Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

says: “The

or

the Zouaves' battalions, remained true to their salt; but not till after the taking of Constantine in October of that year, did the inclination of the natives to take military service receive a new and favourable impulse. New squadrons could then be organized on different points of the province, and the corps of native infantry, the Zouaves, received now a greater accession to their strength from the Kabylians of the Beylick of Constantine, and from the remnants of the dispersed Turkish militia of the vanquished Bey.

As regards the origin of this now world-known name, “ Zouave,” Pelissier de Reynaud in his “ Annales Algeriennes, Zouaves, or rather the Zouaouas, are independent Kabylians of the province of Constantine, who sell their services to the Barbary powers in the same manner as in Europe the Swiss." Known throughout the three Regencies as first-rate foot soldiers, their Arabic name was considered by the French synonimous with, or especially indicative of, a light infantry combatant; for which reason, shortened to that of Zouaves, it was retained on their first organization in the service of France. But both native cavalry and infantry had now attained the limits of the first historical period of their establishment, viz., that extending from the date of their formation 1830, to the year 1839, when, at the call of Abd-el-Kader, who had proclaimed the “ Holy War,” after the explorative passage of the Pass of the Bibans, Iron Gates''* by a division of the French army; Spahis and Zouaves deserted from their respective corps in such numbers that the experiment to secure at so early a period of the invasion their valuable auxiliary services for the army was considered to have completely failed.

Singular as it may seem, but no less historically true in fact than singular, that failure, in appearance so fatal at that time to every hope of a successful incorporation of native troops in the army of occupation, was an event which led to results so remarkably illustrative of ihe inherent pliancy of the military spirit of the French soldier that capacitates him for the most unexpected exigencies of war, that we cannot refrain here from & passing advertancy thereto, in our progress to the elucidation of the valuable equine resources of the territories conquered in Africa by his valour and powers of endurance. But few of our readers we are sure—for true sportsmen, as distinguished from “sporting men,” feel readily a kindred interest in things that smack of the incidents of the field of war—and few British soldiers among them who made the Crimean campaign, will hesitate to consider our reference thereto a rightful tribute of admiration to our then loyal and gallant Allies.

The event adverted to necessitated a thorough change. Though made public in no official document, doubtless from political grounds as regarded the natives, Kalyb and Arab were excluded thenceforth from entry into the late native infantry battalions ; but the name of the corps“ Zouaves" was retained, and from 1839, the second period of its organization, it was wholly composed of Frenchmen; and what those battalions achieved from that time forth in Africa, the Crimea,

* A difficult mountain pass of the Lesser Atlas range in the Province of Constantine, four days' march from Algiers, in the direction of Setif. During their African wars the Roman legions never ventured to attempt its passage,

Italy, and Mexico, belongs no more to the Arabs, but exclusively to the national soldiers of France.

The late squadrons of native cavalry were alike reconstituted anew, almost wholly of French, though to a certain extent exception was made in favour of those natives who had remained faithful, and rendered distinguished service. As the “chasseurs d'Afrique" organized thenceforth in regiments, and Barb-mounted throughout, they remained also constantly in Africa, where, thoroughly acclimatised and naturalised us it were by custom to the harassing fatigues and perils of a continual war-service, as peculiar as desperate in its character, they emulated in the Arab saddle a renown equal to that of their fellow-countrymen who, as Zouaves, achieved for themselves the distinction conveyed in the official expression of “Un esprit de Corps tout Algérien."

It was from this critical period of 1839 to 1847 that at intervals within the vast area of the Algerian and Oranese Tell,* and throughout the province of Constantine, the Barb horse seemed in imminent peril of being extinguished in the war which raged without interruption on every side. The race was becoming rare. There were moments, moreover, when (decimatel, as it were, in the struggle for mastery) it had suffered so much from the ills and vicissitudes engendered in a period of such agitation and trouble as to exhibit an impoverishment of the blood, and the consequent deterioration of those qualities that constituted the distinguishing attributes of its race. The requirements of the army, and especially of the remount-commissions of the regiments of the Chasseurs d'Afrique, necessitated the military authorities to seek elsewhere that which circumstances refused now in Algeria. To this effect resort was had to the territory of the neighbouring Tunisian Regency; and thither also French officers of known judgment, accompanied by able veterinary adjuncts, had been sent by the State to purchase both, troop horses, and stallions of race for productors at the "depôts d'Etalons,” now established at stations contiguous to Algiers by the Government, which had too much on its hands in pushing the military operations in the field to give serious attention to the establishment of State breeding studs of the indigenous horse, the necessity of which became every year more obvious.

At this period, nevertheless, and for some time-in fact, up to the failure and surrender of the heroic Emir Abd-el-Kader-the Arab tribes of the l'unisian Regency, though in territory, person, or property

The “ Tell,” from the word tellus (ù terra)—the earth—by which the Romans had designated the vast region of arable and pastare land intermediate between the Mediterranean Sea-board and the elevated table lands extending southward to the desert. The mean length of the Tell (Trull of the Arabs) from the west to its centre, according to the data of the Colonial Topographical Department, is 120 kilometres, circa 75 miles English; and to the east 120 kilometres more, or 169 miles. It embraces the whole of Kabylia within its limits, and in its superficial area measures about 14 million hectares, or 35 million acres. Under the Roman empire it rivalled Sicily as the granary of Rome. It produces grain crops in abundance, supplies not only the whole of the populations of the Algerian territories and the nomadic tribes of the Sahara, but the grain exports of the three provinces to Europe. Tobacco is much cultivated in the Tell; it furnishes woods essentially adapted to cabinet-making; and cotton and wine are gradually becoming products of culture. The Mussulman population of the Tell in 1863 was composed of 700,000 Kabylians and 1,391,812 Arabs, divided into 1,200 tribes, and these themselves sub-divided into 10,000 douars,

in no way imperilled by the war of subjection waged by the French upon their co-religionists of Algeria, were as little disposed as the Arabs of the Tell to sell their horses to the Christian who sought their markets. It was averse to the prescriptions of the Koran, wherein the prophet, with the view to reserve to his own people aloue the possession of those powerful instruments of war, the horses of Arabia, sought to exclude from the unbelievers their possession, in whose hands they might prove so fatal to the Mussulman religion. It was known to them that Abd-el-Kader, now in the height of his power, punished with certain death every believer convicted of selling a horse to the Christians. In Marocco the exportation of horses was barred by imposts so high that the permission to send them out of the empire had become as impracticable of attainment as illusory to hope. The Tunisian Government when applied to yielded but loathfully and with regret to the imperious necessities of policy; and the Berber or Barb of race could in most cases be obtained only at second-hand, or third-hand from Jews and Moorish dealers who frequented the markets of the tribes. But in that quarter at a later period, when the succeeding partial insurrections of the Algerian tribes had been suppressed by General Pelissier, purchases were readily effected from the Tunisian Arabs themselves, whose instinctive love of traffic prevailed at length over their religious prejudices.

By such means in 1844 the first. depôt of stallions and brood mares of Barb race, assuming the proportions even of a small Government breeding-stud, had at length been founded at Mostaganem, in the province of Oran, by General De la Moricière, who then commanded there. At Coléah also, in the province of Algiers, a depôt of stallions, organized on a military footing, had been established by Marshal Bugeaud ; and at Alélick, near Bona, in the province of Constantine, a third by General Randon, while in command of that sub-division of the province.

When the many adverse circumstances are considered under which from 1840 to 1848 these much-required establishments had been progressively created, dating from 1844, by the energy, and even at the personal pecuniary sacrifices on the part of the illustrious soldiers who founded them---setting aside the constant captious opposition and invective carpings of the soi-disant Liberal-Constitutional Party in the French Chambers, and in the press of the day (which the writer of these pages, residing then in Paris, well recollects) blatant of patriotism and economy, opposing alike every Government measure, good, bad, or indifferent, whether for France or Algeria, to the great delectation of the liberal quid nuncs over here, who of course patted them encouragingly--the apparent somewhat late resort to their institution may be readily accounted for in the face of an uprising so wide-spread of the warlike tribes of the three provinces.

Even in 1840 the terrible Hadjoutes still swept in frequent razzias over the plains of the Mitidja, up to the gates of Algiers, plundering and laying waste with fire and sword; while in the subdivision of Bona alone, in the province of Constantine, the administrative measures of the French authorities, military and civil

, were complied with and respected since its definitive subjection in 1833. In the province of Oran the Arabs recognised the supremacy of France as regarded only

[ocr errors]

the port and city of Algiers. In evidence of this, an incident somewhat singular, and highly characteristic of the Arabs, occurred in 1841, which we give as narrated by a French officer. In that year “ the column commanded by Marshal Bugeaud was on its march to Taguedem to destroy the fort erected there, at great cost, by the Emir Abd-el-Kader. We encamped upon the Ouad Khrelouk, one of the tributaries of the river Mina. In the night we were roused from sleep by the report of a rifle fired in the middle of the camp. Everyone rushed out of his tent, and hastened to the spot to ascertain the cause of it. An Arab lay upon the ground with his thigh broken. He held in his hand a small but very sharp-bladed knife, and, like all those who are thieves by profession among them, he had no other garment or appendage of apparel than a belt or girdle of leather, furnished with a pistol. The sentinel who had fired the shot related how having observed a bush move, then stop, and then move onward again, he had, suspecting some cunning act of aggression, fired at it at ten paces distance, at the moment of its movement in the direction where the horses of his captain were picketed. At this narration of the circumstances by the old African campaigner, his comrades, incited to rage, would have at once despatched the Arab, but some officers who were present at the moment, and who immediately calmed down the first very natural excitement displayed by the men, sent immediately to report the circumstances to the commanding authority. The Arab was soon transported to the ambulance, and his wound examined and dressed by the surgeons. The next day the army had to resume its march. Our individual was grievously wounded : it was wholly useless to embarrass ourselves with his further transport; to put him to death there and then would but anticipate, in all probability, his fate by a few days. A better and more politic use might be derived from the adventure. The Governor-General decided that he should be left on the site of our encampment, and that a letter should be given to him for the great tribe of the Flittas, upon whose territory we then were. In this letter it was made intelligible to that fiercely hostile population, that their bitter opposition to our rule would become more fatal to them every day; that the continuance of the struggle was hopeless for them; that France was powerful, both in number of warriors and in riches; that Abd-el-Kader, by continuing the war, could only draw down incalculable misfortunes to themselves; and, lastly, that the best thing left for them to do, was to separate their cause from that of the Emir, if they would not see thenceforth their rich harvests ravaged and consumed by fire. At day-break the expeditionary column set out upon its march, and the rear-guard had not yet attained a distance of 1,000 metres from our place of bivouac when it saw several Arab borsemen arrive, dismount, and carry off the wounded man we had left there. On the following day we received the reply of the Flittas. It was addressed— To General Bugeaud, Kaid of the Port of Algiers,' and couched nearly in the following language :

“ You say that you are a strong nation, and powerful, and that we cannot struggle against you.

« « The powerful and the strong are just.

“Nevertheless, you would take possession of a country which does not belong to you. And, besides, if you are so rich, what have you to do among a people which has

a

[ocr errors]

:

nothing but powder to give yon ? Furthermore, when He wills it, the Master of the World strikes down the strong and gives the triumph to the weak. You threaten us again to burn our harvests, or to give them iu pasture to your horses and your beasts of burden. How often already have we not experienced the like misfortunes ! We have had bad years ; we have seen locasts, famine-and, nevertheless, God did not abandon us, for we are believers-Arabs; and misery cannot kill the Arabs.

El arbi krou el keib-el onad ma iddih-oucheurr ma ikontelou. The Arab his brother is the dog; the river cannot carry him away; and misery cannot kill him, Therefore we will never submit to you ; you are enemies of our religion, it is impossible. Nevertheless, if the Almighty, to punish us for our sins, and the sins of our fathers, should one day inflict upon us that horrible malady, we should even then be greatly embarrassed, we are forced to confess it. Among us the symbol of submission is the presentation of a horse to the conquerors (gada). We know that you only like horses with short tails, and our mares never foal any.'

But at a later period the Flittas were nevertheless obliged to give their conquerors horses such as their mares foaled, but their resistance was obstinate, and for some time they were always the foremost to raise the war-cry and to revolt.

It was, therefore, as that distinguished soldier, General Daumas sagaciously remarked, by no means a just reason for astonishment when even nine

years after this restricted acknowledgment of the French supremacy by the Arabs to the port of Algiers, that a population of two million Europeans had not as yet settled in Algeria ! In that derisory superscription of the letter of the Flittas," To General Bugeaud (to the representative of France), Kaid of the Port of Algiers," “What a reply,” said the General, “was it to those who impeached the unintelligent domination of the sabre !” “For what?--for the slow affluence of European settlers on the fruitful soil of the Algerian provinces ! But as is invariably the case with the critics, who prescribe at a distance the remedies that party spirit always suggests so readily, and as so easy to carry out, they evinced no disposition to contribute in their own persons towards making up the balance wanting to complete the two million European colonists. It payed them better, and was a safer occupation, to decry the Government in Paris than to help colonise a conquered territory where as yet the unsubjected natives were so little disposed to permit a peaceable share of the rich products of the soil !

While the different modes in which the Algerian Regency should be occupied and administrated were discussed in Paris, Marshal Bugeaud, a man of action, prepared himself for the war like a soldier who understood it. To strike blow after blow upon the enemy's bases of operation, and on every point whence he drew aid and political support; to pursue Abd-el-Kader to the uttermost, and effect ceaseless razzias upon

* A fluent speaker and writer of the Arabic language, he had been appointed French Consul near the person of the Emir Abd-el-Kader, at Mascara, from 1837 to 1839. He was afterwards appointed to the administration of Arab affairs in the province of Oran, then commanded by General De la Moriciere; and subsequently Central Director of Arab affairs in Algeria under the government of Marshal, Duke of Isly. In these various official positions he was placed in constant relations with the indigenous chiefs and the great families of the country. From the wide range of information he acquired from them, he was enabled to publish " Le Sahara Algérien," "Le Grand Desert," and “La Grande Kabylie;" works which by throwing much light upon important war questions, as also upon matters of commerce, and upon internal political administration, rendered more service to France than was ever dreamed of by the Solons of the Parisian preşs.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »