Napoleon Series Archive 2016

colonel Phélippeaux

The Influence of Sea Power Upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793-1812, Volume 1 by Alfred Thayer Mahan 1898.

Mahan, an American, seems to take a pretty balanced view of things and covers both sides.

Considering some recent questions on the forum, Mahan's comment on Phélippeaux is worth quoting here.

p. 298-299

Of the same age as Bonaparte, Phélippeaux had been his fellow-pupil at the military school of Brienne, had left France with the royalists in 1792, and returned to it after the fall of Robespierre. He had naturally, from his antecedents, joined the party of reaction; and, after its over~ throw in September, 1797, was easily moved to aid in Sir Sidney’s escape from Paris. Accompanying him to Eng— land, he received from the Crown a colonel’s commission. To the guidance of this able engineer the wisdom and skill of the defence was mainly due. Never did great issues turn on a nicer balance than at Acre. The technical skill of Phélippeaux, the hearty support he received from Smith, his officers and crews, the untiring activity and brilliant courage of the latter, the British command of the sea, all contributed; and so narrow was the margin of success, that it may safely be said the failure of one factor would have caused total failure and the loss of the place. Its fall was essential to Bonaparte, and his active, far-seeing mind had long before determined its seizure by his squadron, if the British left the Levant. “ If any event drives us from the coast of Egypt,” wrote Nelson on the 17th of December, 1798, “ St. Jean d’Acre will be attacked by sea. I have Bonaparte’s letter before me.” As the best port and the best fortress on the coast, Acre was the bridgehead into Palestine. To Syria it bore the relation that Lisbon did to the Spanish Peninsular War. If Bonaparte advanced, leaving it unsubdued, his flank and rear would through it be open to attack from the sea. If it fell, he had good reason to believe the country would rise in his favor. “ If I succeed,” said he at a late period of the siege, when hope had not yet abandoned him, “ I shall find in the city the treasures of the Pasha, and arms for three hundred thousand men. I raise and arm all Syria, so outraged by the ferocity of Djezzar, for whose fall you see the population praying to God at each assault. I march upon Damascus and Aleppo. I swell my army, as I advance, by all malcontents. I reach Constantinople with armed masses. I overthrow the Turkish Empire. I found in the East a new and great empire which shall fix my place in posterity.” 2 Dreams? Ibrahim Pasha advanced from Egypt in 1831, took Acre in 1832, and marched into the heart of Asia Minor, which the battle of Konieh soon after laid at his feet; why not Bonaparte? Damascus had already offered him its keys, and the people were eager for the overthrow of the pashas.