Friday, February 22, 2008

French Operations Continue in Syria

From: An Account of the French Expedition in Egypt; Written by Bonaparte and Berthier; with Sir William Sidney Smith’s Letters. With an English translation (London, Edward Baines, 1800.), pp. 25-28.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 16, 2008

French Campaign in Syria Continues

From: An Account of the French Expedition in Egypt; Written by Bonaparte and Berthier; with Sir William Sidney Smith’s Letters. With an English translation (London, Edward Baines, 1800.), pp. 23-25.

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

On the 9th, a Turkish frigate moored in the road of Caissa. The Turkish vessel being ignorant of our arrival, sent her boat ashore, with her Lieutenant and 20 men. On their landing the French surrounded, made them prisoners, and took possession of their boat. On the 10th, the enemy made a sally, but was repulsed with a considerable loss. Destroyes, the Chief of a brigade of artillery, was killed. Dgezzar had sent his emissaries to Aleppo, to Damas, to Said, and to the Naplousians, with a considerable sum of money, for the purpose of raising in a mass all the Mussulmen, who were capable of carrying arms. He said in his sermons, that they were to fight with the infidels; that we were only a handful of men, unprovided with artillery; and that as he was sustained by a powerful English force, they had only to appear in order to exterminate us. We learned through the Christians, that a body of troops was accordingly formed at Damas, and that a large supply of provisions was collected in the fortress of Sabarie, occupied by the Maugrebins. Dgezzar expected every moment to see this force from Damas make its appearance, and this it was which encouraged him to make such frequent sorties.

On the 12th, our besieging artillery was not arrived; we learned, on the contrary, that three vessels of our fleet, which sailed from Damietta, laden with ammunition and provisions had missed their way, and fallen in, during a fog, with the English, by whom they were captured. The rest arrived safely at Jaffa. As some of our besieging artillery was on board the captured vessels, Bonaparte sent orders to Rear-Admiral Perree, and to Damietta, to replace them. The same day we again battered in breach, and blew up a small part of the counterscarp. Bonaparte gave orders that we should try to make a lodgment in the tower of the breach but in this we were unsuccessful.

General Vial set out at break of day on the 14th Germinal at the head of 4000 men, in order to take possession of Sous, the ancient Tyre. He reached it after a march of eleven hours. The road was impracticable for artillery on the way to Cape Blanc; on the top of a mountain appear the remains of a castle, built by mutualis an hundred years ago, and since destroyed by Dgezzar. After having passed Capre Blanc, we discovered, on entering on a plain, the vestiges of an ancient fortress, and the ruins of two temples. General Vial tranquillized the alarms of the inhabitants of Sous, who fled at his approach. They returned to the town; Turks and Christians met with equal protection; he placed a Garrison in the town of Mutualis. The population of Sous amounts to 1500 souls. The town is enclosed with a wall without any entrenchments. The walls are in some measure raised upon the stocks of antique pillars. General Vial returned to the camp under Acre with his detachment on the 16th Germinal. The English Commodore observed the troops of the Dgezzar to have been repulsed in a variety of sorties. He concerted a fresh sortie, in concert with the French emigrant Phelippeaux. On the 18th, the enemy, at break of day, came on with any attack against our left and our centre; each column was headed by naval troops belonging to English ships, and their colours were seen waving in conjunction with those of Dgezzar, and the batteries were all manned by English troops. The enemy made an attempt to surprise our advanced posts, but their design was seen through: we received them with a brisk fire from our parallels, and all that attempted to appear against us were either killed or wounded. The enemy ultimately retired without gaining an inch towards destroying our works. The central column acted with more obstinacy—their object was to penetrate to the entrance of our mine; they were commanded by Captain Thomas Oldfield; he advanced boldly towards the entrance of the mine, at the head of some of his intrepid countrymen; they attacked like heroes, and were received by heroes; death only checked their bold career; the approaches of our parallels remained covered with the dead bodies of English and of Turks. The corpse of Captain Thomas Oldfield was carried off by our grenadiers; they brought him to our headquarters; he was at the point of death, and soon after his arrival was no more.

Some deserters who escaped from shore informed us, that English gunners were actually serving in the batteries, and that the English Commodore had with him a French officer of artillery, named Phelippeaux. The deserters told us, that the French who were either killed or wounded in the different assaults, had been, according to the atrocious and barbarous custom of the East, mutilated by the Turks, who cut off their heads, in order to convert them into trophies. Some days after the assault of the 8th, a quantity of bags were perceived on shore: our soldiers opened them, and oh, horror! They found the bodies of our unfortunate men, tied in pairs, enclosed in the stacks, and thrown into the sea by order of the Dgezzar, and the English Flag floated on the ramparts alongside of that of the Dgezzar, at the moment when 400 men had been thus cowardly assassinated.

The Commandant of the Castle of Sasset informed us that some troops had passed the Bridge of Jacob, on the Jordan. The advanced posts of Nazareth also intimated that another column had passed the Bridge of Gizel Micanie, and had advanced to Tabarie: that the Arabs had shewn themselves in the openings of the mountains of Naplouse, and that Tabaire and Genin of brigade, Junot, had been sent to Nazareth to observe the enemy: he learned that they had already thrown themselves in the village of Loubi.

On the 19th Germinal, General Junot having been informed that the enemy was assembling in considerable numbers on the heights of Loubl, for leagues from Nazareth, in the direction of Tabarie, he began his march at the head of the 2d light infantry, and three companies of grenadiers on the 19th, forming about 300 men, together with a detachment of 160 horse, belonging to different corps; with these he proceeded to reconnoiter the enemy. He descried them at a small distance from Kascana, on the top of the heights of Loubl; he pursued his march, turned the mountain, and found himself surrounded by 4,000 horsemen, the most intrepid of whom poured down upon his corps; he had only time to attend upon circumstances, and he fought with a courage and coolness that did equal honour to the Commander and the soldiers: the enemy left five stand of colours among the troops. While the battle raged, General Junot gradually gained the heights, as far as Nazareth; he was followed as far as Kastcana, about two leagues from the field of battle. The enemy lost together with their five standards, about 5 or 600 men; we had 60 men killed or wounded. The Chief of Brigade, Duvivier, distinguished himself as usual. General Kleber, in consequence of the news of the battle of Loubi, received orders to set out from the camp at Acre with the remainder of the advanced guard, in order to join General Junot at Nazareth. Scarcely had he reached the heights of Sed Jarra a quarter of a league from the heights of Loubi, when the enemy, pouring down form these heights debouched into the plain, surrounded General Kleber with nearly 4,000 horse, and 4 or 600 foot, and prepared to charge him. This the General anticipated, by attacking at the same time the cavalry and the village of Sed Jarra, which he carried. The enemy retreated. The troops then returned to the position of Nazareth. Sed Jarra is situated at the distance of a league and a half from Cana. After the affair of Sed Jarra, the enemy fell back, partly on Tabaire, partly on the bridge of Giz-el-Makanie, and partly upon Baizard. This latter place, on the borders of the Jordan, soon became their principal rallying point, form whence, on the 25th, the whole of the hostile army moved into the plain. There they formed a junction with the Samaritans, or Naplousians. General Kleber informed General Bonaparte that the enemy’s forces amounted to 15 or 18,000 men, and that they were expected to be from 40 to 50,000 strong by the inhabitants of the country. He likewise informed him that he was on his march to attack them. Bonaparte learned at the same time from the Commandant of Sasset, that on the 24th the enemy advanced, and laid waste its neighbourhood; that he himself retired into the fortress which the enemy afterwards attacked; that they attempted to scale the walls, but that they were repulsed with considerable loss; that he however found himself blocked up with little provisions and but little ammunition. Citizen Simon, Captain Commandant of the fortress, distinguished himself much. Citizen Tedesco, of the Administration, the only Frenchman who had a horse, offered to go to reconnoiter the enemy, and was killed. Bonaparte was of opinion, that a decisive battle should be fought with a multitude, who only came to action when they killed it, and by whom he was harassed with the advantage of superior numbers. He was sensible of the inconveniences of attempting an engagement near his position before Acre; he therefore gave orders for making every necessary disposition to attack the enemy on all points, and to force them to repass the Jordan, (we arrived from Damas by passing the Jordan to the right of the lake of Tabarie, by the bridge of Jacob, three leagues from which is situated the castle of Saffet, and on the left of the lake by the bridge of Giz-el-Makanie, a short distance from the short distance form the fort of Tabarie.) These two fortresses are to the right of the Jordan.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The French Army Besieges Acre

From: An Account of the French Expedition in Egypt; Written by Bonaparte and Berthier; with Sir William Sidney Smith’s Letters. With an English translation (London, Edward Baines, 1800.), pp. 20-23.

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

The army began its march against Acre on the 26th Ventose; the army arrived very late on the mouth of the little river of Acre, which is at the distance of about 1500 fathoms from the fortress. The night was employed in constructing a bridge; the 27th, at break of day, the whole army passed over. On the 28th the Commander in Chief ascended an eminence, that commands St. Jean d’Acre at the distance of 1000 fathom; he ordered to attack the enemy, who were drawn up in the garden that environed the town, and compelled them to retire within the fortress. The army was encamped upon an insulated eminence, that runs near to, and parallel with the sea, and which extends as far as Cape Blanc, about a league and a half to the northward, commanding to the east a plain, about a league and three quarters in length, terminated by the mountains that lie between Acre and the Jordan. On the 29th Generals Dommartin and Cassareli went out to reconnoiter the fortress. It was resolved to attack the front of the angle at the eastward of the town. The chief of Brigade, Samson, was wounded in the hand by a ball, which passed through it. No intelligence had yet arrived of the siege artillery that was sent by sea. The works of the breaching batteries, and of the counter batteries, were commenced. The commander of the English squadron was well informed that there was a great quantity of provisions at Caissa; he resolved upon seizing them, and also upon carrying off some small vessels that had arrived from Jaffa with provisions for us, Bonaparte had provisionally entrusted the command of Caissa to the Chief of Squadron, Lambert, a distinguished officer. We heard a heavy cannonade on the 2d Germinal from the camp at Acre, on the side of Caissa. We were soon informed that several English sloops of war, armed with cannonades of 32, had arrived, attacked Caissa, and had advanced against our ships, with a design to take possession of them; that the Chief of Squadron, Lambert, had given orders to permit the English to approach, without displaying any movement or measure of defense; that he had also concealed a howtizer; that he placed in ambuscade about sixty men, who composed his garrison; that at the moment the enemy were on the point of landing, he took occasion to fall upon them, attacked them with a sharp fire of musquetry; that he had boarded and taken one of the sloops, and an artillery piece of 32, and made prisoners seventeen English; that he had discharged his howitzer against the other sloops, which took to flight, having almost the whole of their crews killed or wounded, amongst whom were two officers.

The English Commodore relinquished his designs against Caissa. He came and cast anchor before Acre. On the 5th the works of the siege were pushed on with activity. The enemy made a fortie, on the 6th in which they were repulsed with loss. On the 8th, the breaching and the counter batteries were finished. About three in the evening a breach was made; a mine was branched out to blow up in the counterscarp. The mine exploded, and we imagined the effect complete. The impatience of the troops determined upon the assault. The grenadiers sprung forward; but they soon found themselves arrested in their progress by a trench of 15 feet, well provided with a counterscarp. This obstacle did not damp their ardor. They proceeded to place their ladders; the grenadiers descended, but the breach was still from eight to ten feet above the ruins: some ladders were placed to it. Mailly, the Assistant Adjutant-General, ascended the first; he climbed the breach, and was killed. The fire from the fortress was tremendous; the counterscarp checked the progress, and compelled the grenadiers to retreat, who advanced the first’ the Adjutants General Lescalles and Laugnier were killed. An emotion of fear had seized the enemy—they fled towards the harbour, but were soon fought back to the breach, where the bravest of Dgezzar’s troops were engaged. The height of the breach above the ruins prevented our grenadiers from ascending it, which afforded the enemy sufficient time to return to the top of the tower, form whence they threw down stones, discharged grenades, and poured down combustible materials. The division of grenadiers, nor being able to pass through it, were obliged to take shelter under our trenches. Six men were killed, and twenty wounded. The eagerness to begin the assault, made our men take for certain that the mine had blown up the counterscarp, while it only pierced a tunnel into the glacis.

Monday, February 4, 2008

French Armies Arrive in Palestine

From: An Account of the French Expedition in Egypt; Written by Bonaparte and Berthier; with Sir William Sidney Smith’s Letters. With an English translation (London, Edward Baines, 1800.), pp. 17-20.

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

On the 6th Ventose, the head quarters of the army marched to Kan Jounesse, the first village of Palestine, when you get out of the Desert. Gen. Regnier’s division had orders to remain at El-Arisch till dispositions were made for putting the fortress in a state of defense, and the park of artillery in motion. About a league and a half distance from Kan Jounesse, we discovered [opposite] a road a few columns of granite, and some fragments of marble dispersed here and there, which betokened the remains of an ancient monument, as well, bearing the name of which, is to be found in that neighborhood. Abdalla Pacha, and the Mamelukes who had encamped in the front of Kan Jounesse, informed of the approach of our army, raised their camp during the night of the 6th, and fell back upon Gaza.

On the 7th, the army marched against Gaza; at the distance of two leagues from the fortress, we perceived upon the heights a body of cavalry of the enemy. Bonaparte formed his three divisions each into a square body; that of Kleber was ordered to march against Gaza; General Bon’s division moved against the centre; that of General Lannes was to occupy the heights on our right, in order to turn those that were possessed by the enemy’s cavalry. The enemy made several movements, and seemed undecided. They at length put themselves in motion to advance toward us; they, however, made immediately a retrograde movement; we marched against them with fixed bayonets, upon which they withdrew. Kleber’s division cut off and killed several of their riflemen; our cavalry also maneuvered to entice an attack, but they could not succeed in engaging the hostile cavalry, who disappeared altogether in the evening. The head-Quarters were established at Gaza, and the army took its position upon the heights.

Gaza has a circular fort, in good condition, forming in the interior a pentagon of about [240 feet] in diameter. It contained 15,000 lbs of powder, several cannon, a quantity of carcasses, carriages, with a large store of warlike provisions. In the town were also found about 100,000 rations of biscuit, with rice, tobacco, tents, and a large quantity of barley. The inhabitants had sent Commissioners to meet Bonaparte, and were therefore treated as friends.

8, & 9—The Commander in Chief passed those days in organizing the place and the country, both in a civil and military point of view. A Divan was formed of the principal Turks inhabiting the town. The provisions and ammunition found here, were more acceptable, as the supplies which were to have been sent after us from Cathick were greatly delayed, from the difficulty of conveyance across the Desert.

10.—The main body of the army began to advance toward Jaffa, where the enemy were collecting their forces, for the purpose of making a stand. We encamped on the 11th at Esdodes, and on the 12th at Ramlay, a town inhabited for the greater part by Christians. We there found some magazines and biscuit, which the enemy had not time to remove. We also found some at the village of Ledda. On the 13th, the division under General Kleber, which formed the advanced guard, marched to Jaffa. The enemy, on his arrival, entered the body of the place, and cannonaded his division, whilst it took its position. Bonaparte, and the other bodies of the army, arriving in succession, Kleber’s division and the cavalry were ordered to advance to the banks of Lahoya, about two leagues on the way to Acre, for the purpose of covering the siege of Jaffa, which is enclosed by a wall, and flanked by towers provided with cannon. Towards the sea are two fort, which defended the harbor and the road. The place appeared well provided with means of defense.

15.—In the preceding night the trenches were opened, and exertions were used to open a battery in breach against the most commanding of the square towers, and two counter batteries. Another battery was also erected to the north of the place, to make a diversion by a false attack.

16.—This, as well as the preceding day, was employed in completing our works. The enemy attempted two sallies, but were driven back with considerable loss. The batteries then opened their fire, and at four o’clock in the evening, a breach was made, which appeared to be practicable. An assault was ordered; the light carabineers, and the 22d brigade were the first to advance. They had with them the workmen of the engineers, and of the artillery: the chief of the brigade was killed. Our brave fellows flew to the breach, and ascended it in spite of a flanking fire, which we could not by any means subdue. We made a lodgment in the square tower, and hoisted our flag. The enemy made every effort to attack the repulse our troops; but there being supported by the division of General Lanos, and by our artillery, which fired grape-shot into the town, following the progress made by our troops, advanced from roof to roof, and from street to street, until they took and hoisted our flag on the fort. They at length reached the harbour, and terror seized on the garrison, the greater part of which was put to the sword. About 300 Egyptians, who escaped from the assault, were sent to Egypt, and restored to their families. We lost about thirty men killed in the breach and in the town, and had also several wounded.

The garrison was composed of about 1,200 Turkish gunners, about 2,500 Maugrabins, or Arnauts, and some Egyptians. We found in the place ten pieces of cannon, and 16 lb howitzers for the field equipage, sent by the Grand Seignior to the Dgezzar Pacha, and twenty bad brass and iron pieces, which were placed on the ramparts. 17th.—Bonaparte being master of all the forts, ordered that the inhabitants should be spared, and General Robin took the command of the place. He succeeded in extinguishing the disorders which naturally follow an assault. The inhabitants were protected, and immediately returned to their own habitations. In the harbor we found fifteen small trading vessels. Bonaparte formed a Divan, consisting of the most distinguished Turks in the place; he took measures for reporting it to a state of defense, and also established a hospital. Jaffa was to the army a place of the highest importance, as it became the depot of every thing that was to be sent to us from Alexandria and Damietta.

25.—Kleber’s division was encamped at Miski, where it had covered the siege of Jaffa. On the 24th, the divisions of Bon and Lasne departed from Jaffa, and encamped at Miski. The army then marched onward to Zeta. At noon the advanced guard discovered a body of the enemy’s cavalry. Abdallah Pacha, with about 1000 horse, was on the heights of Korsum, on his left was a body of 50,000 Naplousians, who occupied the mountaints. The divisions of Kleber and Bon, with our horse, advanced against the enemy’s cavalry: but the latter, by several maneuvers, avoided an engagement. The division of Lasne was ordered to march forward to the right, in order to cut off Abdallah Pacha from the Naplousians, and to disconcert his plan, by forcing him to retreat either to Acre or to Damas. Borne away by its ardor, this division advanced amongst the mountains, and attacked the Naplousians, who took to flight, and were pursued too far by our light infantry. It fell back, after repeated orders; but the Naplousians, looking on this movement as a retreat, pursued our infantry, firing on them from the rocks, by which means they wounded about thirty men and killed Citizn Barthelemy, chief of the 69th demi-brigade. They were checked, however, at the opening into the mountain. This affair cost the Naplousians more than 200 men killed and wounded. Our army was under arms all night, near the tower of Zetta, about one league from Korsum—We encamped on the 26th at Saburieu, near the opening of the defiles of Mount Carmel, on the plan of Acre. General Kleber marched upon Caissa, which the enemy abandoned on our approach. We there found 20,000 rations of biscuit, and as many of rice.

A squadron, consisting of two English ships of the line, a frigate, and two advice boats, were moored in the road of Caissa. The port of Caissa would have been of great use to us, if the fort had been armed, but the enemy had removed with his troops, all the artillery, and ammunition. We took possession of the magazines, and left a garrison in the castle.

Caissa is enclosed by strong walls, flanked with towers. A castle defends the port and the road. A tower, with embrasures, commands the town, at the distance of 150 toises, but is itself commanded by the heights of Mount Carmel. The place is not tenable against artillery.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Berthier Describes Actions in the Syrian Campaign

From: An Account of the French Expedition in Egypt; Written by Bonaparte and Berthier; with Sir William Sidney Smith’s Letters. With an English translation (London, Edward Baines, 1800.), pp. 14-17

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

The 19th demi-brigade, the 3d battalion of the demi-brigade belonging to the Syrian Expedition, the Nautic legion, the depots of the cavalry corps, the Maltese legion, have again been sent to garrison Alexandria, Damietta, and Cairo; and, in order to form moveable columns, destined to keep in obedience the provinces of Lower Egypt, and to protect them against the Arabs, General Dessaix, as has been reported, occupied, with his division, Lower Egypt. The command of the province of Cairo was confined to General Dugua. The others are entrusted to the hands of Generals Beillard, Lanusse, Zayonschek, Fugieres, Leclerc, and to the Adjutant-General Almeyrus. Citizen Poussielgue, Chief Administrator of Finance, remains at Cairo. The paymaster-General of the Army, Esteve, a young man of distinction, is attached to the Expedition. The command of Alexandria was a very important trust, and was conferred upon Marmont, General of Brigade. Bonaparte gave orders to the Adjutant Almeyrus, to whom he confided the command of Damietta to carry on with all possible activity the fortifications that were to defend it. He ordered him to embark provisions and ammunition for the army of Syria, by taking advantage of the navigation of the Lake Menzale, and of the port of Tinch, from whence they should be conveyed to the magazines established at Cathich, at a distance of about five day’s march. He ordered artillery siege pieces to be embarked from Alexandria. Boldness and pertinacity often lead to victory. Bonaparte thought he should bid defiance to the English cruisers. The ships with the artillery failed. There were some frigates at Alexandria: Bonaparte ordered Read-Admiral Perree to set sail during the night with the Juno, Courageuse, and the Alceste, to cruise off Jaffa, and to keep up a communication with the army. He calculated that they should arrive at their destination within a given time. It was necessary to risk this expedient for conveying some siege pieces, in the supposition that the fortress of Acre should oppose an obstinate resistance. Besides, no accurate information had been obtained of the strength of that fortress. The obstacles to be encountered in the passage of the Desert did not admit of artillery being transported by land.—Prompt and extraordinary measures were taken at Cairo to collect together the necessary number of camels and mules for the carrying of every thing requisite for the passage of an army through the Desert; artillery, provisions, water, &c.

The gun-boats had been constructed at Bonlac, and brought to Damietta, to take possession of the navigation of the Lake Menzale. General Kleber received orders to embark with his division for the port of Tinch, by way of the Lake of Menzale, and from thence to Cathich, where he was to arrive on the [4th February]. General Regnier, who set out with the Staff from Belbeis, on the 4th Pluviose, on his way to Salehich, had again left that place on the 14th, in order to be at Cathich on the 16th of the same month, where he formed a junction with his advanced guard. He left Cathich on the 18th, and arrived before El-Arisch the 21st Pioviose. Near 2000 of the troops of the Pacha of Acre occupied El-Arisch and the fortress. On the 8th of February, General Lagrange; with two battalions of the 15th, one of the 75th, and two pieces of cannon, formed the advanced guard of General Regnier. On the 8th of February, when approaching the Fountains of Messondiat, he perceived a party of Mamelukes, who were dispersed by his rangers. He arrived in the evening at a grove of palm-trees, in the neighborhood of the sea, and before El-Arisch. On the 21st, he advanced with his column on the left of the village of El-Arisch, while general Regnier proceeded on the right. Pluviose 21st, General Legrange advanced with rapidity over the sand-hills, which command El-Arisch, where he took a position, and planted his artillery. He caused the charge to be beat, when the advanced guard threw themselves with rapidity from the right and left on the village, which he attacked in front. The enemy occupied the village, which stands in the form of an amphitheater; it consists of stone houses, with battlements on the top, and is protected by a front. Notwithstanding the most obstinate resistance, and a violent fire, the village was carried by the bayonet. The enemy retired into the fort, but with such precipitation, that in shutting the gates they excluded about 200 men, who were killed or taken prisoners. General Regnier the same evening blockaded the fort of El-Arisch, and this reinforcement continually increased till the 25th, when the enemy, emboldened by their superiority in cavalry, encamped within half a league of El-Arisch, on a plain covered by a very steep ravine, where they considered themselves as safe from an attack.

On the 25th Pluviose, General Regnier acquainted General Kleber with his project of surprising the enemy in their camp at El-Arisch, during the night, which was approved by General Kleber. During the night betwixt the 26th and 27th, a part of Regnier’s division turned the ravine which covered the camp of the Mamelukes, killed of made prisoners such as could not escape by flight, and took a great number of horses and camels, together with a large quantity of provisions, ammunition, &c. Two Beys, and some Califfs were killed on the field. The Commander in Chief had left Cairo on the 22d Pluviose, with his Staff, in order to pass that night at Balbeis, the 26th at Cathich. On the 28th he was to sleep at Messondiat, and the 29th at El-Arisch, where at the same time were to unite the park of artillery, the division of General Bon, and that of General Lannes. General Regnier had ordered a few cannon shot to be fired against the fortress, and had already begun to advance his line of attack; but not being furnished with a sufficient quantity of ammunition to batter it in breach, he summoned the commander of the fort, and closed in the blockade; he had also advanced a mine under one of the towers, which however was countermined by the enemy. On the 30th, Bonaparte ordered one of the towers of the castle to be cannonaded; the breach being opened, he summoned the place to surrender. The garrison was composed of Arnautes and Maugrabins, all rude barbarians, without leaders, unacquainted with any of the principles of war acknowledged by civilized nations. Their answer was, that they were willing to come out with their arms and baggage, as it was their wish to go to Acre. Bonaparte was anxious to spare the effusion of his soldier’s blood; he delayed the assault. At length on the 2d Ventose, the garrison, consisting of 1600 men, surrendered, on condition of being permitted to retire to Baydal, by the Desert. Some of the Maugrabins entered into the French service. We found in the fortress about 250 horses, two dismounted pieces of artillery, and several days provisions. On the 3d, the standards and the Mamelukes prisoners, were sent off to Cairo. General Kleber had set out with his division, and the cavalry, from El-Arisch. On the 4th he was to advance towards Kan Jounesse. The head-quarters removed from El-Arisch on the 5th, and arrived on the heights of Kan Jounesse without receiving any intelligence of General Kleber’s division. The Commander in Chief sent forward some of his escort to a village where the French had not as yet been. The Mamelukes who were in it took to flight, and withdrew to the camp of Abdalla Pacha, whom we decried about a league beyond Kan Jounesse, on the roads to Gaza. Bonaparte, having only a picket for his escort, and convinced that Kleber’s division must have gone astray, fell back upon Santon, three leagues behind Kan Jounesse, in the Desert. On our arrival at Santon, we there found the advanced guard of our cavalry. The guides had led General Kleber astray in the Desert: but he stopped some arabs, who put him into his road, for he had been a whole day out of it. He arrived on the 6th, at eight o’clock in the morning, after a most fatiguing march of 48 hours, during which he was without water. The division of Bon and Lannes, who had followed his steps, were also led astray for some time. The re-union of the three divisions, and the cavalry, which, according to orders, was to have moved on successively, being all arrived at Santon, soon exhausted the wells. We dug very laboriously to procure water, which we obtained, but in very small quantities, insufficient for our wants.