Imatges de pÓgina

situation he was, he could, or that he ought to have acted differently. The obstacle before him must, he well knew, be surmounted, or, sooner or later, defeat and universal discomfiture awaited him. It might, perhaps, have been well for the destiny of nations and the tranquillity of Europe, had he met with a less sturdy opponent than Sir Sidney. Had he succeeded before St. Jean d'Acre, another and a less disastrous course might have been opened to his ambition.

But we must return to this singular siege and still more singular defence. The gallant antagonist of the future first consul was fully aware of the advantage he had gained, and well knew how to improve it to the utmost. Rightly judging that the prejudice in favour of Gallic invincibility must be considerably shaken by the late events, and by the fatal check that was given to the advancement of their arms, Sir Sidney wrote a circular letter to the princes and chiefs of Mount Lebanon, and to the shieks of the Druses, by which he exhorted them to do their duty to their sovereign by intercepting the supplies of the enemy on their way to the French camp. This sagacious proceeding had all the good consequences that might have been expected from it. Two ambassadors were sent to the commodore, informing him that, in consequence of his mandates, measures had been taken to cut off the supplies hitherto furnished to the invaders; and, as a proof of the accuracy of this assertion, eighty French prisoners, who had been captured in the defence of their convoys, were placed at the disposal of the British.

Thus baffled in front, and straitened on all sides, the paramount object of the French was to mount the breach. To this every other consideration must give way. Accordingly, General Kleber's division was ordered from the fords of the river Jordan, where it had been successfully opposed to the army of Damascus, to take its turn in an attempt that had already occasioned the loss of the flower of the French troops of the besieging division, with more than two-thirds of its officers. But on the arrival of General Kleber and his

army, there was other employment found for them.

In the sally before mentioned, made by the Turkish Chifflick regiment, it had shown a want of steadiness in the presence of the enemy, and was in consequence censured. mandant of that corps, Soliman Aga, having received orders from Sir Sidney Smith to obtain possession of the enemy's third parallel, availed himself of this opportunity to retrieve the lost honour of his regiment; and, the next night,

The com

carried his orders into execution with that ardour and resolution, which not only completely effected the service upon which he was sent, but also highly benefited the public cause by the gallant display of his men. The third parallel was gained; but the gallant Turk, wishing to do more, and thus to elevate his regiment to a position still more honourable than that which they had forfeited, attacked the second trench, but without the same success that attended his first attempt, as he lost some standards. However, he retained possession of the works long enough to spike four of the enemy's guns, and do them other material damage.

On the arrival, therefore, of Kleber's division, its original destination of mounting the breach was changed into that of recovering these works, which, after a furious contest of three hours, and much loss of life, was accomplshed. Notwithstanding this very limited success, the advantage evidently remained on the side of the besieged. Indeed the resistance displayed, though unsuccessfully, was decisive, as it so far damped the zeal of the French troops that they could not be again brought to the breach.



Sir Sidney's second despatch-Describes the progress and

the termination of the siege— The French retreat in disorder— The conduct of Bonaparte - Testimonials at home to the distinguished services of Sir Sidney Smith.

From this moment all the efforts of the French were feeble and disjointed. Discontent prevailed universally through the ranks, and the officers openly expressed their discontent and disapprobation at the frantic proceedings of their general. The siege was virtually at an end. Fortunately for posterity, we are enabled to give Sir Sidney Smith's impression of Bonaparte's conduct during the siege, and after his retreat from Acre. It is officially stated, and is a most important document.

“ After this failure, the French grenadiers absolutely refused to mount the breach any more over the putrid bodies of their unburied companions, sacrificed, in former attacks, by Bonaparte's impatience and precipitation, which led him to commit such palpable errors as even seamen could take advantage of. He seemed to have no principle of action but that of pressing forward; and appeared to stick at nothing to obtain the object of his ambition, although it must be evident to every body else, that even if he had succeeded in taking the town, the fire of the shipping must drive him out of it again in a short time : however, the knowledge the garrison had of the inhuman massacre at Jaffa, rendered them desperate in their personal defence. Two attempts to assassinate me in the town having failed, recourse was had to a most flagrant breach of every law of honour and of war. A flag of truce was sent into the town by the hand of an Arab dervise, with a letter to the Pasha, proposing a cessation of arms for the purpose of burying the dead bodies, the stench from which became intolerable, and threatened the existence of

every one of us on both sides, many having died delirious within a few hours after being seized with the first symptoms of infection. It was natural that we should gladly listen to this proposition, and that we should consequently be off our guard during the conference.

While the answer was under consideration, a volley of shot and shells


« AnteriorContinua »