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Scottish Regiments
The Black Watch - Expedition to Egypt


Government having determined to make an attempt to drive the French out of Egypt, despatched orders to the commander-in-chief to proceed to Malta, where, on their arrival, the troops were informed of their destination. Tired of confinement on board the transports, they were all greatly elevated on receiving this intelligence, and looked forward to a contest on the plains of Egypt with the hitherto victorious legions of France, with the feelings of men anxious to support the honour of their country. The whole of the British land forces amounted to 13,234 men and 630 artillery, but the efficient force was only 12,334. The French force amounted to 32,000 men, besides several thousand native auxiliaries.

The fleet sailed in two divisions for Marmorice, a bay on the coast of Greece, on the 20th and 21st of December, in the year 1800, The Turks were to have a reinforcement of men and horses at that place. The first division arrived on the 28th of December, and the second on the 1st of January following. Having received the Turkish supplies, which were in every respect deficient, the fleet again got under weigh on the 23d of February, and on the morning of Sunday the 1st of March the low and sandy coast of Egypt was descried. The fleet came to anchor in the evening of 1st March 1801 in Aboukir bay, on the spot where the battle of the Nile had been fought nearly three years before. After the fleet had anchored, a violent gale sprung up, which continued without intermission till the evening of the 7th, when it moderated.

As a disembarkation could not be attempted during the continuance of the gale, the French had ample time to prepare themselves, and to throw every obstacle which they could devise in the way of a landing. No situation could be more embarrassing than that of Sir Ralph Abercromby on the present occasion; but his strength of mind carried him through every difficulty. He had to force a landing in an unknown country, in the face of an enemy more than double his numbers, and nearly three times as numerous as they were previously believed to be—an enemy, moreover, in full possession of the country, occupying all its fortified positions, having a numerous and well-appointed cavalry, inured to the climate, and a powerful artillery,—an enemy who knew every point where a landing could, with any prospect of success, be attempted, and who had taken advantage of the unavoidable delay, already mentioned, to erect batteries and bring guns and ammunition to the point where they expected the attempt would be made. In short, the general had to encounter embarrassments and bear up under difficulties which would have paralysed the mind of a man less firm and less confident of the devotion and bravery of his troops. These disadvantages, however, served only to strengthen his resolution. He knew that his army was determined to conquer, or to perish with him; and, aware of the high hopes which the country had placed in both, he resolved to proceed in the face of obstacles which some would have deemed insurmountable.

The first division destined to effect a landing consisted of the flank companies of the 40th, and Welsh Fusileers on the right, the 28th, 42d, and 58th, in the centre, the brigade of Guards, Corsican Rangers, and a part of the 1st brigade, consisting of the Royals and 54th, on the left,—amounting altogether to 5230 men. As there was not a sufficiency of boats, all this force did not land at once; and one company of Highlanders, and detachments of other regiments, did not get on shore till the return of the boats. The troops fixed upon to lead the way got into the boats at two o’clock on the morning of the 8th of March, and formed in the rear of the Mondovi, Captain John Stewart, which was anchored out of reach of shot from the shore. By an admirable arrangement, each boat was placed in such a manner, that, when the landing was effected, every brigade, every regiment, and even every company, found itself in the proper station assigned to it. As such an arrangement required time to complete it, it was eight o’clock before the boats were ready to move forward. Expectation was wound up to the highest pitch, when, at nine o’clock, a signal was given, and all the boats, with a simultaneous movement, sprung forward, under the command of the Hon. Captain Alexander Cochrane. Although the rowers strained every nerve, such was the regularity of their pace, that no boat got ahead of the rest.

At first the enemy did not believe that the British would attempt a landing in the face of their lines and defences; but when the boats had come within range of their batteries, they began to perceive their mistake, and then opened a heavy fire from their batteries in front, and from the castle of Aboukir in flank. To the showers of grape and shells, the enemy added a fire of musketry from 2500 men, on the near approach of the boats to the shore. In a short time the boats on the right, containing the 23d, 28th, 42d, and 58th regiments, with the flank companies of the 40th, got under the elevated position of the enemy’s batteries, so as to be sheltered from their fire, and meeting with no opposition from the enemy, who did not descend to the beach, these troops disembarked and formed in line on the sea shore. Lest an irregular fire might have created confusion in the ranks, no orders were given to load, but the men were directed to rush up the face of the hill and charge the enemy.

When the word was given to advance, the soldiers sprung up the ascent, but their progress was retarded by the loose dry sand which so deeply covered the ascent, that the soldiers fell back half a pace every step they advanced. When about half way to the summit, they came in sight of the enemy, who poured down upon them a destructive volley of musketry. Redoubling their exertions, they gained the height before the enemy could reload their pieces; and, though exhausted with fatigue, and almost breathless, they drove the enemy from their position at the point of the bayonet. A squadron of cavalry then advanced and attacked the Highlanders, but they were instantly repulsed, with the loss of their cornmander. A scattered fire was kept up for some time by a party of the enemy from behind a second line of small sand-hills, but they fled in confusion on the advance of the troops. The Guards and first brigade having landed on ground nearly on a level with the water, were immediately attacked,—the first by cavalry, and the 54th by a body of infantry, who advanced with fixed bayonets. The assailants were repulsed.

In this brilliant affair the British had 4 officers, 4 sergeants, and 94 rank and file killed, among whom were 31 Highlanders; 26 officers, 34 sergeants, 5 drummers, and 450 rank and file wounded; among whom were, of the Highlanders, Lieutenant-Colonel James Stewart, Captain Charles Macquarrie, Lieutenants Alexander Campbell, John Dick, Frederick Campbell, Stewart Campbell, Charles Campbell, Ensign Wilson, 7 sergeants, 4 drummers, and 140 rank and file.’

The venerable commander-in-chief; anxious to be at the head of his troops, immediately left the admiral’s ship, and on reaching the shore, leaped from the boat with the vigour of youth. Taking his station on a little sand-hill, he received the congratulations of the officers by whom he was surrounded, on the ability and firmness with which he had conducted the enterprise. The general, on his part, expressed his gratitude to them for "an intrepidity scarcely to be paralleled," and which had enabled them to overcome every difficulty.

[When the boats were about to start, two young French field officers, who were prisoners on board the Minotaur, Captain Louis, went up to the rigging "to witness, as they said, the last sight of their English friends. But when they saw the troops land, ascend the hill, and force the defenders at the top to fly, the love of their country and the honour of their arms overcame their new friendship: they burst into tears, and with a passionate exclamation of grief and surprise ran down below, and did not again appear on deck during the day. "—Stewart’s Sketches].

["The great waste of ammunition," says General Stewart, "and the comparatively little execution of musketry, unless directed by a steady hand, was exemplified on this occasion. Although the sea was as smooth as glass, with nothing to interrupt the aim of those who fired,—although the line of musketry was so numerous, that the soldiers compared the fall of the bullets on the water to boys throwing handfuls of pebbles into a mill-pond,—and although the spray raised by the cannon-shot and shells, when they struck the water, wet the soldiers in the boats,—yet, of the whole landing force, very few were hurt and of the 42d one man only was killed, and Colonel James Stewart and a few soldiers wounded. The noise and foam raised by the shells and large and small shot, compared with the little effect thereby produced, afford evidence of the saving of lives by the invention of gunpowder; while the fire, noise, and force, with which the bullets flew, gave a greater sense of danger than in reality had any existence. That eight hundred and fifty men (one company of the Highlanders did not land in the first boats) should force a passage through such a shower of balls and bomb-shells, and only one man killed and five wounded, is certainly a striking fact." Four-fifths of the loss of the Highlanders was sustained before they reached the top of the hill. General Stewart, who then commanded a company in the 42d, says that eleven of his men fell by the volley they received when mounting the ascent].

The remainder of the army landed in the course of the evening, but three days elapsed before the provisions and stores were disembarked. Menou, the French commander, availed himself of this interval to collect more troops and strengthen his position; so that on moving forward on the evening of the 12th, the British found him strongly posted among sand-hills, and palm and date trees, about three miles east of Alexandria, with a force of upwards of 5000 infantry, 600 cavalry, and 30 pieces of artillery.

Early on the morning of the 13th, the troops moved forward to the attack in three columns of regiments. At the head of the first column was the 90th or Perthshire regiment; the 92d or Gordon Highlanders formed the advance of the second; and the reserve marching in column covered the movements of the first line, to which it ran parallel. When the army had cleared the date trees, the enemy, leaving the heights, moved down with great boldness on the 92d, which had just formed in line. They opened a heavy fire of cannon and musketry, which the 92d quickly returned; and although repeatedly attacked by the French line, supported by a powerful artillery, they maintained their ground singly till the whole line came up. Whilst the 92d was sustaining these attacks from the infantry, the French cavalry attempted to charge the 90th regiment down a declivity with great impetuosity. The regiment stood waiting their approach with cool intrepidity, and after allowing the cavalry to come within fifty yards of them, they poured in upon them a well-directed volley, which so completely broke the charge that only a few of the cavalry reached the regiment, and the greater part of these were instantly bayoneted; the rest fled to their left, and retreated in confusion. Sir Ralph Abercromby, who was always in front, had his horse shot under him, and was rescued by the 90th regiment when nearly surrounded by the enemy’s cavalry.

After forming in line, the two divisions moved forward — the reserve remaining in column to cover the right flank. The enemy retreated to their lines in front of Alexandria, followed by the British army. After reconnoitring their works, the British commander, conceiving the difficulties of an attack insuperable, retired, and took up a position about a league from Alexandria. The British suffered severely on this occasion. The Royal Highlanders, who were only exposed to distant shot, had only 3 rank and file killed, and Lieutenant-Colonel Dickson, Captain Archibald Argyll Campbell, Lieutenant Simon Fraser, 3 sergeants, 1 drummer, and 23 rank and file wounded.

In the position now occupied by the British general, he had the sea on his right flank, and the Lake Maadie on his left. On the right the reserve was placed as an advanced post; the 58th possessed an extensive ruin, supposed to have been the palace of the Ptolemies. On the outside of the ruin, a few paces onward and close on the left, was a redoubt, occupied by the 28th regiment. The 23d, the flank companies of the 40th, the 42d, and the Corsican Rangers, were posted 500 yards towards the rear, ready to support the two corps in front. To the left of this redoubt a sandy plain extended about 300 yards, and then sloped into a valley. Here, a little retired towards tho rear, stood the cavalry of the reserve; and still farther to the left, on a rising ground beyond the valley, the Guards were posted, with a redoubt thrown up on their right, a battery on their left, and a small ditch or enbankment in front, which connected both. To the left of the Guards, in echelon, were posted the Royals, 54th (two battalions), and the 92d; then the 8th or Kings, 18th or Royal Irish, 90th, and 13th. To the left of the line, and facing the lake at right angles, were drawn up the 27th or Enniskillen, 79th or Cameron Highlanders and 50th regiment. On the left of the second line were posted the 30th, 89th, 44th, Dillon’s, De Roll’s, and Stuart’s regiments; the dismounted cavalry of the 12th and 26th dragoons completed the second line to the right. The whole was flanked on the right by four cutters, stationed close to the shore. Sutch was the disposition of the army from the 14th till the evening of the 20th, during which time the whole was kept in constant employment, either in performing military duties, strengthening the position—which had few natural advantages—by the erection of batteries, or in bringing forward cannon, stores, and provisions. Along the whole extent of the line were arranged two 24 pounders, thirty-two field-pieces, and one 24 pounder in the redoubt occupied by the 28th.

The enemy occupied a parallel position on a ridge of hills extending from the sea beyond the left of the British line, having the town of Alexandria, Fort Caffarell, and Pharos, in the rear. General Lanusse was on the left of Menou’s army with four demi-brigades of infantry, and a considerable body of cavalry commanded by General Roise. General Regnier was on the right with two demi-brigades and two regiments of cavalry, and the centre was occupied by five demi-brigades. The advanced guard, which consisted of one demibrigade, some light troops, and a detachment of cavalry, was commanded by General D’Estain.

Meanwhile, the fort of Aboukir was blockaded by the Queen's regiment, and, after a slight resistance, surrendered to Lord Dalhousie on the 18th. To replace the Gordon Highlanders, who had been much reduced by previous sickness, and by the action of the 13th, the Queen’s regiment was ordered up on the evening of the 20th. The same evening the British general received accounts that General Menou had arrived at Alexandria with a large reinforcement from Cairo, and was preparing to attack him.

Anticipating this attack, the British army was under arms at an early hour in the morning of the 21st of March, and at three o’clock every man was at his post. For half an hour no movement took place on either side, till the report of a musket, followed by that of some cannon, was heard on the left of the line. Upon this signal the enemy immediately advanced, and took possession of a small picquet, occupied by part of Stuart’s regiments but they were instantly driven back. For a time silence again prevailed, but it was a stillness which portended a deadly struggle. As soon as he heard the firing, General Moore, who happened to be the general officer on duty during the night, had galloped off to the left; but an idea having struck him as he proceeded, that this was a false attack, he turned back and had hardly returned to his brigade when a loud huzza, succeeded by a roar of musketry, showed that he was not mistaken. The morning was unusually dark, cloudy, and close. The enemy advanced in silence until they approached the picquets, when they gave a shout and pushed forward. At this moment Major Sinclair, as directed by Major-General Oakes, advanced with the left wing of the 42d, and took post on the open ground lately occupied by the 28th regiment, which was now ordered within the redoubt. Whilst the left wing of the Highlanders was thus drawn up, with its right supported by the redoubt Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Stewart was directed to remain with the right wing 200 yards in the rear, but exactly parallel to the left wing. The Welsh Fusileers and the flank companies of the 40th moved forward, at the same time, to support the 58th, stationed in the ruin. This regiment had drawn up in the chasms of the ruined walls, which were in some parts from ten to twenty feet high, under cover of some loose stones which the soldiers had raised for their defence, and which, though sufficiently open for the fire of musketry, formed a perfect protection against the entrance of cavalry or infantry. The attack on the ruin, the redoubt, and the left wing of the Highlanders, was made at the same moment, and with the greatest impetuosity; but the fire of the regiments stationed there, and of the left wing of the 42d, under Major Stirling, quickly checked the ardour of the enemy. Lieutenant-Colonels Paget of the 28th, and Houston of the 58th, after allowing the enemy to come quite close, directed their regiments to open a fire, which was so well-directed and effective, that the enemy were obliged to retire precipitately to a hollow in their rear.

During this contest in front, a column of the enemy, which bore the name of the "Invincibles," preceded by a six-poundei, came silently along the hollow interval from which the cavalry picquet had retired, and passed between the left of the 42d and the right of the Guards. Though it was still so dark that an object could not be properly distinguished at the distance of two yards, yet, with such precision did this column calculate its distance and line of march, that on coming in line with the left wing of the Highlanders, it wheeled to its left, and marched in between the right and left wings of the regiment, which were drawn up in parallel lines. As soon as the enemy were discovered passing between the two lines, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Stewart instantly charged them with the right wing to his proper front, whilst the rear-rank of Major Stirling’s force, facing to the right about, charged to the rear. Being thus placed between two fires, the enemy rushed forward with an intention of entering the ruin, which they supposed was unoccupied. As they passed the rear of the redoubt the 28th faced about and fired upon them. Continuing their course, they reached the ruin, through the openings of which they rushed, followed by the Highlanders, when the 58th and 48th, facing about as the 28th had done, also fired upon them. The survivors (about 200), unable to withstand this combined attack, threw down their arms and surrendered. Generals Moore and Oakes were both wounded in the ruin, but were still able to continue in the exercise of their duty. The former, on the surrender of the " Invincibles," left the ruin, and hurried to the left of the redoubt, where part of the left wing of the 42d was busily engaged with the enemy after the rear rank had followed the latter into the ruins. At this time the enemy were seen advancing in great force on the left of the redoubt, apparently with an intention of making another attempt to turn it. On perceiving their approach, General Moore immediately ordered the Highlanders out of the ruins, and directed them to form line in battalion on the flat on which Major Stirling had originally formed, with their right supported by the redoubt. By thus extending their line they were enabled to present a greater front to the enemy; but, in consequence of the rapid advance of the latter, it was found necessary to check their progress even before the battalion had completely formed in line. Orders were therefore given to drive the enemy back, which were instantly performed with complete success.

Encouraged by the commander-in-chief, who called out from his station, "My brave highlanders, remember your country, remember your forefathers!" they pursued the enemy along the plain; but they had not proceeded far, when General Moore, whose eye was keen, perceived through the increasing clearness of the atmosphere, fresh columns of the enemy drawn up on the plain beyond with three squadrons of cavalry, as if ready to charge through the intervals of their retreating infantry. As no time was to be lost, the general ordered the regiment to retire from their advanced position, and re-form on the left of the redoubt. This order, although repeated by Colonel Stewart, was only partially heard in consequence of the noise of the firing; and the result was, that whilst the companies who heard it retired on the redoubt, the rest hesitated to follow. The enemy observing the intervals between these companies, resolved to avail themselves of the circumstance, and advanced in great force. Broken as the line was by the separation of the companies, it seemed almost impossible to resist with effect an impetuous charge of cavalry; yet every man stood firm. Many of the enemy were killed in the advance. The companies, who stood in compact bodies, drove back all who charged them, with great loss. Part of the cavalry passed through the intervals, and wheeling to their left, as the " Invincibles" had done early in the morning, were received by the 28th, who, facing to their rear, poured on them a destructive fire, which killed many of them. It is extraordinary that in this onset only 13 Highlanders were wounded by the sabre,—a circumstance to be ascribed to the firmness with which they stood, first endeavouring to bring down the horse, before the rider came within sword-length, and then despatching him with the bayonet, before he had time to recover his legs from the fall of the horse.

[Concerning this episode in the fight, and the capture of the standard of the "Invincibles" by one of the 42d, we shall here give the substance of the narrative of Andrew Dowie, one of the regiment who was prresent and saw the whole affair. We take it from Lieutenant-Colonel Wheatley’s Memoranda, and we think our readers may rely upon it as being a fair statement of the circumstances. It was written in 1845, in letter to Sergeant-Major Drysdale of the 42d, who went through the whole of the Crimean and Indian Mutiny campaigns without being one day absent, and who died at Uphall, near Edinburgh. Major and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in the regiment —on the 4th July 1865 —While Dowie was inside of the ruin above mentioned, he observed an officer with a stand of colours, surrounded by a group of some 30 men. He ran and told Major Stirling of this, who advanced towards the French officer, grasped this colours, carried them off, and handed them to Sergeant Sinclair of the 42d Grenadiers, telling him to take them to the rear of the left wing, and display them. The major then ordered all out of the fort to support the left wing, which was closely engaged. Meantime, some of the enemy seeing Sinclair with the colours, made after and attacked him. He defended himself to the utmost till he got a sabre-cut on the back of the neck, when he fell with the colours among the killed and wounded. Shortly afterwards the German regiment, commanded by Sir John Stewart, came from the rear line to the support of the 42d, and in passing through the killed and, wounded, one Anthony Lutz picked up the colours, stripped them off the staff, wound them round his body, and in the afternoon took them to Sir Ralph’s son, and it was reported received some money for them. In 1802 this German regiment (97th or Queen’s Own arrived at Winchester, where this Anthony Lutz, in a quarrel with one of his comrades, stabbed him with a knife, was tried by civil law, and sentence of death passed upon him. His officers, to save his life, petitioned the proper authorities, stating that it was he who took the ‘ Invincible Colours." Generals Moore and Oakes (who had commanded the brigade containing the 42d), then in London, wrote to Lieut. -Col. Dickson, who was with the regiment in Edinburgh Castle, and a court of inquiry was held on the matter, the result of the examination being in substance what I has just been narrated. Sergeant Sinclair was promoted to ensign in 1803; was captain in the 81st from 1813 to 1816, when he retired on half pay, and died in 1831].

Enraged at the disaster which had befallen the elite of his cavalry, General Menou ordered forward a column of infantry, supported by cavalry, to make a second attempt on the position; but this body was repulsed at all points by the Highlanders. Another body of cavalry now dashed forward as the former had done, and met with a similar reception, numbers falling, and others passing through to the rear, where they were again overpowered by the 28th. It was impossible for the Highlanders to withstand much longer such repeated attacks, particularly as they were reduced to the necessity of fighting every man on his own ground, and unless supported they must soon have been destroyed. The fortunate arrival of the brigade of Brigadier-General Stuart, which advanced from the second line, and formed on the left of the Highlanders, probably saved them from destruction. At this time the enemy were advancing in great force, both in cavalry and infantry, apparently determined to overwhelm the handful of men who had hitherto baffled all their efforts. Though surprised to find a fresh and more numerous body of troops opposed to them, they nevertheless ventured to charge, but were again driven back with great precipitation.

It was now eight o’clock in the morning; but nothing decisive had been effected on either side. About this time the British had spent the whole of their ammunition; and not being able to procure an immediate supply, owing to the distance of the ordnance-stores, their fire ceased,—a circumstance which surprised the enemy, who, ignorant of the cause, ascribed the cessation to design. Meanwhile, the French kept up a heavy and constant cannonade from their great guns, and a straggling fire from their sharp-shooters in the hollows, and behind some sand-hills in front of the redoubt and ruins. The army suffered greatly from the fire of the enemy, particularly the Highlanders, and the right of General Stuart’s brigade, who were exposed to its full effect, being posted on a level piece of ground over which the cannon-shot rolled after striking the ground, and carried off a file of men at every successive rebound. Yet not withstanding this havoc no man moved from his position except to close up the gap made by the shot, when his right or left hand man was struck down.

At this stage of the battle the proceeedings of the centre may be shortly detailed. The enemy pushed forward a heavy column of infantry, before the dawn of day, towards the position occupied by the Guards. After allowing them to approach very close to his front, General Ludlow ordered his fire to be opened, and his orders were executed with such effect, that the enemy retired with precipitation. Foiled in this attempt, they next endeavoured to turn the left of the position; but they were received and driven back with such spirit by the Royals and the right wing of the 54th, that they desisted from all further attempts to carry it. They, however, kept up an irregular fire from their cannon and sharp-shooters, which did some execution. As General Regnier, who commanded the right of the French line, did not advance, the left of the British was never engaged. He made up for this forbearance by keeping up a heavy cannonade, which did considerable injury.

Emboldened by the temporary cessation of the British fire on the right, the French sharpshooters came close to the redoubt; but they were thwarted in their designs by the opportune arrival of ammunition. A fire was immediately opened from the redoubt, which made them retreat with expedition. The whole line followed, and by ten o’clock the enemy had resumed their original position in front of Alexandria. After this, the enemy despairing of success, gave up all idea of renewing the attack, and the loss of the commander-In-chief, among other considerations, made the British desist from any attempt to force the enemy to engage again.

Sir Ralph Abercomby, who had taken his station in front early in the day between the right of the Highlanders and the left of the redoubt, having detached the whole of his staff, was left alone. In this situation two of the enemy’s dragoons dashed forward, and drawing up on each side, attempted to lead him away prisoner. In a struggle which ensued he received a blow on the breast; but with the vigour and strength of arm for which he was distinguished, he seized the sabre of one of his assailants, and forced it out of his hard. A corporal (Barker) of the 42d coming up to his support at this instant, for lack of other ammunition, charged his piece with powder and his ramrod, shot one of the dragoons, and the other retired.

Sir Ralph Abercromby in Eqypt. From Kay's Edinburgh Portraits
Sir Ralph Abercromby in Egypt. From Kay's Edinburgh Portraits.

The general afterwards dismounted from his horse though with difficulty; but no person knew that he was wounded, till some of the staff who joined him observed the blood trickling down his thigh. A musket-bail had entered his groin, and lodged deep in the hip-joint. Notwithstanding the acute pain which a wound in such a place must have occasioned, he had, during the interval between the time he had been wounded and the last charge of cavalry, walked with a firm and steady step along the one of the Highlanders and General Stuart’s brigade, to the position of the Guards in the centre of the line, where, from its elevated position, he had a full view of the whole field of battle, and from which place be gave his orders as if nothing had happened to him. In his anxiety about the result of the battle, seemed to forget that he had been hurt; but after victory had declared in favour of the British army, he became alive to the danger of his situation, and in a state of exhaustion, lay down on a little sand-hill near the battery.

In this situation he was surrounded by the generals and a number of officers. The soldiers were to be seen crowding round this melancholy group at a respectful distance, pouring out blessings on his head, and prayers for his recovery. His wound was now examined, and a large incision was made to extract the ball but it could not be found. After this operation he was put upon a litter, and carried onboard the Foudroyant, Lord Keith’s ship, where he died on the morning of the 28th of March. "As his life was honourable, so his death was glorious. His memory will be recorded in the annals of his country, will be sacred to every British soldier, and embalmed in the memory of a grateful posterity."

The loss of the British, of whom scarcely 6000 were actually engaged, was not so great as might have been expected. Besides the commander-in-chief, there were, killed 10 officers, 9 sergeants, and 224 rank and file; and 60 officers, 48 sergeants, 3 drummers, and 1082 rank and file, were wounded. Of the Royal Highlanders, Brevet-Major Robert Bisset, Leutenants Colin Campbell, Robert Anderson, Alexander Stewert, Alexander Donaldson, and Archibald M’Nicol, and 48 rank and file, were killed; and Major James Stirling, Captain David Stewart, Leutenant Hamilton Rose, J. Millford Sutherland, A.M Cuningham, Frederick Campbell, Maxwell Grant, Ensign William Mackenzie, 6 sergeants, and 247 rank and file wounded. As the 42d was more exposed than any of the other regiments engaged, and sustained the brunt of the battle, their loss was nearly three times the aggregate amount of the loss of all the other regiments of the reserve. The total loss of the French was about 4000 men.

General Hutchinson, on whom the command of the British army now devolved, remained in the position before Alexandria for some time, during which a detachment under Colonel Spencer took possession of Rosetta. Having strengthened his position between Alexandria and Aboukir, General Hutchinson transferred his headquarters to Rosetta, with a view to proceed against Rhamanieh, an important post, commanding the passage of the Nile, and preserving the communication between Alexandria and Cairo. The general left his camp on the 5th of May to attack Rhamanieh; but although defended by 4000 infantry, 800 cavalry, and 32 pieces of cannon, the place was evacuated by the enemy on his approach.

The commander-in-chief proceeded to Cairo, and took up a position four miles from that city on the 16th of June. Belliard, the French general, had made up his mind to capitulate whenever he could do so with honour; and accordingly, on the 22d of June, when the British had nearly completed their approaches, he offered to surrender, on condition of his army being sent to France with their arms, luggage, and effects.

Nothing now remained to render the conquest of Egypt complete but the reduction of Alexandria. Returning from Cairo, General Hutchinson proceeded to invest that city. Whilst General Coote, with nearly half the army, approached to the westward of the town, the general himself advanced from the eastward. General Menou, anxious for the honour of the French arms, at first disputed the advances made towards his lines; but finding himself surrounded on two sides by an army of 14,500 men, by the sea on the north, and cut off from the country on the south by a lake which had been formed by breaking down the dike between the Nile and Alexandria, he applied for, and obtained, on the evening of the 26th of August, an armistice of three days. On the 2d of September the capitulation was signed, the terms agreed upon being much the same with those granted to General Beliard.

After the French were embarked, immediate arrangements were made for settling in quarters the troops that were to remain in the country, and to embark those destined for other stations. Among these last were the three Highland regiments. The 42d landed at Southhampton, and marched to Winchester. With the exception of those who were affected with ophthalmia, all the men were healthy. At Winchester, however, the men caught a contagious fever, of which Captain Lamont and several privates died.

Medal of 42d Royal Highland Regiment

Medal to the Officers of the 42d Royal Highlanders for services in Egypt
Medal to the Officers of the 42d Royal Highlanders for services in Egypt

"At this period," says General Stewart, "a circumstance occurred which caused come conversation on the French standard taken at Alexandria. The Highland Society of London, much gratified with the accounts given of the conduct of their countrymen in Egypt, resolved to bestow on them some mark of their esteem and approbation. The Society being composed of men of the first rank and character in Scotland, and including several of the royal family as members, it was considered that such an act would be honourable to the corps and agreeable to all. It was proposed to commence with the 42d as the oldest of the Highland regiments, and with the others in succession, as their service offered an opportunity of distinguishing themselves. Fifteen hundred pounds were immediately subscribed for this purpose. Medals were struck with a head of Sir Ralph Abercromby, and some emblematical figure’s on the obverse.. A superb piece of plate was likewise ordered. While these were in preparation, the Society held a meeting, when Sir John Sinclair, with the warmth of a clansman, mentioned his namesake, Sergeant Sinclair, as having taken or having got possession of the French standard, which had been brought home. Sir John being at that time ignorant of the circumstances, made no mention of the loss of the ensign which the sergeant had gotten in charge. This called forth the claim of Lutz, already referred to, accompanied with some strong remarks by Cobbett, the editor of the work in which the claim appeared. The Society then asked an explanation from the officers of the 42d. To this very proper request a reply was given by the officers who were then present with the regiment. The majority of these happened to be young men, who expressed, in warm terms, their surprise that the Society should imagine them capable of countenancing any statement implying that they had laid claim to a trophy to which they had no right. This misapprehension of the Society’s meaning brought on a correspondence, which ended in an interruption of farther communication for many years.


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