Friday, February 22, 2008

French Operations Continue in 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. 25-28.

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

On the 24th, the General of Brigade, Murat, was ordered to set out from the camp of Acre, with a thousand infantry, and a regiment of horse, and to march with all possible speed to the bridge of Jacob, of which he was to take possession; he was then to attack the rear of the enemy, who were blockading Sasset, and afterwards to join General Kleber, who was threatened by a considerable force.

Bonaparte left before Acre the divisions of Regnier and Samuel. On the 26th, he went off with the rest of the cavalry, the division of Bon, and eight pieces of artillery. He took a position on the heights of Saffarie, where the troops were all night under arms. On the 27th, at day-break, he marched toward Fouli, being arrived at the last heights from which Fouli and Mount Tabor can be discerned, he saw near the latter the division of Kleber engaged with the enemy, consisting of 20,000 cavalry, in the midst of whom 2000 Frenchman were fighting. We saw the camp of the Mamelukes extending from the foot of the mountains of Naplouse, a distance of near two leagues from the scene of action. Bonaparte formed his troops into three squares, the one cavalry, in order to turn the enemy at a considerable distance, to separate them from their camp, and to cut off their retreat to Jenin, in which place were their magazines, and to drive them into the Jordan, where General Murat was to cut them off. The cavalry had orders to go with two pieces of light artillery to storm the enemy’s camp, whilst the infantry advanced to turn their flanks.

General Kleber had received a supply of ammunition, four pieces of cannon, and a reinforcement of cavalry had left his camp at Saffarie, on the 26th, and marched to Bizard, with a view of attacking the enemy on the 27th before day light, whatever might be their numbers. But, notwithstanding all his diligence, he was prevented by the difficulties of the way and the defiles from arriving before two hours after sunrise. The enemy, informed of his approach, had time to put themselves on horseback. General Kleber had formed his troops into two square columns, and occupied some ruins in his front. The enemy had placed the Naplousian infantry with two pieces of cannon, brought on camels, in the village of Fouli. All the cavalry, to the number of 20,000, surrounded the remainder of Kleber’s division, which, by the fire of its cannon and musquetry, repulsed their numerous assaults with equal valour and coolness. We were only half a league from General Kleber when Bonaparte ordered General Rampon to march with his brigade toward Kleber’s division: General Vial to advance to the Mountain of Nuoces, and the guides on foot to direct our course so as to cut off their retreat to Jenin. The enemy did not, until this momet, perceive that we were French. Disorder immediately took place in this immense mass of cavalry. We fired an eight-pounder, which announced our arrival to General Kleber, who immediately ordered the village to Fouli to be attacked, and it was carried by the bayonet. He then made a charge on the enemy’s cavalry, which the divisions of Rampon and Vial had by this time cut off from the Mountains of Naplouse, and the guides on foot shot the Arabs, who were escaping towards Jenin. The enemy hesitated, he saw himself cut off from his camp and his magazines, and was seized with terror. He fled, throwing himself behind Mount Tabor, which witnessed his defeat. He reached in the night, and in the greatest disorder, the brigade to Gizah;-Makanie; one body threw themselves into the Jordan, and mistaking the ford were drowned. At this moment General Murat had surprised the son of the Governor of Damas at the point Jacob, had carried his camp, and slain all who did not take to flight. He raised the blockade of Sasset, and pursued the enemy several leagues on the road to Damas. The column of cavalry, which was sent to attack the camp of the Mamelukes, led by adjutant General Leture, had completely surprised it, taken 500 camels, with all their ammunition; tens, and provisions, made 250 prisoners, and flew a great number of men.

On the 16th the army remained under arms on the field of battle. Bonaparte ordered every thing to be burned or killed which was found in the villages of Noures, Jenin, and Fouli. It was necessary to punish the Naplousians: but, after having reproached them with having taken up arms, he stayed his vengeance, and promised them protection, if they would only remain quite in their mountains. The General Murat took no repose. He left a detachment at the bridge of Jacob, provided Sasset with provisions, and then advanced on the 17th to Tabarie, of which, on the next day, he took possession. He then seized all the ammunition and provisions of the enemy; the stores there taken were sufficient to maintain our army for a year.—General Kleber, with his division, took post at the Bazar of Nazareth, occupied the bridge of Giz-el-Mekanie, and the forts of Sasset and Tabarie. He was also charged to take care of the Jordan: Bonaparte returned to the camp before Acre, with the division of Bon, and the corps of the cavalry under the orders of general Murat. The result of the battle of Mount Tabor, was the defeat of 20,000 men by 4000 French, nearly the capture of their camp, their magazines, and the retreat of the enemy to Damas. By the reports of the enemy from Damas, their loss amounted to more than 5000 men.—Bonaparte received advice that Rear-Admiral Peree, whom he had given orders to sail with the frigates, the Juno, the Courageous, and the Alceste, had landed at Jaffa three twenty-four pounders, and that six other pieces of ten pounds were arrived from Damietta.

On the 19th, some Arabs posted in the environs of Mount Carmel, interrupted our communication. Adjutant General Le Turc advanced with a corps of 300 men, surprised the Arabs, and bore away 800 head of cattle.

On the 5th Floreal, the mine intended to blow up the tower near the breach, was completed. The whole of our batteries commenced a cannonade upon the place: we set fire to the mine; but a subterraneous passage under the tower presented a line of less resistance. A part of the effort was spent and lost. The mine blew up but on one side of the tower. It remained, therefore, in such a situation, that the breach was as difficult to access as before.—Bonaparte ordered about thirty men to post themselves in the tower so as to be able to reconnoiter its means of communication with the rest of the place. Our grenadiers readied the ruins under the arch of the first story, and took post there: but the enemy who kept up a communication by means of the narrow passages, and who were in possession of the ruins of the upper arches, threw down burning materials upon our soldiers, and compelled them to abandon their post.—Our batteries continued to demolish the tower, on the 6th, and to widen the breach. In the evening we made an attempt to take possession of the first story. The enemy, whom we could not drive altogether from the upper stories, threw down more burning materials, which obliged us again to withdraw. General Veaux was dangerously wounded. In consequence of his wounds, General Castarelli died on the 8th Floreal: in him the sciences lost a man highly celebrated for his talents and knowledge, and in the army a soldier equally active and brave. On the 9th, the siege artillery arrived, and every necessary disposition was immediately made erect it into batteries. Almost the whole of the enemy’s pieces in the front of attack were dismounted. They endeavoured to defend this front by flanking themselves with a double fire of artillery and musquetry. They constructed from external works. They had already erected one opposite their right: they constructed another on their left, opposite Dgezzar’s palace. These two works advantageously flanked the tower that was attacked. The enemy advanced by stopping, in order to increase the musquetry fire, and held us closely in. they finally marched on in a counter-attack. The enemy were greatly facilitated in pressing forward their outworks, by being protected by the fire of the musquetry from their towers, and from their very high walls. Our brave soldiers always carried the out-works, whenever they attacked them; but they were obliged to abandon them immediately, and the enemy retook possession of them.

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