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Treaty of El Arisch—rejected by Lord Keith—Answer of Kleber —Observations—Letter of Sir S. Smith to Poussielgue—Of Lord Keith to Kleber—Death of the latter—Forces destined for the invasion of Egypt—Assemble in Tetuan-bay—Proceed to Minorca and Malta—Sail thence for Marmorice-bay —Sail thence and arrive in Aboukir-bay—List of regiments and officers under command of Sir R. Abercrombie—Daring enterprise—Escape of the Regener^e—-Landing of the British army effected—Severe action and loss of our troops—Battle of the 13th and 21st of March—Death ofSirR. Abercrombie —Surrender of Aboukir castle—The English cut the canal of Alexandria, and render the lake Mareotis navigable—Junction of Turkish forces-—-Allies advance with British gun-boats to Rosetta—Naval force in the Mediterranean—The surrender of Rhamanie—Capitulation of Cairo—Rear-admiral Blanket in the Red sea—Indian army arrives at Suez under General Baird, and ships of war with troops from England enter the Red sea—Danger and disasters in that navigation —Disappointment of Menou, on the surrender of Belliard— History of Gantheaume's expedition to relieve Egypt.—He is unsuccessful, but captures the Swiftsure, and returns to Toulon—The Iphigenia burnt—Reinforcements arrive from England—Belliard's army embarked, and siege of Alexandria commenced—General Coote lands on the west side of the city—Surrender of Marabout—English ships enter the harbour—Capitulation of Alexandria—Observations—Official letters.
In the London Gazette of the 29 th of March, 1800, we find it notified, that a convention had been signed between the commissioners of the Sublime Porte, appointed by the Grand Vizier, and by General Dessaix and M. Poussielgue, appointed by General Kleber; by which it was agreed, that the French troops should evacuate Egypt, and return to France. This treaty, known by the name of El Arisch, was acceded to by Sir Sidney Smith, and brought home by Major Douglas, of the marines, who had gained a great share of honour to himself and his corps, for the services rendered to the Allies in that country. The Turkish Vice-admiral, Patrona Bey, had been assassinated in a mutiny of the Janissaries at Cyprus; and Sir Sidney, having restored order, in conjunction with the next Turkish naval officer in command, Seid Ali Bey, proceeded to the Damietta branch of the Nile, where great events were in preparation. The following were the articles of the treaty:
1. That the Porte restore to France all possessions which she may have taken from her during the war.
2. That the relations between the Ottoman empire and the French republic, be re-established on the same footing as before the war.
3. That the French army evacuate Egypt, with arms and baggage, whenever the necessary means for such evacuation shall have been procured, and to withdraw to the ports which shall be agreed upon. *
On board the Tigre, 8th Nivore, year 8th (%9tk December, 1799).
(A true copy.) Joijssielgue And Dessaix.
v rj' Sidney Smith.
Considering the situation of the continent in 1799 and 1800, it certainly was desirable that the army of Kleber should not be added to the number of troops, contending against the Allies on the Rhine, in Switzerland, and Italy. Lord Keith, furnished with instructions, founded on these sentiments of the British government, unknown to Sir Sidney Smith, had taken the command of the fleet in the Mediterranean; where, receiving official information of the treaty of El Arisch, he refused his ratification as far as it regarded Great Britain, and addressed the following letter to Kleber.
Queen Charlotte, February 8,1800.
I inform you, that I have received positive orders from his Majesty to consent to no capitulation with the French army under your command in Egypt and Syria, unless they lay down their arms, and surrender themselves prisoners of war, abandoning all the ships and the stores in the port and citadel of Alexandria to the allied powers; and that in case of such capitulation, I am not at liberty to allow any troops to return to France before they are exchanged.
I think it also proper to inform you, that all the ships having French troops on board, and sailing from that country, furnished with passports signed by others than those that have a right to grant them, will be forced by the officers of the ships which I command, to remain at Alexandria. In short, the vessels which shall be met returning to Europe with passports granted in consequence of a separate treaty with any of the allied powers, shall be detained as prizes, and all persons on board considered as prisoners of war.
The letter of Lord Keith was given by Kleber in public orders to his army, and accompanied with the following laconic remark:
Soldiers, we know how to reply to such insolence: prepare for battle.
The threat of the French General was followed by the most intrepid acts: he defeated the Turks, and regained many important posts, which he had either evacuated, or left in an unguarded state; and the British government seeing their error too late, now wished to ratify the treaty of El Arisch. The rejection of it was certainly an unfortunate measure for Great Britain. Had the whole army of Kleber been upon the Rhine or in Italy, it could not have caused so much expense of blood and treasure, as did its forcible expulsion: it diverted also the employment of a vast armament, naval and military, from the more immediate necessities of the state in the Baltic and on the coast of France.
It appears to have been the determination of the British government, that as the French had sent an army to Egypt, in that country it should remain, till the last man had perished, unless France consented to make a peace upon fair and honourable terms. Whatever may have been the motives of our government, the act certainly placed SirSidney Smith in an unpleasant predicament, and he addressed the following letter to Citizen Poussielgue.
On board the Tigre, March 8, 1800.
I lost not a moment to repair to Alexandria, as soon as I could complete the provisioning of my ships, in order to inform you in detail, of the obstacles which my superiors have opposed to the execution of any convention, such as I thought it my duty to agree to, not having received the instructions to the contrary, which reached Cyprus on the 22d of February, bearing date the 10th of January. As to myself, I should not hesitate to pass over any arrangement of an old date, in order to support what took place on the 24th and 31st of January; but it would be only throwing out a snare to my brave antagonists were I to encourage them to embark. I owe it to the French army and to myself to acquaint them with the state of things, which, however, I am endeavouring to change: at any rate I stand between them and the false impressions which have dictated a proceeding of this kind; and as I know the liberality of my superiors, I doubt not, that I shall produce the same conviction on their minds that I feel myself, respecting the business which we concluded. A conversation with you would enable me to communicate the origin and nature of this restriction, and I propose that you should proceed on board an English frigate to the Commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, who has newly arrived, in order to confer with him on the subject. I depend much on your abilities and conciliatory disposition, which facilitated our former agreement, in order again to support my reasonings respecting the impossibility of revoking what has been formally settled, after a detailed discussion and mature deliberation. I then propose, Sir, that you should come on board, in order to consult what is to be done in the difficult circumstances in which we are placed. I • view with calmness the heavy responsibility to which I am subjected. My life is at stake—I know it; but I should prefer an unmerited death to the preservation of my existence by exposing my honour. I am, with perfect consideration and high esteem, Sir, your very humble servant,
(Signed) WM. SIDNEY SMITH.
Lord Keith had in the interval received fresh instructions, and on the 23d of April his Lordship addressed the following letter to Mons. Poussielgue.
I have given no orders or authority against the observance of the convention between the Grand Vizier and General Kleber, having received no orders on this head from the King's ministers. Accordingly, I was of opinion that his Majesty should not take part in it; but since the treaty has been concluded, his Majesty being desirous of shewing his respect for his allies, I have received instructions to allow a passage for the French troops, and I lost not a moment in sending to Egypt