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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 24

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A strong garrison was left in Malta, under general Vaubois, and, on the 16th, the fleet was again under sail. As they were off the coast of Candia, and the savans were gazing on the birth-place of Jupiter, and speculating on the existence of the remains of the celebrated labyrinth, Nelson, who had missed the French fleet, and had sailed in quest of it, was near enough to be perceived by some of the frigates on the look-out, and created a terrible panic. But Nelson, not having frigates to send out as scouts, did not observe them, and, suspecting that Egypt was their destination, lie made all sail for Alexandria. Finding no trace of them there, in his impatience, he returned towards Malta, lf he had but awaited a while, they would have come to him; but, on reaching Malta, and finding that they had taken and manned it, he again put about, and made for Alexandria. He had actually been seen by some of the French frigates as he was crossing their track on his return from Alexandria, and Napoleon was impatient to reach land before he could overtake them again. On the 1st of July the French fleet came in sight of Alexandria, and saw before them the city of the Ptolemies and Cleopatra, with its pharos and obelisks. Napoleon was in a trepidation to land; and a sail Coming in sight, which was supposed to be English, lie exclaimed, " What! I ask but six hours; and Fortune, wilt thou abandon me? " The vessel proved a friendly sail; but he was in such haste to land, that many men and boats were lost in the surf. The landing was effected at about a league and a half from Alexandria, at a place called Marabout.

Before disembarking, Buonaparte had a proclamation issued to the army, of which this was the commencement: - " Soldiers, you are going to undertake a conquest, the effects of which upon commerce and civilisation will be incalculable. You will give the English a most sensible blow, which will be followed by their destruction. We shall have some fatiguing marches, we shall fight several battles - we shall succeed in all our enterprises. The destinies are in our favour. The Mamelouc Beys - who favour the English commerce exclusively, who have injured our merchants, and who tyrannise over the unhappy inhabitants of the banks of the Nile - will not exist many days after our arrival. The people amongst whom you are going to live are Mahometans. The first article of their faith is - ' There is no God but God, and Mahomet is his prophet! ' Do not contradict them. Act with them as you did with the Jews and with the Italians. Treat their muftis and their imans with respect, as you did the rabbis and the bishops. You must act with the same spirit of toleration towards the ceremonies prescribed by the Koran as you did to the synagogues and the convents, to the religions of Moses and Jesus Christ. The Roman legions protected all religions. You will find here customs which differ from those of Europe; you must accustom yourselves to them."

As soon as five or six thousand of his troops were landed, Buonaparte commenced his march on Alexandria. The Turks manned the walls, and resisted furiously, incensed at this invasion by a power with which they were nominally at peace. But the walls were ruinous; the French forced their way over several breaches, and commenced an indiscriminate massacre. According to the account of one of their own officers, adjutant-general Boyer, in an intercepted letter, men, women, old and young, and children at the breast were all put to the sword. The place was abandoned to massacre and pillage for four hours. As the Mamelukes were hated by the Arabs and the Coplits, and were the military mercenaries of the country, chiefly recruited from Georgia and Circassia, Buonaparte determined to destroy them. He considered that he should thus rid himself of the only formidable power in Egypt, and, at the same time, conciliate the Bedouins and Fellahs. He therefore ordered prayers to be continued as usual in all the mosques, and that all true Moslems should exclaim, " Glory to the Sultan, and to the French army, his allies! Accursed be the Mamelukes, and good fortune to the land of Egypt! "

On the 7th of July he set out on his march for Cairo with his whole force. He marched up the bank of the Nile, but at such a distance as to prevent the soldiers getting any water to quench their burning thirst. A small flotilla of gun-boats ascended the river to protect their right flank. Their way was through deep and sultry sand, and both officers and soldiers began to curse the enterprise of which they could not comprehend the use. " It would be difficult," says Las Casas, " to describe the discontent, the melancholy, the despair of the army on its first arrival in Egypt. Even Murat and Lannes threw their hats on the sand, and trampled on their cockades." The men gazed on the desolation around them, and said, "Is this the country in which we are to receive our seven acres each? The general might have allowed us to take as much as we pleased; no one would have abused the privilege." They were greatly incensed against the savans, who were mounted on asses, and whom Buonaparte had ordered, on the appearance of the enemy, to be received within the squares of the battalions. " Let the savans and the asses be received within the squares," repeated the officers, sarcastically; and the men, who had got a notion that this expedition was solely to protect the savans in their inquiry after antiquities, called the asses " demisavans." It was all that Buonaparte could do to keep his troops in subordination. The Mamelukes added to their ill humour, for they appeared, ever and anon, from behind the hills of sand, and, with a velocity like lightning, cut off all stragglers, and galloped away again. Their flotilla was attacked on the river, and the armed vessels of the Mamelukes were not beaten off without considerable loss.

For fourteen days this melancholy march was continued, when they came at once in sight of the pyramids, at sis leagues from Cairo, and of the army of the Mamelukes, drawn up across their way, headed by Murad Bey and twenty-two other beys. This force consisted of five thousand cavalry - Mamelukes, mounted on the finest Arabian horses in the World, trained to obey the slightest touch of the rein, to advance, wheel, or fly with wonderful rapidity. The riders were all fine men, armed with sabres, pistols, and blunderbusses of the best English workmanship. They were deemed invincible, and were ruthlessly cruel. They presented in appearance the finest body of cavalry in the world, the plumes of their turbans waving in the air, and their arms glittering in the sun. There were, moreover, twenty thousand infantry lying in a slightly-entrenched camp on their right; but these were a mere rabble - Fellahs, or, in other words, peasantry, brought from their fields, and armed with matchlocks. They had forty pieces of cannon to defend the camp, but these had no carriages, being mounted on clumsy wooden frames.

Buonaparte drew up his army, so as to keep out of gun- shot of the camp, and to deal only with the cavalry first. He formed his troops into squares, to resist the onslaught of the cavalry; and, as he saw the Mamelukes come on, he called to his men, " From yonder pyramids, twenty centuries behold your actions!" The Mamelukes came thundering on like a whirlwind, and sending before them the most horrible yells. Murad Bey said he would cut up the French like gourds. One of the French squares was thrown into confusion, but it recovered itself, and the battle was instantly a scene of the most desperate fury. The Mamelukes fought like demons; but, finding that they could not break the French ranks, whilst they and their horses were mowed down by musketry and artillery, in despair they flung their pistols at their foes, backed their horses up to them to break them by kicking, and, finding all unavailing, fled. Such as were left wounded on the ground crept forward to cut at the legs of the French soldiers. Both cavalry and infantry then, by swimming their horses, or in boats, attempted to cross the Nile, but the greater part were drowned in the attempt. Murad Bey, with the residue of his Mamelukes, escaped into Upper Egypt. The French soldiers found a rich booty in despoiling the fallen Mamelukes, for every one of them carried his fortune on his person. They long after continued to fish for the drowned Mamelukes, sure of finding gold and valuables upon them.

To give to this action the more importance in the eyes of the world, Buonaparte called it the Battle of the Pyramids. He then marched to Cairo, which surrendered without opposition. Napoleon called together a council of about forty of the most distinguished sheiks, who were to continue the government of all Lower Egypt, as before his arrival. He professed to listen to their counsels, and, in fact, to be a Mahometan; he said he was not come to destroy the practice of the doctrines of the Koran, but to complete the mission of Mahomet; he celebrated the feast of the prophet, when it recurred, with some sheik of eminence, and joined in the litanies and worship enjoined by the Koran. He exclaimed to one of these sheiks, " Glory be to Allah; there is no god but God, and Mahomet is his prophet! " and he added, " I can command a car of fire to descend from heaven, and I can guide and direct its course on earth."

" Thou art the great chief to whom Mahomet gives power and victory," replied the Mufti; and Buonaparte thought that, by this hypocrisy, he was impressing a deep influence on the Moslems, but he was mistaken. They hate a renegade from his religion, be it what it may, and they estimated his acting at its true worth, with all their outward gravity.

But Nelson had now tracked the French to their goal, and was preparing to annihilate their fleet. Admiral Brueyes, unable to enter the harbour of Alexandria, had anchored his ships in the Bay of Aboukir, in a semicircular form, so close in shore that he deemed it impossible for ships of war to thrust themselves betwixt him and the land. He had altogether thirteen ships of war, including his own flagship of one hundred and twenty guns, three of eighty, and nine of seventy-four, flanked by four frigates and a number of gun-boats, with a battery of guns and mortars on an island in the van. Nelson had also thirteen men-of-war and one fifty-gun ship, but the French exceeded his by about forty-six guns, three thousand pounds weight of metal, and by considerably more tonnage, and nearly five thousand men.

No sooner did Nelson observe the position of the French fleet than he determined to push his ships between it and the shore. When this order was given, one of his officers said, "If we succeed, what will the world say? " "There is no if in the case," replied Nelson; " that we shall succeed is certain; who may live to tell the story is a very different question." No sooner was this plan settled than Nelson ordered dinner to be served; and, on rising from table, said, " Before this time to-morrow I shall have gained a peerage, or Westminster Abbey."

It was half-past five o'clock on the afternoon of the 1st of August, 1798, when this celebrated battle was commenced. As the English vessels rounded a shoal, to take up their position, the battery of the island played upon them; but this ceased as they came near the French line of vessels, lest they should damage their own countrymen. Unfortunately, Nelson lost the use of the Culloden, a seventy-four, commanded by captain Trowbridge, which struck on a ledge of rocks, and could not be got off in time for the engagement. Nelson's own vessel was the first that anchored within half pistol-shot of the Spartiate, the third ship of the French line. The conflict immediately became murderous, and Nelson received a severe wound on the head, which compelled him to go below. The battle continued with a terrible fury till it was so dark that the only light the combatants had to direct their operations was from the flashes of their own broadsides.

At ten o'clock the Orient, admiral Brueyes' own great ship, was discovered to be on fire. He himself had fallen, killed by a cannon-shot. The stupendous ship continued to burn furiously, lighting up the whole terrible scene of action. At eleven it blew up with an explosion, which shook the whole contending fleets like the shock of an earthquake, and with a stunning noise that caused the conflict instantly to cease. A profound silence and a pitchy darkness succeeded for about ten minutes. "The smoke," says Louis Buonaparte, describing this awful scene, " first rose from the vessel in a heavy mass, like a black balloon. It then brightened up, and exhibited the objects, of all descriptions, which had been precipitated on the scene of conflict. What a terrible moment of fear and desolation for the French, who witnessed this awful catastrophe! "

Nelson, wounded as he was, had rushed upon deck, before the explosion, to order every possible succour to be given to the shrieking sufferers in the burning ship, and many of the crew had been got into boats, and saved. The cannonade was slowly resumed; but, when morning dawned, two French ships and two frigates only had their colours flying, and were able to get away, none of the English vessels, except the Zealous, being in a condition to give chase. The two ships of the fine and one of the frigates were afterwards intercepted by our Mediterranean fleet, so that of all this fine fleet only one frigate escaped. Had Nelson not been wounded, and had captain Trowbridge been able to bring up his ship, probably not even that frigate would have got away. The English took eight vessels of the line; the rest were destroyed in one way or other. The loss of the English, in killed and wounded, was eight hundred and ninety-five; of the French, five thousand two hundred and twenty-five, and three thousand one hundred and five, including the wounded, were sent on shore by cartel. Captain Westcott, of the Majestic, was the only commander of a ship who fell. Such was the victory of Aboukir; but " victory," said Nelson, " is not a name strong enough for such a scene - it is a conquest! "

Fortunately for the French, admiral Brueyes had secured the transports and store-ships in shallow water, in the port of Alexandria, where Nelson could not come at them for want of small craft. Half-a-dozen bomb ships would have destroyed them all, and have left Buonaparte totally dependent on the Egyptians for supplies. And these he must have collected by force, for now the news of the destruction of his fleet was spread over all Egypt by bonfires, kindled by the Arabs, along the coast, and far inland. He was cut off from all communication with France. The Turks took heart; the sultan issued a manifesto, complaining of the French invading his province of Egypt in a time of profound peace, of pretended amity, and without one cause of dissatisfaction. He called on the pachas of Syria to collect their forces, in order to co-operate with the army collecting at Constantinople, for the recovery of Egypt. On the 22nd of October the people of Cairo rose on the French, and endeavoured to massacre them; but they took a bloody vengeance, sweeping them down with grape-shot, pursuing them into their very mosques, and slaughtering, in one day, five thousand of them. Buonaparte then put out a pompous proclamation, announcing himself as the Man of Destiny foretold in the koran; that he could tell their most secret thoughts, and resistance was vain. But he had made himself odious to the Moslems, and they believed not in his words; they believed only in his cannon, his musketry, and his assassins. He ordered the heads of the slain to be cut off, thrust into sacks, and then brought and roiled out before the people. For six days after tranquillity was restored, he wrote, in a letter to Regnier, that he had thirty men every night murdered in prison, including chiefs, their heads put into sacks, and thrown into the Nile!

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