Friday, August 31, 2007

The Washington of France

From A Selection from the Letters and Despatches of the First Napoleon. With Explanatory Notes By Denis Arthur Bingham. (London: Chapman and Hall, Ltd., 1884), pp. 219-220. Comments below between the text of the letters is by Bingham.

In a letter to Marmont, dated the 18th August, Bonaparte showed considerable anxiety to know what the English were about. "You will forward me the most minute details," he wrote, "and let me know the situation of the English, and the manner in which our squadrons behaved during the combat. In speaking either to the generals, to the sailors, or to the soldiers, take care to say and to do all in your power to encourage them. More especially, have a conference with Rear-Admiral Ganthaume, and let me know what he thinks of the conduct of our fleet, what he thinks of the conduct of Villeneuve, and what he supposes that the English intend doing. Assure him of my esteem, &c., &c."

Two days afterwards, writing to Kléber, he said—
"The Turks will think twice before undertaking any important operation against us; besides, they would soon repent of it. ... I do not fear 100,000 Turks. If the English relieve this squadron by another, and continue to infest the Mediterranean, they will perhaps oblige us to do greater things than we proposed to perform"— would force the French to take India.

On the 22nd August Bonaparte created an institute at Cairo, which he organised with his usual love of detail. In the list of persons proposed to form "the Institute of Egypt," the Correspondence gives, " Mathematical Section, Bonaparte, Monge, &c." In the section of political economy, one remarks the name of Tallien.

Nelson thus wrote to Earl Spencer :—

9th August, 1798."

I send you a pacquet of intercepted letters, some of them of great importance: in particular, one from Bonaparte to his brother. He writes such a scrawl, no one not used to it can read it: but luckily we have got a man who has wrote in his office to decipher it. Buonaparte has differed with his Generals here, and he did want— and, if I understand his meaning, does want—and will strive to be the Washington of France. . . . "


Friday, August 24, 2007

The British Navy Sinks Bonaparte's Fleet,
Marooning his Army in Egypt

From a Gutenberg e-text of Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, Memoirs of Napoleon, Volume 03, ed. and trans. R.W. Phipps., 1891:

The destruction of the French squadron in the roads of Aboukir occurred during the absence of the General-in-Chief. This event happened on the 1st of August. The details are generally known; but there is one circumstance to which I cannot refrain from alluding, and which excited deep interest at the time. This was the heroic courage of the son of Casablanca, the captain of the 'Orient'. Casablanca was among the wounded, and when the vessel was blown up his son, a lad of ten years of age, preferred perishing with him rather than saving himself, when one of the seamen had secured him the means of escape. I told the 'aide de camp', sent by General Kleber, who had the command of Alexandria, that the General-in-Chief was near Salehye'h. He proceeded thither immediately, and Bonaparte hastened back to Cairo, a distance of about thirty-three leagues.

In spite of any assertions that may have been made to the contrary, the fact is, that as soon as the French troops set foot in Egypt, they were filled with dissatisfaction, and ardently longed to return home. . .

The illusion of the expedition had disappeared, and only its reality remained. What bitter murmuring have I not heard from Murat, Lannes, Berthier, Bessieres, and others! Their complaints were, indeed, often so unmeasured as almost to amount to sedition. This greatly vexed Bonaparte, and drew from him severe reproaches and violent language.

--[Napoleon related at St. Helena that in a fit of irritation he rushed among a group of dissatisfied generals, and said to one of them, who was remarkable for his stature, "you have held seditious language; but take care I do not perform my duty. Though you are five feet ten inches high, that shall not save you from being shot."--Bourrienne.]--

When the news arrived of the loss of the fleet, discontent increased. All who had acquired fortunes under Napoleon now began to fear that they would never enjoy them. All turned their thoughts to Paris, and its amusements, and were utterly disheartened at the idea of being separated from their homes and their friends for a period, the termination of which it was impossible to foresee.

The catastrophe of Aboukir came like a thunderbolt upon the General-in- Chief. In spite of all his energy and fortitude, he was deeply distressed by the disasters which now assailed him. To the painful feelings excited by the complaints and dejection of his companions in arms was now added the irreparable misfortune of the burning of our fleet. He measured the fatal consequences of this event at a single glance. We were now cut off from all communication with France, and all hope of returning thither, except by a degrading capitulation with an implacable and hated enemy. Bonaparte had lost all chance of preserving his conquest, and to him this was indeed a bitter reflection. And at what a time did this disaster befall him? At the very moment when he was about to apply for the aid of the mother-country.

From what General Bonaparte communicated to me previously to the 1st of August, his object was, having once secured the possession of Egypt; to return to Toulon with the fleet; then to send troops and provisions of every kind to Egypt; and next to combine with the fleet all the forces that could be supplied, not only by France, but by her allies, for the purpose of attacking England. It is certain that previously to his departure for Egypt he had laid before the Directory a note relative to his plans. He always regarded a descent upon England as possible, though in its result fatal, so long as we should be inferior in naval strength; but he hoped by various manoeuvres to secure a superiority on one point.

His intention was to return to France. Availing himself of the departure of the English fleet for the Mediterranean, the alarm excited by his Egyptian expedition, the panic that would be inspired by his sudden appearance at Boulogne, and his preparations against England, he hoped to oblige that power to withdraw her naval force from the Mediterranean, and to prevent her sending out troops to Egypt. This project was often in his head. He would have thought it sublime to date an order of the day from the ruins of Memphis, and three months later, one from London. The loss of the fleet converted all these bold conceptions into mere romantic visions.

When alone with me he gave free vent to his emotion. I observed to him that the disaster was doubtless great, but that it would have been infinitely more irreparable had Nelson fallen in with us at Malta, or had he waited for us four-and-twenty hours before Alexandria, or in the open sea. "Any one of these events," said I, "which were not only possible but probable, would have deprived us of every resource. We are blockaded here, but we have provisions and money. Let us then wait patiently to see what the Directory will do for us."--"The Directory!" exclaimed he angrily, "the Directory is composed of a set of scoundrels! they envy and hate me, and would gladly let me perish here. Besides, you see how dissatisfied the whole army is: not a man is willing to stay."

The pleasing illusions which were cherished at the outset of the expedition vanished long before our arrival in Cairo. Egypt was no longer the empire of the Ptolemies, covered with populous and wealthy cities; it now presented one unvaried scene of devastation and misery. Instead of being aided by the inhabitants, whom we had ruined, for the sake of delivering them from the yoke of the beys, we found all against us: Mamelukes, Arabs, and fellahs. No Frenchman was secure of his life who happened to stray half a mile from any inhabited place, or the corps to which he belonged. The hostility which prevailed against us and the discontent of the army were clearly developed in the numerous letters which were written to France at the time, and intercepted.

The gloomy reflections which at first assailed Bonaparte, were speedily banished; and he soon recovered the fortitude and presence of mind which had been for a moment shaken by the overwhelming news from Aboukir. He, however, sometimes repeated, in a tone which it would be difficult to describe, "Unfortunate Brueys, what have you done!"

I have remarked that in some chance observations which escaped Napoleon at St. Helena he endeavoured to throw all the blame of the affair on Admiral Brueys. Persons who are determined to make Bonaparte an exception to human nature have unjustly reproached the Admiral for the loss of the fleet.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bonaparte Orders Dissidents Beheaded

From A Selection from the Letters and Despatches of the First Napoleon. With Explanatory Notes By Denis Arthur Bingham. (London: Chapman and Hall, Ltd., 1884), pp. 218-219. Comments below between the text of the letters is by Bingham.

CAIRO, 31st July, 1798.

Your presence, Citizen General, is again necessary at Rosetta for some days, for the organisation of that province.

The Turks can only be kept in order by means of the greatest severity ; every day I have five or six heads cut off in the streets of Cairo. We have been obliged to spare the inhabitants up to the present, in order to obliterate the terrible reputation which preceded us. To-day, on the contrary, we must assume the tone necessary to make ourselves obeyed ; and for them to obey is to fear. . . .


On hearing of the disaster of the Nile Bonaparte, in order not to discourage his army, affected to treat the destruction of the French fleet lightly, saying that the English would force him to accomplish greater things than he had proposed.

CAIRO, 15th August, 1798.

The situation in which you find yourself, Citizen General^ is horrible. If you did not perish, fate must destine you to revenge our navy and our friends; receive my congratulations (in anticipation). This is the only agreeable sentiment I have experienced since the day before yesterday, when I received at thirty leagues from Cairo your report, forwarded to me by General Kleber.

I salute and embrace you.


Bonaparte was much disappointed with the obstinacy of other towns which rejected his overtures, and on the slightest complaint they were to be burned down, &c.

CAIRO, 1st August, 1798. . .

General Dumuy will disarm the town of Damanhour, and will cut off the heads of the five chief inhabitants, one amongst the worst men of law, and four others, who have most influence with the population, should be selected. After this he will send twenty-five hostages to Cairo, &c., &c.


Frequent orders of this description were despatched by Bonaparte to his various lieutenants.

In a long despatch to the Directory, giving an account of the situation, the General-in-Chief criticised the conduct of Admiral Brueys, adding—

"If in this fatal event he committed errors, he expiated them by a glorious death. The fates wished in this, as in many other circumstances, to prove that if they have accorded us the preponderance on the Continent, they have given the empire of the seas to our rivals. But, no matter how great this reverse, it cannot be attributed to the inconstancy of fortune; she has not abandoned us yet; far from that; she has favoured us in this operation more than ever. When I arrived before Alexandria, and learned that the English had passed that place a few days before with a superior force, in spite of the tempest which reigned, and at the risk of being shipwrecked, I landed. I remember that when all was ready for disembarking, a vessel of war was signalled in the distance; it was the Justice (1) -- coming from Malta. I cried, Fortune, will you abandon me? What, only five days ! I marched all night, and attacked Alexandria at break of day with 3,000 men worn out with fatigue, without guns, and almost without cartridges."

1) A French frigate coming from Malta.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bonaparte Defeats Ibrahim Bey at Salahiya

From a Gutenberg e-text of Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, Memoirs of Napoleon, Volume 03, ed. and trans. R.W. Phipps., 1891:

"While Bonaparte was thus actively taking measures for the organization of the country, General Desaix had marched into Upper Egypt in pursuit of Mourad Bey. We learned that Ibrahim, who, next to Mourad, was the most influential of the bays, had proceeded towards Syria, by the way of Belbeis and Salehye'h. The General-in-Chief immediately determined to march in person against that formidable enemy, and he left Cairo about fifteen days after he had entered it. It is unnecessary to describe the well- known engagement in which Bonaparte drove Ibrahim back upon El-Arish; besides, I do not enter minutely into the details of battles, my chief object being to record events which I personally witnessed.

At the battle of Salehye'h Bonaparte thought he had lost one of his 'aides de camp', Sulkowsky, to whom he was much attached, and who had been with us during the whole of the campaign of Italy. On the field of battle one object of regret cannot long engross the mind; yet, on his return to Cairo, Bonaparte frequently spoke to me of Sulkowsky in terms of unfeigned sorrow.

"I cannot," said he one day, "sufficiently admire the noble spirit and determined courage of poor Sulkowsky." He often said that Sulkowsky would have been a valuable aid to whoever might undertake the resuscitation of Poland. Fortunately that brave officer was not killed on that occasion, though seriously wounded. He was, however, killed shortly after."

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bonaparte Taxes and Sanctions Egypt

From A Selection from the Letters and Despatches of the First Napoleon. With Explanatory Notes By Denis Arthur Bingham. (London: Chapman and Hall, Ltd., 1884), pp. 216-217. Comments below between the text of the letters is by Bingham.

CAIRO, 27th July, 1798.

We have at Cairo, Citizen General, a very fine mint. We require all the ingots which we left at Alexandria, in exchange for the coin given to us by the merchants. I beg you will therefore assemble the merchants to whom the said ingots were given, and ask to have them back. I will give them in exchange corn and rice, of which we have enormous quantities. . . . We have driven 2,000 of the best mounted Mamelukes into the Nile. . . . "


How Bonaparte acquired his corn and rice is not stated, nor has history left on record what the merchants of Alexandria thought of the operation of the French General. Unfortunately a French gunner was assassinated in Alexandria, and this laid the city open—-as Rome, Venice, and other cities in Italy had been laid open—-to numerous vexations. No less than fifty hostages were taken on board the fleet, nor was this all.

CAIRO, 30th July, 1798.
Bonaparte, General-in-Chief.

It being just that the commerce of Alexandria should contribute, like that of Cairo, towards the keep of the army, &c. "

Art. i. A contribution of 300,000 francs shall be levied on the principal merchants. . . . This sum must be paid in twenty-four hours after the publication of the present. "

Art. 2. All persons who were employed under the late administration must pay a share of the contribution.


"CAIRO, 30th July, 1798.
Bonaparte, General-in-Chief, having proofs of the treason of Seid Mohamed el-Koraïm, whom he had overwhelmed with benefits, orders—

Art. i. Seid Mohamed el-Koraïm shall pay a contribution of 300,000 francs.

Art. II. In default of acquitting this debt, five days after the publication of the present order he shall have his head cut off.


And poor Koraïm, either unable or unwilling to pay this price, had his head cut off, and carried through the streets on a pike, as a warning to all traitors not in a position, or unwilling, to purchase immunity. Bonaparte had been informed that Koraïm had concealed his money in a cistern, where it may possibly still lie, for his servants, though tortured, either would not, or could not, reveal the hiding place.

Damietta, Rosetta, and other towns were also to contribute towards the expenses of the French army, each in due proportion.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bonaparte Puts Sunni Clerics in Control of Egypt

The divan or governing council to be established in each Egyptian province was envisaged by Gen. Bonaparte as being staffed primarily by the Sunni clerics, who might thereby bestow a sense of legitimacy on these institutions.

From a Gutenberg e-text of Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, Memoirs of Napoleon, Volume 03, ed. and trans. R.W. Phipps., 1891:

From the details I have already given respecting Bonaparte's plans for colonising Egypt, it will be seen that his energy of mind urged him to adopt anticipatory measures for the accomplishment of objects which were never realised. During the short interval in which he sheathed his sword he planned provisional governments for the towns and provinces occupied by the French troops, and he adroitly contrived to serve the interests of his army without appearing to violate those of the country. After he had been four days at Cairo, during which time he employed himself in examining everything, and consulting every individual from whom he could obtain useful information, he published the following order:

HEADQUARTERS, CAIRO, 9th Thermidor, year VI [27 July, 1798].


Art. 1. There shall be in each province of Egypt a divan, composed of seven individuals, whose duty will be to superintend the interests of the province; to communicate to me any complaints that may be made; to prevent warfare among the different villages; to apprehend and punish criminals (for which purpose they may demand assistance from the French commandant); and to take every opportunity of enlightening the people.

Art. 2. There shall be in each province an aga of the Janizaries,* maintaining constant communication with the French commandant. He shall have with him a company of sixty armed natives, whom he may take wherever he pleases, for the maintenance of good order, subordination, and tranquillity.

Art. 3. There shall be in each province an intendant, whose business will be to levy the miri, the feddan, and the other contributions which formerly belonged to the Mamelukes, but which now belong to the French Republic. The intendants shall have us many agents as may be necessary.

Art. 4. The said intendant shall have a French agent to correspond with the Finance Department, and to execute all the orders he may receive. (Signed)


While Bonaparte was thus actively taking measures for the organization of the country . . . General Desaix had marched into Upper Egypt in pursuit of Mourad Bey.



Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Shechy's [MacSheehy's] Account of the Taking of Alexandria

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. 15-24. [See Shechy's first letter, and account of the Bedouin, here.]


Alexandria, (19 Messidor)*, July 7th [4th?].
SHECHY [Bernard MacSheehy], Captain Adjutant, &c. &c. to Citizen DOULCET,[1] Rue St. Fiacre, at Paris.

I AVAIL myself of the only leisure moment I have had since the capture of this city to acquit myself of the engagement I entered into with you.

Our voyage from Toulon to Malta had scarce any thing in it worth mentioning. You are already acquainted with every particular respecting the capture of that important island. We quitted it on the evening of the 18th of June, and a north-west wind, which constantly prevails in those latitudes during the present season, carried us in twelve days to Alexandria. [2]

On the evening of the 1st instant, after issuing the necessary orders for effecting an immediate landing, the Commander in Chief threw himself into a Maltese galley, to get nearer the shore; and in spite of the prudent[3] advice of the seamen, who insinuated that a debarkation was impracticable, on account of the violence of the wind, and of the reefs which fill the Bay of Marabout, General Bonaparte persisted in his determination to land, and actually did land in this very bay. I was one of the Staff that accompanied him. Marabout is about three leagues from Alexandria.

When we got on shore, we found the Generals Menou, Kleber, Bon, and Regnier; the three former with their divisions, the latter with only a few of his men about him; he was therefore left to secure the landing-place, while the others marched in three columns for Alexandria.

The Commander in Chief and his Staff, after sleeping for about two hours on the sand, got up, and put themselves at the head of the divisions. Kleber's occupied the centre, and marched toward's Pompey's Column; Menou's was drawn up on its left, and coasted along the sea; Bon's on its right, and directed its march to the gate of Rosetta. I and my party put ourselves at the head of Kleber's division.

At daybreak we discovered a few horse, who advanced upon us, and, seeing that we had no cavalry, discharged their carabines at us within pistol-shot; but some of our riflemen having rapidly gained the sand hills on our flank, soon forced them to retire. We continued our march till we got within two miles of the city. Here we found a mosque, with a cistern in it. We drank with delight of the water, which the fatigues[4] of the march made us think the sweetest we had ever tasted! Arrived at Pompey's Column, we made another short halt. Our riflemen, meanwhile, had advanced close to the walls, and were skirmishing with the Alexandrines, who lined them in every part. The Commander in Chief sent me forward to reconnoitre their situation, strength, &c. I advanced alone, till 1 came within pistol- shot—but had scarce begun to examine the forts with my glass, ere I heard a sudden scream from the women and children, that appeared in great numbers on the ramparts; at the same moment a brisk discharge of musquetry was made upon me. A volunteer who stood about thirty or forty paces behind me was shot in the left shoulder, and fell.

Having executed the business entrusted to me by the General, I went back to collect some volunteers who were scattered about the plain; and having by their assistance removed the wounded man, I had him conveyed to Pompey's Column, where all the Staff Officers were assembled.

The General ordered the charge to be beat and an attack to be made upon all points. Our troops flew to the ramparts, and got over them in an instant,[5] in spite of a shower of bullets arid stones, which killed and wounded a great number of them. The General hastily ascended a small eminence, which commanded both the city and the port, that he might make his observations on the attack. Kleber and Menou were wounded; the one by a musket-ball in the head, the other by a fall. Both are likely to recover.

One of the forts having been carried by assault, the General sent me after the prisoners, in hopes of procuring some intelligence from them; he then dispatched me back to order the generale to be beat, and the troops who were in the city, and engaged with the inhabitants, to evacuate it immediately, and arrange themselves in order of battle under the eminence on which he then stood.

Having re-entered the city, and observed the desperate conduct of the Alexandrines, who continued to assail our troops with stones and musquetry from the roofs and windows of their houses, I found myself reduced to the necessity of lining the streets which I passed with small bodies of men, to prevent those hostile measures. In spite of all my precautions, however, several of my people were wounded by the stones.

I came up to a small fort, which was garrisoned by about thirty Turks; they discharged several muskets at me; but seeing that my numbers were continually increasing, they made signs of capitulating, by grounding their arms, and uttering the most dreadful cries.

As the General had ordered me not to attack any of the forts, but merely to block up such as lay in my way, by the troops of the different divisions, I judged it proper to accept of this capitulation; but at the very instant that I ordered the troops to cease firing on the fort, a musket-ball from an adjoining house killed a grenadier close to my side. He fell across my knees, without uttering a single word, and had nearly thrown me down by his fall. As I could not precisely point out the house from whence the shot was fired, and had before me a fort, of which I was scarcely yet the master, I was obliged to continue my route without taking VENGEANCE[6] for the death of the brave grenadier. Soon after I found myself before the principal fort of the city; it was already blockaded by Menou's division; and in a few minutes after, the Captain of a Turkish ship of war, dispatched by the Commander in Chief, put it into our hands, as well as all the others which yet remained to be taken.

We had a vast number of men killed and wounded in our attack upon the city, and during our march, by the Bedouins, whom we fell in with soon after our landing ; they hung on our rear, and killed and took a great number of stragglers. These Arabs resemble the ancient Scythians: the world is their country, they live on rapine[7] &c. ***** *

These Arabs are divided into different tribes, which are frequently at war with each other. They are very formidable, never associate with the rest of the world, nor can ever be persuaded to adopt their customs, or their manner of living. This, perhaps, is the true secret of their power.

The Proclamation of General Bonaparte, (of which you will, undoubtedly, see a copy), having been communicated to them, they instantly demanded permission to become our friends, and even to make war in conjunction with us, against the Mameloucs [Mamluks], the oppressors of the country! They brought the General about thirty of our people whom they had made prisoners. Before they heard of the Proclamation, they had treated these unfortunate men in the harshest manner; their women especially; made them suffer the most cruel torments; and even the children at the breast amused themselves with tearing their hair, and scratching their face with their nails; all of which they were obliged to endure with patience, for fear of worse treatment from the men. As soon, however, as the Proclamation was made known to them, the French were treated with kindness.

I have snatched a few instants from my duty, to give you these details. We are so busy that we have not time to lie down, or to take a morsel of wretched food.

It is impossible for you to conceive the misery of our present situation; which, yet, is infinitely preferable to that which we are about to experience in the course of three or four days, in the midst of the Desert.' We shall march the 6th or 7th..

I am indebted to the activity and good sense of my servant, for a camel, which I am already preparing to load with two goat-skin bags; one for water, and the other for vinegar; happy if I find it sufficient for the journey! This camel will also carry a part of my baggage, and that of my comrades, and five days provisions, consisting merely of hard biscuit, which we have been obliged to procure from the ships.

Desaix's division is already on its march; Regnier's is to follow it; Kleber's will proceed on the morning, and Menou's on the evening of the 6th. We shall speedily see the unravelling of all these projects; at present, Cairo is the mark to which we tend. The Mameloucs once beaten, I know not if we shall carry our views farther.

I am asleep with the pen in my hand. I am absolutely worn out with fatigue. As soon as I can find a few moments of tranquillity, I will take the liberty of sending you a more circumstantial and a more satisfactory account of what we have seen and done.

Have the goodness to present my respects to Madame Dumuy, and pray let me hear from you. You cannot form an idea of the fatigues we have undergone. If we ever return from this expedition, we shall richly deserve Paradise. On board the fleet, we regretted France; in Egypt, I fear, we shall have to regret the fleet! In spite, however, of all the obstacles which we experience, success will crown our enterprize — nay, obstacles themselves are, with us, infallible indications of victory![8]

I am so pressed for the regulations, &c. of the army, that I cannot add another word. The nephew of Lannés, who is at my side, desires to be remembered to you.



[British Translator's Notes]

[1] This and the foregoing letter appear to be post-dated by two or three days: the mistake arose probably from haste, and is, indeed, scarce worth noticing.

[2] We know nothing more of Shechy than what his letters tell us. His correspondent Doulcet de Pontecoulant was formerly an officer in the Gardes-du-corps. He followed the general example, deserted his benevolent master, and actively promoted the Revolution which brought him to the scaffold.

He repented, we suppose, when it was too late; for we find him in the list of the proscribed of the 18th Fructidor: he was, however, so far pardoned, on account of his former services, as to be permitted to withdraw to Switzerland. He is now, we see, returned to France; on what terms we know not—probably he has repented of his repentance, and is ready to begin anew. In the Convention he was looked on as a Modere [moderate]!

[3] Shechy uses this word with a sneer, but without reason. The landing was evidently dangerous; many of the troops were drowned in the attempt, and, according to several of the letters, the General himself was in the most imminent danger of being lost. But the fears of the English fleet prevailed over every other consideration—

"--such a sight

He dreaded worse than hell;"---

and, if he had, with a precipitation and want of forecast, which must for ever destroy his reputation as a General, fled from Malta, without waiting to supply that important post with a sufficient quantity of troops or stores, and without taking in water for his own squadron (notwithstanding the remonstrances of Brueys), from a dread of being overtaken by Nelson; it cannot be supposed that any circumstances could easily occur powerful enough to detain him on board, when his escape now appeared to depend on the exertions of a few hours, and was, moreover, favoured by the night.

We have yet a few words to say on this subject. The Morning Chronicle, with a disregard of truth and decency, highly worthy of the cause which it espouses, after insinuating that this Correspondence is a forgery, (not having heard, it should seem, that its friends abroad allow it to be genuine), observes, with a rancorous smile—

---toujours Le rit sur son visage at en mauvaise humeur. —

that "it is to be deposited in the British Museum—together with the body of Bonaparte, to enable the English, who did not dare to face him alive, to look at him dead"! Where did this degraded and despicable paper learn, that the English feared to face Bonaparte alive? Was it in the "AUTHENTIC NARRATIVE" of Captain Berry, which describes, in plain yet forcible language, the gallant Nelson, with an inferior fleet, pursuing this "dreaded hero," with an eagerness that could only be surpassed by that with which Bonaparte fled from him!

But the unnatural rage of the Morning Chronicle to sacrifice the honour of this country to France, is too notorious to be farther dwelt upon. Callous alike to shame and detection, it blunders on, through universal hatred and contempt, from one ignorant and atrocious falsehood to another. The reader of the former part of this work, (Introd. p. ii.) cannot have forgotten with what consummate baseness it misrepresented the tendency of the publication, and, under the fulsome pretence of reprehending scandal, (which was no where to be found in it), gave a loose to its own darling licentiousness and impurity.

Each of these divisions consisted of from five to seven thousand men; the reader may therefore form a tolerable estimate of the forces that attacked Alexandria. Boyer (Part I. p. 132.) reckons them at twenty-five thousand; and this, if we include the Unattached volunteers of the army, who were pretty numerous, was, we doubt not, the amount.

[4]This " fatiguing march" was one of little more than a league. The remark is of no farther importance than as it serves towards elucidating the history of this "terrestrial paradise," where to travel but four foot by the square a-foot," as Falstaff says, "is to break one's wind!"

[5] As, Heaven knows! they might well do; for we can assure our readers, from the testimony of persons well acquainted with those famous "J ramparts," that many a park wall in this country presents a more formidable aspect. The only danger to be apprehended in this terrible escalade was, lest the assailants should pull down the old wall upon themselves—and this, we find, they actually did do; for General Menou, and several others, were wounded by the fall of the stones which gave way beneath their grasp!

If the catastrophe had been less tragical, we should have indulged a smile at the parade of military arrangements made by Bonaparte for getting possession of this defenceless place. " It would have surrendered," says Boyer (Part I. p. 132.) "at the first summons;" and so it undoubtedly would—-but then how scurvily would this have sounded in. the pages of the Morning Chronicle, and the Redacteur. Hence the reconnoitering "within pistol-shot," the beating of the generale, the scrambling over the wall, &c. &c. Unparalleled achievements, and, in the judgment of the aforesaid papers, worthy of everlasting renown. Be it so: and yet, we trust, very few of our readers will be so dazzled by their splendour, as not to see that the instantaneous capture of the city renders the subsequent massacre of its innocent inhabitants altogether inexcusable. Something may be allowed to rage, when success is at length obtained after an obstinate and destructive resistance. But Mr. Wakefield himself must excuse us, if we do not feel inclined to make much allowance for a man, or more properly a monster, who, at one and the same moment, invests and carries an open place (for such in fact it is), and then deliberately murders men, women, and children, in their very mosques!

[6]This was a great pity—but be of good heart, citizen; Bonaparte will enter the town as soon as it is completely in the power of his troops, and then you, and they, and all, will have full leisure to take "VENGEANCE," not only on the man who killed the grenadier that would have killed him, but on his wife and child, who are calling on heaven and earth for mercy.

[7] Here follows a short account of the Arabs, which, as it is merely a repetition, of what is said respecting them in the former letter,
we have omitted. Poor Shechy is a miserable historian; instead of comparing these people to the ancient Scythians, of whom he knows nothing, and who had very little in common with the Arabs, he should have looked out for a resemblance nearer home. If the sentence had run thus-- "These Arabs resemble the modern French: the world is their country, they live on rapine, &c." few, we believe, would have thought of disputing its accuracy.

[8] Excellent. To augur success from the very circumstances which oppose it, is, we believe, peculiar to the French.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Battle of the Pyramids: Bourrienne

From a Gutenberg e-text of Bourrienne's biography of Napoleon Bonaparte (R.W. Phipps trans.):

We had no communication with the army until the 23d of July. On the 22d we came in sight of the Pyramids, and were informed that we were only about, ten leagues from Gizeh, where they are situated. The cannonade which we heard, and which augmented in proportion as the north wind diminished, announced a serious engagement; and that same day we saw the banks of the Nile strewed with heaps of bodies, which the waves were every moment washing into the sea. This horrible spectacle, the silence of the surrounding villages, which had hitherto been armed against us, and the cessation of the firing from the banks of the river, led us to infer, with tolerable certainty, that a battle fatal to the Mamelukes had been fought. The misery we suffered on our passage from Rahmahanie'h [Rahmaniya] to Gizeh is indescribable. We lived for eleven days on melons and water, besides being momentarily exposed to the musketry of the Arabs and the fellahs. We luckily escaped with but a few killed and wounded. The rising of the Nile was only beginning. The shallowness of the river near Cairo obliged us to leave the xebec and get on board a djerm. We reached Gizeh at three in the afternoon of the 23d of July.

When I saluted the General, whom I had not seen for twelve days, he thus addressed me: "So you are here, are you? Do you know that you have all of you been the cause of my not following up the battle of Chebreisse? It was to save you, Monge, Berthollet, and the others on board the flotilla that I hurried the movement of my left upon the Nile before my right had turned Chebreisse [Shubrakhit]. But for that, not a single Mameluke would have escaped."

"I thank you for my own part," replied I; "but in conscience could you have abandoned us, after taking away our horses, and making us go on board the xebec, whether we would or not?" He laughed, and then told me how sorry he was for the wound of Sucy, and the death of many useful men, whose places could not possibly be filled up.

He made me write a letter to his brother Louis, informing him that he had gained a complete victory over the Mamelukes at Embabeh [Imbaba], opposite Boulac [Bulaq], and that the enemy's loss was 2000 men killed and wounded, 40 guns, and a great number of horses.

The occupation of Cairo was the immediate consequence of the victory of Embabeh. Bonaparte established his head-quarters in the home of Elfy Bey, in the great square of Ezbekye'h.

The march of the French army to Cairo was attended by an uninterrupted succession of combats and victories. We had won the battles of Rahmahanie'h [Rahmaniya], Chebreisse [Shubrakhit], and the Pyramids. The Mamelukes were defeated, and their chief, Mourad Bey, was obliged to fly into Upper Egypt. Bonaparte found no obstacle to oppose his entrance into the capital of Egypt, after a campaign of only twenty days.

No conqueror, perhaps, ever enjoyed a victory so much as Bonaparte, and yet no one was ever less inclined to abuse his triumphs.

We entered Cairo on the 24th of July, and the General-in-Chief immediately directed his attention to the civil and military organization of the country. Only those who saw him in the vigour of his youth can form an idea of his extraordinary intelligence and activity. Nothing escaped his observation. Egypt had long been the object of his study; and in a few weeks he was as well acquainted with the country as if he had lived in it ten years. He issued orders for observing the strictest discipline, and these orders were punctually obeyed.

The mosques, the civil and religious institutions, the harems, the women, the customs of the country-all were scrupulously respected. A few days after they entered Cairo the French were freely admitted into the shops, and were seen sociably smoking their pipes with the inhabitants, assisting them in their occupations, and playing with their children.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Scientific Napoleon

Check out "The Scientific Napoleon at Daily Galaxy, on the activities of the scientists he brought to Egypt.


' Like Aristotle's scientific observations and specimens collected during his journeys with Alexander the Great in his conquests on the then known world, the real winners of Napoleon's Egyptian campaign were the artists, historians and other savants who accompanied him, and carried back numerous treasures, including the Rosetta Stone, inscribed in both Greek and hieroglyphics, which would later enable linguists to decipher the hieroglyphs. '

Friday, August 10, 2007

Battle of Shubrakhit (Chebraiss): Bourrienne

From a Gutenberg e-text of Bourrienne's biography of Napoleon Bonaparte (R.W. Phipps trans.):

On the 10th of July our headquarters were established at Rahmahanie'h, where they remained during the 11th and 12th. At this place commences the canal which was cut by Alexander to convey water to his new city; and to facilitate commercial intercourse between Europe and the East.

The flotilla, commanded by the brave chief of division Perree, had just arrived from Rosette. Perree was on board the xebec 'Cerf'.

--[Bonaparte had great confidence in him. He had commanded, under the General's orders, the naval forces in the Adriatic in 1797.-- Bourrienne]--

Bonaparte placed on board the Cerf and the other vessels of the flotilla those individuals who, not being military, could not be serviceable in engagements, and whose horses served to mount a few of the troops.

On the night of the 14th of July the General-in-Chief directed his march towards the south, along the left bank of the Nile. The flotilla sailed up the river parallel with the left wing of the army. But the force of the wind, which at this season blows regularly from the Mediterranean into the valley of the file, carried the flotilla far in advance of the army, and frustrated the plan of their mutually defending and supporting each other. The flotilla thus unprotected fell in with seven Turkish gunboats coming from Cairo, and was exposed simultaneously to their fire and to that of the Mamelukes, fellahs [peasants], and Arabs who lined both banks of the river. They had small guns mounted on camels.

Perree cast anchor, and an engagement commenced at nine o'clock on the 14th of July, and continued till half past twelve.

At the same time the General-in-Chief met and attacked a corps of about 4000 Mamelukes. His object, as he afterwards said, was to turn the corps by the left of the village of Chebreisse [Shubrakhit], and to drive it upon the Nile.

About eleven in the morning Perree told me that the Turks were doing us more harm than we were doing them; that our ammunition would soon be exhausted; that the army was far inland, and that if it did not make a move to the left there would be no hope for us. Several vessels had already been boarded and taken by the Turks, who massacred the crews before our eyes, and with barbarous ferocity showed us the heads of the slaughtered men.

Perree, at considerable risk, despatched several persons to inform the General-in-Chief of the desperate situation of the flotilla. The cannonade which Bonaparte had heard since the morning, and the explosion of a Turkish gunboat, which was blown up by the artillery of the xebec, led him to fear that our situation was really perilous. He therefore made a movement to the left, in the direction of the Nile and Chebreisse [Shubrakhit], beat the Mamelukes, and forced them to retire on Cairo. At sight of the French troops the commander of the Turkish flotilla weighed anchor and sailed up the Nile. The two banks of the river were evacuated, and the flotilla escaped the destruction which a short time before had appeared inevitable. Some writers have alleged that the Turkish flotilla was destroyed in this engagement. The truth is, the Turks did us considerable injury, while on their part they suffered but little. We had twenty men killed and several wounded. Upwards of 1500 cannon-shots were fired during the action.

General Berthier, in his narrative of the Egyptian expedition, enumerates the individuals who, though not in the military service, assisted Perree in this unequal and dangerous engagement. He mentions Monge, Berthollet, Andreossy, the paymaster, Junot, and Bourrienne, secretary to the General-in-Chief. It has also been stated that Sucy, the commissary- general, was seriously wounded while bravely defending a gunboat laden with provisions; but this is incorrect.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Gen. Bonaparte's Army Marches to Damanhour (Bourrienne)

From a Gutenberg e-text of Bourrienne's biography of Napoleon Bonaparte (R.W. Phipps trans.):

Bonaparte employed the six days during which he remained in Alexandria in establishing order in the city and province, with that activity and superior talent which I could never sufficiently admire, and in directing the march of the army across the province of Bohahire'h [Buhayrah].

He sent Desaix with 4500 infantry and 60 cavalry to Beda, on the road to Damanhour. This general was the first to experience the privations and sufferings which the whole army had soon to endure. His great mind, his attachment to Bonaparte, seemed for a moment about to yield to the obstacles which presented themselves. On the 15th of July he wrote from Bohahire'h as follows: "I beseech you do not let us stop longer in this position. My men are discouraged and murmur. Make us advance or fall back without delay. The villages consist merely of huts, absolutely without resources."

In these immense plains, scorched by the vertical rays of a burning sun, water, everywhere else so common, becomes an object of contest. The wells and springs, those secret treasures of the desert, are carefully concealed from the travellers; and frequently, after our most oppressive marches, nothing could be found to allay the urgent cravings of thirst but a little brackish water of the most disgusting description.

--[Some idea of the misery endured by the French troops on this occasion may be gathered from the following description is Napoleon's Memoirs, dictated at St. Helena:

"As the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness complained, and angrily asked Moses for the onions and flesh-pots of Egypt, the French soldiers constantly regretted the luxuries of Italy. In vain were they assured that the country was the most fertile in the world, that it was even superior to Lombard; how were they to be persuaded of this when they could get neither bread nor wine? We encamped on immense quantities of wheat, but there was neither mill nor oven in the country. The biscuit brought from Alexandria had long been exhausted; the soldiers were even reduced to bruise the wheat between two stones and to make cake which they baked under the ashes. Many parched the wheat in a pan, after which they boiled it. This was the best way to use the grain; but, after all, it was not bread. The apprehensions of the soldiers increased daily, and rose to such a pitch that a great number of them said there was no great city of calm; and that the place bring that name was, like Damanhour, a vast assemblage of mere huts, destitute of everything that could render life comfortable or agreeable. To such a melancholy state of mind had they brought themselves that two dragoons threw themselves, completely clothed, into the Nile, where they were drowned. It is nevertheless true that, though there was neither bread nor wine, the resources which were procured with wheat, lentils, meat, and sometimes pigeons, furnished the army with food of some kind. But the evil was, in the ferment of the mind. The officers complained more loudly than the soldiers, because the comparison was proportionately more disadvantageous to them. In Egypt they found neither the quarters, the good table, nor the luxury of Italy. The General-in-Chief, wishing to set an example, tried to bivouac in the midst of the army, and in the least commodious spots. No one had either tent or provisions; the dinner of Napoleon and his staff consisted of a dish of lentils. The soldiers passed the evenings in political conversations, arguments, and complaints. 'For what purpose are we come here?' said some of them, 'the Directory has transported us.' 'Caffarelli,' said others, 'is the agent that has been made use of to deceive the General-in- Chief.' Many of them, having observed that wherever there were vestiges of antiquity they were carefully searched, vented their spite in invective against the savants, or scientific men, who, they said, had started the idea of she expedition to order to make these searches. Jests were showered upon them, even in their presence. The men called an ass a savant; and said of Caffarelli Dufalga, alluding to his wooden leg, 'He laughs at all these troubles; he has one foot to France. . .'"

On the 7th of July General Bonaparte left Alexandria for Damanhour. In the vast plains of Bohahire'h the mirage every moment presented to the eye wide sheets of water, while, as we advanced, we found nothing but barren ground full of deep cracks. Villages, which at a distance appear to be surrounded with water, are, on a nearer approach, discovered to be situated on heights, mostly artificial, by which they are raised above the inundations of the Nile. This illusion continually recurs; and it is the more treacherous, inasmuch as it presents to the eye the perfect representation of water, at the time when the want of that article is most felt. This mirage is so considerable in the plain of Pelusium that shortly after sunrise no object is recognisable. The same phenomenon has been observed in other countries. Quintus Curtius says that in the deserts of Sogdiana, a fog rising from the earth obscures the light, and the surrounding country seems like a vast sea. The cause of this singular illusion is now fully explained; and, from the observations of the learned Monge, it appears that the mirage will be found in almost every country situated between the tropics where the local circumstances are similar.

The Arabs harassed the army without intermission. The few wells met with in the desert were either filled up or the water was rendered unfit for use. The intolerable thirst with which the troops were tormented, even on this first march, was but ill allayed by brackish and unwholesome water. The army crossed the desert with the rapidity of lightning, scarcely tasting a drop of water. The sufferings of the troops were frequently expressed by discouraging murmurs.

On the first night a mistake occurred which might have proved fatal. We were advancing in the dark, under feeble escort, almost sleeping on our horses, when suddenly we were assailed by two successive discharges of musketry. We aroused ourselves and reconnoitred, and to our great satisfaction discovered that the only mischief was a alight wound received by one of our guides. Our assailants were the division of General Desaix, who, forming the advanced guard of the army, mistook us for a party of the enemy, and fired upon us. It was speedily ascertained that the little advanced guard of the headquarters had not heard the "Qui vive?" of Desaix's advanced posts.

On reaching Damanhour our headquarters were established at the residence of a sheik. The house had been new whitened, and looked well enough outside, but the interior was inconceivably wretched. Every domestic utensil was broken, and the only seats were a few dirty tattered mats. Bonaparte knew that the sheik was rich, and having somewhat won his confidence, he asked him, through the medium of the interpreter, why, being in easy circumstances, be thus deprived himself of all comfort. "Some years ago," replied the sheik, "I repaired and furnished my house. When this became known at Cairo a demand was made upon me for money, because it was said my expenses proved me to be rich. I refused to pay the money, and in consequence I was ill-treated, and at length forced to pay it. From that time I have allowed myself only the bare necessaries of life, and I shall buy no furniture for my house." The old man was lame in consequence of the treatment he had suffered. Woe to him who in this country is suspected of having a competency--a hundred spies are always ready to denounce him. The appearance of poverty is the only security against the rapine of power and the cupidity of barbarism.

A little troop of Arabs on horseback assailed our headquarters. Bonaparte, who was at the window of the sheik's house, indignant at this insolence, turned to one of his aides de camp, who happened to be on duty, and said, "Croisier, take a few guides and drive those fellows away!" In an instant Croisier was in the plain with fifteen guides. A little skirmish ensued, and we looked on from the window. In the movement and in the attack of Croisier and his party there was a sort of hesitation which the General-in-Chief could not comprehend. "Forward, I say! Charge!" he exclaimed from the window, as if he could have been heard. Our horsemen seemed to fall back as the Arabs returned to the attack; and after a little contest, maintained with tolerable spirit, the Arabs retired without loss, and without being molested in their retreat. Bonaparte could no longer repress his rage; and when Croisier returned he experienced such a harsh reception that the poor fellow withdrew deeply mortified and distressed. Bonaparte desired me to follow him and say something to console him: but all was in vain. "I cannot survive this," he said. "I will sacrifice my life on the first occasion that offers itself. I will not live dishonoured." The word coward had escaped the General's lips. Poor Croisier died at Saint Jean d'Acre.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Bonaparte's Letter to the Pasha of Egypt

From A Selection from the Letters and Despatches of the First Napoleon. With Explanatory Notes By Denis Arthur Bingham. (London: Chapman and Hall, Ltd., 1884), pp. 213-215. Comments below between the text of the letters is by Bingham.

Bonaparte, on taking the port city of Alexandria, represented himself to the Ottoman viceroy or "Pasha" of Egypt, Ebu Bekir Pasha, as a 'friend of the Ottoman sultan,' and maintained that he had come to rescue the governor from the rebellious Georgian Beys or slave-soldier commanders, such as Ibrahim. He also implied that he was pro-Muslim and had fought the enemies of the Muslims, whether the Pope in Rome or the Knights of St. John in Malta. He would go on to allege that French Deism, in being monotheistic, was a sort of Islam. These fantastic assertions completely failed in their purpose, since the Ottomans may have been weak but were no fools.


In a letter to the Pasha of Egypt Bonaparte explained his presence. He had come to deliver him from the Beys. "You have no doubt been informed," he added,"that I have no intention of doing anything opposed to the Koran or the Sultan. You are aware that the French nation is the sole ally which the Sultan has in Europe. Come therefore to me, and curse the impious race of the Beys."

In a proclamation dated "14th Messidor, Year VI. (2nd July, 1798), 18th of the month of Muharrem, year of the Hegira 1213," Bonaparte, after dwelling on the baneful effects of Mameluke rule, added :— "Did we not destroy the Pope, who said it was necessary to wage war against the Moslems ? Have we not destroyed the Knights of Malta, because those madmen believed that God desired war with the Moslems ? Have we not for centuries been the friends of the Grand Signor [Ottoman Sultan] (may God accomplish his desires!) and the enemy of his enemies?"

Then followed comminatory articles like those of Italy, and any village offering resistance and favouring the Mamelukes was to be burned to the ground. The slaves who refused to be liberated from the Mameluke yoke were to be exterminated without pity.

"GYZEH, [2]2nd July, 1798.*"

I am very sorry for the violence done to you by Ibrahim. If you are your own master, return to Cairo, where you will enjoy the consideration due to the representative of our friend the Sultan. . . . By the grace of God, on which all depends, the Mamelukes have been destroyed. Be assured, and assure the Porte, that the same arms we have rendered victorious shall be always at the disposal of the Sultan. May Heaven fulfil his desires against his enemies."


Bonaparte experienced no trouble in landing and in capturing Alexandria, which was taken by surprise, and hardly defended.

4th July, 1798.

"Art i. The names of all the men killed at the capture of Alexandria shall be engraved on the column of Pompey.

"Art. 2. They shall be buried at the foot of the column, &c. "


In the criticism of our operations in Egypt in 1801, which Napoleon wrote at St. Helena, he blamed General Abercrombie for having wasted four days and a half after landing before he attacked Alexandria. He himself immediately attacked that city with a handful of men, without waiting for his guns, for, as he wrote, it is one of the great principles in war to act with celerity, which is even preferable to artillery.

He boasted that eighteen hours after his fleet had been signalled he stormed Alexandria. It must be remembered, however, that he disembarked with the utmost precipitation, fearing lest he should be caught in flagrante delicto by Nelson; also that he ordered Colonel Crétin to place Alexandria in a state of defence, consequently the Alexandria which Abercrombie had to attack was not the Alexandria surprised by Bonaparte, and captured with hardly any loss.

In engraving the names of the soldiers who fell at Alexandria he sought, as usual, to strike the imagination of the army. He was well aware of the excellent effect of this system on the Gallic mind. In the course of this campaign he said that the Directory could not last, as it did nothing for the imagination of the people. He did not sin in the same way himself.

On the 24th July Bonaparte addressed a long report to the Directory, giving an account of his operations, his triumphs, and especially of the battle of the Pyramids, where forty centuries looked down on the French army. In the body of this report we find a strong recommendation that the Directors should keep Egypt, which "has a rich soil, a healthy climate, and is close at hand."


*Bingham gives the date as the 2nd of July, but on the 2nd of July, Bonaparte was at Alexandria and the Mamluks had not been destroyed and Ebu Bekir [Abu Bakr] Pasha was still in Cairo. He must have dropped a '2' and this letter is dated the equivalent of 22 July.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bourrienne: Bonaparte Takes Alexandria

From a Gutenberg e-text of Bourrienne's biography of Napoleon Bonaparte (R.W. Phipps trans.):

On the 19th of June, after having settled the government and defence of the island, the General left Malta, which he little dreamed he had taken for the English, who have very badly requited the obligation. Many of the knights followed Bonaparte and took civil and military appointments.

During the night of the 22d of June the English squadron was almost close upon us. It passed at about six leagues from the French fleet. Nelson, who learned the capture of Malta at Messina on the day we left the island, sailed direct for Alexandria, without proceeding into the north. He considered that city to be the place of our destination. By taking the shortest course, with every sail set, and unembarrassed by any convoy, he arrived before Alexandria on the 28th of June, three days before the French fleet, which, nevertheless, had sailed before him from the shores of Malta. The French squadron took the direction of Candia, which we perceived on the 25th of June, and afterwards stood to the south, favoured by the Etesian winds, which regularly prevail at that season. The French fleet did not reach Alexandria till the 30th of June.

When on board the 'Orient' he took pleasure in conversing frequently with Monge and Berthollet. The subjects on which they usually talked were chemistry, mathematics, and religion. General Caffarelli, whose conversation, supplied by knowledge, was at once energetic, witty, and lively, was one of those with whom he most willingly discoursed. Whatever friendship he might entertain for Berthollet, it was easy to perceive that he preferred Monge, and that he was led to that preference because Monge, endowed with an ardent imagination, without exactly possessing religious principles, had a kind of predisposition for religious ideas which harmonised with the notions of Bonaparte. On this subject Berthollet sometimes rallied his inseparable friend Monge. Besides, Berthollet was, with his cold imagination, constantly devoted to analysis and abstractions, inclined towards materialism, an opinion with which the General was always much dissatisfied.

Bonaparte sometimes conversed with Admiral Brueys. His object was always to gain information respecting the different manoeuvres, and nothing astonished the Admiral more than the sagacity of his questions. I recollect that one day, Bonaparte having asked Brueys in what manner the hammocks were disposed of when clearing for action, he declared, after he had received an answer, that if the case should occur he would order every one to throw his baggage overboard.

He passed a great part of his time in his cabin, lying on a bed, which, swinging on a kind of castors, alleviated the severity of the sea- sickness from which he frequently suffered much when the ship rolled.

I was almost always with him in his cabin, where I read to him some of the favourite works which he had selected for his camp library. He also frequently conversed, for hours together, with the captains of the vessels which he hailed. He never failed to ask whence they came? what was their destination? what ships they had met? what course they had sailed? His curiosity being thus satisfied, he allowed them to continue their voyage, after making them promise to say nothing of having seen the French squadron.

Whilst we were at sea he seldom rose before ten o'clock in the morning. The 'Orient' had the appearance of a populous town, from which women had been excluded; and this floating city was inhabited by 2000 individuals, amongst whom were a great number of distinguished men. Bonaparte every day invited several persons to dine with him, besides Brueys, Berthier, the colonels, and his ordinary household, who were always present at the table of the General-in-Chief. When the weather was fine he went up to the quarter-deck, which, from its extent, formed a grand promenade.

I recollect once that when walking the quarter-deck with him whilst we were in Sicilian waters I thought I could see the summits of the Alps beautifully lighted by the rays of the setting sun. Bonaparte laughed much, and joked me about it. He called Admiral Brueys, who took his telescope and soon confirmed my conjecture. The Alps!

At the mention of that word by the Admiral I think I can see Bonaparte still. He stood for a long time motionless; then, suddenly bursting from his trance, exclaimed, "No! I cannot behold the land of Italy without emotion! There is the East: and there I go; a perilous enterprise invites me. Those mountains command the plains where I so often had the good fortune to lead the French to victory. With them we will conquer again."

One of Bonaparte's greatest pleasures during the voyage was, after dinner, to fix upon three or four persons to support a proposition and as many to oppose it. He had an object in view by this. These discussions afforded him an opportunity of studying the minds of those whom he had an interest in knowing well, in order that he might afterwards confide to each the functions for which he possessed the greatest aptitude: It will not appear singular to those who have been intimate with Bonaparte, that in these intellectual contests he gave the preference to those who had supported an absurd proposition with ability over those who had maintained the cause of reason; and it was not superiority of mind which determined his judgment, for he really preferred the man who argued well in favour of an absurdity to the man who argued equally well in support of a reasonable proposition. He always gave out the subjects which were to be discussed; and they most frequently turned upon questions of religion, the different kinds of government, and the art of war. One day he asked whether the planets were inhabited; on another, what was the age of the world; then he proposed to consider the probability of the destruction of our globe, either by water or fire; at another time, the truth or fallacy of presentiments, and the interpretation of dreams. I remember the circumstance which gave rise to the last proposition was an allusion to Joseph, of whom he happened to speak, as he did of almost everything connected with the country to which we were bound, and which that able administrator had governed. No country came under Bonaparte's observation without recalling historical recollections to his mind. On passing the island of Candia his imagination was excited, and he spoke with enthusiasm of ancient Crete and the Colossus, whose fabulous renown has surpassed all human glories. He spoke much of the fall of the empire of the East, which bore so little resemblance to what history has preserved of those fine countries, so often moistened with the blood of man. The ingenious fables of mythology likewise occurred to his mind, and imparted to his language something of a poetical, and, I may say, of an inspired character. The sight of the kingdom of Minos led him to reason on the laws best calculated for the government of nations; and the birthplace of Jupiter suggested to him the necessity of a religion for the mass of mankind. This animated conversation lasted until the favourable north winds, which drove the clouds into the valley of the Nile, caused us to lose sight of the island of Candia.

The musicians on board the Orient sometimes played serenades; but only between decks, for Bonaparte was not yet sufficiently fond of music to wish to hear it in his cabin. It may be said that his taste for this art increased in the direct ratio of his power; and so it was with his taste for hunting, of which he gave no indication until after his elevation to the empire; as though he had wished to prove that he possessed within himself not only the genius of sovereignty for commanding men, but also the instinct for those aristocratical pleasures, the enjoyment of which is considered by mankind to be amongst the attributes of kings.

It is scarcely possible that some accidents should not occur during a long voyage in a crowded vessel--that some persons should not fall overboard. Accidents of this kind frequently happened on board the 'Orient'. On those occasions nothing was more remarkable than the great humanity of the man who has since been so prodigal of the blood of his fellow-creatures on the field of battle, and who was about to shed rivers of it even in Egypt, whither we were bound. When a man fell into the sea the General-in-Chief was in a state of agitation till he was saved. He instantly had the ship hove-to, and exhibited the greatest uneasiness until the unfortunate individual was recovered. He ordered me to reward those who ventured their lives in this service. Amongst these was a sailor who had incurred punishment for some fault. He not only exempted him from the punishment, but also gave him some money. I recollect that one dark night we heard a noise like that occasioned by a man falling into the sea. Bonaparte instantly caused the ship to be hove-to until the supposed victim was rescued from certain death. The men hastened from all sides, and at length they picked up-what?--the quarter of a bullock, which had fallen from the hook to which it was hung. What was Bonaparte's conduct? He ordered me to reward the sailors who had exerted themselves in this occasion even more generously than usual, saying, "It might have been a sailor, and these brave fellows have shown as much activity and courage as if it had."

After the lapse of thirty years all these things are as fresh in my recollection as if they were passing at the present moment. In this manner Bonaparte employed his time on board the Orient during the voyage, and it was also at this time that he dictated to me the following proclamation:



SOLDIERS--You are about to undertake a conquest the effects of which on civilisation and commerce are incalculable. The blow you are about to give to England will be the best aimed, and the most sensibly felt, she can receive until the time arrive when you can give her her deathblow.

We must make some fatiguing marches; we must fight several battles; we shall succeed in all we undertake. The destinies are with us. The Mameluke Beys who favour exclusively English commerce, whose extortions oppress our merchants, and who tyrannise over the unfortunate inhabitants of the Nile, a few days after our arrival will no longer exist.

The people amongst whom we are going to live are Mahometans. The first article of their faith is this: "There is no God but God, and Mahomet is his prophet." Do not contradict them. Behave to them as you have behaved to the Jews--to the Italians. Pay respect to their muftis, and their Imaums, as you did to the rabbis and the bishops. Extend to the ceremonies prescribed by the Koran and to the mosques the same toleration which you showed to the synagogues, to the religion of Moses and of Jesus Christ.

The Roman legions protected all religions. You will find here customs different from those of Europe. You must accommodate yourselves to them. The people amongst whom we are to mix differ from us in the treatment of women; but in all countries he who violates is a monster. Pillage enriches only a small number of men; it dishonours us; it destroys our resources; it converts into enemies the people whom it is our interest to have for friends.

The first town we shall come to was built by Alexander. At every step we shall meet with grand recollections, worthy of exciting the emulation of Frenchmen. BONAPARTE.

During the voyage, and particularly between Malta and Alexandria, I often conversed with the brave and unfortunate Admiral Brueys. The intelligence we heard from time to time augmented his uneasiness. I had the good fortune to obtain the confidence of this worthy man. He complained bitterly of the imperfect manner in which the fleet had been prepared for sea; of the encumbered state of the ships of the line and frigates, and especially of the 'Orient'; of the great number of transports; of the bad Outfit of all the ships and the weakness of their crews. He assured me that it required no little courage to undertake the command of a fleet so badly equipped; and he often declared, that in the event of our falling in with the enemy, he could not answer for the consequences. The encumbered state of the vessels, the immense quantity of civic and military baggage which each person had brought, and would wish to save, would render proper manoeuvres impracticable. In case of an attack, added Brueys, even by an inferior squadron, the confusion and disorder amongst so great a number of persons would produce an inevitable catastrophe. Finally, if the English had appeared with ten vessels only, the Admiral could not have guaranteed a fortunate result. He considered victory to be a thing that was impossible, and even with a victory, what would have become of the expedition? "God send," he said, with a sigh, "that we may pass the English without meeting them!" He appeared to foresee what did afterwards happen to him, not in the open sea, but in a situation which he considered much more favourable to his defence.

On the morning of the 1st of July the expedition arrived off the coast of Africa, and the column of Septimus-Severus pointed out to us the city of Alexandria. Our situation and frame of mind hardly permitted us to reflect that in the distant point we beheld the city of the Ptolemies and Caesars, with its double port, its pharos, and the gigantic monuments of its ancient grandeur. Our imaginations did not rise to this pitch.

Admiral Brueys had sent on before the frigate Juno to fetch M. Magallon, the French Consul. It was near four o'clock when he arrived, and the sea was very rough. He informed the General-in-Chief that Nelson had been off Alexandria on the 28th--that he immediately dispatched a brig to obtain intelligence from the English agent. On the return of the brig Nelson instantly stood away with his squadron towards the north-east. But for a delay which our convoy from Civita Vecchia occasioned, we should have been on this coast at the same time as Nelson.

It appeared that Nelson supposed us to be already at Alexandria when he arrived there. He had reason to suppose so, seeing that we left Malta on the 19th of June, whilst he did not sail from Messina till the 21st. Not finding us where he expected, and being persuaded we ought to have arrived there had Alexandria been the place of our destination; he sailed for Alexandretta in Syria, whither he imagined we had gone to effect a landing. This error saved the expedition a second time.

Bonaparte, on hearing the details which the French Consul communicated, resolved to disembark immediately. Admiral Brueys represented the difficulties and dangers of a disembarkation--the violence of the surge, the distance from the coast,--a coast, too, lined with reefs of rocks, the approaching night, and our perfect ignorance of the points suitable for landing. The Admiral, therefore, urged the necessity of waiting till next morning; that is to say, to delay the landing twelve hours. He observed that Nelson could not return from Syria for several days. Bonaparte listened to these representations with impatience and ill- humour. He replied peremptorily, "Admiral, we have no time to lose. Fortune gives me but three days; if I do not profit by them we are lost." He relied much on fortune; this chimerical idea constantly influenced his resolutions.

Bonaparte having the command of the naval as well as the military force, the Admiral was obliged to yield to his wishes.

I attest these facts, which passed in my presence, and no part of which could escape my observation. It is quite false that it was owing to the appearance of a sail which, it is pretended, was descried, but of which, for my part, I saw nothing, that Bonaparte exclaimed, "Fortune, have you abandoned me? I ask only five days!" No such thing occurred.

It was one o'clock in the morning of the 2d of July when we landed on the soil of Egypt, at Marabou, three leagues to the west of Alexandria. We had to regret the loss of some lives; but we had every reason to expect that our losses would have been greater.

At three o'clock the same morning the General-in-Chief marched on Alexandria with the divisions of Kleber, Bon, and Menou. The Bedouin Arabs, who kept hovering about our right flank and our rear, picked up the stragglers.

Having arrived within gunshot of Alexandria, we scaled the ramparts, and French valour soon triumphed over all obstacles.

The first blood I saw shed in war was General Kleber's. He was struck in the head by a ball, not in storming the walls, but whilst heading the attack. He came to Pompey's Pillar, where many members of the staff were assembled, and where the General-in-Chief was watching the attack. I then spoke to Kleber for the first time, and from that day our friendship commenced. I had the good fortune to contribute somewhat towards the assistance of which he stood in need, and which, as we were situated, could not be procured very easily.

It has been endeavoured to represent the capture of Alexandria, which surrendered after a few hours, as a brilliant exploit. The General-in- Chief himself wrote that the city had been taken after a few discharges of cannon; the walls, badly fortified, were soon scaled. Alexandria was not delivered up to pillage, as has been asserted, and often repeated. This would have been a most impolitic mode of commencing the conquest of Egypt, which had no strong places requiring to be intimidated by a great example.

Bonaparte, with some others, entered the city by a narrow street which scarcely allowed two persons to walk abreast; I was with him. We were stopped by some musket-shots fired from a low window by a man and a woman. They repeated their fire several times. The guides who preceded their General kept up a heavy fire on the window. The man and woman fell dead, and we passed on in safety, for the place had surrendered.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Bonaparte's Proclamation on the Overthrow of the Egyptian Government

From A Selection from the Letters and Despatches of the First Napoleon. With Explanatory Notes By Denis Arthur Bingham. (London: Chapman and Hall, Ltd., 1884), pp. 212-213. Comments below between the text of the letters is by Bingham.

Before landing at Alexandria he [Gen. Bonaparte] issued the following proclamation:

"Soldiers ! You are about to undertake a conquest the effects of which will be incalculable on civilisation and the commercial world. "

"You will deal England the surest and most sensible blow while waiting to kill her outright. "

"We shall make some fatiguing marches; we shall fight several battles; we shall succeed in all our enterprises; the fates are for us. "

"The Mameluke Beys, who exclusively favour English commerce, who have ill-treated our merchants, and who tyrannise over the inhabitants of the Nile, a few days after our arrival will have ceased to exist. "

"The people amongst whom we are going to live are Mohammedans ; the first article of their faith is 'There is no God but God, and [Muhammad] is his prophet.' Do not contradict them. Deal with them as we dealt with the Jews and with the Italians. Respect their muftis and their imaums, as you respected rabbis and bishops."

"Show for the ceremonies prescribed by the Koran, and for the mosques, the same toleration you have always shown for convents, for synagogues, for the religion of Moses and that of Jesus Christ. "

"The Roman legions protected all religions. You will find customs here different from those of Europe: you must habituate yourselves to them."

"The people here treat their wives differently from us; but in all countries the man who commits rape is a monster."

"Pillage only enriches a few men. It dishonours us; it destroys our resources; it renders the people hostile when it is necessary to make them friendly."

"The first town we shall enter was built by Alexander. We shall find at each step souvenirs worthy of exciting the emulation of Frenchmen."


Bonaparte at Malta (Correspondence)

From A Selection from the Letters and Despatches of the First Napoleon. With Explanatory Notes By Denis Arthur Bingham. (London: Chapman and Hall, Ltd., 1884), pp. 209-213. Comments below between the text of the letters is by Bingham.

'Little difficulty was experienced in getting possession of Malta, where the French were fortunate enough, as General Caffarelli remarked, to find some one to admit them. The Grand Master having capitulated on the condition of property and religion being respected, Bonaparte wrote this unctuous letter to the bishop, thanking him for his reception of the French:

ON BOARD THE "ORIENT." 12th June, 1798.

"... I know of nothing more respectable and worthy of the veneration of men than a priest who, imbued with the true spirit of the Gospel, is persuaded that he is in duty bound to obey the temporal power, and to maintain peace, tranquillity, and union in his diocese, &c. "

12th June, 1798.

The army is informed that the enemy has surrendered; the standard of liberty floats over the forts of Malta. The General-in-chief insists on the most exact discipline. He desires that persons and property be respected, and that the people of Malta be treated with friendship.

The Knights of Malta were to be expelled; but we find in the correspondence a list of members of the order who were excepted—-fourteen knights, who, six months previously, had furnished Napoleon with useful information, or who had offered patriotic subscriptions towards the invasion of England. These traitors to their order were allowed to join the French army.

MALTA, 13th June, 1798.

You will direct citizens Monge and Berthollet to visit the Mint and the treasury of the church of St. John, and other places where there may be precious objects.


And naturally all the treasures which those two citizens could discover were considered lawful plunder.

MALTA, 17th June, 1798.

You will find inclosed the original treaty concluded by the Order of Malta with Russia. It had been ratified only five days before. . . . The Emperor of Russia should thank us, since an occupation of Malta will save his treasury 400,000 roubles. Had his majesty intended keeping Malta he ought to have concealed his designs. However, we now possess, in the Mediterranean, the strongest place in Europe, and it will cost a good deal to dislodge us.


On the 18th June Bonaparte wrote fourteen despatches, orders, &c., some of them several pages in length, and gave a last touch to the organisation of the island. Naval, military, and civil schools, municipal councils, and the national guard were created. Slavery was abolished,* also liveries and titles of nobility; and the arms of the Order were to be everywhere replaced by those of the Republic. With the exception of the bishop, all priests, monks, and nuns, not natives, were to leave the island; no one was to take vows before being thirty years of age; no order was to have more than one convent; Latin priests were not to say mass in Greek churches; the Jews desiring to establish a synagogue were to be protected; no bishop or churchman was to receive money for administering the sacraments, nor to acknowledge the supremacy of any foreign prince. The whole judicial and administrative system was arranged; the post-office, paving and lighting, public fountains, pawn- office, hospitals, stamp duty, tobacco, salt, house-rent, public instruction—-nothing escaped the vigilance of this restless mind. The General created a central school to replace the university, and other chairs. It was to be composed of—

1st. A professor of arithmetic and stereometry, salary i,800 francs.

2nd. A professor of algebra and stereotomy, salary 2,000 francs.

3rd. A professor of geometry and astronomy, salary 2,400 francs.

4th. A professor of mechanics and physics, salary 3,000 francs.

5th. A professor of navigation, salary 2,400 francs.

6th. A professor of chemistry, salary 1,200 francs.

7th. A professor of Eastern languages, salary 1,200 francs.

8th. A librarian, who will lecture on geography, salary 1,000 francs.

To this central school shall be attached—

1st. A library and cabinet of antiquities.

2nd. A museum of natural history.

3rd. A botanical garden.

4th. An observatory.

Having remained . . . [days] at Malta, and escaped Nelson by a miracle--Nelson, who could not believe a French army would be landed in Egypt in the middle of summer--Bonaparte continued his voyage.+

* Slavery was probably not actually abolished; some writers inferred this decree from Bonaparte's having freed the Muslim slaves of the Knights. But this move was instrumental.

+Bingham incorrectly says Bonaparte remained "a month" at Malta. It was just a few days. With regard to Nelson, he appends this letter:

Writing a month afterwards to his wife Nelson said :—

"SYRACUSE, July 20th, 1798."

I have not been able to find the French fleet, to my great mortification, or the event i can scarcely doubt. We have been off Malta, to Alexandria in Egypt, Syria, into Asia, and are returned here without success ; however, no person will say that it has been for want of activity. I yet live in hopes of meeting these fellows ; but it would have been my delight to have tried Buonaparte on a wind, for he commands the fleet as well as the army. Glory is my object, and that alone. God Almighty bless you."


Friday, August 3, 2007

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Bonaparte's Correspondence, April-May 1798

Correspondence of Bonaparte in April-May as he was planning to leave for Egypt. Comments below between the text of the letters is by Bingham. In Bonaparte's proclamation to his troops, below, he likens their expedition to that of republican Rome against tyrannical Carthage, and tells them they will do unprecedented wonders for the "prosperity of your country, for the happiness of mankind, and for your own glory." Sound familiar?

A Selection from the Letters and Despatches of the First Napoleon. With Explanatory Notes By Denis Arthur Bingham. (London: Chapman and Hall, Ltd., 1884), pp. 206-208:

Josephine accompanied Bonaparte as far as Toulon, and when the expedition sailed went to take the waters at Aix, in the hopes they would enable her to bear her second husband a child.

At this moment the fate of the expedition was held in suspense, and it appeared probable that Bonaparte's services would once more be required with the army of Italy. Bernadotte had been appointed French ambassador at Vienna, and had given such offence by hoisting the Republican flag that the people had broken his windows.

The Directory wished to recommence the war with Austria, but to this Bonaparte offered a strenuous opposition. Words ran so high between the Government and the general that the latter offered his resignation. Rewbel handed him a pen, which Bonaparte had hardly taken when it was snatched from him by Merlin. After this violent scene matters were more calmly discussed, and the young general, as on previous occasions, carried his point.

PARIS, 23rd April, 1798.

"I have given orders to General Baraguay d'Hilliers to disembark his troops if they have been embarked, and to return if he has marched. ... If affairs go wrong I think the chief efforts of the Austrians will be made in your direction, in which case I feel you will stand in need of more troops, and above all of a great deal of money.


Under these circumstances Bonaparte made a direct appeal to the Count Cobentzel to maintain the good relations [with Austria] established at Campo Formio. In a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, he said he would never be able to settle anything with Messrs. Lehrbach and Metternich, who knew nothing of the intentions of their cabinet, and enjoyed little credit.

When Bonaparte himself commanded in Italy he found means to send money home; now money would be required from France. The supposition is that Italy had been drained of her resources. . .

Bonaparte had been elected to the Institute in the place of his old friend Carnot, and delighted to veil his military aspirations under the palm-leaves of that learned society, whose costume he donned on public occasions.

PARIS, 2nd May, 1798.

"All the obstacles in the way of the expedition have been removed. I start to-morrow evening, and shall be at Toulon by the 9th, &c.


Bonaparte was exceedingly suspicious of the intentions of the Government, and was convinced that Barras, who was capable of any thing "was bent on mischief. In the following "Proclamation" we see nothing of the celebrated ten arpents of land (twenty perches each) which every soldier of the army of the East was promised on his return to France: possibly because these arpents were never given.

[In his oral remarks at Toulon, Bonaparte promised his soldiers land for homesteads on their return from the expedition; but in so doing he exceeded his authority and the promise was excised from the text of the speech that was officially printed. -- JRIC]

"TOULON, 10th May 1798."

"Soldiers, you are one of the wings of the army of England. You have fought on mountain and plain, and besieged forts; it remained for you to wage a maritime war.

"The Roman legions, which you have sometimes imitated but not yet equalled, fought against Carthage both by sea and on the plains of Zama. Victory never abandoned them because they were constantly brave, patient in the support of fatigue, well disciplined, and united.

"Soldiers, Europe has its eyes upon you.

"You have great destinies to fulfil, battles to fight, dangers to overcome. You will do more than you have yet accomplished for the prosperity of your country, for the happiness of mankind, and for your own glory.

"Sailors, infantry, cavalry, artillery, be united, and remember that on the day of battle you will stand in need of each other, &c. "


After being detained at Toulon for a week by contrary winds and rumours of an English fleet of thirty sail cruising off the coast, the expedition at length got under way, Bonaparte still signing himself "Member of the Institute and General-in-chief of the army of England."