Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

at all, and such is nearly the words of the vete

ran.

66

a

Why, sir, after we skivered the mounseers away from Acre, Sir Sidney was looking as taut set up as the mainstay by a new first lieutenant; but, for all that, Sir Sidney was a weaselly man, -no hull, sir,-none; but all head, like a tadpole. But such a head ! it put you in mind of a flash of lightning rolled up into a ball; and then his black curly nob—when he shook it, it made every man shake in his shoes.” 66 Was he then handsome ?

Blest if I can tell! You know, sir, as how we don't

say

of an eighteen-pounder, when it strikes the mark at a couple of miles or so, that's handsome, but we sings out ' beautiful;' though, arter all, it's nothing but a lump of black iron. You're laughing, sir. And so you thinks I'm transmogrifying Sir Sidney's head into a round lump of iron shot! Well, I'm off like one. All I can say is, that he was most handsome when there was the most to do.”

This worthy old sailor's notions of the line of beauty being rather tortuous, we have only to endeavour to reconcile the two accounts, which may be done by the single word “ soul.” It predominated in the expression of his features, and that, we conceive, is the noblest kind of beauty.

At the time of which we write, the use of the

a

cat-o'-nine-tails was general throughout the navy, and as lavish as it was general. It therefore highly redounds to the humanity as well as to the good sense of Sir Sidney, that he was very sparing of the revolting infliction, but rarely having recourse to this brutal ultima ratio of naval commanders; and, when compelled to it by absolute necessity, never inflicting more than twenty-four lashes at one punishment. He had gained the entire confidence, and, though the word looks a little effeminate, we must add, the affection of all those who were so happy as to serve under him. . Sir Sidney appears to have been distasteful only to those superior officers placed in command immediately over him.

Having thus been a little diffuse upon that which is merely personal to our celebrated commander, we must now proceed to trace the splendid course of his services, which in order the more fully to appreciate, we must turn our attention to the state of Egypt after the flight of Bonaparte, and the atrocious assassination of General Kleber. At this time, the fair average of the French troops occupying Egypt was twenty-six thousand men, with something more than eleven hundred Greek and Copt auxiliaries. In this average must be included sailors acting with the forces, commissioned and non-commissioned officers, the sick, the artillery, the commissariat, and every description of persons attached to the army.

This force was at once both dispirited and exasperated; for, pining for their homes, and being deprived of the stimulus of spirituous liquors, they could hardly be prevailed upon to work on the fortifications, or even to throw up the necessary entrenchments for the safety of the posts of the army, yet, remembering the supposed injuries that they had received at the hands of the English, they were prepared to and actually did fight, when the occasion offered itself, like so many furies.

We know it to be admitted on all hands that General Menou had not the force of character or the martial intelligence of his predecessors in command. The dispositions for the defence of Egypt have been severely animadverted upon,

and very generally condemned.

He should have, before he thus dared the enmity of the English, either have possessed more military strength, or have been conscious of more military talent, before he attempted to wield it.

Whatever was the cause of all the misunderstandings with respect to the treaty of El-Arisch, or to whomever censure ought to have been justly charged for thus prolonging a needless and a bloody strife, our government was not wanting in promptitude in taking steps to remedy these mistakes, and to clear Egypt from the presence of the French. The Turks were stimulated to fresh exertions, and several of their corps put in motion in various points, whilst Sir Ralph Abercromby was appointed to the command of an efficient body of English troops, destined to act, in conjunction with Sir Sidney Smith and our Turkish allies, against Menou, now in the chief command of the republican forces.

After receiving some reinforcements in the Mediterranean, and collecting a very respectable train of artillery at Gibraltar, the British army proceeded to its destination, but certainly not with that celerity which was expected from it, or which the urgency of the occasion seemed to demand. After various harassing and unexpected delays, the armament, in conjunction with Lord Keith, at length proceeded to the coast of Egypt, and arrived off Alexandria on the 1st of March, 1801, and the next day sailed for Abou

kir Bay.

Alexandria being then in possession of the French, and there being but two or three spots on the coast accessible to invasion, Aboukir Bay was necessarily chosen for the disembarkment of the British troops, and at a most favourable period, for, at this time, the force of the Mamelukes in

the French pay seems almost to have been subdued, and the Arabs, after the manner of their tribe, trafficked equally with both parties, and waited for the termination of the contest, to side with the victorious party. The French, as we have before stated, dispirited by the flight of Bonaparte and the assassination of General Kleber, had fallen under the command of Menou, a man confessedly inferior to his predecessors in all great and wise qualities, and of so little moral influence with those whom he commanded, that he had not the power to overawe into obedience the various parties into which his army had split themselves.

By a singular oversight, Menou, instead of concentrating all his strength to prevent the landing of the English at Aboukir, divided his forces and sent bodies of them to oppose the Turks, and retained a large corps in garrison at Alexandria. This want of policy was the more absurd, as the Turks did not arrive on the confines of Egypt until the 27th of April, fifty days after the landing of the British.

However, when the English fleet had arrived at Aboukir Bay, they found so high a sea running, and so violent a surf breaking upon the beach, that it was the 8th before any disembarkation could be attempted. On this occasion the inca

« AnteriorContinua »