Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bonaparte defeats Knights of St. John at Malta: Bourrienne

From a Gutenberg e-text of Bourrienne's biography of Napoleon Bonaparte (R.W. Phipps trans.), a brief account of Bonaparte's conquest of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem at the islands of Malta. Note that upon taking the capital of Valetta, Bonaparte freed the Muslim prisoners taken by the Knights during their piracy expeditions to North Africa. This move was part of his diplomacy and propaganda with the Muslim world, and the freed Muslims would be useful to him in Egypt..


We arrived off Malta on the 10th of June. We had lost two days in waiting for some convoys which joined us at Malta.

The intrigues throughout Europe had not succeeded in causing the ports of that island to be opened to us immediately on our arrival. Bonaparte expressed much displeasure against the persons sent from Europe to arrange measures for that purpose. One of them, however, M. Dolomieu, had cause to repent his mission, which occasioned him to be badly treated by the Sicilians. M. Poussielgue had done all he could in the way of seduction, but he had not completely succeeded. There was some misunderstanding, and, in consequence, some shots were interchanged. Bonaparte was very much pleased with General Baraguay d'Hilliers' services in Italy. He could not but praise his military and political conduct at Venice when, scarcely a year before, he had taken possession of that city by his orders. General Baraguay d'Hilliers joined us with his division,--which had embarked in the convoy that sailed from Genoa. The General-in-Chief ordered him to land and attack the western part of the island. He executed this order with equal prudence and ability, and highly to the satisfaction of the General-in-Chief. As every person in the secret knew that all this was a mere form, these hostile demonstrations produced no unpleasant consequences. We wished to save the honour of the knights--that was all; for no one who has seen Malta can imagine that an island surrounded with such formidable and perfect fortifications would have surrendered in two days to a fleet which was pursued by an enemy. The impregnable fortress of Malta is so secure against a 'coup de main' that General Caffarelli, after examining its fortifications, said to the General-in-Chief, in my presence, "Upon my word, General, it is luck: there is some one in the town to open the gates for us."

By comparing the observation of General Caffarelli with what has been previously stated respecting the project of the expedition to Egypt and Malta, an idea may be formed of the value of Bonaparte's assertion at St. Helena:

"The capture of Malta was not owing to private intrigues, but to the sagacity of the Commander-in-chief. I took Malta when I was in Mantua!"

It is not the less true, however, that I wrote, by his dictation, a mass of instructions for private intrigues. Napoleon also said to another noble companion of his exile at St Helena, "Malta certainly possessed vast physical means of resistance; but no moral means. The knights did nothing dishonourable nobody is obliged to do impossibilities. No; but they were sold; the capture of Malta was assured before we left Toulon."

The General-in-Chief proceeded to that part of the port where the Turks made prisoners by the knights were kept.

The disgusting galleys were emptied of their occupants: The same principles which, a few days after, formed the basis of Bonaparte's proclamation to the Egyptians, guided him in this act of reason and humanity.

He walked several times in the gardens of the grandmaster. They were in beautiful order, and filled with magnificent orange-trees. We regaled ourselves with their fruit, which the great heat rendered most delicious.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bonaparte betrayed in Love: Cairo, July 25

Bonaparte was told by some of his fellow officers as they marched on Cairo that his wife, Josephine had been having an affair with Hippolyte Charles.
He was cast into despair, as is revealed in this letter to his brother Joseph written only a few days after he took Cairo.

From: Napoleon I, The Confidential Correspondence of Napoleon Bonaparte with His Brother Joseph (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1856):


Cairo, July 25,1798.

You will see in the newspapers the result of our battles and the conquest of Egypt, where we found resistance enough to add a leaf to the laurels of this army.

Egypt is the richest country in the world for wheat, rice, pulse, and meal. Nothing can be more barbarous. There is no money, even to pay the troops. I may be in France in two months. I recommend my interests to you.

I have much domestic distress.

Your friendship is very dear to me. To become a misanthropist I have only to lose it, and find that you betray me. That every different feeling towards the same person should be united in one heart is very painful.

Let me have on my arrival a villa near Paris or in Burgundy. I intend to shut myself up there for the winter. I am tired of human nature. I want solitude and isolation. Greatness fatigues me; feeling is dried up. At 29 glory has become flat. I have exhausted everything. I have no refuge but pure selfishness. I shall retain my house, and let no one else occupy it. I have not more than enough to live on.

Adieu, my only friend. I have never been unjust to you, as you must admit, though I may have wished to be so. You understand me. Love to your wife and to Jerome.

* * The suspicions of Josephine's honor, hinted at in this remarkable letter, disturbed Napoleon during the whole of his Egyptian campaign. Bourrienne describes his distress and his plans of divorce six months afterwards, in consequence of some information from Junot. And on his return to Paris on the 6th October, 1799, he refused to see his wife for three days, and consented to a reconciliation only in consequence of Bourrienne's representations that a conjugal quarrel might interfere with the ambitions plans which he was then meditating, and which he executed about three weeks later.'


PS A kind reader wrote:

"Dr. Cole

As you may know, Joseph Bonaparte ultimately settled in Bordentown, NJ Recently there have been a number of articles in the local press regarding the archeological investigations of Bonaparte's house being undertaken by Monmouth University professors

See this link.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Napoleon's Lost Fleet

Brahm Rosensweig on the French invasion of Egypt at a site dedicated to the subject of "Napoleon's Lost Fleet." The Egyptians have been doing some underwater archeology of the fleet, which Nelson's squadron sank in early August of 1798.

For more on recent archeology and the sunken fleet, see "Athena Review: Recent Finds in Archaeology: Aexandria, Egypt: Discovery of Napoleon's Lost Fleet ".

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bonaparte at Toulon: Bourrienne

From a Gutenberg e-text of Bourrienne's biography of Napoleon Bonaparte (R.W. Phipps trans.), Bourrienne's account of Bonaparte's preparations in Toulon and the departure of his fleet for Malta and Egypt on May 19. His outrage at the execution of an unarmed old man at Toulon on charges of having been a pro-royalist emigre becomes ironic in view of his own behavior in Egypt and Syria..

"We left Paris on the 3d of May 1798. Ten days before Bonaparte's departure for Egypt a prisoner (Sir Sidney Smith) escaped from the Temple who was destined to contribute materially to his reverses. An escape so unimportant in itself afterwards caused the failure of the most gigantic projects and daring conceptions. This escape was pregnant with future events; a false order of the Minister of Police prevented the revolution of the East!

We were at Toulon on the 8th. Bonaparte knew by the movements of the English that not a moment was to be lost; but adverse winds detained us ten days, which he occupied in attending to the most minute details connected with the fleet.

Bonaparte, whose attention was constantly occupied with his army, made a speech to the soldiers, which I wrote to his dictation, and which appeared in the public papers at the time. This address was followed by cries of "The Immortal Republic for ever!" and the singing of national hymns.

Those who knew Madame Bonaparte are aware that few women were more amiable and fascinating. Bonaparte was passionately fond of her, and to enjoy the pleasure of her society as long as possible he brought her with him to Toulon. Nothing could be more affecting than their parting. On leaving Toulon Josephine went to the waters of Plombieres. I recollect that during her stay at Plombieres she incurred great danger from a serious accident. Whilst she was one day sitting at the balcony of the hotel, with her suite, the balcony suddenly gave way, and all the persons in it fell into the street. Madame Bonaparte was much hurt, but no serious consequences ensued.

Bonaparte had scarcely arrived at Toulon when he heard that the law for the death of emigrants was enforced with frightful rigour [it was mainly royalists who emigrated after the revolution, so suspicion fell on emigres]; and that but recently an old man, upwards of eighty, had been shot. Indignant at this barbarity, he dictated to me, in a tone of anger, the following letter:

HEADQUARTERS TOULON, 27th Floreal, year VI. (16th May 1798).


I have learned, citizens, with deep regret, that an old man, between seventy and eighty years of age, and some unfortunate women, in a state of pregnancy, or surrounded with children of tender age, have been shot on the charge of emigration.

Have the soldiers of liberty become executioners? Can the mercy which they have exercised even in the fury of battle be extinct in their hearts?

The law of the 19th Fructidor was a measure of public safety. Its object was to reach conspirators, not women and aged men.

I therefore exhort you, citizens, whenever the law brings to your tribunals women or old men, to declare that in the field of battle you have respected the women and old men of your enemies.

The officer who signs a sentence against a person incapable of bearing arms is a coward. (Signed) BONAPARTE.

This letter saved the life of an unfortunate man who came under the description of persons to whom Bonaparte referred. The tone of this note shows what an idea he already entertained of his power. He took upon him, doubtless from the noblest motives, to step out of his way to interpret and interdict the execution of a law, atrocious, it is true, but which even in those times of weakness, disorder, and anarchy was still a law. In this instance, at least, the power of his name was nobly employed. The letter gave great satisfaction to the army destined for the expedition.

A man named Simon, who had followed his master in emigration, and dreaded the application of the law, heard that I wanted a servant. He came to me and acknowledged his situation. He suited me, and I hired him. He then told me he feared he should be arrested whilst going to the port to embark. Bonaparte, to whom I mentioned the circumstance, and who had just given a striking proof of his aversion to these acts of barbarity, said to me in a tone of kindness, "Give him my portfolio to carry, and let him remain with you." The words "Bonaparte, General-in-Chief of the Army of the East," were inscribed in large gold letters on the green morocco. Whether it was the portfolio or his connection with us that prevented Simon from being arrested I know not; but he passed on without interruption. I reprimanded him for having smiled derisively at the ill humour of the persons appointed to arrest him. He served me faithfully, and was even sometimes useful to Bonaparte.

The squadron sailed on the 19th of May. The Orient, which, owing to her heavy lading, drew too much water, touched the ground; but she was got off without much difficulty.

We arrived off Malta on the 10th of June. We had lost two days in waiting for some convoys which joined us at Malta.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Napoleon Bonaparte/ Joseph Bonaparte, spring 1798

In late spring of 1798, Bonaparte made preparations to invade Egypt from Toulon. He took 36,000 soldiers and another 15,000 or so sailors and other personnel with him, some of whom joined his fleet from Marseilles, Corsica and Italy. His flagship was The Orient. He took Malta first, then proceeded to Alexandria. These are letters on the way to his brother, Joseph. The undated letter from Cairo, below, which must have been written around July 24, shows that Bonaparte was at that time thinking of the conquest of Egypt as a potential bargaining chip in French peace negotiations with other European Powers. His wife, Josephine, wanted to go with him to Egypt. He disagreed, deciding to take it and make sure the conquest went smoothly first. She went to take the waters at Plombieres and to wait for him. In one of these letters, he signals that she should make preparations to sail to Alexandria, a sign of his confidence in his invasion force.

Napoleon I, The Confidential Correspondence of Napoleon Bonaparte with His Brother Joseph (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1856).


Head-quarters, Toulon, May 4,1798.

The courier who takes this letter will leave Paris on the 9th, in order to inform me who is the retiring director. Pray write by him, and send me the newspapers from the time of my departure. I have desired all my couriers to call on you. Send them all to me at Toulon, particularly Moustache and Le Simple.


Head-quarters, on board l'Orient, Toulon Roads, May 19,1798.

We are just setting sail. I shall not touch at Ajaccio. If Lucien is not elected deputy, he may come hither. He will always find here opportunities. A frigate sails in a fortnight.


Head-quarters, on board l'Orient, May 25,1798.

We have joined the convoy from Genoa. We have had good and bad weather and calms. We are going on steadily for Elba. This evening we pass Bastia. I was not sick on the open sea.

Pray tell me about my affairs. I sent to you instructions from Toulon. Your part of our arrangement goes on well.

P.S. My wife will wait in Toulon till she hears that we have Sicily; then she goes to a watering-place [Plombières-les-Bains].


Head-quarters, on board l'Orient, May 25,1798.

The convoy from Civita Vecchia is joining us. That from Ajaccio joined us yesterday. We are in full sail for our destination. I am well. All goes on well here. I am anxious to hear that you have settled my little affairs about Rise and in Burgundy.


Head-quarters, Malta, May 29,1798.

General Baraguay d'Hilliers is going to Paris. He was unwell. I use him to carry parcels and flags. I hear nothing from you about Rise or Burgundy. I write to my wife to come out to me. Be kind to her if she is near you. My health is good. Malta cost us a cannonade of two days : it is the strongest place in Europe. I leave Vaubois there. I did not touch Corsica. I have had no French news for a month.

We write by a ship of war.


Cairo (no date)[July 24, 1798?].

M. Calmebet has 100,000 francs in my name in the Mont de Piete. Tell him to re-invest the interest, and to spend as little as possible.

As for my own plans, I wait for news from Constantinople and from France. If the Congress of Radstadt [Rastatt](1) does not end, if the Irish are beaten, we ought to make peace, and to use Egypt to obtain a brilliant and permanent one. Be kind to my wife; see her sometimes. I beg Louis to give her good advice. I have received from you only one letter by Le Simple. I hope that Desiree, if she marries Bernadotte, will be happy; she deserves it. A thousand kisses to your wife and to Lucien; I send to her a handsome shawl. She is an excellent woman: make her happy.

1)For more on Rastatt, French-speaking readers should see Lentz Thierry, "Campo Formio : un traité nécessaire mais imparfait".

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bourrienne on the Preparations for an Invasion of Egypt

From a Gutenberg e-text of Bourrienne's biography of Napoleon Bonaparte (R.W. Phipps trans.), an eye-witness account of how Bonaparte became committed to an attack on Egypt.

'In the month of August 1797 he [Bonaparte] wrote "that the time was not far distant when we should see that, to destroy the power of England effectually, it would be necessary to attack Egypt."

In the same month he wrote to Talleyrand, who had just succeeded Charles de Lacroix as Minister of Foreign Affairs, "that it would be necessary to attack Egypt, which did not belong to the Grand Signior [Ottoman Emperor]." Talleyrand replied, "that his ideas respecting Egypt were certainly grand, and that their utility could not fail to be fully appreciated." He concluded by saying he would write to him at length on the subject.

History will speak as favourably of M. de Talleyrand as his contemporaries have spoken ill of him. When a statesman, throughout a great, long, and difficult career, makes and preserves a number of faithful friends, and provokes but few enemies, it must be acknowledged that his character is honourable and his talent profound, and that his political conduct has been wise and moderate. It is impossible to know M. de Talleyrand without admiring him. All who have that advantage, no doubt, judge him as I do.

In the month of November of the same year Bonaparte sent Poussielgue, under the pretence of inspecting the ports of the Levant, to give the finishing stroke to the meditated expedition against Malta.

General Desaix, whom Bonaparte had made the confidant of all his plans at their interview in Italy after the preliminaries of Leoben, wrote to him from Affenbourg, on his return to Germany, that he regarded the fleet of Corfu with great interest. "If ever," said he, "it should be engaged in the grand enterprises of which I have heard you speak, do not, I beseech you, forget me." Bonaparte was far from forgetting him.

The Directory at first disapproved of the expedition against Malta, which Bonaparte had proposed long before the treaty of Campo-Formio was signed. The expedition was decided to be impossible, for Malta had observed strict neutrality, and had on several occasions even assisted our ships and seamen. Thus we had no pretext for going to war with her. It was said, too, that the legislative body would certainly not look with a favourable eye on such a measure. This opinion, which, however, did not last long, vexed Bonaparte. It was one of the disappointments which made him give a rough welcome to Bottot, Barras' agent, at the commencement of October 1797.

In the course of an animated conversation he said to Bottot, shrugging his shoulders, "Mon Dieu! Malta is for sale!" Sometime after he himself was told that "great importance was attached to the acquisition of Malta, and that he must not suffer it to escape." At the latter end of September 1797 Talleyrand, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, wrote to him that the Directory authorized him to give the necessary orders to Admiral Brueys for taking Malta. He sent Bonaparte some letters for the island, because Bonaparte had said it was necessary to prepare the public mind for the event.

Bonaparte exerted himself night and day in the execution of his projects. I never saw him so active. He made himself acquainted with the abilities of the respective generals, and the force of all the army corps. Orders and instructions succeeded each other with extraordinary rapidity. If he wanted an order of the Directory he ran to the Luxembourg to get it signed by one of the Directors. Merlin de Douai was generally the person who did him this service, for he was the most constant at his post. Lagarde, the Secretary-General, did not countersign any document relative to this expedition, Bonaparte not wishing him to be informed of the business. He transmitted to Toulon the money taken at Berne, which the Directory had placed at his disposal. It amounted to something above 3,000,000 francs. In those times of disorder and negligence the finances were very badly managed. The revenues were anticipated and squandered away, so that the treasury never possessed so large a sum as that just mentioned.

It was determined that Bonaparte should undertake an expedition of an unusual character to the East. I must confess that two things cheered me in this very painful interval; my friendship and admiration for the talents of the conqueror of Italy, and the pleasing hope of traversing those ancient regions, the historical and religious accounts of which had engaged the attention of my youth.

It was at Passeriano that, seeing the approaching termination of his labours in Europe, he first began to turn serious attention to the East. During his long strolls in the evening in the magnificent park there he delighted to converse about the celebrated events of that part of the world, and the many famous empires it once possessed. He used to say, "Europe is a mole-hill. There have never been great empires and revolutions except in the East, where there are 600,000,000 men." He considered that part of the world as the cradle of all religious, of all metaphysical extravagances. This subject was no less interesting than inexhaustible, and he daily introduced it when conversing with the generals with whom he was intimate, with Monge, and with me.

Monge entirely concurred in the General-in-Chief's opinions on this point; and his scientific ardour was increased by Bonaparte's enthusiasm. In short, all were unanimously of one opinion. The Directory had no share in renewing the project of this memorable expedition, the result of which did not correspond with the grand views in which it had been conceived. Neither had the Directory any positive control over Bonaparte's departure or return. It was merely the passive instrument of the General's wishes, which it converted into decrees, as the law required. He was no more ordered to undertake the conquest of Egypt than he was instructed as to the plan of its execution. Bonaparte organised the army of the East, raised money, and collected ships; and it was he who conceived the happy idea of joining to the expedition men distinguished in science and art, and whose labours have made known, in its present and past state, a country, the very name of which is never pronounced without exciting grand recollections.

Bonaparte's orders flew like lightning from Toulon to Civita Vecchia. With admirable precision he appointed some forces to assemble before Malta, and others before Alexandria. He dictated all these orders to me in his Cabinet.

In the position in which France stood with respect to Europe, after the treaty of Campo-Formio, the Directory, far from pressing or even facilitating this expedition, ought to have opposed it. A victory on the Adige would have been far better far France than one on the Nile. From all I saw, I am of opinion that the wish to get rid of an ambitious and rising man, whose popularity excited envy, triumphed over the evident danger of removing, for an indefinite period, an excellent army, and the possible loss of the French fleet. As to Bonaparte, he was well assured that nothing remained for him but to choose between that hazardous enterprise and his certain ruin. Egypt was, he thought, the right place to maintain his reputation, and to add fresh glory to his name.

On the 12th of April 1798 he was appointed General-in-Chief of the army of the East. . .

Shortly before our departure I asked Bonaparte how long he intended to remain in Egypt. He replied, "A few months, or six years: all depends on circumstances. I will colonise the country. I will bring them artists and artisans of every description; women, actors, etc. We are but nine- and-twenty now, and we shall then be five-and-thirty. That is not an old age. Those six years will enable me, if all goes well, to get to India. Give out that you are going to Brest. Say so even to your family." I obeyed, to prove my discretion and real attachment to him. '

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Capt. Shechy [MacSheehy]: Observations on the Egyptian Bedouin

(The French landed at Alexandria July 1, 1798; this is an early impression of the Bedouin in the city's hinterland by one of Gen. Bonaparte's aides. These letters were intercepted, translated and published by the British navy.)

Alexandria, (19 Messidor) July 7th, 1798.

SHECHY [Bernard MacSheehy], Captain-Adjutant to the Staff of General BONAPARTE, to Citizen LE MAIRE, of Paris.

I WISHED to write you, my dear Le Maire, a long letter--Read the inclosed (1); it will inform you where we are at present. Say every thing for me to Madame Dumuy ; and above all, assure her that I will take care to send her an ample account of all our transactions, from Cairo, where I hope to arrive soon, with General Bonaparte. Dumuy(2) is here ; he stays behind to organize the troops that remain, to treat with the Bedouin Arabs, of whom you will find some account below, and to open a communication with the capital.

We are engaged here, my dear Le Maire, in a most fatiguing business. The wars of Europe have nothing in common with this of Egypt. We reckon ourselves fortunate in the extreme, if we can procure biscuit and water. We are now preparing for a march of five days across the Desert.

Put a wafer in Citizen Doulcet's letter ; and pray be kind enough to give the subjoined note respecting the Arabs, to my uncle. I wrote a very long letter to Madame Dumuy, from Malta: I wrote also to you, informing you, that the memorial relative to my promotion had been transmitted to the Minister of War, by Berthier. Call on Tallien and Bruix ; give my remembrances to them, and intreat them to accelerate an affair which may be easily arranged: try yourself too, what can be done in it. Write me a long letter, and accept the assurances of my friendship.


Note [on the Bedouin]

THE Bedouin Arabs constantly rise at a very early hour, drop on their knees, and kiss the ground twice, with their eyes turned towards the heavens. At sunrise, and at the first appearance of the moon, they repeat the same ceremony three times, directing their face towards that planet. They are commanded by chiefs, whom they respect; they salute them whenever they approach or pass them, pay the greatest attention to every thing they say, and punctually execute all their commands. Their usual dress is a piece of white woollen, which they fasten round their necks, throwing the corners over their shoulders. Their arms are quite naked. They have also a kind of pantaloon, reaching to the knee, where it is fastened; the legs, like the arms, are naked: they have all yellow slippers.

The dress of the women differs very little from that of the men. They carry their children on their backs. They are in good estimation with their husbands, though they do not eat with them. Like the Scythians, the Bedouins dwell in camps, which they move at pleasure, and as circumstances require. They carry with them all their household on camels, of which they possess a far greater number than of horses. The women and children are placed on the back of one of these animals, in a kind of circular cot, which affords them all a sufficient space to lie down.

They visit frequently, and live in a state of great familiarity and kindness one with another ; but it is observable, that one family never eats with another. They exchange one kind of merchandize, or one object of general utility for another, without the intervention of specie, of which they have no need. Every thing that is taken belongs to the taker: nay, a man may be made prisoner, and even sold by him who made him so, without any other person's pretending to interfere. Their general practice (3) is not to put any one to death, but only to rob him ; unless he should be rash enough to make resistance.

Their manner of living is very hard. They feed on a species of bread extremely black, and baked on the dung of their camels. Their water, kept for a long while in bottles made of goats' skin, and constantly exposed to the heat of the sun, is extremely offensive. They dip their bread in a kind of oil of a most disagreeable smell, which they procure in the midst of the sands of the Desert, from springs known only to themselves, and not less than fifty or sixty miles from each other.(4)

Every family has a tent to itself. It is under the command of a chief, and it is he only who makes war. Their horses, which are exclusively reserved for their excursions, are inconceivably active ; they are all wild, and ascend the steepest mountains with the same rapidity they run on even ground. They are never shod.

All these details were given me by the officers who had been made prisoners by the Bedouins on our landing. I collected them at the instant that the chiefs of the Arabs were with Bonaparte, arranging the terms of the treaty.

I have no paper to spare for covers. You will, therefore, inclose Citizen Doulcet's letter, and direct it to him.

[British Translators' Notes]

(1) See the next letter.

(2) This seems to be the person mentioned by General Menou ( Part I. p. 98.); his name, indeed, is spelt differently; but we observe a great inaccuracy with respect to names, throughout the whole of this Correspondence.

(3) Cependant, in the original; this word must have escaped Shechy through inadvertence; he could not surely have thought it strange, that those who were at liberty to sell their prisoners, did not kill them.

(4) It is hardly necessary to caution the reader to receive as little as possible of what the French pretend to give from the information of Arabs, Copts, &c. As far as the senses are concerned, they may generally be trusted, but no farther. What the prisoners saw, we are willing to believe they related with fidelity ; but when they proceed to tell us (from conversations, of which they certainly understood not a single word) of wonderful springs of oil found in the Desert, and kept secret from all the world, but the French ; we can only say, eras credimus, Aodie nihil. Bituminous and unctuous substances are sometimes, indeed, found floating on the surface of small pools or lakes, and but 'tis needless to enter further into the subject, on such authorities as those before us.

The little picture of the domestic economy of the Arabs, though rudely sketched, is far from being uninteresting. Their simple expressions of pious dependence, their respectful attachment to their hereditary chiefs, and their familiar and affectionate intercourse with one another, cannot fail to prepossess the reader a little in their favour ; and raise them in his mind far above the atheistical, turbulent, and unsocial horde, who, under the guidance of a ferocious Corsican, have traversed a thousand leagues of sea, for the " consolatory" purpose of exterminating them!

When one considers, too, the poverty of these people, their black bread, stinking water, and rancid oil, their burning sands, and interminable deserts, one would imagine that they, at least, would be secure from the rapacity and cruelty of France. Delusive thought! that nation has the eternal fever of the tiger; tnd presses forward with blind and inconsiderate fury, to slake its thirst in the blood of all it can reach, and overcome.

From: Copies of Original Letters from the Army of General Bonaparte in Egypt: Intercepted by the Fleet ... By Alexander Strong, William Frederick Darley. Part the First (London: J. Wright, 1799), pp. 5-8.

Monday, July 23, 2007

From Italy to Egypt

For an overview by video, scroll down for a clip from a PBS documentary on Bonaparte in Egypt.

Bonaparte's secretary, Louis de Bourrienne, wrote an adulatory and often mendacious biography of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Bonaparte as a Young Officer.

From the Gutenberg scanned text of Phipps's 19th century translation of vol. 2, here are his comments about Bonaparte's victory in Italy (1796-1797), his treaty of peace with the Austrian Empire (which had held northern Italy), his triumphant return to Paris to see the Directory (France's centrist government in the aftermath of Robespierre's Terror), and his ambition to become a Director. When that ambition proved premature, he says, Bonaparte considered leading an invasion of Great Britain. Plan B was already an attack on the Ottoman province of Egypt.


The day of the 18th Fructidor [4 September 1797, the date of a soft coup by the Directory in Paris against the resurgent right wing in parliament and the provinces] had, without any doubt, mainly contributed to the conclusion of peace [with Austria] at Campo Formio. On the one hand, the Directory, hitherto not very pacifically inclined, after having effected a 'coup d'etat', at length saw the necessity of appeasing the discontented by giving peace to France. On the other hand, the Cabinet of Vienna, observing the complete failure of all the royalist plots in the interior, thought it high time to conclude with the French Republic a treaty which, notwithstanding all the defeats Austria had sustained, still left her a preponderating influence over Italy.

Besides, the campaign of Italy, so fertile in glorious achievements of arms, had not been productive of glory alone. Something of greater importance followed these conquests. Public affairs had assumed a somewhat unusual aspect, and a grand moral influence, the effect of victories and of peace, had begun to extend all over France. Republicanism was no longer so sanguinary and fierce as it had been some years before. Bonaparte, negotiating with princes and their ministers on a footing of equality, but still with all that superiority to which victory and his genius entitled him, gradually taught foreign courts to be familiar with Republican France, and the Republic to cease regarding all States governed by Kings as of necessity enemies.

In these circumstances the General-in-Chief's departure and his expected visit to Paris excited general attention. The feeble Directory was prepared to submit to the presence of the conqueror of Italy in the capital.

It was for the purpose of acting as head of the French legation at the Congress of Rastadt that Bonaparte quitted Milan on the 17th of November [1797]. But before his departure he sent to the Directory one of those monuments, the inscriptions on which may generally be considered as fabulous, but which, in this case, were nothing but the truth. This monument was the "flag of the Army of Italy," and to General Joubert was assigned the honourable duty of presenting it to the members of the Executive Government.

On one side of the flag were the words "To the Army of Italy, the grateful country." The other contained an enumeration of the battles fought and places taken, and presented, in the following inscriptions, a simple but striking abridgment of the history of the Italian campaign.





Thus were recapitulated on a flag, destined to decorate the Hall of the Public Sittings of the Directory, the military deeds of the campaign in Italy, its political results, and the conquest of the monuments of art. . .

The General now renewed, though unsuccessfully, the attempt he had made before the 18th Fructidor to obtain a dispensation of the age necessary for becoming a Director. Perceiving that the time was not yet favourable for such a purpose, he said to me, on the 29th of January 1798, "Bourrienne, I do not wish to remain here; there is nothing to do. They are unwilling to listen to anything. I see that if I linger here, I shall soon lose myself. Everything wears out here; my glory has already disappeared. This little Europe does not supply enough of it for me. I must seek it in the East, the fountain of glory. However, I wish first to make a tour along the coast, to ascertain by my own observation what may be attempted. I will take you, Lannes, and Sulkowsky, with me. If the success of a descent on England appear doubtful, as I suspect it will, the army of England shall become the army of the East, and I will go to Egypt."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Conquest of Egypt

This is from a PBS special on Bonaparte in Egypt via YouTube