Imatges de pÓgina

pacity of Menou was strikingly exemplified. He employed these six days of the inactivity forced upon the English, neither by sufficiently fortifying the coast, por by moving up fresh bodies of men, so that the sixteen thousand troops of the British found only four thousand men opposed to them. However, the French were most advantageously posted, and made a most creditable resistance to the disembarkation. The difficulties with which the English had to contend were neither few nor insignificant. They had to be conveyed, directly under the fire of the enemy's artillery, for a long space in open boats, and, when they neared the beach, to receive the incessant volleys of musketry that played upon them, whilst they were obliged to remain seated in a state of inactivity. The landing, under the superintendence of the Honourable Captain Cochrane, was brilliantly effected, and with a loss much less than was calculated upon, and immediately after, the enemy were driven from their posts, and their defeat made the more humiliating and disastrous by the loss of several pieces of artillery.

Sir Ralph Abercromby was struck with admiration at the admirable coolness and tact evinced by the naval officers and men on this all-important service. He bestowed upon them the high

est praises, and openly declared that, without their eminent services, he never could have brought his brave troops into action.

It certainly was a most desperate service, and it is the opinion of the highest military authorities, that the event of this invasion would have been extremely doubtful if the whole French army, with their great superiority in cavalry, had been brought down to the coast, before their opponents were clear of the sea, and, even had they effected a landing, before they could have gained time to organise and arrange their order of battle.

The personal services that Sir Sidney Smith performed were, among others, the taking charge of the launches which contained the field artillery. After the debarkation and consequent victory of our troops, Sir Sidney Smith, who had landed and reconnoitred this ground the year before, proposed that the battery at the entrance of Lake Maadie should be maintained when carried, or its assault, at all events, combined with the operations of the landing. Sir Robert Wilson confesses that this would have been a masterly movement, yet it was not adopted.

After the action of the landing, the army employed itself in finding water, as Sir Sidney assured the troops that wherever date trees grew water must be near. This assertion proved true, and thus Sir Ralph Abercromby found himself relieved from an anxiety which might have determined him to relinquish the expedition. On the 20th of March an Arab chief sent in a letter to Sir Sidney Smith, acquainting him with the arrival of General Menou with a large army, and that it was his intention to surprise and attack the British camp the next morning ; but much confidence was not placed in this communication at head-quarters, although Sir Sidney was, in his own mind, convinced of the honesty and truth of the information, and assured his friends that the event would take place.

This little trait shows of what vast importance was the presence of our hero with the army, and how useful were his counsels, for the next day the memorable battle of Alexandria took place. We shall not describe the technical movements of the respective armies, but confine ourselves to the stating of the manner in which the commander-in-chief met with the wound that was fatal to him. On the first alarm of the surprise which Sir Sidney foretold, and who was not believed, Sir Ralph, finding that the right was seriously engaged, proceeded thither. When he came near some ruins near which it was stationed, he despatched his aide-de-camp with some orders to the different brigades, and, whilst thus left alone, some French dragoons penetrated to the spot, and he


was unhorsed: one of them was supposed to be an officer, from the tassel attached to his sword; but just as the edge of the weapon was descending, his natural heroism and the emergency of the moment so much invigorated him, that he seized the sword, and wrested it from the hand of his adversary, who, at the very moment, was bayoneted by a soldier of the 42nd.

Sir Ralph did not perceive that he was wounded when he received the musket-ball in his thigh, but complained greatly of a contusion on his breast, supposed to have been received from the hilt of the sword in the scuffle. Sir Sidney Smith was the first officer who came to Sir Ralph, and who, by an accident, had broken his own sword, which Sir Ralph observing, he instantly presented him with the one which he had so gloriously acquired from the French dragoon. This sword Sir Sidney intends to place upon his monument.

A singular circumstance happened almost immediately afterwards. Major Hall, aide-de-camp to General Cradock, whilst going with orders, had his horse killed. Seeing Sir Sidney, he begged of him permission to remount himself upon the horse of his orderly-man. As Sir Sidney was turning round to the man, he was saved the trouble of giving directions, by a cannon-ball sweeping off the dragoon's head.

This,” exclaimed Sir Sidney, “is destiny ! Major Hall, the horse is yours.”

Very shortly after, Sir Sidney Smith himself received a violent contusion from a musket-ball, which glanced on his right shoulder.

But to return to the wounded commander-inchief. As the French cavalry was by this time repulsed, Sir Ralph walked to the redoubt on the right of the Guards, from which he could command a view of the whole field.

At ten o'clock in the morning the action ceased by an orderly and unmolested retreat of the French to the position from which they had emerged, and it was not until their defeat was thus absolutely assured, that Sir Ralph Abercromby, who had remained on the battery, where several times he had been nearly killed by cannonshot, could be prevailed upon to quit the field.

He had continued walking about, paying no attention to his wound, only occasionally complaining of a pain in his breast from the contusion Officers who went to him in the course of the action returned, without knowing, from his manner or his appearance, that he was wounded, and many ascertained it only by seeing the blood trickling down his clothes. At last, his spirit, when no longer stimulated by exertion, yielded to exhausted nature; he became faint, was placed in a hammock, and borne to the depôt, cheered


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