The eyes of all Europe have been lately directed with feverish anxiety towards the East. With the early history of the present ruler of Egypt, and with his projects of military reform, our readers are doubtless well acquainted. We shall, therefore, only rapidly glance at the present condition of Syria, as on the causes that led to the astonishing success of a campaign that at one time threatened to construct, upon a new basis, the political geography of the East.
In contemplating the state of degradation and impotency into which have fallen Syria, and that vast Peninsula which extends westward of the Euphrates, after having occupied so proud a place in the page of history, from the earliest traditionary periods down to the time when the Turkish Sultans abandoned Broussa for Adrianople, we naturally inquire what has become of the intellectual inheritance which the ancient inhabitants of these countries left behind them? Where are the successors of the skilful workmen of Damascus, of Mossul, and of Angora; the navigators of Phoenicia, the artists of Ionia, and the wise men of Chaldea? Several distinct characters of civilisation have successively flourished in this part of Asia. To the primitive ages, to the reign of the Pelasgi, correspond the subterraneous excavations of Macri, and the Phrygian monuments of Seïdï Gazi; to the Babylonian power, the ruins of Bagdad, and the artificial mountains of Van; to the Hellenic period, the baths, the amphitheatres, and the ruins which strew the coast of the Archipelago; to the Roman empire, the military roads which traverse in every direction the whole Peninsula; to the Greeks of the middle ages, the church of Iznik.
And now that Mussulman civilisation, which at its brightest periods produced the beautiful mosque of the Sultan Bayazid at Amasia, is at its last gasp; for we can, with safety, affirm that not a single grand thought, either social, religious, or political, any longer connects together the four millions of inhabitants which the Porte numbers in this part of her dominions. All unity has disappeared, and the Asmoulis, who compose the predominating race, no longer obey but some old habits and recollections. The downfall of the Janizary system destroyed their last connecting link. Forgetting that their destiny was conquest — that they were only encamped in the land — that they had received a military organisation for a permanent state of warfare — that their headquarters was Constantinople — they have become attached to the soil, and shut themselves up in their harems, have established a feudal system, are divided among themselves by hereditary enmities, and their contempt for foreigners is no longer founded on their courage and power.
Near the coasts of the Archipelago European intercourse has, in some degree, civilised the manners of the Turks, but as the traveller advances into the interior, civilisation sensibly decreases. On approaching the central plateau of Asia Minor, he perceives that cultivation seldom extends beyond the distance of half a league round a village; the inhabitants are secreted in the mountains, and carefully avoid the vicinity of the great roads; it is a well-known statistical phenomenon, that the most inaccessible districts are the most populous and the richest. This will be easily understood, when it is told that the passage of troops through a district is a pest more dreaded than the fatal plague itself. The once flourishing and magnificent plains of Eske–Seher have been deserts since the Sultan Amurath traversed them, at the head of 300,000 men, to lay siege to Bagdad. His passage was marked by all the devastating effects of the hurricane. When a body of those horsemen called Delhis, who are attached to the suite of every Pasha, enters a village, the consternation is general, and followed by a system of exaction that to the unfortunate villager is equivalent to ruin. To complain to the Pasha would be to court instant destruction.
From this we can conceive the horror of the peasantry of Anatolia at the passage of large bodies of troops through their country, and consequently the obstacles a European army would encounter which should ever be masters of the Black and Mediterranean Seas. The Turcomans, a Nornase tribe, who sometimes pitch their tents on the shores of the Archipelago, and who pay but a moderate tribute to the Porte, are also another cause of devastation. But it is the Musseleins, the farmers of the Pasha, who are the oppressors par excellence; they are always present to despoil the unfortunate fellah, to leave him, to use a common expression in the mouths of this oppressed race, ‘but eyes wherewith to weep.’ The welfare of the people, respect for the orders of the Porte, are things to them of the utmost indifference; to govern is to raise men and taxes; to obey, is to fear. Thus the law of force reigns almost exclusively at forty or fifty leagues from the capital.
But on a nearer approach to the Euphrates, the dissolution of every social tie becomes more striking. We find ourselves amid the independent tribes — the cruel Lendes; among the Tezdis — a people who adore the spirit of Erib. Towards the north we fall in with the Lazzi, and all those fierce natives who are entrenched like vultures amid the fastnesses of the Caucasus. Again, in the South we discover the wandering Arabs, the pirates of the desert, and the mountaineers of Lebanon, who live in a state of perpetual discord. Over this immense line of countries centuries have passed, and left no trace behind; all that the ancients and the crusaders have related to us of them, is typical of their condition at this day. The bows and arrows, the armour, exhibited as objects of curiosity in our museums, are still in use among them. It is only by chance, or by profiting by their intestine divisions, that the authority of the Porte is recognised. The Pashas are mostly hereditary, and live in a state of perpetual insurrection. Thus from the shores of the Archipelago to the banks of the Euphrates and the Tigris, civilisation and vegetation appear to obey the same law of decrease.
It is incontestable that Syria and the Pashalics on the confines of Upper Asia are of no real importance to the Sultan; and that the pride of this monarch would be the only sufferer by their loss. Desolation has reached such a point in the Ottoman Empire, that it is almost impossible to regenerate her, unless the branches of the tree, lopped of all those parts so eccentric by their position, are detached from it, and organised into independent states. Towards the North, Russia has pushed on her battalions as far as Erzeroum, but it will be found more difficult, to govern Armenia from St. Petersburg than from Constantinople. In politics, the calculation of distances is an important element. In the South of Asia, Egypt lays claim to Syria, and that part of Caramania situated between Mount Taurus and the sea — a territory in which she will find those resources she at present stands so much in need of, such as timber for shipbuilding, etc., a Christian population, among whom the seeds of European civilisation will be more easily implanted. She will thus form an empire that will one day become powerful, if not prematurely exhausted by that system of monopoly so rigorously put in force by her present ruler.
The history of the quarrels of the Pasha of Acre with Mehemet Ali, justifies, in some degree, the pretensions of the latter. Abdallah Pasha had rendered himself famous by his extortions, and in 1822 took it into his head to seize Damascus. The neighbouring Pasha formed a league against him, and laid siege to his capital, when Mehemet Ali negotiated his pardon for a sum of 60,000 purses, which of course the people paid. Interest soon prevailed over gratitude; the Pasha of Acre felt there was more to be gained from Constantinople than from Cairo — that the authority of the Sultan in the Pashalic would never be more than nominal, and that the Porte, satisfied by some presents, would not be in a condition to prevent his exactions; he therefore sought, on every occasion, to get rid of the influence of Mehemet Ali, and to excite the jealousy of the Porte against him. An opportunity soon offered itself. Some Egyptian fellahs had taken refuge under the guns of Abdallah Pasha; Mehemet Ali demanded these men, but the Governor of Acre refused to give them up, on the plea that they were subjects of the Grand Signor, and referred the matter to the Porte, who on this occasion was seized with a fit of humanity, and bewailed the oppression of the peasantry of the Valley of the Vale —Inde Bellum.’ This was at the close of 1831.
The moment was favourable for the Viceroy’s great designs. Europe was sufficiently agitated to leave him no apprehensions of an intervention on the part of Russia. The Albanians and the Borneans were in open revolt, and insurrections had broken out also in several Pashalics on the side of Upper Asia. The Sultan was considered the slave of the Russians, and his conduct excited the contempt and hatred of the whole empire. In the meantime, since the revolution the exactions of the government had extended to every object of production and industry, while the conscription decimated the most industrious portion of the population; and if to this organised system of spoliation we farther add the ravages of the plague and cholera, we may form some idea of the wretched state of those provinces, and shall be no longer surprised that the Egyptians were everywhere hailed as deliverers.
Ibrahim Pasha, the step-son of Mehemet Ali, was placed at the head of the Egyptian army. Of a short, thick-set figure, he possesses that gigantic strength which Homer so loved in his heroes, and which inspires such respect among barbarous nations. To strike off the head of a bull with a blow of his scimitar — to execute, like Peter the Great, his victims with his own hand — to fall, dead drunk, amid the broken wrecks of champagne bottles, are three diversions of his. But latterly his manners, from his intercourse with Europeans, have been somewhat polished, and in deference to them, he has displayed both clemency and dignity — in fact, Ibrahim is excessively anxious to acquire the good opinion of Europe. He possesses all that strong common-sense that so distinguishes the Turks, rather than an elevated intelligence of mind. Soliman Bey, a renegade Frenchman, formerly an officer on the staff of Marshal Grouchy, was associated with him, and it is to him that the success of the Egyptian army may be chiefly attributed.
Syria, with her various productions, was the first country which offered itself to the conquest of the Egyptians. Closed entirely on the side of Asia by Mount Amanus, which belongs to the chain of Taurus, and extends from the Gulf of Scanderoun to the Euphrates, she is bounded on one side by the Mediterranean, and on the other by the desert. Her length from Aintab to Gaza is one hundred and fifty leagues, and the mean breadth about thirty. By a single glance at the map we perceive the most important military points for the defence of Syria are the fortress of Saint Jean d’Acre; Tyre, which ought to be fortified; Bolbeck, as the key to several valleys; Antakea, the passage of the Beilan; Alexandretta, situated upon a tongue of land between the marshes and the sea; and lastly, Aentab and Zenyma, which command the two passages on the right side of Mount Amanus.
We have entered into details in order to show how destitute of all strategetical combinations was the whole plan of campaign in Syria. Malte Brun estimates the population of the district of Sham at two millions, but we are inclined to question the accuracy of this calculation, since no two travellers are agreed as to the numbers of the Druses, some estimating them at 120,000, others at a million. The Turks form two-fifths of the population — they inhabit the large towns with the Greeks; the remainder of the population is composed of Arab fellahs, of Kurds, and of Turcomans, who wander in the valley of the Orontes; of Bedouin Arabs, who pitch their tents on the banks of the Jordan and along the edge of the desert of Ansarich, worshippers of the sun, the descendants of the servants of the Old Man of the Mountain of Maronites, who profess the Catholic ritual; of Druses, whose creed is doubtful; of all the inhabitants of Mount Lebanon; of Mebualis, Mussulmans of the sect of Ali; of Naplonsins and other tribes who have preserved a state of independence. We shall not be astonished to know that amidst this prodigious diversity of races Syria is more easy to conquer than to keep possession of. With the exception of the Ansarich, who inhabit the north of Syria, all of them obeyed, at the moment when the war broke out, the Emir Bechir, a Druse, prince of the family of the celebrated Fakr el Din, who revolted against Amurath the Fourth. The Emir Bechir, when Abdallah raised the standard of revolt in 1822, sought the protection of Mehemet Ali, who reestablished him in his government.
Let us now follow Ibrahim in his march. At the head of 32,000 regular troops, and four or five thousand Bedouin Arabs and Hassouras, he took the same route as Bonaparte, and rapidly advanced against Saint Jean d’Acre. Without firing a shot, he made himself master of Jaffa, Caipha, Jerusalem, Naplonsia. Tabaneh and all the country between Gaza and Acre submitted at his approach. Master of the sea, by which he expected reinforcements both in men and material, he made haste to occupy the whole line of coast as far as Ladikich, and set down on the 27th of November, before Saint Jean d’Acre, with a corps of 15,000 regular infantry, two regiments of lancers, 1,000 Bedouins, two companies of sappers, one of cannoniers, one of bombardiers, and a train of field and siege artillery. The place is situated on a promontory surrounded on three sides by the sea, and defended on the fourth by a fort, crowned by a tower, which serves as a citadel. This last fort, the bastions of which, from their retiring flanks being too short, is the only one accessible on the land side, but it was enfiladed from a neighbouring height. Bonaparte, at the siege of Saint Jean d’Acre, was destitute of siege artillery, and was not master of the sea. He had, therefore, many more obstacles to encounter than Ibrahim.
During the first ten days the cannonade of the besiegers was not very vigorous, but on the 9th of December, five frigates having cast anchor before the place, with some gun-boats under sail, a general attack was made, and from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon the fleet and the batteries on shore kept up a well-directed fire. The besieged on their side were not inactive. The Egyptians experienced a heavy loss, and several of their ships were much cut up. From the 9th to the 18th the bombardment lasted night and day. On the 10th some heavy guns were placed in battery. The operations of the siege were now pushed forward with great ardour, but yet nothing denoted the immediate reduction of the place. The defence of Ab-dallah Pasha was marked by the most determined energy. He had sworn, it was reported, that he would blow up the town. It was, however, of the utmost importance to push forward the operations with the greatest activity. The first disposition of the population, which had been favourable, might undergo a change should not Ibrahim succeed in striking a great blow. The mountaineers of Lebanon and of Naplonsia had sent their chiefs to the Egyptian camp, and were ready to furnish a contingent of their warriors.
The news of the invasion of Syria by the army of Mehemet Ali, spread terror at Constantinople. The Porte, with her usual craft, dissimulated, and feigning to see in this event but a quarrel between two Pashas, she summoned them to lay before her their respective griefs; but finding her orders were disregarded, she made preparations for war. On the 16th of December, 1831, Mehemet Pasha, already governor of Racca, was appointed governor of Aleppo, and Seraskier of Syria and Arabia. Orders were sent to the directors of the Imperial Mines, Osman Pasha, to the Musselims of Marash, of Sevas, of Adana, and of Payas, to levy troops. Strict injunctions were also given to the governors of Caramania, and of Caesarea, to hold themselves in readiness; but this movement of Tartars was insufficient to produce a numerous army; the lukewarm devotion of the subjects of the Porte found ample means of evasion; and every day the efforts of the Turkish government in Syria to reestablish its authority, encountered new obstacles.
The son of the Emir Bechir assembled troops in the mountains, and held out for Mehemet Ali. Damascus armed itself through fear, but retained as an hostage the Pasha appointed to conduct the caravan to Mecca. Memiran Osman Pasha had been selected by the Porte for the government of Tripoli, but it was necessary to take possession of it by force of arms. -This port was already occupied, in the name of Mehemet Ali, by Mustapha Agar Barbar, a man of considerable note in the country. The Seraskier Mehemet Pasha consented to furnish Osman with some thousand irregular horsemen, and fourteen small field-pieces.
The latter arrived before his capital early in April. Believing the Egyptian Commander-inChief still occupied with the siege of Saint Jean d’Acre, all his dispositions of attack consisted in scattering his troops over the surrounding hills, and in ordering his artillery to play upon the town, which did not displace a single stone; the guns of the castle were also so badly pointed that the Turkish horsemen galloped up to the very houses, and were only beaten off by a brisk fire of musketry, which, galling them severely, drove them across the heights. Night put an end to the affair.
A few days after this skirmish, Ibrahim Pasha, having left to one of his lieutenants the direction of the siege of Saint Jean d’Acre and wishing to reconnoitre the country, appeared at the head of 800 men, with six field-pieces, before Osman’s camp, who, seized with a panic, immediately abandoned it to the enemy, and hastened to form a junction with the Pasha of Aleppo, who was posted near Hameh. The Egyptian general immediately pursued him, and took up a position at Horn. But, threatened upon this point by three brigades of the Seraskier Mehemet Pasha, he retired, after some skirmishes, to Bolbeck, where he established his camp, and was joined by Abaz Pasha, his nephew, at the head of 800 men. But his presence was required in other quarters. Divisions had broken out at several points, and the slowness with which the operations of the siege of Saint Jean d’Acre was carried on had damped the ardour of his partisans.
At Tripoli a conspiracy was discovered, in which were implicated the Cadi, the Mufti, and the principal Turks. After receiving a considerable reinforcement of troops from Candia, and making some defensive dispositions to the south of Bolbeck, Ibrahim encamped before Saint Jean d’Acre, to bring the siege to a conclusion by a decisive attack. On the 19th of May the fire was recommenced with great vigour; the Egyptians made the most extraordinary efforts to get into the city, and experienced a heavy loss; but no sooner was a breach effected than it was again closed up. Nothing was left standing in the town. The palace was destroyed, and Abdullah Pasha obliged to retire to the caves dug by Djezzar. The garrison was reduced to less than 2,000 men. At last, on the 27th of May, a general assault was made. Three breaches were practicable, one on the tower of Kapon Bourdjon, the other two at Nebieh Zaleh, and at Zavieh. Six battalions had the horrors of the attack, which commenced at daybreak and lasted twelve hours.
At Kapon Bourdjon the Arabs were on the point of giving ground, but Ibrahim having with his own hand struck off the head of a captain, and having turned a battery against them, they returned to the assault. Unfortunately for Abdullah, his gunners ran from their pieces, and he was obliged to capitulate. The Egyptians confessed a loss but of 1,429 wounded, and 512 killed. Thus fell Saint Jean d’Acre, after a memorable defence of six months. The capture of this place insured to Ibrahim the possession of Lower Syria, and enabled him to advance in perfect security.
While the son of Mehemet Ali was thus vigorously pushing forward the war, the Porte was still occupied with her preparations. In the month of March, Hussein Pasha, celebrated by the destruction of Janizaries, and by the extraordinary bravery he displayed in the Russian Campaign, but in other respects, a soldier à la Turc, was appointed chief of the expedition to Arabia. To this soldier was confided the safety of the empire, with the title of field-marshal of Anatolia. He was solemnly invested with the Har-vani (a short cloak) with an embroidered collar. He received a sabre set in brilliants, and two Arabian horses, superbly caparisoned; and, on the 17th of April, he received orders to join the army which Horsen Pasha had organised, the headquarters of which was at Konisk.
By the formation and rapid assembly of the new regular regiments, the army had been raised to 60,000 men, including artillery and engineers. The mass of their forces was composed of Beckir Pasha’s brigade of infantry, with the 2nd regiment of cavalry and a strong brigade of irregulars, under the orders of the governor of Silistria; of Skender Pasha’s brigade of infantry, and the 6th cavalry; and Delaver Pasha’s brigade, with the cavalry of the guard. Each of these corps was accompanied by its batteries. An European organisation had been given to the different services, such as the paymaster-general’s department, commissariat, etc. The Sultan had written out many of the regulations with his own hand.
The young general of division, Mehemet Pasha, a manumitted slave of Hussein, was specially charged with the direction of the regular troops, under the orders of Hussein Pasha. He was tolerably well acquainted with all our manoeuvres, and possessed some military talent. The European instructors were attached to his suite. They were the captain of artillery, Thernin, whose counsels would have saved the Turkish army had they been listened to; the engineer officer, Reully, a brave and experienced soldier; and the captain of the cavalry, Colosso. The two former (Frenchmen) saw almost the whole of the war. Taken prisoners by the Egyptians, they refused to enter their service, and were sent back. As for Colosso, he sojourned but a short time in the camp; for, on his endeavouring to put a stop to the frightful abuses that pervaded every branch of the service, the generals and colonels formed a league against him, and he retired in disgust.
On the 14th of May the field-marshal arrived at Koniah, where he displayed the most culpable negligence and carelessness. It was in vain that the European inspectors requested him to put in force ‘the regulation for troops in the field,’ of the French general Prevan, which had been translated into Turkish; they were no more listened to than were their complaints on the bad state of the camp, and on the indolence and negligence of the chiefs.
The generalissimo never even deemed it once requisite to review his army. The most frightful disorder prevailed in the Turkish military administrations, which subsequently led to all their reverses; in fact, it was evident to every experienced eye that an army so constituted, once overtaken by defeat, would soon be totally disorganised, and that the Porte ought to place no reliance upon its army. But there was an arm which, in the flourishing times of Islamism, was worth 100,000 Janizaries. This was excommunication. The Sultan at last resolved to unsheathe this weapon. The fatal fetva was launched against the traitor Mehemet Ali, and his son, the indolent Ibrahim. Those who have studied the Turkish history must have thought that the Viceroy of Egypt would find at last his master — the executioner; but since the late victories of the Russians, all national faith is extinguished among the Osmanlis. Excommunication is an arm as worn out at Constantinople as at Rome.
Whilst the Porte was fulminating her bull of excommunication, she directed a note to the corps diplomatique at Constantinople, in which she explained the quarrel with her subjects, and in which she demanded the strictest neutrality on the part of the great powers, and declared Egypt in a state of blockade. The Emperor Nicholas recalled his consul from Alexandria, and even made an offer of a fleet, and an auxiliary corps d’armee. Austria, an enemy to all revolutions, went so far as to threaten the Viceroy. England appeared to preserve the strictest neutrality, while France strenuously employed all her influence to bring about an accommodation; but in vain.
The Divan refusing the demands of Mehemet Ali, the solution of the question was referred to Field–Marshal Hussein, who proceeded with that calculated exertion which the Ottomans take for dignity; and thus three weeks were lost before the army advanced on Mount Taurus. It was only on the 1st of June that Mehemet Pasha arrived with the vanguard and Beker’s brigade at Adana. A reconnaissance, pushed forward as far as Tarsons, brought back the news of the fall of Saint Jean d’Acre. It became, therefore, an imperative necessity to occupy the passes of Syria, and to march upon Antioch, in order to cover Beylau. A Tartar was despatched to Hussein, who posted off in great haste to Adana, only to halt there for a fortnight. At last the movement was effected, and the army reached Antioch, where the cholera broke out in its ranks, and where eight days were lost. Instead of profiting by Ibrahim’s delay to take up a more advanced position, the latter descended into the valley of the Orontes, and entered Damascus on the 15th of June, after a short engagement with the Turkish irregulars.
But all Ibrahim’s operations were marked by a want of rapidity. After securing Antioch, the Turkish army should have marched upon Horns, which offered an excellent position, where they might have established a communication with the Druses, upon whom some hopes were founded, and whence they would have commanded the road to Damascus. But it was not till the 6th of July that Hussein would execute this movement. Mehemet Pasha commenced his march; but in their haste they forgot to issue rations to the troops, who reached Horns at ten in the morning, almost dead with hunger and fatigue. The Seraskier of Aleppo was encamped, with his irregular troops, at the gates of the city; but without deigning even to think of the enemy, whom they thought to be at some distance, or to issue rations to the serving troops, they wasted their time in vain ceremonies.
The young Mehemet Pasha was carried, under a salute of artillery, into a magnificent tent pitched upon the bank of the river. There the two viziers made a long interchange of compliments, and smoked the hargueleh.
Midst of all this mummery, intelligence was brought in that the Egyptian army was within two hours’ march of them. The disorder that ensued was dreadful. The hungry soldiers dragged themselves in masses to meet the Arabs. The latter waited for them, with their front masked by light troops, presenting twenty-seven battalions deployed in line, the left of which rested on the Orontes, and the right upon a hamlet at the foot of a hill. The Egyptians, who were ignorant of the presence of the Turkish regular infantry, had adopted this vicious disposition against their irregular cavalry. But no one really commanded among the Turks, and thus the opportunity of striking a decisive blow was lost. Every colonel had an opinion of his own. One Pasha wished to retreat, while the European instructors insisted on an immediate attack. In short, the artillery even refused to advance to the front. However, Ibrahim Pasha did not remain inactive; he pressed the Turks closely, doubled his line from right to left, and pushed forward some battalions on the side of the Orontes, but they were checked by part of Beker’s brigade and two pieces of cannon. Then the whole Egyptian line halted and opened their fire. In the course of twenty minutes the left of the Turks suffered considerably.
Mehemet Pasha resolved to charge the enemy with the bayonet; but instead of remaining with the second line in order to direct the movement, he put himself at the head of his soldiers to attack the Arabs, who immediately formed in column. Before he reached them, he was abandoned by his artillery, while his cavalry, which should have turned the enemy, fell back in disorder before a battery which they might have carried. The second line of infantry did not support the movement with vigour; and on the Egyptian columns deploying into line, preparatory to a decisive charge, the whole Turkish army went to the right-about in the most disgraceful manner, pursued by the enemy’s cavalry. It was a general sauve qui peut. The approach of night alone saved the Turkish army from total destruction. The loss of the Sultan’s forces in this affair amounted to 2,000 killed and 2,500 prisoners.
The wrecks of the Turkish corps retired pell-mell upon Antioch. Instead of rallying them, Ned-geb Pasha’s brigade, which was encamped at two hours’ march from the field of battle, fled with them.
The field-marshal, on learning this disaster, took post at the tête du pont on Djezzer, on the Orontes. He received the fugitives at the point of the bayonet, and cut off the heads of the first mutineers who endeavoured to cross. It was in such moments that Hussein showed himself to be above the ordinary stamp of mankind. His energy was admirably calculated for quelling a revolt; but, on the other hand, though he was able to master the confusion of a retreat, he knew not how to avoid it. Such was his military incapacity that he was incapable of foreseeing anything. In a short time he expended all the money in the military chest, impoverishing all the districts through which he passed, paying nowhere and holding up the name of his master to universal execration. At the action of Horns, the mass of his forces were not engaged, so that there yet remained 40,000 regular troops; but the field-marshal allowed an army to perish, to which Horsen Pasha had given a tolerable organisation. Instead of taking any measures of defence, he set out for Antioch, with the view of effecting a junction with some troops in the neighbourhood of Aleppo; but finding no provisions in those districts, he returned by forced marches to Alexandretta, after fatiguing his troops by a march of eight hundred leagues.
However, Ibrahim was advancing, having recalled all his garrisons, and made new levies in the mountains. As he advanced, the whole country declared in his favour, and the castle of Aleppo was delivered up to him. His conduct was marked by great skill and generosity. Under his protection the numerous Christians began to raise their heads. There now only remained, to complete the entire occupation of Syria, to seize Antioch and Alexandretta; but his operations were pushed forward with extreme slowness, because he always expected from Constantinople a decision favourable to the pretensions of his father-in-law. The Turkish field-marshal had thus plenty of time to stop his passage into Carmania.
Antioch offered a position for an entrenched camp; but this he disregarded, and made his advanced posts fall back upon the defile of Beylau. This defile, formed by a deep valley, is so narrow in some places that a camel can scarcely pass. Nevertheless, this is the grand route of the Mecca caravan. Nothing was more easy than to defend it; yet on the 5th of August the Egyptians made themselves masters of it, after an action of two hours. The passage of the Beylau delivered to the conqueror Alexandretta, its immense magazines, and one hundred pieces of cannon. The Turks, instead of rallying in the rear, in the favourable positions which the ground afforded, fled in the direction of Adana. Ibrahim pursued them with his cavalry, which passed the Djihun at a ford, Hussein Pasha having blown up the superb bridge of nine arches that crossed that river at Missis.
The Ottoman troops continued their retreat across the plain of Adana, but they had scarcely reached that city before they were dislodged by the enemy, who were on the point of capturing the field-marshal. The whole district of Adana declared for Ibrahim, who had at length reached the new line of frontiers which Mehemet Ali wished to make the boundaries of his empire. There was now nothing to prevent the march of the Egyptians upon Constantinople itself, for the demoralised soldiers of Hussein Pasha deserved not the name of an army. The Kurds and the Anatolian peasantry murdered the Turkish regulars wherever they could find them, which was not difficult, for, deserted by platoons, the provinces of Upper Asia were in such a state of insurrection that a single officer of Ibrahim’s would have been sufficient to make the most considerable town capitulate.
The Viceroy, at one moment, had the insane idea of himself attacking the Turkish capital by sea, while Ibrahim should threaten it from Scutari. But his prudence doubtless prevented the execution of the enterprise, for however popular the cause of Mehemet Ali may have been, he would have appeared in Constantinople only as a subject, and certainly could not have prevented the intervention of Russia. And lastly, had he succeeded in these projects of unbounded ambition, what would have been the result? Instead of a compact state bounded by Mount Taurus, he would have found himself embarrassed with a great empire, tottering to its base, which no human power can regenerate.
Mehemet Ali listened, therefore, to the sagacious counsel of France, and endeavoured to obtain the recognition of his independence. But the Porte, listening to the perfidious suggestions, and governed by the blind obstinacy that led to the battle of Navarino and the victories of the Russians, would make no terms, and reduced Ibrahim, after an armistice of five months, to conquer her again. Hussein Pasha was succeeded by the Grand Vizier, Redchid Pasha, the same who had distinguished himself in Greece, and quelled the revolt of Scodro Pasha. Brave and accustomed to the camp, a sound politician, Redchid was superior to his predecessor, but even he was only a Turkish general. He had been selected principally on account of his great influence in Turkey in Europe. He therefore received orders to repair to Constantinople, with considerable levies of Bosnians and Albanians, of which they knew he could dispose, and with the six regiments of infantry and cavalry that belonged to them.
In the meantime the indefatigable Hussein Pasha had succeeded in reorganising an army with about 40,000 regulars of the reserve; it was echeloned between the capital and Koniah, reinforced by the troops brought by the Grand Vizier; it was sufficiently numerous to have prevented Ibrahim’s further advance; but there was neither skill in the general nor ardour among the troops; the councils of the European instructors were, as usual, disregarded, while the Egyptian army, on the contrary, was almost exclusively under the direction of European officers. A single piece of artillery would have sufficed to defend the passage of the Taurus, and yet when Ibrahim appeared on its northern declivity he had to encounter but a few irregulars, of whom he soon gave a good account. He then fixed his camp on the plain of Erekli, at one hundred and sixty days’ march of a camel from Constantinople, and then advanced upon Koniah.
Reuff Pasha, who had provisionally assumed the command of the Turkish army until the arrival of Red-chid Pasha, prudently fell back upon Acken at the approach of the Egyptians. But forgetting the disastrous day of Koulaktche, the Grand Vizier merely assumed the offensive instead of taking up a position in the mountains; and, allowing the unusual rigour of the season to thin the ranks of the enemy, he precipitately advanced. The cold was so excessive, the weather so dreadful, and the roads rendered so impassable by the snow, that only a small portion of the artillery and ammunition could follow the movement, so that they found themselves, as at Horns, without provisions in the presence of the enemy.
Some distance from Koniah, Redchid Pasha sent forward his selector at the head of a body of irregulars, with orders to advance across the mountains up the village of Lilé, which was occupied by a strong detachment of Arabs, while the Grand Vizier on his side with the grand army, was to pursue the route of the plain. The attack was to have been simultaneous, but unfortunately the selector arrived too soon on the scene of action, and was totally defeated. Undaunted by this check, the Grand Vizier continued his advance, and did not halt till he was in presence of the enemy, whom he found strongly entrenched, and prepared to give him a warm reception. It was the 29th of the Redgeb (21st of December), and from the advanced hour of the day there was no alternative but to attack, otherwise he must have passed a night upon the field, without bread, exposed to the action of an intense cold that would have paralysed the ardour of the troops.
Redchid Pasha made therefore no dispositions for attack, but his order of battle was best: he drew up his army in four lines, thus rendering useless a great part of his troops, and when he at length resolved to alter his dispositions for a more extended order of battle, he did not reconnoitre the ground to ascertain if it would permit such an extension of front. His left wing therefore was unable to deploy, and remained formed in columns of attack, while the enemy’s artillery committed dreadful havoc on their profound masses. He committed also another fault, that of placing his artillery between the interval of the lines, so that it did not reach the Egyptians, while theirs on the contrary, posted in their front, did great execution.
Mehemet Redchid’s main plan of battle was to attack with the mass of his forces, composed chiefly of Albanians, the centre of the enemy’s army, whilst the cavalry should make a demonstration upon the wings. But Ibrahim, who had foreseen this manoeuvre, leaving only on the point attacked a sufficient force to make ahead for a short time, turned his adversary to the gorges of the mountains. On gaining the flanks of the Ottoman party, he impetuously attacked and routed their cavalry, and afterwards advanced against the principal Turkish corps, which thus found itself attacked on both sides. The Albanians, in spite of all the efforts of the Grand Vizier, broke and fled.
Redchid Pasha then put himself at the head of his guard for a last effort, but after performing prodigies of valour, he was again repulsed, and fell, severely wounded, into the hands of the Egyptians. The loss of the Turks was immense; one regiment alone, the first infantry of the line, left 3,000 men upon the field of battle.
The battle was decisive. The second army of the Grand Seigneur was annihilated, and the road to Constantinople again open to Ibrahim; and the tottering empire of Mahmoud was saved by the intervention of the Russian Autocrat, who felt that it was his own property that was at stake rather than that of the unfortunate Sultan. Mehemet Ali is now on independent sovereign, and it is to the military genius of Europe that he owes this glory; while the once formidable empire of Mahomet is rapidly sinking under an accumulation of evils, the operation of which European diplomacy will in vain attempt to arrest.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07