Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bonaparte Sends Orders to Admiral Stationed at Malta

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 167-170.


Head Quarters, Cairo(1st Fructidor), August 18th.

BONAPARTE, Commander in Chief, to Rear Admiral VILLENEUVE, on board the Guillaume Tell, at Malta(1).

I HAVE received, Citizen General, the letter which you wrote me at sea, ten leagues from Cape Celidonia. If it were possible to find fault with you, it must be for not having put to sea immediately after the blowing up of the L'Orient; since the position which the Admiral had taken, had been forced, and completely surrounded for more than three hours by the enemy.

You have rendered in this circumstance, as well as in many others, an essential service to the Republic, by preserving a part of the fleet. The Rear Admirals, Gantheaume and Ducheyla, as well as all the sailors and soldiers of the fleet, whether wounded or not, are at Alexandria; all our prisoners having been restored.

The two ships of the line, Le Causse, and Le Dubois, are manned and armed, as are the frigates, the Junon, the Alceste, the Minion, the Carrere, and all the other Venetian frigates. You will find at Malta two sail of the line, and a frigate; and you will wait the arrival of three Venetian sail of the line, and two frigates, which are coming from Toulon. You will make every effort, and do whatever you think necessary to bring us the whole.

My plan is to unite the three vessels which we have at Ancona, and that the Corfou, with the two we have in the port of Alexandria(2), that we may be enabled, at all events, to keep the Turkish squadron in check; and then, to make an attempt to form a junction with the seven vessels which you will by this time have under you; and of which the chief concern at present, is to favour the passage of the packets, &c. which will be dispatched to us from France.

I send an order to General Vaubois to supply you with a hundred additional French troops for each ship of war: this re-inforcement will fully enable you to keep your crews in order(3); these you will raise to their full complement, by taking all the Maltese sailors you can find.

I salute you, and send you my compliments.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)On the cover of this, and the two following letters, was written, "Pacquet contenant les depeches du General en Chef, pour Malte, a etre jette a la mer en cas de renconure de l'ennemi." Packet, containing the dispatches of the Commander in Chief, for Malta, to be thrown into the sea in case of falling in with the enemy.

It is needless to add that the activity of our seamen baffled the General's precautions.

(2)The first thought that occurred to us on reading this most important letter was, that Bonaparte, in the plentitude of his occupations, had totally forgot there was such as people as the English in the world. He arranges, we see, the departure and arrival of his marine forces, with as much facility as if there were no obstacles to their movements. He condescends, indeed, to mention the Turkish squadron, which, at the time he wrote, was not at sea, but of the English squadron, which had just destroyed his own, which held him closely blocked up, and which rode in undisputed sovereignty from one end of the Mediterranean to the other, he takes not the slightest notice.

When we found in the letters of Le Pere, and others, a hope expressed that the English would return to Gibraltar, &c. we passed it over as one of those involuntary reveries in which the mind sometimes indulges, in spite of better knowledge. But now that we see the "Commander of the army of the East," not only take up the same absurd idea, but act upon it, as if it were a reality, we confess that we want language to express our astonishment.

We have frequently heard, and from very respectable authorities, that the merit of Bonaparte's Italian campaigns (such as it is) should be attributed to Berthier. A few such letters as this before us, would put the matter out of all doubt, for it is scarcely possible that a man so totally devoid of consideration, as he here appears, should ever be fit for any thing but a partizan; for a desperate conductor of a desultory war, for an active and intrepid leader of a horde of Cossacks!

(3)This looks as if there had been some mutiny on board the Guillaume Tell, subsequent to the engagement. We believe there was once a design of surrendering the ship to Lord Nelson, whether on the part of the officers, or crew, is uncertain;--this, however, we can say, that in either case it was not prevented by Villeneuve, who is totally unworthy of the praises lavished on him by Bonaparte.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Commissary Discusses Operations on the Nile

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 163-165.


Cairo(1st Fructidor), August 18th.

To Citizen FABREGUE, Extra-Commissary, on board the Frigate la Mantoue, at Alexandria.

I EMBRACE, my dear brother, the present opportunity of writing to you. I have been in expectation of hearing from you a long time, but have been hitherto disappointed. I hope your health continues good; I have yet had no reason to complain of mine, notwithstanding the privations of every kind, and the continual fatigues which we experience on the Nile, where we are obliged, in spite of our exhausted condition, to contend with the Bedouins and Arabs along the banks of the river, as often as we have occasion to pass up or down in our advice-boats.

I never expected to engage in so toilsome and dangerous a navigation, with such vessels as ours. Whatever ideas you may form of it, you will never approach the reality;--but as reflection will not change my destiny, I can only say, Vogue la galere, et je nage,--Push forward! luck is every thing.

I have just written to my wife; I hope you will not forget to do the same, to remove her apprehensions respecting the consequences of the defeat of our fleet, when the news reaches Toulon.

Your are, doubtless, more likely than we are to be acquainted with the particulars of that affair: and since there is now a regular post established(1) between Alexandria and Cairo, I beg that, when you write next to our friend Fouque, or me, you will inform us how it actually was, and what is the true nature of our present situation.

The Mameloucs [Mamluks] have absolutely fled from their domains:--they are partly in the Deserts, and partly in the Said; and will not, I imagine, be in any great hurry to return. We have still, however, to reduce the Bedouin Arabs, who join themselves to the people of the country, and compel us from time to time to come to action. The advantage, it must be confessed, is always on our side; and the measures we are now taking will secure us, as far as it is possible, from their revolt.

Fouque and I beg you to remember us to our friends. Ferret, Morel, St. Andree, &c. on board your vessel.

I conclude, by intreating you to write to me more frequently than you have hitherto done; and to call to mind, that we are here, as it were, in exile,--for our sins undoubtedly. But patience! when they are expediated, we shall enter into Paradise; and Paradise, for me, is neither more nor less than my country house(2) at Toulon, my wife, and my children, and yourself, whom I shall always love.

Adieu; I embrace you, and am ever your affectionate brother,



[British Translators' Notes]

(1)Fabregue's notion of the establishment of a "regular post," is rather singular. It appears from his own letter, that the advice-boats were constantly attacked by the natives in their passage to Rosetta; and we know, from equally good authority, that from thence to Alexandria, they are exposed to still greater dangers,--to the bore at the mouth of the Nile, and to our cruizers, which it is almost impossible they should escape. Of this, amongst a thousand instances, the fate of the letter before us is a convincing proof.

The request to be informed of the real state of the action of the 1st of August, is natural enough; for it appears that from Bonaparte's address to the army, which has been given in all our papers, that though he did not expressly say that the English had gained the day, he insinuated pretty broadly that the French had not lost it.

(2)Bastide in the original; which is the name given to those little seats which abound so much in the south of France, particularly in the neighbourhood of Marseilles, Toulin, &c.


[Mamluke, Mameluke]

Friday, September 28, 2007

French Quartermaster Complains of Poor Conditions

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 159-160.


Cairo, August 17th.

DEZIRAD, Quarter Master to the 18th Regiment of the Dragoons, to the female Citizen ADELINE, at Marseilles.

My dear Love,

I AVAIL myself [of] the departure of Citizen Veyssiere, Commodore, of our regiment, who quits us this morning for France, to send you a letter, and at the same time to renew the vow which I have so often made, of loving you to the last moment of my life. Yes, I repeat it once more—there has not been an instant since our unhappy separation, that you have not been present to my view, and that I have not covered your dear portrait with kisses. Yes, Adeline! If you love me, as you have always sworn you did, we will finish our days together. Alas! When will the happy moment arrive of a reunion so desired?

Since we have been in Egypt we have done nothing but suffer. The immense fatigues which we experienced in the Desert, the prodigious heat of the sun, which sets the very ground on fire, the absolute want of food, and the necessity of continual marching, have carried off a vast number of volunteers, who dropt down dead at our feet from mere exhaustion.

We have had several severe contests with the Mameloucs [Mamluks]; whom we have always defeated. In our last affair, I had my horse wounded.

Say a thousand things for me to Doux: tell him never to have the weakness to take shipping for this infernal country; and add, that I envy his good fortune, exceedingly.

I conclude, my love, with embracing you a thousand times. Believe me,

Ever faithfully your’s.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

French Forced to Flee from Mameloucs

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 155-157


Cairo, the Capital of Egypt, in Africa, (29 Thermidor), August 16th.

DUMAS, Brigadier of the Company No. I, to the female Citizen DUMAS.

Dear Mother,

THIS comes to inform you of the state of my situation(1), which is far from being of the best.—We are in a country extremely hot, where we find no wine, and what is more, no bread (if we had not built ovens for ourselves), except a wretched kind of flat cake, which we cannot eat; and on which the natives of the country subsist.

I must inform you, that it is a full seventeen years since any rain fell in this country. Egypt would be quite uninhabitable, if it were not for the Nile, which is the name of the river that overflows annually, and waters all this immense country. The plague is very common here; the people are barbarians: their God is Mahomet [Muhammad]—they know no others!!! In this city there are sixty thousand Christians:the whole of its inhabitants are reckoned at a million; they are very tranquil, and appear mighty fond of the French.

We marched five days without meeting the enemy. When we reached the Nile, we found an armed flotilla which had detached from our squadron; and on which a great number of dismounted cavalry (of which I was one), immediately embarked: this was on the 12th of July. General Bonaparte ordered the commander to move forward, so as to precede the army; which we did.

The 13th, at five in the morning, we perceived the enemy, to the number of ten thousand, all mounted; marching along the left bank of the Nile, and supported by five gun-boats, which followed their movements. At six the action began. After a contest of four hours, the five gun-boats, which had kept up a terrible fire on our flotilla, boarded us. We were obliged to abandon our vessels, and flee to that part of the bank where the enemy had the fewest troops. About half an hour after, our land forces came up, and drove them back. We then recovered our vessels, and victory declared in our favour!!!

From thence we marched to the neighbourhood of Cairo, where we had a very bloody battle, in which the Mameloucs [Mamluks] lost three thousand men, and we did not loose fifty—a thing which it will be rather difficult for you to believe! Another extraordinary circumstance! We are masters of all Lower Egypt. IT IS STRONGLY REPORTED THAT WE SHALL RETURN TO FRANCE IN A FEW DAYS.

Adieu, dear mother, grandmother, sisters, and brother-in-law. I conclude with embracing you all with the utmost tenderness.



[British Translators' Notes]

(1)We should apologize for troubling the reader with the correspondence of Brigadier Dumas, were it not that his letter, absurd as it is in other respects, gives the fullest account of the defeat of the French flotilla on the Nile, which has yet come to our hands. There is no doubt of the fact, for Dumas could have no temptation, even though he might have the ability (which, poor man! Was far from being the case), to describe a defeat that never happened; and, besides, as we have already remarked, it is the only possible way of accounting for the loss of the officers’ baggage.

There is yet another circumstance in this letter worth mentioning; and that is, the report spread in the army of a speedy return to France. Since it had reached Dumas it must have been very general, for we do not give him credit for much active inquiry; and, in this case, it strikes us as a matter of singular importance.

Unlike Italy in every respect, Egypt presented no temptations to the cupidity and licentiousness of the troops, and the idea of a longer residence in it was therefore become intolerable to them. To allay this impatience, the General seems to have thrown out a hope of their leaving the country;--an expedient which, with all due deference to his judgment, we conceive to be as dangerous as it was wicked: for as it neither could, nor was ever meant to be realized, it must, in the event, have exasperated the feeling it was intended to remove.

To this letter is subjoined a short note to a Mons. Sarrauson, whom Dumas terms his honoured Comcitoyen. The note itself is nothing; but it concludes with a trait of minute politeness well worth preserving. Dumas had begun on what we should call the wrong side of the paper, and—but take it in his own words, “Excusez, si j’ai mial tourne la feuille, un peu de distraction en est la cause!”

Blog Editor's Note: This was an account of the Nile river battle of Shubrakhit (Chubrakhit, Chebreisse), by General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, who later fathered the author of the Count of Monte Cristo. The Dumas adventure novels of Dumas Pere were influenced by his own father's exploits in the Napoleonic period, though he would only have known them second hand. Gen. Dumas did not get along with Bonaparte and requested permission to return to France after only a few months, which was granted.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

French Affected by Plague, "Barbarism" of Bedouins

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 147-152


Cairo(29 Thermidor), August 16.

To Citizen Pistre, at the Bureau du Naulage, Vincent’s Key, No. 199, Lyons.

I eagerly avail myself, my dear friend, of the opportunity afforded me by one of our officers(1), who has thrown up his commission and got leave to retire, to write you this letter, in the hope that it will be more fortunate than that which I wrote you from Alexandria; the frigate by which it was sent having been taken by the English.

You have heard, without doubt, that after a very prosperous navigation we took possession of Malta, from whence we again set sail for Egypt. We arrived before Alexandria on the 2d of July(2), of which we also took possession, after a slight resistance.

I want words, my dear friend, to express the astonishment I felt on entering this city, once so famous, but which does not now retain the slightest vestige of splendor, if we expect a few scattered fragments of its ancient buildings, such as the Column of Pompey, the Baths of Cleopatra, &c. Modern Alexandria is nothing more than a mass of mud barracks, forming a number of little narrow lanes, of which the filthiness is beyond imagination, and which, together with the excessive heat of the climate, engenders a kind of stagnant and putrefying air, annually productive of the plague.

It had not entirely ceased its ravages when we arrived: many of the ships in the harbour were still infected, and I myself saw several poor wretches, who were ill of it, carried on shore! I will freely confess to you, that this spectacle, joined to the stupid and ferocious air of the inhabitants, cut me to the heart; and I said to myself, “HOW COULD THE GOVERNMENT OF FRANCE MAKE SUCH EXTRAORDINARY EFFORTS, AND EXPOSE AN ARMY OF FOURTY THOUSAND MEN TO DESTRUCTION, FOR THE SAKE OF SUBDUING A SET OF FIERCE AND BRUTIFIED SAVAGES.”

Such, my dear friend, was the question I put to myself on first setting foot on this burning soil; which presents nothing to the eye but immense deserts, utterly destitute of water; and one of which, extending more than forty miles in breadth, we crossed in our first march from Alexandria.

After this dreadful march, during which the troops suffered prodigiously from heat and thirst, we reached the Nile, whose banks are a little more fertile, but whose inhabitants are not a whit less ferocious than the Alexandrines. During the three first days of our march, we were continually harassed by the Bedouin Arabs, a sort of banditti on horseback, accustomed to live on plunder; and who cut the throats of all those who, exhausted by thirst and fatigue, could not keep up with the main body.

At length we fell in with the Mameloucs: these are troops which the Beys, who, to the number of twenty-four(3), govern Egypt, draw from Georgia and Circassia, and keep in their pay. These people are all mounted on excellent horses: they shewed a disposition to charge us, but the fire of the musquetry and cannon soon compelled them to retire under the walls of Cairo; which we entered on the 21st of July, after having completely routed them.

I had flattered myself that on our arrival at this city, so famous for its commerce with India, we should find every thing in abundance, and a more civilized people than we had hitherto met with; but I have been cruelly disappointed. With the exception of the Europeans who are settled here, the inhabitants are as barbarous and as ignorant as those of Alexandria.

From the slight sketch which I have given you of Egypt, you may easily conceive that the army is by no means pleased with this expedition, to a country of which the usage, diet, and excessive heat, are totally repugnant to our manner of living in Europe. The major part of the army is labouring under a diarrhea and ALTHOUGH VICTORIOUS, WILL TERMINATE ITS CAREER BY PERISHING MISERABLY, IF OUR GOVERNMENT PERSISTS IN ITS AMBITIOUS PROJECTS. Many officers are throwing up their commissions; and I freely confess to you, that I would also throw up mine, if I had the least prospect of obtaining any thing in France; but, deprived as I am of every resource, I must persevere, and patiently wait to see what change events may bring about in our present critical situation.

We do not know whether we shall stay in these new regions, or carry our conquests farther. To judge from appearances, this country will be kept; for our people are already engaged in organizing some municipalities. A part of the army is in pursuit of the Mameloucs. I imagine every possible effort will be made to come up with them before they effect their retreat into Syria; BECAUSE they have got possession of the caravan from India, which they are carrying with them, and which is the object of the utmost importance and value.

Adieu, my friend. Let me hear from you, which I have not done since I left Genoa. I beg my compliments to all our family, and remain,

Your’s most sincerely,


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)Citizen Veyssiere, mentioned by Lacuee.—See his letter to his uncle.

(2)In the original it is le 14 Thermidor, (the 1st of August.) The French, as we have had frequent occasions to observe in the course of this work, are very far from being perfect in their new fangled calendar. Their Fructidors, and their Messidors, their rain months, and their snow months, are strangely out of their places in Egpyt. A circumstance which has, probably corrected by this time, the ideas of their vagabond Savans, who were, doubtless, in amazement at first, at the waywardness of nature, in not reducing all climates to the climate of the Great Nation; and still more, at her presumption in venturing to deviate from the calendar of a Directory and two Councils!

(3)This again is taken from Savary (for we never get out of his track), and, though repeated with the utmost confidence in many of these letters, not a jot more correct than the rest of his reveries.

The government of Egypt, says Niebuhr, (who in one page has conveyed more real information on the subject, than is to be found in some extensive volumes), is vested in a Bashaw, representative of the Grand Seignior; sometimes, indeed, neglected, but whom the invasion of the French will certainly restore to all his influence, and in eighteen Beys—for to this number they have now been reduced for many years. These Beys are not, as is commonly supposed, all of Christian origin, purchased in their childhood, and brought as slaves to Grand Cairo; so long since as 1762 (many years before Savary was in Egypt), five of them were already of Mahometan families; and as the importation of slaves from Mingrelia and Georgia has been constantly diminishing, it is very probably that the greater number of the present Beys are of the same description.

It has been also thought, that the military strength of Egypt consists merely of 8000 Mameloucs: this too is a mistake. Travelers may have been led into it, because the troops are not assembled, exercised, and uniformly clothed, after the European manner; but every Bey has his particular troops, which consist principally of his vassals: some of them have as many as 2000; dispersed, indeed, about the country, but capable of being collected at the first signal. There are besides many regiments (such as those of Assab, Motasrraka, Tsjumlan, Tessehschan, &c.) maintained by the State. The number of Janissaries too, in the pay of the Porte, is considerable; and as most of the officers have possessions in the country, they are all exceedingly attached to the government. If to all these are added the hordes of Bedouins, whose assistance may be easily purchased against a foreign enemy, we shall find that Bonaparte will have to contend not only with more troops, but with far more formidable ones, than he had probably reckoned on.

We could enlarge with pleasure on the observations of this well-informed traveler—but we forbear, as this note is already long, as as we have a point to settle with the French Reviewers of this Correspondence.

In the First Part, we took the liberty of expressing our surprise at the general important of the “Army of England;” or, “of the East,” respecting Egypt. This appears to have given great offence.—How, say the writers of the Decade Philosophique, Literaire and Politique, “how” (we omit their passionate preamble), “can people who have never been in a distant country, know any thing of it but from the accounts of travelers?” This, as a general remark, may be very well; but unfortunately it has nothing to do with the point in dispute. Our surprise was occasioned, as the critics may have seen, by observing, that in a case where it imported them so greatly to collect the best information, not a man in the army, nor in the long train of Savans which followed it, should, as far as appears, have extended his inquiries beyond the jejune pages of Volney and Savary,--when besides the earlier and fuller works of their own countrymen, the judicious histories of Sandys, Shaw, Pocock, Norden, Niebuhr (himself an host), and a number of others, lay, as it were, immediately under their hands!

Enough for the present.—If we return to the Decade Philosophique, which is not improbably, we shall have ample opportunities of shewing, with what contempt of truth its conductors treat the “enlightened people of France,” and with what a daring disregard of reputation they willfully misrepresent the most obvious facts.

(4)We do not know Pistre’s rank in the army. He writes extremely well, and his letter is one of the most interesting in the whole collection.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Wounded Hussar Writes about Failed Raid

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 140-143


Grand Cairo (28 Thermidor), August 15-

To Citizen MIOT.

YOU will see, my dear Miot, by the date of this letter, that it is written twenty days after that which you will find in the same packet.(1) You will see too, by the conclusion of the former, that I was then on the point of setting out with General Le Clerc,(2) on a secret expedition, the object of which, as I afterwards learned, was to seize on the caravan of Mecca, of which Ibrahim Bey had possessed himself. This expedition has totally failed, and we are returned with the loss of a number of our new mounted hussars.

You will easily discover from this wretched scrawl of a letter, that something has happened to prevent my writing as usually. I will briefly tell you (to save unnecessary alarm), that this expedition has been a little, and but a little, unfortunate for me; since I have had my left arm so torn and bruised, by a camel, that I shall not be able to use it for a month: there is, however no danger. By a second accident, I had two of my right-hand fingers so much injured, as to be scarce able to hold a pen.

I lost, besides, every thing I took with me, except the shirt upon my back. Luckily my portmanteau had reached Cairo, so that I shall not be in want of necessaries. I support my misfortunes, which after all, are not of the most important nature, in a very philosophical style; the greatest of them all, however is, and always will be, the not having it in my power to see you, and press you to my heart.

It was at Sallich, just beyond Bilbis, the last village before you come to the Desert, that we first heard the melancholy news of our naval action, in which we lost a great number of vessels, and amongst the rest the l’Orient; and had Admiral Brueys killed by a cannon shot. You may easily conceive how embarrassing this event must render our situation in this country. It would deprive the army of every hope, if they were not acquainted with the genius of the Commander in Chief. It is entirely on him then, that we rely for the care of extricating us from the perilous step in which we are engaged. May the measures he may take, bring us nearer to our country! EGYPT IS NOT MADE FOR US!

Adieu, my dear Miot; I embrace you with all my heart, as well as all your charming family, and the dear [undetermined name].

Boyat, who is now sitting by me, begs me to assure you of his attachment. He sends his respects to Josephine and to [undetermined name].

If you desire me to return, let slip no opportunity; and above all, do not forget, the instant you receive this letter, to write a word to Sucy, to induce him to take me with him, in case he has any thoughts of quitting this country,

By what I can collect from Boyat’s conversation, he does not seem disposed to do it at present.(3)


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)He alludes to his letter of July 26th. See No. IV.

(2)General Le Clerc (as we should have observed in a former letter) is much in the confidence of the Commander in Chief, to whom he is related. He married, we believe, immediately after the negociations of Leoben, a sister of Bonaparte’s, in Italy, extremely pretty, and nick-named for her silliness, La Princesse Folette. Her brother made her a present of 500,000 livres, on her wedding day! This is the lady whom Bonaparte prevented from seeing the opera at Bologna, because the company she had chosen to attend her were not all of the first consequence! It must be confessed, that this equalizing Chief has most aristocratical ideas of rank and fortune; ideas which, in a Corsican, and a republican, are altogether surprising.

(3)Our unfortunate Savant has already observed (No. IV.) Sucy’s reluctance to take him with him to France. Sucy himself, we believe, will never revisit that country; but if it were otherwise, if the poor man’s letters had reached his friend Miot in time, and if Miot had employed all his interest with the First Commissary in his behalf, we are persuaded that all would have been ineffectual. A botanist, and a man of sense! What pretensions has he to be one of the chosen few who are to be permitted to return? No, no, his fate was sealed previous to his embarkation. For the rest, we do not know that he has any particular reason to complain; he has already seen, he says, many of his associates fall around him (see his former letter), and he is still in existence: nor can he justly blame the Directory; for if they could deliberately consign to inevitable destruction more than forty thousand of their best and bravest troops, to whom they were under the highest obligation, why should they be supposed to interest themselves in the fate of this whining compound of philosophy and war, who has never yet, perhaps, rendered them the slightest service! The idea is too absurd to be dwelt upon.

When we observed above that we believed Sucy would never revisit France, we were certainly very far from thinking that this was already a matter of certainty. We have learned, since the former part of this note was written, that he was on board the vessel which ran into Candia, where he was put to death, together with most of the passengers, by the inhabitants.

We are no advocates for a war of this savage nature; and the resentment with which we speak of the army of the East, or of England, proceeds from observing, that they are the butchers, not the bold and generous enemies, of the devoted Egyptians. With all this, however, we wish Sucy had fallen in some other manner; though we cannot help being astonished at the presumptuous folly that could lead him to throw himself and his companions into the hands of a people whom they had so grossly injured. The impunity with which the French have long insulted and trampled on the poor patient nations of Europe, has emboldened them to their destruction: they have at length found an enemy worthy of themselves!

We know not whether the writer of this letter obtained his wish to be permitted to accompany Sucy in his flight. If he did, he doubtless shared his fate; it is more probable, however, that he did not; and in that case, if a short respite (for it will be no more) has its value with him,

Si tanti vita dierum

we may venture to congratulate him on the obduracy of the first Commissary.

Frenchman Writes on Colonizing and Civilizing Egypt

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 128-136


Cairo (27 Thermidor), August 14th.

Adjunct-General Lacuee, to his Uncle.

I HAVE received no letter from you, my dear uncle,(1) since I sailed from Toulon, and I am very much afraid that you have not received one from me. I judge of your anxiety respecting me, by the benefits which you have heaped upon me; you may judge of mine respecting you, by the gratitude they demand in return.

This letter, perhaps, will reach you. One of my comrades is about to embark in a neutral ship, and will take charge of it. Besides, the English, though victorious, are too much disabled to keep the sea,(2) and will for some time, I flatter myself, leave our communications open. With what ardour do we all wish it! for four months we have now been ignorant of what is become of our relations and friends. We left the Republic surrounded with factions, and all that has since reached us has been now and then a paltry gazette! every packet has been taken; a melancholy presage of our fate! that which brought Tallien(3) is the only one which has had the good fortune to escape.

If the General's dispatches have reached France, you will see that I am wounded,(4) though to all appearance not very dangerously. The ball spared my tongue, throat, blood vessels, and left jaw: the [5] only was fractured, or rather shivered a good deal, but, happily, not in such a manner as to disfigure me. The wound is healing fast. I can speak, and in another fortnight hope to be able to eat something besides broths: I should have said, able to eat at all; for, in truth, during the last month, I have only been able to swallow. The surgeons say that the waters of Barege will be necessary, if not indispensable for me. I think myself that they will be proper, and feel a strong inclination to go there; but as it is probable that the unfortunate action of Aboukir will render the situation of the army rather critical, and as there is an immediate prospect of my wound's cicatrizing,(6) although I serve with little, indeed very little, satisfaction to myself, and although I am perfectly sure that no one will feel obliged to me for the sacrifice.

The campaign which we have just finished, is indisputably the severest in which the French have ever been engaged. Our forced marches in the Desert, under a burning sky, and over still more burning sands, our want of water during five days, of bread during fifteen, and of wine during three months; our being continually under arms, exposed to a treacherous dew, which blinded all those who were not aware of it,-- all this is infinitely more terrible than battles, and sieges. A little enthusiasm will do for these,--true courage alone for the other; courage not only of heart, but of the head and soul.

We have had but two battles, and three or four skirmishes, or rather we have had but two butcheries: the Mamelouccs had nothing but bravery; we had discipline and experience. They rushed on to dash themselves in pieces against our squared batallions: their unreflecting valour precipitated them between two of these formidable masses, where they found their grave! vanquished, and without any other chance of safety than flight, they retreated with all their baggage. They are no longer to be feared; the constancy of courage can never be the portion of ignorance,(7) which has nothing but its enthusiasm! Besides, a few forts erected at the entrance of the Desert, and the passes of Syria, will secure us from their attacks; and then, where will this horde of slaves find recruits?

The Bedouin Arabs, and the natives of the country, are at present our only enemies.(8) The former are absolutely indestructible. Robbers by profession, and by institutions handed down from generation to generation, it would be more difficult to civilize them, than to barbarize ourselves! The bonds of society would be more grievous to them than fatigues, which custom and ignorance prevent them from finding disagreeable. All that can be done is to keep them at a distance; which can only be effected by cultivating the country, digging wide and deep canals, and erecting block-houses at short distances. With respect to the natives, the heads of a few Cheiks will speedily awe them into submission.

Egypt has not the slightest resemblance to what has been said of it by our writers. Its soil, indeed, is fruitful, but there is little of it. Nature asks only to produce; but the land is bare, and almost uncultivated. The natives, degraded by slavery, are relapsed into the savage state, retaining nothing of their former civilization but superstition and religious intolerance. I have found them resembling, in every circumstance, the islanders of the South Sea, described by Cook and Forster.

In a word, this country is nothing at present. It merely offers magnificent recollections of the past, and vast, but distant hopes of the future. It is not worth conquering in its present condition: but if statesmen, above all, if able administrators should undertake the management of it for ten years;--if for the same space of time we should employ all our care on it, and sacrifice the whole of its revenues, it might become the most valuable colony of Europe, and effect an important change in the commerce of the world!

But where are they,--these able administrators? We have, indeed, the man here capable of giving the first strong impulse to the taste of Egypt,(9) but not a soul equal to its administration,--whatever may be said to the contrary by the babbling Goddess. Oh! How many false reputations were acquired in Italy! And how many pedestals will now rest without statues! Besides; are the French, whose impetuosity was well adapted to the conquest of this country,--are they, I say, endued with sufficient patience to wait for all this? Incessantly eager to pluck the fruit,--will they let it ripen for ten years? And will they not, rather, like the savage of Montesquieu, cut down the tree to have it sooner! the first measures which have been taken, give me every reason to fear it.

Gurieux is perfectly well at present; he has had no other complaint than a violent diarrhea; he is over burdened with business, and, what is worse, with business totally unworthy of him. Our people do not know how to avail themselves of his peculiar talents, and therefore endeavour to turn his activity to account by profaning it. He philosophies from morn to night, and has ample opportunity of putting in practice what he formerly read, and has since reflected on.

I have postponed speaking of the unfortunate Desna [10] to the end of my letter. He was taken by the Arabs more than a month ago, and we have not heard what is become of him since. These robbers have certainly not killed him; but if they have given him up to the Mameloucs, he is lost. Should this not happen to be the case, and he be able to endure fatigue and harsh treatment, we shall probably have him gain. We all cling to this thread of hope, but it is very feeble! The loss of a comrade is felt very sensibly here, especially of such a one as Desna. His numerous good qualities had inspired me with a friendship for him, which, on his side, was warmly returned. He was the only friend of my own age, that I had in the army: Gueriux is now all that is left me.

This campaign has been very fatal to our staff. The day before yesterday the Adjunct General was the only one we had capable of going on duty,--all the rest are either killed, wounded, or taken. Never were hussars engaged in so severe a service; no, not even in the first Italian campaign! I call to mind a most agreeable party of pleasure, which five of us made, before we sailed for this country, on the highest mountain of Toulon. Of the five, I only remain!

The person who has engaged to deliver or send you this letter, is Citizen Veyssiere, captain of the 18th. He has served thirty years, and made seven campaigns. He would consequently have been intitled to retire on a pension, but wounded in this country, and tortured by the stone, he was eager to return to France. Some one has stupidly advised him to throw up his commission: he has done so, and it has been accepted.—Would it not be possible still, think you, to get him his pension, or a company of invalids? I beseech you to employ all your efforts, and all your credit in his favour. You will render an essential service to one of the bravest officers of the Republic, who retires with a pure heart and clean hands from the Revolution, and the war!

Adieu.—I embrace you, as well as my aunt, with all my heart. I can scarcely tell how much I long to see you both again—I intended to have brought some shawls for my aunt,(11) but the caravan has been stopped by the Beys, and the few which are to be found here, have been raised to a most extravagant price. Five and twenty or thirty livres have been given for a very common one.—I shall, therefore, be under the necessity of bringing her some Moka coffee instead of them.

Adieu; my respects to Citizen Lacepede and his wife; to General Clarke, Brostaut, Servan, &c. Remember me to Davignan, Desages, Decok, Charles Maroit, Marecheski, &c. &c.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)This uncle of Lacuee is a very respectable man. He was, we believe, a member of the National Convention, and is at present in the Counsel of Elders. He was an officer under the Monarchy, and, during the legislative Assembly, President of the Military Committee. We know nothing of his nephew. It appears that he is a man of abilities; and we recommend his letter, which is not only admirably written, but full of important matter, to the serious consideration of our readers.

(2)The fate of this letter is the best refutation of this assertion; which would not indeed been worth noticing, were it not for the opportunity it gives us of making a short remark on the ignorance in which the army were kept respecting the engagement of the first of August. That we had conquered could not well be denied, as the French fleet was annihilated: all that remained, therefore, for Bonaparte, was to represent the English fleet as nearly in the same state. This he did not fail to do; and this checked, for some days, the murmurs and despondency of the army. There is a letter from one of these deluded people, which, after mentioning their defeat, concludes with assuring his friend, upon the authority we have given, that the English ships were unable to stir,--“or” says he, “reste a scavoir, &c.” Now it remains to be seen what can be done against them, by the vessels in the port of Alexandria, (the frigates and transports)—and the writer actually buoys himself up with hopes of capturing or destroying them!!!

(3)The Lodi, which had nearly shared the fate of the rest. In the original it is,--“the packet was respected,” and just below we find that Lacuee’s tongue was “respected.” This is sad cant; but it is not altogether new, for we find a curious instance of its application in Vaillant. “A tiger, and myself,” says he, “met each other in the Desert. The noble creature surveyed me, while I gazed at him in my turn. We mutually respected each other, and passed on!”

(4)Lacuee is not mentioned as far as we can see by Bonaparte; but Berthier speaks of him as having been wounded at the same time with the first Commissary Sucy, in whose galley he was.

(5)Probably right jaw; but the word is obliterated.

(6)The original is illegible in this place; but we have endeavoured to complete the sentence.

(7)Our philosopher reasons rather mal-a-propos. He has probably discovered long before this time, that his rhetorical flourish was a mere petitio principii: the ignorance of the Mameloucs still remains to be proved, but the constancy of their courage is no longer a question with the miserable remains of the French army.

(8)Lacuee seems to derive consolation from a circumstance, which would have thrown any other man into despair.

But mark the pretty plan of getting rid of those “enemies,” who are only all the settled people of the country, and the surrounding Arabs, who are as invulnerable as the harpies,

--non vulnera tergo,
Accipiunt; celerique fuga, &c.

What they cannot do with the sword, however, they are determined to effect with the plugh-share; and all the sands of Egypt are to be cultivated, that they may at length proceed with tranquility in the great work of colonization. In the expressive figure of Solomon, “they will sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind!”

(9)If lacuee means Bonaparte here, he differs from us toto caelo, in his estimate of the General’s political talents. We think (and we judge from his Italian regulations) that Nature never formed a man less capable of giving what the writer calls “the first strong impulse to the taste of a nation,”—unless, indeed, it be the “taste” of pillage and desolation. But Lacuee, it may be urged, might have some other person in view;--of this we can say nothing: we wish, however, to press this, and the following paragraphs, on the readers’ most serious attention: referring them for what is said on the want of “able administrators, &c.” to the Note, p.76.

(10)This name is effaced by a blot. We made it out Desnattoz; but it is more probably Desnanotre, who is mentioned by Desgenettes, Part 1. P. 102.

The French, to whom these letters are infinitely dear, and by whom they are anxiously and universally read, will perhaps thank us for this scrupulous attention to names, that have little in them to interest the curiosity of our countrymen. They will recognize those of their fathers, brothers, &c.; and they will inquire with avidity into their fate.

Now we are on the subject we will just mention that, that in a former letter, we found one inclosed for a “Citizen Perrin, merchant at Sens,” acquainting him with the death of his son, who, as the writer expresses it, par le fatal arret du destin devoit perir sur le Nil. This is probably the first intimation the unfortunate father will have of his loss. The letter also laments, in the most feeling manner, the general want of news from France, and adds, that the English have taken twelve of their advice-boats.

(11)We see by this that the plunder of the caravan was counted upon, as a matter of certainty.

It is impossible to think, without indignation, of the coolness with which these people looked forward to the commission of the most atrocious acts, as things of course. They had wasted and destroyed the fairest part of Europe, and they triumphed in the impunity of their crimes.—But there was an EYE that marked them! They were abandoned to their presumption, and they rushed madly on destruction.

If there be a spectacle which sanctions a belief in the visible interposition of Providence, and “justifies the ways of God to man,” it is that of Bonaparte and his army. The man who boasted, and perhaps though, that he held Fortune in chains; the legions, whose prowess and whose enormities struck Italy with terror, and confounded the powers of Germany, are now the sport of a weak and contemptible rabble,--of the Arabs, who are scarce numbered amongst civilized nations, and of the mob of Cairo, the most brutified, and savage in the universe! To become the slaves of these outcasts of Humanity, to serve their brutal passions, and to minister food to their just vengeance,--to love despised, and abhorred; to die unknown, and have their carcasses flung to the dogs and vultures of the country, is now the only fate that awaits them! Who does not see in this humiliating catastrophe, the operation of retributive justice; and who that sees it, does not confess with the moral poet of antiquity,

Nec surdum, nec Tiresiam quenquam esse Deorum!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

French Army Embarassed by Mameloucs

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 121-122


Grand Cairo (Thermidor). August 9th.

To Citizen St. GENIER, &c. at Toulouse.

You must be under some uneasiness about me. Hitherto we have got off pretty well, at the expence only of amazing fatigues. We have been masters of Cairo this fortnight. The Mameloucs [Mamluks] are about two days march from us: they lost two thousand men in the last action. General Bonaparte is in pursuit of them. In a little while I hope to return and embrace both you and my mother.

After landing at Alexandria, we set out for Cairo, without provisions of horses, and were pursued as far as this place, by bands of Arabs on horseback, who harassed us in a terrible manner. Just as we were setting out, the General, seeing us in want of every thing, said to us "THE VIRTUES ARE ON OUR SIDE!"(1)

In an engagement on the Nile, the Mameloucs carried off all the baggage which we had put on board the flotilla, and left us naked as we were born, with nothing but what we had on our backs!!!(2)

Mamet, as well as the rest of the officers who staid behind, have had their places filled up. I am glad of it.

Embrace my dear mother for me.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)How oft has the inclination to laugh outright at the absurdities discoverable in every part of this Correspondence, been checked by bitter reflection on the enormities in which they have usually terminated! the durate atque expectate cicadas of Naevolus was not half so severe a taunt on the miseries of his followers, as the ill-placed and incongrous exclaimation of Bonaparte to his starving army. What consolation they derived from it does not appear;--but if the reader will take into consideration that they were just come from the slaughter of the Alexandrines, and were immediately to enter upon that of the Egyptians, he cannot but be mightily struck at the ALLIES here assigned them

(2)Here is the explanation of a circumstance which perplexed us in the former publication. Many of the letters complain of having lost all their effects on the Nile, while none of them inform us, in what manner. It now appears that the Mameloucs were completely victorious in the engagement near Chebreiki, that they took three of the gun-boats, which they plundered of all the baggage, and that the remaining three would have shared the same fate, but for the fortunate arrival of the army. This is further confirmed by Brigadier Dumas, (No xviii.) and thus it is, that letters in themselves of little or no merit, materially assist in filling up, and perfecting in all its parts, the eventful history of this stupendous expedition!

If the reader wishes to see how this affair is treated by the commanders of the flotilla, let him turn to the letters of Rear admiral Perree, and Adjunct-General Royer. First Part, Nos. xix and xxii.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lasalle Writes again, Remains Convinced the Army will be Relieved

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 117-119.


Grand Cairo (20 Therimdor), August 7th.

C. LASALLE, Chief Of brigade, &c. &c. to his JOSEPHINE.

I HAVE not yet heard from you, my much regretted Josephine. Some how or other, the three couriers which had reached Malta in safety, were unfortunately dispatched from thence in the same vessel,--this was taken by the Englishs, and all the letters were thrown into the sea. It has swallowed worlds of wealth; but never yet a treasure that equaled, in my esteem, a single letter of yours!

I am on the eve of setting off with the 7th hussars, and my own regiment. General Bonaparte, who overwhelms me with kindness and attention, has just given me command of them. We are going to meet a caravan which the Mameloucs have seized, and which is very valuable. We shall certainly have a struggle for it; but good fortune, and you, who have hitherto protected me, will assuredly preserve me once more.

You ought to have received three of my letters from Malta, and one from Alexandria: this is now the second from Cairo. I cannot write to you oftener. I am absolutely worn out with constant exertions to organize my new corps, which is in a most wretched state.

Your brother regards me with kindness, because you are not here: would it were the reverse! How is my bantling? What a sweet little fellow he will be when I see him again?—YES, I SHALL SOON RETURN—GENERAL BONAPARTE HAS PROMISED THAT FRESH TROOPS SHALL SPEEDILY ARRIVE FROM FRANCE TO RELIEVE US. But then how ugly shall I be! The heat has turned us all as black as crows; and, to complete my misfortunes, I have lost all my hair.

How do you proceed in your pregnancy?—Good heavens! How distressing it is to live in a state of constant uncertainty respecting all that is dear to me!

The days of happiness are passed, if I cease to exert myself but for a moment, my mind becomes a prey to the most gloomy reflections. I weep, and no one partakes my grief. I have not a single acquaintance in the regiment, nor a friend in the country. Poor Charles! Thou hast lost every thing in losing they Josephine. Do you at least regret me, and I shall not be wholly miserable. I may forget that I have been happy beyond the lot of human nature,--but to forget that you are my best loved, or to think of living without you, is what can never enter into my mind.

Adieu:--my horse is at the door. I send you a thousand kisses.

Your own



[British Translators' Notes]

(1)We ought not to dismiss C. Lasalle without remarking, that his regiment (according to the General’s dispatches) behaved extremely well. Charles himself, Bonaparte adds, “dropped his sword in charging: he alighted to recover it, and was happy enough to regain his seat just as one of the most intrepid of the Mameloucs was about to attack him.” We conclude from this, that he escaped: his regiment, as we have already observed, was cut to pieces.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

French Officer Writes his Mother About an Impending Raid

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 111-115.


Grand Cairo, August 7th.

C. LASALLE, Chief of Brigade of the 22nd Regiment of Chasseurs a Cheval, of the army of the East, to his Mother.

On the eve of setting out with the Commander in Chief, to intercept a most valuable caravan which the Mameloucs [Mamluks] have seized, and which must, at all events, be wrested out of their hands, I learn, my dear mother, that a courier is preparing to leave Cairo. Opportunities occur so seldom, that I cannot think of letting this escape without giving you a line.

Neither fatigue, nor heat, nor the privation of wine, have hitherto had the smallest effect on my health; on the contrary, I get flesh every day. I have but one thing to regret, and that is my poor hair, which is all fallen off through the excessive heat; assisted, I believe, in some degree, by my total want of powder and pomatum.

General Bonaparte, always prodigal of his kindness, has given me the command of the mounted troops of the 7th hussars, and the 22nd chasseurs. Here I am then, a little General! He often invites me to dinner, and always places me at his right hand. I have an infinite deal of trouble to form my new corps, which is in the most ruinous state you can possibly conceive,-- by dint of incessant exertions, however I hope to succeed to my honour.

We are assured that in the course of a few months, re-inforcements from France will arrive here, and that we shall then return home. This is the wish of the whole army, which, though as well circumstanced as it is possible to be in a country like this,(1) is too truly French in heart, not to prefer its native land to Egypt!

We already have 800 Arabian horses, excellent runners,--I have three for my own share. The officers of my regiment behave extremely well, and have given me many striking proofs of their esteem.

Happily, in consequence of my new employ, I have little time for reflection, and am too much fatigued when night comes, to dream broad awake.—Without this, I feel that I should sink under the wretchedness I experience, from the consideration that I am far removed from every thing that is dear to me in the world,--from my mother, my father, my mistress,(2), and my little boy. Sometimes, however, sad ideas, bitter regrets will force themselves upon me; a sigh breaks forth, a tear trickles down my cheek, and I hasten to tear myself from my melancholy reverie.—O poor Charles! How art though passing thy youth! O duty! Why are thou so rigorous!

I flatter myself that the same kind of providence which has hitherto accompanied me in the heat of battle, has also watched over your life(3). I anticipate the pleasure I shall one day have in kissing your honoured hand, and in drying up, by my embraces, the tears you have not ceased to shed for me.—O my dearest mother! I want, --I cannot express how much I want, to fold you in my arms!

My faithful Joseph is still with me. He is extremely useful, and I cannot tell you how much I am indebted to his care and attention. I have no doubt but that you are just as much indebted to Colin for his, and I therefore seriously promise him a fine Indian shawl, &c. if we seize the caravan(4).

Adieu,--take a thousand tender kisses, and present my respectful duty to my aged father, whom I love and revere. My kind remembrances to all my friends, and respects where they are due.



[British Translators' Notes]

(1)This is put gently enough of a place which we know every man in the army regarded with horror,--but “poor Charles” dined too often with the General to speak out, especially after being just put on the staff.

The paragraph, however, is important in another point of view. It shows the profound hypocrisy and wickedness of Bonaparte, almost as clearly as his Catholic and Mahometan Professions of Faith. He assures his devoted followers, that they shall return to France as soon as re-inforcements arrive, when he knew (as is proved by his letters) that he had sent for every ship of war (by whose aid alone such arrivals were possible) to protect his own escape with the accumulated plunder of Egypt, while the army would be abandoned to its fate!

Providence, however, has frustrated the execrable design; and, with that justice which so often defeats the schemes of interested wickedness, decreed, that this artificer of ill should share the destruction he was exclusively preparing for others.

(2)We have already noticed the frequency with which parent are made the confidents, and sometimes the promoters, of the licentious armours of their children, in these Letters. The present instance, indeed, is venial, if compared—but enough; we have done with the subject.

(3)This is, perhaps, making Charles talk rather too much like a Christian: but as the thought is awkwardly expressed in the original, and as the young man seems really to retain some vestiges of the “old superstition” of his country, we have let it stand. The reader may be assured that we have not many peccadilloes of this nature to answer for. Except in their oaths, the French letters make few appeals to heaven.
(4)It will afford no small satisfaction, we believe, to most of our readers, to know that this valuable caravan escaped the hands of this rapacious banditti. They came up with it, indeed, as we learn from several of the Letters, but found it covered in so masterly a manner by Ibrahim Bey, and so gallantly defended by his handful of Mameloucs, that the French, after several ineffectual attempts, and losing the greatest part of their new-raised cavalry (alas! For poor Charles!) were compelled to make a disgraceful retreat before less than half their numbers! It appears (and we mention it for the exclusive benefit of the admirers of the “invincible Bonaparte,” who commanded in person) that the Mameloucs not only fought with more bravery, but with more skill than their opponents; and that if Ibrahim had not judged, and rightly judged, it more expedient to secure his convoy, than to pursue his baffled enemy, very few of them would have got back to Cairo, to amuse the world with a splendid narrative of their triumphant expedition towards Syria!

In the contest we have mentioned, there were no cannon on either side. The even furnished a most important lesson, which we trust the Mameloucs will never forget. They will not in future encumber themselves with an artillery which they cannot serve, nor attack their enemies when protected by it. They will content themselves with harassing them, with failing on detached parties unprovided with those formidable means of offence; and their superior courage and activity will eventually reduce the French to the necessity of surrendering at discretion.

Though firmly persuaded of the truth of every syllable we have set down, we should not have mentioned it on less authority than that of the French officers, from whose letters we have taken all this, and might have taken much more; for they have been beaten into truth, and mortified into humility.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

French Commissary Sends Note to Joseph Bonaparte

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 104-108.


Cairo (18 Therimdor), August 5th.

SUCY,(1) First Commissary, &c. to Citizen JOSEPH BONAPARTE, at Paris.

A THOUSAND occupations, my dear Joseph, have hitherto prevented my giving you any account of myself, or of the General: I was assured, besides, that you regularly heard of him in the course of business.

The fatigues of the last march tried his constitution a little: but he supported them, I can assure you, better than any other person. With him alone, the army could have surmounted the innumerable obstacles which it had to encounter, and which there was no possibility of foreseeing or guarding against, from the information it was supplied with.

There is much to be hoped for from this country; but then this hope is of the nature of those which a length of time alone can realize. I am obliged to dictate, not being yet in a condition to use my hand: the surgeon thinks favourably, however, of my wound. My chief pain arises from not being able to be as useful to your brother as I could wish. We are all anxious to hear from Paris. Many things may have happened to affect our situation; and this consideration makes our anxiety truly painful.

My respects to your ladies. Citizen Hasselavere is in good health, and employed here in the administration to the effects of the Mameloucs.—Adieu. Preserve your friendship for me, in return for the tender attachment with which I have sworn to be ever yours.


P.S. You know that Louis(2), fatigued a little by his voyage, was left at Alexandria.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)This is the only letter which we find from the First Commissary. To judge from the frequent and respectful mention made of him, Sucy must enjoy a high degree of consideration in Egypt: this is not, perhaps, to be wondered at, when we consider him as possessed of the most lucrative and important post in the civil administration of the army.

His letter is no farther of importance, than as it shews the utter impossibility of deriving any advantages from Egypt. To say this in express terms, could neither be expected from Sucy, nor would have been borne by Joseph Bonaparte: it is, therefore, represented as the country of hope. But to talk to a Frenchman of a good to be produced by the slow progress of time, is to hold an unintelligible language. The present, is all that exists for him, and he snatches what it offers with an avidity that shews at once his distrust, and contempt of the future.

Volumes might be written on this subject, but we content ourselves with referring to Bonaparte’s Italian conquests for an elucidation of our remark.

(2)Louis Bonaparte, the General’s brother. In the last French papers which reached this country, it is stated that Louis Bonaparte, accompanied by General Berthier, was arrived at Ajaccio in Corsica. This we doubt. Berthier, we have some reason to think, is the last man Bonaparte would part with; even though his escape to Alexandria were feasible, which is probably not the case. With respect to Louis Bonaparte, who had wisdom enough to decline marching into the country, it is barely possible that he may have found his way back to France; and therefore, whatever may be our private opinion, we shall not, at present, call in question that part of the statement.

It is difficult to conceive any thing more strict than the watch kept by our vigilant tars over the ports of Alexandria. We have seen several letters from the masters of those neutral vessels which the French found there, and which Commodore Hood has permitted to withdraw; and they all concur in saying, that the severest scrutiny was made, not only of their papers, but of their crews,--so that it was scarcely possible for any thing to pass without discovery.

As to the vessels which the French took up in the several ports of Italy, and for the hire of which Bonaparte has promised to pay by the plunder of the Egyptian villages; they cannot stir. Eleven of them, which madly attempted it, were taken in sight of the place, and immediately burnt. With respect to the French ships, the case is still more hopeless. To the danger of being captured by us, are superadded others of a much more formidable nature, which they have provoked by their perfidy and cruelty, and which they will not in the future (notwithstanding their anxiety to escape from “that land of horrors,”) be very forward to encounter. Three of their ships (we take the account from themselves) full of wounded men, and fugitives who had escaped the vigilance of the Commandant of Alexandria, took advantage of the night, and the temporary absence of our cruisers, and slipped out. What was their fate? One of them, we hope it was that with the wounded men on board, fell in with the Zealous, and was captured. Another ran into Scyphanto, one of the Greek isles, and was seized by the inhabitants. The passengers and crew, amounting to fifty-four in all, were immediately carried to Constantinople, and thrown into the dungeon of the galley slaves; while the Scyphantines were liberally rewarded for their loyalty and zeal. The third put into one of the harbours of Crete, where the people, who, as the French editor very justly observes, are not moderes, put every man of them to death, and sent their heads to decorate the gates of Seraglio.

Notwithstanding all this, it is not quite impossible but that some one, more happy than the rest, may yet escape; and therefore the Directory contrive to amuse the relatives of their victims, by permitting their papers to notify from time to time the arrival of this or that particular person in some distant port—for it should be observed, that they are never said to have arrived in France!

This is an admirable expedient; but it does not always succeed: for as the French Government is without any intelligence from Egypt, but through the medium of Turkey, or of this country, it sometimes happens that the arrival of a man is announced, who, in the classical phraseology of their orators, had “ceased to live” some months before. Thus, they lately gave us a letter from Leghorn, said to be written by a Citizen Julien, who was just returned, full of good news from Grand Cairo. This was an unlucky guess. Citizen Julien’s voyages had long been over. He was “assassinated,” as Bonaparte terms it in his official papers, “with fifteen other Frenchmen, at the village of Askam.” That is to say, (for we know the fact) he was sent with a company of Grenadiers to plunder the village of its grain. The inhabitants defended their property with a fury bordering on despair, and in the conflict Julien and his fixty-six marauders were killed. It should not be forgot here that the “hero of Italy,” mad with rage and disappointment, sent, in his own words, “a strong division of the army” to pull down the few mud huts of this wretched village, and exterminate the miserable inhabitants,--by way of enlightening the rest of the Egyptians, we suppose, in the saving doctrine of the true RIGHTS OF MAN.

Monday, September 17, 2007

General Bonaparte Writes his Brother from Egypt

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 100-102


Of the Extracts from General BONAPARTE'S Letter to his Brother. See the Fac Simile, No. 1.

Cairo (7 Therimdor), July 28th.

To Citizen JOSEPH BONAPARTE, Deputy to the Council of Five Hundred, at Paris.

YOU will see in the public papers the relation of the battles, and of the conquest of Egypt, which has been sufficiently disputed to add another leaf to the military glory of this army. Egypt is the richest country in the world, in wheat, rice, pulse, and cattle. Barbarism is at its height. THERE IS NO MONEY IN THE COUNTRY; (1) NO, NOT EVEN TO PAY THE TROOPS. I THINK OF BEING IN FRANCE IN TWO MONTHS -- --

Take your measures so that I may have a country seat at my arrival, either in the neighborhood of Paris, or in Burgundy: I RECKON ON PASSING THE WINTER THERE -- --

[British Translators' Notes]

(1)THERE IS NO MONEY IN THE COUNTRY! It is worth observation, that this sentence was written the very day after Bonaparte had declared in his official letters, to all Europe, that on the bodies of the two thousand Mameloucs, who fell in the "battle of the Pyramids," his soldiers had found 20,000,000 livres in specie!!! (First Part, p. 64)

But this is not all,--it appears from the next line that Egypt was expected to furnish money for the troops. This is a precious circumstance, and affords matter for deep reflection.

Bonaparte left France, perhaps, without a single day's pay for his army. The plunder of Malta, except a few ingots which were distributed amongst the merchants of Alexandria, with a view of being speedily reclaimed, was on board the L'Orient; and with the expected treasures of Cairo, and the grand caravan, was, undoubtedly, destined to swell the private fortunes of the General and his confidents: while the troops were to be left as in Swabia, and Franconie, and Brabant, and Holland, and Italy, and Swisserland, to support themselves by wresting from the inhabitants, who are thus, in mockery, made "free, and prosperous, and happy," the miserable reliques of the rapacity of the officers, and the agents of Government!

If the reader has noticed the Introduction to the First Part of this Correspondence, he has seen that we unequivocally declined inserting such of Bonaparte's letters, as from their nature did not materially interest the Public. One sentence, indeed, we quoted (Introduction p. xvii.) from the letter before us; and here we should have rested, had not the French (see the Decade Philosophique, No. 12.) made an ungenerous use of our reserve, and insinuated that we had no authority for the passage in question, because we forebore to produce the letter of which it made a part.

"Quant a Bonaparte," say the French critics (speaking of what was advanced in the Introduction respecting the plan of getting rid of the Italian army) "il s'est prete a ce petit arrangement en se proposant d'abandonner au premier instant ses camarades,
pour revenir passer l'hiver en Bourgogne." This is quoted with a triumphant sneer, as a fabrication, perhaps of the English editor's, too atrocious to be attributed to a person of Bonaparte's well known justice and humanity. Good! we have now given an extract from one of the General's letters, in which the obnoxious expression occurs twice in the compass of a few lines; the atrociousness, therefore, (if there be any, which we are not inclined to deny) must be transferred elsewere.

Now we are on this subject we shall take the opportunity of making a short remark.

When the First Part of this Correspondence was committed to the press, no particular pains were taken to establish its authenticity. It certainly did not enter into our contemplation, that any description of persons could be weak or wicked enough to deny, what was so incontestably proved by internal evidence, (to say nothing of the Original Letters having been always open to inspection), and the event has proved, that any explanation on our part, would have been altogether a work of supererogation,--for, except the Morning Chronicle which "has taken a retaining fee," to deny sturdily whatever compromises the honour of France, and the editors of the Decade Philosophique, who limit their doubts to the single passage we have mentioned, doubts which they will now wish, perhaps, they had either no entertained, or not expressed; we know of no one that has called the authenticity of the Letters in question. Should there, however, be such a person, we will once for all, solemnly assure him, that we have given them in all and every part precisely as they came from the hands of the original writers, without alteration, or addition of a single syllable, and with merely such occasional omissions as we have already mentioned, and as a regard for the delicacy of our readers seemed to render indispensable.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

French Soldier Describes Defeat at the Hands of the British

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp.94-99


Alexandria, (18 Therimdor) August 5th.

LE PERE, to Citizen BEYTZ, Representative of the People, in the Council of Five Hundred.

I KNOW not, Citizen and Friend, whether my former letters have reached you; I am inclined to think they have not, and this for several reasons.

Hitherto the news which I have had to send you has been excellent: to-day it is my fate to present you with the reverse of the medal. Our success by land is invariable, and while we have Bonaparte to organize it, I flatter myself that it will always continue so; but his judgment and his fortune no longer influence and direct our fleet. Weep with me, while you peruse the melancholy detail.

Ever since the capture of Cairo, our condition had been improving in every respect(1). The number of our partisans was increasing, and our security becoming more and more assured; but the English,(2) those high spirited enemies, frantic at having missed us everywhere, and become certain at length, of finding us here, appeared off Alexandria, on the 31st ult. They made sail for Aboukir, a kind of port about four leagues to the east of the city, where our fleet was at anchor, and, as it flattered itself, strongly moored.

The English were but too well acquainted with our situation, as their conduct sufficiently proves. With their fleet still under sail, they fell upon the right division of our squadron, broke the line (several of their vessels falling upon each of ours) and entirely demolished it, before any of the other ships, rendered useless by their being at anchor, could move to its assistance.

The action began at six in the evening; the fire was terrible, and the action bloody. It lasted till three in the morning, ceased for a short time, began again at five, and finally terminated at nine. The English, though greatly disabled, are masters of the field of battle, and of the wrecks of our fleet. Our ships successively dismasted, crippled, and more or less torn to pieces, are become the prey of our enemies; two sail of the line only, and two frigates, have found their safety in flight, and are gone, perhaps, to France, to carry the most melancholy intelligence of a defeat, of which there are few examples, and of which the effects will be more sensibly felt here, than in the mother country.

Three hours after the action commenced, the l’Orent unfortunately took fire; and we had from this place the dreadful spectacle of a ship in flames; it burnt for near an hour, and then disappeared with a tremendous explosion. We were ignorant at the time, indeed, that it was a French ship, especially the flag one. I want courage to tell you how many brave men perished, and how many distinguished officers.

The English had only fourteen sail of the line, and brig; we had thirteen sail of the line, four frigates, and a few gun-boats. Our position would have infallibly doubled our strength, if we had been a little nearer the shore, formed in a closer line of battle, so as not to be broken, and really and truly moored; but, but,--ah! How many buts!

I must, however, do justice to the courage of our seamen, who fought like lions.

General Bonaparte was at Cairo, and his judgment and his fortune(3) were no longer companions of the fleet. He will be so much the more afflicted at this catastrophe, as it could not have taken place, if the Admiral had been more anxious to execute his plans, which were to carry all the ships into the Port of Alexandria (where the transports, &c. already were), as soon as the channels should be properly surveyed, and that had now been done near a fortnight. Speculations of pride, it is whispered, prevented this from being done; and this it is that mean and selfish considerations produce the most terrible calamities.

Would to Heaven that the English, fully occupied with the repair of their fleet, may return immediately to Gibraltar, without making any attempts on these seas, either at Malta or elsewhere. We who compose the land forces, however, still keep up our courage; our confidence in Bonaparte is unbounded.

My best respects to your wife, to the ladies De Gand, and to your little society.

A thousand friendly things to your colleague from Ostend (I forget his name), and to the Citizens Hopsomere and Meyer.

My health is good, and I have my hands full of business. I hope to leave this place almost immediately for Rosetta and Cairo. I write in haste that I may be in time for the packet, which is on the point of sailing.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)This is a mere gratis dictum. The famous battle of the Pyramids (as it is modestly called by “the Hero of Italy”) was fought on the 21st of July. Cairo was entered on the 22nd, and Bonaparte’s dispatches are dated on the 23rd. It did not probably take less than five or six days to bring the news to Alexandria; but we are, luckily, not left to conjecture in the business: having the authority of the writer himself (see the preceding letter) for saying that the news on the capture of Cairo reached Alexandria on the 30th. Now, the engagement off Aboukir took place on the night of the 31st, which leaves one day for the ameliorations so sensibly felt by Le Pere! And thus it is that Frenchmen deceive themselves and the world!

(2)Our enemies seem to take a barbarous pleasure in mortifying the Morning Chronicle, and in disclaiming, by anticipation, the sacrifice it is so forward to make of English courage at the shrine of Falsehood and of France. “The DISGRACED English,” says that paper, “FEARED TO LOOK BONAPARTE IN THE FACE.” “The HIGH-SPIRITED English,” says Le Pere, “FRANTIC AT HAVING MISSED HIM, AND BECOME CERTAIN OF FINDING US HERE, appeared,” &c.

We hope this will prove a lesson to the M.C. and induce it in the future—not to do its country justice, this we cannot hope,--but to be silent, when from the absurd and shameless nature of its LIES, it must be manifest to all the world, that the French will be compelled to reject them, with a blush at such unskillful attempts to serve them. This is not the first time that they have been driven to exclaim of the Morning Chronicle and its coadjutors,

---Pol! Occidistis, AMICI,---

(3)This is the second time, in this letter, that those words have occurred. To talk of the “judgment” of Bonaparte in a naval engagement is almost too ridiculous for a Frenchman. What his “fortune” might have done, we know not; but if we are allowed to say what we think on the subject, we shall just observe, that though it would not have delayed the victory a single moment, yet if the General had been present, and either fallen like the ill-fated Brueys, or been blown up like the innocent hostages (Part I. p. 193), it “might have been truly salutary to the army, which, by a speedy surrender, would have probably rescued itself from the lingering but inevitable destruction to which his “judgment and his fortune,” or, to call things by their true names, his perfidy and his cruelty have destined it!

But did Le Pere continue to think thus highly of the General! We fancy not. A letter, which there is every reason to believe authentic, but of which we certainly do not possess the original, has been transmitted to one of the most respectable Journals on the Continent, the Journal de Francfort, and inserted in its 332d Number. It is from Le Pere to the same Beytz, to whom our letter is addressed, but is of a later date (10 Fructidor, August 27.); and contains, besides a recapitulation of what we have given above, several additional circumstances, highly worthy of a place in this collection.

“Amidst a variety of distressing accidents; daily reduced in our numbers by trifling checks, or rather by multiplied assassinations, constantly on the alarm amongst a people heedless of the blessings of liberty, and whose ignorant superstition menaces us without ceasing; obliged to take all those precautions which are rendered necessary by an invasion, for which the way has not been smoothed before hand; and reduced to a scarcity of food, which can only be extorted from the natives by dint of money; we still flattered ourselves with the hopes of a favourable change, when the disastrous business of the 1st of August came to overwhelm, to annihilate, and to mark our future fortune, with the image of all the furies which are destined to pursue us.

Brueys, who fell like a hero, is become the scape-goat, and will be obliged to carry off all the blame. It is said by many well-informed people, that he wished to sail immediately after the debarkation of the troops, but that Bonaparte objected to it; and, indeed, it is not easy to conceive why the General should obstinately persist in compelling our fleet (which consisted at that very time of fifteen sail of the line, twelve frigates, and a large galley) to hide itself in the port of Alexandria, when it was highly capable, if not of beating the English, yet certainly of contesting the day with them; and, at all events, was sufficiently strong to return to Toulon, to protect the sailing of the second expedition.

What will become of us now, that we have the mortification of being blocked up by three sail of the line and three frigates, which take all our advice boats before our face, and deprive us of all news and all succour. In vain do they attempt to fool us on this head, with pretending that we shall be relieved, as soon as the forces which we have at Corfou, Malta, and Toulon have joined. Children may be amused with such trifling; but we are not quite simple enough to believe that Admiral Nelson will permit this junction to be effected.

The General has fortified Damietta, and several other important posts, he has also detached Desaix into the Said, after Morad Bey. We ought to believe that Bonaparte has no intention of precipitating our fate, by thus extending and dividing his army: but, I repeat it, without succours from France, our future condition will be most miserable. We are enervated by the climate, and tormented and harassed to death by insects. Our army is consumed by sickness and continual losses. Many of our detachments of cavalry have already disappeared. Since the last victims which I named to you, we have lost the Commissary Jaudbert, Peyres, and the Renard. Such is our situation, which, considering the rooted hatred of the Egyptians, and the neverending hostility of the Arabs, I must look on as the second volume of our ancient crusades, if the English persist in their interceptions. And, good Heavens! Who knows but the Turks will also declare war against us!”

Friday, September 14, 2007

French Soldiers Express Pains of Defeat and Separation

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 86-90.

Alexandria, (13 Thermidor), July 31st.

LE PERE to the female Citizen LE PERE, Rue du Fauxbourgh Honore, no. 102, near (illegible) at Paris.

I AM very much afraid, my dear mother, that my last never reached you; though I cannot yet persuade myself to resign all hopes of it. We learn that our dispatches are frequently intercepted by the English, and the courier who took charge of my letter, never, perhaps, arrived at Toulon.

I gave you an account in it of our safe arrival at Alexandria, in sixteen days after our fortunate expedition against Malta. I added some details on the capture of this famous and most miserable city; and I enclosed a note which I desired you to send to St. Germain, after communicating its contents to our friends. If nothing of this has reached you, I can only hope that the Gazettes have made up for the loss.

The Commander in Chief left this place on the 11th instant, and it was only yesterday that we heard from him. All the communications by the Nile and the Desert being completely cut off by Arabs, we were beginning to grow very uneasy, when we received at last, the news of the capture of Cairo, and the subsequent movements of the army. Gratien(1) is at Rosetta, where I hope to join him in a few days, and to take him with me to Cairo. Hyacinth is still with me; but there is a probability of his quitting us, if he obtains (as we all wish he may) a more suitable place in the military administration.—He is down for it, and is well recommended.

We are all in good health; and, if we were not deprived of sleep by innumerable species of insects which devour us alive, we should find ourselves tolerably happy amidst all the embarrassments, and all the privations, to which you may easily conclude we are exposed. We are, besides, fully occupied in fortifying Alexandria, and on other objects which have an immediate reference to our security; and, indeed, our existence.

Nothing is yet arranged; but I already divine that we (myself and the fourteen engineers who are here) shall form three brigades; of which I shall command one, and Citizens Girard and Bodard the other two. One brigade will remain attached to the port of Alexandria, the others will be charged with the execution of the projects relative to the Nile, and to its junction(2) with the Red Sea. I shall have some pretensions, both as the oldest man, and the oldest officer, to choose what I may conceive to be the most striking service.

We live extremely ill, and in spite of the army allowance, are at a considerable expence. With this exception, we are prepared for every thing; for we know that we are still in the desert of Egypt at Alexandria, and that ‘tis only in approaching the Nile, and entering the Delta, we can find a country rich in cultivation, and abounding in wealth of all kinds(3)!
I intend to draw up a short account of our transactions, and inclose it in the present letter. You will have the goodness to communicate it to our friends, and then transmit it to St Germain.

A thousand kind things from all three of us to our friends and acquaintances. Hyacinth is writing to M. Boursier, who will doubtless communicate to you the details and news which he sends him.

Adieu, dear mother; we embrace you with all our hearts.


P.S.(4) Here then, are more than three months, my dear mother, of total separation! Since we have not even the satisfaction of thinking that any of our letters have reached you; and not one of yours has reached us. We please ourselves with fancying that you are happier than we are: for independently of the want of money, we have also to support that of the few resources of a country overcharged with many thousands of mouths. Nor is this our greatest evil: we can take no repose; and insects of all kinds add to our sufferings. Our zeal, however, is not cooled by this accumulation of misery. We expected an order to proceed to Cairo. He is at Rosetta, about ten leagues from hence, and in a country somewhat less wretched. You will hear with pleasure of the success of the army. Le Pere is writing you a long circulatory letter, and I am preparing one for Monsieur le Boursier.

Adieu, my dear mother; I embrace you with all my heart.

P.S. August the 5th. Excuse me from giving you the promised “account” of our successes. The defeat of our fleet in the dreadful action of the 1st instant, is a calamity which leaves us here as children, totally lost to the mother country. NOTHING BUT PEACE CAN RESTORE US TO HER. But, gracious heavens! How much will this incomparable victory raise the pretensions of the English! We are all pierced to the soul by it, but courage and Bonaparte still remain.

I would give you some details of the engagement, were I not afraid that, as my letter is open, they might prevent its ever reaching you. It is best, therefore, to be silent.

[British Translators' Notes]

(1)Gratien, and Hyacinth mentioned just below, appear to be Le Pere’s brothers.


(3)We have already remarked in the First Part of this Correspondence (p. 120) on the absurd ideas of the French at Alexandria, respecting the resources of the Delta.

(4) This postscript seems to be added by Hyacinth: in that which follows Le Pere resumes the pen.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

French Officer Describes Conflict with British Navy

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 75-82.


Alexandria (12 Therimdor), July 30th.
To the female citizen Blanc, Rue Helventius, no. 667, at Paris

My dear Life

I wrote to you about the middle of this month. I was exceedingly uneasy at not hearing from you; but now I know the reason: the English have taken the first advice boats that were dispatched from Toulon; they were bringing me the first letters respecting all that is interesting to me on earth. Yes, your Julien Francois had but one concern, that for your dear letters; and those he is deprived of. ‘Tis a sacrifice that has cost me dear,--but I add it with pleasure to all those which I have previously made to procure a decent competence for my Julia, and my children.

Bonaparte took Cairo on the 22nd of this month: I expected it; and, indeed, nothing less than this event was necessary to enable us to support the state of privation, to which the interception of all communication by the Nile, has reduced us. We shall now be supplied with rice and corn; for the possession of Cairo will procure us provisions in abundance.

The questions now is, what the Grand Seignior will think of all this. And the English—will they keep the sea this winter? These are doubt, the solving of which is of the utmost importance to our existence in this remote country. Not that we are in want of articles of the first necessity in Egypt; but that a free communication by sea is of the highest consequence, in the situation in which we shall find ourselves a few months hence, when the Nile is low—but enough, when that period arrives, we shall see what the news from France will say.

I must inform you that I have read the public papers up to the 23d of June. Louis Bonaparte, who is detained here by sickness, has constantly procured me the Gazettes brought by our packets. I see with pain that in this favourable moment for a descent on Ireland(1), nothing is thought of it in France; but there are still three months proper for the attempt, and it may yet, perhaps, be made.

I am too much engaged in organizing the administration of the Lazaretto, and of the positions along the coast, to be able to compose an historical journal of what passes here for each of those whom I could wish to inform,--but I will tell you what has struck me on the subject. I will draw up this journal as succinctly as possible; I will then direct it, my love, to you; and you shall send it to the newspaper-writer Teinier.—This, however, I insist upon your doing, only when you yourself judge it not improper. It may sometimes happen that I shall be able to send you only a rapid sketch in a letter,--this you may report viva voce to our friends, for the letters of Julien Francois to his love out only to be seen by her who inspires them.

O my Julia! You are now once more on the point of renewing my title of father, and I am far from you,--pardon a thousand times, O pardon the absence of your fond friend, who cannot soothe your agonies in a moment so painful yet dear to you.—I know the heart of my Julia: if she suffers, yet she experiences a new sensation of happiness in giving her husband a new pledge of her love. Ah! If your prayers are this time heard, a sweet little Camilla will console you for the absence of her father. If it shall prove a boy, may the name of Tell recall the memory of that which we lost! I long to hear of your safe delivery, but I also long to hear if you have given me a Camilla. Kiss her a thousand times for her father.—But no more: my eyes suffused with tears of tenderness and delight, compel me to postpone the completion of my letter.

Noon, August 1st. Fourteen English vessels are this moment hove in sight. We make them to be twelve sail of the line, and two frigates: these last came within cannon shot of Alexandria, but on ascertaining that our fleet was not in the harbour, they stood off again immediately; and, with the rest of the ships, are now making with a press of sail for Aboukir,--a port about three leagues from this city, where the French fleet is at anchor, strongly moored, as they say here, and in a situation to give the English a good reception.

Five o’clock. We discern the English fleet very clearly with our glasses. It seems about to drop anchor at Aboukir, for the purpose of attacking us. Half after five—The cannonade begins, and about six, increases. Seven—It is now night, and the fire still increases. Half after seven—The whole horizon seems in flames; this shews that a ship is on fire. Eight—The cannonade slackens a little. Nine—The flames augment. A little after nine—The vessel blows up! How tremendously beautiful! A sky covered with fire!

Half after nine—The cannonade slacks, and a thousand sailors are dispatched to Aboukir by land. Ten—The moon rises on the right of the spot where the explosion took place. The French here are all under arms. We are assembled at the house of General Kleber, and on the terraces. Fresh detachments are hourly dispatched to Aboukir, to reinforce the crews of our ships.

Midnight—The firing, which has never totally ceased, recommences with redoubled fury. It is evident that the English are determined to sink or be sunk(2). We burn to know what has happened, but we shall be kept in suspense till nine in the morning.

Three o’clock—The firing increases in violence. It has now continued an hour. Six—The firing still increases, more sailors and cannoneers are sending off. It is now eight, and the firing is as brisk as ever.

Noon—An express is arrived from Aboukir. O fatal night! O fatal action for the honour of France! The fleet is destroyed. Of thirteen sail of the line, and four frigates, two only of each have made their escape. They are sailed for France, to carry you, I imagine, this dreadful news.

Here, however, I break off, my dear Julia, for the purpose of calming your apprehensions. The English, whom the stupidity of our marine contributes to raise more than their own exertions, have no prospect of success in attempting anything against us. The ports of Alexandria, flanked by batteries, and defended by nature, offer nothing but disgrace and death to an enemy who, I must again repeat it, are only formidable through the ignorance of our marine! Imagine our fleet in a position which allowed the English to fight them three or four to one! A piece of stupidity like this(3) could not escape an enemy who has made the sea his peculiar element.

It will appear very surprising to you, that at the moment of writing this (three days after the fatal affair) we should still be totally ignorant of the real state of the English vessels. Some say that four or five of them are lost, or, at least, incapable of keeping the sea; while others insist that they have but five or six in all, in a state of service,--but I am very apprehensive that they will return with more than they came,--and,I am sorry to observe, that this idea is gaining ground.

Such is this unfourtunate event: but let us have done with these melancholy details; and do you still console yourself with respect to the fate of our colony. We are here well intrenched, and have little to complain of but the want of intelligence from France. O Julia! how happy would it make me to receive a letter from you at least once a fortnight!

We are told that Bonaparte has left six thousand men at Cairo, where he has re-established the ancient government, which was subverted by the Mameloucs. You will allow that this is the way to procure us a powerful friend in the country.

We expect him here every day, for in consequence of our defeat, his presence for some time at Alexandria is indispensable. Many people are already speculating on the expedition to India; this appears to me, however, to be rather a distant object,--at any rate, you shall know our destination is my next.

The frigate which was going to France with dispatches from Marmont(4), in which he had sent for his wife, was taken, I hear. In that case, the departure of this charming woman will be delayed; and, to say the truth, I do not see much wisdom in sending for one’s wife, before things are a little better settled. This, however, is Marmont’s concern.—For you, Julia, be tranquil; the first moment your coming can be determined on with propriety, your husband will summon you to him with all the ardour of the most impassioned lover.

I am obliged to fold up my letter, for they tell me that a vessel is on the point of sailing for France. May it reach you in safety, Julia, with the kisses which I have imprinted on every line for you, and my children!

Ever yours,

B. Julien Francois

[British Translators' Notes]

(1)This expression strongly marks the restless nature of these people. Julien allows that the situation of the French army is extremely critical; nay, that its existence depends on contingencies,--yet, with want of every kind staring him in the face, with a prospect of a new enemy in the Grand Seignor, and with hatred and hostility kindling around him, his thoughts still turn on INVASIONS; and, in the very jaws of destruction himself, he is as anxious as ever to extend its ravages to a distant nation!

The calumniators of the councils, as well as of the arms of their country, will not do amiss in taking notice of this and other passages of a similar nature to be found in these letters. They will see in them the secret opinion of the French themselves (which, indeed, was fully justified by the event) on the ill conduct of their own affairs; and they will be convinced (though we do not expect them to acknowledge it) that all wisdom and all vigour are not the exclusive possession of an enemy, who forwards an expedition only in the intervals of private feuds, and sends it at last slowly prepared, and ill concerted, to open destruction.

(2)We know not how Julien will settle this matter with the Morning Chronicle.—‘What can the English do?” says that patriotic paper,--“they are so disgraced that it will require no efforts to disarm them: any puny whipster may get their swords”!!!

(3) Observe that this philippic on the the stupidity of his vanquished countrymen comes from the man who had said just before,--“Our fleet is at anchor strongly moored, and, as they say here, in A SITUATION TO GIVE THE ENGLISH A GOOD RECEPTION”

Such is the foresight impudently arrogated in defiance of a recorded opinion, a moment after the event had shewn that the fleet might be insulted with impunity! When shall we learn to distinguish the passionate starts of these people from sound politics, and prize their judgment at its true worth?

(4)Marmont is a young man of family and fortune. We do not know what posts he holds in the army, but as he is said to be a particular favourite of Bonaparte, it is probably an honourable and lucrative one. His wife, of whom Julien speaks just below, is a daughter of Perregaux the banker; we believe, an only one. They were married but a short time before the expedition took place.