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The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 4

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On the 20th of February Sir John Duckworth came to anchor off the Prince's Island, opposite to Constantinople, and at about ten miles distance. Now was the time to have Struck an effectual terror by demanding the immediate dismissal of the French; and to have commenced storming the town unless the demand was at once complied with. This would certainly have been Sir Sidney Smith's mode of proceeding, and it would certainly have succeeded. The whole population was in a panic, expecting every moment the commencement of the bombardment; and the sultan sent Ismail Bey to request Sebastiani and his suite to quit Constantinople without delay. But Sebastiani replied that there was no cause of alarm from the English, he was perfectly indifferent to their presence; and that, as he was under the protection of the Porte, he should not quit Constantinople without an express order from the sultan. Had Sir Sidney Smith been in command, Sebastiani would soon have received this order, for he would have quickened the sultan's movements by some shot and shells sent into his seraglio; but Duckworth was made of much more phlemagtic stuff. The wind on the 21st was fair, and the whole fleet expected the order to put across and commence bombarding the city. Instead of that, however, Sir John sent a fresh message and menace. As this received no answer, and yet was followed by no prompt action, the Turks at once took heart, went on fortifying and planting batteries, and continued to amuse Sir John from day to day with hopes of treating, employing the time only to make their defences, under the supervision of Sebastiani and the French engineers, the more perfect. It is almost impossible to imagine a British admiral so besotted as to continue this course for ten days; yet this was precisely what Sir John Duckworth did. By this time every possible point of defence had its batteries, soldiers had poured into Constantinople, and every male inhabitant was armed, and foaming with fury at the English. On the 27tli the Turks had grown so bold as to land on the Isle of Proti, within cannon-shot of Sir John's anchorage, and began erecting a battery to play upon his ships. He did take the trouble to dislodge them with a few shells, but seems to have taken no measures for capturing this detachment, as he readily might have done. Sebastiani and his Frenchmen were in a state of triumph. They assured the sultan that Napoleon would relieve Turkey of all fears from Russia, by marching to Petersburg and compelling the czar to accept his own terms. The Spanish ambassador seconded these representations zealously, and persuaded the sultan that his true policy was to break with the English, who had thus insulted him in his capital, and make alliance with victorious France. It was clear that Sir John Duckworth had made a total failure of the expedition; he had talked and written when he should have acted, and it was now hopeless to attempt anything against the place. He had exasperated the Turks, raised the French wonderfully in their opinion, and there was nothing for it but to draw off. There were now not less than twelve hundred cannon placed ready to reply to any hostilities from the fleet. Strong bastions and parapets had been erected on both sides of the port, and at the Asiatic suburb of Scutari. The Maidens' Tower, between the point of Scutari and the seraglio point, was mounted with immense guns, and provided with a furnace for throwing red-hot shot into the fleet.

On the morning of the 1st of March, Sir John weighed anchor to return from his ignominious, abortive mission. The wind was fair for him, but his return was now not so easy a matter. Whilst he had been wasting his time before Constantinople, Turkish engineers, who had studied under the French, had been sent down to the Dardanelles with two hundred well-trained cannoneers. Numbers of troops had been collected on each side of the straits, and the batteries were supplied with enormous cannons, capable of carrying granite balls of seven or eight hundred pounds' weight. Sir John made a bravado of his force, by sailing the fleet to and fro during the day before Constantinople - a manœuvre particularly ridiculous, as he had done nothing at ail with his ships. Towards nightfall he dropped down towards the straits, and the next day cast anchor before passing the Castles and batteries, that he might sail through the straits by daylight, when the enemy could best see him. The navigation was perfectly safe by night, and then he probably might have passed without any damage whatever; but Sir John seems to have had a singular notion of doing the whole of this business. On the morning of the 3rd he accordingly sailed through the straits, and was sharply assailed by the cannon of the forts and batteries, the stone shot doing some of his ships great damage, and the loss of men being twenty-nine killed and a hundred and forty wounded. When he came to an anchorage betwixt the isles of Tenedos and the plains of Troy, he was joined by Siniavin, the Russian admiral, who is said to have proposed to him that they should return unitedly to Constantinople, and compel the Turks to dismiss the French, but Sir John said that it was useless, for, where a British fleet had failed, no other would succeed.

This disgraceful failure appeared to excite little interest at home. It was not till May, 1808, that colonel Wood, in the house of commons, moved for the production of the log of the Royal George, Duckworth's flag-ship; it was refused. A few days afterwards, on the 20th of May, Mr. M. A. Taylor moved a vote of censure on the late ministry, who planned the expedition, for not having sent out a sufficient fleet; but, in truth, the fleet was strong enough - it was the commander who was weak. Taylor contended that lord Collingwood ought to have been allowed to name the commander, and not the ministers. Windham defended the late ministers, and Canning seemed so little to desire to bring blame on the late administration, that he got rid of the motion by moving the order of the day, and Sir John was well content to let the matter pass away without demanding a court-martial to clear his honour.

But, before this date, Sir John had been sent to assist in a still more abortive enterprise. There was a rumour that Buonaparte had promised the Grand Turk to aid him in recovering the provinces which Russia had left from Turkey on the Danube, in the Crimea, and around the Black Sea, on condition that Egypt was given up to him. To prevent this, an expedition was fitted out to seize on that country. Between four and five thousand men were sent from our army in Sicily, under major-general Mackenzie Frazer. They embarked on the 5th of May, and anchored off Alexandria on the 16th. The following morning general Frazer summoned the town and fortresses to surrender, but the governor of Mehemet Ali replied that he would defend the place to the last man. On that day and the following, a thousand soldiers and about sixty sailors were landed, and, moving for ward, carried the advanced works with trifling loss. Some of the transports which had parted Company on the voyage now arrived, the rest of the troops were landed; and, having secured the Castle of Aboukir, Frazer marched on Alexandria, taking the forts of Caffarelli and Cretin on the way. On the 22nd, Sir John Duckworth arrived with his squadron; the English army expected to hear that he had taken Constantinople, and his ill news created a just gloom amongst both officers and men. The people of Alexandria appeared friendly; but the place was, or seemed to be, destitute of provisions; and the transports had been so badly supplied that the men were nearly starved before they got there. The Alexandrians assured General Frazer that, in order to obtain provisions, he must take possession of Rosetta and Rhamanieh. Frazer, therefore, with the concurrence of Sir John Duckworth, dispatched major-general Wauchope and brigadier-general Mead to Rosetta, with one thousand two hundred men. This was only a week after the entrance of Alexandria. These officers conducted their enterprise with the most extraordinary want of circumspection. They allowed themselves to be inveigled into the town - finding no opposition - without taking measures to secure their retreat, but acting as if they were entering a place where the inhabitants were perfectly friendly. No sooner was the whole of the little force within the narrow streets of Rosetta than the gates were closed upon them, and a simultaneous discharge of firearms opened upon them from roofs and windows. They were taken, blindly, in a most murderous trap. Three hundred of them fell dead, or dying; and amongst them, Wauchope himself. The troops they had to contend with were not Egyptians, but wild and desperate Albanians. They made all haste to break their way out of the town again; but, before this was accomplished, their loss in killed and wounded was four hundred, or one-third of their number. They retreated, in order, to Alexandria, for the Albanians had no desire to encounter them hand to hand in the open field. At this critical moment, when the little army was thus so wofully reduced, and the remainder was nearly perishing of hunger, Sir John Duckworth surrendered his command to rear-admiral Louis, and re- turned to England.

In this situation the surbadji, or chief magistrate of Alexandria, again represented to Frazer that there would be a famine in the city, and the British commander again sent two thousand five hundred men, under brigadier-general Stewart and colonel Oswald, to take Rosetta by regular siege. There is great reason to believe that general Frazer was designedly deceived by the surbadji, under instructions from Mehemet Ali, the viceroy pasha of Egypt, that plenty of provisions might have been brought into Alexandria by water, but that, seeing the smallness of the British force, it was hoped to reduce it by such fatal expeditions, and then to fall on it by a general attack, and destroy it. Frazer and his officers seem to have acted as though they had a force that must overawe the enemy, and to have trusted their enemies as though they were the sincerest of friends. The troops reached Rosetta on the 9th of April, and posted themselves on the heights above it. They summoned the town formally to surrender, and received an answer of defiance. Instead of proceeding to bombard the town at once, major-general Stewart waited for the arrival of a body of mamelukes. The mamelukes had been in deadly civil strife with Mehemet Ali, and had promised to co-operate with the English; and this was one of the causes which led the British government to imagine that they could make themselves masters of Egypt with so minute a force. But the mamelukes did not appear. Whilst waiting for them, colonel Macleod was sent to occupy the village of El Hammed, to keep open the way for the expected succour; but Mehemet Ali had mustered a great force at Cairo, which kept back the mamelukes; and, at the same time, he was reinforcing both Rosetta and Rhamanieh. Instead of the mamelukes, therefore, on the morning of the 22nd of April, a fleet of vessels was seen descending the Nile, carrying a strong Egyptian force. Orders were sent to recall colonel Macleod from El Hammed; but too late; his detachment was surrounded and completely cut off. The besieging force - scattered over a wide space, instead of being in a compact body - were attacked by overwhelming numbers; and, having no entrenched camp, were compelled to fight their way back to Alexandria as well as they could. When Stewart arrived there he had lost not one-third of his force, like general Wauchope, but one-half of it! In little more than a month the army of five thousand men had been reduced to three thousand four hundred. No mamelukes ever came to the assistance of the English; and, what wag worse than that, no succours came from home. The new ministry had come into power on the 25th of March, and were soon made aware of the real situation of the troops. But they left them to their fate! They could have soon sent them out sufficient reinforcements from Malta or Messina, to bring them off with safety; but, with that cold-blooded spirit of party, which has so often disgraced England - which dictated the infamous peace of Utrecht, and had done so many like deeds - these brave men were left to suffer and perish, and the fame of England to be tarnished, because as it was the late ministry who sent them out the utter failure of the expedition would add to their disgrace. The real disgrace, the infamy was theirs, who thus balanced their own party pride against the lives of their fellow-men, and the honour of their country.

Mehemet Ali, in proportion as he saw the English force diminished, augmented his own. He collected and posted a vast army betwixt Cairo and Alexandria, and then the Alexandrians threw off the mask and joined their country- men in cutting off the supplies of the English, had murdering them on every possible occasion at their outposts. Frazer held out, in the vain hope of aid from the mamelukes or from home, till the 22nd of August, when, surrounded by the swarming hosts of Mehemet Ali, and his supplies ail exhausted, he sent out a flag of truce, offering to retire on condition that all the British prisoners taken at Rosetta, at El Hammed, and elsewhere, should be delivered up to him. This was accepted, and on the 23rd of September the ill-fated remains of this army were reimbarked and returned to Sicily.

Thus was destroyed in Egypt ail the prestige of the battles of Alexandria and Aboukir Bay, by the folly of the Grenville ministry in sending out so inadequate a force for such an enterprise, and the inhuman party pride of the Portland ministry. The consequence of these two badly- planned and worse-executed expeditions was the declaration of war against England by the Porte, the seizure of ail British property in the Turkish dominions, and the formation of a close alliance betwixt Turkey and France.

But the triumph over the English had not relieved the Turks of the Russians. Admiral Siniavin still blockaded the Dardanelles, and another Russian squadron, issuing from the Black Sea, blockaded the mouth of the Bosporus. The Turks issued boldly out of the Dardanelles and attacked Siniavin on two occasions, on the 22nd of May and on the 22nd of June; but, on both occasions, they lost several ships, and were expecting heavier inflictions from the Russians, when they were suddenly relieved of their presence by the news of the treaty of Tilsit, which had been contracted betwixt Alexander of Russia and Buonaparte. Alexander, by this, ceased to be the ally, and became the enemy of England. It was necessary, therefore, for Siniavin to make all speed for the Bal tic before war could be declared betwixt the two nations, after which his return would be hopeless. The Russian admiral, however, before quitting the Mediterranean, had the pleasure of taking possession of Corfu, which Buonaparte had made over to Alexander

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