love it! Can't wait for the conference too, it's going to be great. And I'm 100% with you on the boob sweat. It's just plain unnecessary!

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