Friday, March 7, 2008

French Further Isolated as Britain Signs Treaty with the Porte

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. 30-33.

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

Floreal 12.—We now vigorously attacked the breach, and carried it. About a hundred men had descended into the place; orders had been given that at the same time our troops that were in the breach-tower, should attack some of the enemy who had posted themselves on the ruins of a second tower which commanded the right of the breach. Orders had also been issued to fall upon the outer armed posts of the enemy. The enemy, as they came out from their outer armed posts, fled off in the ditch to the right and left, and commenced a fire of musquetry, which attacked the rear of the breach; some Turks who had not been dislodged from the second tower which commanded the right of the breach also began a fire of musquetry, which took us in flank. They threw down combustible materials, which struck confusion into those who were engaged in sealing the breach; the fire from the houses, the streets, the palace of Dgezzar, &c. &c. which came on the rear of those who descended from the breach into the town, produced a retrograde movement among some of those who had already got into the town, and who had succeeded in taking two pieces of cannon, and two mortars. Night now came on, and orders were given to retreat. General Rambeaud was killed in the place.

We learnt, as we returned to the camp, that Rear-Admiral Perree had taken, upon a cruize before Jaffa, two ships belonging to the Turkish fleet, on board of which were four hundred men, six pieces of field artillery, and a considerable quantity of harnesses, provisions, and 150,000 livres in specie, and the inspector of the Turkish fleet, who had given in an account of the forces embarked in the flotilla, and also a statement of the quantity of warlike armaments.

On the 21st, at two o’clock in the morning, Bonaparte advanced to the foot of the breach; the pioneers belonging to the divisions, the grenadiers of the 75th, and of the 19th, the carabineers of the 2d light infantry, were ordered to advance and to surprise the enemy. They arrived at the appointed spot, and put the outposts to the sword, but they discovered a series of internal entrenchments which stopped their progress.

In these assaults we lost about 500 men in killed and wounded. Adjutant General Fouler and the Chief of the 25th, Citizen Venoux, were killed, and General Bon was mortally wounded: the assistant Adjutant Netherwood and Montpatis, and Citizen Arrighy, my Aid-de-Camp, were severely wounded;--Adjutant Pinault was killed; and the assistant adjutant Genbault was mortally wounded; as also citizen Crosier, Aid-de-camp of the General in Chief. General Verdier commanded in these two affairs the grenadiers and the pioneers.

22—On the morning of the 22d, Bonaparte sent a flag of truce to Dgezzar, by a Turk who had been taken as a spy(with barbarians you cannot venture to follow the usages of civilized nations!). He was fired at, and the fire of the place continued. On the 24th the flag of truce was again sent in. He now got into the town; but they still continued their fire. There was no appearance of our receiving an answer: on the contrary, about six in the evening, on the signal of a cannonshot, the enemy came out from the right and left, but they were repulsed. Bonaparte beheld the object of his expedition accomplished. The army had traversed the Desert which separates Africa from Asia and had surmounted every obstacle with more firmness and perseverance than an army of Arabs. They had taken possession of all the fortresses which defend the wells of the Desert; they had dispersed, in the plains of Esdrelon and of Mount Tabor, an army of 28,000 horses assembled from all parts of Asia, in the hopes of plundering Egypt, thirty ships with a Turkish army destined to besiege the ports of Egypt, had been compelled to hasten to Acre, where that squadron closed its destiny. In fine, with about 10,000 men they succeeded in keeping up the war during three months, in the very heart of Syria; they took forty field pieces, killed or made prisoners of 7,000 men, carried away fifty stand of colours, opened the fortresses of Gaza, Jaffa, Caissa, Acre, destroyed the enemy that was marching to invade Egypt, took their field equipage, their camels, their General, &c. The season of embarking for Egypt called him thither imperiously; diseases of different kinds, were making a dreadful havoc in Syria; 700 men had already fallen victims to them; and by the accounts that came from Sour, we learnt that more than 60 men died daily in the fortresses of Acre from these distempers.

Bonaparte did not think advisable farther to prolong his stay before Acre, where a few days more would give him hope to take the Pacha himself in the midst of his palace. He imagined that, during that season, the capture of the fortress of Acre, would not compensate the loss of a few days, and of some brave men whom he might be obliged to leave there, and who would be absolutely necessary to him in more essential operations. All those who have carried on sieges against the Turks are well apprised that they all, even women and children, expose themselves to death, and defend to the last heap of stones that remains. They place no reliance in the good faith of capitulations, because they know of nothing else than murdering their enemies. Bonaparte decided upon raising the siege; but several days would be requisite for the removal of the sick and wounded. During that interval, he ordered all the batteries, both of cannon and mortars, to be directed against the palace of Dgezzar, and that all the siege ammunition should be expended in demolishing it, together with the fortifications, and other public buildings.

On the 27th, about half past two in the morning, the enemy made a sortie, but he was repulsed; at seven in the morning, he made another sortie on all points: He was again repulsed: the ground was every where strewd with their dead. We lost 60 men killed and wounded. General Verdiere commanded the attack on the trenches.

On the 28th, an English flag of truce advanced towards us, and brought back the Turks whom we had sent as a flag of truce to Dgezzar on the 2d. The flag of truce brought a letter from the English Commodore, the purport of which was to inform us, that at Dgezzar was under the protection of the English fleet, he could make no reply to us, but through the medium of the English Commodore. A packet was also brought to us, containing suppositious proclamations of the Porte, and certified by the signature—“Sidney Smith.”—These proclamations, charging us with violating the Rights of Nations, and forgetting treaties, were read by the whole army, who returned no other answer to them, but that contempt with which a dastardly action inspires true honor. The English Admiral informed us that a treaty was agreed upon between England and the Porte—signed the 5th of January, 1799. The English canoe, and the officer, were sent back without any answer. The fire was continued on both sides.


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