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They had been doing that for three days. They came down the chimney, made across the floor in a line that never changed direction, nor straggled, nor lessened, up the wall and out a crack in the window. They did no harm, but followed blindly on in the path the first one had taken. And the minister had said they should not be smoked back or thwarted.
But Sir John Duckworth was to play a leading part in a still more abortive enterprise. There was a rumour that Buonaparte had promised the Grand Turk to aid him in recovering the provinces which Russia had reft from Turkey on the Danube, in the Crimea, and around the Black Sea, on condition that Egypt was given up to him. To prevent this, an expedition was fitted out to seize on this country. Between four and five thousand men were sent from our army in Sicily, under Major-General Mackenzie Frazer. They embarked on the 5th of May, and anchored off Alexandria on the 16th. The following morning General Frazer summoned the town to surrender, but the governor of the Viceroy Mehemet Ali replied that he would defend the place to the last man. On that day and the following a thousand soldiers and about sixty sailors were landed, and, moving forward, carried the advanced works with trifling loss. Some of the transports which had parted company on the voyage now arrived, the rest of the troops were landed; and, having secured the castle of Aboukir, Frazer marched on Alexandria, taking the forts of Caffarelli and Cretin on the way. On the 22nd Sir John Duckworth arrived with his squadron; the British army expected to hear that he had taken Constantinople, and his ill news created a just gloom amongst both officers and men. The people of Alexandria appeared friendly; but the place was, or seemed to be, destitute of provisions; and the transports had been so badly supplied that the men were nearly starved before they got there. The Alexandrians assured General Frazer that, in order to obtain provisions, he must take possession of Rosetta and Rahmanieh. Frazer, therefore, with the concurrence of Sir John Duckworth, dispatched Major-General Wauchope and Brigadier-General Mead to Rosetta, with one thousand two hundred men. The troops were entangled in the streets and shot down. A subsequent effort was made to besiege Rosetta in form. The troops reached Rosetta on the 9th of April, and posted themselves on the heights above it. They summoned the town formally to surrender, and received an answer of defiance. Instead of proceeding to bombard the town at once, Major-General Stewart waited for the arrival of a body of Mamelukes. The Mamelukes had been in deadly civil strife with Mehemet Ali, and had promised to co-operate with the British; and this was one of the causes which led the British Government to imagine that they could make themselves masters of Egypt with so minute a force. But the Mamelukes did not appear. Whilst waiting for them, Colonel Macleod was sent to occupy the village of El Hammed, to keep open the way for the expected succour; but Mehemet Ali had mustered a great force at Cairo, which kept back the Mamelukes; and, at the same time, he was reinforcing both Rosetta, and Rahmanieh. Instead of the Mamelukes, therefore, on the morning of the 22nd of April a fleet of vessels was seen descending the Nile, carrying a strong Egyptian force. Orders were sent to recall Colonel Macleod from El Hammed; but too late; his detachment was surrounded and completely cut off. The besieging forcescattered over a wide area, instead of being in a compact bodywere attacked by overwhelming numbers; and, having no entrenched camp, were compelled to fight their way back to Alexandria as well as they could. When Stewart arrived there he had lost one half of his men. Mehemet Ali, in proportion as he saw the British force diminished, augmented his own. He collected and posted a vast army between Cairo and Alexandria, and then the Alexandrians threw off the mask and joined their countrymen in cutting off the supplies of the British, and murdering them on every possible occasion at their outposts. Frazer held out, in the vain hope of aid from the Mamelukes or from home, till the 22nd of August, when, surrounded by the swarming hosts of Mehemet Ali, and his supplies all exhausted, he sent out a flag of truce, offering to retire on condition that all the British prisoners taken at Rosetta, at El Hammed, and elsewhere, should be delivered up to him. This was accepted, and on the 23rd of September the ill-fated remains of this army were re-embarked and returned to Sicily.SPADE GUINEA OF GEORGE III.
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Choiseul made, undoubtedly, a large offer for peace. It was that each power should retain all such of its conquests as should be in its hands, subject to exchanges and equivalents, in Europe, on the 1st of May next; in America, the West Indies, and Africa, on the 1st of July; and in the East Indies on the 1st of September. But Pitt had declared that he would never make another peace of Utrecht. He considered that we had France down, and he determined to retain everything of value. He therefore replied that the proper period for the principle of the treaty to take place was that on which the treaty was really signed, that it might so happen that it would not be signed at the dates named, and he did this in order to complete a scheme, which he had already nearly accomplished, that of seizing on Belleisle, an island on the coast of France. It surrendered in July, and the news of this loss was speedily followed in Paris by that of the loss of Dominica in the West, and of Pondicherry in the East Indies.It was natural that this mighty turn in affairs on the Continent should be watched in Great Britain with an interest beyond the power of words. Though this happy country had never felt the foot of the haughty invader, no nation in Europe had put forth such energies for the overthrow of the usurper; none had poured forth such a continual flood of wealth to arm, to clothe, to feed the struggling nations, and hold them up against the universal aggressor. Parliament met on the 4th of November, and, in the speech of the Prince Regent and in the speeches in both Houses, one strain of exultation and congratulation on the certain prospect of a close to this unexampled war prevailed. At that very moment the "Corsican upstart" was on his way to Paris, his lost army nearly destroyed, the remains of it chased across the Rhine, and himself advancing to meet a people at length weary of his sanguinary ambition, and sternly demanding peace.
Chapter 21They glanced sideways at the big Englishman, who appeared to be one of themselves, and at the little minister. On him, more especially on his hat, their eyes rested threateningly. They had heard of him before, most of them. They answered his genial greeting surlily, but he was quite unruffled. He beamed upon the room as he seated himself at one of the tables and ordered supper, for which, in obedience to a dirty sign upon the wall, he paid in advance.