Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

a

the 17th of March the commodore again put to sea in the Tigre's boats, and proceeded to the anchorage of Khaiffa, in order to intercept that portion of the French expedition which would take its route along the sea-coast, and which Sir Sidney was convinced must necessarily soon make its appearance. His anticipations were correct, for, at ten o'clock on the same night, he discovered the approach of the enemy's advanced guard, moving leisurely forward by the sea-side. They were mounted upon asses and dromedaries, and offered a novel and somewhat grotesque spectacle. Having thus satisfied himself as to their actual approach, the commodore, with all haste, returned on board the Tigre, from which ship he immediately despatched Lieutenant Bushby, in a gunboat, to the mouth of a small river (the brook Kishon of the Scriptures) that flows into the bay of Acre. He had strict orders to defend the ford across this little stream to the utmost, and by no means to suffer the French to advance by this way on the town.

At the break of day, this intelligent officer admirably worked out his commander's intentions. This curiously mounted advanced guard had, unexpectedly, so vigorous and so destructive a fire opened upon them, that they were driven, in great confusion, both from the shore

and the ford, and great was the overthrow of men, as well as of dromedaries and asses. Indeed, a tumultuous dispersion of the whole force ensued, and was scattered on the skirts of Mount Carmel.

Taught by this repulse, the main body of the French army avoided carefully this pernicious and gunboat-guarded ford, and, to escape a similar attack, were obliged to make a large circuit, and advance upon Acre by the road of Nazareth. This they did without much difficulty, for they soon drove in the Turkish outposts, and encamped upon an insulated eminence skirting the sea, upon a parallel direction with the town, and about one thousand toises distant from it. As this elevation extended to the northward as far as Cape Blanc, it commanded a plain to the westward of seven miles in length, and which plain is terminated by the mountains that lie between St. Jean d'Acre and the river Jordan. This position of the republican forces was as commanding and as good as could be well desired. Favoured by the shelter afforded them by the outlying gardens, the unfilled ditches of the old town, and an aqueduct that adjoined to the glacis, they opened their trenches against the crumbling works of the town on the 20th, and at no greater distance than one hundred and fifty toises.

We have here again to make a cursory mention of a very brave and clever loyalist, M. Phélypeaux, who had been in the service of Louis XVI. as an engineer. He was skilful in his profession, and in his private capacity a very worthy man. Though, at this time, still

young, he had been involved in many extraordinary adventures, having served in all the campaigns of the army of Condé. He commanded at Berri, and was taken, and only escaped an ignominious death by breaking out from a state-prison. As we have before narrated, he accompanied Sir Sidney to England, at the time the latter made his

escape from the custody of the French Directory. The strictest friendship, founded upon mutual esteem, subsisted between M. Phélypeaux and our hero, and he accompanied him as a volunteer in this Syrian expedition, and proved of infinite service by materially strengthening the works of this miserable place, which was so shortly afterwards to prove his tomb, as he died there on the 2nd of May following:

This experienced engineer officer was materially assisted by Captain Miller * of the Theseus,

*

* Captain Ralph Willet Miller was made post-captain in 1796, and commanded the Captain seventy-four, bearing the broad pennant of Commodore Nelson, in the action off Cape St. Vincent, 14th February, 1797. He was afterwards ap

who furnished guns and ammunition to the utmost of his power.

But it seems that all this display of skill and activity would have proved inefficient against the skill and bravery that supported the attacks of the French, had not their vessels, having on board the greater part of their battering-train and ammunition, fallen into our hands. We have before mentioned that this artillery had been ordered round by sea by Bonaparte, from Alexandria, under the command of Rear-Admiral Perée. This flotilla was just rounding Cape Carmel, when it was discovered by the Tigre, pursued, and overtaken.

The capture was not so complete as could have been wished. The protecting force consisted of a corvette and nine gunboats.

Two of these and the corvette, containing Bonaparte's personal property, escaped. Seven gun-vessels, mounting altogether thirty-four guns, and conpointed to the Theseus seventy-four, which ship he commanded at the battle of the Nile. After having been three days off Jaffa, whither he was despatched by Sir William Sidney Smith, the Turkish blue flag was confided to him, an honour never before conferred upon a Christian. imparts the power of a pasha over the subjects of the grand seignior. The premature death of this meritorious officer was occasioned by the blowing up of the afterpart of the Theseus, while lying off Jaffa.

It

[ocr errors]

taining two hundred and thirty-eight men, were captured, together with the train of artillery. The cannon, platforms, and ammunition, were immediately landed at Acre, and used for its defence, and the gunboats manned and employed in molesting the enemy's posts established on the sea-coast, harassing their communications, and intercepting their convoys. The sea has always been fatal to the French, and, notwithstanding the difficulty of the country, we are inclined to think every obstacle should have been encountered by them in this transport of their artillery, rather than have trusted it to that element, which, as an arena of contention with the English, has always been to them so disastrous.

« AnteriorContinua »